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Bad Theology in Support of Bad Science

Fransciso Ayala says intelligent design is an “atrocity” and “disastrous for religion” because it makes God directly responsible for all of the evil in the world.  Ayala apparently believes he can get God “off the hook” for all of the evil in the world by setting him up as a remote deity – along the lines of the wind-up-the-clock deity believed in by, say, a seventeenth century deist – who, while He may have set the initial conditions in the universe, has not tended to it since and therefore cannot be blamed if the evolutionary train has gone off the rails in his absence.  Rubbish.  Ayala is pushing bad theology to support his bad science. 

Let us examine Ayala’s claim that evolution gets God off the hook.  His logic apparently runs something like this:  As a Christian he concedes that God is the primary cause of the universe.  Nevertheless, he says, God established numerous secondary causes, including Darwinian evolution, which is responsible for the vast complexity and diversity of life.  But evolution is a creative force that is far from perfect, and such things as genetic defects, the cruelty in nature, and the defective human birth canal result from this imperfect process.  

Now here is where Ayala’s argument gets interesting.  Ayala seems to believe that by laying the imperfections in living things and the obvious cruelty in the world at the feet of a secondary cause (i.e., evolution), the primary cause (i.e., God) is relieved from “responsibility” for the aberrations resulting from the imperfect secondary cause.  

Ayala’s argument runs squarely counter to elementary logic.  Christians believe that God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnibenevolent (unlimited in goodness).  The universe is contingent.  God did not have to create it.  He chose to create it.  Not only that; He chose to create a universe in which evil is possible.  And not only that; in His omniscience God knew perfectly (not probabilistically) exactly what the consequences would be of His decision to create a universe where evil is possible.  God knew evil would exist in the universe He created at the moment He created it.  Therefore, in a certain sense (call it an “ontological sense”) God is responsible for the existence of evil.  Please do not get me wrong.  I am not for a moment suggesting that God is morally responsible for the evil in the universe.  But it seems inescapable that He is responsible in the sense of establishing the conditions in which it is possible for evil to exist. 

Even if this were not the case, one would still have to contend with the combination of God’s omnipotence and omnibenevolence.  Suppose I am standing on a sidewalk.  I see a car is about to come up on the sidewalk and strike the person in front of me, and all I have to do to save her is reach out and give her a gentle tug backwards.  If I allow that person to be struck and killed by the car when it was well within my power to save her, two things are true.  My conduct has not conformed to the good, and in a very real sense I am responsible for her death.  In his omnipotence God is well able to stop all evil if He chooses to do so.  If God does not stop the evil He is well able to stop, is He not responsible for it? 

Where does this leave Ayala’s argument?  His logic does not bear up under the slightest scrutiny.  Exiling God to the “primary cause” hinterlands does not get God “off the hook” for the existence of evil in the world.  Intelligent design does not “make God responsible for evil.”  In the ontological sense we have discussed, God is responsible for existence of evil before intelligent design theory speaks.  Therefore, Ayala’s argument fails utterly. 

What about the theodicy?  How can we reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God?  The answer revolves around the existence of free will.  Just as He had a choice regarding whether to create the universe, God also had a choice concerning the kind of universe to create.  He could create a universe in which love and also evil are possible, or He could create a universe in which love and also evil are not possible.  But He could not create a universe in which love, but not evil, was possible.  Why?  Because both love and evil are the results of choosing.  In an important sense they are the opposite sides of the same coin.  When a person loves, he chooses the good for the other, and when a person commits evil he chooses that which is not the good for the other.  And just as you cannot have a one-sided coin, you cannot have a universe in which it is possible to love (to choose the other) but not possible to commit evil (to not choose the other).  

God chose to give us the capacity to love.  He gave us the ability to choose (or not) the other.  In short, He gave us a terrible, awful, wondrous gift – free will.  But when He gave us the capacity to love, he also gave us the capacity to commit evil.  And scripture teaches us that all evil, both moral evil and natural evil, is the result of man’s choice to commit evil, which resulted in the fall.  

Ayala displays an appalling ignorance of the scriptures when he suggests that “intelligent design” makes God responsible for evil.  The scriptures teach quite clearly that evil is the result of man’s choice.  This is an elementary doctrine, a doctrine with which Ayala, a former priest, must be familiar.  So it is a mystery why he slanders ID the way he does.

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94 Responses to Bad Theology in Support of Bad Science

  1. As someone who accepts an old earth and common descent ie someone who accepts the EC position my opinion is that Ayala is full of hot air on this issue. When I was an OEC I had a perfectly good explanation for evil in the fall of man so I don’t particularly support Ayala’s argument although an evolutionary origin does seem to match up somewhat better but IMO either position is entirely adequate. The EC position does have some issues in terms of God’s declaration of a very good earth. I happen to believe that Adam and Eve were real people or possibly they represent a small tribe who first were declared God’s ikons (in God’s image) and that after they became aware of at least some amount of his law that they rebelled deliberately. God then judged humanity and the earth at least to some extent.

    IMO Ayala may well be a brilliant scientist as they say but I do not find his theology convincing. Although I would not go so far as to suggest he is a deist.
    Dave W

  2. The possibility of ‘natural evil’ is an inescapable logical consequence of a universe of time/change. The possibility of ‘moral evil’ is an inescapable logical consequence of the existence of beings free to chose to love others or not.

    Those who bitch and whine about “evil” as an indictiment against God are fundamentally unserious.

  3. Actually, God is be responsible for evil in the same way a man is responsible for a son that committed murder.

    Do we put the father on trial for his ‘crime’ of fathering progeny that turned out to commit murder? Er, on second thought, strike that. Seems that is just what some of us would like to do here on earth -take responsibility for your genes, people.

    Back to reality now. It would be tragic if evil ran rampant upon an earth where the people didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, did not understand the concept of humility, kindness, giving selflessly, sacrificing convenience and luxury to help a neighbor, did not understand to help the old in their infirmity, did not understand to band together to help prepare the less fortunate to shore up their homes against natural disaster, did not understand to teach others basic life skills without monetary compensation, on and on.

    But the fact is we do understand it all.

    We simply don’t care. Why should our Father care any more than we do?

    Truth is, he does care deeply. But enough is enough.

  4. It seems to me a bit glib to say “[a]nd scripture teaches us that all evil, both moral evil and natural evil, is the result of man’s choice to commit evil, which resulted in the fall.”

    Moral evil, yes. Natural evil is more complicated. I suppose it depends on what you mean by “natural evil” in the first place. That cats “play” with mice doesn’t bother me, but some are offended by that activity.

    You can’t have it both ways. This should be especially clear to one who believes in design, rather than evolution. As Behe argues in The Edge of Evolution, malaria was designed. By whom was it designed, Barry? Man’s sin may have been the motivation for all sorts of things we find repugnant in the natural order, but some agent was necessary to bring those things into existence.

  5. Barry,

    I tried to start a discussion on this last week and every time I have done son in the last 3 years it has gone no where. I maintain that there is no evil that God is responsible for and no one has ever really defined the term. What we often refer to as evil is extreme unpleasantness. There are other types of things that people also call evil but no real definition. Here is my comment from a week ago on the discussion of Fuller and Ruse:

    “I always find the theodicy discussions so irrelevant because I have not found anyone here or anywhere else who can define evil. I have asked several times here and there have not been any takers yet.

    A couple have said something along the line of perverting or frustrating God’s will but that has nothing to do with disease, earthquakes and other natural tragedies. Maybe someone should take a shot at whatever the worse natural outcome imaginable and why it would be evil. It was the Lisbon earthquake that accelerated all this God is the cause of evil discussion but I find it all irrelevant.

    Any takers this time? Because if there are none then Ruse’s and many other’s arguments are pointless.”

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-353797

  6. Riddick, I have wrestled with the same questions. I was startled to read Dembski’s ‘The End of Christianity’ in which he seems to have solved the problem. I think he nails it. You should check it out.

    Taking Dembski’s solution as it is with mankind being at fault, not God, God can still take responsibility for our sin in the same way a father can take responsibility for his son’s foolishness in breaking the neighbor’s window.

    One can take responsibility without being responsible. And that is because the term has different meanings. Here are two:

    1. He is a responsible young man, always taking care of his affairs.
    2. He is responsible for this mess.

    Taking responsibility (in both senses) does not require guilt, but one of them does require love compassion, and understanding.

    Two stories really strike me about this issue. One was Ravi Zacharius discussing Dawkin’s declaration that ‘there is no such thing as right and wrong, we are all just dancing to our dna’.
    It’s the same thing, accept the logic and then God is responsible. In response, Dr. Zacharius said, “Ok, I’ll accept that. How much more profound then are the words of Jesus that we must be born again”?

    The other was a personal story of my own. A man said to me (rather forcefully), “I have a real problem with any God who would condmen me for the way HE made me!” So I asked him, “So are you saying that a real God would take responsibility for you?”

    Read Dembski’s book. It’s quite astonishing…

    Barry, as for Ayala… bad philosphy (logic) is bound to lead to both bad science and bad theology. Afterall, they are one in the same; both being different sides of the same coin, and hopelessly dependent on the substance upon which they reside. A medium that we affectionately call the Logos.

  7. Hey jerry, ever heard of Snake Alley in Taipei?

    Ravi Zacharius tells the story of meeting a Dutch woman on a plane after leaving that city. She had rescued an 18 month old baby girl from the arms of a man who had ingested a concoction of snakes blood and liquor there. He was sexually devestating her.

    Ravi asks (and I can do no better,) “is that eviant? Abberant? A slip? Or is it evil?

    What say jerry?

  8. Sorry for the errors, I keep forgetting to use the preview window.

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington

    I am gaveling Jerry’s “define evil” discussion.

  10. Barry,

    Here’s the problem with trying to use free will to excuse the existence of evil in the world:

    1. Assume that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent.

    2. Assume that humans have free will.

    3. God’s omniscience means that God knows, before conception, what each person will freely choose to do with her life. This includes the evil that she will commit.

    4. God chooses to allow some humans to be born, but not others. Free will nevertheless exists (by our assumption #2).

    5. God could choose to prevent the birth of those who would freely choose to do evil, and allow the birth of those who would freely choose to do good. This would not prevent them in any way from exercising their free will.

    6. God does not do this.

    7. Therefore, God is responsible for the evil that people commit.

  11. How do you use the preview window?

  12. Jerry’s question is a pertinent one.

    Evil seems to be something we intrinsically know but are unable to define easily.

    I don’t have the answer but someone once told me that evil is when you hurt your soul by committing an act that is at odds with it. So if I commit an act of murder, it is not the very act that is evil but the side effect of how the act damages your our soul. One of course needs to commit to the notion of a soul for this to make any sense.

  13. semi-off topic:

    All Of Creation – Mercyme
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkdniYsUrM8

    I don’t think it is possible for someone of Ayala’s philosophical bent to write such a beautiful song.

  14. Jerry’s question is a pertinent one.

    And, that *is* what this thread is about.

  15. Barry,

    I would add that the presence of the potential for evil is a teaching tool.

    How can we understand goodness without the specter of evil? Isn’t that what God was warning Adam and Eve about? Knowledge of the good/evil dichotomy is an extreme burden which anyone wishing to experience it must accept.

    So far we have failed miserably, and God readied Himself in the Person of Christ to pick up the pieces.

    In fact when Christ spoke to Saint Faustina just before WW2, He lamented the fact that so may did not understand the depth of his caring for souls, and that ‘all’ had a chance for life through his unfathomable mercy.

    An atheist may rightly ask why would He not take steps to prevent WW2.

