Home » Culture, Ethics, Intelligent Design, Religion » Naturalism’s Moral Foundations

Naturalism’s Moral Foundations

Jeffrey DahmerJeffrey Dahmer: “If it all happens naturalistically, what’s the need for a God? Can’t I set my own rules? Who owns me? I own myself.” [Biography, "Jeffrey Dahmer: The Monster Within," A&E, 1996.]

Naturalists like to stress that you don’t need God or religion to be good. Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins even suggest that leaving God out of the equation actually allows one to be more moral because then our moral acts are authentic, motivated by deep conviction rather than by having a divine gun to our heads.

Even so, Dahmer’s logic is compelling. We need some external reference point — God — to justify being good. And that justification is significant in its own right. Without it, we can still rationalize particular evils, but we cannot dispense with the category of evil entirely.

I’d like to encourage in this thread other quotes like Dahmer’s — quotes by people who understood the logic of naturalism and the destruction of moral foundations that it entails.

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

182 Responses to Naturalism’s Moral Foundations

  1. I agree we need an external reference point to justify, perhaps even to define, being good. But the leap to the idea that the only valid external reference point is God is not one I agree with, nor do I agree that there is only one valid conception of God that can act as such an external reference point.

  2. Nakashima,

    I agree we need an external reference point to justify, perhaps even to define, being good. But the leap to the idea that the only valid external reference point is God is not one I agree with, nor do I agree that there is only one valid conception of God that can act as such an external reference point.

    Then what are your suggestions?

  3. Nakashima: But wouldn’t any such external reference point be some sort of God? People have many conceptions of God. But what would an external reference point that provides a foundation for morality that is explicitly denied to be God look like? A Platonic universal? I could see Dahmer telling a Platonic universal to jump in the lake. Dahmer could say the same to a personal God who holds him accountable, but there would be consequences. What consequences does a Platonic universal enforce?

  4. William Dembski @3,

    Dahmer could say the same to a personal God who holds him accountable, but there would be consequences. What consequences does a Platonic universal enforce?

    But what would be the point of a god that forced you to obey?

    That sort of personal god could be replaced with a personal armed guard.

    I think you have to be led to understanding not forced into behaviour.

  5. I am a bit confused by your logic Dembski, you seem at first to call for a standard outside of a person, but then to evaluate it using a person’s own desires.

    Even if you could derive an external trancendent moral code, perhaps from the Judeo-Christian God, why should Dalmer follow it? You even say that he could tell god to ‘jump in the lake’.

    It cannot be the case, that mere consequences should be sufficient. There is consequences in violating secular laws as well, possible loss of life, liberty, security and happiness. Granted the Christian God can whoop a person butt in an everlasting fashion. However it is a matter of personal preference in deciding whether to be in His presence, or go against him. Why should Dalmer choose God’s moral laws, and not his own?

    How then is a trancendent moral code an improvement on a naturalistic account of moral reasoning? Other than a question of ultimate truth, what practical difference does it make?

  6. The Bible begins with creation. All along we hear, “God saw that it was good.” Then Adam comes along, and God brings all the creatures to him so that Adam can “name” them.

    Humans ‘identify’ things—whether camels, bees, rainbows, or atomic particles—and then we name them. That is language. But it pertains to God to judge ‘good’ from ‘non-good’. We ‘humans’, as persons, happen to share in this capacity to decide what is good; but it is a participation in a power that derives from God. So, too, we can reason intelligently; but again it is a participation in a power that derives from God.

    IOW, if raw “intelligence” is the by-product of strictly “material forces”, then so is morality. If you can answer one question definitively, then the other is answered simultaneously. They’re really interchangeable questions—and debates.

    I don’t think my comments answer any questions completely, but they do help to focus on ‘how’ they can be answered.

  7. Dr. Dembski,

    As a Christian, I disagree that we need an external God to be good or morally upright. If that is true, why doesn’t this rule also apply to God? We set our own rules anyway, whether or not God exists.

    I believe that conscious entities are either good or bad by nature, not unlike the Biblical fig tree that either produces fruit or does not. Christians are taught that humans, as a species, are bad by nature, and desperately so according to Paul. One third of the Angels are bad and we’re not really sure about the others.

    We need God, not because we need a moral compass to be good (we can’t be good by nature), but because we need redemption. Otherwise, we’re toast. One man’s opinion, of course.

  8. It’s amusing to see naturalists tap dancing around this issue.

    I respect when a naturalist actually admits that their worldview allows anything to be permitted. I believe there was an occassion when Dawkins admitted it was very difficult to objectively call Hitler “wrong.”

  9. Inductively, the authorities who wield “BECAUSE I SAY SO” are many. In childhood it is our parents and our teachers who tell us what to do. As adults, it is society at large that enforces conformity to its morals, manners, religion, and law.

    AND THEY WILL IF THEY WAS RAISED RIGHT.

    In America, however, we have a hoary tradition — whose roots trace back through the larger culture of the West back to classical Greece — of asking:

    “SEZ WHO?”

    Sez our orthodox Judeo-Christains, “SEZ GOD.”

    Sez our orthodox scientists, “SEZ SURVIVAL OF THE FITEST.”

    Sez our orthodox Judeo-Christains, after one hot war fighting godless murdering Nazis and one cold war fighting godless murdering Commies, “Gee, that godless thing sure doesn’t work out very well. Does it?”

    Sez our orthodox scientists after one hot war fighting godless murdering Nazis and one cold war fighting godless murdering Commies, “WE STILL SEZ SURVIVAL OF THE FITEST.”

  10. Why, then, have the editors of scholarly journals refused to publish papers that treat rape from a Darwinian perspective? Why have pickets and audience protesters caused public lectures on the evolutionary basis of rape to be canceled or terminated? Why have investigators working to discover the evolutionary causes of rape been denied positions at universities?
    ….
    We fervently believe that, just as the leopard’s spots and the giraffe’s elongated neck are the result of aeons of past Darwinian selection, so also is rape.

    Randy Thronhill and Criag Palmer

    Randy Thornhill is an evolutionary biologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Craig T. Palmer is an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

  11. over the eons of human evolution murder was so surprisingly beneficial in the intense game of reproductive competition

    David Buss
    Evolutionary Psychologist

    That was essentially how he plugged his book which one can find at Amazon: The Murderer Next Door.

  12. “…leaving God out of the equation actually allows one to be more moral because then our moral acts are authentic, motivated by deep conviction …”

    I suppose this statement can satisfy the need for some kind of objective basis for moral acts. The case of Dahmer v Hitchens et el is case in point. What makes Dahmer wrong – that Hitchens says so?

    Sartre was right; existence is meaningless without an infinite reference point.

  13. 13

    William Provine: “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.” Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract); on the web at http://eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin/.....ddress.htm.

  14. 14

    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

    Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden : A Darwinian View of Life (London: Phoenix, 1995), 133.


  15. hdx: Instead of trying to throw the thread off track (the usual, nay, inevitable materialist tactic), why don’t you favor us all with a materialist justification for ethics. Is Provine right? If not, why not?

  16. There is a moral of metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly. Tis the crown & glory of organic science that it does thro’ final cause, link material to moral; & yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, & our classification of such laws whether we consider one side of nature of the other — You have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it — & sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history. ~ Adam Sedgwick

    If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then — then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing ~ Jeffrey Dahmer

    What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. ~ Richard Dawkins

    Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. ~ William Provine

    If there is no God, everything is permitted. ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

  17. Here’s an old staple:

    No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life.

    Will Provine
    Evolutionary Biologist

  18. 18

    “Evolution favors reproductive strategies that produce the most offspring, without regard for human values of justice or fair play . . . Nature provides no moral guide to human behavior. . . . We don’t even know what is ‘natural’ for our own species . . . every few years a new theory emerges on what is our ‘natural’ diet, our ‘natural’ life span, our ‘natural’ sexual practices, our ‘natural’ social system or our ‘natural’ relationship with nature. Nature is endlessly fascinating, but offers no ‘natural’ way of life for humans to copy. Even in evolution, there is no ‘natural’ tendency toward ‘progress,’ ‘perfection,’ or ‘ascent.’ Most of the time, we don’t even know what is going on in nature.” Richard Milner, Encyclopedia of Evolution: Humanity’s Search for Its Origins (New York: Facts on File, 1990), 79, 124, 317.

  19. Peter Singer legitimizes the killing of newborns:

    the life of a newborn baby is of less value to it than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee is to the nonhuman animal.

    If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants

    Peter Singer
    Professor of “BioEthics”

  20. Re: hdx (before moderation)

    And the dance begins…

    Do you believe he was inherently mentally ill? If so, why bother to point out that some family members were fundamentalists? Or are you actually insinuating that his upbringing is the cause of such illness, in spite of the fact that he stated clearly and outrightly that he “set his own rules” without God?

  21. Dahmer was into cannibalism.

    He got some support from a professor at Vanderbilt who wrote the book: Compassionate Cannibalism. Below is a delicious quote from this professor. She redifines the meaning of “consuming passion”.

    We assume that cannibalism is always an aggressive, barbaric and degrading act,

    But that is a serious over-simplification, one that has kept us from realizing that cannibalism can have positive meanings

    Beth Conklin
    Vanderbilt University

  22. if naturalism leads to this type of behavior, why aren’t we taking action to lock atheists up! They’re all ticking time bombs waiting to go off!

  23. “We fervently believe that, just as the leopard’s spots and the giraffe’s elongated neck are the result of aeons of past Darwinian selection…”

    Given darwinian assumptions what isnt the result of darwinian selection? Altruism and fratricide line up right next to each other, with exactly the same standing.

    We can argue about the blood clotting cascade and bacterial flagellum all day, but to me this is a show-stopper for the materialist: Darwinian selection understands nothing of good and bad–the only “value” that matters is expediency.

  24. Dahmer practiced cannibalism.

    There are a few commentaries on how cannibalism gains an advantage through selection.

    This how one researcher commented on the evolutionary benefits conferred to cannibals:

    I hope it will become a textbook example of how evolution happens

    It’s a striking and timely example, given the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species

    Simon Mead

    Gene Change in Cannibals Reveals Evoluton in Action

    Well how about evolving the common sense not to eat another human being’s brains! Sheesh!

  25. Mr Hayden, Dr Dembski,

    My suggestions are fairly traditional. We have evolved to be social animals, and our societies provide the external reference for definitions and judgements of what is good. I accept that this is a completely operational and imperfect way to proceed.

    As Mr Dahmer found out, societies do have immediate coercive power to enforce the shared view of what is good. One society, the state, locked him up, and another society, his fellow inmates, killed him.

    While our societies may have begun with definitions of good that are closely aligned with evolutionary success, we are endowed with minds that allow us to transcend those beginnings. We can choose to value our memes more than our genes, and choose a model of altruism beyond that defined by our kinship.

    I acknowledge and respect the fact that advances in this most important part of our societies have often been brought about through our religious impulses. I must honor those who stood for justice in the face of power. “Shall not the Judge of all the world do justly?”

  26. If one needs religion to decide whether Hitler is good or bad, then how does one explain the fact that non-religious societies don’t descend into chaos and cruelty?

  27. Nietzche says:

    There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths.

    so where does morality come from

    Fear is the mother of morality.

    here is Nietzche’s morality:

    Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual.

    and

    What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.

    and

    Let us beware of saying there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there is no one to command, no one to obey, no one to transgress. When you realize there are no goals or objectives, then you realize, too, that there is no chance: for only in a world of objectives does the word chance have any meaning.

    and

    The invalid is a parasite on society. In a certain state it is indecent to go on living. To vegetate on in cowardly dependence on physicians and medicaments after the meaning of life, the right to life, has been lost ought to entail the profound contempt of society.

    and

    We must be physicists in order to be creative since so far codes of values and ideals have been constructed in ignorance of physics or even in contradiction to physics.

  28. Some of these may have already been mentioned:

    If God is dead everything is permitted. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Brothers Karamazov)

    Communism abolishes all eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality. – Karl Marx
    One who does not believe in God or an afterlife can have for his rule of life…only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best. – Charles Darwin (Autobiography)

    Ethics is just an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. – E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse

    Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear – and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death….There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will…. – Will Provine

    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. Richard Dawkins

    “There is no good and evil, there is only power, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” Voldemort (Harry Potter)

    “There is no good or bad there is only the law” Javert in Les Miserables (Movie, 1980s)

    “Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over
    millions of years. And yet we must not sink into nihilism or stifle our emotions. At our best we live on a knife-edge, between wishful thinking on one hand and, on the other, despair.” Steven Weinberg http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21800

  29. Interesting comments. But there are obvious guides of right and wrong. Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years while living in groups. Natural selection over that time has led to societal norms that are almost universal. Just the fact that we all recognize the horror of a Dahmer demonstrates that there is an evolved logic to what we feel is right and wrong. Do you feel Dahmer’s actions would have been viewed any less deplorable in an atheistic society, or by an atheist sitting on a jury charged with judging his actions? There were numerous successful societies thousands of years before christianity and there are many highly successful societies today where theism is a minor factor. We don’t need a deity to set our societal laws because we have each other.

    The question you should be asking is why atheists choose not to break societal rules, while our prisons seem to be full of theists? To a fun-loving atheist like me, the answer is simple. When you know your time on earth is finite, that you are the only person responsible for your actions, and that you only get a single lifetime to make a difference, you realize just how precious and valuable life can be. I only get 70 or 80 years to enjoy my family and I plan to make the most of those years. I get the same limited time to make the world a better place than I found it. I cannot blame my mistakes, or the pain I may cause others, on any mythological, extraterrestrial entity. I have to use the logic in my Stone Age brain to make decisions…no Deity Determinism dictates my fate. These are the reasons atheists make such great neighbors. We love life and revel in amazement at the results of natural selection. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  30. Mr Cordova,

    He got some support from a professor at Vanderbilt who wrote the book: Compassionate Cannibalism.

    You know this, how? Considering that Dahmer died in 1994 and the book was published in 2001.

  31. For me the most obvious problem with people like Dawkins or other atheistic philosophers acting as if they are morally sound and even can be superior to religious based morality, is the simple fact that more often than not they are unable to see the forest for the trees when it comes to their own moral self-analysis. To wit, a conversation:

    Atheist philosopher: You superstitious fools who believe in God, and who believe that morality needs a God to create and enforce it, are simpletons. Isn’t obvious that morality can be based upon our own judgments using reason?

    Me: How do you know if you are being reasonable or unreasonable? Do stupid or crazy or evil people necessarily know they are so? If morality is relative to subjective interpretations of good or bad, doesn’t that inevitably lead to moral relativism or the law of the jungle (might makes right) if enough people agree to cooperate to make it so?

    Atheist Philosopher: Evolution leads us to better and better forms of self-governing. Survival of the fittest memes. Since it is best for everyone to have moral laws society is evolving in that direction. And even if you believe in a God who can punish transgressors that doesn’t seem to stop many people from committing terrible acts. What will more likely stop them is fear of retribution from government police or military.

    Me: Do you approve of abortion?

    Atheist Philosopher: What women do with the privacy of their own body is no one’s business but their own.

    Me: So what we need is a big brother police state to enforce the legal ability for women to kill fetuses in the womb and force atheistic creation myths on children in schools so they end up believing that life has no meaning beyond a few short years and then eternal death?

    Atheist Philosopher: What’s wrong with that?

  32. Michael Martin’s book Atheism, Morality and Meaning states that there’s no reason for objective moral values can’t be comprised of matter.

    However, search physics textbooks all you like and you’ll never find the particles of hate, the molecules of love, or the atomic weight of compassion.

    If an atheist believes in naturalism (as Sagan put it, ‘The cosmos is all there ever is, was, or will be’) then he or she has to believe that the universe cam from literally nothing.

    For philosophers like Martin, values must somehow come from valueless processes. This makes no sense. Value comes from value, not valuelessness, as Paul Copan rightly points out.

  33. scordova @ 21:

    One word: eucharist.

