Home » Intelligent Design » Is a Modern Myth of the Metals the Answer?

Is a Modern Myth of the Metals the Answer?

In the post below Andrew Sibley links to an extraordinary article in The Times about the link between Darwinism and the recent spate of school shootings, and in the comments Leviathan steps up to give us the obligatory “this doesn’t disprove Darwinism” response. 

Leviathan, you are missing the point.  I read the article and there is not one word in it that attacks Darwinism per se.  For all you or I know the author could be a Darwinian fundamentalist.  I take it that the point of the article is that some school shooters are influenced by Darwinian theory.  That is undeniable. 

Actually, I take that back.  I am sure there are Darwinian fundamentalists out there who would deny that any school shooter has ever been influenced by Darwinism, but that just goes to show that Darwinian fundamentalists will deny propositions they know to be true.  I should say that the proposition cannot be denied in good faith. 

The author obviously wants his readers to consider not the validity of the theory itself but the implications the theory has for ethics.  When we teach our children that their existence is an ultimately meaningless accident and that morals are arbitrary byproducts of random genetic fluctuations and mechanical necessity, should we be surprised that they place a lower value on human life than someone who is taught that all humans have inherent dignity and worth because they are made in the image of God?

What to do?  What to do?  In considering this question, I am reminded of Plato’s “noble lie.”  In The Republic Plato proposed a special class of guardians trained from infancy to rule over the other classes.  But how do we persuade the guardians to rule for the common good instead of using their power to advance their personal ambitions?  Plato comes up with the “noble lie,” specifically the myth of the metals.  The answer, Plato says, is to make the guardians believe the gods have mixed a particular type of metal with the souls of the members of the different classes of society.  While common people have bronze or iron mixed with their soul, the guardians have gold mixed with theirs.  And here is the kicker:  The guardians are to be taught that they must never acquire wealth for themselves, because the gods frown at mixing earthly gold with spiritual gold.  Talk about chasing your tail.  Plato proposes a system in which the city spends years training the guardians in all the knowledge and wisdom they have, all the while making sure that at the end of the process they are still dumb enough to believe the myth of the metals. 

There are three and only three options. 

1.  We can continue to fill our children’s heads with standard Darwinian theory (which Dennett rightly calls “universal acid”), understanding that at least some of them are going to put two and two together and realize that the acid has eaten through all ethical principles – and act accordingly.

2.  We can try to come up with a secular noble lie.  “OK kids.  You might have noticed that one of the implications of what I just taught you is that your lives are ultimately meaningless and all morals are arbitrary, but you must never act as if that is true because [fill in the noble lie of your choice, such as “morality is firmly grounded on societal norms or our ability to empathize with others”].

3.  We can teach our children the truth – that the universe reveals a wondrous ordered complexity that can only be accounted for by the existence of a super-intelligence acting purposefully.  And one of the implications of that conclusion is that God exists, and, reasoning further, He has established an objective system of morality that binds us all, and therefore the moral imperatives you feel so strongly are not just an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical states of your brain.

Looking around I see that for the last several decades we have tried options one and two, and we have gotten what we have gotten.  I vote to give option three a run.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

129 Responses to Is a Modern Myth of the Metals the Answer?

  1. And we don’t even have to use the Bible, since it’s already codified in our declaration.

    But then, to return to option three might get people thinking once again about their God-given rights, and then where would our government be?

    I hardly think it would support such a move.

  2. Thank you, Barry. For the moment I thought I was the only one who saw Leviathan’s post.

  3. 3. We can teach our children the truth – that the universe reveals a wondrous ordered complexity that can only be accounted for by the existence of a super-intelligence acting purposefully. And one of the implications of that conclusion is that God exists, and, reasoning further, He has established an objective system of morality that binds us all, and therefore the moral imperatives you feel so strongly are not just an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical states of your brain.

    This is very bad reasoning. Even if a deity created the universe, it doesn’t follow at all that “He has established an objective system of morality that binds us all”. For all we know, the universe is an experiment of a cruel deity that delights in the struggle for existence.

  4. Barry, thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. As a fellow advocate of Intelligent Design I cherish the ability to spar intellectually with my peers, although it seems there is a fundamental misunderstanding between our two positions.

    Leviathan, you are missing the point. I read the article and there is not one word in it that attacks Darwinism per se. For all you or I know the author could be a Darwinian fundamentalist. I take it that the point of the article is that some school shooters are influenced by Darwinian theory. That is undeniable.

    Saying that Darwinian methodology should be done away with due to the moral decay it may or may not perpetrate is still attacking Darwinian methodology outside of its merits to science. I said it before in the other thread: science is science. Moral considerations should be kept out of the laboratory, no matter how much we may dislike the consequences.

    In all honesty, this is akin to railing against the theory of gravity because of countless fall-related deaths each year.

    In any case, I’m willing to make a decent argument for the synthesis of some (not all) Darwinian mechanisms within the whole frame of an intelligent design mindset. What I am not prepared to do, however, is stoop to underhanded tactics of attacking the science of Darwinism indirectly via a moral argument.

    Actually, I take that back. I am sure there are Darwinian fundamentalists out there who would deny that any school shooter has ever been influenced by Darwinism, but that just goes to show that Darwinian fundamentalists will deny propositions they know to be true. I should say that the proposition cannot be denied in good faith.

    If I went out and shot up a school, and later you found my journals stating that I had worshiped Albert Einstein and was a vehement subscriber to his Theory of Relativity, would you be outraged and demand relativity be stricken from the school books?

    The author obviously wants his readers to consider not the validity of the theory itself but the implications the theory has for ethics. When we teach our children that their existence is an ultimately meaningless accident and that morals are arbitrary byproducts of random genetic fluctuations and mechanical necessity, should we be surprised that they place a lower value on human life than someone who is taught that all humans have inherent dignity and worth because they are made in the image of God?

    Yes, in the same way that we should be surprised by the example I gave above. Darwinism, from what I understand by its constituents, does not teach that life is meaningless; it teaches that there is no objective meaning, therefore meaning must be given by the observer; I.E., an agency. Upon further analysis, this concept is in fact a central idea to Intelligen Design! Evidence of the “prime mover”, the Intelligent Designer, can be found via the complexity of nature, and that meaning (life) was originally given by a subjective observer (the designer, who or whatever that may be).

  5. Jitsak,

    I agree you cannot deduce that from the physical beauty and order of the universe. That is why we Christians believe we needed revelation to teach us such things regarding morality. But for those of us who want to bring up our kids with a healthy world view this is what we would teach them out of faith and hope. I am quite confident that it would lead to a better result than what they teach for the most part in China, or Cuba, or most of Africa. I think the US has disintegrated in the quality of it’s people as it has become less and less openly Christian. And this is shewn by Church Attendance going down- and pubic education increasing relative to Christian private schooling… And as far s Europe I am not thrilled with most of their cultures either. I would rather have a Christian inspired culture than a more secular one- not just for my own life- if I was to grow up again- but of course for my future kids should I have them. I think it is pathetic that people lie you are more interested in having no unified theory of morality- aside from one that is openly designer by some of man kinds- then to have one which is believed to be transcendent, and personal as opposed to collective, which simply requires a little faith.

  6. Frost,

    I think it is pathetic that people lie you are more interested in having no unified theory of morality- aside from one that is openly designer by some of man kinds- then to have one which is believed to be transcendent, and personal as opposed to collective, which simply requires a little faith.

    Actually, I am very interested in a unified theory of morality. And I think there is scope for a unified evolutionary theory of morality, although it is very much in its infancy right now. You might like to read some books by Frans de Waal, who has studied morality in apes in great detail.

    I am of the opinion that we have an innate moral compass, and that we have an innate urge to punish those that do not adhere to it. Now, I think these tendencies evolved when humans were living in relatively small groups where social policing was relatively easy. We did not evolve to deal with the moral challenges presented by a more global society. Indeed, we evolved to be hostile to tribes other than our own. This explains a lot of the modern world’s moral degeneration. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

  7. Jit, no there is no hope of an evolutionary theory of morality because evolution’s only moral is that the most fit survive. And I personally think that people like yourself hide behind this absurd hope just to avoid to dismiss real religion- like biblical scripture.

  8. and to think that Human beings could learn anything about morality from lowly apes is also insane and just an attempt to denigrate the moral potential and capacity of man to the level of animals that are totally helpless in the presence of real human beings.

  9. you wrote

    “I am of the opinion that we have an innate moral compass, and that we have an innate urge to punish those that do not adhere to it.”

    Yeah, they had a real good on in Russia and in China and North Korea- and most of Africa. Just marvelous. Isn’t it just amazing what unguided evolution can do?

  10. an attempt to denigrate the moral potential and capacity of man to the level of animals that are totally helpless in the presence of real human beings.

    Have you ever seen a human being fight a 400-pound silverback gorilla?

    Also, are you advocating the idea that humans are not part of the animal kingdom?

  11. Frost,

    Jit, no there is no hope of an evolutionary theory of morality because evolution’s only moral is that the most fit survive. And I personally think that people like yourself hide behind this absurd hope just to avoid to dismiss real religion- like biblical scripture.

    You overlook the possibility that morals may help groups to survive.

    Biblical scripture is just a primitive attempt to codify a combination of our innate moral tendencies and a culturally evolved moral agenda. I understand where that comes from, and I think it contains many valuable lessons (in addition to much moral hazard), but I think it’s outdated. We need to rethink our moral system in a very different world compared to the world the scribes of the Bible lived in.

  12. Jitsak states:

    “We need to rethink our moral system in a very different world compared to the world the scribes of the Bible lived in.”

    And just what higher moral standard than to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and to love your fellow man as yourself, do you think modern “enlightened thinkers” should aspire us unenlightened ones to??? To love material processes with all our heart mind and soul? To help our fellow man and long as helping him helps us in our long term survival??? I’m curious, just what foundation are you going lay this “new” moral framework on???

  13. Your hypothesis that Darwinism causes crime/shootings is interesting, but seems to be at odds with the data.

    Why is it that countries/regions that have relatively profound acceptance of Evolution have low crime rates, few cases of mass homicides, etc?

    Besides the tale of Columbine you weave, what is the proof here?

    http://scienceblogs.com/strang.....ind_of.php

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/w.....te-red.svg

    We could play this all day….should I post a link to every story where God told someone to do some harm?

  14. Jitsak thinks he can do better than than Christ.

  15. Barry opines:

    And one of the implications of that conclusion is that God exists, and, reasoning further, He has established an objective system of morality that binds us all…

    I hear this mentioned constantly, but it does not match my observations of human behavior. It would help if Barry could provide an example or two from this “objective system of morality” that work universally in all situations.

  16. mikev6

    You could read “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Pramahansa Yoganenda and encounter in those pages a whole slew of Christlike figures living the holy life. You could also read “Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening” by Mary Lutyens if you want an amazing account of a man coming into intimate knowledge of the Divine. Since some of these people attained the ultimate in knowledge, living as did Christ, use them as reference points to this universal thing you think of as morality “in all situtions”, but goes way beyond morality.

    Books like this are powerful indicators to me that Christ means what he says when saying “All these things I do, will you do also, and more.”

  17. The whole idea that God has “established an objective system of morality that binds us all” is one of those ideas which sound good in the abstract, but like Darwinism, fall apart when examined carefully.

