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Murder: You Either Agree That It’s Wrong or You Don’t

Here at UD we have been discussing first principles over the last several weeks, and those discussions came to mind when I read about the recent paper After-birth Abortion:  Why Should the Baby Live?, in which Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue in good Nazi fashion that some newborn babies have Lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”).

In this article Gabby Speach makes all kinds of philosophical arguments against the Giubilini/Minerva thesis.  Unfortunately, while in the main I agree with Ms. Speach, her article is all but useless and will not convince anyone who is not already convinced.  Why?  Because she is trying to argue for first principles and that is a losing proposition.  First principles must be accepted as self-evident.  They are the foundation upon which all arguments are built, and just as one cannot put the foundation on the third floor, one cannot construct arguments for first principles.  By definition those who resist first principles have, at the very least, deeply disordered minds.  They may also be, as in this case,  profoundly evil.  The response to such people is not to argue with them but to resist them.  Their ideas should be rejected categorically and if they act on those ideas they should be punished severely.

In her paper Ms. Speach argues that killing babies is wrong because they are human beings who are moral persons because they are rational beings.  Nonsense.  Killing babies is wrong because they are human beings.  Full stop.  And why is it wrong to kill human beings?  Because they, of all creatures, are the only ones created Imago Dei.  Ms. Speach seems to believe that one can ground the prohibition on killing humans in pure unaided reason.  This is simply not the case.  If God exists and he has prohibited the killing of human beings because they are created in his image, then it is objectively evil to kill humans.  As the Talmud puts it, he who kills a man is considered to have destroyed the entire world.

On the other hand, if God does not exist it is not wrong to kill anyone, if by “wrong” we mean “to transgress against an objective and transcendent moral law.”  Richard Dawkins is right about one thing.  If God does not exist in the universe “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”  If God does not exist we might still have a strong opinion that killing babies is wrong.  But what if someone else has a strong opinion that killing babies is a good idea?  Who is to arbitrate between our strong opinions?  That’s right, no one.

Famous infanticide apologist Peter Singer notes that pro-life people “do not know how to argue against anyone who agrees with them that the fetus and newborn infant have the same moral status, but then denies that merely existing as an innocent living human being is enough to give a being a right to life.”  Peter Singer is right.  I do not know how to argue with someone who denies that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings, and the reason I do not know how to argue for that proposition is that there are no arguments to support it.  Instead, as a first principle, it is the foundation from which arguments begin, and only evil men deny it.

Peter Singer, Alberto Giubilini, and Francesca Minerva are evil men.  It is not rational to argue with evil, because arguing with evil is pointless.  Evil must not be argued with; it must be resisted, with force if necessary.

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79 Responses to Murder: You Either Agree That It’s Wrong or You Don’t

  1. The problem with abortion, IMO, is when is the cut-off date? Some say it should be 18 (that’s years)- we can call it “weeding and pruning” to make it more acceptable.

  2. I think that you can argue about first principals by pointing out their consistency or inconsistency with other first principals. For example, if the authors believe that infanticide is okay because the baby is not fully conscious or intelligent or self-aware in the same way an adult is, then you could point out that killing a sleeping person should be okay too. Or at least, not as bad as killing an awake person. Also, killing someone in a coma is not bad either, even if there is a chance they might regain consciousness. After all, the person in a coma, or asleep is not self-aware, capable of planning for the future etc. So they do not have “personhood” just like an infant. So murder is okay so long as you wait until after dark…

  3. 3

    Collin, I used to think the argument you are making is right. I no longer do.

    I fear we are all children of the Enlightenment and have bought into the modernist dogma that pure unaided reason can guide us to the answer to all questions. This is not now and has never been the case. Conclusions rest on premises. What do the premises rest on? They rest on conclusions, which in turn rest on ever more basic premises. The problem with the Enlightenment formulation, however, is that it fails to take account of a glaringly obvious fact: You can only play this game so long before you run into a wall where you have to answer the question “Why?” with simply, “Because that’s just the way things are.” As usual, C.S. Lewis put the matter beautifully:

    “But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”

    The Abolition of Man

    Collin, do you really think that if we point out to the apologists for murder that their arguments lead to absurd conclusions they will change their mind? OF COURSE NOT!! They are arguing for an absurd proposition to begin with. Ms. Speach says, “Well, their argument for killing babies makes no sense, because it relies on an arbitrary cut-off.” NO! Their argument for killing babies makes no sense because they are arguing for killing babies for God’s sake!

  4. Barry, I don’t really disagree with you. I love the Abolition of Man. I read it first in college.

    But I think I can at least get some people to see how their positions are inconsistent with each other. Or force them to make their positions consistent and advocate murder. Then their first principles are utterly clear to everyone and unvarnished by “newspeak” like “post-natal abortion.”

  5. Barry,

    And I think it can be dangerous to just rest on first principles. I think that is why proponents of traditional marriage have been losing. They don’t make their argument effectively enough because it’s just obvious that gay marriage is wrong. Some people say, “why?” and the only answer they often get is “it just is.” Proponents of traditional marriage need to give better arguments than that. And some have done a good job, but the rank and file need to adopt the well reasoned arguments.

  6. “But what if someone else has a strong opinion that killing babies is a good idea? Who is to arbitrate between our strong opinions? That’s right, no one.”

    Well, what’s left is Might and Consensus. Either of those make me shudder.

  7. And we move one step closer to the abyss . . .

    (Notice, C, how you are appealing to that horrible little arbitrary idea, that ideas should be consistent. Sez who! And, so over the abyss we go . . . )

  8. Kairosfocus,

    Let’s try to slow it down. Not everyone is firmly on one side or the other. That’s why we keep trying.

  9. 9

    Collin writes: “And I think it can be dangerous to just rest on first principles. I think that is why proponents of traditional marriage have been losing. They don’t make their argument effectively enough because it’s just obvious that gay marriage is wrong. Some people say, ‘why?’ and the only answer they often get is ‘it just is.’”

    I disagree emphatically. “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.”

    It really is that simple. I man cannot marry another man any more than he can marry his horse. The essence of marriage is the conjugal union between a man and a woman. That is a first principle, and if someone rejects it there is no amount of argument that will convince them.

    You are wrong when you say we are losing this battle. Keep in mind that 39 states have statutes or constitutional amendments that limit marriage to a man and a woman. Only 6 states have same-sex marriage, and most of those were rammed through not by the people but by willful activist judges.

    There is a danger that the United States Supreme Court will pull another Roe v. Wade on the issue and mandate it for all 50 states. It will be 5-4 one way or the other. If they do mandate same-sex marriage for all 50 states it will be time for a revolution.

  10. Barry,
    First you said this…

    Killing babies is wrong because they are human beings. Full stop. And why is it wrong to kill human beings? Because they, of all creatures, are the only ones created Imago Dei.

    But then later in the post you say this…

    I do not know how to argue with someone who denies that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings

    [emphasis added]

    Which is it? Is it wrong to kill any human being, because human beings are created in the image of God, or is it only wrong to kill innocent human beings?

    If it’s the former, then a person’s innocence has nothing whatsoever to do with whether it’s wrong to kill him/her. Since Hitler was a human being, and therefore created in the image of God, it would be just as wrong to kill him as it would be anyone else.

    If it’s the later, then what does the image of god have anything to do with the wrongfulness of killing someone? Does the Imago Dei disappear when innocence is lost? Does that make it ok to kill them? Where is the list of transgressions that move someone from the innocent group (and thus wrong to kill), to the non-innocent(ok to kill)?

  11. 11

    lastyearon, I will answer your questions if you answer this one: “Is it always wrong to kill innocent human beings?”

  12. Barry, I will answer that question if you answer this one:
    Is it wrong to kill an innocent human being if by doing so you save a thousand innocent human beings?

  13. 13

    lastyearon asks “Is it wrong to kill an innocent human being if by doing so you save a thousand innocent human beings?”

    Yes, it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being.

  14. 14

    If man imbues humanity with the right to life, then man can take it away…it’s arbitrary and means nothing, as we have seen with the alleged ‘ethicists’ in the article. Only with GOD do we have the inalienable right to life. We ignore that fundamental truth at our own peril, lest we be deemed ‘unfit’ to live by some self-appointed group.

  15. 15

    I guess lastyearon isn’t going to keep his commitment. Why am I not surprised?
    I’ll answer his questions anyway.
    1. It is obvious from the context that I meant “innocent human life” throughout.
    2. If your moral sense is so stunted that you cannot discern the difference in moral status between murdering an innocent baby and executing a mass murder after giving him due process of law, then God help you for I surely can’t.