    -DU-

  34. Phillip Johnson quoted from Arthur Leff in an article ‘Nihilism and the end of law.’ – go to this web address to read the article http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/.....hilism.php
    (I reference this in my book Restoring the Ethics of Creation).

    Leff said; “I want to believe-and so do you-in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong, findable rules that authoritatively and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe-and so do you-in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually and as a species, what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it.”

    “All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves, and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things stand now, everything is up for grabs.

    Nevertheless:
    Napalming babies is bad.
    Starving the poor is wicked.
    Buying and selling each other is depraved.
    hose who stood up and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and Pol Pot-and General Custer too-have earned salvation.
    Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.
    There is in the world such a thing as evil.
    [All together now:] Sez who?
    God help us.”
    Leff, Duke University 1979 “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law”

  35. utidjian[31]

    What you imply is sick and blasphemous, and grossly insensitive, not to mention the exact charge that pagans made against early Christians so as to have an excuse to feed them to lions. As a Catholic, I find your remark deeply offensive.

    You ought to think about what your comment says about you.

  36. 22.) Fross -

    if naturalism leads to this type of behavior, why aren’t we taking action to lock atheists up! They’re all ticking time bombs waiting to go off!

    Because in reality, regardless of what you believe, the truth is the truth. Every one of us is made in the image of God (in my opinion), so we all have the potential for good only through Him. Whether or not you believe it is true does not affect its truthfulness. That is why that billboard that has been in the news that says “You don’t need God to be good” makes no sense from my perspective. Just because you don’t believe in Him does not mean he does not exist or that you are not sustained by Him.

  37. Fross,

    Sarcasm aside, the point isn’t that naturalism “leads to this type of behavior.” It’s that “this type of behavior” isn’t unacceptable in the worldview.

  38. So…

    I’m an atheist. Am I an immoral person?

  39. “I’m an atheist. Am I an immoral person?”

    Did anyone say that?

  40. Berceuse:

    “I’m an atheist. Am I an immoral person?”

    Did anyone say that?

    In essence, yes.

    If God is required to be moral, and I don’t believe in God, does that make me immoral?

  41. 41

    mikev6. Just because you are an atheist you will not necessarily act in an immoral way. No one said you would. It is a fact, however, that you are unable to ground your morality on anything other than your whim at the moment.

  42. Barry Arrington @39,

    mikev6. Just because you are an atheist you will not necessarily act in an immoral way. No one said you would. It is a fact, however, that you are unable to ground your morality on anything other than your whim at the moment.

    But this whim, or intuition he has, leads him to behave in the same moral manner as someone who believes in God.

    That seems to imply that a “concious” belief in God or religion is not necessary.

    If God exists, it may not be necessary to agree to any other organization or person’s vision of how to relate to Him.

    It may not even be necessary to “conciously” enter into any sort of conversation with him at all.

  43. Because in reality, regardless of what you believe, the truth is the truth. Every one of us is made in the image of God (in my opinion), so we all have the potential for good only through Him. Whether or not you believe it is true does not affect its truthfulness.

    I agree. By the same token, whether or not you believe it is true, does not change it’s effect on you.

    In other words, you can be moral without regard to your belief in the existence of God as He may believe in you.

  44. Nakashima-san and our societies provide the external reference

    But what provides the external reference for our societies?

  45. mikev60–If God is required to be moral, and I don’t believe in God, does that make me immoral?

    Whether you believe in God or not, doesn’t mean God does not exist. Since God exists morals exist.

    And how can you claim to be moral or immoral?

  46. —-”If God is required to be moral, and I don’t believe in God, does that make me immoral?”

    Everything turns on your definition of morality. Anyone can be moral if he gets to define the word such that it harmonizes with his present behavior—just as anyone can get an A in school if he gets to grade himself.

    Given the reality of an objective morality, however, things change in a hurry. If the atheist doesn’t believe that the moral law is an objective, binding reality, then he is unlikely to exert himself sufficiently to do good when doing good is hard and costly, and he is unlikely to restrain himself from doing bad, when doing bad is easy and profitable. If morality is not binding, then why should the atheist allow himself to be bound.

    Also, there is the little matter of God himself. If God is sovereign and due worship, and if man is, therefore, morally obliged to worship God as creator, then obviously an atheist cannot be a moral person.

  47. StephenB @44,

    Also, there is the little matter of God himself. If God is sovereign and due worship, and if man is, therefore, morally obliged to worship God as creator, then obviously an atheist cannot be a moral person.

    But the worship of God doesn’t mean the worship of church. If an atheist is true to himself, then he is true to image that he was created in.
    Is that not the worship of God, when you are true to your feelings and beliefs instead of the beliefs of others?
    The fact that an atheist doesn’t believe in God doesn’t mean that God isn’t happy with him.
    I think we’re talking less about God now and more about church.

  48. Mr Tribune7,

    But what provides the external reference for our societies?

    I can think of a few answers.

    1 – nothing. Some human societies are isolated and the definition of good within them is entirely internal and historically contingent.

    2 – other societies. Many human societies can look at other societies to reflect upon their own choices. This process is again imperfect and historical.

    3 – other animals. Many societies use other animals’ behaviors to define good.

    4 – religion. Most societies use a collective religious belief to define good.

    I would not include God, because God is not actively intervening in any society I know of to show people what is good.

    I’ve anwered your question as if you asked “what does provide”, not as if you asked “what should provide”.

  49. 49

    Nakashima-san “and our societies provide the external reference”

    tribuney: “But what provides the external reference for our societies?”

    I wonder about this as well, because the Darwinists insist that the earth is not a closed system when talking about the laws of thermodynamics, yet they insist that society is a closed system when it comes to morality. There seems to be some cherry picking going on here, which contributes to an overall inconsistency with materialism.

    Society is not a closes system and therefore, morality is not completely sourced from within human society. The laws of morality seem to transcend societal mores. Therefore, when the Nazi’s do genocide, we know from a moral standpoint, which transcends our own moral proclivities, that the Nazi genocide was wrong. It wasn’t our moral society that decided this, but our inner sense (from individual perspectives), which began perhaps with repulsion, and which spread through the general society that determined that it was wrong.

    Society is merely a vehicle for individual moral perspectives. Morality really comes more from collective individual perspectives, than from societal norms. Without individuals determining that things are moral or immoral, society would never develop its own morality based on such. One needs to still ask the question where individual morality comes from, which contributes to collective morality in a society. The Darwinist is still left with the mind, which he/she believes consists of nothing but a collection of neurons.

    Society is a collective made up of individuals. It does not have a mind of its own. Darwinists don’t seem to understand this when the issue of morality is raised.

    Society can no more be an external reference for morality than rain can be an external reference for oceans. We still need to ask where the rain came from.

  50. Mr Yankee,

    Accepting your analogy of physical and intellectual systems, I hope you will see that for the most part I agree with you, just as soon as my previous comment comes out of moderation! ;)

  51. Even so, Dahmer’s logic is compelling. We need some external reference point — God — to justify being good. And that justification is significant in its own right. Without it, we can still rationalize particular evils, but we cannot dispense with the category of evil entirely.

    Calling it “Dahmer’s logic” comes perilously close to playing Sal Cordova’s sleazy game of guilt by association. Many others have asked the same question who are not serial killers.

    The question of whether we need “some external reference point” is really a question of whether there is some supreme arbiter of what is good or evil, moral or immoral to whom all such questions may be submitted for final judgement.

    As most contributors to this blog are Christian, it hardly requires a great leap of imagination to divine that this ultimate umpire is actually God.

    The problem is that, unless they are claiming that He speaks to them directly and personally, the only source of information about His thinking and wishes on questions of morality is the Bible.

    Unfortunately, Biblical narratives are themselves subject to interpretation and have been surrounded by a healthy cottage industry in exegesis almost since the text was compiled.

    Thus we see that when contributors here make vague allusions to the need for some objective moral authority they actually have something much more specific in mind.

    What they really mean is that their version of morality, derived from their interpretation of their primary religious text, as decreed by their concept of God is binding on us all whether we subscribe to their faith or not.

    It is the ultimate attempt to annex the moral high ground on behalf of their particular brand of Christianity and it is disingenuous, to say the least, to pretend otherwise.

  52. Barry@39:

    mikev6. Just because you are an atheist you will not necessarily act in an immoral way. No one said you would. It is a fact, however, that you are unable to ground your morality on anything other than your whim at the moment.

    So it is possible for an atheist to act morally without God’s guidance. Apparently God isn’t needed in that case? If I have a moral structure that causes me to act exactly as you would expect a moral person to act in all situations, how is that any less than the one you propose?

  53. Seversky:

    Unfortunately, Biblical narratives are themselves subject to interpretation and have been surrounded by a healthy cottage industry in exegesis almost since the text was compiled.

    Are you Judean People’s Front or People’s Front of Judea?

  54. In comment #42 stephneB wrote:

    “If God is sovereign and due worship, and if man is, therefore, morally obliged to worship God as creator, then obviously an atheist cannot be a moral person.”

    Thank you, stephen, for finally answering two questions that I asked many months ago. I asked:

    1) Can an atheist act morally?

    2) Must one be a Christian to act morally?

    You have now clearly answered what you weaseled out of then:

    1) Can an atheist act morally?
    stephenB’s answer: NO

    2) Must one be a Christian to act morally?

    stephenB’s answer: YES

    Now we know exactly where you stand, stephen, and we know exactly what you are. An enlightening revelation…

  55. And, for those who don’t know any better, here is the answer to the obvious question:

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......stion.html

  56. StephenB@42:

    Given the reality of an objective morality, however, things change in a hurry. If the atheist doesn’t believe that the moral law is an objective, binding reality, then he is unlikely to exert himself sufficiently to do good when doing good is hard and costly, and he is unlikely to restrain himself from doing bad, when doing bad is easy and profitable. If morality is not binding, then why should the atheist allow himself to be bound.

    This argument would be a whole lot more convincing if you could provide an example of an objective moral law – one that works in all situations and never needs to be interpreted.

    And why do you assume that a moral structure other than one based on God is any less binding or forceful? If I feel (by some process other than “God says it”) that murder is bad, why is my process any less binding to me than your’s?

    It would seem, then, that atheists are not only immoral, but lazy too.

    Also, there is the little matter of God himself. If God is sovereign and due worship, and if man is, therefore, morally obliged to worship God as creator, then obviously an atheist cannot be a moral person.

    Interesting. So an atheist is automatically immoral by definition.

    This means that if I applied to you for a job, you would have to automatically reject me if you knew I was an atheist (hence immoral) based on that fact alone.

    Apart from a potential lawsuit, how is this different from not hiring someone because they’re Jewish, or black? Would you support these practices too?

  57. efren ts @ 46

    Are you Judean People’s Front or People’s Front of Judea?

    Popular Front.

    Christiani ite domum!

  58. 58

    Seversky,

    “Unfortunately, Biblical narratives are themselves subject to interpretation and have been surrounded by a healthy cottage industry in exegesis almost since the text was compiled.”

    Everything that is written is subject to interpretation, not just biblical text. The real issue is what the writer’s intent is, not how certain factions interpret what the writer’s intent is. The Bible as a source for morality has worked (while not perfectly) for several millenia far better than any human construct of morality has – especially with respect to relativistic morality.

    Furthermore, to assume that the authors did not have a particular moral intent is to invoke something that is not necessarily there. I don’t find anything in the 10 commandments, for example, that is not straight forward and clear. To misinterpret that is to intentionally neglect the intentions of the code for the purpose of rejecting it altogether. I can think of no other reason.

  59. PaV @ 33:

    Your concern is noted.

    If, by definition, the act of consuming human flesh and blood is considered to be cannibalism and christ is human and transubstantiation is true then the eucharist is cannibalism.

    Depending on what you believe and how you justify those beliefs… the problem is yours.

    Fortunately,for me, I believe it is only a cracker and a sip of wine.

    -DU-

  60. —mike v6: “This argument would be a whole lot more convincing if you could provide an example of an objective moral law – one that works in all situations and never needs to be interpreted.”

    Morality must be defined before anyone can claim to be moral. If one has no definition of morality, then one has no warrant for claiming to be moral. That should be obvious.

    —”And why do you assume that a moral structure other than one based on God is any less binding or forceful? If I feel (by some process other than “God says it”) that murder is bad, why is my process any less binding to me than your’s?”

    Because the moral law cannot be binding unless it binds everyone. If you have your morality and I have mine, then there is no way to adjudicate our disagreements or to hold us both accountable for our actions. You can’t bind me with your morality or I can’t bind you with my morality; either we are both bound by THE morality, or else there is no morality at all.

    I wrote: Also, there is the little matter of God himself. If God is sovereign and due worship, and if man is, therefore, morally obliged to worship God as creator, then obviously an atheist cannot be a moral person.

    —-”Interesting. So an atheist is automatically immoral by definition.”

    You did not read the above paragraph very carefully. A “conditional” is a phrase that begins with the word “if.” IF God deserves to be worshiped, and, IF, under the circumstances, man is morally obliged to worship Him, then, yes, in that context, an atheist is immoral.

    Of course, the atheist could be moral in other contexts. Anyone can be moral in one context and immoral in another context. A father can be immoral in the sense that he refuses to take care of his children, yet he can be moral in the sense that he doesn’t murder or steal.

    —-This means that if I applied to you for a job, you would have to automatically reject me if you knew I was an atheist (hence immoral) based on that fact alone.”

    No, it doesn’t mean that at all. You are confusing the moral law with the civil law.

    —”Apart from a potential lawsuit, how is this different from not hiring someone because they’re Jewish, or black? Would you support these practices too?”

    You are again confusing the moral law with the civil law. The civil law that you seem to hold so dear is based on the objective moral law, which, ironically, you disdain, which means that your moral philosophy is not grounded in reason. If there was no objective moral law, there would be no moral justification for establishing and enforcing fair employment practices. The civil law which forbids discrimination is based on the objective moral principle that all human beings, regardless of race, creed, or national origin, have “inherent” dignity and must, therefore, deserve to be treated fairly on that account.

  61. Correction: The civil law which forbids discrimination is based on the objective moral principle that all human beings, regardless of race, creed, or national origin, have “inherent dignity” and, on that account, deserve to be treated fairly.

  62. Whoops. Instead of “Susan Smith” put “Andrea Yates”

  63. I’ll quote Weinberg here:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    Morality is grounded in empathy and social awareness. How else would we know which parts of the Bible are literal instructions and which are figurative and safe to ignore?

    On what moral grounds does Abraham argue with God himself over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

  64. @mikev6 and @Barry Arrington

    Barry Arrington, in response to mikev6, said: “It is a fact, however, that you are unable to ground your morality on anything other than your whim at the moment.”

    I agree that such morality having an absolute grounding is not the case, but calling what mikev6 holds necessarily infomrmed by “whims” is nonsense. I am an atheist as well (technically an agnostic, but for the sake of argument it carries) and I ground my morality on deep impressions of what I have come to call “right” and “wrong” by people who have influenced me over the years – people who have been both religious and very much not, and have espoused morals that would probably resonate with popular interpretations of Christian scripture (the community I grew up in is predominantly Christian) and morals that would decidedly not resonate with scripture. I’ve done great things and I’ve done pretty terrible things, and I have felt both proud and guilty of these things, with respect to this sense of “good” and “bad”. Now one could call my senses of “good” and “bad” relative, and one can call them “groundless” – but what they certainly ain’t are based on “whims”.

    Moreover, I also believe that while mine may be “groundless” – religious-based morality is just as groundless, but with the added detriment of assuming there is an absolute source, which manifests itself in moral inflexibility. (Try being the gay child of fundamentalist Christian parents sometime and see how that works out.) God might be absolute authority, but here is the kicker: no matter what God “says” through what channel, a human being still must interpret that message and form a community around it. And so there are radically divergent communities of people who essentially follow the human channels of such messages, across the human race in various religions, and even within the religions themselves. And curiously, each brand of religion happens to coincide with certain cultural dispositions. Some Christianities are “in communion” with one another; some are absolutely not.