    Where is this “objective system” written? If you say the Bible, then by whose interpretation? There are as many varieties of Biblically based morality as there are Christian (and Jewish) sects. And why, if God gave the correct “objective system” to the Christians, did He withhold it from the Muslims (or the Hindus or the Buddhists or the Taoists, etc., etc.). Why would an infinitely loving God be so cruel as to give the keys to Heaven only to one group of people and not all of them? I think the fact that there is not one consistent, worldwide “objective system” of morality is very strong evidence that if God does have such a system, He isn’t letting us in on the secret.

    The series “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch gives a very compelling, logically presented case that in fact there is no absolute moral standard, based on who and what we really are, our relationship to God, and God’s purpose for creating the Universe and us. I recommend it highly. In it, God says (and I paraphrase), the standard for what to do in any given situation is, “What would Love do now?”

  18. I would like to know where all of these new names are coming from all of a sudden? It seems like a sudden barrage of weak minds have decided to attack UD.

  19. groovamos:

    Books like this are powerful indicators to me that Christ means what he says when saying “All these things I do, will you do also, and more.”

    Ok, so you’ve provided me with examples of highly moral individuals. I’m also happy to include Christ in that list. These can act as examples – but Barry’s claim is that God is the only true source of an “objective morality”.

    Are we claiming here that atheists can never be moral? What if an atheist lived his entire life unaware of the Bible yet matched by action any of the models you’ve noted (including Christ). Would Barry say that person was moral or not?

    Conversely, if a committed Christian persecutes his gay neighbor because “the Bible says so” – how is God providing an objective standard in that case?
    “Objective” shouldn’t be open to debate, correct?

  20. Leviathan — What I am not prepared to do, however, is stoop to underhanded tactics of attacking the science of Darwinism indirectly via a moral argument.

    Here’s something to consider — what if Darwinism is not longer a science? What if those who promote it are no longer interested in the best explanation as to the workings of nature but merely want to maintain a dogma to justify their life choices? Wouldn’t it then be appropriate to attack Darwinism as a moral argument?

  21. The article certainly had some sobering evidence, but I think taking a look at the role of psychotropic medications should be the first step. If these medications in the combination of an unstable personality, lend a sense of unreality and numbness and an increase in desire to kill, then the human mind will naturally look for an inspiring idea with which to justify it.
    Note that many of these killers who want to weed out the unfit end up committing suicide. So maybe it’s not really about weeding out the unfit. Darwinism helps them do it, but the mental illness and suicidal tendency is the underlying cause. Yet these things are a modern scourge, just when psych meds are becoming overprescribed.

  22. How are the persons committing murder-suicide acting in a Darwinian manner? Logically, one would think that a pretty poor was to pass on one’s genes. It isn’t survival of the deadest.

  23. Mr Arrington,

    Perhaps you would squeeze this modest proposal in under option 1. I think we should teach more evolutioin, not less.

    Specifically, teach the evo-psych notion that human universals, such a moral concept, have been positively selcted for. Morals are good for us, just like we need sunshine to make vitamin D.

    We should also teach the edge of evolution – it does not dictate our thoughts. No matter what strong influences our genetic and developmental heritage may give us, we each are responsible for our thoughts and the actions we take based on them.

  24. avocationist:

    Note that many of these killers who want to weed out the unfit end up committing suicide. So maybe it’s not really about weeding out the unfit. Darwinism helps them do it, but the mental illness and suicidal tendency is the underlying cause.

    Nice try. I seem to recall a similar discussion back when there was that church shooting out in Colorado a couple years back. It was pretty clear the killer was severely mentally ill, but the discussion revolved around trying to find some link to the writings of Richard Dawkins. Let’s face it, there is a culture war going on here and talking about the affects of Xanax just isn’t a compelling weapon in the battle.

  25. There are currently 22 comments in this thread. Of those, three (#7, 13, and 17, or 13.6%) are clearly ad hominem attacks with no attempt at rational argument. All three were posted by frost122585, who has in other threads shown a decided tendency to attack, belittle, insult, and ridicule commentators with whom s/he diasagrees, rather than defending his/her own position with supporting evidence or attack that of his/her opponents with contravailing evidence.

    Ergo, I will no longer respond to frost122585′s comments, and recommend that those commentators at this website who value reasoned arguments supported by objective evidence do the same.

  26. This evolutionary morality thing is crazy. What about the fact that better killers have greater selectivity in many cases? What about how better thieves in business and politics have better selectivity? If these people are more successful in money and power and living on then that gives them a greater chance of survival and reproduction obviously. What about how people who have indiscriminate sex and produce the most children out of wed lock have greater selectivity? Will this lead to a more moral and ideal society?

    Evolution does not lead to morality because simply “existing” or living on, is not ideally moral. Evolution does not select for those qualities which are ideal but do not confer survival benefit. That is evolution is not virtuous. It is merely the quantity of life that gets passed on. All kinds of nasty things like poisonous spiders and snakes live on- In other words there are certain traits we may like to see dissipate all together- but if, evolutionarily, they are coupled to one of the above examples- or other beneficial behavioral traits- then they will be selected for.

    Anyone who thinks random mutations and redundant laws can produce ideal morality is lying to themselves. The world is proof.

  27. Only the Bible offers an objective, absolute standard of morality, based upon the value of life. God is said to have formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life; by this account, life becomes a sacred value—the “light of men.” All of the law and the prophets are based upon this value, summed up in the life-sparing exhortation to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

    No such objective standard exists in Darwinism. Darwinists can agree, of course, to cleave to certain commendable moral propositions, such as “thou shalt not kill,” but this imperative cannot be derived objectively from their origins story. It becomes, as Barry notes, a “noble lie.”

    Thus it is quite possible for Darwinists to deceive themselves into thinking that ignoble lies are in fact noble. The proponents of the “Aryan” race thought they were saving it from degradation and destruction, according to their understanding of the survival of the fittest. Nothing in Darwinism prevented them from sincerely believing that this was a noble goal.

  28. I take it that the point of the article is that some school shooters are influenced by Darwinian theory.

    Darwinian theory or Darwinian slogans? I’m not convinced that actual Darwinian theory was an influence, there seems to be little beyond using “survival of the fittest” as an excuse to kill people deemed inferior.

    In fact, Darwinian theory would suggest that if those deemed unfit genuinely were unfit, there would be no need to do anything. Just let Nature takes its course.

  29. allanius at 24:

    Only the Bible offers an objective, absolute standard of morality, based upon the value of life. God is said to have formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life; by this account, life becomes a sacred value—the “light of men.”

    Maybe you’re right, maybe not. It is your subjective opinion. That is sufficient to refute your claim that the bible offers an objective standard.

    No such objective standard exists in Darwinism. Darwinists can agree, of course, to cleave to certain commendable moral propositions, such as “thou shalt not kill,” but this imperative cannot be derived objectively from their origins story. It becomes, as Barry notes, a “noble lie.”

    It would be a lie if the person would be knowingly deceptive. Are you saying that atheists who propose to stick to the rule “thou shalt not kill” are liars?

  30. In fact, Darwinian theory would suggest that if those deemed unfit genuinely were unfit, there would be no need to do anything. Just let Nature takes its course.

    That’s not true. In nature the strong prey on the weak. They don’t stand by and do nothing.

  31. No matter what strong influences our genetic and developmental heritage may give us, we each are responsible for our thoughts and the actions we take based on them.

    How can I be responsible for the quantum fluctuations taking place in my brain?

  32. I think the fact that there is not one consistent, worldwide “objective system” of morality is very strong evidence that if God does have such a system, He isn’t letting us in on the secret.

    How so? I have a consistent system in my home but my children don’t always follow it. Some children grow up and never follow anything their parents did. The same with us and God.

    If God made us all follow it to show who He was then we’d have no free will. If he gives us free will and let’s us choose then some will not choose. That’s no argument against God’s will. That’s an argument in favor of free will.

  33. That’s not true. In nature the strong prey on the weak. They don’t stand by and do nothing.

    But they do that for their own advantage, e.g. for food. Do we see that sort of calculation here? I’ve never seen any evidence for it, but perhaps Barry might be able to present some.

  34. But they do that for their own advantage

    Seems to me they considered themselves a ‘higher’ form of person and thus had the right to do what they wanted to further ‘natural selection’.

    Didn’t Darwin propose the same ideas about the dark-skinned peoples?

  35. Seems to me they considered themselves a ‘higher’ form of person and thus had the right to do what they wanted to further ‘natural selection’.

    Precisely. That is something Darwinian theory says is unnecessary: the unfit are weeded out anyway. So if they feel the need to do this, they aren’t following Darwinian theory.

    Actually, there are some mathematical results that culling the “unfit” doesn’t work: the frequency of unfit alleles equals the mutation rate, regardless of the size of the negative selection pressure.

    Didn’t Darwin propose the same ideas about the dark-skinned peoples?

    Mass murder and genocide? Not that I’m aware. Of course, he might have been quote-mined to be interpreted that way.

  36. Mass murder and genocide? Not that I’m aware. Of course, he might have been quote-mined to be interpreted that way.

    I didn’t mean Darwin said mass murder. Didn’t he consider himself and us fair-skinned folks to be higher? If so, that means it’s ok to treat lesser people in lesser ways.

    You don’t have to quote-mine to find out Darwin thought Europeans were a higher race. Those type comments have consequences.

  37. Nakashima:

    No matter what strong influences our genetic and developmental heritage may give us, we each are responsible for our thoughts and the actions we take based on them.

    Responsible to whom?

  38. Fortunately, we’ve out-grown those sentiments (well, most of us have). And I don’t think they ever related to evolutionary theory, so isn’t relevant.

  39. jitsak:

    Maybe you’re right, maybe not. It is your subjective opinion. That is sufficient to refute your claim that the bible offers an objective standard.

    Indeed, this is sufficient to refute any claim made by man. And when we start with man, it seems that this is where we always end up.

    But what happens when you start with an omniscient, omnipotent God? Given this, is it possible for a man to Know a thing objectively?

    An omniscient God doesn’t have a subjective opinion. By definition, He knows all. Knowing all, He certainly knows a particular thing.

    An omnipotent God, by definition, can do anything. He is therfore capable of revealing a particular thing that He knows to a man. He is even capable of ensuring that the man, though fallible, rightly understands what is being revealed.

    If there is no God, then it seems impossible that man should ever really Know anything. In the end, it is all subjective opinion, grounded in random processes with no real interest in Truth. On the other hand, if there is an omniscient, omnipotent God, then it seems entirely possible that a man should Know whatever God chooses to reveal to Him, including the fact that there is an omniscient, omnipotent God.

  40. First paragrap above should read:

    Indeed, from a certain perspective, this is sufficient to refute any claim made by man. And when we start with man, it seems that this is where we always end up.

  41. Fortunately, we’ve out-grown those sentiments (well, most of us have). And I don’t think they ever related to evolutionary theory, so isn’t relevant.

    They do relate to evolutionary theory. If Darwin believed he was of a higher race of man because of evolution how is it not related to evolutionary theory?

  42. Did he think that he was of a higher race because of evolution? How does one derive that from evolutionary theory? How did Darwin derive that?

    And even if that were possible, so what? We’ve out-grown a lot of old ideas: the idea of some races being “higher” isn’t a part of evolutionary theory. Indeed, the idea that there are human races isn’t accepted.