  16. @lastyearon

    “Is it wrong to kill an innocent human being if by doing so you save a thousand innocent human beings?”

    I once emailed Dr Frank Turek with a very similar question and this was HIS response back to me.

    “While there may be moral dilemmas that we cannot be sure of the right solution, the very fact that you have a dilemma is because you know how OBJECTIVELY valuable life is. You wouldn’t care about innocent people or even the bomber himself if life didn’t have objective value. There only needs to be one action to be morally wrong for God to exist— like it’s wrong to torture babies (or atheists) for fun. If that is objectively wrong, then God exists.”

    He’s absolutely correct in his assessment..

  17. I do not know how to argue with someone who denies that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings, and the reason I do not know how to argue for that proposition is that there are no arguments to support it.

    Why would you disagree with Singer or anyone else that makes that argument? Simply debate them over this point within a legal jurisdiction in which it is not murder if the ‘victim’ agrees it is not. Bring a Glock and be supremely agreeable.

    If ‘innocent’ matters then first accuse them of assassinating US President Lincoln.

  18. 18

    First principles must be accepted as self-evident.

    I remember at one point in my life not long ago trying to figure out why there was such a thing as private property. I knew that there was, and I wanted to be able to refute those that cling to the philosophy of those wicked men in the past century that asserted there was no such thing. I read Locke as part of my effort to do this, but all I learned from him in the matter was how things become your property, not why there was such a thing as property in the first place. I was becoming increasingly frustrated, and was nearly at the end of my rope when those wonderful words sprang into my mind, “We hold these truths to be self evident”, and then I realized that either there was private property, or there was not, and you either accepted that there was such a thing, or you rejected it.

    After that, I started to see first principles EVERYWHERE, and that first principles are at the very foundation of political and cultural leanings. And that is why it is impossible to convince a gay marriage activist that the thing they espouse is an abomination. It is either an abomination, or it is not, and they reject the idea that it is an abomination, and that really is all there is to it. It’s either wrong, or it’s not, and in the end it is the culture itself that decides what is right and what is wrong, and that based on first principles.

    But I think what Collin was trying to say or maybe at least thinking of, is that certain first principles eventually lead you into utter absurdities, and if you have the ability to point that out to people, you might be able to persuade them that they are barking up the wrong tree. But if in the end they don’t think those absurdities are absurd, then what? Miserably wicked men tend to lead absurd lives to begin with. Or extremely confused men simply might not see the absurdities.

    It’s not that conservative people need better arguments against same sex marriage, it’s that the culture itself needs to believe that same sex marriage is just plain wrong. But God is the only reason that would be, and if they don’t believe in God… Oh, look, another first principle.

    Excellent post, Barry.

  19. Was away from my computer. Otherwise I’d have replied sooner.
    Barry, to answer your question, no, it is not always wrong, as per my example above. It is not always absolutely wrong to kill an innocent person.

  20. It is not always absolutely wrong to kill an innocent person.

    Of course not, given atheism and materialism. It’s not wrong to kill as many innocent people as you like, for whatever reason you wish. I think Barry may agree with that, so you two are apparently on the same page.

  21. 21

    it is a settled and self evident point that killing human beings without just cause is murder.
    The people accept this already.
    Since there is no difference between a babe in the hand and where it was ten minutes before in its mothers body then logically children live in mom and have ithe right to life.
    tHis threatens the moral and intellectual and legal foundation of abortionism and the Roe vs Wade decision.
    these people know they need to deny babies are people too.
    In fact it just stirs up the abortion issue once again.
    someone is right and someone is wrong once again in history.

  22. Folks:

    The basic problem is that if one swallows an absurdity and stubbornly refuses to acknowledge its absurdity, rejecting the first principles of right reason brought up in challenge, then one can dance wrong but strong all day.

    Problem is, there cometh the day when one has to pay the piper.

    I think Kant’s categorical imperative in its two main — and demonstrably equivalent — forms helps us analytically isolate such nihilism and its likely consequences.

    First, if the principle or maxim on which one operates is incapable of being universalised, it is morally unsound. For instance, if everyone lied or broke promises and agreements all the time, communication and relationships of all kinds would break down so irretrievably that society itself would collapse. (Resemblance to what is beginning to happen with our civilisation is not coincidental.)

    Second, no pattern of behaviour is morally sound if it treats the equal other as a means to one’s ends, instead of as an end in him or her self. This is of course close indeed to the golden rule, and boils down to accepting that there are unalienable rights and an inescapable dignity that must be respected. Of these, the first right is that to life, for if one may be robbed of life for any arbitrary reason of convenience, one is being used as a disposable toy or piece of rubbish. (To see the equivalence, think about what happens in a society where people act in ways that violate the second form.)

    Without respect for principles like this, society collapses.

    In short, if we try to build on an unsound foundation, the resulting society will be unsustainable. Which is exactly what we are now seeing.

    In the test case Mr Arrington put on the table, if people arbitrarily kill inconvenient children in the womb or beyond it, it fatally undermines the value of life by injecting the principle: Lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”).

    As Schaeffer and Koop warned a generation ago, a society like that collapses in the end in a cascade of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia leading onwards to mass murder of the inconvenient. Such a society becomes a plague upon the earth, and other societies, in self-defence, have to destroy its power centres to break its path of destruction.

    That is exactly what happened in the 1930′s – 40′s, within living memory. (And playing at dismissive “Godwin’s law” games is little more than a refusal to learn some key lessons of very painful recent history.)

    When it comes to so-called gay marriage and the like, what is going on is that we see the fatal nihilistic premise: might and manipulation make ‘right,’ at work. We have a power elite which is dominated by the same premise of evolutionary materialism that destroyed Athens 2400 years ago, and it refuses to heed Plato’s warning in The laws, Bk X — indeed, it refuses to acknowledge that such a warning exists or is relevant:

    [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . .

    Our genuflection before the altar of evolutionary materialism-dominated science has consequences, consequences we need to think very seriously about.

    The prophet Isaiah has long since pronounced the sentence on such cultures:

    Is 5:18 Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit,
    and wickedness as with cart ropes . . . .

    20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
    who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
    who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

    21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
    and clever in their own sight.

    22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine
    and champions at mixing drinks,
    23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    but deny justice to the innocent.
    24 Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
    and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
    so their roots will decay
    and their flowers blow away like dust;
    for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty
    and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

    Never has a civilisation had as much light as our own, and never has a civilisation been so bend on turning away from light to darkness, inverting the very concepts of good and evil.

    Unless we repent and humbly seek reformation, we will destroy ourselves, or will become such plagues on the earth that out of self defence other civilisations will have to put a stop to our madness. (For that job, I nominate the Chinese as most likely to take over. In the meanwhile the IslamiSTS are probably going to give us some pretty hard knocks.)

    GEM of TKI

  23. Barry,

    I contend that there is no clear cut morality. Moral questions are clear cut only when you set up trivial cases, like is it immoral to kill a baby. You say that killing a human being is wrong because humans are made in the Imago Dei, but that has never stopped Christians from killing other human beings and believing that they were in the right to do so.

    For example, is it morally ok to kill a man to prevent him from stealing your property? Some say yes, some no. Is it morally ok to kill a convicted murderer? Some say yes, some no. How about a rapist? What about in war? Is it morally ok to kill Iraqi or Vietnamese soldiers (and civilians, because that is also inevitable in war) on the say so of the president of the United States? What if the war is unjust? Who decides whether a war is just or not? Is it morally ok to kill the mother to save the baby? Some say yes, some no. Is it morally ok to kill Osama bin Laden without a fair trial in a court of law? Some say yes, some no. Is it morally ok to kill someone who is in league with the devil? Who decides whether someone is or isn’t? Is it morally ok to kill a human being to prevent him from disseminating dangerous ideas, like militant fundamentalism (of any stripe)? Some say yes, some no.

    Where do you find the absolute moral law that can decide each of these questions definitively? It doesn’t exist. The truth is that all morality is relative in that each of us is thrown back on our own best judgement to decide these questions.

    In Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, God states clearly that there is no absolute right and wrong (morally speaking). Rather, there is only what works and what doesn’t work, depending on what one wants to be, do, or have. In fact, He points out that the belief that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong is one of the false ideas that is driving human kind to the brink of self annihilation. Each religion, each group, has its own ideas of right and wrong, and because each believes that its ideas are sactioned by God, each concludes that it has the right to visit death and destruction on the “evil ones” who believe differently.