    I live in the US, and for the past ten years or so the Episcopal church has been breaking up over what essentially boils down to same sex marriage. I’m sure you all know the details about this, so I won’t bother with them, but the interesting thing about this is that the break-away church, during its initial formation, decided that it would remain “undeclared” on the issue of women in leadership roles. Some churches – not many – still have very old fashion values about how women should “fit in”. So lets say there are two churches within this breakaway group: Church A is down with women in leadership; Church B isn’t. Let’s be honest here: not declaring a position on women is a political decision. Both camps believe there is scriptural justification for their respective positions, but the issue of women’s rights in the United States has made such progress in the 20th century that even many of the orthodox churches still have modern sensibilities concerning gender equality, and so in order to maintain any sort of strong and united opposition to the homosexual friendly camp (repulsive to both) they need to minimize this difference. And they do. Lets look at this right in the face: this is moral relativism in living, breathing form manifesting itself within a religious institution. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with this, because this relativism is motivated by a deeper moral intuition. (Granted, I am repulsed by this deeper moral intuition, but that’s beside the point.)

    But lets just say this issue of women in leadership is important, and they need to get the “right” moral answer. See, when people like mikev6 and I are accused of operating on “whims”, that is precisely what we could assume that religious folks do. Camp A and Camp B could pray about the issue, for example. But something tells me that God will “tell” a member of church A that women should be allowed in leadership; a member of church B will get a “response” from God that women are subordinate. See, as an agnostic prayer to be is just a psychological reaffirmation of a disposition. And when I reflect on the rightness or wrongness of something, this is precisely what I do – I reaffirm a belief, as best I can, with the sensibilities I have developed over the years.

    As an agnostic, this to me would be the “whim” that Barry accuses us of when we “go by the moment” but I want to be more charitable. I believe that when someone prays they are probably not in communication with God. By virtue of the fact that that there are radically incompatible concepts of God that people talk to all the time, at least most people praying are wrong/misguided just as a matter of logic. But I do believe that they can be very reflective and pull from just as rich a source of moral intuition that I have developed over my life.

    See, I don’t feel the need absolute right and absolute wrong the same way I feel the need for an equation to be absolutely right. “Relative good” and “relative bad” can be very strong, dependable tools when living life. Moreover, I suspect that the human need for absolute moral rightness is more of a pathology and betrays a sort of insecurity in one’s own moral intuition. But this is a hunch that could just be my own bias.

    Oh, and as for the Jeffrey Dahmer thing – sociopaths have existed both within and outside of faith communities for ages. We could collect quotes from Popes that have Dahmer beat, but to what end?

  65. Correction: The civil law which forbids discrimination is based on the objective moral principle that all human beings, regardless of race, creed, or national origin, have “inherent dignity” and, on that account, deserve to be treated fairly.

    Based on that, I believe that you think that ID’ers should be treated as fairly as evolutionists.

    If that’s the case, then all our voices should be heard equally and the moderation posting delay for evolutionists should be done away with.
    Either put everyone on moderation, or re-post a moderated comment so that it appears as the latest comment.

    This would be treating both sides fairly.

    It’s hard to have a fair debate in front of thousands of people when your microphone has an 8 hour delay.

    Thanks.

  66. It’s a straw man when the materialist, who claims his philosophy is amoral, blubbers to the believer, “You think I’m immoral!”

    The argument, of course, is not personal but philosophical—is morality utilitarian or transcendent? The avowed materialist always seems to rule out the latter and if he argues for the former it’s on personal terms (what I think is moral is moral and what I think is immoral is immoral).

    Few materialists—and perhaps no Darwinists—understand that two types of transcendence have been argued: Platonic universals (logical, esthetic, ethic) and a living Deity.

    The Deity might be a lawgiver and enforcer and thus inspire justice among his subjects, but (as in 3 above), “What consequences does a Platonic universal enforce?” I suppose that certain societies, on the basis of reincarnation and karma, are motivated to good (though maybe within limits in view of the extinction nirvana offers), but our orthodox, chance and necessity materialism, what moral motivation does it provide? The only pressure I see is to advance the Leftist Agenda (abortion, euthanasia, socialism, statism, sodomy) and fight “the Christian Right”.

    Alvin Plantinga says that the two genres of transcendence have vied with one another throughout Western Christian history. Is God the impersonal outside-of-time realm of eternal verities that was Plato’s theos? Or is God the hands-on personal Deity of the Hebrew Bible? Is God one or the other? Or do both exist?

    When it says, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,” does this suggest an eternal standard (Proverbs 8?) external to God? If, as Platonist Paul Davies chides, God can have his cake and eat it too, then how can theists resolve the age-old question—how is God good what with all the evil in the world?

    Plantinga argues—if I understand him correctly—that both genres of transcendence are necessary.

  67. Editors: Allen MacNeill is no longer in the moderation que. He has demonstrated over a considerable period of time is willingness to engage in civil debate.

  68. In comment #66 Rude asked:

    “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,” does this suggest an eternal standard (Proverbs 8?) external to God?”

    An excellent question, originally posed by Socrates/Plato in the Euthyphro dialog. This can be restated succinctly as follows:

    Is something good/right because God says so, or goes God say so because it is right/good?

    Clearly, stephenB, Barry Arrington, and most of the other moderators/commentators at this website agree with the first of these statements: that something is good/right because God says so, not because there is anything good/right about what God says. They are required to assert this by their underlying absolutist adherence to the principle that there can be no such thing as an “absolute” standard of good/bad right/wrong unless is decreed by their Christian deity (the only one they recognize). This is why stephenB and Barry Arrington (and presumably most of the other theistic commentators here) have asserted as clearly and plainly as they possibly can that, by definition atheists cannot be moral and that only Christians (indeed, only Christians who are adherents to their particular creed) can be/act morally.

    Once again, I ask what this kind of attitude exemplifies, and what kind of society results from such absolute adherence to this kind of attitude?

  69. StephenB:

    You did not read the above paragraph very carefully. A “conditional” is a phrase that begins with the word “if.” IF God deserves to be worshiped, and, IF, under the circumstances, man is morally obliged to worship Him, then, yes, in that context, an atheist is immoral.

    Nope. The real conditional here is “if person X decides that a specific entity exists and must be worshipped, then for some inexplicable reason I’M suddenly immoral”. This is a arbitrary as me deciding one day that people with red hair are immoral.

    Because the moral law cannot be binding unless it binds everyone. If you have your morality and I have mine, then there is no way to adjudicate our disagreements or to hold us both accountable for our actions.

    Again, you are making an assumption that a moral structure not based on God cannot also apply to a group. Many societies seem to be able to work out generally accepted principles of right and wrong without invoking God to do it. Conversely, societies that claim to base these principles on God don’t necessarily agree.

    You are again confusing the moral law with the civil law. The civil law that you seem to hold so dear is based on the objective moral law, which, ironically, you disdain, which means that your moral philosophy is not grounded in reason. If there was no objective moral law, there would be no moral justification for establishing and enforcing fair employment practices. The civil law which forbids discrimination is based on the objective moral principle that all human beings, regardless of race, creed, or national origin, have “inherent” dignity and must, therefore, deserve to be treated fairly on that account.

    I don’t disdain objective laws – just the claim that that these only come from God and hence are denied to non-believers.

    If the right to non-discrimination is such an objective law, then does it not seem likely that repeated assertions that atheists have no moral compass violate this law? That is, after all, making a judgement on a group based solely on creed.

  70. If mass slaughter of innocent people is immoral, and God exists and is omnipotent, was the earthquake in Haiti and act of immorality by god?

  71. —mike v6: “The real conditional here is “if person X decides that a specific entity exists and must be worshipped, then for some inexplicable reason I’M suddenly immoral”. This is a arbitrary as me deciding one day that people with red hair are immoral.”

    No. It is a simple if/ then proposition. If God exists, and if His creatures are morally bound to worship him, then anyone who refuses to worship Him is immoral in that context. You can disagree with both of the ifs, if you like, but you cannot avoid the conclusion that follows from the ifs.

    I wrote: Because the moral law cannot be binding unless it binds everyone. If you have your morality and I have mine, then there is no way to adjudicate our disagreements or to hold us both accountable for our actions.

    —”Again, you are making an assumption that a moral structure not based on God cannot also apply to a group.”

    No, I am not. I am simply affirming the obvious fact that a moral law that doesn’t obligate everyone is meaningless and worthless.

    —-”Many societies seem to be able to work out generally accepted principles of right and wrong without invoking God to do it. Conversely, societies that claim to base these principles on God don’t necessarily agree.”

    No society has ever worked out the principles of right and wrong. Indeed, no two people have ever done it. If you don’t believe that, try working them out with me, and we can make history. Here is my opening gambit. I will put my explicit standards on the table: [The Ten Commandments, The Beautitudes, The Sermon on the Mount, and The Natural Moral Law.]

    Go ahead and put your explicit standards on the table, and we will “work out a morality.”

    —I don’t disdain objective laws – just the claim that that these only come from God and hence are denied to non-believers.”

    The claim is that they precede man and cannot be invented, worked out, or repealed. They are not denied to non-believers inasmuch as they bind all men. Flout them and there will be consequences just as surely as there will be consequences if you flout the law of gravity.

    —If the right to non-discrimination is such an objective law, then does it not seem likely that repeated assertions that atheists have no moral compass violate this law?” That is, after all, making a judgement on a group based solely on creed.

    You are still confusing the moral law with the civil law. The “right” to non-discrimination is a civil law based on the objective moral law that all persons have “inherent dignity.” Also, you are confusing discrimination with disagreement. I wouldn’t refuse to hire you simply because you seem to have no rational basis for your morality, and, even if I was so inclined, it would be unlawful for me, as an employer, to ask questions about.

    In any case, the problem persists. As long as you have no definition for morality, you have no warrant for claiming to be moral. You may well be an honest person. On the other hand, you may, for all I know, support the current immoral law that allows for the torture and killing of unborn babies.

  72. Mike V. Six at 67,

    The atheist is the other side of the coin from the religious fundamentalist—he doesn’t doubt—he knows. I don’t have much sympathy for the atheist but I do for the doubter. Skepticism is healthy—at least until it claims that we cannot know. That’s about as bad as claiming that we know it all.

    History teaches that the most benevolent societies are those that advance religious liberty—though that liberty shrivels without a strong underlying religious populace. The United States pioneered such a system wherein there was a moral consensus among diverse groups (Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Jewish …), and though there might be dramatic disagreement on theology, there was basic agreement on moral fundamentals (the sanctity of life and of the individual, property rights, freedom of verbal expression and assembly, etc.). Doubters and dissenters were welcome, and as long as they remained in the minority those fundamentals were left intact and provided the moral capital that protected the nation from the extremes that raged in other parts of the globe.

    History also has shown that utopian regimes with an enforced atheism have been among the least benevolent. Neither have utopian regimes with enforced religion fared much better.

    But now—why this outrage when religious people quote materialist authorities in regard to ethics? Who really cares whether you personally feel moral. That’s not the question that the more cerebral secularists ask—as I used to see when at the newsstand leafing through The Humanist.

    Allen MacNeill, appreciate your comment, but must add that if one is a traditional Judeo-Christian AND (which might be rare) also a Platonist, he will believe that God is a moral being—the most moral of all. Also I might add that if one is a materialist AND (which is extremely rare) also a Platonist, he might speak coherently as did the Greek philosophers on the subject. But what one typically finds today are Darwinists tying everything to chance and a necessity that means only “natural selection”.

  73. lastyearon, that was a rather stupid question in 70. What would have happened to those innocent people in Haiti without an earthquake? What’s going to happen to you, for that matter?

  74. In comment #71 stephenB wrote:

    “If God exists, and if His creatures are morally bound to worship him, then anyone who refuses to worship Him is immoral in that context. You can disagree with both of the ifs, if you like, but you cannot avoid the conclusion that follows from the ifs.”

    Agreed, and fully in accordance with Aristotle’s basic rules of deductive logic, as presented in his Organon. However, this simply means that the argument under discussion devolves upon stephenB’s two logically unsupported a priori premises:

    1) God exists.

    2) God’s creature’s are morally bound to worship him.

    Both of these premises entail insoluble logical and semantic dillemas.

    First, there is no logically necessary connection between these two statements. There is nothing about the existence of any supernatural entity that requires that one worship it.

    On the contrary, if a supernatural entity exists that asserts that (for example) slaughtering babies and drinking their blood is good/right, I think that most people (even atheists) would assert that one would have a moral duty to neither worship such an entity nor adhere to its moral commandments. Ergo, what makes slaughtering babies and drinking their blood wrong, and resisting the commandments of a supernatural entity that commands such actions right, is not a quality of the supernatural entity itself, but rather the quality of its moral commandments. That the exact same reasoning is the case for a supernatural entity that commands the opposite should be equally clear.

    Nor is there any necessarily logical connection between morality and worship. On the contrary, this connection is only semantic. If one subsumes “acting morally” within the definition of “worship”, then there is a connection between the two terms, but this is a semantic, not a logically necessary connection.

    For example, one could “worship” something without acting morally. One could “worship” nature by simply observing it, but without specifying any moral prescriptions vis-a-vis one’s actions affecting nature (or anything else, for that matter).

    StephenB’s statement that one “worships” God by adhering to His moral commandments is therefore not a logically necessary conclusion unless one defines “worshiping God” as “following His commandments”, and this is a semantic, not a moral connection.

    To sum up:

    • the mere existence of a supernatural entity does not logically entail worshiping that entity

    • worshiping an entity does not logically entail acting morally, unless one arbitrarily defines “worship” of that entity as “acting in accordance with that entity’s moral commandments”

    • if a supernatural entity’s commandments were immoral, a genuinely moral agent would be required to disobey those commandments

    • “worshiping” a supernatural entity whose commandments were immoral might still be prudent (especially if one defines “worship” as “respect”, in the sense that one “respects” a dangerous and powerful entity such as a rogue elephant), but only if such “worship” did not entail obeying that entity’s commandments.

    Which brings us back once again to the Euthyphro dilemma, which fatally undermines stephenB and Barry Arrington’s positions:

    • there are objective standards for good/evil and right/wrong

    • such standards are not logically dependent upon the identity (nor even the existence) of any supernatural entity, but rather are logically primary (i.e. non-derived) qualities upon which both the existence and attributes of any supernatural entity that makes moral commandments logically depends.

    In brief (and as Socrates and most moral philosophers have concluded), if God exists and one of His attributes is omnibenevolence (both a priori and logically unsupported assumptions), He is constrained to command only that which is good/right and to abjure that which is evil/wrong.

    Ergo, good/right stand as non-derived primary properties, independent of the existence or non-existence of any supernatural entity.

    That is, unless one pulls the semantic trick of necessarily and completely equating God with that which is good/right, in which case one can easily argue that the choice of what one semantically refers to these qualities (e.g. “potato chips” instead of “God”) is a matter of personal preference, rather than logical necessity.

  75. In comment #72 Rude wrote:

    “…what one typically finds today are Darwinists tying everything to chance and a necessity that means only “natural selection”.”

    If by “everything” here you mean quite literally everything, then I agree with you. There are a great many things in the universe that are neither material (beginning with, but certainly not limited to information) nor the result of natural selection, morality among them. However, I don’t know many evolutionary biologists who take that position (and, being a member of a faculty composed almost entirely of evolutionary biologists, I know quite a few).

  76. Re comment #67:

    My sincere thanks to the editors. I will try to the best of my ability to keep a civil tongue in my head…
    that is, to keep civil fingers on my hands…
    no, keep civil fingers on my keyboard…
    Oh, well, enough overstretched metaphors, you know what I mean.

  77. tribune7

    If all morals come from God, then all acts of God are moral. I assume you believe that natural disasters are acts of God. That makes them moral. If natural disasters that kill lot’s of people are moral, then who’s to say that acts of man that kill lots of people are not also moral.