    I think it is in the same way that my family got tired of saving my brother from drugs. How many times did my parents, siblings and I try to communicate with him. How many trials we went through. How many phone calls from the cops, how many stolen watches, stolen money, how many lies, how many arguments, how many hard feelings, how much distrust.

    In the end, my brother admitted his lack of will to fight the drugs in a notebook he kept (its one of those bittersweet treasures). He went to rehab, in and out, held a job for a bit, went back in, but in the end, he hung himself.

    My Mom was racked with guilt to the day she died, wondering where she went wrong. But my Dad was stronger, and right in my opinion. You can only do so much, can only pick up the pieces so often. At the end of the day, it was my brother’s choice, his will that mattered the most. He simply couldn’t find the right door in time.

    No, I think God has it just right. Give us the tools we need, be at the ready to assist and pick us up when needed, but never, never coerce our decision making. We have to make that individual AND collective decision to say no to evil. Now I’m starting to sound like a bumper sticker. But its true isn’t it?

    What is more profound that Christ saying if a stranger asks you for your shirt, give him your coat as well. This is one of the seeds that contains the solution to evil in our world.

    Who will water that seed? I’ve tried it a couple of times and the feeling is immeasurable. Thing is, why am i not doing more of it? That is the question I struggle with every day.

    By the way, you’re right. Unfortunately, Ayala has been away from his original calling too long. I think I can see a bit of the reason he may have hung up his collar.

    I would say to Ayala: God’s house is built on logic, its walls are painted with emotion. Its furniture is built with logic, yet it artistic details come from His heart.

    Don’t mix up the roles of logic and emotion*. They have their own space and place but complement each other and work in tandem to create the whole.

    *Actually, i think this is where ID will struggle. Ferreting out the logic of life’s structure (why this type of pigment, why this weight of paper)is very doable. It is the art, the emotion (why blue, why soft lines) God put into the world that will be hard to map.

    God chose to give us the capacity to love. He gave us the ability to choose (or not) the other. In short, He gave us a terrible, awful, wondrous gift – free will. But when He gave us the capacity to love, he also gave us the capacity to commit evil. And scripture teaches us that all evil, both moral evil and natural evil, is the result of man’s choice to commit evil, which resulted in the fall.

  16. tom, you state:

    “Those who are proponents of ID to varying extents are generally disingenuous, outright liars or intellectual frauds. (bornagain77 – gee I wonder what the root of that pseudonym is?).”

    But tom I have never shied away from admitting I am a Christian? Since I directly follow “intellectual fraud” in your post do you mind providing the evidence that I have not fully engaged the evidence presented by evolutionary materialists? I can provide direct evidence that evolutionists have not engaged the evidence I present.

  17. 17

    Tom,

    Your accusations are not even a clever defense. And they all end in the same place, Please allow me to show you where that place is. It will require you to answer a question. Here is the question:

    What is the lie that ID is telling?

  18. Tom: “If an orange is 99% orange in color over its surface and 1% green because it hasn’t yet had enough light shed on it, evolutionists will argue that it is ‘orange’. IDers will, of course argue that it is ‘green.”

    Why don’t you use the same inference with regard to the origin of information. Would you say that only in the case of biology is it NOT the result of intelligence?

  19. I enjoy your site, but you lose me here…

    “But He could not create a universe in which love, but not evil, was possible. Why? Because both love and evil are the results of choosing. In an important sense they are the opposite sides of the same coin.”

    I sure hope that can create a world in which love but not evil is possible. I’m counting on this in Heaven, when our wills will finally, truly be free from our sinful nature.

    A better explanation for the problem of evil can be found here:

    The Problem of Evil Answered

  20. Barry,

    “I am gaveling Jerry’s “define evil” discussion.”

    That’s ok with me. In three years no one has been able to deal with it so I do not suspect it would happen now. But it solves the theodicy problem much easier than anything else I have seen and maybe someone would want to consider it in the future.

    I will still keep bringing up every time I see the word theodicy used as the center of discussion especially as it relates to evolution.

  21. Would you say that only in the case of biology is it NOT the result of intelligence?

    An algorithm that tries various things and keeps the ones that work might be thought of as intelligent.

  22. So Ayala’s solution is Plato’s solution. The second causes did it.

    A clear sign of closet Platonists in our midst is the claim that nature is evil. This is silly. Not only is it not evil; it is “very good.” It is highly functional and overwhelmingly beautiful. In fact it is so good that its goodness exceeds the ability of men to fully comprehend it.

    Evil is a very specific thing. It consists of not loving God with our whole being or our neighbors as ourselves. There is no evil, so defined, in nature. Tsunamis, lightening strikes, cancer cells, even the little wasp that pained the refined sensibilities of evolution’s most famous Sensitive Plant—none of them are evil. They are simply facts of nature.

    Plato is the spiritual father of a whole tribe of Sensitive Plants who feel strongly dissociated from being, a syndrome aptly described by Hegel as the “unhappy consciousness.” Their unhappiness draws them to dualism. They tend to condemn all existence as evil, just as Plato did—not just the cruelty, egotism and sensuality of men, which truly are evil—not just human nature—but nature itself.

    The problem with blending Plato’s dualism with Christianity is that it makes God out to be a bad creator. Plato avoided this problem by claiming that the Highest Good is absolutely transcendent and does not directly create anything. This left him free to condemn material existence without implicating God.

    Christians don’t have this luxury. Orthodoxy begins with “God the father almighty, maker of Heaven and earth.” According to the Bible, God himself created that which exists and saw that it was “very good.” To characterize nature as evil, then, is to make God out to be a liar or a fool.

    The intersection between Plato and Darwin is noteworthy. Idealism and Natural Selection may appear to be polar opposites, but in fact they both arise from the same impulse. Both reveal a deep unhappiness with existence and a desire to draw a bright line between matter and God.

    Both men began their philosophic enterprises with resistance—Plato to the perceived materialism of synthetic methods, and Darwin to Transcendentalism and the notion that nature expresses a benevolent creator. Both men used this force of resistance to invest their theories of value with a highly becoming simplicity, separating themselves from the complications that arise from synthetic methods.

    And both men also fell prey to the natural limitation of resistance, which leads to nothingness. Plato negated present existence as a thing without value, but this made it impossible for him to produce a substantive description of “the good.” Resistance, in itself, is nothing. It cannot produce any positive result.

    The same was true of Darwin. When God is eliminated, it becomes impossible to account for the goodness of nature. There is no mechanism in nature per se for making things better. Science grinds to a halt as evolutionary theorists resort to storytelling and poetry in an attempt to compensate for the lack of any experimental evidence whatsoever of ameliorative evolution.

    Plato was overthrown by a new and cannier description of the synthetic method and the notion of the golden mean. It is not yet clear whether Darwin’s materialism will meet a similar fate—whether some new Aristotle or new Kant will arise to refold the resistance of modernism into a new construct of being.

    What is obvious, however, is that science has moved around and beyond Darwinism. Basic research today is inherently constructive, especially in the field of molecular biology—a construct by default, since it describes synthetic beings in synthetic language.

    It does not need Darwin or his narrative. All it needs is the excellence of nature itself.

  23. —Tom Sawyer: “Those who are proponents of ID to varying extents are generally disingenuous, outright liars or intellectual frauds. (bornagain77 – gee I wonder what the root of that pseudonym is?). To claim there is a designer but attribute no title is fatuous to say the least. To choose to believe in design due to some real or perceived flaws and gaps in evolutionary theory is redolent of extreme intellectual laziness or dishonesty. To attempt to use science to negate science is intellectually fraudulent.”

    I have been down this road many times with materialist/Darwinists whose mission is to mimic the “Socratic method” by asking apparently sincere questions even though they have no intention of listening carefully to the answers. They, like you, think they are being clever, but they, like you, are very easy to spot.

    It was clear enough where you were coming from in the beginning, which is why I went out of my way to provide not one but four examples showing why it is IMPOSSIBLE to discern the identity of the designer using current ID paradigms. Because your behavior exhibited all the signs of willful and obstinate ignorance, I provided the information in a specific order so as to test your sincerity and confirm my suspicions. You ACKNOWLEDGED AND CONCEDED ALL THE POINTS I made, shifted the arguments in order to change the subject, and now pretend as if the examples had never been offered at all. You were not, and are not, very clever at all.

    I notice, once again, that you did not distinguish between evolution and Darwinism, even after having been spoon fed this most basic point. All this information, by the way, can be found in the FAQ section. In any case, where is the difficulty? Were you expecting the opposite experience, hoping that an intelligent design website would promote Darwinian evolution at the expense of ID? In case you haven’t heard, that is what arguments do; they advance one point of view over another.

    Born again 77 is one of the most scientifically knowledgeable posters on this site, and he continues to wipe up the floor with Darwinists who cannot even begin to answer or even approach must of his points. On the other hand, he does not take the classic ID position, leaning more in the direction of Hugh Ross, who criticisms of the current ID paradigms [those officially endorsed on this site] are informed by the conviction that a phenomenological approach to science short-changes God. Naturally, you are not aware of that fact because, once again, your Darwinist ideology interferes with you capacity to ask relevant and intelligent follow up questions. We welcome all points of view on this site, even those who celebrate Christianity or even those try to argue on behalf of materialist/atheism. The difference is this: Atheists can provide no rational defense for their position, which is why they, like you, love to scrutinize but hate to be scrutinized.

    There is only one “fraud” in this exchange, and it isn’t us.

  24. @lock #6

    -”Dawkin’s declaration that there is no such thing as right and wrong, we are all just dancing to our dna”.

    Is anyone else unimpressed by the materialistic superstitions hidden in this statement?

    How then is this guy going around calling other religions evil? And more importantly, why should I believe the nonsense that his DNA forces him to say?

  25. that God is morally responsible for the evil in the universe.

    If God didn’t exist there would be no evil because God is the one who defines evil.

    If Dawkins was right there would be no absolute authority to say that the intentional infliction of suffering and the purposeful destruction of hope and love were evil.

    But those things exist and they are evil so since evil exist God exist.

  26. above @24

    I have always wondered how religious people know what is right and wrong. Does God tell you? Sometimes people say the bible contains the moral code, but that can’t be right because there are many things in there that today we consider evil or at least morally bad (slavery being an obvious one that is often referred to). But also turning the other cheek. I think today we consider it morally wrong not to respond to threats on our person or community, even though (as I understand it) Jesus taught forgiveness.

    Also, what is the explanation for countries like Sweden that are pretty godless, but also very low crime and incidence of violence. And correspondingly, why is a very religious country like America so violent?

    Also, I know what is right and wrong and have not a religous bone in my body. How can this be? Does God force the moral code into me? But I don’t think so, because as I understand it, you have to make a choice to accept God (which I haven’t made). Yet I have a very strong sense of right and wrong that I very firmly believe in.

    These are very common questions, but I just have never heard convincing answers.

  27. @zeroseven

    You seem a little confused.

    The issue I am raising here is the blatant amorality seen in dawkin’s worldview and writings. More specifically, I was critical of his materialism and genetic determinism, which in effect undermines ethics. Simply put, dawkins does not recognize evil as real, but likes to hijack the term in order to attack others. That’s what we call hypocrisy.

    I’m not sure if it’s intentional but you’re putting words in my mouth.

    Also, you said:

    -“But also turning the other cheek. I think today we consider it morally wrong not to respond to threats on our person or community, even though (as I understand it) Jesus taught forgiveness”

    That is a gross generalization. I don’t think that is even remotely true.

    If that’ were true then we are simply a ‘sea of soon-to-blind men’, marching to the tune of an eye for an eye. I don’t think that is the case.