  43. Moral considerations should be kept out of the laboratory, no matter how much we may dislike the consequences.

    I am not sure I follow this line of reasoning. I am fairly certain that we find certain scientific experiments morally repugnant.

    You’re saying we should not permit this repugnance to influence the things scientists are allowed to do?

    Bring back Nazi science?

    Perform radiation testing on humans without their consent, etc?

    I think that what you are forgetting is that scientist are human just like the rest of us, and they don’t get a pass on morality just because they are serving “science.”

  44. An omnipotent God, by definition, can do anything.

    Sigh.

  45. When the aspiring ape ceases to think himself a fallen angel, perhaps he will inevitably resign himself to being an ape, and then become contented with his lot, and ultimately even rejoice that the universe demands little more from him than an ape’s contentment.
    – David Bentley Hart

  46. Mung:

    Sigh.

    Eloquent, but not very informative. :)

    I’m left to guess at your meaning. Would you feel more comfortable if I added the caveat, “…that can be done” to my statement? Does that really have any effect on the argument that man can Know a thing that God reveals to him? Or that such Knowledge can rise above subjective opinion?

  47. I don’t see any replies to my posts at 13 and 22. Maybe they were late coming through.

  48. An omnipotent God, by definition, can do anything that can be done by an ompnipotent God.

    No, that really doesn’t help.

    Does that really have any effect on the argument that man can Know a thing that God reveals to him? Or that such Knowledge can rise above subjective opinion?

    It only has an effect if your conclusions logically follow from your premises, for if your premises are false …

    Frankly, I don’t see how your argument at all depends upon God’s omnipotence (or lack thereof).

    Would it make any difference to your argment if God were not omnipotent, or, more to the point, were not omnipotent in the way you imagine God to be?

  49. And even if that were possible, so what? We’ve out-grown a lot of old ideas: the idea of some races being “higher” isn’t a part of evolutionary theory. Indeed, the idea that there are human races isn’t accepted.

    But the idea that the strong rule the weak cannot be outgrown. It is inherent in the theory. That’s the driving force in the morality that evolution teaches – if you are strong you rule the weak.

    That is constantly taught by Darwin himself and his followers. The only time they don’t is when they are discussing humans…then they tone it down because it sounds cruel.

  50. 50

    I didn’t mean Darwin said mass murder. Didn’t he consider himself and us fair-skinned folks to be higher? If so, that means it’s ok to treat lesser people in lesser ways.

    How does one follow from the other? Even if he did consider “fair-skinned folk to be higher” in no way does it necessarily follow that “its ok to treat lesser people in lesser ways”.

    An omniscient God doesn’t have a subjective opinion. By definition, He knows all. Knowing all, He certainly knows a particular thing.

    What if I disagree with him? For instance, what if he knows that being gay is wrong and I disagree with him? You may say that he created this world, he makes the rules. But I still disagree with him so either I’m wrong by definition, in which case I will dispute your definition of wrong, or we are back where we started and your point is incoherent.

  51. That is right Elli,

    And furthermore- there is nothing in evolutionary morality to check and balance our evolved notions of what is moral. Meaning since 99% of all species are extinct evolution sure gets it wrong a lot doesn’t it? Religion like Christianity at least gives the promise of getting it right in the first place. ANd I am sure there are some atheists out there who would love to debate theology- or the comparative morality of various religious doctrines. But this is not the place for that. But it is the place to point out that Darwinian evolution by it’s own definition (the random variable part) has no guiding moral compass.

  52. Mr Phineas,

    I said, we are each responsible for our actions, and you asked, to whom? To each other is the simplest and most direct answer.

  53. Mr Frost122585,

    A question – do you extend the idea of morality to animals and plants, bacteria and viruses? Is an ichneumon wasp immoral? A cuckoo bird? P. falciparum? HIV?

  54. Phinehas @ 39

    An omnipotent God, by definition, can do anything.

    Frost122585 @ 51

    Meaning since 99% of all species are extinct…

    …God can do everything except design survivable species? Not very intelligent design it would appear.

    Evolution, on the other hand is expected to be a messy and wasteful process.

  55. Seversky and Frost,

    Actually the 99% figure for extinct species is just another blatant misrepresentation by evolutionists of the what we actually find of the fossil record.

    Typically 40-80% of living species are represented in the fossil record!

    The 3:00 minute mark of this following video goes into the actual percentages of living compared to extinct.

    The Fossil Record – Dr. Arthur Jones
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVQeeY-Val0

  56. ellijacket @ 49

    But the idea that the strong rule the weak cannot be outgrown. It is inherent in the theory. That’s the driving force in the morality that evolution teaches – if you are strong you rule the weak.

    One more time.

    The theory of evolution describes the way things are and tries to explain why they are that way.

    It says nothing about the way they should be.

    Yes, some people have argued that evolution implies certain moral rules. But those who do so are committing the is/ought or naturalistic fallacy.

    There is no logical way to get from the way things are to the way we think they should be. They are two different things.

    In other animal species we may see groups being led by a male, for example, who is the strongest and most dominant. Maybe that happens because, over time, it has proven to be a successful survival strategy. It may even work in some ways for us. But it doesn’t mean that, in our societies, only the strong should get all the rights and privileges while the weaker should be oppressed, exploited or left to die.

    Also, If one man kills another without just cause in our society, we judge it to be an immoral act and a crime for which the offender can and should be punished.

    However, if the same victim is killed by a lion or a boulder falling on him or from being struck by lightning, we do not take the cat or the rock or the lightning bolt to court and have them charged with murder, do we?

    Moral codes are rules which apply to human beings and serve to regulate the way we behave towards each other and, some would argue, towards other living things.

    The only place moral codes exist is in the minds of intelligent agents like ourselves. They have no existence beyond that and are not, in that sense, objective.

    That is as true of any divine or revealed morality as any other. If such a being exists, they come from the mind of God and are as subjective as any that we work out.

  57. Nak writes,

    “Mr Frost122585,

    A question – do you extend the idea of morality to animals and plants, bacteria and viruses? Is an ichneumon wasp immoral? A cuckoo bird? P. falciparum? HIV?”

    Well I can honestly say that I do not kow exactly how say God extends morality- but since his creation is perfect and he kows all things- then I would say that bad things like HIV result for some reasons perhaps from evil actions of man. God allows fan to fall- as part of his design. And these moral issues are some of the eternal mysteries. I don’t claim to conflate theology with sceince- and as a man who tries to maintain humility I do not claim to know everything about how reality works,. nor exactly everything that God thinks. I am not avoiding this question of universal morality- I am simply stating the truth that I as a mere mortal cannot read of of Gods thoughts and intentions. And I have and hold these same questions personally. SO the questions are good ones.

    Then Sever writes,

    “…God can do everything except design survivable species? Not very intelligent design it would appear.

    Evolution, on the other hand is expected to be a messy and wasteful process.”

    Well first off you need to get a better understanding of what ID is- which it is completely compatible with evolution and the extinctions and evils that come with it. We as IDists have to deal with the argument from evil or the dis-teleology argument all the time. Each case in nature is an individual case and has to be addressed as such- but we know from out own human design strategies that designs do not have to be ideal or perfect to be intelligently designed. Also we know from the design of writing books like novels that often the design is purposely filled with problems because that is what gives the story it’s significance. As far as theology is concerned this might be viewed as God being more interested in producing souls than perfect machines. Nonetheless ID does have to deal with the concept of intentional design or aboriginal design- and when cases are looked at specifically ID does this will. For example vestigial organs, junk DNA and certain design pattens in human beings were once thought to be terrible flawed or worthless but have later been revealed to be optimal in other respects. For one example Stephen Meyer explains why ID is o the cutting edge of genetic science as more information showing that junk DNA functions as a necessary “operating system” from the coded DNA. And there are lots of other examples.

  58. Frost:

    but since his creation is perfect and he kows all things- then I would say that bad things like HIV result for some reasons perhaps from evil actions of man.

    According to you and Barry, Darwin is responsible for every evil in society from mass killings to my flat tire. Yet your designer willfully created HIV and the suffering it causes, and this is an example of an “objective system of morality”?

    So when we teach this to children, the moral guidance is “it’s OK to cause harm or misery to other humans so long as you have a good purpose”?

    I will remember that the next time I’m late for an appointment and I could get there faster if I knocked over a few pedestrians on the way.

  59. Mike I don’t fallow what you are arguing at all. God allows evil as a test or punishment. It is still evil. And Darwinism does not account or lead to every evil in the world. I dont know where you are getting this from. Most evil is the result fo people with “bad will”- and since I believe in original sin I think all men have bad will- the only difference is that those who fallow Christ can be in a state of grace. But this has nothing to do with ID.

    What we have said about Darwinism is that it rules out a teleological element in design in nature all together. It claims to give you design without a designer- or at least the designer is merely a purposeless process or chance and redundant impersonal laws. The bottom line is that is kind of a mindset if taken to it’s logical moral conclusion leads people to nothing but a relativist view of morality- a morality they can choose to be however they want- and so all people of bad will under this moral system will more likely carry out their bad will- as opposed to those who strive for an objective and absolute grace that makes the difference between heaven and hell.

    But none of these moral issue have to do with ID. As I have stated before I know an atheist who accepts ID as a theory but thinks the intelligence is just in nature. ID is does not result in necessary moral claims. But of course it does imply some higher intelligence. It is the the choice of the individual to characterize what they think the intelligence most likly is.

    Some people look at the evil in the world and conclude the intelligence, if personal, is evil. Others, myself included, think it is good- but the evil results from a spiritual test or punishment- or the results of people with bad will.

  60. Allen wrote,

    “There are currently 22 comments in this thread. Of those, three (#7, 13, and 17, or 13.6%) are clearly ad hominem attacks with no attempt at rational argument. All three were posted by frost122585, who has in other threads shown a decided tendency to attack, belittle, insult, and ridicule commentators with whom s/he diasagrees, rather than defending his/her own position with supporting evidence or attack that of his/her opponents with contravailing evidence.”

    This should show everyone here at UD how insecure Allen is with his very own positions. First of all #13 was not even my post… so he cant even get his facts straight to begin with. Secondly and even worse, none of my posts AT ALL use any adhominem attacks. The closest I come is useing the word insine in this quote

    “and to think that Human beings could learn anything about morality from lowly apes is also insane and just an attempt to denigrate the moral potential and capacity of man to the level of animals that are totally helpless in the presence of real human beings.”

    And i completely maintain that human beings are totally above apes and that we have nothing to learn about morality form them and that the idea that we could have something to learn from these animals is just as ludicrous as these animals don’t do anything that human beings already don’t know about. That is whatever they may do that is loosely moral that say human beings don’t maybe do enough of in general- human beings already know about! There is nothing they do which will amount to a moral revelation. So to say human beings can learn from the behavior zoo animals I find nuts and personally offensive as a member of the human race.

    I dont say someon’s view point or argument is invalid because they are a liar, or are stupid or just because they are a Darwinist. I make my arguments against Darwinism perfectly clear- I dont just call them a name which is what an ad hominem is- I make an argument. Which proves that Allen does not know what the term ad hominem means- or he simply used it in an attempt to slander me which in reality means his post was the only one that was an ad hominem. That is he argued against my arguemtns by calling me just an arguer of ad hominems. Which obviously totally fails to make any argument whatsoever.