    God says that if we want to live in congruence with our True Nature (ie., the Imago Dei), we need to give up the notion of right and wrong altogether and instead live every moment in the question, “What would Love do now?” And that, I submit, would be a life worth living.

  24. Regarding the question of abortion. There is an assumption on the part of those who would make it illegal that is simply not shared by those who would not do so. That assumption is that a fertilized egg is a human being. Nearly everyone agrees that killing a human being without some kind of “just” cause is murder. Therefore, clearly, since many, many people of good will in this and other countries do not class abortion as murder, there are many, many people who do not accept the proposition that a fertilized egg is a human being. Calling it “murder” and “killing babies” simply obfuscates the fundamental issue, which is this basic disagreement.

    Speaking strictly for myself, a human being is a human body united with a soul. Therefore, I do not regard a human body at any stage of development as a human being unless there is also a soul in residence. I further believe that a soul cannot unite with a body until the brain has reached sufficient stage of development, which happens some time during the third trimester. Therefore, before the third trimester, an abortion is not murder, because what is killed is not a human being by definition.

    I am not an evil person, by the way. I am simply a person who disagrees with you regarding what constitutes a human being.

  25. Bruce David,

    IFor example, is it morally ok to kill a man to prevent him from stealing your property? Some say yes, some no.

    Is global warming taking place? Some say yes, some say no.

    The mere presence of people who disagree does not automatically make the answer to a given question either unclear or unavailable.

    Where do you find the absolute moral law that can decide each of these questions definitively? It doesn’t exist. The truth is that all morality is relative in that each of us is thrown back on our own best judgement to decide these questions.

    When is it okay to rape a woman? Is the answer, “Sometimes, it really depends”?

    In Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, God states clearly that

    I question whether God stated anything in this book. Don’t you find it a little obnoxious, or at least unintentionally comedic, to quote this book as if it were not only the Bible, but accepted as such by anyone but yourself?

    “What would Love do now?” And that, I submit, would be a life worth living.

    So what? You just got done explaining that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Great, you said something that gives you warm fuzzies. Finding a philosophy that would “make life worth living” in some entirely subjective sense isn’t the issue – Conan the freaking Barbarian managed that. Others can too. “To each their own.” And if “to each their own” is right, we can dispense with the platitudes – they aren’t rules to live by, but statements of personal psychology and preference.

  26. I am not an evil person, by the way. I am simply a person who disagrees with you regarding what constitutes a human being.

    No person is an evil person under your standards. Someone who believes that people of a certain race, with certain disabilities, of certain cognitive makeups, etc, are “not people” and therefore cannot be murdered also “disagrees about what constitutes a human being”.

    Calling it “murder” and “killing babies” simply obfuscates the fundamental issue, which is this basic disagreement.

    Actually, it highlights the fundamental issue. Incidentally, are you certain that there is no “soul” until “the third trimester”? I’d like to see your proof. Lacking it, don’t you think that “Love would dictate” we shouldn’t go around quite possibly murdering people as far as we know?

    Let me guess: Love doesn’t care about that. Want to slice a hook through a baby in the fifth trimester? Love will look the other way. Hell, Love may operate the vacuum.

  27. 27
    William J Murray

    Barry Arrington is my new hero. This post really cuts through to the heart of what defines the true difference between many arguments found here; one is either willing to admit simple, obvious, fundamental truths, or they are not.

    If they are not, no argument can be tendered to convince them. Accepting such truths is a free will choice; one cannot be coerced by evidence or argument to accept that which necessarily precedes sound thought.

    Mr. Arrington reminds me of Andrew Breitbart, may he rest in peace. Speak truth to foolishness & expose the deception.

  28. Hi WJM:

    I would add, that while a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still and you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink (learned at my mom’s knee . . . she now faces Alzheimer’s with astonishing courage and good cheer), we can expose that which is absurd so that onlookers can see for themselves what is going on. Hence the utility of the Categorical Imperative: reductio ad absurdum. KF

  29. 29

    Accepting such truths is a free will choice

    Or, you could just say that you either believe such truths or you do not. In my experience, choice is not involved here.

    One explosive controversy at a time, please.

    (… As if that’s ever been the rule here).

  30. 30
    William J Murray

    If there is no free will, then it can no more be wrong to kill the innocent than it is wrong for a rock to roll down a hill.

  31. 31

    WJM, objective right and wrong exists independently of anyone’s choices, or anyone’s existence, for that matter. Perhaps you mean argue culpability in the absence of “free will”?

  32. 32

    lastyearon writes “It is not always absolutely wrong to kill an innocent person.” He appeals to his example in which someone might choose to kill an innocent human being if by doing so they could save a thousand innocent human beings.

    So that’s your game, eh? Undermine the principle with appeals to outrageously unlikely hypotheticals. Then, once the principle is undermined, justify the killing of whomever he wants. Granny is sick. Well, off to the euthanasia doc with her. After all we have already established that it is not always wrong to kill an innocent human being. Which side of the line is she on? All lines are fuzzy. Bruce David assures us it is clearly wrong to kill innocent humans only in the most trivial cases. And this case certainly isn’t trivial. After all, taking care of her is going to be costly and hugely inconvenient.

    Bait and switch. Neat trick.

    No, lastyearon and Bruce David, it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being. You both know that as does everyone else reading this, so it is pointless to argue for the proposition. You both deny the truth, not because you do not recognize it, but because you want to be in a position to act contrary to the truth when it is convenient for you. Did granny just sneeze?

  33. Barry to lastyearon, “Is it always wrong to kill innocent human beings?”

    I’ll have to throw a little gas on the fire and say that (assuming the account is real history) Yahweh commanded Israelites to kill babies. Whether or not they were “innocent” could be an interesting matter of discussion, but assuming they were “innocent” in the common, everyday sense of that term, then the answer is “no”, it is not always wrong: it is not wrong if Yahweh commands it.

  34. …And of course, in the New Testament, we have this statement, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50) This was a prophecy that came thru the High Priest. So, another incidence where it’s better for one to die (Jesus) than the whole nation perish. Isolated incidence? Of course. The general rule is “you shall not murder.” There are a few exceptions in Judao/Christian history where this was set aside, Yahweh commanding Israelites to “kill them all”, and the case of Jesus.

  35. Well, I find myself somewhat at odds with my usual compatriots on this one. I wasn’t even going to comment, as I tend to be more interested in the ID and scientific-focused discussions, but I do think lastyearon and Bruce David have raised legitimate issues that deserve respectful analysis, rather than piling on.

    The questions of war, self defense, commands of God (for those who believe in the Biblical narrative, for example) are all serious and deserve to be thought through — yes, even struggled with. And the fact that these are hard questions or that there are tough decisions in the extremity of human interactions does not mean there is no morality, or that there is no right or wrong, or that God does not exist. To make a blanket statement that to kill is always, invariably, without equivocation, unjustifiably wrong, is to assign to the word “wrong” a peculiar meaning that does not exist in normal discourse. It is always unfortunate? Surely. Is it always something to be avoided if possible? Likely. But to say it is “wrong” in an absolute moral sense automatically and unaviodably demands that such moral sense have interplay with other moral senses — even moral duties — that many would ascribe to, such as defending one’s country, protecting one’s family, or following God’s command.

    To be sure, one could resolve the dilemma by saying it is always “wrong” to kill, but that it is “more wrong” to do some other things, such as letting someone kill your wife and kids, or letting a bomber blow up a school. (Incidentally, these are not outrageously unlikely hypotheticals. These are real issues that come up all the time in law enforcement and even in some personal situations.) We could take that approach and we can probably all live with that kind of distinction between ‘wrong’ and ‘more wrong,’ but it just underscores that we are playing with the word “wrong,” rather than talking about the real substance.

    Is the suggestion of after-birth abortion that started this thread reprehensible? Absolutely, and anyone supporting such a view should be called on the carpet. But let’s understand the nuances that exist (not with after-birth abortion, but with other interactions in human experience) and not sweep them aside with blanket absolutes.

  36. Nullasalus:

    I question whether God stated anything in this book [Conversations with God.]. Don’t you find it a little obnoxious, or at least unintentionally comedic, to quote this book as if it were not only the Bible, but accepted as such by anyone but yourself?

    In the first place, I am far from the only one to accept that these books constitute genuine Revelation. They have been international best sellers for years. There are literally millions of people who accept that God actually is speaking through the author in these remarkable volumes.