  28. If we are not entitled to decide what is evil, then who is – and why?

  29. Sorry Above, did not intend to put words in your mouth. I don’t think (despite the quote you referenced) Dawkins believes there is no right or wrong. He just doesn’t believe the concepts are imposed from outside humanity. He believes (as do I) that we make our own morals.

    My questions were designed to clarify the position of those who say morals do come from outside of us. Seversky’s questions summarise this, and to his questions I would add – how? ie how does this being inform us as to what is moral?

  30. Atheist logic:

    I

    [a] There is no objective standard of morality

    [b] We can meet that standard just as well as Theists.

    II

    [a] We can create our own morality.

    [b] Christian morality is not valid.

    III Application:

    For those who have insisted that we can create our own morality, I have, on several occassions extended an invitation to do that very thing. I will put my moral standards on the table and let the atheist present his list. From there, we can negotiate.

    [a] My five standards are as follows:

    The Sermon on the Mount

    The Beautitudes

    The Ten Commandments

    The natural moral law

    The Golden Rule

    [b] I have invited atheists multiple times to place their list on the table so we could begin the negotiation. That way we can work out “our” own morality. No one has ever taken me up on that offer. If two presumably well-educated people cannot work out a formal morality, how could six billion people do it informally? Obviously, they cannot.

    Aren’t atheists fun!

  31. StephenB,

    Barry’s original post has this statement: “…and scripture teaches us that all evil, both moral evil and natural evil, is the result of man’s choice to commit evil, which resulted in the fall.”

    Your post only addresses the first part, moral evil. Perhaps you would like to take a crack at the second part of Barry’s assertion, natural evil. Here’s a question to get the ball rolling: Is there anything inherently evil about one animal eating another?

  32. Barry’s post only really deals with so called natural evil. We are not allowed to discuss the definition problem but theodicy in terms of evolution only involves this narrow concept.

  33. —riddick: “Your post only addresses the first part, moral evil. Perhaps you would like to take a crack at the second part of Barry’s assertion, natural evil. Here’s a question to get the ball rolling: Is there anything inherently evil about one animal eating another?”

    I was responding to seversky and zeroseven, showing that their relativistic morality is unreasonable. Natural evil does not come into play in that discussion.

    On the other hand, the theme of the post is very simple: The Theistic Evolutionst’s main complaint against ID is an illogical, question-begging objection. Setting up an evolutionary process that allows evil to manifest itself is no less problematic that creating those conditions directly. Everyone is evading that point.
    If animal suffering is evil, the TE’s arguments are unaffected and remain equally inappropriate. If animal suffering is not evil, then there is nothing to fuss about. Thus, if I provide my personal views on the morality of animal suffering [and I do have them] it will only provide more opportunities to evade Barry’s original point.

  34. StephenB @ 30

    Atheist logic:

    Theist strawmen

    [a] There is no objective standard of morality

    Did morality exist in the Universe before any life was there? If it is objective it does not depend on our existence for its own.

    Theists have not substantiated any claim for the objective existence of morality.

    [b] We can meet that standard just as well as Theists.

    Actually, if the Old Testament illustrates Christian morality then atheists can do a lot better.

    [a] We can create our own morality.

    Not only can but have.

    There have been many non-Christian societies that have nonetheless observed moral codes, unless you are claiming non-Christian societies are immoral by definition.

    [b] Christian morality is not valid.

    That is not the atheist claim.

    Christian morality can be as valid as any other.

    What it is not entitled to claim, what it is not justified or warranted in claiming is that it is any way superior to other moralities solely on the grounds of being, allegedly, a divine revelation. Unless Christians can demonstrate that their God exists that claim is baseless.

    For those who have insisted that we can create our own morality, I have, on several occassions extended an invitation to do that very thing. I will put my moral standards on the table and let the atheist present his list. From there, we can negotiate.

    There have been a number of extended threads discussing morality already. If the moderators have no objection I am happy to have another go round. Just accept that the is/ought problem prevents the grounding of any moral code in objective reality.

    [a] My five standards are as follows:

    The Sermon on the Mount

    The Beautitudes

    The Ten Commandments

    The natural moral law

    The Golden Rule

    I will see your Golden Rule and raise you one On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

    If two presumably well-educated people cannot work out a formal morality, how could six billion people do it informally? Obviously, they cannot.

    I should say that, under the circumstances, the six billion have done pretty well. There are plenty or moral codes around, granted not all of them are religious but then that may be a good thing according to some studies.

    Aren’t atheists fun!

    At least we can laugh at ourselves. There are no silly rules like “Thou shalt not take the Dawkins name in vain”.

  35. 35

    Seversky,

    Did morality exist in the Universe before any life was there? If it is objective it does not depend on our existence for its own.

    Did mathematics exist in the Universe before any life was here? Or do we make it up as we go along? Your criterion for objectivity necessarily being something physical is baseless and no one when presented with objective morality or objective mathematics would argue that they either don’t exist or exist subjectively because they’re metaphysical. I mean, good grief, how far down the road does your materialism take you into the land of absurdity?

    Actually, if the Old Testament illustrates Christian morality then atheists can do a lot better.

    By what standard, the atheist standard that there is no standard? Yeah, that makes sense. ;)

  36. Onlookers:

    A few brief notes on points:

    1 –> We all plainly live by the implicit acknowledgement of the objectivity of morality. This we see by how we quarrel, by appealing to standards of fairness. (Indeed, Sev’s ill-considered attempt to indict the Judaeo-Christian frame for morality reflects just this.)

    2 –> Such objectivity can only be grounded where there is a foundational IS in the world that can base OUGHT. And, in the end, evolutionary materialism can have no such is, so CH is entirely correct to rebuke Sev by asking him for the grounds of his standards.

    3 –> Cutting clean across Euthyphro, Christian philosophers and theologians have long pointed out that the only live option IS that can credibly ground OUGHT, is the inherently good and holy Creator God, who is both the ground of the world we live in and in his inherent character,the ground for OUGHT.

    4 –> In this context, Plantinga has also given us a useful framework for putting both the deductive and inductive forms of the problem of evils into due perspective(and Job 38 ff also helps a lot). [Materialists, again, on what ground can you acknowledge evil as real and objectionable -- instead of a mere manipulative rhetorical device used by adherents of an intrinsically amoral view to get their way by playing on emotions like guilt and outrage? What does that reality of a non-physical issue imply about the nature of reality?]

    5 –> Similarly, it is time to put the new atheist popularised, village atheist rhetoric that tries to make the God of the OT out to be a moral monster to bed; because he — our Creator, Lord and Judge — acts in judgement of nations that have become plagues on the earth. Is a judge a moral monster because s/he puts away criminals, and may even pas death sentences on murderers? A policeman who shoots a suspect who threatens the lives of innocents? [Cf a discussion on the main troubling OT cases in point, here.]

    6 –> By contrast, let us call attention to the key biblical texts that in NT and OT alike, lay out the actual explicitly identified core of biblical morality, which too many current atheists studiously side-step in their eagerness to portray God as a moral monster:

    (1)Matt. 7:12 . . . in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

    (2) Matt 22:37 – 40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

    (3) Rom 13:8 – 10: “8 . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

    (a) Deuteronomy 6:1 – 18: These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe . . . Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey . . . . Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God is one [Heb., echad: complex, rather than simple, unity. (This verse is the Shema, the great prayer/creed of Judaism.)]. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them . . . . When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers . . . then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery . . . Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you . . .

    (b)Leviticus 19:15 – 18: Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.

    7 –> I find an utter and telling contrast between this set of plainly wholesome basic moral principles and the resentful, poisonous, blatantly biased and unhinged rhetoric that would indict God as a moral monster and those who fear God as dangerous, “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked” threats to liberty and justice.

    8 –> Indeed, given the problem of the inherent and utterly dangerous amorality of evolutionary materialism, which has been known since the days of Plato’s The Laws, Bk X, let us note that when he set about grounding the principles of liberty and just, democratic self government of a free people, Locke went right back to this cluster of God-fearing principles; quoting Richard Hooker’s 1594 Ecclesiastical Polity in Ch 2 sec 5 of his famous and foundational second essay on civil gov’t:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

    9 –> So, let us understand the matches that are being played with, ever so carelessly.

    ____________________

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  37. PS: As a balance to the texts so often abused by the new atheists, I call attention to the book of Jonah; a case of destructive national judgement averted just one month out, as the people of Nineveh [~ Mosul, Iraq; the Assyrians are now a Christian people] repented at the warning of the prophet. There are indeed difficult questions to address, and troubling cases and texts, but the matter is by no means the one sided strawmannish caricature of so much new atheist rhetoric. Note especially the exchange in Ch 4, which culminates in God upbraiding the prophet (who wanted the enemies of Israel destroyed) thusly:

    Jonah 4

    Jonah’s Anger at the Lord ‘s Compassion

    1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

    4 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”

    5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. [note the natural evil] 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

    9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”
    “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”

    10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. [note the implicit definition of the natural] 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left [children and the morally naive], and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?

    (Clive et al, pardon my citing Scripture in extenso in a principally scientific and philosphical blog, but the accusation made by Seversky needs a reasonable answer.)

  38. PPS: As to the reality of morality and that of the objectionableness of evil, I simply note that at root, this is self-evident. Even atheists acknowledge the binding force of ought, never mind that their worldview has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT beyond emotional manipulation and the threat of power. (That is, as a system, such atheism [especially evolutionary materialism] is amoral, and indeed that is what lies behind Sev’s challenge to demonstrate the objectivity of morality; to which the most direct response is that to reject the objectivity of morality at once lands you in utter and patent absurdities of thought and behaviour.) And so, by their behaviour the same atheists who would trot out selectively hyperskeptical objections against the objectivity of OUGHT, by their behaviour and its implicit assumptions show that it is indeed binding. But, ever since Plato’s the Laws, Bk X, it has been known that such atheism has no basis in its system for ought. Atheistical morality, such as it is, is parasitical on the consensus of society.

  39. PPPS: Plato, in The Laws, Bk X, in the voice of the Ahtenian Stranger (having first subtly distanced himself from the absurdities of Greek mythology):

    _________________

    >> Ath. At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. [[Notice Plato's own carefully stated skepticisms and moral concerns regarding classical paganism.] Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe . . . .

    [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature [ = "some inherent force according to certain affinities among them" . . . ] and chance only . . . . these people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them [i.e. radical moral relativism, premised on amorality] . . . These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [here, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . . . .[Jowett translation. Emphases and explanatory parentheses added.] >>
    __________________

    In short, the real issue is the amorality of evolutionary materialism, in the teeth of the patent absurdities and known destructive consequences of trying to deny the objective binding force of ought.

  40. Nicely explicated Kairosfocus.

  41. Clive Hayden @ 35

    Did mathematics exist in the Universe before any life was here? Or do we make it up as we go along? Your criterion for objectivity necessarily being something physical is baseless and no one when presented with objective morality or objective mathematics would argue that they either don’t exist or exist subjectively because they’re metaphysical. I mean, good grief, how far down the road does your materialism take you into the land of absurdity?

    Mathematics, in a sense, is a formal language that has been developed over thousands of years by human scholars which enables us to quantify and model reality with great precision.

    For example, according to Wikipedia, the unit of length called the meter (or metre) has been variously defined as:

    - equal to the length of a pendulum with a half-period of one second

    - one ten-millionth of the length of the Earth’s meridian along a quadrant through Paris

    - the distance between two lines on a standard bar of an alloy of platinum with ten percent iridium, measured at the melting point of ice

    - equal to 1,650,763.73 wavelengths in vacuum of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the 2p10 and 5d5 quantum levels of the krypton-86 atom

    and currently as

    - equal to the distance traveled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1?299,792,458 of a second.