    And so I don’t blame him for not wanting to respond to my posts if that is the best he can do. That is if they best he can do is just characterize them with the wrong facts and choose to ignore them.

  61. mikev6,

    Your observation of “natural evil”, and the objections it raises for a “perfect God” falls under the domain of Theodicy of which volumes have been written, the latest of which comes from our very own Dr. Dembski. Here are a couple of resources that may help you deal with the “problem of evil”.

    Here is an Excerpt of Dr. Dembski’s new book on theodicy:

    The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World.
    http://www.designinference.com.....of_xty.pdf

    Site to purchase “The End”:

    The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Hardcover)
    http://www.amazon.com/End-Chri.....0805427430

    Refuting The Myth Of “Bad Design” vs. Intelligent Design – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC2Fh8De2QE

    The Myth of Vestigial Organs and Bad Design: Why Darwinism Is False
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....ans_a.html

    Does God Exist? Does Evil Negate God? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1JbHRgNowU

  62. Frost122585/bornagain77:

    Let me explain more fully.

    The need to reconcile a benevolent God with the obvious evil around us is your problem, not mine. I don’t believe in a benevolent God.

    My “problem of evil” is simply that there’s always too much of it, but I know where it springs from – the thoughts and actions of individuals or groups of humans.

    Also, my understanding is that ID does not name the designer, so calling that entity “God” is a little premature. (If I’ve missed an announcement, somebody can provide a reference.) You have no idea if the designer is benevolent or not. (Could be Satan, if you believe in such an entity.)

    However, if we postulate that evolution required a designer to be involved at multiple points for the process to work, then part of that design resulted in the Black Death, HIV, and cancer, plus numerous other ills. To me, this implies a potential level of evil that transcends anything human society has produced.

  63. Well, mikev6, it seems You want to condemn God for evil “if there is a God that is” and then use the “problem of evil” as a “scientific” argument against ID,,, Yet the argument in itself is a religious argument thus if you won’t even read the defense of that position which is detailed and concise, How can you truthfully maintain you are being fair in your criticism as such? i.e. you cannot use what is clearly a theological argument to argue against the stunning level of design in nature,,,It is as if you are saying you would have done it differently when you, nor anyone else can even find out how life started.

  64. bornagain77:

    Well, mikev6, it seems You want to condemn God for evil “if there is a God that is” and then use the “problem of evil” as a “scientific” argument against ID,

    No, I’m not saying anything of the sort.

    You are the one immediately jumping to the conclusion that the ID “designer” is God. ID itself does not take this position – it even postulates that the designer could be an advanced alien race or a time-traveling biologist.

    Nor am I condemning God for anything – God exists in your universe, but not in mine. Your beliefs are your business and you are perfectly entitled to them.

    Also, if you re-read my previous comment, I’m not even making an argument against ID. I’m making the assumption that Dembski, Behe, et. al. are correct and following a conclusion from that premise.

    Let’s pretend the ID “designer” is an alien race. We know nothing about this race – their history or motivations. Yet they appear to have involved themselves directly in Earth’s biology at frequent points. They may not be omniscient, but they certainly have skills far beyond our’s. They would likely be able to predict the outcome of their designs – that viruses would flourish and cause disease, bringing misery and death to other life forms.

    We do lab experiments, but we would consider experiments on human creatures unethical (or evil). ID suggests the possibility of evil on a grand scale.

  65. mikev6 states,

    “God exists in your universe, but not in mine.”

    Well mike as soon as you reestablish hidden variables in quantum mechanics with any sort of semblance of coherency, I guess you can then have your materialistic universe back, but until then you must settle for being in “my” theistic universe!, that is if you want to be honest with the current state of scientific evidence! Elsewise the universe you that you imagine you live in is NOT REALITY as it is currently understood by the best our science has to offer us!

    The primary reason the CMBR (Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation) forms a sphere around the earth is because quantum wave collapse, to its “uncertain” 3D particle/state, is dependent on “observation” in quantum mechanics; i.e. 3D reality does not truly “materialize” until a observer is present (A. Aspect). Moreover, this wave collapse, to its “uncertain” 3D particle/state, is shown by experiment to be instantaneous, and is also shown to be without regard to distance. i.e. It is universal for each observer. As well, CMBR ultimately indicates that information about all points in the universe is actually available to each “central” observer, in any part of the 4D expanding universe, simultaneously. i.e. The CMBR will form a sphere around any observer in the universe, no matter where they are in the universe, because quantum waves will collapse instantaneously, and universally, to each and every individual observer in the 4D expanding universe.

    This following study solidly refutes the “hidden variable” argument that has been used by materialists to try to get around the Theistic implications of this instantaneous “spooky action at a distance” found in quantum mechanics.

    Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show – July 2009
    Excerpt: scientists have now proven comprehensively in an experiment for the first time that the experimentally observed phenomena cannot be described by non-contextual models with hidden variables. http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm

    (of note: hidden variables were postulated to remove the need for “spooky” forces, as Einstein termed them—forces that act instantaneously at great distances, thereby breaking the most cherished rule of relativity theory, that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.)

    I find it extremely interesting that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its “uncertain” 3-D state is centered on each individual observer in the universe, whereas, 4-D space-time cosmology tells us each 3-D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that I exist?

    Proverbs 15:3
    The eyes of the LORD are in every place,,,

    This is obviously a very interesting congruence in science between the very large (relativity) and the very small (quantum mechanics). A congruence they seem to be having a extremely difficult time “unifying” mathematically (Einstein, Penrose). Yet, a unification which Jesus apparently seems to have joined together with His resurrection:

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=do2KUiPEL5U

    The End Of Christianity – Finding a Good God in an Evil World – Pg.31 – William Dembski
    Excerpt: “In mathematics there are two ways to go to infinity. One is to grow large without measure. The other is to form a fraction in which the denominator goes to zero. The Cross is a path of humility in which the infinite God becomes finite and then contracts to zero, only to resurrect and thereby unite a finite humanity within a newfound infinity.” http://www.designinference.com.....of_xty.pdf

    etc..etc..etc…

    There must be a sufficient transcendent cause (God/First Mover) to explain the quantum wave collapse to the “uncertain” 3D effect for “each moment” of the universe.

    Why, who makes much of a miracle? As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
    Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,,,
    Walt Whitman – Miracles

    Moreover, the transcendent cause must be sufficient to explain the semi-unique effect of 3D centrality witnessed by each individual observer in the universe.

    Quantum Mechanics – The Limited Role Of The Observer – Michael Strauss – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elg83xUZZBs

    That the “mind” of a individual observer would play such an integral yet not complete “closed system role”, in the instantaneous quantum wave collapse of the universe to “3D centrality”, gives us clear evidence that our “mind” is a unique entity. A unique entity with a superior quality of existence when compared to the “uncertain 3D particles” of the “material” universe. This is clear evidence for the existence of the “higher dimensional soul” of man that supersedes any “material basis” that the soul has been purported to “emerge” from.

    Like I said mike, overturn the refutation of hidden variables and you can have your materialistic universe back,,, elsewise your stuck dealing with Theism head on!

  66. bornagain77:

    Like I said mike, overturn the refutation of hidden variables and you can have your materialistic universe back,,, elsewise your stuck dealing with Theism head on!

    Nope. Not being a physicist, I won’t argue quantum physics with you, but if something is unexplainable my assumption is “we don’t know” until such time as an explanation turns up.

    However, you seem more concerned about my views on God than the point of the last comment.

  67. Well Mike, frankly I like the deeper issues that theodicy brings to light than Imagining some non-existent alien race

    Your quote:
    “Let’s pretend the ID “designer” is an alien race.”

    My Video response:

    SETI – Search For ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence Finds God – Almost
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiQ8Jr5B2Eo

  68. The theory of evolution describes the way things are and tries to explain why they are that way.

    It says nothing about the way they should be.

    Seversky, every worldview says something about the way things should be. Like it or not.

  69. Seversky:

    Evolution, on the other hand is expected to be a messy and wasteful process.

    Careful. Don’t saw that branch too aggressively. Your ability to reason is resting on it.

  70. Nakashima:

    I said, we are each responsible for our actions, and you asked, to whom? To each other is the simplest and most direct answer.

    Sez who?

  71. Trying link again…

    Sez who?

  72. bornagain77:

    Well Mike, frankly I like the deeper issues that theodicy brings to light than Imagining some non-existent alien race

    Ahh yes – 10**24 stars out there and you’re confident about this?

  73. Mung:

    Would it make any difference to your argment if God were not omnipotent, or, more to the point, were not omnipotent in the way you imagine God to be?

    If a reasonable conclusion from God’s attribute of omnipotence is that He can communicate a particular thing that He Knows to a fallible human in a manner that ensures the human understands the thing, then yes, it does make a difference to the argument.

    Such revelation can grant sure Knowledge in a way that random, messy, wasteful processes cannot. In the end, does Descartes’ evil genius really have anything over a messy, wasteful process like evolution when it comes to undermining our ability to Know anything?

  74. Ellijacket: You said,

    “How so? I have a consistent system in my home but my children don’t always follow it. Some children grow up and never follow anything their parents did. The same with us and God.”

    With all due respect, you’ve missed the point, which is that there are in the world many scriptures whose adherents claim is Divine revelation. Most of them include assertions which can be (and are) interpreted as moral commandments from God (or Allah, or Jehovah, or Krishna, etc.), and they are all different. Even worse, the same revelation can be and is interpreted differently by different proponents of the religion. You can find Christians, for example, who believe that scripture supports a loving long term relationship, even if gay, and those for whom any homosexual expression whatsoever is an abomination.

    A person growing up in a Muslim household in Saudi Arabia will in all probability never even entertain the possibility that the Koran might be mistaken. If then the Bible is the true repository of moral authority, that person will have no realistic chance of ever benefiting from it. And likewise with the vast majority of people having been raised Hindu or Buddhist, etc.

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt and grant that your moral instruction to your children has been crystal clear and consistent. So you can say they have a definite choice regarding the moral system you have presented to them. This, however, is not the case with God’s children (the people of this planet). I contend that if there really were an absolute moral code, then it would be clear, consistent, capable of only one reasonable interpretation, and have appeared the same in all scriptures in all cultures. This would be the only situation consistent with a truly loving and omnipotent God.

    Since I am convinced that God is both omnipotent and infinitely, unconditionally loving, I can only conclude that He has chosen not to give us an absolute moral standard.

  75. Hummusman @24,

    I didn’t quite get your point, but in the large handful of shootings, quite a number have been on psych meds, or have had a recent change in dosage/meds, and the others I have not been able to find out. I find this significant and worth looking into. Psych meds, after all, are meant to have a fairly powerful psychic effect, and suicidal feelings are one of the listed side effects.

    I do not deny that Darwin’s theory may play a role, or mental illness, or personal morality. All do – but psych meds may push a few more people over the edge.
    ______________________________
    By the way, I find it it disingenuous to deny that Darwin’s theory has anything to do with racism. Racism is absolutely implied by the theory. Perhaps we got over it and will never go there again, but should we decide to revisit racism, Darwinism will be right there to help us.

    The only way that the Darwinists get away with this denial, is by denying that races are “real.” Get real.