    Secondly, how does one know which of the many books that claim to be revelation (the Bible, the Koran, the Buddhist scriptures, the Pauli Canon, the Tao Te Ching, the Upanishads, the Baghavad Gita, the Book of Mormon…or Conversations with God) actually constitute genuine revelation? What authority is there other than one’s own best judgment to decide which, if any, to accept as a revelation of truth? Just as in the case of morality, each of us, ultimately, is thrown back on his or her own best judgment to determine what is or is not truth. There is no way out of this dilemma. And, I submit, God set it up this way. It is a necessary component of the process whereby each of us finally learns that there is within everyone the capacity to determine truth for ourselves. That we have this capacity is one of the consequences of having been made in the image and likeness of God.

    Where do you find the absolute moral law that can decide each of these questions definitively? It doesn’t exist. The truth is that all morality is relative in that each of us is thrown back on our own best judgement to decide these questions.

    When is it okay to rape a woman? Is the answer, “Sometimes, it really depends”?

    You have not addressed my observation that when moral questions get even a little complex, as in the examples I gave in #23, there is no agreement on their resolution, even among members of the same faith, and hence no authority to which one can turn to decide them. Thus, virtually all morality is in fact relative in that each of us is forced to use our own best judgment to determine the answers to these questions for ourselves.

    My point is this: those of you who believe that there is an absolute moral code continue to use examples with which virtually everyone agrees, such as the immorality of rape or killing babies, and continually ignore the fact that the hard questions, the ones we actually face in our daily existence, have no answers from any kind of authority other than another human being. There is no moral authority that can answer the kinds of questions I raised in #23 other than ourselves. Even the Categorical Imperative, beloved of Kairosfocus, is the product of the mind of a human being, Kant, and each of us must decide for ourselves whether the reasoning he used to arrive at that conclusion is valid. (Personally, I think it is flawed, but I won’t prolong this post with my reasons.)

  37. Nullasalus:

    Calling it “murder” and “killing babies” simply obfuscates the fundamental issue, which is this basic disagreement.

    Actually, it highlights the fundamental issue. Incidentally, are you certain that there is no “soul” until “the third trimester”? I’d like to see your proof. Lacking it, don’t you think that “Love would dictate” we shouldn’t go around quite possibly murdering people as far as we know?

    Where is your proof that a zygote is a human being? Lacking such proof, I do not accept that anyone has the right to force a woman to undergo the physical hardship, intense pain, and severe disruption to her life that carrying a pregnancy to term would entail, particularly if she does not agree with you that a zygote or an embryo is a human being.

    If you believe that a zygote is a human being, then don’t have an abortion, perform an abortion, or participate in one. I also have no problem with you or anyone else trying to convince a woman not to have one, as long as her dignity and fundamental right to choose for herself are not abrogated. What I reject is to deny her through the force of law or by any other means the ability to make that choice for herself.

  38. Bruce David:

    Where is your proof that a zygote is a human being?

    Where is your proof that you are a human being?

    Put your money where your mouth is: Let’s meet up for coffee and death. If I accept that you are human then I won’t terminate your biological life. If I don’t accept that then I’ll thank you for being a source of protein in my diet.

    Certainly you have no objections to this.

  39. Maus:

    I know I’m a human being; I have no need to prove it to you or anyone else. I came to this planet for a purpose, which is not yet completed. When it is, I’ll exit back to my True Home, like all of us. So until that time, I’ll respectfully decline your kind offer. But thanks anyway.

  40. Bruce:

    I contend that there is no clear cut morality. Moral questions are clear cut only when you set up trivial cases, like is it immoral to kill a baby. You say that killing a human being is wrong because humans are made in the Imago Dei, but that has never stopped Christians from killing other human beings and believing that they were in the right to do so.

    There is much bad logic here. That some Christians may, at various times and places,
    violate their own moral code does not, in any way, invalidate that moral code.

    For example, is it morally ok to kill a man to prevent him from stealing your property?

    Not unless your life is being threatened.

    Is it morally ok to kill a convicted murderer?

    According to Barry’s post, it is wrong to kill “innocent” people. Do you consider convicted murderers to be innocent?

    What about in war?

    If you would read beyond “Conversations with God,” you would learn about “Just War Theory.”

    ”Is it morally ok to kill Osama bin Laden without a fair trial in a court of law?”

    Only as a military act in the context of a just war.

    Where do you find the absolute moral law that can decide each of these questions definitively? It doesn’t exist.

    The natural moral law, while self evident, is also consistent with reason, which must often be applied to work out difficult or controversial problems. Hence, we have the “Just War Theory” and the teaching on the evils of abortion, both of which are based on the natural moral law understood in the light of reason. Insofar as you do not accept reason as a complementary standard for moral analysis, you are not qualified to pass judgment on the matter.

    The truth is that all morality is relative in that each of us is thrown back on our own best judgement to decide these questions.

    Does that statement constitute [a] an absolute truth or does it simply reflect [b] your own best judgment? You have just contradicted yourself. (I realize this is not a problem for you, but I just thought I would point it out).

    In Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, God states clearly that there is no absolute right and wrong (morally speaking).

    You have no way of testing Walsch’s truth claims because you are not willing to subject them to the test of reason. Indeed, one of the reasons Walsch cons his readers into believing his anti-intellectual nonsense is to render them powerless for the test of evaluating the merits of his work.

    God says that if we want to live in congruence with our True Nature (ie., theImago Dei), we need to give up the notion of right and wrong altogether and instead live every moment in the question, “What would Love do now?” And that, I submit, would be a life worth living.

    No, actually God says that we should not believe “every spirit, but rather that we should “test the spirits, whether they are of God” — “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

    Or, as St Paul puts it, false prophets, like Walsch, will “tickle your ears” with sweet sounding doctrines.

    Regarding the question of abortion. There is an assumption on the part of those who would make it illegal that is simply not shared by those who would not do so.

    Would it have been OK for your parents to have aborted you? I think that you would have found that the sweetness of moral relativism is a bit more more on the bitter side when it is your body that is being torn apart. (Trust me when I tell you that you would have taken no comfort in your delusion that bodies don’t really exist).

  41. OK, let’s take a poll:

    A train carrying 1000 people is speeding down the tracks. The train is heading for a bridge that you know will collapse if the train proceeds. You’re standing near a switch that will cause the train to take an alternate route, saving the train and all people aboard. One problem: there’s a man struck on the tracks on the alternate route that will surely die.

    Choice: do nothing, 100s of people die, one man lives. Or else throw the switch, 100s of people live, one man dies.
    Which is the right choice?

    I’m betting that among committed Jews and Christians the answers would fall roughly even.

    Hypothetical you say? Wanna bet?

    Just answer the question.

    The funny thing is, despite all the high minded idealism people like to toss about, you don’t really know how you would react if you were actually faced with such a choice. All kinds of subconscious triggers would take over that you don’t even know about.

    Now, I’m off for a Guinness. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

  42. Stephen:

    We have had this conversation about the power of reason by itself to arrive at any kind of absolute truth several times before.

    I pointed out then, and I will repeat, if reason really had that power, then intelligent, educated men and women would all agree with you about what reason concludes, as mathematicians in fact do with each other when it comes to mathematical questions. (The difference is that mathematics only tells us what follows from certain basic assumptions—axioms—taken as true a priori. Change the assumptions and you change the conclusions.)

    The fact that the history of Western philosophy is the history of very intelligent men and women using reason to arrive at conclusions that contradict one another demonstrates my point: reason, by itself, is powerless to arrive at truth.

    I’ll give you an example of how fallible your own reasoning ability is from your own post. You said,

    The truth is that all morality is relative in that each of us is thrown back on our own best judgement to decide these questions.

    Does that statement constitute [a] an absolute truth or does it simply reflect [b] your own best judgment? You have just contradicted yourself. (I realize this is not a problem for you, but I just thought I would point it out).

    In the first place, I was pointing out that moral questions, not all questions can only be answered by our own best judgment. Therefore the statement, which itself is not an answer to a moral question but rather an answer to an epistemological question (How can we know what, if anything, is morally true?), is not self-referential and therefore cannot contradict itself. Furthermore, it is logically possible for a statement arrived at through one’s own best judgment to be in fact absolutely true, so no contradiction even if it were self referential.

    Would it have been OK for your parents to have aborted you? I think that you would have found that the sweetness of moral relativism is a bit more more on the bitter side when it is your body that is being torn apart. (Trust me when I tell you that you would have taken no comfort in your delusion that bodies don’t really exist).