    The unit of time called second was originally defined as “1?86 ?400 of the average time required for the earth to complete one rotation about its axis”. Now it is “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom”

    Combining those two metrics enables physicists to measure the speed of light in a vacuum at “precisely 299,792,458 metres per second”

    This is clearly a language of enormous power and precision and our science and technology could not exist without it.

    But whether we express it in meters-per-second or miles-per-hour the speed of light is what it is and the Universe cares nothing for how we measure it. The petals of a rose reflect light of certain wavelengths. Whether we see that light as red or blue is matter of supreme indifference to the cosmos.

    Properties of the universe such as the speed of light, the wavelengths reflected by a rose and all the others that make the Universe possible, as far as we know, obtained long before we appeared and will probably be the same long after we are gone.

    But the metrics and the languages we use to describe and model those properties – like mathematics – were invented by us and will die with us. If we go the way of the dinosaurs then so will the meter. That will be sad rather than absurd. But either way, as the saying goes, frankly, my dear, the Universe does not give a damn.

  42. kairosfocus @ 36

    1 –> We all plainly live by the implicit acknowledgement of the objectivity of morality. This we see by how we quarrel, by appealing to standards of fairness.

    We plainly live by the assumption of a shared or collective morality, one whose broad commonality is determined by a general recognition of the fact that we are all human beings and have the same basic interest in survival and the enjoyment of the brief time we are allowed here.

    2 –> Such objectivity can only be grounded where there is a foundational IS in the world that can base OUGHT. And, in the end, evolutionary materialism can have no such is, so CH is entirely correct to rebuke Sev by asking him for the grounds of his standards.

    No matter how much KF wishes it were otherwise, there is no logical way to bridge the divide between ‘is’ and ‘ought’. There is no way to ground moral prescriptions except in our common interests as human beings.

    3 –> Cutting clean across Euthyphro, Christian philosophers and theologians have long pointed out that the only live option IS that can credibly ground OUGHT, is the inherently good and holy Creator God, who is both the ground of the world we live in and in his inherent character,the ground for OUGHT.

    That is not “[c]utting clean across Euthyphro”, it is simply cleaving to one horn of the dilemma, the one which asserts that good is whatever God says it is. As such, it is vulnerable to the usual objections. What reason do we have for thinking that God’s moral imperatives are not entirely arbitrary. He is, after all, notorious in Scripture for not giving reasons for his actions and diktats but, rather, expecting His followers to take His good intentions of faith. Given the OT accounts of, for example, the disasters inflicted on the Egyptians, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Great Flood, this takes a certain chutzpah.

    [Materialists, again, on what ground can you acknowledge evil as real and objectionable -- instead of a mere manipulative rhetorical device used by adherents of an intrinsically amoral view to get their way by playing on emotions like guilt and outrage? What does that reality of a non-physical issue imply about the nature of reality?]

    On the grounds of evil residing in the intent and actions of those who cause or seek to cause unjustified harm to others, either with the deliberate purpose of so doing or with a reckless and callous indifference to the unjustified harm they are causing or seeking to cause.

    5 –> Similarly, it is time to put the new atheist popularised, village atheist rhetoric that tries to make the God of the OT out to be a moral monster to bed; because he — our Creator, Lord and Judge — acts in judgement of nations that have become plagues on the earth. Is a judge a moral monster because s/he puts away criminals, and may even pas death sentences on murderers? A policeman who shoots a suspect who threatens the lives of innocents? [Cf a discussion on the main troubling OT cases in point, here.]

    What is disturbing about this sort of apologetic is that it implies that there is literally nothing this God could do which His followers would be unable to defend and justify.

    There are so many incidents reported in the Old Testament that, had they been committed by anyone other than God – and especially if they had been committed by an atheist – would have had the faithful screaming for the indictment and severest punishment of the offender.

    As for “nations that have become plagues on the earth” we have only the word of God and his accomplices that they were justified in doing what they did. That is like a murderer defending his crime in court by alleging that the victim deserved everything he or she got. Would you accept the unsupported word of a killer as a sufficient defense?

    Besides, this is the Creator of all things we are talking about. Even if what is said about the victims is true, He had no need to destroy them. He is all-powerful, he could have changed them to what He wanted with a snap of His fingers if He had wanted.

    I am not denying that there is much good in Christianity and Christians but nothing in this world is perfect and there are aspects of the history of the faith that, like Martin Luther’s vicious anti-Semitism, are better disavowed.

  43. —seversky: “Did morality exist in the Universe before any life was there? If it is objective it does not depend on our existence for its own?”

    Objective morality is the one to which ALL humans must adapt and conform for the sake of a well ordered society. Subjective morality is one that INDIVIDUAL humans make up as they go along for the sake of their own personal convenience, regardless of the negative impact it may have on the common good. The former binds everyone, and is, therefore, essential for adjudicating disagreements in a peaceful way; the latter binds no one, and is, therefore, useless as an instrument of peace. Indeed, subjective or relativist morality always and everywhere translates into the “problem” of a “war of all against all” followed by a “solution” of might makes right. A reasonable morality that doesn’t bind everyone is not a morality at all; it is a personal preference like the preference for ice cream or music.

    —Actually, if the Old Testament illustrates Christian morality then atheists can do a lot better.

    Old Testament morality, which was established for a primitive people, has been perfected through New Testament morality and cannot stand on its own. Those who attempt to divorce the two are purposely seeking to misrepresent Christian morality. In any case, your contradictions persist. According to what standard can you claim that any morality is “better” than any other? You keep alluding to a standard of measurement that you also claim doesn’t exist.

    —“There have been many non-Christian societies that have nonetheless observed moral codes, unless you are claiming non-Christian societies are immoral by definition.”

    Yes, everyone, and every society, observes a moral code of some kind. There is nothing new in that revelation. In your judgment, are all equally valid since there is no universal or objective standard by which one may be rated higher than the other. Under those circumstances, Nazism and your moral relativism are on an equal moral plane because both are sincerely held moral views.

    —“Christian morality can be as valid as any other.”

    According to what standard of validity? On the one hand, you claim that no objective standard exists; on the other hand, you continue to argue as if one does exist. It is high time for you to grasp the incoherent nature of your position.

    —“I should say that, under the circumstances, the six billion have done pretty well. There are plenty or moral codes around, granted not all of them are religious but then that may be a good thing according to some studies.”

    There you go again. What standard of “well” are you using? Is it the one you claim doesn’t exist? In any case, there are plenty of arbitrary moral codes in existence, but none of them have ever been “worked out,” as you put it. They were established and maintained intrusively from the top down. None of the “isms” were arrived at by consensus, rather they came out of the imagination of armchair philosophers, many of whom could not even preserve order in their own personal lives.

    The only time in history where a bottom up formulation was allowed was in the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence, which was informed by the objective moral principle that humans are made in the image and likeness of God and do, therefore, deserve the privilege of governing themselves. They worked out their laws only because they began with an objectively stated moral code as a foundation. Without that foundation, nothing can be worked out. They did not work out their morality. No one has ever begun from scratch and developed a moral code through dialogue or consensus.

    In spite of your protests, you cannot provide one example of any society that has ever forged a morality through consensus. Indeed, you will not even attempt to work out a morality with me, evading the topic each time I reintroduce it. You and I cannot work out a morality because you reject four out of five of my standards, all of which are non-negotiable for me. I cannot work out a morality with you because I do not accept your standard bearer, John Stuart Mill as a moral authority. Quite the contrary, I hold that his utilitarianism is highly immoral and eminently dangerous. Morality cannot be worked out. Anyone who has ever made a practical attempt at it already knows this.

  44. Off topic: This may be of interest to some:

    Coast to Coast AM – Near Death Research part 1/12 – audio
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBGzdzZkWm4

    Foundation, Dr. Jeffrey Long MD shared research about NDEs, culled from over 1,600 cases. NDEs are lucid
    experiences that a person undergoes while unconscious or clinically dead that cannot be medically explained. While each NDE is unique, there is a remarkable
    amount of similarity and order to the experience, even among people from non-Western cultures, he reported.

    During an NDE, people can see & hear around their immediate vicinity in an out-of-body state. For instance, after they’ve been revived, they’re often able
    to correctly identify objects or people in the room they would not have seen while unconscious. After going through a tunnel-like experience, they
    encounter deceased friends and relatives– never people that are currently alive, Long noted. And the “life review” described in NDEs accurately portrays
    events from the person’s life, even if those events had previously been forgotten.

    NDErs typically reach a boundary or wall they can’t cross or see beyond, and though they don’t want to go back to their earthly existence, they often agree
    to return for the sake of their family, Long detailed. About 15% of NDEs contain frightening material, with 2% having outright hellish imagery, he added. He
    also touched on a new international NDE study, called AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) in which 25 medical centers will assess cardiac arrest patients
    to see how many have NDEs. Specific targets will be set up with hidden images to see if the patients are able to observe them when in an out-of-body state.

    Dr. Jeff and Jody Long
    http://www.near-death.com/expe.....rts10.html

  45. 45

    Seversky,

    I didn’t say anything about measurements. I’ve noticed a tendency of yours to change the subject. I said mathematics. Is mathematics subjective because it doesn’t exist physically? Can we say anything we want to say about math based on whatever our subjective feelings are about it? Can we say that 2 + 2=97? I can say with conviction that I do not like cheese, and that cheese tastes bad, so…. according to you I can also say that since math is subjective that 0 + 5 = 153? How enlightened. In order to avoid objective morality you make mathematics subjective. Well, regardless of whether the Universe “cares” about mathematics, we care, as humans, about it, just as we do about morality. By your rationality of comparing everything of objectivity to whether the Universe “cares” about it or not, you shouldn’t care about whether it cares or not, for it doesn’t care, so neither should you care about what it cares about. If morality and mathematics are to be discarded because the universe doesn’t care for them, then so should your argument about caring whether or not it cares. Because it doesn’t care about your argument. It doesn’t reason, it doesn’t care about anything, it is inert. If you were to model yourself after it, you would also be inert. You’re welcome to think yourself on the level with it, but you cannot then care about what anything else cares about, nor can you argue, for it doesn’t argue. All of this to avoid the obvious that metaphysical things are objective. What more can be said?

  46. Onlookers (and Seversky):

    Sadly, evidently Seversky does not appreciate the absurdity of in one breath declaring . . . .

    Sev, 42: No matter how much KF wishes it were otherwise, there is no logical way to bridge the divide between ‘is’ and ‘ought’. There is no way to ground moral prescriptions except in our common interests as human beings.

    . . . . then in the next one trying to indict God as a moral monster; thus plainly appealing to the binding nature of transcendent morality. For, if ought is no more than agreement among humans about in-common interests, then there is no real ought — beyond the cynically calculating judgement of an heir of Alcibiades and/or Machiavelli that (based on the prevailing balance of power and control on the spread of potentially embarrassing information) “I” cannot get away with more than this.

    Similarly, he does not appreciate that commonality of interests is an interesting ideal, but as the descendant of slaves [and spiritual heir of those Gospel-driven reformers who fought for fifty years to break its stranglehold in the British Empire], I know full well how willfully blinded power-wielders often are to their violation of the legitimate interests of others who are marginalised.

    Coming back to Seversky’s claim that the is-ought gap is unbridgeable in logic, let us provide a bit of context: EXCEPT IF THE GROUND OF BEING IS INHERENTLY MORALLY GOOD, SO THAT GOOD IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF REALITY.

    In short, Sev has inadvertently underscored the utter amorality and relativism of evolutionary materialistic atheism and similar worldviews that do not premise their understanding of reality on such an ultimate being.