  76. Avocationist:

    Hummusman @24,

    I didn’t quite get your point, but in the large handful of shootings, quite a number have been on psych meds, or have had a recent change in dosage/meds, and the others I have not been able to find out. I find this significant and worth looking into

    The intended tone of my previous comment didn’t translate well.
    I agree totally with you. We do need to examine the role of mental illness and the ill-effects of medication in these tragedies. I was merely lamenting that there is a reflexive need around here to blame any tragedy on Darwinism.

    I suppose that Darwinism may be at fault for psychotropic drugs, but I don’t recall anyone making that case around here. Understanding the truth behind these shootings is secondary to drafting the dead into the culture war.

  77. ellijacket @ 68

    Seversky, every worldview says something about the way things should be. Like it or not.

    Yes, a worldview might, but a scientific theory does not. They are not the same thing.

    Relativity theory or quantum mechanics, like evolution, have nothing to say about how human beings ought to behave.
    Yes, people can and do incorporate certain aspects of scientific theories into what can be called a worldview but that has nothing to do with how good the theory is as a scientific explanation.

  78. avocationist @ 75

    By the way, I find it it disingenuous to deny that Darwin’s theory has anything to do with racism. Racism is absolutely implied by the theory. Perhaps we got over it and will never go there again, but should we decide to revisit racism, Darwinism will be right there to help us.

    The only way that the Darwinists get away with this denial, is by denying that races are “real.” Get real.

    Racism is a human problem. It existed long before Darwin thought up his theory and is probably an unfortunate by-product of our instincts to make sense of the world by classifying it and to form discrete social groups.

    Science tells us that the physiological and genetic differences between the races are insignificant. If you look at racial prejudice, it seems to be based much more on perceived cultural rather than biological differences.

    Racists may seize on certain concepts of Darwinian evolution to justify their prejudices but that does not mean that the theory or its author were racist or endorsed racism.

  79. Seversky states:

    “Relativity theory or quantum mechanics, like evolution, have nothing to say about how human beings ought to behave.”

    Yet relativity, (special), reveals that time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light, thus revealing a higher “eternal” dimension of time, since light is not “frozen within time”, thus must transcend it. This revelation falsifies a primary materialistic cornerstone that time was constant everywhere, as well as confirming a primary Theistic postulation that God is outside of time!

    Quantum mechanics completely crushed the materialistic postulation of a solid material particle as the primary constituent of reality, while lending extremely strong support that this reality was created by a Being who is not limited by time and space!

    Evolution is not even worthy to be called a hypothesis of science since it has no foundation in physics and has zero confirming empirical evidence to withstand scrutiny!

    Thus seversky, it is simply naive that you would say this does not inform our worldviews. I don’t know about you but since I know for 100% absolute certainty that a eternal time frame/dimension does indeed exist, according to the best science we have no less, I am going to soberly act accordingly since from all evidence I can gather I will be in the eternal realm when I die to this physical body! You may play as if none of this scientific evidence matters but you are just “whistling like a little boy in the dark” to pretend we should not take these matters seriously!

  80. Seversky,

    I agree that racism is a human problem. It also appears to be true that Darwin was a kind and gentle man, who would not personally endorse any cruelty. But he did also state that in 100 years or so, he expected the black race to be wiped out. A lot of people eat meat who could not bring themselves to actually slaughter an animal.

    Perhaps in this case the science could win out, which says that there are not significant genetic differences. Nonetheless, it seems a point of common sense that if humans have made a staggeringly impressive climb from ape intelligence to modern human intelligence, and if major groups of human were separated for tens of thousands of years from one another, long enough to support the visible racial characteristics, that those incremental increases of IQ or even just little attributes and talents, would not likely have ended up exactly equal.

    And I think it’s because this is such an obvious point of common sense, that academia is now teaching that the races are not real, which is a shame, since I like them and suppose they were created for fun and beauty.

  81. jitsak,

    This is very bad reasoning. Even if a deity created the universe, it doesn’t follow at all that “He has established an objective system of morality that binds us all”. For all we know, the universe is an experiment of a cruel deity that delights in the struggle for existence.

    Sure it does, for you have to have an ultimate standard to even condemn anything else. If God were cruel, you would have no ultimate basis for condemnation of cruelty. You can only correct an error in mathematics because there is a right answer by comparison. If the wrong answer were what you were working for, you could do no correcting. There has to be an ultimate good in order to even declare anything as bad by comparison. Your complaint has been defeated in the book A Grief Observed, and in the essay De Futilitate by C. S. Lewis.

  82. Seversky,

    Relativity theory or quantum mechanics, like evolution, have nothing to say about how human beings ought to behave.
    Yes, people can and do incorporate certain aspects of scientific theories into what can be called a worldview but that has nothing to do with how good the theory is as a scientific explanation.

    Then what does account for oughts, Seversky? What material process, which is all you believe that exists, does? And how is that material process not subject to science? I’m really curious about what materialists believe accounts for ethics, and how science becomes irrelevant in ethical studies when science studies material, and material is all that exists to the materialist.

  83. In comment #80 avocationist wrote:

    But [Darwin] did also state that in 100 years or so, he expected the black race to be wiped out. A lot of people eat meat who could not bring themselves to actually slaughter an animal.

    Do you understand the difference between a description and a statement of advocacy, or are these two sentences identical as far as you are concerned:

    Dropped rocks fall to the ground.

    Dropped rocks ought to fall to the ground.

    Yes, Darwin looked at the historical trends of the time and predicted that many “primitive peoples” would eventually be driven to extinction. Does that necessarily mean that he advocated this?

  84. Clive:

    What makes an “ultimate standard” an ultimate standard? Is it the fact that someone asserted it, or that it doesn’t contain any contradictions in its underlying logic, or that it has generally beneficial effects?

    And, if you’ve chosen simple assertion, please explain using evidence why simply asserting that something constitutes an “ultimate standard” necessarily makes it so.

    Alternatively, please explain why the effects of an ethical prescription should not be considered to be at least part of its justification.

  85. P.S. Just so we’re very clear about this, Clive, I am not a materialist.

    And please, don’t decide for yourself what I’m thinking or how I come to moral or ethical conclusions or justifications. At least have the common decency to let me do that, just this once…

  86. Mr Phineas,

    In this case, the sez who is our history as a species.

  87. Clive,

    Sure it does, for you have to have an ultimate standard to even condemn anything else.

    I don’t think so. I can make up my own mind about what should be condemned, although I am of course heavily influenced by the people I meet in my daily life. Surely you must agree that Christians have disagreements about what should be condemned or not. The disagreements between different religions are even stronger. It logically follows that most people do not know what the ultimate standards are, assuming they exist. Therefore, whether or not ultimate or objective standards exist, in the end it always boils down to a subjective choice. That is as true for me as it is for you.

  88. I wonder if the Christians here could lay out what those standards are, concretely.

  89. Allen,

    P.S. Just so we’re very clear about this, Clive, I am not a materialist.

    And please, don’t decide for yourself what I’m thinking or how I come to moral or ethical conclusions or justifications. At least have the common decency to let me do that, just this once…

    What are you referring to? I haven’t addressed you in this post Allen. I know you’re not a materialist, although you do admit that the mind is an emerging property of the matter, whatever that means. But really, what are you referring to?

  90. Clive Hayden @ 82

    Then what does account for oughts, Seversky? What material process, which is all you believe that exists, does? And how is that material process not subject to science? I’m really curious about what materialists believe accounts for ethics, and how science becomes irrelevant in ethical studies when science studies material, and material is all that exists to the materialist.

    We account for “oughts”, who else? If we are to be bound by moral and ethical codes then are we not entitled to have a say in what they are? After all, we expect to have a say in the civil and criminal laws by which our society is governed.

    What is disturbing is the willingness of some Christians to seize one horn of the Euthyphro Dilemma and declare that whatever God says or decides is right, given the evidence from the only textual source for His existence that He has behaved in ways that today we would consider immoral. Granted it has the merit of simplifying things. It cuts all the messy negotiations short by decreeing in effect “This is the word of Lord and that’s all there is to it.”

    However, this country fought a war to free itself from from the arbitrary rule of a temporal state in which it was denied a voice. Why should we willingly subject ourselves to moral or ethical codes simply because they are alleged to have been handed down by a God whose existence we cannot confirm?

    The other aspect of this problem is whether morals are rational or arbitrary. If they are arbitrary choices or whims then why should we obey them at all whether they come from God or man? If we assume that God had good reason for deciding they should be the way they are, then why should we not know the reasons and, more to the point, what is to prevent us for working them out for ourselves? In that case, we do not need God to tell us what they are.

    As for the material world, it is not “subject to” science but it is the proper subject of scientific study. And it is true that study has changed our understanding of the nature of that matter has changed radically over the last century or so.

    But it is just not a question of the nature of matter, it is also a question of the myriad forms taken by that matter and energy. We are one of those forms and, as I have argued before, moral codes serve to regulate the way we behave towards one another and, to some extent, other living creatures. In my view, they exist nowhere but in our minds. They are not “objective” by any normal usage of the word.

    Yes, that could lead to nihilism except for the argument that if this life is all we have then it would make sense to try and make the best of it and make it last as long as we can.

    And, yes, ‘making the best of it’ can mean different things to different people so the obvious answer is that everyone is guaranteed, so far as it is in our power, the right to pursue what makes them happy in their own way providing it does not infringe on the right of others to do the same.

    What is wrong with that?

  91. Seversky,

    We account for “oughts”, who else?

    Ok, thanks for your answer. What is it about “us” or “we” that is not material?

  92. In comment #91, Clive asked:

    “What is it about “us” or “we” that is not material?”

    Our minds.

    Please note that minds are not brains, any more than mother boards are the programs which run in them.

  93. Clive, re comment #89:

    Sorry, I expected you to respond to my comments by asserting that I am a materialist and that therefore I cannot possibly have anything rational to say about the justifications for ethical/moral prescriptions. My apologies.

    Now, back to the point:

    What makes an “ultimate standard” an ultimate standard? Is it the fact that someone asserted it, or that it doesn’t contain any contradictions in its underlying logic, or that it has generally beneficial effects?

    And, if you’ve chosen simple assertion, please explain using evidence why simply asserting that something constitutes an “ultimate standard” necessarily makes it so.

    Alternatively, please explain why the effects (rather than just the source) of an ethical prescription should not be considered to be at least part of its justification.

    Or, if you prefer, please explain how your position is not fatally undermined as a variation of the Euthyphro Dilemma.

  94. BTW, simply asserting that “good is an inherent quality of God” is a transparent attempt to evade the question by supporting a baseless assertion with another baseless assertion, and equating God and goodness is not only a violation of G. E. Moore’s qualitative test for valid definitions of “good”, it is also evading the question by means of a semantic trick.

    So, which is it — are ethical moral codes justified by theology, deontology, or teleology, or merely by assertion?

  95. I wonder if the Christians here could lay out what those standards are, concretely.

    Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, He died on the cross and rose again. I am justified by grace through faith in Him.

    That is the absolute standard. All are held accountable to it.

  96. Nakashima:

    What? Our history as a species is simply the outworking of random, messy, wasteful processes. How can random, messy, wasteful processes make me responsible for anything or have any sort of authority of anything else?

  97. Mr Phineas,

    First, lets be respectful of random, messy, and wasteful processes! There are those who would criticize democracy and the free market economy on exactly those grounds.