  78. lastyearon– If natural disasters that kill lot’s of people are moral, then who’s to say that acts of man that kill lots of people are not also moral.

    If one of us had described the Darwinist position as such, a Darwinist would have expressed outrage.

    But thanks for the clarity.

  79. Allen MacNeill: “I don’t know many evolutionary biologists who take that position (and, being a member of a faculty composed almost entirely of evolutionary biologists, I know quite a few).”

    You’re not saying that you know some Darwinian biologists who are mathematical and ethical Platonists?!?

    Most of my colleagues have not been that philosophical—few if any were boat-rockers—and most maintained contradictory positions and never thought too deeply about it. My colleague George Lakov, who once did some excellent linguistics, has taken it upon himself to repudiate any kind of Platonism in mathematics. He’s the only linguist I know who even seems to know of the problem—where does mathematics come from?—which should be a raging debate in the field. Human language defies any purely materialistic explanation, as was argued long ago, but the most that anyone will ever say is that it is biologically innate.

    If physics by definition assumes mathematical Platonism, then why cannot the linguists even acknowledge the possibility of a similar origin for human language?

  80. All this talk about morality and being good leads to a very difficult question for the atheist? What is good? How do you define the words “good”, “right”, and “moral”?
    Without a standard, you cannot say that one act is better or worse than another act. For instance, take this statement: “Washington DC is more like New York than York, PA is.” This statement is meaningless if New York City does not exist. You need an absolute standard. Apart from God’s moral code, – actually apart from God Himself and His character from which morality is determined, – there is no absolute standard by which to evaluate actions.

    We may not be able to fully enunciate a clear moral code from the Bible, but we know that an absolute standard does exist and we have many principles to use to help us in this endeavor. There are gray areas, but there are also very clear areas.

    Atheists claim they can be good without God, but that is not what God says. In fact, God says that no one is good. Even our “good works” are as filthy rags to God because they are so often done with improper motives. Atheists can only claim to be “good” if they define “good” according to their own standards and ideas which have no more weight than anyone else’s standards since they are determined by humans. But they can never claim to be good according to biblical standards. They fail the test – as the Bible says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” None of us can measure up to God’s standards. None of us can claim to be truly good according to God’s standards.

  81. Has this quote been posted already”

    ‘Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. THERE IS NO ULTIMATE FOUNDATION FOR ETHICS, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.’

    Reference

    Provine, W.B., Origins Research 16(1), p.9, 1994.

  82. Here is another one:

    From a debate between two evolutionists. Lanier is a computer scientist; Dawkins is a professor at Oxford and an ardent atheist.

    Jaron Lanier: ‘There’s a large group of people who simply are uncomfortable with accepting evolution because it leads to what they perceive as a moral vacuum, in which their best impulses have no basis in nature.’

    Richard Dawkins: ‘All I can say is, That’s just tough. We have to face up to the truth.’

    ‘Evolution: The dissent of Darwin,’ Psychology Today, January/February 1997, p. 62.

  83. Here is a section of an article that I took from a creationist website. It makes a lot of sense:

    “Words like should and ought only make sense if there is an absolute standard given by one who has authority over everyone.

    If human beings are merely chemical accidents, why should we be so concerned about what they do?

    We wouldn’t get mad at baking soda for reacting with vinegar; that’s just what chemicals do.

    So, why would an evolutionist be angry at anything one human being does to another, if we are all nothing more than complex chemical reactions?

    If we are simply evolved animals, why should we hold to a code of conduct in this “dog-eat-dog” world?

    After all, what one animal does to another is morally irrelevant.

    When evolutionists attempt to be moral, they are “borrowing” from the Christian worldview.”

    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....f-morality

  84. —Allen MacNeil: “the mere existence of a supernatural entity does not logically entail worshiping that entity.”

    That’s right. If God is not all knowing, all powerful, and all good, worship would not be appropriate.

    —• worshiping an entity does not logically entail acting morally, unless one arbitrarily defines “worship” of that entity as “acting in accordance with that entity’s moral commandments”

    Right again. Worship is an expressive form of morality, appropriate only to a God who deserves worship. If God does not deserve worship, then it would be inappropriate and immoral to worship Him, just as it would be inappropriate and immoral to worship a flawed human or a flawed superhuman.

    —”• if a supernatural entity’s commandments were immoral, a genuinely moral agent would be required to disobey those commandments.”

    You are on a roll.

    — “worshiping” a supernatural entity whose commandments were immoral might still be prudent (especially if one defines “worship” as “respect”, in the sense that one “respects” a dangerous and powerful entity such as a rogue elephant), but only if such “worship” did not entail obeying that entity’s commandments.”

    Right, yet again.

    —-”Which brings us back once again to the Euthyphro dilemma, which fatally undermines stephenB and Barry Arrington’s positions:”

    I am making two arguments, one similar to Barry’s argument [the objective moral law is binding] and one that Barry is not making at all [If God is all good, all powerful, and, if God established a moral universe that includes the worship of him, then morality mandates such worship]. You are conflating my two arguments into one and trying to compare the composite to Barry’s singular argument, which has nothing to do with God. So, you are getting a little off center with your analysis.

    —”there are objective standards for good/evil and right/wrong;

    You bet.

    — such standards are not logically dependent upon the identity (nor even the existence) of any supernatural entity, but rather are logically primary (i.e. non-derived) qualities upon which both the existence and attributes of any supernatural entity that makes moral commandments logically depends.”

    No, sorry. The lawgiver is responsible for the existence of the laws; the laws are not responsible for the existence of the law giver. God’s existence takes logical precedence over his creation.

    —”In brief (and as Socrates and most moral philosophers have concluded), if God exists and one of His attributes is omnibenevolence (both a priori and logically unsupported assumptions), He is constrained to command only that which is good/right and to abjure that which is evil/wrong.”

    You are back in form. The Good lawgiver issues good laws.

    —-”Ergo, good/right stand as non-derived primary properties, independent of the existence or non-existence of any supernatural entity.”

    No. The laws can be discovered without reference to the lawgiver, but they cannot exist without the reality of a lawgiver. You are confusing the bottom up inference with the top down reality.

    —”That is, unless one pulls the semantic trick of necessarily and completely equating God with that which is good/right, in which case one can easily argue that the choice of what one semantically refers to these qualities (e.g. “potato chips” instead of “God”) is a matter of personal preference, rather than logical necessity.”

    No trick. If God is good, then God is in a position to define goodness for his creatures, who were created as an expression of that goodness. On the other hand, it would be a semantic trick so suggest that one can be good in the absence of an objective standard of right and wrong. That would be like saying one can be a good musician even if there is no such thing as music.

  85. “When evolutionists attempt to be moral, they are “borrowing” from the Christian worldview.”

    When theists attempt to ground their morality in God(s), they are “piggybacking” on the primary qualities of good and right, which require no supernatural deities to justify them.

  86. stephenB:

    I think we are surprisingly close in our respective analyses. In your final paragraph, you write “If God is good…”, a semantic formula that is necessarily ambiguous. If by this statement you are ascribing “goodness” as an adjective (i.e. a descriptive modifier of the role-name “God”), then I must respectfully disagree. As I have clearly stated (and as is congruent with the neo-Platonic ethics of G. E. Moore, John Rawls, et al), the term “good” is neither a derivative nor secondary quality.

    That is, what is “good” does not derive its quality as good from the entity that defines it nor from its effects. Rather, “good” (or, to be more semantically precise, “goodness”) is an underived primary quality, independent of who pronounces it and not dependent on its effects (i.e. it is not a consequence of something else).

    This, of course, leads to the question “where does ‘good’ come from?” On this subject, stephenB wrote

    “The laws can be discovered without reference to the lawgiver, but they cannot exist without the reality of a lawgiver. You are confusing the bottom up inference with the top down reality.”

    Again, I respectfully disagree. If “good” (i.e. the objective ground of moral law) is a primary, non-derived quality, then it is neither “bottom up” nor “top down”. Both of these interpretations entail the concept that “good” (the objective ground of moral law) is either “built up” from “bottom up” (as in utilitarianism) or “commanded” from “top down”, as in theistic deontology.

    But primary, objective qualities such as “good” are neither of these things. They are what they are, without justification derived from their source nor their effects. This is not to say that “good” laws do not have “good” effects/consequences, but those consequences are the result of the “goodness” of the laws, not the other way around.

    As to how we know we can know what “good” is, as a Friend/Quaker I am partial to quoting Robert Pirsig (who quotes Plato/Socrates) in the epigram of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

    And what is good, Phædrus,
    And what is not good…

    Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

  87. CannuckianYankee @ 58

    Everything that is written is subject to interpretation, not just biblical text. The real issue is what the writer’s intent is, not how certain factions interpret what the writer’s intent is.

    You have a text that was written by largely anonymous authors who have been dead for nearly 2,000 years. How do you propose to ascertain their true intent? There is no choice but to interpret. The question is how do you decide which is the best interpretation?

    The Bible as a source for morality has worked (while not perfectly) for several millenia far better than any human construct of morality has – especially with respect to relativistic morality.

    In some respects, yes, it has but there are parts of the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, whose morality does not bear close examination by modern standards.

    I don’t find anything in the 10 commandments, for example, that is not straight forward and clear.

    Maybe not, but they reveal an odd sense of priorities. There are specific injunctions against taking the Lord’s name in vain or coveting your neighbor’s ass but not a word about child abuse, rape, torture or slavery, all of which today are generally regarded as much more serious offenses.

    I don’t deny that there have been – and still are – many Christians who live decent lives by following the moral prescriptions of their faith, but there are too many counter-examples for us to accept that simply professing a faith, Christian or otherwise, is an automatic guarantee of good behavior. In fact, to be honest, the louder the protestations of piety, the more I suspect Pharisaic hypocrisy.

  88. While we’re on the subject of universal moral laws, which one of the following ten commandments do you think qualifies as a “universal moral law”:

    “Neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.”

    “Ye shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.”

    “When a woman has a discharge of blood, which is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.”

    “When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand.”

    “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place….”

    “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the lord.”

    “Do not go around as a gossiper among your people…”

    “You shall not eat of [pig] flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.”

    “…whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you.”

    “Ye shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves….”

    And, for that matter, how about this one from THE ten commandments:

    “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

    Okay, but which day of the week is that? Saturday or Sunday?

    All of these commandments are in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments: I’ve provided a key at the bottom of this comment), but most people do not adhere to all of them. Indeed, I’m fairly confident that nearly everybody reading this list thinks that one or more of these is downright silly. After all, what’s morally wrong with wearing cloth woven from two different kinds of fibers, such as linen and wool?

    THE POINT:
    Everybody interprets the Bible and decides which of the commandments are valid and which aren’t. Furthermore, we do this on the basis of an innate and shared (and objective and “universal”) moral code, which precedes (indeed, is independent from) Biblical moral commandments.

    The commandments we obey are intrinsically good/right, and that’s why God commands them, not the other way around (i.e. simply because God commands them does not make them good/right).

    [Here’s the key:
    Leviticus 19:19
    Leviticus 19:27
    Leviticus 15:19-20
    Deuteronomy 25:11-12
    Ephesians 5:4
    Deuteronomy 23:2
    Leviticus 19:16
    Leviticus 11:8
    Leviticus 11:10
    Leviticus 19:28
    Exodus 20:8 (the 5th of the 14 or 15 “ten” commandments)

  89. “When evolutionists attempt to be moral, they are “borrowing” from the Christian worldview.”

    Alan, you wrote:

    When theists attempt to ground their morality in God(s), they are “piggybacking” on the primary qualities of good and right, which require no supernatural deities to justify them.

    TJM: What in the world is a “primary quality”? Clever term, but how do you define it? And where do primary qualities come from – if indeed they do exist? From the Creator perhaps?

    Regardless, I disagree with what you are saying. The terms “good” and “right”, cannot be defined if no objective standard exists. Good and right as compared to what? Without an objective standard, an absolute standard, there is no way to judge a particular action. These would all be relative terms and basically meaningless, if there is no God.

    Alan, the only way you are able to suggest such a thing is that the Creator wrote His laws in your heart and gave you a conscience. It is you who are piggybacking on this indwelling law of God that He wrote in your heart. You made up your own term, “primary quality”, to try and explain it.

  90. Allen raises pointed objections which I think deserve an answer.

    My best answer is :

    What is moral is what and when God decides something is moral.

    There is a time for some behaviors and another time for others. There is a time for everything under the sun.

    There was a time when the children of Israel were commanded to kill children and then there was a time mercy was the law.

    God decides. We try our best to understand what He expects of us.

    The basic point is, without some reference point, it’s hard to come up with what is moral.

  91. What is moral is what and when God decides something is moral.

    So, the objective moral code is always objective, but not necessarily always the same?

    And how exactly does one know when God has changed his mind?

  92. Sal, why isn’t this statement

    “What is moral is what and when God decides something is moral.”

    equivalent to this one:

    “A thing is good/right because God says so.

    Once again, we are right up against the Euthyphro dilemma. Either a thing is good/right because God says so or God says that certain things are good/right because He must. You assert the first, but the weight of history and moral/ethical authority (not to mention basic logic and intuition) is behind the second.

    Ask yourself this question:

    Is it necessary for God to “say” that something is good/right for that thing to be good/right?

    [And, while you're at it, how does God "say" anything?]

  93. So, the objective moral code is always objective, but not necessarily always the same?

    Don’t know.

    And how exactly does one know when God has changed his mind?

    Maybe when and if He tells us (like when Abraham was told to kill his son Isaac, but then told otherwise.

    Hopefully there will be sufficient evidence to help us decide if God really spoke or if someone just claims to speak for Him.

    Otherwise, do you have any better ideas, like deriving morals from what will be favored for Natural Selection?

    If you want to swear by the laws of selection, I gave you several arguments of where Social Darwinism could lead (and even Dawkins find it revolting).

    Do you have a better proposal than just your whims?

  94. Seversky — to accept that simply professing a faith, Christian or otherwise, is an automatic guarantee of good behavior.

    Well, of course.

    In fact, it’s a rather important tenet of Christianity.

  95. In response to Seversky – message 87:

    Previous poster said: “I don’t find anything in the 10 commandments, for example, that is not straight forward and clear.”

    Seversky answered: “Maybe not, but they reveal an odd sense of priorities. There are specific injunctions against taking the Lord’s name in vain or coveting your neighbor’s ass but not a word about child abuse, rape, torture or slavery, all of which today are generally regarded as much more serious offenses.”

    The first four commands have to do with our relationship to God and these commands are summarized in Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

    The last 6 commands describe what our relationship with other people should look like. These are 6 commands are summarized in Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    These summaries are important because you can’t cover all subjects in 10 laws. And yet they are ingenious because they do cover all the subjects you mentioned indirectly through these summaries. You mention adultery, but point out that rape is not mentioned. The adultery commandment is based on the principle of purity – because God is pure and holy. Rape would also be covered in this because it is a violation of personal holiness and purity. It is not a loving act. It is stealing what does not belong to you. It is an act of extreme disrespect which is the underlying principle of the 5th commandment.

    Yes, the OT was written long ago, but honestly seeking for original intent is the key to good interpretation. When it comes to moral commands, it isn’t all that difficult.

  96. All of these commandments are in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments: I’ve provided a key at the bottom of this comment), but most people do not adhere to all of them.

    We’re all sinners Allen.

  97. Calling an innate intuition of what is good/right and evil/wrong a “personal whim” is a common rhetorical tactic, but is itself both contra-logical and morally bankrupt.

    It is contra-logical because it assumes that there are no universal innate human intuitions about moral good/evil and right/wrong, but simply (and only) personal “whims”. This assertion is plainly contradicted by the empirical observation that there are indeed universal moral intuitions among all people, regardless of their religious training (or lack thereof). Yes, there are differences, but there are also striking similarities.