    When he then returns to his favourite talking points to try to indict the God of the OT as a moral monster, he is therefore doing one of two things:

    (a) utterly contradicting himself by implicitly accepting the fact of the binding nature of morality while averring a worldvew on which ought reduces to politics and rhetoric, and/or

    (b) trying to rhetorically manipulate our emotions and perceptions of what is right and wrong.

    A further key clue to what is going on is the fact that on being presented directly with the major texts that directly state the core of Biblical morality, Sev cannot find it in himself to pause for a sentence or two to acknowledge its value or validity or contribution to ever so many vital reformations over the long centuries. So, while he says that “[w]e plainly live by the assumption of a shared or collective morality, one whose broad commonality is determined by a general recognition of the fact that we are all human beings [oops, as we see in Descent of man ch 6, Darwin and his moral heirs thought in terms of superior and inferior races of differing worth and fitness to survive, the australian aborigine and the negro being at the bottom of the totem pole, as usual] . . . ” it is all too plain that he cannot acknowledge the force of actual principles that give specific leverage to such generic platitudes.

    And, all too sadly soon, Sev is back at his village atheist rhetoric of trying to indict God as a moral monster and his people as “accomplices” in such monstrosity.

    Nowhere do we find an acknowledgement that the moral status of a Judge or an officer of the civil authority is different from that of a private citizen.

    Nor, recognition that we have in hand in the case of Jonah a very concrete example that shows the actual attitude of God as Governor of the whole earth about national sins, even on the brink of judgement. That is, if there is a way out God will grant it, and the underlying call to repentance is a way out for the individual and the nation — oh, Jamaica, oh America. (By the way, in the particular case of the Assyrians, archaeology has provided abundant vindication of the claim that they became a plague upon the earth. Guess why Jonah wanted them destroyed and uprooted? [And Miller gives a far more balanced, concerned and well researched summary and analysis of especially the case of the Amorites than Sev will acknowledge.])

    So, now we come to the issue of the balance on comparative difficulties:

    1 –> The fact of morality is plain, the issue is whether ought is genuinely binding beyond the prudent consideration of what one can get away with. (And, having seen what a community of amoral laws unto themselves trying to get away with as much as they can looks like, the answer is plain: ought is binding and we ignore it at our peril.)

    2 –> Redemptive Theism has a logically adequate adequate ground for ought in the Holy, good Creator God. For, moral right or wrong are neither arbitrary whims of a capricious god, nor independent of such a god.

    3 –> By contrast, evolutionary materialistic atheism has no is that can ground ought beyond what one must do because one cannot get away with more than that. (And societies or institutions that try to build on such cynical machiavellianism self-destruct.)

    4 –> Biblical morality lays out a core of precepts that have an intuitively good fit to the voice of conscience [no surprise, cf Rom 2:5 - 16], and do define principles that though we will struggle to live by them, help to build a just and decent community.

    5 –> There are troubling cases of judgements of nations in the Bible [including, repeatedly, that of Israel itself], but that does not ground casting off the grounds of morality as the solution. And, we need to reckon carefully indeed with the issue that we are accountable as nations before God as governor of the world and its Judge. (In that context, we must also reckon with the love and redemption of God as self-sacrificing Saviour.)

    _________________

    So, onlookers, we have a serious set of decisions to make on comparative difficulties.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  47. PS: Hawthorne’s analysis of the ethics of evolutionary materialist atheism will bear sobering reflection:

    ________________

    >> Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.) Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action. Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action. (This is just the standard inferential scheme for formal deontic logic.) We’ve conformed to standard principles and inference rules of logic and we’ve started out with assumptions that atheists have conceded in print. And yet we reach the absurd conclusion: therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’. For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit. Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from ‘is’. >>
    _________________

    PPS: And, of course the acknowledgement of evil as an objectionable but undeniable reality as CH has pointed out with a special emphasis on the reality of mathematics, highlights that there is a world of reality beyond matter-energy in space time interacting under the four forces: strong and weak nuclear, electromagnetism, gravitation, acting blindly in light of chance initial circumstances for the cosmos and solar system and the earth. So, either one lets go of materialism or one lets go of both morality and mathematics.

    PPPS: Dear onlooker, please take time to think about the implications of the life, death and resurrection of the greatest moral teacher ever.

  48. StephenB,

    Returning somewhat to the original post, that all evil is the result of the Fall, can you please tell us which law, commandment, or rule Adam and Eve broke? Listed below are the five standards as given by you. Perhaps you can locate their infraction from one (or more) of those standards.

    The Sermon on the Mount

    The Beautitudes

    The Ten Commandments

    The natural moral law

    The Golden Rule

  49. @kairosfocus

    When we speak of the reality of mathematics we generally speak of its correlation to the physical world and what Wenger called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”. Now that is difficult to deny for the materialist without throwing much of the scientific enterprise under the bus. My question to you is – in an attempt to simply play the devil’s advocate – can’t the materialist claim that mathematics is merely an abstraction of the physical world thus subjecting mathematic “under” materialism? In other words, claim that mathematics is a derivative of matter in some way?

    Do you think that’s a valid objection?

  50. Above:

    Evolutionary materialism’s problems with mathematics, logic and reasoning, as well as morality, actually start long before we get to actual mathematical objects and relations.

    For instance, others and I have excerpted professor of the history of biology, William Provine’s remarks in his Darwin Day comments at U of Tenn, 1998:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent. . .

    Here, you will note that materialistic determinism undermines the concept of freedom. But, without true freedom, our thoughts, reasoning and conclusions would be wholly caused and determined by forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to logic, truth, right/wrong and purpose, i.e. the inherent irrationality of evolutionary materialism undermines the rationality that is the premise of mathematics. In an evolutionary materialist world, all is driven by genes, relative power in harsh environments and survival in the face of not having enough to go around; so since on this view we are jumped up apes [and beyond that jumped up pond slime], in Dawkins’ words:

    We are jumped-up apes, and our brains were only designed to understand the mundane details of how to survive in the stone-age African savannah . . .

    Concepts and entities like set membership, mappings, functions and relations, thence twoness or threeness as a matter of the property of one to one correspondence with certain specified sets, infinitesimals, complex numbers, and the like are far beyond such mundane details. Thus, materialism globally undermines the life of the mind, as well as morality.

    My fundamental objection therefore holds long before mathematical entities come into play. Namely, that such evolutionary materialism is inescapably self-referential, and self-contradictory thus patently absurd and false. As the above linked notes:

    . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of "science"] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance ["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning ["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    Going to the particular issue of the reality of mathematical abstractions, you will note HC’s observation on radical subjectivism, that it cuts across the reality of twoness, threeness, and the objectivity of operations such as addition. In a world of fundamental irrationality that is driven by genetic and socio-psychological conditioning, everything is relative to power, and everything is up for grabs. Thus, adherents of such views will not acknowledge first principles of reasoning, nor objectivity of truths that are abstract (nor the actuality of unwelcome facts such as the information-rich code and algorithmically functional complexity in DNA and other molecules that carry out the key operations of the cell). Don’t even bother to mention morality.

    I disagree that when we speak of mathematics we generally mean “its correlation to the physical world.” When we say 2 + 3 = 5, or the integral of x^2, on dx is 2*x^3 + c, we generally mean that these things are and MUST be true,once certain axioms are accepted or implied as reasonable first principles; often because they are self evidently true. (but these days, there is a struggle with self-evident truth, as it does not sit too easily with the academy’s favoured evolutionary materialism. But, that says more about evo mat than about the warranted credible truths that should be key anchor points of fact for any reasonable worldview; on pain of reductio ad absurdum. Which is of course — what a “coincidence”! — also a central proof technique of mathematics: assume X, show it leads to inconsistencies, reject X and accept the denial of X as thus shown true.)

    So, we often ILLUSTRATE mathematical truths by concrete cases that help us form the abstract understanding. (I am after all a self confessed moderate, Richard Skempian constructivist as an educator.)

    But we do not mean that the manipulation of certain arbitrary symbols by certain rules we just happened to come up with, hey presto, just happen to magically correspond to the observable physical world. So, yes, three guavas in a ring, and put in one from each hand more, and we get one, two, three, four, FIVE is physically manifest, but that is because the physical world corresponds to reality too. Similarly, the area under a curve [and note the difference between a function and a graphical plot!] y = x^2 from zero and moving right will be A = 1/2 * x^3, but that is because the physical world manifests the underlying abstract and logical reality that drives the math, not because the math is derived from the physical world. That is why working out the math is so often powerfully able to predict t e future situation: the world is logically ordered and reflects underlying realities that are prior to physical instantiation.

    And, when we see the logic of the cosmic order, as we partly know from the laws of physics etc, and when we see that that logical order is fine tuned to support a world in which intelligent creatures exhibiting cell based life using carbon chemistry like us are possible, w4e see that we have a cosmos that is credibly the product of mind. Or, going back to the book that so many are ever so eager never to hear:

    Rom 1:19 . . . what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    ______________

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Onlookers, Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist is a useful place to begin understanding the crucial logical and factual gaps in the rhetoric of the so-called new atheists.

  51. Riddick:

    You may profit by reading Genesis 1 – 3, if you wish to understand what command Adam and Eve broke; and you will also understand on the biblical narrative, that evil and its destructive consequences were in the wider cosmos long before Adam and Eve — i.e. there was a deceitful tempter at work. (Hint: you cannot adequately love God by ascribing base motives to him and using that to “justify” disobedience. Hint 2: this also shows how on the biblical worldview, natural evils can be seen as the consequence of moral evils; i.e. the successful Free Will Defense properly applies to both classes of evils and so also not only the deductive but the inductive form of the attempted — and logically [as opposed to rhetorically] unsuccessful — argument to atheism from evils.)

    But, your problem is deeper than that, as we may see from Rom 2 and 13:

    Rom 2:1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

    . . . . 5 . . . because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”[a] 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger . . . .

    2: 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

    8 . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    In short, the biblical view is that core morality is written on our hearts, and manifests itself in the principle of not harming neighbour, i.e one’s essential equal. In that context, it is impenitence and rejection of the right and the truth that one full well knows or should know, that are culpable before God. This is especially manifest in self-serving inconsistency on asserting “you unfair to me,: when one is in the same boat of being similarly unfair to others.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  52. @Kairosfocus

    As always, a pleasure reading your response. Thanks!

  53. KF,

    Well done at #50 — a very enjoyable read.

  54. Pardon onlookers, but I am sure kairosfocus will want it pointed out that the integral of x^2 is 1/3*x^3 + c, not 2*x^3 + c as he stated, and that “the area under a curve y = x^2 from zero and moving right” is likewise 1/3 * x^3, not 1/2 * x^3 as he stated.

  55. —riddick: “Returning somewhat to the original post, that all evil is the result of the Fall, can you please tell us which law, commandment, or rule Adam and Eve broke?”

    First Comandment: They engaged in idolatry, followed a false God, and presumed the right to define right and wrong for themselves.

    Seventh Commandment: They stole something that did not belong to them. The tree was God’s property and there was to be “no trespassing.”

    Tenth Commandment: They lusted after worldly goods and privileges that belong to someone else, including the right to be like God.

  56. KairosFocus:Here, you will note that materialistic determinism undermines the concept of freedom. But, without true freedom, our thoughts, reasoning and conclusions would be wholly caused and determined by forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to logic, truth, right/wrong and purpose, …

    Though, it must be pointed out, “chance” is not (and cannot be) the cause of anything. To say that some state or event was caused by chance is literally to state nonsense — it is to state that the cause of the effect was not the effect’s cause; for to attribute causality to “chance” is exactly to state that there is no correlation between the cause and the effect.

    But, other than that point, yes: to assert materialism is to assert that we do not reason; for we cannot, if materialism is the truth about the nature of reality.