    Second, the ‘authority’ of our history is purely utilitarian – advice that works more often than not. Other people can argue that morals are divine dispensations of some FSM avatar or other. As I said, I’m aiming to give the simplest and most direct answer I can.

  98. “Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, He died on the cross and rose again. I am justified by grace through faith in Him.

    That is the absolute standard. All are held accountable to it.”

    That isn’t quite what I meant. I meant, what precisely is the moral standard? How does it govern one’s actions?

  99. Nakashima:

    I don’t think your characterization of democracy and free market economies is deserved. Messy and wasteful perhaps, but random?

    More to the point, when you talk about advice that works, what do you mean by “works?” Furthers the human race?

    So, perhaps evolution has programmed me to care about the human race. But once I’ve figured out that this compassion is really just a survival mechanism (and perhaps even a faulty one at that), what then? Should I feel particularly beholden to a survival mechanism? My genes can outwit my genes. My chemistry can choose to ignore my chemistry. As I’ve written elsewhere:

    From a biological perspective, I am a failure as a human being. I have a fitness of zero, primarily because my compassion gene keeps screwing over my selfish gene.

    When you get down to the cold, hard scientific facts of the situation, I exist to further my genes. Any other “purpose” to my life is illusory, is it not? To be sure, over many generations, evolution has also given me feelings for my family, but these exist to assist in furthering my genes. In my particular case, however, those feelings end up being counter-productive to the purpose for which they were originally intended.

    You see, I found out a number of years ago that my wife has poor egg quality and that it is nearly impossible for her to conceive. If it were not for the sentimentality with which evolution has burdened me, this information might have prompted me to leave my wife and seek out a more fertile mate in order to propagate my genes.

    It gets worse. Compassion played a role in our adopting a young boy. His blond hair and boisterous chemistry play havok with my own compassion chemistry so that, even though I know that I am investing energy in propagating someone else’s genes instead of my own, I can’t seem to stop myself.

    So, now I have quite the conundrum. Though my compassion gene is dragging down my fitness, my intellectual gene has evolved to the point that I recognize that my compassion gene is illusory–or at least that it is not functioning in the way that it should. Given that my primary purpose is to reproduce my genes, shouldn’t I ignore this sentimentality and leave my wife and child? Or maybe I shouldn’t ignore it, because my compassion gene has become detrimental and should be culled from the gene pool as a result? On the other hand, that would also cull out the intellectual gene that allows me to see my sentimentality for what it is.

    Darwinian morality is just so confusing for me. Can someone give me a hand here?

    Can you not see the utter futility behind the notion that random processes can ever make me responsible for anything or to anything?

  100. avocationist:

    That isn’t quite what I meant. I meant, what precisely is the moral standard? How does it govern one’s actions?

    As ellijacket points out, the moral standard is a Person, not a list of some sort. This Personis the One who judges as well as the One who justifies. We will all give account of our actions to this Person, and we all depend on this Person’s forgiveness for our own righteousness. Live like that.

    On the other hand, if you really want it written out, all the standards are summed up in this: Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. How do we know this to be the standard? Because the One who judges and justifies said so. How do we know He has the authority? Because He rose from the dead.

  101. Phinehas said (#100):

    “On the other hand, if you really want it written out, all the standards are summed up in this: Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. How do we know this to be the standard? Because the One who judges and justifies said so. How do we know He has the authority? Because He rose from the dead.”

    First, whereas this might be good advice, it really isn’t a moral standard. Moral standards tell us what to do and what not to do in given circumstances. Loving is not something you do, at least not in the sense that one can decide to love someone, the way one can decide to give help to someone in need or refrain from sexual activity. I do agree, however, that loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself are very fine goals to strive for (although notice that one must love oneself first before loving one’s neighbor as oneself can have any kind of positive impact). These admonitions can be translated into an actionable standard, however, which is, in every circumstance, answer the question “What would Love do now?” Then do that.

    Second, what about all the other moral standards that exist throughout Christianity and all the other religions as well? What about homosexuality? What about diet? What about dress codes for females? What about sex? What about abortion? What about masturbation? What constitutes proper worship? What about gender roles or divorce or tithing or one’s obligations to the community or what constitutes proper activity between unmarried people of opposite sexes? Every religion has something to say on most or all of these topics (and many more that I can’t think of right now), and many of them assert that their standards are absolute moral imperatives, even to the point that they often insist that everyone abide by them whether they are members of their faith or not.

    So my question to you is if you really believe that all the standards are summed up in “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,” are you simply ignoring all the questions I just raised, or can you somehow derive them from that simple statement?

  102. —Allen MacNeil: “So, which is it — are ethical moral codes justified by theology, deontology, or teleology, or merely by assertion?”

    Choose answer C.

    Morality is a function of goodness. So, the question is, what is a good person? Well, what is a “good” anything? If something is good, it operates the way of was designed and intended to perform.

    What is a good can-opener? It is one that opens cans efficiently and easily. What is a good pencil? It is one that writes well. Can a pencil be a good can opener? No, and if it tries, not only will it fail to open the can, it will also destroy itself in the process.

    What is a good person? A good person is one who lives appropriately or according to his own created nature. Since God made both the person and his corresponding nature, only God can establish the appropriate morality that will bring them into harmony. The consequences of any act matter, but only God knows all the combinations of permutations involved, and is, therefore, the only one who can pass final judgment on how much good or harm each act actually produces. More important, only God knows the intent behind the act. What a man does is important, but why he does it is far more important. Indeed, he can pervert his own nature by doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

    Among all earthly creatures, only man has the power to resist his created purpose and pervert his own nature. When he does so, he ends up just like a pencil who tries to become a can opener. By trying to be something he is not, namely God, he not only fails to become human, he becomes subhuman and destroys himself [and others] in the process.

    Consequently, if there is no such thing as human nature and purpose, there can be no such thing as goodness or morality.

  103. Allen @ #94

    So, which is it — are ethical moral codes justified by theology, deontology, or teleology, or merely by assertion?

    Belief in objective morality is justified through philosophy alone.

    If there is a God, could that God be a-moral?

  104. mikev6 @ #62

    The need to reconcile a benevolent God with the obvious evil around us is your problem, not mine. I don’t believe in a benevolent God.

    Yet you believe in “the obvious evil around us.”

    Whence does such a belief arise?

    From where does the lack of belief in “a benevolent God” arise?

    And yes, this is your problem.

    Certainly it is not our responsibility to disabuse you of your belief in things which you do not believe in!

  105. That isn’t quite what I meant. I meant, what precisely is the moral standard? How does it govern one’s actions?

    That’s the problem when discussing these issues. The moral standard is Christ.

    1 Corinthians 1:25-31
    1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
    1:26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called].
    1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
    1:28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
    1:29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
    1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption–
    1:31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

  106. In comment #99 Phinehas asked:

    “Darwinian morality is just so confusing for me. Can someone give me a hand here?”

    I’d be happy to:

    There is no such thing as “Darwinian morality”.

    By this is I do not mean that “Darwinists” are inherently immoral. On the contrary, I mean that on cannot derive ethical prescriptions (i.e. statements of what “is” the case) from scientific observations and inferences (i.e. statements of what “ought” to be the case).

    This was clearly pointed out as early as 1893 by Thomas Henry Huxley (aka “Darwin’s Bulldog”), who wrote

    “Let us understand, once for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating [evolution by natural selection], still less in running away from it, but in combating it.” [Huxley, T. H. (1893) Evolution and Ethics, http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE9/E-E.html emphasis added]

    Every reputable ethicist since G. E. Moore has asserted (on purely logical/rational grounds) that there is no necessary connection whatsoever between science (including evolutionary biology) and the formulation and justification for ethical/moral prescriptions. Indeed, attempting to formulate such linkages is to commit what is commonly known as the “naturalistic fallacy” and is completely illegitimate.

    In other words, when people like Clive Hayden and stephenB accuse evolutionary biologists of basing moral judgments on naturalistic principles, when evolutionary biologists such as myself point out that doing so is logically and ethically fallacious, then the people committing the “naturalistic fallacy” are those making the accusations, not the evolutionary biologists. This is known as a “straw man argument” and is itself logically fallacious (and morally pernicious, when done intentionally).

  107. Allen queries: “What makes an ‘ultimate standard’ an ultimate standard? Is it the fact that someone asserted it, or that it doesn’t contain any contradictions in its underlying logic, or that it has generally beneficial effects?”

    All three!

    The “ulitmate standard” of value in the Bible is human life. First, the Bible asserts that life is sacred. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him breath (spirit) of life. The fall of man is clearly described as the result of choosing the knowledge of good and evil over life. According to Ecclesiates, “God has put eternity into the hearts of men”; the source of our unhappiness is our consciousness of the value of life and our own mortality. John says this about Christ: “In him was life, and this life was the light of men.” And Christ obtains his exalted status by restoring life to men.

    Second, there no contradiction in the Bible on this point. Life is identified as the ultimate standard of value from Genesis to the Revelation. The purpose of the commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” is to preserve and build up life, and therefore all of the law and the prophets also depend upon this value. Why do the prophets describe God as being full of wrath and destruction if “God is love”? God’s wrath is engendered by apostasy, which cuts man off from the source of life; by mistreatment of the poor and the powerless; and, interestingly, by the arrogance of self-promoting religion.

    Christ said, “Love your enemies as yourself; do good to those who persecute you.” Since the Bible describes Christ as God in the flesh, the Old Testament jihads that seem so troubling to Dawkinsharrismyers are based on an imperfect understanding of God. The Israelites thought they could make themselves holy and create Jerusalem by annihilating the temptation offered by their pagan neighbors. The abject failure of their violent experiment in self-justification shows that Jerusalem can only come from mercy, not judgment. “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

    Finally, the equation of life with light in the Bible has highly beneficial effects. It teaches us to revere God, who is the Lord and giver of life, and to walk in the light, which is the only way to obtain peace and true prosperity. It teaches us to be completely humble and gentle and to consider others to be of more importance than ourselves. It teaches us to preserve life by refraining from murder, theft, adultery, false witness and covetousness.

  108. In comment 102 stephenB chose “teleology” as the source of the justification for ethical prescriptions. This clearly indicates that stephenB prefers ethics that are ultimately justified by their effects over ethics that are justified by their source (e.g. a deity) or their internal logical consistency. In other words, for an ethical prescription to be valid, it doesn’t matter who formulated the prescription and it doesn’t matter if it makes internal logical sense, it only matters that it brings about a desired end state.

    Such ethical systems are known as teleological ethics because they are ultimately justified by their intended “end” (“telos” in Greek). The most widely accepted version of teleological ethics is utilitarianism, in which all ethical prescriptions are justified if they bring about “the greatest good of the greatest number”.

    Tell me, stephenB, do you agree with this? And if not, which version of teleological ethics would you like to adopt? Or would you now like to change your answer to the question I asked in comment #94?

  109. Let me state my question again, in slightly reworded form:

    Are ethical prescriptions ultimately justified by

    • Theology: their source (i.e. who asserted them),

    • Deontology: their internal logical consistency (i.e. whether they are not self-contradictory), or

    • Teleology: their effects (i.e. whether they bring about the desired consequences)?

  110. In comment #103 Mung asked:

    “If there is a God, could that God be a-moral?”