    Here is what I believe on that question: The embryo that eventually became my body was not me. I was not even present during the first few months of my mother’s pregnancy. I eventually joined the fetus sometime during the third trimester. If she had aborted it, I would have known that that was her intention, and would not even have been considering being born into that body. I would have chosen to be born at another time into another body with possibly different parents, as I and everyone has and will have been hundreds of times until we have learned and remembered all there is to be gained from life on earth. Then we will move on to experience and grow in others of the endless number of spheres of God’s awesome, infinite creation.

    And by the way, I do not characterize moral relativism as sweet, but rather just what is so. In fact it can be agonizing, because the responsibility for every decision I make in my life is mine alone. There is no authority to whom I can turn to tell me what is the best course of action in any given circumstance. It’s all on my shoulders, and this can be very tough when confronting the hard choices we are sometimes faced with, for example, when no matter what we do, someone is going to get hurt.

  43. 43

    mike1962:

    …it is not always wrong: it is not wrong if Yahweh commands it.

    “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50)

    Although I have long participated in this website by reading comments, I have never submitted a comment before now. However, your use of the above two ideas to ‘throw a little gas on the fire’, so surprised me that I felt compelled to comment.

    To allow the YHWH example, it seems one either has to be willing to say that because YHWH can, we can, or because we cannot, YHWH cannot either. But neither statement recognizes or acknowledges the very real difference between YHWH and us. YHWH is the Creator. We are not. To attempt to extrapolate from what is allowed for the Creator to what is allowed for the created (and vice versa) can lead to some pretty dangerous thinking. As Creator of those babies, YHWH is in a completely different position than you or me in determining their future.

    My seven-year old son loves to draw. He is the ultimate decider of what he draws. If he decides to erase someone or something that he has drawn, it is his sole determination because it is his drawing. For me to say that because he can erase something in his drawing, I can as well, would be a complete violation of his authority as the creator of the drawing. However, if he gives me permission to erase something in his drawing, then I can do so.

    It seems to me at the root of this example is an inherent questioning of whether the Creator of life has the right to take life away. If one says, “No”, how do you back that up, and equally important, based on whose authority?

    Your second example (Jesus) also comes under the above discussion, since Jesus is God and has authority over life. Which includes His own: Jesus voluntarily gave up His life, which makes Him very different than unborn children and the majority of others who are murdered. Yet, even though He gave His life voluntarily – and even though it was better than the whole nation perishing – His murderers were still guilty. Jesus would not have asked for them to be forgiven if they had not done something wrong: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

  44. F/N: I want to suggest that there are times when we do face a lesser of evils choice, but that does not transmute an evil into a good. It is as trivial as permitting civil automobiles and aircraft or major construction projects, knowing that some will die. And it can be as complicated as war in the teeth of totalitarian threat. The least worst is not transmuted into a good. KF

  45. The word and concept at issue here is murder, not killing generally. The regular life cycle of a human is well documented. It begins at conception, the only non-arbitrary point. Zygote, fetus, fertilized cell – These are exactly what a human is and looks like at different stages in the life cycle. They are not ANY less human – this is what humans are at this or that stage of life.

    Innocents may well be killed and the murder not counted against the one(s) that killed, but the one(s) who brought on the moral use of lethal force.

  46. I knew that there would be a healthy discussion going on here, when I first read that paper. Thanks UD.

    As always the discussion is very theoretical and philosophical. The conclusion however, that the two individuals come to, that wrote that paper is following:

    If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn. (healthy or not)

    mike1962:

    So mike is it really such a situation that you describe? After 9 months of pregnancy and lets say 2 months of having the baby around you loose your job, and it is kinda hard to provide for the baby, and your wife maybe has gone psyco and needs treatment. What do you do?

    Yes the obvious answer to that would be: Hey my child is going to have a shit life, lets just have it terminated, and I can go on with mine own! Further just divorce the wife because she is a wakko. Obviously and the neighbour has been getting on my nerves so why not get my 9mm and blow him away while were at it.

    Life can be so simple!

    Your theoretical philisophical problem of deciding between who will live and die is that of an instant, and the decision will be made either way, you can however alter the outcome, but you don’t have to, you can just let fate run its way … (sarcasm alert)

    The problem that the authors talk about is that of an economical one, just like: Mhh should I take the garbage out so that it does not smell so bad in the kitchen.

    The authors now wonder why they get death threats …

    Note on the side: Materialistic ethics can be a threat to health and even life, it is a classical … “Die Geister die ich rief werd ich nun nicht mehr los” Goethe

  47. On a another Note: I have noticed that a lot of dissertations and scientific papers in English always use German words. What is up with that? Is that a notion of emphasis added ;-)!

    I have the feeling that if something is published without at least 1 sentence of German they get the Angst that nobody would take them seriously hehe.

    Now, I am German so I am allowed to quote Goethe without translating him hehehe.

  48. 48

    mike1962:

    The general rule is “you shall not murder.” There are a few exceptions in Judao/Christian history where this was set aside…

    To be clear, I should have included the above part of your entry in my original response because it is the idea that the “general rule” was “set aside” in the two examples you gave that prompted my response. My point of dispute is whether either of these examples qualify as examples of the “general rule” being “set aside”, and I contend that neither qualify.

    The YHWH example: As the Creator of life, YHWH has the sole right to take it away, and to use the rest of His creation to do so. The taking of life becomes murder when we, the created, take away life outside the very clear bounds the Creator of life has set.

    The Jesus example: The people who killed Jesus were guilty of murder, as the text makes clear.

    So, the command, “thou shalt not murder” was not “set aside” in either case.

  49. Where is your proof that a zygote is a human being? Lacking such proof, I do not accept that anyone has the right to force a woman to undergo the physical hardship, intense pain, and severe disruption to her life that carrying a pregnancy to term would entail, particularly if she does not agree with you that a zygote or an embryo is a human being.

    Right. As I said – “Maybe it’s murder. I, Bruce David, have no idea. But you know what? Kill it anyway. Rip it out, smash its head under a heel. Because this is a modern sacrament, and nothing can stand in its way.”

    The fact that there is “disagreement” – ie, someone disagrees – means nothing in and of itself. If she disagrees with you that a one year old is a human being, either you think she should be given the right to snuff her child’s life out, or you don’t. So you’re playing the “force” game whether you like it or not.

    But hey, play the game you wish, as it’s commanded by your culture. And everyone else will play theirs too.

  50. I would also recommend ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Kafka which poses a similar economical problem as proposed by the authors.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis

    The conclusion is as striking and egocentric as the conclusion of the authors.

  51. –Bruce: “We have had this conversation about the power of reason by itself to arrive at any kind of absolute truth several times before.”

    We may have had the conversation, but it seems evident that you did not understand it since I have never said that reason “by itself” can attain to truth. You are confusing rationality with rationalism.

    –”The truth is that all morality is relative in that each of us is thrown back on our own best judgement to decide these questions.”

    Does the above statement constitute an absolute truth or is it a relative truth?

    To my question, “Would it have been OK for your parents to have aborted you, you responded,

    –”The embryo that eventually became my body was not me. I was not even present during the first few months of my mother’s pregnancy. I eventually joined the fetus sometime during the third trimester. If she had aborted it, I would have known that that was her intention, and would not even have been considering being born into that body. I would have chosen to be born at another time into another body with possibly different parents, as I and everyone has and will have been hundreds of times until we have learned and remembered all there is to be gained from life on earth. Then we will move on to experience and grow in others of the endless number of spheres of God’s awesome, infinite creation.”

    Thank you for allowing me to take a brief tour of your world.

  52. kairosfocus @43:

    I think you’ve described the reasoning I outlined as one possible approach in my penultimate paragraph of #35.

  53. Nullasalus:

    Your comment begs the question. You clearly assume without any proof, or even argument, that at zygote is a human being, and that therefore killing it is murder, and you get morally incensed about it. Well, fine, be my guest. Just don’t expect me or anyone who disagrees with you to be persuaded by your outrage. And don’t be surprised at similar outrage at the idea that we should forcibly deny women their freedom in this matter by millions of people who don’t share your beliefs. And don’t be mistaken, the feelings of people who support a woman’s right to choose are every bit as intense and outraged as are yours.

    And by the way, contrary to your assertion, I have a very good idea that neither a zygote nor an embryo is a human being. By the metaphysical beliefs that I hold, as I have already explained, a human being does not come into existence until the soul joins the body, sometime during the third trimester when the brain is sufficiently developed for that to occur.

  54. Barry:

    “reason, by itself, is powerless to arrive at truth.” Did you use reasoning to arrive at that conclusion?

    It’s more of an empirical observation, based on an extensive study of both philosophy and mathematics. See my comments in #42 for details.