    Yet, here we are doing it … even if some of us are insistent upon doing it incorrectly.

  57. Aleta

    Thanks for the catch.

    Antiderivative: d.dx[x^n] = n* x^n-1, so integral is indeed the reverse.

    (I am plainly in need of some refresher integration exercises set by good old Mr Smith, who used to dole them out by the several dozen. Ouch!)

    GEM of TKI

  58. Ilion:

    An interesting debate on chance.

    You will see I spoke of forces of chance, which is a bit broader, recognising that for instance a normal scatter on say length of a bolt is from a summation of a large number of small, bidirectional errors with a random scatter and fluctuations. (And wear will begin to push in a bias; thence statistical process control and three sigma bands.)

    G

  59. Typo: d/dx

  60. Clive Hayden@ 45

    I didn’t say anything about measurements. I’ve noticed a tendency of yours to change the subject. I said mathematics. Is mathematics subjective because it doesn’t exist physically?

    Metrology can be viewed as a part of mathematics but it doesn’t matter here. I was only using it as an illustration.

    We use mathematics to model and manipulate quantities and relationships we observe in the real world. But the model is not the same as the thing being modeled. The model is an arbitrary creation in the minds of the observers, namely, us. It is arbitrary because it need not be the way it is.

    As I noted before, we need not use the symbol ’3′ to represent the quantity of three, it could just as easily be ‘V’ or ’11′ But, to be useful rather than just entertainment, the symbols and their rules of operation need to be consistent across all users and reflect the salient properties of what is being modeled.

    Why the model, in this case mathematics is subjective, however, is quite simply that if we were expunged from the Universe so would our mathematics. The properties of the Universe which our mathematics models would still be there but our math would not.

    If morality and mathematics are to be discarded because the universe doesn’t care for them, then so should your argument about caring whether or not it cares. Because it doesn’t care about your argument.

    I have never argued that morality – or mathematics – should be discarded. What I deny is that they are objective entities that are entitled to some sort of privileged status because of it. Both of them exist within human culture because, in their different ways, they serve very useful purposes which have, probably, improved our chances of survival as a species.

    As for the Universe not caring about my views, I think that is true. I think that, terrifying as the prospect might be, we are on our own here and, as the saying goes, we need to just suck it up and get on with it.

  61. Allanius @ 22:

    As the resident Platonist here (or one of them), I must protest your remarks.

    First, Plato does not teach that “nature is evil” or that “all existence is evil”. Certain Christian heretics, e.g., Marcion and Mani, may have drawn on Platonic themes and vocabulary (taken out of their context in Plato’s writings) to paint a portrait of nature or human existence as evil, but that certainly is not Plato’s teaching.

    Plato does at points speak about the imperfection of nature, its inability to wholly realize rational ordering, but that is not the same as saying that nature is evil or that existence is evil. Something is not evil merely because it is imperfect.

    As for Ayala’s foolish views, I utterly repudiate them, but they have nothing whatsoever to do with Plato. And Darwin’s anti-teleological mode of explanation is the very opposite of Plato’s. You’re looking for a villain in the story, but, like Francis Schaeffer, you’ve got the wrong suspect. I suggest you have a look at Lucretius, who’s one of the genuine spiritual progenitors of both Darwin and Ayala.

    Your notion of Plato’s thought is taken partly from the Phaedo, and partly from the dialogue which bears my name. Each of Plato’s dialogues is written for limited pedagogical purposes, and none can be read simply as a treatise expounding a metaphysical position. The teaching of the Phaedo is qualified in some respects by the teaching of the Timaeus, and the teaching of both is qualified by the teaching of the Republic, and so on.

    The Republic is very significant in that it represents the Good as the source of both understanding and being. All that is, owes its reality to the Good, which the Christian Platonist tradition identifies with God. The relationship of the world to God is not “dualistic” but rather one of participation in the divine goodness and being.

    The statements in the Phaedo which appear to imply distaste for matter are situated dramatically at the point where Socrates is about to die and his soul is going on to a higher destiny, justifying the local emphasis on the superiority of soul to body; and the statements in the Timaeus — which Plato warns us is from the outset is to be understood only as a “likely story” or “befitting tale” — must be read in the light of the whole Platonic corpus, and the Republic is certainly one of the cornerstones of that edifice.

    T.

  62. kairosfocus @ 46

    Sadly, evidently Seversky does not appreciate the absurdity of in one breath declaring . . . .

    Sev, 42: No matter how much KF wishes it were otherwise, there is no logical way to bridge the divide between ‘is’ and ‘ought’. There is no way to ground moral prescriptions except in our common interests as human beings.

    . . . . then in the next one trying to indict God as a moral monster; thus plainly appealing to the binding nature of transcendent morality.

    You see an absurdity you want to see, not one that is there.

    At no point do I appeal to some binding, transcendent morality. I have repeatedly argued that morality can only be grounded in our collective interests as human beings and it is on that basis that we can judge the morality of acts described in the Old Testament.

    My claim is that if you took some of those OT acts, transposed them to a modern context and attributed them to human agency, most people would condemn them as heinous crimes, atrocities and offenses against humanity and demand the the offenders be punished accordingly. The collective opinion of the majority of people today would be that those acts are immoral on their face.

    Similarly, he does not appreciate that commonality of interests is an interesting ideal, but as the descendant of slaves [and spiritual heir of those Gospel-driven reformers who fought for fifty years to break its stranglehold in the British Empire], I know full well how willfully blinded power-wielders often are to their violation of the legitimate interests of others who are marginalised.

    I agree that it is an ideal and one that we are far from realizing but that does not mean we should not try. The US Declaration of Independence and Constitution embody ideals which have been, on occasion, more honored in the breach than the observance. For all the espoused freedoms for all, some of the Founding Fathers owned slaves and the treatment of them and Native American peoples is an unexpunged stain on the national character. But that is still no reason not to try and do better.

    Coming back to Seversky’s claim that the is-ought gap is unbridgeable in logic, let us provide a bit of context: EXCEPT IF THE GROUND OF BEING IS INHERENTLY MORALLY GOOD, SO THAT GOOD IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF REALITY.

    For that argument to have any force you would have to define good as a property of objective reality. You would have to show that, like gravity or light, it can be observed, demonstrated and measured by anyone who chooses to look and that it will appear the same to all, regardless of race, culture or creed. Otherwise you are left with the position that it is a subjective judgement like beauty.

    A further key clue to what is going on is the fact that on being presented directly with the major texts that directly state the core of Biblical morality, Sev cannot find it in himself to pause for a sentence or two to acknowledge its value or validity or contribution to ever so many vital reformations over the long centuries.

    Not true. I am quite happy to acknowledge to contributions of Christianity to European and world culture, that many have done good in its name and that there are passages in the Old Testament which espouse a morality more akin to what we would accept today.

    None of that, however, detracts from the fact there are also stories in the OT which are, by today’s standards, quite blatantly immoral but which, according to the stories, were carried out or endorsed by God and his followers. Even today, they are excused and defended by the faithful.

    Nowhere do we find an acknowledgement that the moral status of a Judge or an officer of the civil authority is different from that of a private citizen.

    In a free and democratic society judges and governors do not appoint themselves, neither do they draft and enact laws all by themselves.

    You have complained, rightly, about the high-handed and oppressive treatment of peoples brought to the Caribbean by the British Empire. But in what way was their treatment much different from that of the less-favored peoples in the Old Testament. In what way did the OT God behave different from that of your British Imperial masters?

    1 –> The fact of morality is plain, the issue is whether ought is genuinely binding beyond the prudent consideration of what one can get away with. (And, having seen what a community of amoral laws unto themselves trying to get away with as much as they can looks like, the answer is plain: ought is binding and we ignore it at our peril.)

    Alright, just for the sake of argument, let’s accept the above, so whose morality is binding? Is it Baptist or Pentecostal? Because you will have trouble convincing Catholics or Episcopalians, let alone the rest of the world, to accept it. What about Muslim morality? Good luck trying to get that accepted in the US or most other non-Muslim parts of the world.

    No, what most onlookers will interpret you to be promoting is that version of morality espoused by your particular faith. But to those of different faiths, or no faith at all, that looks like a form of sectarian or religious imperialism.

    2 –> Redemptive Theism has a logically adequate adequate ground for ought in the Holy, good Creator God. For, moral right or wrong are neither arbitrary whims of a capricious god, nor independent of such a god.

    Which, to an outsider, sounds like ‘my God is right because He says so’.

    And, we need to reckon carefully indeed with the issue that we are accountable as nations before God as governor of the world and its Judge.

    If your God is indeed Governor and Judge of the world then I have a long list of complaints about the way it is being run for Him to deal with when he’s not too busy.

  63. Well I am still none the wiser about where morals come from if we don’t create them ourselves. StephenB, why have you chosen those five standards as the source of your morals? Surely there are other moral teachings in the bible you could have included but decided not to? And why have you elected not to include some of the harsh prescriptions from the old testament?

  64. Seversky, as one near death experiencer put it in kind of a surprised tone, Well yea you can argue with God in heaven, God WILL WIN, but you can argue. I also find it interesting that the +99% consistent message of people who have been through the panoramic life review part of NDEs is that of learning to love being the greatest goal of life on this earth.

    The Day I Died – Documentary Part 6 of 6
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuqRBkooYIs

    Near Death Experiences – Scientific Evidence – Dr Jeff Long M.D.
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    Near Death Experience Miracle Healing – Atheist Out Of Body
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4094105

    Near Death Experience (NDE) Song – The Way – Fastball
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4193448

  65. 66

    Seversky,

    Please quit deferring to “3″ possibly being “V” or “11″. I’m not talking about symbols or models, whether they be Roman or Arabic or martian. I’m asking you a simple question. Can 2 + 2 = 187, as we understand those symbols? No one disagrees that the symbols are arbitrary, who cares? I’m talking about what they represent. Answer my question, can 2 + 2 = 187? And do not change the subject.

  66. Clive,

    It seems that you try to show Seversky that there are truths/laws/information/words (choose your favourite word) that exist completely independently of us, or even independently of the entire universe and anything we can think about.

    You are not alone, some other people already wrote about it in John 5:26.

  67. Clive Hayden @66,
    You are right in saying that 2+2 is not equal to 187, and mathematicians got that right when they said 2+2=4.

    But what about the value of pi?

    We don’t know what it’s actual value is.

    When someone asks you what the circumference of a 3″ dia. circle is, there is no way of determining it with our math.

    The value of pi is not embedded in the universe. We came up with it and yet we can’t calculate it absolutely.

    Math is our invention and that is what Seversky is trying to say.

  68. 69

    Toronto,

    The value of pi is not embedded in the universe. We came up with it and yet we can’t calculate it absolutely.

    Math is our invention and that is what Seversky is trying to say.

    If math is our invention, then we could calculate it with whatever calculation we decided to invent.

  69. —zero seven: “StephenB, why have you chosen those five standards as the source of your morals? Surely there are other moral teachings in the bible you could have included but decided not to? And why have you elected not to include some of the harsh prescriptions from the old testament?”

    I listed those five standards, which I embrace, first to dramatize the point that morality cannot be arrived at by consensus. I have invited anyone to place their standards on the table and “work out” a morality with me. None have tried because everyone understands, in spite of their protests to the contrary, that morality cannot be forged throught consensus.

    Also, I chose those five standards because they represent most of what 2000 years of history has taught us about morality and human nature. On the other hand, they do not form a complete picture of my moral code. I also accept Papal Encyclicals because they integrate biblical teachings with the natural moral law, but that goes beyond the scope of what we are doing.