    Clearly, there is nothing per se in the concept of a supernatural deity that makes it necessary for such an entity to be either moral or amoral. Indeed, if one accepts that a fundamental criterion of morality is that it involves a choice between two incommensurate alternatives, then an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient supernatural entity is amoral by definition, as such a deity cannot choose to do anything immoral. Such an entity is, in other words, entirely constrained to do good, and cannot therefore be considered to be either moral or supernatural (i.e. unconstrained in its actions) by any rational definition of that term.

    Furthermore, if such an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient supernatural entity is constrained to only do good, then the source of such “goodness” cannot be the result of any kind of rational choice on the part of that entity. Therefore, the source of such “goodness” must come from outside the purview of such an entity; otherwise why could that entity not choose to do otherwise?

    To sum up, any omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient supernatural entity lacks the option of making any form of moral choice, and therefore must be amoral, by definition. And therefore, what justifies any such entity’s moral/ethical prescriptions is the moral/ethical quality of those prescriptions, and not the entity asserting them.

    See why it’s called the Euthyphro Dilemma? Like all classical logical paradoxes, it has no logical/rational solution and can only be escaped from by irrationally choosing one or the other horn of the dilemma and pretending the other horn therefore goes away as the result of such choice (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma ).

    BTW, the anthropological record contains a myriad of Gods, only a very few of which could be considered either “good” or “moral” by western standards. So, if Mung is asking whether any God can be amoral, the answer is clearly “yes” — indeed, most of them are (including some of the versions of God in the Old Testament/Tanakh).

  111. Now, let me pose a question:

    Can a person who either has not ever heard of the Abrahamic deity or who does not believe in the existence of this entity nevertheless both act and think morally/ethically? If not, why not, and if so, why so?

  112. Or, asked another way, is a person who chooses to do good (and chooses not to do evil) because doing good is the right thing to do, and not because God says so (because, for example, s/he has never heard of God) therefore condemned to everlasting torment in Hell?

    I ask because I was once nearly beaten with an umbrella by a devout Christian who became violently angry when I asked this question.

  113. Bruce David:

    So my question to you is if you really believe that all the standards are summed up in “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,” are you simply ignoring all the questions I just raised, or can you somehow derive them from that simple statement?

    Yes, I really believe all the standards are summed up in that statement. I also believe that all the standards are summed up in the person of Christ. He is the only One ever to have fully met the standard of love, which should not be surprising as He defines love. The rest of us fall short of the standard. Some people can swim better than others, but none of us can walk on water.

    Your questions about the practical details is not unimportant, but I see them as a step beyond the standard. Is a standard not a standard if it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know to meet it?

    The standard for me in my marriage is that I love my wife. As you point out, however, having the proper motive isn’t enough. How best to love my wife is still a subject needing much consideration. What is her love language? What communicates love to her? What are her particular needs? Who is she at her core? Where does she feel vulnerable? Can I accept her exactly like she is? These are questions worthy of a lifetime of pursuit, but I need not have answered all of them to know that the overall standard is to motivated by love in all my actions toward her.

    To get to the bottom of these questions, however, it is important that I have a committed relationship with her in which we are communicating openly with each other. How else could I know?

    I am confident that if people are willing to commit to a relationship with God in which they are open to understanding who He is and what loving Him entails, they will find the answers they seek or perhaps discover they are asking the wrong questions. Instead, people often have a tendency to talk about the “God I believe in,” which ends up as an exercise in creating God in our own image, if not with our hands, then with our minds.

  114. Allen_MacNeill:

    There is no such thing as “Darwinian morality”.

    First, how can this be? Is morality more than biology? Is compassion more than biology? More than the chemistry inside my brain? In what way? And were these chemical patterns not selected for their significance to my survival by Darwinian processes? How else to explain their origin?

    Second, does your answer mean I should stay with my wife and child? On what can I ground choosing to do so over furthering my genes? Deneology? What is logically inconsistent about choosing to further my genes? Teleology? If the desired consequences are to further my genes (and why wouldn’t they be?), then leaving my wife and child has the best chance of bringing this about. I mean, I could just cheat on my wife, but then I might not be able to be as intimately involved in continuing to ensure that my gene-carriers are protected and promoted.

    Finally, and even more of a stumper for me, if one cannot derive an ought from an is and what is is all there is, then how can an ought be derived at all?

  115. err…Deontology even.

  116. Allen_MacNeill:

    Clearly, there is nothing per se in the concept of a supernatural deity that makes it necessary for such an entity to be either moral or amoral. Indeed, if one accepts that a fundamental criterion of morality is that it involves a choice between two incommensurate alternatives, then an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient supernatural entity is amoral by definition, as such a deity cannot choose to do anything immoral.

    G. E. Moore concluded that there was no way to put a verbal or written definition to the word “good” because it was already in its simplest form. I’d make the exact same argument, only about God and not good. As soon as you start trying to define God by using a standard such as “good” or “love,” God becomes subject to the standard. But a God who is subject to a standard is no longer God. It is not God who is constrained to do good, but goodness that is constrained to be God-like. All things are defined in terms of God, not the other way around.

    The fallacy of trying to define God in terms of external standards leads inevitably to:

    To sum up, any omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient supernatural entity lacks the option of making any form of moral choice, and therefore must be amoral, by definition. And therefore, what justifies any such entity’s moral/ethical prescriptions is the moral/ethical quality of those prescriptions, and not the entity asserting them.

    The Euthyphro Dilemma has not been left unanswered.

    At this point we must remind ourselves that Christian theology does not believe God to be a person. It believes Him to be such that in Him a trinity of persons is consistent with a unity of Deity. In that sense it believes Him to be something very different from a person, just as a cube, in which six squares are consistent with unity of the body, is different from a square. (Flatlanders, attempting to imagine a cube, would either imagine the six squares coinciding, and thus destroy their distinctness, or else imagine them set out side by side, and thus destroy the unity. Our difficulties about the Trinity are of much the same kind.) It is therefore possible that the duality which seems to force itself upon us when we think, first, of our Father in Heaven, and, secondly, of the self-evident imperatives of the moral law, is not a mere error but a real (though inadequate and creaturely) perception of things that would necessarily be two in any mode of being which enters our experience, but which are not so divided in the absolute being of the superpersonal God. When we attempt to think of a person and a law, we are compelled to think of this person either as obeying the law or as making it. And when we think of Him as making it we are compelled to think of Him either as making it in conformity to some yet more ultimate pattern of goodness (in which case that pattern, and not He, would be supreme) or else as making it arbitrarily by a sic volo, sic jubeo (in which case He would be neither good nor wise). But it is probably just here that our categories betray us. It would be idle, with our merely mortal resources, to attempt a positive correction of our categories – ambulavi in mirabilibus supra me. But it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it never could have been otherwise; it has in it no shadow of contingency; it lies, as Plato said, on the other side of existence. It is the Rita of the Hindus by which the gods themselves are divine, the Tao of the Chinese from which all realities proceed. But we, favoured beyond the wisest pagans, know what lies beyond existence, what admits no contingency, what lends divinity to all else, what is the ground of all existence, is not simply a law but also a begetting love, a love begotten, and the love which, being these two, is also imminent in all those who are caught up to share the unity of their self-caused life. God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God. –C. S. Lewis

  117. Is it possible to say that a person is the moral standard? If by that we mean that their example and behavior are the inspiration for us to copy, then that makes sense, but in response I would ask the very same questions that Bruce David asked in 101.

    Allanius tries to make a good case for a coherent Biblical God…not bad but no dice. It just isn’t there. And if the sacredness of life is the standard, we have to ask why Jehovah was so gratuitously murderous.

    So this is what I’m getting at. Because people here are saying that belief in God gives a moral grounding, which it no doubt does, but I don’t see an applicable Christian standard that works out very well.

    And Phinehas says that if I speak in terms of the God I believe in I am making God in my own image, but by accepting other people’s concepts of God, you are letting them make the image of God for you. Henceforth, I will speak of the God that I know, for that is far more accurate. Knowing God, I do not believe that he is vengeful or wrathful or has set up a hopeless universe for any souls.

    If you think of the kindest, gentlest, most soft-hearted person that you know very, very well, and they were accused on circumstantial evidence of cruelly murdering someone, you would stand up for them and say, “I know they are not capable of that.”

  118. Re comment #116:

    All you have done here is to “escape” from the Euthyphro Dilemma by a purely semantic operation, a “trick” if you will. You have defined God in such a way as to eliminate the contradictions inherent in the dilemma, but provided absolutely no evidence whatsoever for the validity of your semantic definition. Ergo, why should anyone believe it, much less conform their behavior to it?

    Or, to ask this another way, you assert that

    “Knowing God, I do not believe that he is vengeful or wrathful or has set up a hopeless universe for any souls.”

    And indeed, this may be the case for you, but there is no way that this can be generalized to anyone else who does not accept the same premises. It is a generally accepted principle in philosophical ethics that the justification for an ethical prescription should not depend for its validity upon an individual’s personal beliefs, but rather should be validated (i.e. justified) by some generally accepted (preferably universal) standard.

    You may argue that God provides such a standard, but as Abraham Adel pointed out many years ago, what if someone either refuses to accept that standard, or simply does not believe in the existence of the God who supposedly sets the standard. Then what? If the only thing validating the standard is one’s belief in the entity asserting it, then disbelief in that entity (and/or refusal to accept that standard) invalidate the standard.

    In other words, valid ethical prescriptions should be valid, regardless of whether one believes in the existence of the entity asserting them or agrees to accept their validity.

    Dostoevsky is famous for having one of his protagonists assert that “If God does not exist, then anything is permitted.” This is a purely circular (i.e. tautological) argument, as it simply reduces to

    God must exist, because if He doesn’t we can’t act morally. We believe we should act morally, and so we assert that God exists.

    But then it is simply our assertion that God exists that validates our morals, and not the actual existence of God, which has been neither validated nor falsified by this exercise in circular rationalization.

    In other words, anyone can go on asserting that God exists and provides the ultimate justification for moral/ethical prescriptions, but this does nothing to validate nor falsify such assertions.

  119. Which brings us back around to the other two forms of justification for ethical/moral prescriptions: deontology and teleology. The former assumes that any valid ethical/moral prescription must not (indeed, cannot) prescribe something that is self-contradictory.

    For example, one cannot assert that cheating, lying, murdering, and stealing are okay when I do them to someone else, but not okay when someone does them to me. According to the most basic principle of deontology, ethical/moral principles should be universalizable, or as Kant asserted, one should “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

    Teleological ethical/moral prescriptions, by contrast, are ultimately justified by their effects. The most common teleological ethical/moral system is utilitarianism, according to which one should do whatever acts result in the “greatest good for the greatest number”. There are other teleological ethical/moral systems, all of which could collectively be referred to as consequencialist ethics/morals. That is, they rely for their justification/validation upon the consequences of the acts prescribed.

    There have also been attempts to synthesize the two systems, producing what would amount to ethical/moral prescriptions that are justified by their consequences, while at the same time being universalizable and involving no logical self-contradictions. The “neo-Kantian” ethics of John Rawl’s A Theory of Justice is an example of such a synthetic ethics. Rawls asserted that Kantian principles of “universal justice” are in fact validated by the empirical fact that they tend to bring about the “greatest good of the greatest number”, and are therefore both deontologically and teleologically justified and validated.