  55. 56

    Bruce David: “Reason, by itself, is powerless to arrive at truth.”

    Barry: “Did you use reasoning to arrive at that conclusion?”

    Bruce David: “It’s more of an empirical observation, based on an extensive study of both philosophy and mathematics.”

    Barry’s elucidation of the thought processes that lead to Bruce’s obfuscation:

    Bruce: “Well, if I say yes, I did use reasoning to arrive at the truth that reasoning is powerless to arrive at truth, I will look like an idiot. But if I say I did not use reasoning to arrive at the conclusion everyone will know I’m lying, because it is obvious that I have engaged in reasoning of a sort — self referentially incoherent reasoning to be sure, but reasoning nevertheless. How do I extricate myself from the horns of this dilemma? I know, I will try to change the meaning of the words. Instead of “reasoning,” I will say I arrived at the conclusion as an empirical observation based on my study of philosophy and math, and maybe no one will notice that “an observation grounded in the study of philosophy and math” is just another way of saying “reasoning.” That oughta throw the hounds off my scent.”

  56. –mike1962: “A train carrying 1000 people is speeding down the tracks. The train is heading for a bridge that you know will collapse if the train proceeds. You’re standing near a switch that will cause the train to take an alternate route, saving the train and all people aboard. One problem: there’s a man struck on the tracks on the alternate route that will surely die.”

    I would call this a strategic choice not a moral choice. Suppose you are out to rescue 10 people who are in danger of drowning and you only have time to save 4 of them. Does that mean that you chose to kill the other six?

  57. ChristBearer,

    Thanks for voicing my toughts so well. God, YHWH, is indeed in a very different class than His creatures. The often launched attacks that I have seen here over the years based on YHWH’s instructions to Israel on how to take possession of the land of Caanan always ignore this fact. There is, in addition to being the source of life, another distinction that sets God apart. He can also restore the life He takes.

  58. Barry:

    With all due respect, your “elucidation” of my reasoning process is both condescending and arrogant, and, I submit, violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules of civil discourse by which this site is supposed to be run. A more respectful response would have been to ask me to elucidate that process for you, rather than making something up out of whole cloth. Then, if it turned out to be some version of your idea, you would have grounds for the accusation.

    You didn’t ask, but given your accusation, I will spell out the process by which I reached my conclusion anyway:

    My study of mathematics and the reasoning processes used therein gave me many examples of how reason can be used to arrive at some kind of truth. However, in every case, every case, the process begins with, indeed requires, an axiomatic and definitional structure as a beginning point from which all subsequent conclusions (theorems) are derived. The “truth” derived by mathematics is therefore in a certain sense empty. It tells us nothing about the actual world unless we assume that the world satisfies the axioms of one or another branch of mathematics. I also notice that mathematics is the one and only branch of human knowledge in which there is virtual unanimity regarding the conclusions reached therein.

    On the other hand, I observed that in philosophy, virtually all philosophers claim to use reason to arrive at truth, yet the major philosophers in the tradition of Western philosophy disagree with each other. This observation, coupled with the observation that mathematics always requires a priori truths (axioms) before anything can be derived, leads me to conclude that reason, by itself, is powerless to arrive at truth.

    So you see, my statement is grounded in the empirical observation of both mathematics and philosophy, as I said.

  59. “The Jesus example: The people who killed Jesus were guilty of murder, as the text makes clear.”

    Actually, it was the ones who sentenced him that were guilty. About the soldiers that actually killed him, he said, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” They were following orders. Just a point of clarification.

  60. Barry:

    By the way, I have always been very careful to use the qualifier “by itself” in my statement, “Reason, by itself, is powerless to arrive at truth.” Thus, you cannot in fairness accuse me of inconsistency if I use reason in conjunction with other types of knowledge, such as empirical observations or statements accepted as true a priori.

    In the above (#59), I have used reason in conjunction with empirical observation, with empirical observation being the more important factor. Thus, I stand by my statement, “It’s more of an empirical observation, based on an extensive study of both philosophy and mathematics.”

  61. 62

    mike, this is not a close question. The historical record is glaringly clear on this point. The leaders conspired to commit the judicial murder of Jesus. They were morally guilty for their conduct. Suggesting that the text supports a general ethical principle of “it is OK to murder innocent people if the payoff is big enough” is absurd.

  62. 63

    Bruce David, you advocate for the freedom to kill children in their mother’s womb. You are in the same ethical camp as Alberto Giubilini, Francesca Minerva, and Peter Singer. The only difference is they advocate for a slightly longer period of time during which the babies can be legally slaughtered. You ask me to give you a “respectful” response. I will not! You do not deserve respect from me, sir. Everyone who, like you, advocates for the freedom to kill innocent children deserves nothing from me but contempt and derision, and that, sir, is what you will get.

    I will not respond to your absurd arguments for why it is OK to kill babies. I will only resist you.

  63. Bruce,

    You claim that reason “by itself,” is powerless to arrive at truth. As Barry has pointed out, that statement is not true. Reason is inseparable from its foundation, the law of non-contradiction, from which we can deduce the law of the excluded middle and other truths about the relationship between logic and the real world, such as the difference between a valid argument and a sound argument. Reason alone can arrive at all these truths with no help from any other source. Obviously, we need input in the form of true premises about the real world if we want to deduce other truths about the real world. Alas, you do not accept the law of non-contradiction, which is why you struggle with the reasoning process. More serious, though, is the problem that you don’t know you are struggling.

    To justify your negative conclusion about reason’s power, you provide the following rationale:

    “My study of mathematics and the reasoning processes used therein gave me many examples of how reason can be used to arrive at some kind of truth. However, in every case, every case, the process begins with, indeed requires, an axiomatic and definitional structure as a beginning point from which all subsequent conclusions (theorems) are derived.

    Notice how you neglect to tell us which “definitional structures” and which “axioms” and theorems” you used to arrive at your present conclusion, which is precisely what you should disclose if you expect to be take seriously. This is a bluff, plain and simple. Unfortunately, you do not appreciate the extent to which you make illogical statements. Here are three quick examples:

    First, you assert that we are all the same person and that, when an intellectual dispute arises among us, this same person is disagreeing with himself. Only someone who rejects reason’s rules could hold such an irrational position.

    Next, you write this:

    “I observed that in philosophy, virtually all philosophers claim to use reason to arrive at truth, yet the major philosophers in the tradition of Western philosophy disagree with each other.”

    Again, notice how you conclude that [a] because major philosophers disagree about morality, [b] it follows that reason cannot separate moral truth from moral falsehood. But it is precisely because these “major” philosophers often began with false assumptions or did not reason properly, that they failed to arrive at the truth. In the case of your “internationally” famous philosopher, Neal Walsch, his error is the same as yours. He denies the Law of Non-Contradiction.

    Finally, in answer to my question about whether it would have been OK for your parents to have had you aborted, you insinuate that they had little to say about it. Among other things, you claim that you existed prior to your own conception and birth—and, by virtue of your pre-existence–you had the power to choose your own parents in whatever century or millennium you happen to choose. Reasonable people simply do not think or write this way.

    Once we subject to scrutiny the ideas of those who support the killing of innocent babies, we will find a similar kind of anti-intellectualism informed by a radically cruel brand of selfishness that poses as sophistication.

  64. Bruce,

    You claim that reason “by itself,” is powerless to arrive at truth. As Barry has pointed out, that statement is not true. Reason is inseparable from its foundation, the law of non-contradiction, from which we can deduce the law of the excluded middle and other truths about the relationship between logic and the real world, such as the difference between a valid argument and a sound argument. Reason alone can arrive at all these truths with no help from any other source. Obviously, we need input in the form of true premises about the real world if we want to deduce other truths about the real world. Alas, you do not accept the law of non-contradiction, which is why you struggle with the reasoning process. More serious, though, is the problem that you don’t know you are struggling.

    To justify you negative conclusion about reason’s power, you provide the following rationale:

    – “My study of mathematics and the reasoning processes used therein gave me many examples of how reason can be used to arrive at some kind of truth. However, in every case, every case, the process begins with, indeed requires, an axiomatic and definitional structure as a beginning point from which all subsequent conclusions (theorems) are derived.”

    Notice how you neglect to tell us which “definitional structures” and which “axioms” and theorems” you used to arrive at your present conclusion, which is precisely what you should disclose if you expect to be take seriously. This is a bluff, plain and simple. Unfortunately, you do not appreciate the extent to which you make illogical statements. Here are three quick examples:

    First, you assert that we are all the same person and that, when an intellectual dispute arises among us, this same person is disagreeing with himself. Only someone who rejects reason’s rules could hold such an irrational position.