    Furthermore, a deep historical analysis indicates that human moral codes are converging, rather than diverging. As just one example, slavery was once morally justifiable in many different human cultures, but now is not. Even those cultures which still practice it tend to do so now covertly, or to “justify” it through moral contortions (such as those used by the Confederacy during the American Civil War).

    Calling an empirically observable universal and innate human moral code “personal whims” the way you do here is morally bankrupt because it is based on the assumption that no one can act or be moral unless they adhere to a specific, limited religious creed. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, if you take your (and stephenB and Barry Arrington’s) position literally, one must conclude that no one except members of one’s own Christian denomination can possibly act or be genuinely moral. To extend this position to its ultimate logical absurdity, if there are any differences between the interpretations of the God-given moral law within the “elect”, then only those who are “truly elect” can be moral, and this process of fractionation continues until only one individual can possibly be “truly absolutely moral”. And who is that person?

    One’s self, of course.

    And so, creed-based religiously absolutist moral systems devolve into a reductio ad absurdam that is indistinguishable from moral solipsism. This is why many Friends/Quakers (including me) are fond of pointing out that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”.

  98. tribune7 in #96:

    “We’re all sinners Allen.

    Including those of us who have the temerity to wear clothing made of mixed fibers while eating shrimp cocktail in a restaurant on Saturday (oops, sorry, Sunday)…

  99. Including those of us who have the temerity to wear clothing made of mixed fibers while eating shrimp cocktail in a restaurant on Saturday (oops, sorry, Sunday)…

    Yup :-)

    Why don’t we feel obliged to obey many Old Testament commandants and in fact thing it wrong to try in many cases (stoning adulteresses etc.)?

    And the regarding the command from Ephesians you think it desirable to use profanity and act like a fool? Of course not.

    And if you refrained would Paul have called you righteous? No, in fact if you thought yourself so because you didn’t have a potty-mouth, he would come down harder on you than the fellow who was cussin’.

  100. [And, while you're at it, how does God "say" anything?]

    I believe He spoke through people and affirmed it via signs and wonders that it was He that was speaking.

    There is a chance my inference is wrong, but I find it more reasonably true than other systems of thought.

    This is what Darwin said:

    Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is

    I do not think Darwin is standing on good theoretical or empirical ground. We will see, but bear in mind modern medicine is arguably relaxing selection on the genome. And there are reasonable arguments our genome could be slowly dying.

    In contrast to Darwin, this is what Christ said of our future:

    Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places

    It seems one view will be empirically falsified. We will see.

    I think Christ rose from the dead. Granted the testimony is second hand, but it seems credible.

    I’m a practical person. Do you have better ideas?

    Seriously, otherwise we just make our best guess, and I don’t Natural Selection is a very good guide.

    As I pointed out, one of your distant colleagues at Cornell, Dr. Sanford’s is researching genomic deteriotion. This is directly relevant as to whether God really spoke through the Bible or whether people claiming to hear from God really weren’t.

    Morals are not derivable from a reductionistic, materialistic, world view. Nietche suggested deriving moral codes from physics. That will be utterly futile, but he is nonetheless not far from graspiing the difficulty of deriving ethics from a purely materialist viewpoint.

    At least one that supposes Divine authority is logically consisitent, and thus at least has a chance of being correct.

    I do think the Bible is closer description of human origins than the secular view. If so, maybe parts of it (if not the whole) were inspired by God. And if so, biological science might assist us uncovering God’s will. That’s my guess.

    I do think there is circumstantial evidence of God. I posted earlier this week the arguments from physics that God exists. I don’t think it is a stretch to suppose He may have communicated to us in the past.

    And if I may pose the question, what if Sanford is right? Wouldn’t that lend a little more credebility to the Geneology of Christ in Luke chapter 3, and thus by way of extension, circumstantial evidence supporting the idea that Christ spoke the Word of God?

    Biological science might help us then adjudicate which body of sacred text truly speaks for God.

  101. Here is one piece of circumstantial evidence:

    Y-chromosomal Aaron

    This signature, distinctly reflecting the Cohanim ancestral haplotype, visibly identifies today and recognizes these 21 Jewish priest families, directly related to one common Cohanim ancestor who lived 2400 ± 300 years ago, around the times of Zadok, the High Priest that anointed King David.

    That is good circumstantial evidence for a large part of Christ’s geneology.

    Again, I’m offering the idea of getting moral foundations from God Himself rather than physics or natural selection.

    I think the idea of getting morals from God Himself has a chance of being the right way to go because it is at least logically consistent (which is better than getting them from physics or natural selection). Whether indeed:

    1. God exists
    2. He has spoken in a way that we can discern His will for us

    Are the questions of the day.

  102. —-”What is moral is what and when God decides something is moral.”

    No. Sorry. A thing is not good because God commands it; God commands it because it is good. The good is determined by God’s nature, meaning that it is distinct from his will, but it is not distinct from him.

    That is one of the big differences between the Muslim religion and the Christian religion.

    The former allows for the law of “abrogation,” by which God literally changes his mind about what is and is not good, thereby compromising his omnipotence and omniscience.

    By contrast, the Christian religion holds, rightly and logically, that the principle of goodness can never change because God’s nature never changes. Several passages confirm this, among which we could cite, “Jesus Christ [who is God] is the same yesterday, now, and forever.”

    In keeping with that point, the objective moral law is also unchanging and universal.

    On the other hand, this objective moral law can be perceived by everyone, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and yes atheists. One need not believe in God to know the moral law.

  103. —-Allen MacNeill: “Again, I respectfully disagree. If “good” (i.e. the objective ground of moral law) is a primary, non-derived quality, then it is neither “bottom up” nor “top down”. Both of these interpretations entail the concept that “good” (the objective ground of moral law) is either “built up” from “bottom up” (as in utilitarianism) or “commanded” from “top down”, as in theistic deontology.

    A thing is good if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate, that is, if it operates properly. If there is no proper operation for a thing, then it is not possible for that thing to be good. Thus, there must be a standard of goodness to which the thing can aspire [conform]. A good musician is good because he creates beauty, and he creates beauty only because he conforms his skill in accordance with musical laws. If he ignores those laws, he cannot create beauty or be a good musician. In like fashion, a man becomes good by guiding his actions in conformity to the moral law and toward his final end. If there is no moral law or final end, then the man cannot be good because there is no standard of goodness to aspire to or no final destination to reach. Just as a musician cannot make up his own musical laws or his own laws of mathematics, a man cannot make up his own morality.

    —-“But primary, objective qualities such as “good” are neither of these things. They are what they are, without justification derived from their source nor their effects. This is not to say that “good” laws do not have “good” effects/consequences, but those consequences are the result of the “goodness” of the laws, not the other way around.”

    A good law [in this case the moral law] is one which supports or aids a person to become what he/she is supposed to become. That is what goodness or badness is for a person. A good act is one which helps the person self actualize and achieve his/her ultimate end. A bad act is one which frustrates that purpose. A good civil law is one that makes it easy to follow the natural law and easy to be good; a bad civil law is one that makes it hard to follow the moral law and easy to be bad. On the other hand, if man has no purpose, mission, or destiny, then there can be no such thing as a “good” moral law, because there is no journey or destination to strive for, nor can there be any such thing as “bad” because there is no journey or destination to frustrate. Under those circumstances, there can be no such thing as a good or bad civil law, which means that, ultimately, the only law is the war of all against all.

    —-As to how we know we can know what “good” is, as a Friend/Quaker I am partial to quoting Robert Pirsig (who quotes Plato/Socrates) in the epigram of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    The ultimate good is simply man’s destination, which of course, is God, who is goodness, truth, beauty, truth, and life, and a good act is one which directs a man toward that ultimate end. The moral law is simply a guide for the journey, nor more, no less.

    If you disagree, tell me what you think the good could be.

  104. The main point of this thread was “Naturalism’s Moral Foundation”.

    I think it is obvious Naturalism can serve as no foundation for morals. Morals are not derivable from laws of physics or natural selection.

    I think morals can only come from God’s nature.

    On the other hand, this objective moral law can be perceived by everyone, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and yes atheists. One need not believe in God to know the moral law.

    It would seem people vaguely have notions that there is right and wrong. It is written on their hearts.

    But then, the question arises, how can we claim this to be objectively true?

    How can we argue this instinct really comes from a Higher power and is not soley the product of Natural Selection, Group Selection, or some purely naturalistic principle (which in such case it is totally illusory, and “objective” really only means consensus)?

    On the other hand, this objective moral law can be perceived by everyone, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and yes atheists. One need not believe in God to know the moral law.

    I think it can only be perceived darkly in this way.

    The 9/11 terrorists felt they were acting morally. They were acting on what their evil hearts believed was good. The heart is not necessarily a good guide for right and wrong (for it is often deceived, even if the moral law resides in it somewhere.)

    There are some questions:

    1. Can Naturalism provide a moral foundation?

    2. If there is a moral foundation, how can it be objectively perceived.

    This thread deals with #1, the answer to #2 is another topic.

  105. stephenB in 102:

    “…this objective moral law can be perceived by everyone, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and yes atheists. One need not believe in God to know the moral law.”

    Thank you for clarifying this, stephen; I find we are once again in complete agreement on this point.

  106. stephenB in 103:

    “A thing is good if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate, that is, if it operates properly.”

    If this is indeed the case, then we should be able to substitute the phrase “proper operation according to design” for the word “good”. Let’s try it:

    Here’s a moral exhortation derived from classical utilitarianism:

    “Actions are moral when they promote the greatest good of the greatest number.”

    According to your definition of “good”, this phrase is exactly the same as this one:

    “Actions are moral when they promote the greatest proper operation according to design of the greatest number.”

    Hmm.

    Maybe the problem is utilitarianism. Let’s try classical ethical formalism:

    “An action is good if it can be universally and justly performed.”

    Now to once again substitute “operating properly according to design” for “good”:

    “An action is operating properly according to design if it can be universally and justly performed.”

    Ok, but let’s now try a statement that isn’t moral at all:

    “A Ford is a good automobile.”

    Working the same substitution we did before we obtain this we get:

    “Ford automobiles operate properly according to their design.

    Somehow a statement that is clearly not a moral statement nonetheless makes sense when “operating properly according to design” is substituted for “good”, but statements that have been widely accepted as being moral do not.

    Why is this?

    And is it incontrovertibly the case that “good” = “operating properly according to design”? Or, asked another way, is “operating properly according to design” a necessary, sufficient, and complete definition of “good”, such that we can always and without qualification substitute the one for the other?

  107. 107

    Allen_MacNeill

    Re: 97

    I find myself agreeing with you once again. There is among human cultures an innate moral law. I don’t think that scripture would disagree with you there. The quandary is in where such a law derives in those cultures. We are still faced with the question of where such moral laws are grounded. Another problem, which scripture points out is that we know what is right and wrong, yet we still choose to do what is wrong, even according to our own professed morality.

    So where does the innate sense of morality come from? I don’t think one could argue that there is a Darwinian answer. One would expect that if they developed through Darwinian social processes, that they would be very different from culture to culture. That may have been the case in times past, but what about the present? They seem to evolve, that is true, and you are correct in pointing out the evolution of the slavery prohibition.

    However, social Darwinism would seem to suggest that cultures evolve independently of each other. How is it then, that slavery was eradicated at relatively the same time around the world? – within several hundred years, yet that is a small amount of time in the evolutionary scheme of things.

    I would posit that the evolution of morality in culture is due to a particular standard delineating throughout the world as cultures have been interpenetrated in more recent times. Slavery became passe because a standard became preferable collectively around the world at approximately the same time. There were indeed socio-economic factors involved as cultures and economies became more global. It wasn’t a social-Darwinian development, but a worldwide cultural response to a standard, which human beings began to understand as coming from somewhere other than their own culture. It certainly didn’t come from American culture, or European culture, or anywhere else. We’re still faced with the question of the grounding of such a sense of morality.

    We have even developed groups, such as Amnesty International, which attempt to monitor the morality of nations in respect to their treatment of human beings. Such organizations operate on a principle that is very similar to the Judeo-Christian perspective of the basic dignity of human beings.

    It would seem then, to stem from that perspective.

    Furthermore, this seems to be limited. As the world becomes more accepting of one moral principle, it moves away from others. Slavery is out, yet incest, sex out of marriage, the misuse of drugs, and a gamut of other offenses are on their way in. And lest we believe that we have eradicated the atrocities of the 20th Century, they seem to continue veering their ugly heads in places like Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere.

  108. Scordova at 93:

    Do you have a better proposal than just your whims?

    What I am curious about is how you can so confidently assert there is an objective moral code, yet can say the following:

    What is moral is what and when God decides something is moral.

    There is a time for some behaviors and another time for others. There is a time for everything under the sun.

    There was a time when the children of Israel were commanded to kill children and then there was a time mercy was the law.

    God decides. We try our best to understand what He expects of us.

    If what God may consider as moral changes and it is our goal to best try to understand it, it seems to me there is way too much subjectivity in both the giving of the law ,and the interpreting of it, for it to be considered objective. Indeed, it looks like you are just substituting someone else’s whims, as codified in a particular book, for your own. Maybe the authors of the Bible did receive it directly from God or maybe they didn’t and were just trying there best to understand what was expected of them.

    In any case, I am not going to spend my weekend purging cotton-poly blends from my wardrobe.

  109. Sal in #104:

    I hope it is clear by now that “naturalism” strictly defined has no moral foundation. Indeed, to try to derive morals/ethics (i.e. statements about what we “ought” to do) from science (i.e. statements about what “is” the case in nature) is to commit what is commonly known in philosophical ethical theory as the “naturalistic fallacy” and is morally bankrupt.

    And so I completely agree that

    Morals are not derivable from laws of physics or natural selection.

    And so the question becomes, from whence are morals/ethics legitimately derivable? It appears to me that you believe that whatever God says is moral ipso facto must be moral, simply because God says so. But the point we have been debating here is whether God is Himself constrained (by His “nature” if you will) to only command that which is moral. If so, then God is neither omnipotent (remember, He is constrained to command that which is moral), nor is He the ultimate source of that which makes His commandments truly moral. This is the Euthyphro dilemma in a nutshell, and I don’t think you have cracked it yet.

    Indeed, I don’t think it is crackable. Like all logical dilemmas, it points to the inference that there is something fundamentally wrong with the definition of the terms used in constructing the argument in the first place.

    This was my point in my essay, “Natural selection, sparrows, and a stochastic God”, which you can read here [ http://evolutionlist.blogspot......nd_09.html ], and against which no ID supporter has yet provided a counter argument. Perhaps you can?

    BTW, you may notice that this essay is actually an inquiry into the concept of theodicy…

  110. And so I completely agree that

    Morals are not derivable from laws of physics or natural selection.

    Agreed, and I think this position is hard to refute.

    And so the question becomes, from whence are morals/ethics legitimately derivable? It appears to me that you believe that whatever God says is moral ipso facto must be moral, simply because God says so. But the point we have been debating here is whether God is Himself constrained (by His “nature” if you will) to only command that which is moral.

    The original point was “naturalism’s moral foundations”. Of which we agree, nautralism cannot serve as a moral foundation (at least in terms of physics or natural selection).

    The topic that is seems now of immediate interest is the one you describe. I’m a practical person, and it seems the question you raise:

    1. might not have any practical utility
    2. and if decided either way, might be moot if there is a God with the power to grant and remove life (especially my life)

    This was my point in my essay, “Natural selection, sparrows, and a stochastic God”, which you can read here [ http://evolutionlist.blogspot......nd_09.html ], and against which no ID supporter has yet provided a counter argument. Perhaps you can?

    I will offer my view and a discussion here at UD in a separate post short (if I can clear my schedule), as it is an important enough topic. Oddly it relates to a topic in computer science and linguistics!!!

    I’ve sometimes posed the question “if a human intelligent designer created a computer language (or even human language) incapable of syntax error (that is, every possible construct would be permissible, grammar and semantics errors would be impossible) — would such a language (or world) have any meaning?” Most Computer Scientists I would presume would say, “No”.