    Notice, of course, that neither of these extremely widespread ethical/moral systems requires the existence of a supernatural entity Who asserts ethical/moral prescriptions (nor do they necessarily undermine the existence of such an entity).

    So much for Dostoyevsky…

  120. Allen,

    ““Knowing God, I do not believe that he is vengeful or wrathful or has set up a hopeless universe for any souls.”

    But it was me who said that, and it isn’t a belief, but what I know. I do realize of course that it isn’t something easily provable, since it is experiential. I’m not sure how it relates to your argument with Phinehas.

  121. —Allen MacNeill: “In comment 102 stephenB chose “teleology” as the source of the justification for ethical prescriptions. This clearly indicates that stephenB prefers ethics that are ultimately justified by their effects over ethics that are justified by their source (e.g. a deity) or their internal logical consistency.”

    You will recall that I stated ethics are grounded in human nature, and that an ethical person, or a moral person, is one who acts according to his nature.

    —”In other words, for an ethical prescription to be valid, it doesn’t matter who formulated the prescription and it doesn’t matter if it makes internal logical sense, it only matters that it brings about a desired end state.”

    On the contrary, I didn’t say that the source of ethics doesn’t matter. If humans were designed to be with God in the hereafter, then it is in accordance with their nature to follow that destiny. If they were not designed for a purpose, then it doesn’t much matter what they do since there is no purpose or destiny to be frustrated or any human nature to be violated.

    —”Such ethical systems are known as teleological ethics because they are ultimately justified by their intended “end” (”telos” in Greek). The most widely accepted version of teleological ethics is utilitarianism, in which all ethical prescriptions are justified if they bring about “the greatest good of the greatest number”.

    I have no objection if you want to place utilitarianism under the broad rubric of teleology, however, the emphasis of my teleology is on “virtue ethics,” as opposed to pragmatic ethics. They are different enough to merit separate discussions.

    —”Tell me, stephenB, do you agree with this? And if not, which version of teleological ethics would you like to adopt? Or would you now like to change your answer to the question I asked in comment #94?”

    In effect, you are placing Jeremy Bentham and Aristotle in the same category, which is quite a stretch. More to the point, I agree with some elements of deontology, teleology, and “virtue theory,” with the emphasis on the latter since it transcends singular individual actions and focuses on habits and character, which is really the determining standard in deciding a good person from a bad person. Remember, my original point. A good person is one who acts accocrding to his nature and who persues his proper destiny. However, a good person should also strive to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, if he can do so without violating some objective moral principle.

    Further, ethics becomes more challenging when one transcends, without bypassing, the morality of virtuous action and graduates to the morality of intention, that is, when he begins to consider his own motives–when he strives to know why he is doing what he is doing–when he examines his conscience about his real motives, the kinds of motives when, unchecked can trnasform a good act into a bad act. All these considerations are signs that such a person is growing in virtue.

    Deontology and utilitarianism do not really approach the subject of growth of personal character and are, therefore, imcomplete.

    To be sure, It matters what one does, and what the consequences of that act may be, but it matters even more, what one becomes in the process and what he makes other people become, which gets back to consequences. It is not an either/or proposition.

  122. Allen,

    What makes an “ultimate standard” an ultimate standard? Is it the fact that someone asserted it, or that it doesn’t contain any contradictions in its underlying logic, or that it has generally beneficial effects?

    The fact that it is true. Two and two do not make five, they make four, that is objective truth.

    “I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities. But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called ‘The Abolition of Man’; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to – whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. but they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

    But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong – in other words, if there is no Law of Nature – what is the difference between a fair treaty
    and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?

    It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong…”

    C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

  123. Allen @118

    But then it is simply our assertion that God exists that validates our morals, and not the actual existence of God, which has been neither validated nor falsified by this exercise in circular rationalization.

    I think it is less the assertion that God exists that validates our morals, but rather that a being exists that has no need of morals, and our morals validate both that we ought to be like this being, and also that we are not.

    I don’t think I’ve spoken the essence of what I am trying to get across as eloquently as I might have, but I can hope that perhaps the nugget that I am trying to communicate is in there somewhere.

    To put it another way, I think our understanding of morality is deficient, or that we aer arguing about the wrong thing.

    It’s not what justifies our morals, but why are the even necessary. What purpose do they serve?

    No moral can make a man do what is right. So it really is irrelevant, isn’t it, from whence that moral proceeds, at least in the sense of trying to validate it.

    Man ought/b> have no need of morals.

  124. Allen_MacNeill:

    You have defined God in such a way as to eliminate the contradictions inherent in the dilemma, but provided absolutely no evidence whatsoever for the validity of your semantic definition. Ergo, why should anyone believe it, much less conform their behavior to it?

    You presented the dilemma as if it were unavoidable. I demonstrated that it wasn’t.

    If the only thing validating the standard is one’s belief in the entity asserting it, then disbelief in that entity (and/or refusal to accept that standard) invalidate the standard.

    It is not belief in the standard that makes it valid. If God exists and has established a standard, then no ammount of disbelief can invalidate it. If God does not exist, then the standard is already invalidated no matter how many believe. The notion that belief alone can validate a standard is misguided as well as tellingly anthropocentric.

    In other words, anyone can go on asserting that God exists and provides the ultimate justification for moral/ethical prescriptions, but this does nothing to validate nor falsify such assertions.

    OK. If you believe God will judge, then you will act in accordance with that belief. If you don’t, you won’t. But God will judge (or not) despite your beliefs.

    On the other hand, if there is no Judge, there can be no Justice.

    According to the most basic principle of deontology, ethical/moral principles should be universalizable, or as Kant asserted, one should “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

    How is that going to help me further my genes? Why should I not be an exception to universal laws, especially since they are counterproductive to the furthering of my genes? When I’m looking at things from a “what’s in it for me” perspective (and why shouldn’t I?), it appears that the Prisoner’s Dilemma would have Kant for lunch.

    Teleological ethical/moral prescriptions, by contrast, are ultimately justified by their effects. The most common teleological ethical/moral system is utilitarianism, according to which one should do whatever acts result in the “greatest good for the greatest number”.

    Why should I care about the greatest good for the greatest number? Not that I’m necessarily opposed to the notion, but what happens when it countermands what is best for me? Should I continue to pursue a fitness of zero and let my genes pass out of existence just because, in general, it is better for families to stay together? Why? Why should I care about the general good over my own particular good? So, the human race continues, but my genes are no longer part of it. Why should I want that?

  125. Oh, and did you see post #114? There are a lot of unanswered questions in there.

  126. How is that going to help me further my genes?
    Darwinism would show Genghis Khan to be the benchmark of morality :-)

  127. Allen_MacNeill, You say that there is no such thing as Darwinian morality, and, in a way, you are right. However, there is such a thing as the lack of morality, and that is the key problem of our Post-Christian Post-Rationalist society. In this moral vacuum, where morally immature and uneducated individuals, (sometimes unkindly called moral imbeciles), are easily influenced by anything they fancy right, the predominant Darwinian or “scientific” world-view has had a huge impact. You can see it everywhere from the Darwinian economics, politics, sociology, to interpersonal relations. No wonder some or many of these immature individuals adopt Darwinian “survival of the fittest” notions as their personal ethics.

    With respect to the nature of ethics, you are muddying the waters. True, as the history of ethics shows, it has always been the trickiest area of human reasoning. Its essence is the proper and intelligent understanding of what is “good” or “truth”. But that is why one must sincerely and humbly learn, reason and ponder the ethical foundations, the history of ethics, and what each of the sages has said or done.

    Referring to G.E. Moore, as sincere and honest philosopher he was, is simply an oversimplification of the problem, since Moore was a common sense ethical intuitionist. There is nothing wrong with such an approach, providing one’s intuition is right. However, if it isn’t, one, and the whole society, is in huge trouble. That is why even an intelligent and educated person will humbly take advice and guidance of prestigious social institutions, of which Christianity is the foremost.

    (Example: I watched the Glenn Beck town hall meeting program with black African-Americans a few days ago and it was good and eye-opening to see that many black Americans consider Christianity the key to their emancipation and human dignity.)

  128. Allen_MacNeill, you have been critical of “creationist ID blogs”. One such charge can be found of your blog:

    “However, other misrepresentations are apparently part of a deliberate and ongoing effort to distort the public record and deliberately misrepresent the relevant scientific information for political and religious purposes.” Etc.

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......t-and.html

    You have brought up Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics, and it is in this context that I will lob the charge back at you. I will use the Preface by Michael Ruse to his new edition of Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics. (Princeton 2009) This preface is worth reading, because Ruse explains in it quite well what actually happened. The bottom line is that T.H. Huxley, Darwin’s Bulldog, or the Pope Huxley, was not only indifferent to ideas of Darwin (p xii), but Huxley knew very well that “evolution had little basis in fact and, more than this, was a sloppy notion…” (p. xi) Ruse points out this conundrum, and explains that Huxley was trying to move away from the prevalent Spencerian notion & attitude which actually did create a Darwinian morality, a “moral message of evolution” (p. xvii), which was based on the Darwinian struggle in the animal & plant kingdom, based on some “animal force” that leads to greed and violence. This was scientism, or pseudo-science, plain & simple.

    Whether Huxley knew what he was doing, i.e. his hypocrisy and his deliberate intention to create an evolutionary “Secular religion” (as Ruse calls, it p. xiii) to help the poor working masses, is perhaps open to debate. But the fact is that since his first famous lecture on Darwinism, when Huxley was so cold and shunning of Darwin’s pigeons, with his further program of discrediting Owen, his X-Club, etc., it is quite clear that Huxley knew quite well what the problems were and that Darwinism was just a useful tool to bring about the education & betterment of the masses. (One could seek parallels to this in the current US political situation.)

    Anyway, in this final essay, Huxley did try to dissociate himself from the Darwinian morality, he wanted to dismiss such “evolutionary ethicizing”, and many, like G.E. Moore with his Principia Ethica welcomed such a departure. Huxley tried his best to explain the nature of ethics, but there was a mixed reaction and many were not impressed by Huxley’s own ethicizing. But, what is really interesting in this essay, is that Huxley did realize that there was a “beast within us” which needs to be fought and cultured. This sounds very much like the “original sin”, which is the central idea of Christianity. In his essay Huxley also pointed out that there was another aspect of this cosmic evolution, a kind of an anthropic principle, art (which needs an artificer), with perhaps even a hint of design:

    “But there is another aspect of the cosmic process, so perfect as a mechanism, so beautiful as a work of art. Where the cosmopoietic energy works [51] through sentient beings, there arises, among its other manifestations, that which we call pain or suffering. This baleful product of evolution increases in quantity and in intensity, with advancing grades of animal organization, until it attains its highest level in man.”

    Unfortunately, as Ruse pointed out, the evolutionary or Darwinian morality came back despite Huxley’s effort to thwart it. Many, including Huxley’s own grandson Julian embraced it. This morality made inroads even into the Catholic Church via the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, to whose Phenomenon of Man Julian Huxley wrote and enthusiastic introduction.

  129. Finally, and even more of a stumper for me, if one cannot derive an ought from an is and what is is all there is, then how can an ought be derived at all?

    I do think we derive ought from is, even in biology. Consider pathology or any other practice that judges something is not functioning as it ought to.

Leave a Reply