    What other moral teachings did you have in mind? Which harsh presriptions in the Old Testament are you talking about that represent a universal code of morality meant for all people at all times and in all places?

  70. riddick, thank you for the link. I listened to Mr. McVey’s points and he seems like a good man. I am with him on some things but perhaps not most things.

    Yes, he is absolutely right in saying that we can do what the right things for the wrong reasons, in which case they would not be morally good acts. A man could, for example, tell the truth in order to ruin a person’s reputation or pay someone a compliment in order to manipulate him.

    On the other hand, it is important to know the moral law and follow it to the best of our ability. We should ask for heavenly help to attain that goal and to heal our wounds when we fail. We are not just creatures of isolated acts but rather slaves to our own habits, both good and bad. We cannot simply become Christians and hope that our mystical experiences will provide all the moral guidance we need. Millions of Christians are addicted to pornography, for example, because no one had the kindness to tell them that lust is, indeed, a sin and it does have spiritual, intellectual, and physical consequences. Viewing those kinds of images forms neural pathways in the brain and enslaves those who develop the habit. Fortunately, new neural pathways can be formed to liberate those unfortunate souls who have fallen victim, though not without heavenly help.

    It is true, as Mr. McVey implies, that a spirit of charity should cause us to rise above the need for a moral code. Still, we cannot bypass the moral law to rise to that level, we must pass through it. A truly loving person wouldn’t dream of stealing from his neighbor, so, at that level, he doesn’t need the code because his love of neighbor forbids it. On the other hand, he arrived at the point by keeping the code, forming the right habits, and growing in love– not by claiming to have no need for the code.

    There are, in fact, two extremes to be avoided: Legalism, which obsesses over the behavioral code and ignores the heart’s intentions, and permissiveness, which obsesses over good feelings and ignores the behavioral code. Mr. McVey seems aware of the former danger and unaware of the latter danger. In truth, we need both a loving spirit and a code so we can know when we are really acting out of love and when we are not. Without the code, we can lie to ourselves. If anyone wants to find out how bad he really is, let him try to be good.

  71. StephenB,

    Thanks. As usual, your response is thoughtful and reasoned.

    You play the piano, right? Any Beethoven? You’ll love this!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GazlqD4mLvw

  72. riddick, thanks for the link. I love the classics, but I have also been steeped in traditional jazz.

  73. StephenB, You like Jazz?

    There is a cool ‘guitar” jazz song in the background of this video you may like. I really enjoyed it.

  74. helps to post the link:

    The Electron – The Supernatural Basis of Reality – video
    http://www.tangle.com/view_vid.....2f4b8e5995

  75. @stephenB

    -”We are not just creatures of isolated acts but rather slaves to our own habits, both good and bad.”

    -”a spirit of charity should cause us to rise above the need for a moral code. Still, we cannot bypass the moral law to rise to that level, we must pass through it. A truly loving person wouldn’t dream of stealing from his neighbor, so, at that level, he doesn’t need the code because his love of neighbor forbids it. On the other hand, he arrived at the point by keeping the code, forming the right habits, and growing in love– not by claiming to have no need for the code”

    -”There are, in fact, two extremes to be avoided: Legalism, which obsesses over the behavioral code and ignores the heart’s intentions, and permissiveness, which obsesses over good feelings and ignores the behavioral code”

    Stephen, I really enjoy reading the insight you bring to the table. I must say I agree on all accounts!

  76. above, thanks for the kind words.

  77. Onlokers:

    Earlier today, I addressed substantially the same reiterated objections to Christian morality by Seversky, here. Other points were already answered above. Note in particular how he is consistently unable to balance his understanding of the core of biblical morality and its impact over the long centuries, which should tell us a lot.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I will go with much of SB’s remarks on Mr McVey. We do need to look beyond the external act to act by love under truth, the actual biblical standard for morality.

  78. kairosfocus:

    Please forgive me if you’ve been asked this question before, but if you wish to be called “kairosfocus”, why do you always sign your name as “GEM of TKI”? And what does “GEM of TKI” stand for?

    T.

  79. T:

    TKI is The Kairos Initiative [my working persona], and GEM are my personal initials.

    G

  80. kairosfocus:

    Do you have a web site with more information about your “initiative”?

    T.

  81. Clive Hayden @ 66

    Please quit deferring to “3? possibly being “V” or “11?. I’m not talking about symbols or models, whether they be Roman or Arabic or martian. I’m asking you a simple question. Can 2 + 2 = 187, as we understand those symbols? No one disagrees that the symbols are arbitrary, who cares? I’m talking about what they represent. Answer my question, can 2 + 2 = 187? And do not change the subject.

    No, 2 + 2 cannot equal 187 given our notation and the rules which govern its use. 2 + 2 = 4, 4 + 4 = 8. 8 + 8 = 16 and so on.

    Now, I have a question for you. Could you go out and find a two somewhere? I don’t mean the numeral ’2′ or any of the other symbols that have been or are being used to represent that quantity and I don’t mean two of anything, not two pens or two books, just two. Does it exist anywhere except in our heads?

  82. Hi Sev, I believe it was in the 4th grade, in Mrs. Pollitt’s math class, at Central Grade School in Canton, Illinois, where we learned that numbers weren’t concrete. They are indeed abstract. Numerals, on the other hand, we use to represent numbers all the time. I think there is something important in that vis-a-vis the materialist/naturalist ontology. When I started thinking about important things a few years ago my first clue that materialism was false was Mathematics. Also you may want to see a discussion of metaphysical realism and nominalism. A good start is the second edition of Metaphysics: a contemporary introduction by Michael J. Loux, Routledge Contemporary Introductions to philosophy. Chapters 1 and 2.

  83. Seversky:

    I notice you have changed tack overnight. Let’s rearrange the matter just a bit:

    Now, I have a question for you. Could you go out and find a two [evil, a proposition, information, man, woman, love, a mind] somewhere? I don’t mean the numeral ‘2? [the alphanumerical string "evil" etc] or any of the other symbols [or physical entities] that have been or are being used to represent that quantity [or entity] and I don’t mean two of anything [a sentence or a CD or a vinyl record or an individual human or a brain] . . . just two [or evil or information or propositions or mind]. Does it exist anywhere except in our heads?

    Do you not see that “in our heads [and 'hearts']” lies a gateway to a realm of reality that transcends the world of concrete particulars?

    Do you not see that the best explanation of the “unreasonable effectiveness” of mathematics, logic, information, ethical thought, the power of love, etc is that these things — though not concrete — are real?

    And so, when our cosmos instantiates such realities, it conforms to that reality?

    A reality that is ultimately mental — this being classically regarded as a manifestation of soul or spirit?

    Taking up the case of the reality of evil, which obviously exercises you even though your materialist view cannot cogently address it, having in it no IS that can ground OUGHT (which leads you to express and seek to manipulate emotions).

    Let us bring to bear some remarks by Koukl:

    Evil is real . . . That’s why people object to it. Therefore, objective moral standards must exist as well [i.e. as that which evil offends and violates] . . . . The first thing we observe about [such] moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties. We won’t bump into them in the dark. They don’t extend into space. They have no weight. They have no chemical characteristics. Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of [though informed by experiences acquired through the use of] our five senses . . . .

    We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real. Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws. This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe. If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false.

    There seem to be many other things that populate the world, things like propositions, numbers, and the laws of logic. Values like happiness, friendship, and faithfulness are there, too, along with meanings and language. There may even be persons–souls [thus minds], angels, and other divine beings.

    Our discovery also tells us some things really exist that science has no access to, even in principle. Some things are not governed by natural laws. Science, therefore, is not the only discipline giving us true information about the world. [a great error of contemporary education, and one ever so convenient tot he Lewontinian a priori materialists] It follows, then, that naturalism as a world view is also false.

    Our discovery of moral rules forces us to expand our understanding of the nature of reality and open our minds to the possibility of a host of new things that populate the world in the invisible realm.

    Remember, Seversky, we have seen that the inherent reductionism of evolutionary materialism leads it to try to reduce mind to brain and onward to neural networks programmed by genetics and environmental forces. Thus, it ends up in a disastrous self-referential inconsistency (the one you are ever so wont to dismiss by a fallacious negative appeal to authority, when instead you need to ground the reality and credibility of reasoning on the premises of your worldview instead . . . ) as it then undermines the credibility of reasoning.

    Also, precisely because of your want of an IS that can ground OUGHT, you have no basis other than emotions and power games — what you euphemistically described as “consensus” — for grounding morality. But, emotions often blind us, and power elites are often wrong and destructive, to the point where “might makes right” (the baldly put form of “consensus”) is a patent absurdity.

    And, when it comes to the Judaeo-Christian frame that you are so obviously deeply hostile to, pardon my drawing attention to another, even more central text, one that has been there for some 1920 years, as attested by the Rylands fragment of AD 125 or so:

    John 3:12I have spoken to you [Nicodemus] of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[d] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[cf. here on a quick survey of the evidence.]

    16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him . . . 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

    So, Sev, I think that maybe you need to do some comparative difficulties analysis across competing worldviews on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power. This, in light of the issue of foundational warranted, credible truths.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

    PS: T, why not follow my always linked briefing in the Left Hand Column [through my online handle], and explore from there? You might find the discussion of sustainability issues and approaches, here, particularly descriptive of the sort of things I do when I get up from what insomnia power allows me to do in the wee hours of the morning. (E.g. right now, I am working on issues on fixing a draft national constitution and its development process [lots of trojan horse clauses, due to de facto intimidatory imposition by an agenda driven office of a metropolitan administrative power . . . imagine, on issuing a warrant, an externally appointed officer can raid the local treasury "at his or her sole discretion" -- finally fixed after nine years of repeated drafts (though I was not directly involved on this particular one, gives the overall flavour on the least controversial point)], linked to the question of how to rebuild a shattered private sector, destroyed by a predictable disaster for which warnings decades ahead were not heeded.)

  84. 85

    Seversky,

    Now, I have a question for you. Could you go out and find a two somewhere? I don’t mean the numeral ‘2? or any of the other symbols that have been or are being used to represent that quantity and I don’t mean two of anything, not two pens or two books, just two. Does it exist anywhere except in our heads?

    This is getting to the heart of your issue with what it means to exist and what it means for something to be objective. Something doesn’t have to be physically found in order to exist, metaphysical things exist, and they are objective, such as math. I think you have it in mind that whatever is in your head doesn’t exist, in which case none of your arguments exist, nor does logic, reason, ect., because you won’t find logic and reason out in the yard, nor will you find your argument laying beside them. However, you need these things in order to make an argument, and it becomes self defeating to then assert that all logic and reason that your argument rests upon doesn’t actually exist, it’s just “in your head”, in which case it “doesn’t matter” or “doesn’t really mean anything” because you don’t see it wash up on a shoreline. Metaphysical things exist more than physical things. We understand them, we understand what makes something just or unjust, we understand freedom, dignity, mathematics and morality, that is, we perceive their reasonableness with our reason. We have no equivalent perception of reason, that is, a rational understanding, with physical things. Physical things are a mystery, in the respect that we cannot reason to them, we cannot see their reasonableness as ideas. We can see the mental connection between a pickpocket and a prison, we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. We cannot see the mental connection between a bird that flies and laying eggs. We do not see the mental necessity as we do with metaphysical things like math and morality and reason and logic. The material world constantly defies “explanation” in that way; it can be “described” by science, but not “explained”. No amount of description adds up to an argument for reasonable proscription, that is, proscription perceived with our reason.

    What you have proposed as an argument doesn’t defeat the objectivity of math or morality, it defeats the ability to argue at all. Unless your argument “means” something real, beyond the status of being nothing that you give to it, you cannot argue for anything. You lay the axe to the trunk of the tree whose branch you are sitting on.