    In like manner would a intelligently designed world have the capacity for meaning if there were not possiblities for error, and thus the possibility for stochastic behavior? I’ve come to think not. The notion of morality is meaningful because of the possibilty that someone can be immoral (at least in principle).

    This is an important issue since one of Darwin’s arguments was the “bad design” argument, and it is deserving of a separate post. Thank you for raising the issue, and I expect discussion on the topic.

    In my experience, the “bad design” argument is probably the most powerful argument against intelligent design.

    A quality about reality, whether we like it or not, is that life is meaningful because of the possibility of death. Design is meaningful because of the possibility of no design or even broken design. Language is meaningful because of the possibility of misspelling, syntax errors, and semantic errors. The notion of truth is meaningful because of the potential for falsehood.

    In fact, representative of the necessity of stochastic possibilities as pioneered by Shannon, is the notion of BIT, which admits stochastic notions. Without such notions, the notion of information becomes meaningless.

    This property of reality seems inescapble whether one is theist or not.

    The question then arises, can an intelligent agency make a meaningful world without the possibility of “errors”? To which I respond, can one intelligenty design an information processing system wihtout stochastic possibilities?

    In view of this, the bad design argument starts to be turned on its head.

  111. Allen_MacNeill,

    Including those of us who have the temerity to wear clothing made of mixed fibers while eating shrimp cocktail in a restaurant on Saturday (oops, sorry, Sunday)…

    Are you familiar with Biblical exegesis at all? This is elementary. The Law was for the Israelites for that time, in the Old Testament, prior to Jesus being the fulfillment of the Law and bringing about the New Testament covenant, which is a dispensation of grace. Are you just trying to be funny? Or do you sincerely not know better?

  112. I wrote: The good is simply man’s destination, which of course, is God, who is goodness, truth, beauty, truth, and life. The good cannot be separated from the other four, because they all coalesce as one in God. The moral law is simply a guide for the journey, nor more, no less.

    A thing is good if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate, that is, if it operates properly.

    —-Allen MacNeill: “If this is indeed the case, then we should be able to substitute the phrase “proper operation according to design” for the word “good”. Let’s try it:

    Sounds fair.

    —-[utilitarianism:]“Actions are moral when they promote the greatest good of the greatest number.”

    —-According to your definition of “good”, this phrase is exactly the same as this one:

    —-“Actions are moral when they promote the greatest proper operation according to design of the greatest number.”

    Not the same. A proper operation does not lend itself to lesser or greater degrees of magnitude. Rather it comes closer and closer to an ideal. A good can opener opens cans cleanly; a good pencil writes well. A good pencil will be a very bad can opener. If it tries to become one, it will not only fail to open the can, it will destroy itself in the process. A good musician one who habitually creates beauty in keeping with the laws of music; a good man is one who creates virtue, or who habitually acts in keeping with the moral law.

    —-Maybe the problem is utilitarianism. Let’s try classical ethical formalism:

    Utilitarianism is, indeed, a big problem. That, however, is not the philosophy that I am espousing.

    —-“An action is good if it can be universally and justly performed.”

    How can a good action be universally and justly performed? It is either just or it isn’t, meaning, it either conforms to the standard of goodness, or it doesn’t.

    —-Now to once again substitute “operating properly according to design” for “good”:

    —-“An action is operating properly according to design if it can be universally and justly performed.”

    An action doesn’t operate properly. Rather a person “operates” properly by performing a good action.

    —-Ok, but let’s now try a statement that isn’t moral at all:

    —-“A Ford is a good automobile.”

    That could certainly be the case.

    —-Working the same substitution we did before we obtain this we get:

    —-“Ford automobiles operate properly according to their design.

    Sounds good.

    —-“Somehow a statement that is clearly not a moral statement nonetheless makes sense when “operating properly according to design” is substituted for “good”, but statements that have been widely accepted as being moral do not.”

    A Ford is a “good” automobile because it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate. On the other hand, a Ford cannot be moral, because automobiles were not designed to perform moral acts; moral acts always require a conscious choice and a standard of objective morality to meet. A Ford, unlike a human, cannot pervert its nature and decide not to operate according to design. Fords do not boldly declare their independence, decide that they don’t like the driver’s destination, and head off in another direction.

    —-“And is it incontrovertibly the case that “good” = “operating properly according to design”?

    Not exactly. THE good is the object toward which the proper act orders itself. A good act is a moral act, that is, one ordered to the THE good, which is the designed end or good of the actor. A virtue is a habitually good act; a vice is a habitually bad act. Thus, the actor is either moving toward or away from that end. There are no moral planes; each of us is either getting better or getting worse. A virtue is a habitually good act; a vice is a habitually bad act. Sow an act; reap a habit. Sow a habit; reap a character. Sow a character; reap a destiny

  113. Allen_MacNeill,

    As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, if you take your (and stephenB and Barry Arrington’s) position literally, one must conclude that no one except members of one’s own Christian denomination can possibly act or be genuinely moral.

    This will clear it up I hope. Everyone has general revelation of morality by virtue of being human, now scripture—-the New Testament in particular (given that we are in that covenant)—-gives special revelation of morality. Both folks, those within general and special revelation, have morality.

  114. What I am curious about is how you can so confidently assert there is an objective moral code,

    I confidently assert few things, I only assert with some reservation unless I think something is blatantly obvious.

    What I think is blatantly obvious is that naturalism can serve as no moral foundation.

    The rest are topics of debate and though related, are growing beyond Bill’s original post.

    But since the topic is of inteerest:

    You asked how I could say the following:

    What is moral is what and when God decides something is moral.

    There is a time for some behaviors and another time for others. There is a time for everything under the sun.

    In the 10 commandments we have “keep holy the sabbath day”. Well that implies that there were days it was righteous to work and days when it was unrighteos to work. It was the 7th day designated to rest in the Old Testament, and for some reason, the Sabbath rest became the 1st day of the week in Christian traditions.

    How can this be reconciled with the notion of an immutable eternal nature of God?

    My position is, maybe it doesn’t matter, or the answer to the question is moot. The more important question is:

    1. whether God exists
    2. if He exists, how ought we to live our lives

    Any other questions are of philosophical or theolical interest, but of little practical interest to me.

    Though I respect your curiosity into the matter, I have no better answers than to say to look for practical solutions to life since maybe the questions you pose may be moot in the end.

    I’ve stated that physics give reasonable arguments for the existence of God. See: The Quantum Enigma of Consciousness and the Identity of the Designer.

    I think the existence of life (at least the Origin of Life) suggests that a mind put it together. It is thus (on purely scientific grounds) reasonable to speculate God exists and made life.

    If God exists and made life, then questions become meaningful about how He might want us (if He is personally interested in our conduct) to live our lives. The other questions (about the immutability of God’s nature and immutability of moral codes), though interesting philosophically and theologically, seem rather moot and of less practical relevance.

    It seems of less practical significance to me personally whether God can change His mind or not.

  115. —scordova: “What I think is blatantly obvious is that naturalism can serve as no moral foundation.”

    You are right, of course. The naturalists’ strategy is always the same: Ignore the task of defending naturalism and reframe the issue by going on offense to challenge the legitimate foundations for morality. Naturalists—always on offense, never on defense, even when the thread asks for a defense.

  116. re stephenB in #115:

    Are you referring to all “naturalists” here, and are you lumping me in with them? As should be plain from the foregoing, I completely agree that naturalism cannot serve as a moral foundation. This has been a widely accepted principle of metaethics since the first decade of the 20th century. Indeed, it was the position that I defended in the seminar course I taught on evolution and ethics in 2008 at Cornell: http://evolutionlist.blogspot......ality.html

  117. StephenB @ 115

    —scordova: “What I think is blatantly obvious is that naturalism can serve as no moral foundation.”

    You are right, of course. The naturalists’ strategy is always the same: Ignore the task of defending naturalism and reframe the issue by going on offense to challenge the legitimate foundations for morality. Naturalists—always on offense, never on defense, even when the thread asks for a defense.

    By George, I think they’ve got it!

    Naturalists like myself have been pointing out the naturalistic fallacy the whole time. In fact, I can’t think of any atheist or agnostic or naturalist who has made that mistake here. We think that the eugenicists who did commit that fallacy were just as wrong you do so there is nothing for us to defend.

    What some of us do argue is, first, that morality is no more firmly grounded in a text whose message is incoherent and contradictory and whose provenance is so uncertain and, second, that you still have no satisfactory resolution to the Euthyphro dilemma.

    As for naturalism, as a method for investigating and explaining the observable Universe, the only defense it requires is its record. So far it has proven to be more productive and successful than any alternative. If, at some point in the future, Intelligent Design or any other researchers uncover evidence of extraterrestrial intervention in the beginnings or evolution of life on Earth then I’m sure naturalistic scientists will be delighted to look at it. Until then it is interesting speculation but little more.

  118. As for naturalism, as a method for investigating and explaining the observable Universe, the only defense it requires is its record.

    If by naturalism you mean atheistic naturalism, “the assumption no God exists”, then that is incorrect.

    The assumption for science is that: observation,hypotethesis, test will bring us closer to the truth.

    The enterprise of science works without having to assume God’s existence or not.

  119. 119

    As per W. Dembski’s request, a couple of interesting quotes:

    “The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence”
    -Sigmund Freud, in a letter to Marie Bonaparte, 1937 (Letters of Sigmund Freud, New York:Basic Books, 1960) page 436

    “Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals….presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by…Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains a a means of short cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live…”

    -Richard Dawkins (www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html)

    “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference”

    -Richard Dawkins (“River of Eden”, Scientific American 1995)

    In response to a question by journalist William Crawley, if he thought that pedophilia was “just wrong”, Dr. Peter Singer, Professor of Ethics (self declared atheist and secular humanist) at Princeton University stated the following:

    “I don’t have intrinsic moral taboos. My view is not that anything is just wrong…I don’t think that this moral method of saying it’s just wrong is a method we should rely on, neither in this case [pedophilia], nor any other.”
    (Interview with William Crawley, can be seen on YouTube)

  120. scordova @ 118

    If by naturalism you mean atheistic naturalism, “the assumption no God exists”, then that is incorrect.

    The assumption for science is that: observation,hypotethesis, test will bring us closer to the truth.

    The enterprise of science works without having to assume God’s existence or not.

    In the sense that science, thus far, has had no need of God as an explanation it is a-theistic.

    In the sense that it is unable to justify a categorical denial of God’s existence, it is not atheistic.

  121. StephenB @112,

    A thing is good if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate, that is, if it operates properly.

    How do you know that without knowing the intent of the designer?

  122. Allen MacNeill: “Are you referring to all “naturalists” here, and are you lumping me in with them?”

    No. If you say you are not a materialist, I take you at your word.

    There are certain ironies, though, that come up in discussions like these, which often reflect the analyst’s habit of not calling things by their proper name. Not only materialists, by many ID critics fall into this category.

    First, some materialists know instinctively that a material brain cannot explain consciousness, creativity, love, ratiocination, the perception of beauty, and a long list of other non-material realities. On the other hand, they want to maintain a practical materialism that admits of nothing else but nature. So, in their attempt to have it both ways, they propose epiphenominalism, a world view which describes a “mind,” which by any rational definition is an immaterial faculty, as something that is not immaterial at all, or something that is not significantly different from matter to count—-something totally grounded in the brain—yet an extension of the brain. Thus, they get to remain materialists while appearing reasonable enough to acknowledge that materialism cannot explain everything, even though they do not really acknowledge it at all. They do this by retaining the use of the word “mind,” while redefining it in the process.

    The same thing can be done with ethics, religion, and Buddhism, which allows the “believer” to maintain a practical atheism, while claiming to rise about it.

  123. StephenB.

    No. If you say you are not a materialist, I take you at your word.

    How do you define a materialist? Is it someone who does not use a deity to explain existance?

    The same thing can be done with ethics, religion, and Buddhism, which allows the “believer” to maintain a practical atheism, while claiming to rise about it.

    The implication in the above statement is that atheism is something that “needs” to be risen above. I see atheism as strictly a different way of viewing our existance. It’s not something I feel ashamed of in any way that would require me to hide the fact from those that believe in a deity.

  124. —Toronto: “How do you define a materialist? Is it someone who does not use a deity to explain existance?”

    No. By materialism I mean the philosophy that rejects all immaterial realities and reduces all of existence to matter/energy, ruling out God, angels, minds, souls, spirits, or even justice, or anything else that cannot be explained as the activity of molecules in motion.

    If you don’t care for my definition, try Wikipedia.

    —-Toronto: “It’s not something I feel ashamed of in any way that would require
    me to hide the fact from those who believe in a deity.”

    Me thinketh that you protest too much. I thought I was clear that my reference was for “ephiphenominalists.” If that is what you are not, then you were not included.

  125. Seversky:

    In the sense that science, thus far, has had no need of God as an explanation it is a-theistic.

    But that equivocates (switches defintion) the notion of what it is understood to be atheistic. By that definition anything mechanical (cars, airplanes, etc.), are atheistic. Then one could use that to say, “look at what atheism has done and how it has advanced technology”? That is a disingenuous characterization.

    What if I said, “science has no need for the assumption of Zeus, in that sense it is a-Zeusitic, therefore a-Zeusim has been a very successful paradigm.”

    The way the claim of “atheistic science” is formed attempts to give credit to an ideology (atheism) when in fact it shouldn’t be taking credit. That’s about as genuine as arguing that a-Zeusism has contributed to the great advancement of technology. It’s a disingenuous argument that tries to give credit to atheistic philosophy which it doesn’t deserve.

  126. StephenB @124,

    Me thinketh that you protest too much. I thought I was clear that my reference was for “ephiphenominalists.” If that is what you are not, then you were not included.

    But all atheists would have to be “ephiphenomanalists”, due to the belief that the mind is an emergent property of the brain. For us, there is no deity to get consciousness from.

  127. Seversky in 119:

    “In the sense that science, thus far, has had no need of God as an explanation it is a-theistic.
    In the sense that it is unable to justify a categorical denial of God’s existence, it is not atheistic.”

    Scientist who accepts irrational worldview has no need for explanations for anything as the epicureans of old realized and accepted.
    Why does a person who believes that matter and physical laws comes from nothing caused by nothing need explanations and science?
    Why does she think observations are reliable? Why does she think physical laws are constant?
    Why does she think that some atoms can make reliable observations while others cant?
    Why does she need morality?
    Why would she keep a view that becomes socially unfavorable?
    Why would she love her enemies?
    Why would she love at all?
    Why does she think she exists at all?

    As I see it one needs God to make sense of the reality around us including science. This far no materialist has given me an account how a materialist worldview can be rational even in principle.

  128. scordova @ 125

    But that equivocates (switches defintion) the notion of what it is understood to be atheistic.

    Yes, it does, because that is exactly what some religious critics of science do. They fan the flames of the culture war by conflating the demonstrable case that science has advanced without the need to invoke the concept of God with the outspoken advocacy of atheism by some scientists

    The way the claim of “atheistic science” is formed attempts to give credit to an ideology (atheism) when in fact it shouldn’t be taking credit.

    Atheistic science has eradicated smallpox, landed men on the moon, revealed the intricate biochemical processes in the human cell, imaged individual atoms and galaxies so far away they are near the edge of the observable Universe and the beginning of time.

    Some of those who accomplished all this and much more hold religious beliefs, some do not. It doesn’t matter. It has made – and makes – no difference to the progress of the science. In the Laplacean sense, science has had no need of that hypothesis. This is not the success of an atheist ideology, this is the success of naturalistic science.

    We are still ignorant of many things, we have made – and will continue to make – a lot of mistakes, we might easily be snuffed out by natural forces over which we have no control at all but, while we survive, we are entitled to be proud of what our science has achieved, unaided, as far as we can tell, by any extraterrestrial intelligence or God.