    Next, you write this:

    –“I observed that in philosophy, virtually all philosophers claim to use reason to arrive at truth, yet the major philosophers in the tradition of Western philosophy disagree with each other.”

    Again, notice how you conclude that [a] because major philosophers disagree about morality, [b] it follows that reason cannot separate moral truth from moral falsehood. But it is precisely because these “major” philosophers often began with false assumptions or did not reason properly, that they failed to arrive at the truth. In the case of your “internationally” famous philosopher, Neal Walsch, his error is the same as yours. He denies the Law of Non-Contradiction.

    Finally, in answer to my question about whether it would have been OK for your parents to have had you aborted, you insinuate that they had little to say about it. Among other things, you claim that you existed prior to your own conception and birth—and, by virtue of your pre-existence–you had the power to choose your own parents in whatever century or millennium you happen to choose. Reasonable people simply do not think or write this way.

    Once we subject to scrutiny the ideas of those who support the killing of innocent babies, we will find a similar kind of anti-intellectualism informed by a radically cruel brand of selfishness that poses as sophistication.

  65. mike1962:

    Actually, it was the ones who sentenced him that were guilty. About the soldiers that actually killed him, he said, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” They were following orders. Just a point of clarification.

    Once again, your response has taken me by surprise! In my entire life, I have never heard this interpretation of Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness in Luke 23:34. The following sums up well the traditional teaching on this verse:

    “It is also to be noted that Jesus forgave immediately, even though the hostility of his enemies continued to manifest itself. Forgiveness is his only response to their hostility. Moreover, his forgiveness was addressed to all those who, humanly speaking, were responsible for his death. This included not merely the soldiers who were carrying out the execution, but all those, near or distant, manifest or hidden, who had played a part in the process that led to his condemnation and crucifixion. For all of them he asked forgiveness.”

    Either Jesus was on that cross to provide forgiveness or He was not. Clearly, He was. Scripture is unequivocal on that point. So, to attempt to bring ‘unforgiveness’ into the cross event goes against its very purpose, and frankly, cheapens it.

    In essence what you’re saying is that Jesus, who came for the express purpose of dying on the cross to provide forgiveness, was unwilling to forgive those who sentenced Him to die. This not only contradicts His commands to love one’s enemies, return good for evil, and forgive those who sin against us, but it also turns Him into a hypocrite, demanding of us something He is not willing to do, which eliminates Him as the ultimate example of who we are to model our lives after.

  66. sterusjon:

    Thank you for your comments. And you’re right, it is a very important distinction that YHWH can restore the life He takes. Since we cannot, we are in a completely different position when we take a life.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  67. Barry:

    Bruce David, you advocate for the freedom to kill children in their mother’s womb. You are in the same ethical camp as Alberto Giubilini, Francesca Minerva, and Peter Singer. The only difference is they advocate for a slightly longer period of time during which the babies can be legally slaughtered. You ask me to give you a “respectful” response. I will not! You do not deserve respect from me, sir. Everyone who, like you, advocates for the freedom to kill innocent children deserves nothing from me but contempt and derision, and that, sir, is what you will get.

    I will not respond to your absurd arguments for why it is OK to kill babies. I will only resist you.

    Well, what you resist persists. You won’t heal anything by condemning it. Only love heals.

    Stephen:

    Obviously, we need input in the form of true premises about the real world if we want to deduce other truths about the real world.

    On this we agree.

    “My study of mathematics and the reasoning processes used therein gave me many examples of how reason can be used to arrive at some kind of truth. However, in every case, every case, the process begins with, indeed requires, an axiomatic and definitional structure as a beginning point from which all subsequent conclusions (theorems) are derived.”

    Notice how you neglect to tell us which “definitional structures” and which “axioms” and theorems” you used to arrive at your present conclusion, which is precisely what you should disclose if you expect to be take seriously. This is a bluff, plain and simple.

    I am not sure what you are referring to by the phrase “your present conclusion”. If by that you mean my metaphysical/spiritual worldview, at this point I will only note that I do not regard the mathematical model as a way to arrive at that kind of knowledge. I have attempted in other threads to lay out my own epistemological stance and how I have derived my metaphysical conclusions from it. I’m not going to go into that again here; this post is long enough as it is.

    First, you assert that we are all the same person and that, when an intellectual dispute arises among us, this same person is disagreeing with himself. Only someone who rejects reason’s rules could hold such an irrational position.

    I do not assert that we are all the same person. I assert that we are each part of and One with God—each an individuation of the Divine. These are not equivalent statements.

    Last week I had a dream in which I was playing doubles. In the dream, my partner got angry with one of the players across the net and physically attacked him. I separated them and berated my partner for his action. Now all three characters in this dream—me, my partner, and our opponent—were a part of me (as well as the setting in which the action occurred), yet we all disagreed in different ways. There is no logical contradiction, just as there is no logical contradiction in the assertion that God could individuate Himself into billions of parts, and that these individuations could then act out all kinds of scenarios in all kinds of settings, which I believe is in fact the truth.

    “I observed that in philosophy, virtually all philosophers claim to use reason to arrive at truth, yet the major philosophers in the tradition of Western philosophy disagree with each other.”

    Again, notice how you conclude that [a] because major philosophers disagree about morality, [b] it follows that reason cannot separate moral truth from moral falsehood. But it is precisely because these “major” philosophers often began with false assumptions or did not reason properly, that they failed to arrive at the truth. In the case of your “internationally” famous philosopher, Neal Walsch, his error is the same as yours. He denies the Law of Non-Contradiction.

    Well, first of all, I do not classify Walsch as a philosopher. I view him as a channel for Divine revelation. When I speak of major philosophers in the tradition of Western philosophy, I mean thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, Spinoza, Kant, Leibniz, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Wittgenstein, Kirkegaard, Santayana, etc. And they do not simply disagree on moral questions (ethics), they disagree on all the major categories of philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, etc. And they all claim to use reason to arrive at their conclusions. Your attempt to get around this obvious failure of reason to give us truth by saying that they “often began with false assumptions or did not reason properly” implies that you understand the proper use of reason whereas none (or at most one) of these thinkers did. Do you not see that there is a touch of arrogance in your position? And can you not see that it is not very persuasive? I mean you’re smart and all, but these were among the most brilliant minds in our history!

    Among other things, you claim that you existed prior to your own conception and birth—and, by virtue of your pre-existence–you had the power to choose your own parents in whatever century or millennium you happen to choose. Reasonable people simply do not think or write this way.

    I am not alone in this view. There are many who share this view of reincarnation, many millions in fact, if you count the Buddhists and the Hindus. So what is your definition of a “reasonable person”? I suspect that it is someone whose views don’t stray too far from your own. In this you remind me of the Darwinist definition of a “legitimate scientist”.

  68. @mike1962

    A train carrying 1000 people is speeding down the tracks. The train is heading for a bridge that you know will collapse if the train proceeds. You’re standing near a switch that will cause the train to take an alternate route, saving the train and all people aboard. One problem: there’s a man struck on the tracks on the alternate route that will surely die.

    Now that the train is on the alternate route, and the one man was surely killed, you realize that the train cannot be stopped and is heading towards a dead end. Just behind the dead end is a nuklear plant, where, if the train should impact, surely will cause a nuclear incident like Fukushima. However you have a motorcycle that is faster than the train, and a load of explosives that you could use to blow up the tracks to save the human race vs the people on the train. Further you realize that you only have time to blow up the tracks right in front of an elementary school …

    My point being: these ‘moral decision making’ stories are very much impractical to come to an ethical or moral conclusion. They only target the situation but not the big picture.

    Oh, btw the man tied down on the tracks did not die, it was Chuck Norris. He stopped the train with his little finger, and all was well this time ;-).

  69. 70

    Bruce David: “Well, what you resist persists. You won’t heal anything by condemning it.”

    It is true that your outrageous advocacy for killing children may persist despite my condemnation. That evil persists after being condemned is no reason to stop condemning it. I will condemn your evil with my dying breath.

    Bruce David: “Only love heals.”

    Tell that to the babies being ripped apart in their mothers’ wombs. Your platitudes disgust me.

  70. 71
    William J Murray

    In the first place, I am far from the only one to accept that these books constitute genuine Revelation. They have been international best sellers for years. There are literally millions of people who accept that God actually is speaking through the author in these remarkable volumes.

    ……

    I do not assert that we are all the same person. I assert that we are each part of and One with God—each an individuation of the Divine.