  85. Clive, nice, thanks.

  86. Clive at #85, excellent. I think I heard some Chesterton in there. :D

  87. 88

    Clive at 85.

    Agreed!

  88. 85:

    We cannot see the mental connection between a bird that flies and laying eggs. We do not see the mental necessity as we do with metaphysical things like math and morality and reason and logic.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, because I would have assumed that there has to be some logically necessary reason that birds lay eggs. If you’re saying its just some arbitrary contigent state of affairs that arose for no good reason, that would seem to be consistent with Darwinism or what have you. Also consisent I guess with the arbitrary decision of some creative intelligent agent. But I would assume that birds lay eggs because logically it has to be that way, governed of course by some degree of random contigency in their evolutionary history.

  89. @Clive

    “The material world constantly defies “explanation” in that way; it can be “described” by science, but not “explained”. No amount of description adds up to an argument for reasonable proscription, that is, proscription perceived with our reason.”

    Mr. Hammer, let me introduce you to Mr. Nail’s head.

  90. Clive Hayden @ 85

    This is getting to the heart of your issue with what it means to exist and what it means for something to be objective. Something doesn’t have to be physically found in order to exist, metaphysical things exist, and they are objective, such as math. I think you have it in mind that whatever is in your head doesn’t exist, in which case none of your arguments exist, nor does logic, reason, ect., because you won’t find logic and reason out in the yard, nor will you find your argument laying beside them.

    You still haven’t explained what you understand the difference between subjective and objective to be.

    My standard is quite simple. Objective is that which is mind-independent. It is what continues to exist whether we are aware of it or thinking about it or whether there are any minds at all to think about it. It is the Johnsonian stone against which we all stub our toes.

    The problem we all have is that everything we know about the world is experienced in the mind. As I see it, we all live in a mental model of reality which is reconstructed on the basis of the data streaming in through our senses. Much of the model is ‘slaved’ to that sensory input because our survival depends on it. If someone walks on to a busy freeway because all they see is a green field, that faulty model is unlikely to get passed on. But we can also set aside some of our mental capacity to play and manipulate and experiment with the model. We call it ‘imagination’ and it can be enormously powerful and useful. The trick is to keep track of what is ‘out there’ as well as ‘in here’ and distinct from what is just ‘in here’. Metaphysics and mathematics and morality can all be said to exist ‘in here’. They can be applied to our internal model of what is ‘out there’ but it is a mistake to think that they have any objective existence.

    Mathematics seems to have its roots in the early reckonings that were useful in early agriculture and commerce and civil administration. For example, we can imagine a man who owns a plot of land all those years ago deciding he will divide it evenly between his three sons. Being able to measure it, calculate the area and divide it into three equal plots would have been useful. But in what sense could any of that be said to be objective. After all the land would just have been the land. It existed long before the owner came along, probably long before his species came along, and most probably would continue to exist long after. There would have been nothing in nature, nothing in objective reality, to show the land belonged to that man or that it naturally was divided into three for his sons. The concept of ownership, of an area owned and of the possible divisions of that area are all subjective. They exist only in the minds of the people concerned for the short period they exist.

    Morality is the same. There is no sense in which it can be said to exist ‘out there’. If you want a further argument, consider that the things we call objective, such as light or the air we breathe or gravity, are thought of as such because they are perceived and experienced the same by everybody, regardless of race, creed or color. But there have been and still are many differences over what is moral between different religious and political groups That would not be the case if morality had the same objective existence as the other things I mentioned.

  91. 92

    Seversky,

    Metaphysics and mathematics and morality can all be said to exist ‘in here’. They can be applied to our internal model of what is ‘out there’ but it is a mistake to think that they have any objective existence.

    I noticed you didn’t include reason and logic into your list of what doesn’t actually exist because you haven’t found them in your front yard, because you know you would have a fatal self-contradiction arguing that reason and logic do not exist objectively while trying to use reason and logic in an argument, acting as if you were making a “real” or “objectively true” argument. You would be more consistent to say that you cannot reason at all, given that it is an invention by man, much like how we measured land, arbitrarily, but even this would be a contradiction, so you avoid it. You group math and morality into the subjective category, while scrupulously avoiding putting reason and logic into it, knowing full well that that would be self-defeating. Have you found reason and logic in your front yard, and can then make your argument that metaphysical things don’t “really” exist? I would like to see them, maybe you can email me pictures. These essays should help clear it up. And I noticed you didn’t actually address my argument, but rather told me how you see things; which is fine, but it leaves me wondering if you even understand my argument.

    “One cause of misery and vice is always present with us in the greed and pride of men, but at certain periods in history this is greatly increased by the temporary prevalence of some false philosophy. Correct thinking will not make good men of bad ones; but a purely theoretical error may remove ordinary checks to evil and deprive good intentions of their natural support. An error of this sort is abroad at present. I am not referring to the Power philosophies of the Totalitarian states, but to something that goes deeper and spreads wider and which, indeed, has given these Power philosophies their golden opportunity. I am referring to Subjectivism.

    After studying his environment man has begun to study himself. Up to that point, he had assumed his own reason and through it seen all other things. Now, his own reason has become the object: it is as if we took out our eyes to look at them. Thus studied, his own reason appears to him as the epiphenomenon which accompanies chemical or electrical events in a cortex which is itself the by-product of a blind evolutionary process. His own logic, hitherto the king whom events in all possible worlds must obey, becomes merely subjective. There is no reason for supposing that it yields truth.

    As long as this dethronement refers only to the theoretical reason, it cannot be wholehearted. The scientist has to assume the validity of his own logic (in the stout old fashion of Plato or Spinoza) even in order to prove that it is merely subjective, and therefore he can only flirt with subjectivism. It is true that this flirtation sometimes goes pretty far. There are modern scientists, I am told, who have dropped the words truth and reality out of their vocabulary and who hold that the end of their work is not to know what is there but simply to get practical results. This is, no doubt, a bad symptom. But, in the main, subjectivism is such an uncomfortable yokefellow for research that the danger, in this quarter, is continually counteracted.

    But when we turn to practical reason the ruinous effects are found operating in full force. By practical reason I mean our judgement of good and evil. If you are surprised that I include this under the heading of reason at all, let me remind you that your surprise is itself one result of the subjectivism I am discussing. Until modern times no thinker of the first rank ever doubted that our judgements of value were rational judgements or that what they discovered was objective. It was taken for granted that in temptation passion was opposed, not to some sentiment, but to reason. Thus Plato thought, thus Aristotle, thus Hooker, Butler and Doctor Johnson. The modern view is very different. It does not believe that value judgements are really judgements at all. They are sentiments, or complexes, or attitudes, produced in a community by the pressure of its environment and its traditions, and differing from one community to another. To say that a thing is good is merely to express our feeling about it; and our feeling about it is the feeling we have been socially conditioned to have.

    But if this is so, then we might have been conditioned to feel otherwise. “Perhaps,” thinks the reformer or the educational expert, “it would be better if we were. Let us improve our morality.” Out of this apparently innocent idea comes the disease that will certainly end our species (and, in my view, damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that men can create values, that a community can choose its “ideology” as men choose their clothes. Everyone is indignant when he hears the Germans define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will. Unless there is some objective standard of good, overarching Germans, Japanese, and ourselves alike whether any of us obey it or no, then of course the Germans are as competent to create their ideology as we are to create ours. If “good” and “better” are terms deriving their sole meaning from the ideology of each people, then of course ideologies themselves cannot be better or worse than one another. Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring. For the same reason it is useless to compare the moral ideas of one age with those of another: progress and decadence are alike meaningless words.

    All this is so obvious that it amounts to an identical proposition. But how little it is now understood can be gauged from the procedure of the moral reformer who, after saying that “good” means “what we are conditioned to like” goes on cheerfully to consider whether it might be “better” that we should be conditioned to like something else. What in Heaven’s name does he mean by “better”?

    He usually has at the back of his mind the notion that if he throws over traditional judgement of value, he will find something else, something more “real” or “solid” on which to base a new scheme of values. He will say, for example, “We must abandon irrational taboos and base our values on the good of the community” – as if the maxim “Thou shalt promote the good of the community’ were anything more than a polysyllabic variant of ‘Do as you would be done by’ which has itself no other basis than the old universal value judgement that he claims to be rejecting. Or he will endeavor to base his values on biology and tell us that we must act thus and thus for the preservation of our species. Apparently he does not anticipate the question, ‘Why should the species be preserved?’ He takes it for granted that it should, because he is really relying on traditional judgements of value. If he were starting, as he pretends, with a clean slate, he could never reach this principle. Sometimes he tries to do so by falling back on “instinct.” “We have an instinct to preserve our species”, he may say. But have we? And if we have, who told us that we must obey our instincts? And why should we obey this instinct in the teeth of many others which conflict with the preservation of the species? The reformer knows that some instincts are to be obeyed more than others only because he is judging instincts by a standard, and the standard is, once more, the traditional morality which he claims to be superseding. The instincts themselves obviously cannot furnish us with grounds for grading the instincts in a hierarchy. If you do not bring a knowledge of their comparative respectability to your study of them, you can never derive it from them…

    ~The Poison of Subjectivism, C. S. Lewis.

    What makes it impossible that it should be true is not so much the lack of evidence for this or that scene in the drama as the fatal self-contradiction which runs right through it. The Myth [of Evolution] cannot even get going without accepting a good deal from the real sciences. And the real sciences cannot be accepted for a moment unless rational inferences are valid: for every science claims to be a series of inferences from observed facts. It is only by such inferences that you can reach your nebulae and protoplasm and dinosaurs and sub-men and cave-men at all. Unless you start by believing that reality in the remotest space and the remotest time rigidly obeys the laws of logic, you can have no ground for believing in any astronomy, any biology, any paleontology, any archaeology. To reach the positions held by the real scientists- which are then taken over by the Myth-you must, in fact, treat reason as an absolute. But at the same time the Myth asks me to believe that reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. The content of the Myth thus knocks from under me the only ground on which I could possibly believe the Myth to be true. If my own mind is a product of the irrational – if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel- how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about Evolution? They say in effect: ‘I will prove that what you call a proof is only the result of mental habits which result from heredity which results from bio-chemistry which results from physics.’ But this is the same as saying: ‘I will prove that proofs are irrational’: more succinctly, ‘I will prove that there are no proofs’: The fact that some people of scientific education cannot by any effort be taught to see the difficulty, confirms one’s suspicion that we here touch a radical disease in their whole style of thought.

    ~The Funeral of a Great Myth, C. S. Lewis.

    Can we carry through to the end the view that human thought is merely human: that it is simply a zoological fact about homo sapiens that he thinks in a certain way; that it in no way reflects (though no doubt it results from) non-human or universal reality? The moment we ask the question, we receive a check. We are at this very point asking whether a certain view of human thought is true. And the view in question is just the view that human thought is not true, not a reflection of reality. And this view is itself a thought. In other words, we are asking ‘Is the thought that no thoughts are true, itself true?’ If we answer ‘Yes,’ we contradict ourselves. For if all thoughts are untrue, then this thought is untrue. There is therefore no question of total skepticism about human thought…

    ~De Futilitate, C. S. Lewis.

  92. Clive Hayden-

    It’s true that C.S. Lewis was a great thinker and man. :)

  93. @Clive #92

    But Clive, if we were even to accept seversky’s dogmatic assertions about mathematics, such a claim would only serve to undermine scientific realism. It seems to me he is flirting with a reduction ad absurdum thinking like that.

    I second Pgaedros’ notion about C.S. Lewis. Brilliant man he was.

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