    What is sad is that, for some believers, their faith prevents them from allowing credit where credit is due. For them it is all the result of some other agency, whether God or his alias of The Intelligent Designer; for them, human beings are just some sort of puppet, created by God for the sole purpose of worshiping Him. And with that they are content.

  129. Innerbling @ 127

    Why does a person who believes that matter and physical laws comes from nothing caused by nothing need explanations and science?

    No, we do not know where it all came from and it is a perfectly rational and respectable position to admit that.

    Regardless of its origins, though, there is a world around us which we need to understand and explain, if for no other reason that it can be a very dangerous place and ignorance can get us killed.

    Why does she think observations are reliable? Why does she think physical laws are constant?

    Some of our observations and explanations are reliable some are not. It makes sense to try and find out which is which and that is what science does.

    For there to be something rather than complete chaos there has to be laws or regularities or properties which constrain form. Have they always been like that? We can only infer from what we observe. We see apples fall to the ground and they have done that for as long as we have noticed it. Newton described it as an attractive force, Einstein in terms of the distortion of spacetime around massive objects. Those explanations work, at least up to a point, and have have confidence in them to that extent. If apples ever start hovering in mid-air or flying off into space all by themselves then we will have to think again.

    Why does she think that some atoms can make reliable observations while others cant?

    Atoms on their own don’t make observations as far as we can tell but some extremely complex arrangements of atoms do. Why that should be we don’t know. As for reliability, as before, the degree of confidence we have in them depends on their track record. That is all we can go on.

    Why does she need morality?

    Science is not about morality, it is about trying to understand and explain what is.

    Morality is about regulating the way people behave towards one another and, for some, other living things.

    Why would she keep a view that becomes socially unfavorable?

    The Universe is the way the Universe is regardless of what a society of intelligent apes on one flyspeck of a planet lost in a sea of stars and galaxies happen to think is socially or politically or religiously acceptable.

    Why would she love her enemies?
    Why would she love at all?

    Science does not love, it tries to explain and understand.

    One explanation for love is that we survive better in social groups and love helps bind those groups together. If we are all we’ve got in this vast Universe then it makes sense to stick together.

    Why does she think she exists at all?

    Because some one or something is asking that question.

    As I see it one needs God to make sense of the reality around us including science. This far no materialist has given me an account how a materialist worldview can be rational even in principle.

    God is one possible explanation but many of the various God-based explanations are incoherent or contradictory.

    As mentioned in a previous post, materialistic science has done pretty well so far, much better than any alternative, so it is perfectly rational to continue to work with it while it is doing such a good job.

  130. Seversky,

    What is sad is that, for some believers, their faith prevents them from allowing credit where credit is due. For them it is all the result of some other agency, whether God or his alias of The Intelligent Designer; for them, human beings are just some sort of puppet, created by God for the sole purpose of worshiping Him. And with that they are content.

    Credit is due to human ingenuity, a mind that is rational and not just physical, and in a philosophy that under-girds human ingenuity that allows for a workable construct to a mystery. Nature will always be a mystery as an explanation, and the philosophy which holds that we can describe it accurately is due to a philosophy that believes in uniformity, not in the uniformity of observation. Mere observation tells us nothing as an explanation. Laws on nature are not laws because they are observed to repeat. They are not laws like laws of reason and logic that we actually understand. The “laws” of nature can only be described as odd occurrences. The real credit is due not to the positivist philosophy, but to the one which holds that there is a law giver that holds these odd occurrences in harmony and through time.

  131. Euthyphro dilemma:

    “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

    Premises:

    1. Goodness is separate entity (good is separate from God i.e. no God needed)

    OR

    2. Morality enforced by might (morality is whimsical)

    Christianity in my limited theological view:

    Premises:

    1. God is love as an entity and context
    2. There exists no love that is separate from God’s presence
    3. From concept of love it necessarily follows that the loving must respect free will of others
    4. Entities of free will can reject love
    5. Love can’t coexists with non-love

    As in John 13:35:

    “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    6. Thus the unloving will separate themselves from God’s presence by their own hand.

    Hence the whole morality issue becomes issue of who wants to be in the presence of the God?

  132. Seversky at 129:

    “No, we do not know where it all came from and it is a perfectly rational and respectable position to admit that.”

    This is not what atheist says however atheists says that she finds no good reason to believe that there exists a god.
    Theist argument of “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is not good enough for her and she will rather assert that we are living in a irrational reality than admit that there is a god. Rationality and logic is only a pragmatic tool for her to use and can be thrown out at any time.

    This is not my worldview I don’t find that logic and reason are only conditional pragmatic tools.
    Even if we observe something that seems to be irrational I have hope that rational explanation can be found and it seems to me that materialist has no foundation for such hope.

  133. scordova,

    Sorry for the lack of participation in this thread for a few days.

    So how do deal with the position “Shall not the Judge of all the world do justly?” Do you just say, well, Abraham lost that argument!

    BTW, will you respond re your comment @21? How did Dahmer get support from a book published seven years after he died?

  134. scordova @101,

    I’m not sure how the reality of a set of priestly families helps establish the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus is a descendant of David according to Luke 3, not Aaron. Further, the genealogy is through Joseph, Jesus’ father. But we know by the same tradition that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Are you saying that God used the Y chromosome of a Cohen, not the Y chromosome of Joseph? I am at a loss to understand your comment.

  135. Nakashima-san, according to Scripture was Jesus the descendant of David via Nathan or via Solomon?

  136. scordova @101,

    I’m not sure how the reality of a set of priestly families helps establish the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus is a descendant of David according to Luke 3, not Aaron. Further, the genealogy is through Joseph, Jesus’ father. But we know by the same tradition that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Are you saying that God used the Y chromosome of a Cohen, not the Y chromosome of Joseph? I am at a loss to understand your comment.

    There have been doubts by archaeologists that King David even existed. David is in the line of Christs genealogy. It would be important to establish circumstantially that David was a real person, not just a fabrication by the Hebrews.

    It is circumstantial evidence that the genealogies (direct genealogy or parallel ones like the Cohen line) were meticulously kept, not fabricated. If records are meticulously kept, it suggests a certain regard for historical truth (versus fabricating whatever stories are suituable for political purposes).

    Maybe King David really existed, and David is in the line of Jesus. Maybe (gasp) Moses and Aaron really existed too, which would establish the tribe of Levi and his father Jacob, even farther back in time. Jacob was in the direct line of Christ.

    Thank you for asking. The point of the discussion was whether Naturalism can serve as a moral foundation. It seems the consensus answer is “no”.

    Can there therefore be a Supernatural Foundation, where moral codes are described to humans from the creator of life? Is there circumstantial evidence the Intelligent Designer may have communicated with His creatures?

    I offered a speculation as to why I think so, but it is a personal idea of mine. I don’t mean to represent that my speculation speaks for others at UD.

    The big deal would be to phylogenetically establish the correctness of :

    The Table of Nations.

    Y-chromosomal Aaron is a step in the right direction.

    The phylogentic structure of human DNA populations should accord with the hierarchy described. If so, it would lend credence to the genealogy of Christ all the way back to Noah. How much more believeable might the Bible be if that were true!

    Here is a chance for modern science to help us answer these questions.

    But first we have to fix our broken “molecular clocks” and empirically measure real human mutation rates (versus speculated rates on the assumption of chimp/human divergence).

    As I’ve said before, Solexa and Illumina technology may bring us closer to the truth.

    Naturalism serves as no moral foundation. But where can we derive the moral code then? Maybe from the Intelligent Designer himself, assuming the Intelligent Designer is the Judeo-Christian God (I expect to get a lot of argument from the ID proponents in the Muslim, Hindu, and Extra Terrestrial quarters).

    Maybe the Intelligent Designer is not as silent as we suppose. Maybe we just have to do more science, real science.

  137. scordova @136,

    Naturalism serves as no moral foundation. But where can we derive the moral code then?

    I have to disagree. Nature and the empirical study of it may lend itself to a fine basis of a moral code.
    By modeling our behaviour on what works in other societies, ( e.g. gorillas, penguins, ant colonies), we can see what sort of individual behaviour is successful for cooperative group behaviour.

  138. Breaking News:

    Of all things the topic of David’s existence is in the headlines. See:

    In ancient wall, scholar sees proof for Bible

  139. Toronto,

    I have to disagree. Nature and the empirical study of it may lend itself to a fine basis of a moral code.
    By modeling our behaviour on what works in other societies, ( e.g. gorillas, penguins, ant colonies), we can see what sort of individual behaviour is successful for cooperative group behaviour.

    That begs the question, for nature would never tell you what should or shouldn’t be adopted. You have to assume it first, before you begin your comparison of nature’s behaviours. If you do not start with morality, nothing in nature can have any value over anything else.

  140. Re Clive Hayden in comment #139:

    You are absolutely right. Even if we knew everything possible about cooperative group behavior, that would not necessarily tell us if such behavior was “good” or “right”. To decide these things requires moral reasoning, not empirical observation.

    For example, among many social insects “cooperative group behavior” involves intense inter-group warfare and, in many cases, slave-taking. What is “good” for the individuals within a particular group can therefore be very “bad” for the members of other, less cooperative groups.

  141. Innerbling @ 131

    1. God is love as an entity and context

    That is an appealing metaphor but it is incoherent. It is also belied by accounts in the Old Testament of God’s behavior.

    Love is an emotion which human beings experience but a human being is more than just that emotion. The same must apply to God if He is an intelligent agent. He may experience love but He is much more than just love.

    2. There exists no love that is separate from God’s presence

    Why shouldn’t there be love that is separate from God’s?

    3. From concept of love it necessarily follows that the loving must respect free will of others

    As a general principle, yes, but I would argue that there are exceptions. A child exercising its free will might be placing itself in danger. The child’s parent have a right and a duty to prevent that even if it means denying the child the exercise of free will.

    4. Entities of free will can reject love

    That is implied by the concept of free will.

    5. Love can’t coexists with non-love

    Why not?

    6. Thus the unloving will separate themselves from God’s presence by their own hand.

    Perhaps, but there is no reason to think that atheists are incapable of love or that their love is somehow less that the of Christians.

    Hence the whole morality issue becomes issue of who wants to be in the presence of the God?

    So, essentially, you are plumping for one horn of the Dilemma, the one that asserts that whatever God says or does is good and moral?

  142. Seversky (#141)

    You made a very interesting comment in your post:

    Love is an emotion which human beings experience but a human being is more than just that emotion. The same must apply to God if He is an intelligent agent. He may experience love but He is much more than just love.

    With the greatest respect, you have it all wrong. To see why, I suggest that you read the following article by the Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft:

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/love.htm

    I’ll quote a short extract (emphases are mine – VJT):

    Without qualification, without ifs, ands, or buts, God’s word tells us, straight as a left jab, that love is the greatest thing there is (1 Cor 13: 13). Scripture never says God is justice or beauty or righteousness, though he is just and beautiful and righteous. But “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Love is God’s essence, his whole being. Everything in him is love. Even his justice is love.

    But no word is more misunderstood in our society than the word love. One of the most useful books we can read is C. S. Lewis’ unpretentious little masterpiece The Four Loves. There, he clearly distinguishes agape, the kind of love Christ taught and showed, from storge (natural affection or liking), eros (sexual desire), and philia (friendship). It is agape that is the greatest thing in the world.

    The first and most usual misunderstanding of agape is to confuse it with a feeling. Our feelings are precious, but agape is more precious. Feelings come to us, passively; agape comes from us, actively, by our free choice… “Luv” comes from spring breezes; real love comes from the center of the soul, which Scripture calls the heart (another word we have sentimentalized and reduced to feeling)…

    God is agape, and agape is not feeling. So God is not feeling. That does not make him or agape cold and abstract. Just the opposite: God is love itself, feeling is the dribs and drabs of love received into the medium of passivity. God cannot fall in love for the same reason water cannot get wet: it is wet. Love itself cannot receive love as a passivity, only spread it as an activity. God is love in action, not love in dreams. Feelings are like dreams: easy, passive, spontaneous. Agape is hard and precious like a diamond.

    This brings us to a second and related misunderstanding. Agape‘s object is always the concrete individual, not some abstraction called humanity…

    A third, related, misunderstanding about love is to confuse it with kindness, which is only one of its usual attributes. Kindness is the desire to relieve another’s suffering. Love is the willing of another’s good….

    A fourth misunderstanding about love is the confusion between “God is love” and “love is God.” The worship of love instead of the worship of God involves two deadly mistakes. First it uses the word God only as another word for love. God is thought of as a force or energy rather than as a person. Second, it divinizes the love we already know instead of showing us a love we don’t know. To understand this point, consider that “A is B” does not mean the same as “A equals B.” If A = B, then B = A, but if A is B, that does not mean that B is A. “That house is wood” does not mean “wood is that house.” “An angel is spirit” does not mean the same as “spirit is an angel.” When we say “A is B”, we begin with a subject, A, that we assume our hearer already knows, and then we add a new predicate to it. “Mother is sick” means “You know mother well, let me tell you something you don’t know about her: she’s sick.” So “God is love” means “Let me tell you something new about the God you know: he is essential love, made of love, through and through.” But “Love is God” means “Let me tell you something about the love you already know, your own human love: that is God. That is the ultimate reality. That is as far as anything can ever go. Seek no further for God.” In other words, “God is love” is the profoundest thing we have ever heard. But “love is God” is deadly nonsense.

    I’d also recommend these articles by Kreeft as well worth reading:

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/love-sees.htm
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/fear.htm

  143. Allen_MacNeill (#92) writes:

    Ask yourself this question:

    Is it necessary for God to “say” that something is good/right for that thing to be good/right?

    May I make a suggestion? This discussion of the Euthyphro dilemma is confusing logical issues, ontological issues (relating to being as such), and epistemological issues (relating to what we know and how we know it). Here is my attempt to tie these together.

    Logical facts:

    (1) The intrinsic goodness of a thing is logically prior to God’s saying that it is good.

    A thing is what it is. God cannot say that X is good unless there is an X to start with.

    Ontological facts:

    (2) There exists a Being (God) whose nature it is to love perfectly.

    (3) The intrinsic goodness of God is ontologically prior to that of any created thing.

    Using a Platonic metaphor in the context of Aquinas’ Fourth Way:
    things are creatures which participate in God’s goodness. Theirs is borrowed beauty.

    (4) Because God is a Being whose nature it is to love perfectly, then necessarily, if something is good, God cannot say that it is not good.

    (5) Because God is a Being whose nature it is to love perfectly, then necessarily, if God says that something is good, then it is good.

    (6) Because God is a Being whose nature it is to love perfectly, then necessarily, if there exists a collection C of statements made by God (and nobody else), then whatever is affirmed to be good in C is in fact good.

    Epistemological facts:

    (7) Human beings are not liable to err about basic human goods: we all know that health, knowledge and art are good things. Corollary: we should therefore distrust anyone who says that we should not trust our ability to recognize these goods.

    (8) Humans often err about the goodness of particular acts. Opinions diverge, often wildly.

    (9) Human reason is not liable to err about basic metaphysical truths.
    Corollary: we should therefore distrust anyone who says that we should not trust our reason.

    (10) Human reason is capable of showing that an Ultimate Good (God) exists – i.e. a Being whose nature it is to love perfectly.

    (11) If there were good reason to believe that a particular book B was actually a collection of statements made by God (and nobody else), then whatever was affirmed to be good in that book would be in fact good.

    (12) Humans often differ about the correct interpretation of books, especially very old ones written in foreign tongues. Error is possible.

    (13) If one were endeavoring to properly interpret an old book, written in various foreign tongues, that purported to be a collection of statements made by God (and nobody else), it would be unwise to attempt this endeavor oneself. The possibility of error would be too great.

    (14) Error would be less likely if one consulted the community to whom this book had originally been given, and examined their moral precepts – namely, those moral precepts which members of the community are bound to observe (as opposed to precepts that corrupt individual members of that community may have observed or even enjoined upon others, at various times in history). If these universally binding moral precepts contained anything repugnant to reason, it would be rational to reject the book on which the community based its teaching. If not, then the book might still be what it purported to be.