    If every book is divine revelation (written by god), what purpose does it serve to call “Conversations with God” divine revelation? In fact, if all books are written by god (since all humans are god), doesn’t it really just boil down to you believing whatever you want, and everyone else believing whatever they want, and everyone being equally valid (as god) in expressing their one-of-infinite individuations of god’s potential, because none of it is right, or wrong, or good, or bad, but just individuated expression of godhood?

    So, the question becomes, why are you here (as one god perspective) trying to talk other god-perspectives out of their perspective, and trying to defend your own?

  71. Barry:

    Bruce David: “Only love heals.”

    Tell that to the babies being ripped apart in their mothers’ wombs. Your platitudes disgust me.

    Well, you are free to wallow in your disgust, if you wish, but it will serve no purpose other than to feed your self-righteousness. In fact it is counter-productive to what you actually want to achieve.

    You know those women who hold up signs at rallys saying things like, “Get your laws off my body!”? Do you think they are playing? Do you imagine that they are not every bit as outraged as you are? What response do you think that your condemnation will evoke? It will serve only to harden their positions and increase their rage at your (as they see it) unjustified and very unwelcome attempt to impose your religious views on them. In short, your disgust and condemnation only increase the polarization that exists on this issue. It does nothing to bring about any kind of resolution.

    If you want to actually be useful, you’re going to have to find another approach. You might start with that of Jesus—love, compassion, and forgiveness. From there, you might be able to start a dialog that could actually accomplish something.

  72. William:

    If every book is divine revelation (written by god), what purpose does it serve to call “Conversations with God” divine revelation? In fact, if all books are written by god (since all humans are god), doesn’t it really just boil down to you believing whatever you want, and everyone else believing whatever they want, and everyone being equally valid (as god) in expressing their one-of-infinite individuations of god’s potential, because none of it is right, or wrong, or good, or bad, but just individuated expression of godhood?

    Good question. My answer is that there is a distinction between revelation (God speaking through one of us as God) and other speech (God speaking as us). When God is speaking as God, the information is much more likely to be reliable and accurate than when He is speaking as us. The reason is that when we choose to incarnate, part of the process is to forget Who We Really Are and that we actually have within us the capacity to know.

    The difficulty, of course, is to determine which speech (or written word) is which. But of course all those who believe that there is such a thing as Divine revelation have this problem. You, I assume, believe that the Bible is revelation. A Muslim believes that the Koran is revelation. A Jew believes that the Torah is revelation, but not the New Testament. How does one know? How do you decide? I submit that there is only one way—look to one’s own inner knowing for guidance. I believe that the Conversations with God series of books is Divine revelation because the quality of the information and the way that it is presented speaks to me in a way that nothing else I have read does. My inner knowing tells me that this is real. Many who post to this thread, coming as they do from a Christian perspective, contend that I am deluding myself, or believing only what I want to believe because it is convenient and allows me to behave how I wish to. I can only assess all the information available to me, all the competing claims to know the truth, to the best of my ability and make my decision based on my best sincere effort to understand. And on that basis, Conversations with God is the most powerful, persuasive candidate for Divine revelation that I have yet encountered.

    So, the question becomes, why are you here (as one god perspective) trying to talk other god-perspectives out of their perspective, and trying to defend your own?

    I don’t believe I am trying to defend it. I hope I am merely presenting it, although when someone deliberately or inadvertently twists the meaning of what I say, as many do here, I do feel a need to correct their misapprehension.

    But why do I even bother to present it? I am convinced that their are certain aspects of religious thought, errors if you will, (almost all religious thought as currently practiced, not just Christian thought) which are leading the human race towards self annihilation. These errors include the notion that we are separate from each other and from God, that “my religion” (whatever that happens to be) is the one and only correct way, and the whole notion of morality. I believe that these three constitute a deadly combination that is responsible for the headlong rush towards self destruction that we are currently enduring on this planet, in which, for example, an American president starts two wars which at their basis are religiously motivated, causing the Muslim world to react with calls to “jihad” to defend the faith against the infidels, etc., etc., etc..

    I would like to be part of the solution in my own small way.

  73. 74

    I am convinced that their are certain aspects of religious thought, errors if you will, (almost all religious thought as currently practiced, not just Christian thought) which are leading the human race towards self annihilation.

    If we are all immortal beings and there are infinite experiential venues through which we can express our individuated godhood, what difference does it make if humanity decides to experience self-annihilation?

  74. 75

    Bruce David:

    You know those women who hold up signs at rallys saying things like, “Get your laws off my body!”? . . . Do you imagine that they are not every bit as outraged as you are? What response do you think that your condemnation will evoke? It will serve only to harden their positions and increase their rage at your (as they see it) unjustified and very unwelcome attempt to impose your religious views on them.

    Your comment reminds me of the old anti-anticommunists’ rhetoric. (When has evil not had defenders such as yourself, ever ready to say that black is just a real dark shade of white?) “KGB agents love their children too!” we were told. Yes, and they murdered millions and forced others into slavery in the gulags.

    The “moral equivalence” card was a cynical ploy then and so it is now. Just as the communists were evil, so too are those who advocate for the dismemberment of children in their mother’s wombs. The fact that they are outraged when someone points this out does not make them (or you) any less evil, and just as it was right to condemn the murderous communist regimes so I will continue to condemn those who agitate for the right to kill babies.

    I knew it wouldn’t take long for you to trot out the “cram your religious views” chestnut. Of course, I am doing no such thing. I am simply pointing out that it is wrong to slaughter innocent babies, something everyone knows whatever their religious views might be (including those, like you, who advocate for it).

    Bruce David:

    If you want to actually be useful, you’re going to have to find another approach. You might start with that of Jesus—love, compassion, and forgiveness. From there, you might be able to start a dialog that could actually accomplish something.

    Why does everyone think Jesus was a milquetoast mamby pamby wimp afraid forcefully to confront evil. Jesus called evildoers “a brood of vipers” and “a wicked and adulterous generation.” And he took a rope and beat the tar out of those who desecrated his father’s house. Jesus said it would be better not to have been born than to hurt a little child. That should chill your blood sir.

  75. William:

    If we are all immortal beings and there are infinite experiential venues through which we can express our individuated godhood, what difference does it make if humanity decides to experience self-annihilation?

    Another good question! Ultimately, you’re right, it makes no difference. Interimly, however, working to avoid the immense suffering that would accompany such self annihilation is a game worth playing. And in the process, I learn and grow, and hopefully contribute to the learning, growth, satisfaction, inner peace, joy, and wisdom of others.

  76. 77

    Bruce David: “I learn and grow, and hopefully contribute to the learning, growth, satisfaction, inner peace, joy, and wisdom of others.”

    How exactly do you contribute to the growth, joy and inner peace of the babies who are ripped apart in their mothers’ wombs as a direct consequence of the unlimited abortion license for which you advocate?

  77. Barry:

    My comments regarding the outrage of the woman holding the sign was not intended to argue for the equivalence of moral views. I don’t believe in the objective reality of morality in the first place, so whether particular moral points of view are equivalent or not is irrelevant to me. Rather, I was trying to point out that your moral outrage and condemnation will only have the effect of hardening the positions you so strongly oppose, and that this is counter-productive to what I assume is your real desire, namely to find some way of resolving the problem.

    And I beg to differ. Your belief that abortion is wrong because “it is wrong to slaughter innocent babies” hides an assumption that is based in your religious beliefs, namely that a fertilized egg, a zygote, is a human being (a “baby”). As I pointed out many posts ago, this is a belief that is simply not shared by at least half the people in this country, myself included, and it is very much rooted in your Christianity.

  78. 79

    Bruce David: “Your belief . . . hides an assumption that is based in your religious beliefs, namely that a fertilized egg, a zygote, is a human being.”

    Well, they are certainly not dogs or chickens or goats. Even you admit that there comes a point at which it is no longer OK to kill babies. What is the difference between the baby on that day and the previous day? And the day before that? And the day before that? Conception is the only non-arbitrary dividing line. God save us from people, like you and the communists and the Nazis, who arrogate unto themselves the right to divide innocent humans into “OK to slaughter by the millions” and “Not OK to slaughter” categories. Your Lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”) attitude puts you in some pretty unsavory company Bruce.

    And don’t give me your “babies are ensouled in the third trimester” crap. That just goes to show that when someone wants to advocate for murdering babies they’ll rely on any outrageous lunacy to justify it. You truly are evil.

    We are just going ‘round and ‘round now. Time to move on.