    (15) If a book appeared (on a naive reading) to contain wicked, immoral precepts that were repugnant to reason, but the community treasuring this book did not enjoin its members to engage in any immoral practices that were repugnant to reason, then the occurrence of apparently immoral precepts in the book would be a difficulty, but it would not be a decisive reason to reject the book. See (12) above. For it is always possible that an individual’s interpretation of the book may be mistaken.

    (16) If after a diligent search, one was not able to find any community which based its teachings on a sacred book whose universally binding moral precepts contained nothing repugnant to reason, then it would be rational to conclude that God had not yet issued such a book.

    (17) Nevertheless, it would still be rational to seek natural knowledge of God, and of moral goodness, to the best of one’s ability. It would not be rational to become a subjectivist or a materialist, as these -isms are both abnegations of human reason.

  144. Mr. Nakashima (#134)

    Thank you for your post. This article might answer some of your queries regarding the genealogy of Jesus:

    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/fabprof4.html

    Enjoy!

  145. I’m with Clive and Allen. What is good or bad for an ant colony has little to do with what is good or bad for a human society. Perhaps the differences are the most instructive.

    The males of several species are at risk of being eaten by agressive females after copulation. Is this ‘wrong’? While it might seem convenient to extend what we have been saying above, I’m actually more inclined to say that the farther away we get from our own species, the less sense ‘morality’ makes as a concept. Malaria (P. falciparum) is not evil.

    A more interesting question to me is whether it is possible to be an intelligent species and yet have a fundaentally different morality due to some underlying difference in biology. Answering yes would affirm that morality is ultimately grounded in some aspect of the species niche we grew up in, and whether we are able to transcend that niche.

  146. …more evidence for that which is not reducible to matter.

  147. vjtorley,

    But no word is more misunderstood in our society than the word love. One of the most useful books we can read is C. S. Lewis’ unpretentious little masterpiece The Four Loves. There, he clearly distinguishes agape, the kind of love Christ taught and showed, from storge (natural affection or liking), eros (sexual desire), and philia (friendship). It is agape that is the greatest thing in the world.

    This is a great book, and as I’m sure you know, it’s also available as an audiobook with C. S. Lewis himself doing the reading.

  148. Seversky,

    “To say that the moral law is God’s law is no final solution. Are these things right because God commands them or does God command them because they are right? If the first, if good is to be defined as what God commands, then the goodness of God Himself is emptied of meaning and the commands of an omnipotent fiend would have the same claim on us as those of the “righteous Lord.” If the second, then we seem to be admitting a cosmic dyarchy, or even making God Himself the mere executor of a law somehow external and antecendent to His own being. Both views are intolerable.

    At this point we must remind ourselves that Christian theology does not believe God to be a person. It believes Him to be such that in Him a trinity of persons is consistent with a unity of Deity. In that sense it believes Him to be something very different from a person, just as a cube, in which six squares are consistent with unity of the body, is different from a square. (Flatlanders, attempting to imagine a cube, would either imagine the six squares coinciding, and thus destroy their distinctness, or else imagine them set out side by side and thus destroy the unity. Our difficulties about the Trinity are much of the same kind.)…But it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it could never have been otherwise; it has in it no shadow of contingency; it lies, as Plato said, on the other side of existence…God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.”

    Excerpts from “The Poison of Subjectivism” by C.S. Lewis.

  149. #143

    vj

    I have been removed from the moderation queue. One great advantage is that gives me the opportunity to not only read but comment on your rather interesting comments.

    In #143 you make a number of assertions about things being necessarily so. I always have a problem with such statements because there are so many different types of necessity – ranging from Bachelors are necessarily unmarried through to my job means that necessarily I have to rise at 5:00 each day.

    What type of necessity did you have in mind when, for example, you say:

    (5) Because God is a Being whose nature it is to love perfectly, then necessarily, if God says that something is good, then it is good.

  150. Hi Mark Frank (#149)

    Welcome back. I was a little too concise in my definition of God. I should have said:

    (5) Because God is a Being whose nature it is to know and love perfectly, then necessarily, if God says that something is good, then it is good.

    Since God, by nature, has perfect knowledge of all things (or all states of affairs, if you prefer that way of talking) then it is a matter of logical necessity that if God believes that some thing (or state of affairs) is good, it is in fact good.

    Since God is a Being whose nature it is to love perfectly, then as a matter of logical necessity, God cannot lie about what is good. We have already established that God cannot be mistaken about what is good. Hence, if God says that some thing (or state of affairs) is good, it follows that (i) God believes this; (ii) this belief is true; hence (iii) the thing (or state of affairs) is in fact good.

    I hope that answers your question. Sorry for not expressing myself more clearly in the first place.

  151. #150

    vj

    Thanks. This makes your comment clear. Is it fair to restate this as:

    If God says something is good then it must be good because by definition God is an entity which knows the truth about everything and never lies.

    If so, then it would apply to any statement God made about anything. We have defined God as the entity that always tells the truth.

    This suggests that the answer to Alan’s question:

    Is it necessary for God to “say” that something is good/right for that thing to be good/right?

    is “no”. Just because God always speaks the truth it does not follow that God has uttered every truth. It is not God’s verdict that makes something good. This would appear to be some factor external to God that makes it good, or at least there is nothing in your comment #143 that precludes this.

    The question then still remains – what makes something good/right?

  152. V J Torley,

    I’m curious—have you read Alvin Plantinga’s Does God have a nature?, and if so did I get it right in 66, and do you agree or disagree with Plantinga here?

  153. Clive Hayden @ 148

    To say that the moral law is God’s law is no final solution. Are these things right because God commands them or does God command them because they are right?

    Lewis goes on to give a very neat exposition of the Euthyphro Dilemma, ending with:

    Both views are intolerable.

    which is right.

    Then he starts reaching:

    At this point we must remind ourselves that Christian theology does not believe God to be a person. It believes Him to be such that in Him a trinity of persons is consistent with a unity of Deity.

    Christian theologians can divide God into as many pieces as they like. They can identify Him with an emotion like love or a moral property like goodness. It doesn’t help. Saying God is goodness or love is as vacuous as saying He is wetness or heat.

    Besides, if you read the only textual evidence we have for God’s existence and nature, the Bible, He is quite clearly depicted as a person – immensely more powerful and knowledgeable than a human being, perhaps – but a person nonetheless and not some Borg-like hive-mind. I dare say that when the vast majority of Christians, including those here, think or speak about God they refer to ‘Him” – or maybe ‘Her’ – not ‘It’ or ‘Them”

    The fact is, for God to be and do what Christian theology requires of Him, He must be an intelligent agent, much more than a person in the human sense to be sure, but still enough to be caught up on Euthyphro’s horns.

  154. Seversky,

    The fact is, for God to be and do what Christian theology requires of Him, He must be an intelligent agent, much more than a person in the human sense to be sure, but still enough to be caught up on Euthyphro’s horns.

    Why? And, btw, you have the same problem, even more of a problem once you’ve left the realm of a Godlike personality (one that can make decisions about goodness and evil), with evolution and the Euthyphro dilemma. Evolution and the atheistic cosmogony can’t even get started on a system of ethics, and even if it did so by its own convention, the Euthyphro dilemma is there just as much for it as for anything else.

  155. Mark Frank (#152)

    Thank you for your post. I would more or less agree with your restatement of my comment 5 in #143.

    I would also agree with your comment:

    This suggests that the answer to Alan’s question:

    Is it necessary for God to “say” that something is good/right for that thing to be good/right?

    is “no”…

    It is not God’s verdict that makes something good.

    However, I would say that God’s act of creating something with a certain nature is what makes it good. Built into that nature are certain norms which define what is good for that entity. For instance, it is an essential property of being an animal is that food is good for you – especially proteins, carbohydrates and fats. And it is an essential property of being a human animal that the pursuit of knowledge, art and friendship are good for you.

    God’s saying that something is good is logically subsequent to his act of creating it. That’s why it’s not what makes something good.

    Thus God is still the source of all goodness, as I see it.

  156. Hi Rude,

    I haven’t read Plantinga’s “Does God have a nature?” but I notice from the comments that Plantinga takes aim at Aquinas’ doctrine of Divine simplicity. The Thomist philosopher Professor Edward Feser has recently posted a vigorous defense of the doctrine here:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.....icity.html

    As regards Platonism, let me simply observe here that one of the major achievements of early Christianity was that it managed to synthesize the Platonists’ belief in eternal verities with the Jews’ belief in a personal God. It accomplished this by describing the eternal verities as ideas in the Mind of God, who transcends time and space.

  157. Greetings V J Torley,

    Unless you’re religion rules that the Divine Simplicity be a doctrine that cannot be questioned, I’d recommend you read both sides of the argument. I can’t get to the Edward Fesser blog here at work, but if he has a good criticism of Plantinga I’ll want to read it.

    I must confess that the Divine Simplicity has seemed incoherent to me, and so when I saw that it was the same for Plantiga I was pleased.

  158. Hi Rude,

    Thank you for your post. I’ve been searching the Net, and I’ve finally located a paper by Jeffrey E. Brower, entitled “Making Sense of Divine Simplicity” at http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~bro.....licity.pdf . It is, I think, the best defense of the doctrine of Divine simplicity on the Web, and it does address Plantinga’s criticisms of the doctrine.

    Brower proposes a new interpretation of the doctrine: he construes it to mean that God is identical with the truthmakers for each of the true (intrinsic) predications that can be made about him, such as that God is omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and so on. Brower provides a cogent explanation and a robust defense of the notion of a truthmaker in his paper.

    Plantinga certainly did a magnificent job of demonstrating the utter absurdity of one commonly accepted understanding of the doctrine of Divine simplicity: namely, the view that God is identical with each of his properties – which implies that each of his properties is identical with each of the others, and hence that God is himself a property. Brower grants that Plantinga’s criticisms of this version of the doctrine are justified, but he argues that certain other versions of the doctrine are not vulnerable to the same criticisms.

    Finally, Brower argues that the truthmaker interpretation is not only sufficient for making sense of divine simplicity, but also necessary.

    Out of curiosity, what’s the best critique of the doctrine of Divine simplicity that you’ve seen on the Web?

  159. Seversky (#152)

    Thank you for your post. I can certainly sympathize with the following remark of yours:

    Christian theologians can divide God into as many pieces as they like. They can identify Him with an emotion like love or a moral property like goodness. It doesn’t help. Saying God is goodness or love is as vacuous as saying He is wetness or heat.

    I think the paper which I cited above by Jeffrey Brower, entitled “Making Sense of Divine Simplicity,” and available online at http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~bro.....licity.pdf , will help resolve your difficulties about the notion of equating a Person with Goodness, Love or Truth. As Brower puts it:

    According to the truthmaker interpretation, God is identical with the truthmakers for each of the true (intrinsic) predications that can be made about him. Thus, if God is divine, he is identical with that which makes him divine; if he is good, he is identical with that which makes him good; and so on in every other such case. Now, since nothing can be regarded as identical with anything other than itself, this interpretation just amounts to the claim that God is the truthmaker for each of the predications in question.

    Brower is very fair-minded in his the way he handles objections that mnight be raised against his proposal, and in my opinion he argues his case well.

  160. Seversky — maybe there are answers which the mind of man can’t comprehend.

    If you accept Jesus — i.e. His teachings, His sacrifice, His resurrection — you will know beyond doubt that God is good.

    And you will understand that some of the specifics about what you are asking are not important at all.

  161. Notice again that naturalism cannot survive scrutiny, makes no attempt to provide a rational justification for itself, and, as always, resumes its scrutiny of theism—-always on offense, never on defense—always posing objections, never answering them—always holding the other side accountable, never holding itself held accountable or permitting others to hold it accountable.

  162. Mr. Nakashima (#145)

    Thank you for a very thought-provoking post. I was particularly interested in your final remark:

    A more interesting question to me is whether it is possible to be an intelligent species and yet have a fundamentally different morality due to some underlying difference in biology. Answering yes would affirm that morality is ultimately grounded in some aspect of the species niche we grew up in, and whether we are able to transcend that niche.

    I argued above that moral norms are grounded in the fact that God made human nature with certain “oughts” built into it. This in turn invites the question: what if God had made us differently?

    In response, I would argue that there are certain kinds of intelligent creatures that God, being all-loving, could not make. The reason for this is that when we recognize another being as intelligent, that automatically entails our recognizing certain facts about that being’s form of life: e.g. that it has a life-plan (otherwise it wouldn’t be intelligent), that it is good for it to pursue knowledge and art, that it is good for it to pursue friendship (even if it enjoys being alone). In short, recognizing another being as intelligent entails recognizing it another self or “I.” But that in turn entails recognizing that one is bound by the Golden Rule in one’s dealings with such a being.

    The Golden Rule requires us to love others as we love ourselves. What would be truly fiendish would be a world in which intelligent beings were naturally constituted in such a way that they could not do what self-love requires (i.e. take proper care of their health) without harming other intelligent beings in the process.

    Now, imagine a planet with two races of intelligent beings, but with one obtaining its sustenance by killing and eating the other, out of natural necessity. There is no adequate alternative source of nutrition. Such a situation would trigger a “moral meltdown” in the race of predators: they would be killing and eating beings whom they knew to be every bit as morally significant as themselves. They would thus be faced with a cruel choice: murder or collective extinction by starvation. The latter option would mean that the predators’ existence was in vain, and that they had no purpose in the higher scheme of things.

    A loving God could not create a race of intelligent beings like that. Discovery of such a race would therefore be tantamount to a falsification of the statement that an all-loving God exists.

    In matters not pertaining to life, it is less wise to be dogmatic. For instance, there may well be races of intelligent beings with only one sex, or with fifteen different sexes. If there were only two sexes, I’m inclined to think they’d have to be monogamous (as this would be the most rational arrangement for child-rearing) in a universe run by an all-loving God. But I may be wrong.

  163. “Is it necessary for God to ‘say’ that something is good/right for that thing to be good/right?”

    Not at all. For example, the Bible says that creation is “very good,” but it is entirely possible to reach the same conclusion on our own. The sweetness of honey, the colors of grass and sky, the wholesomeness of grain, the ingenuity of the beaver, the remarkable qualities of water, the courses of the planets, the force of gravity—all of these things are acknowledged to be “very good” by those who are not besotted with vanity. Even Darwin was infatuated with butterflies, for all his concern over the ichneumon wasp.

    The highest standard for what is good/right, however, is life: “In him was life, and this life was the light of men.” Life provides a purely objective standard of goodness in itself, a standard that existed before God’s word (i.e., the Bible) came into being. Adam and Eve chose the vanity of being like God over life, and this was the cause of their fall. All of the law and the prophets are summed up in the command to love one another, and this command is based on the sanctity of life. It requires no other substantiation.

    Nonetheless, human intellect has become so warped by its bondage to the grave that, in general, it needs the word of God in order to obtain a clear picture of what is good/right. “What is expected of you, O man, but to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God.” It seems unlikely that human beings could come to this conclusion by their own lights. Certainly Plato and Aristotle did not. They believed they could make themselves equal to God through the power of intellect, and they rated intellect more highly than either justice or mercy.

  164. Bingo in #162.

    I scanned back over the responses. If an honest attempt was made, I missed it.

  165. Seversky,

    Christian theologians can divide God into as many pieces as they like. They can identify Him with an emotion like love or a moral property like goodness. It doesn’t help. Saying God is goodness or love is as vacuous as saying He is wetness or heat.

    You still seem to be caught up on a category mistake, in thinking that God cannot be conceived as love, or goodness. He is, at least, that, not less than that. Your argument that that is as vacuous as saying that God is wetness or heat makes no sense, for goodness and love are not material things like wetness and heat, your analogy is what is vacuous.

  166. V J Torley at 159,

    Thanks for the link—I shall have to have a look. As for the best critique of the Divine simplicity that I’ve seen on the Web—can’t say I’ve even searched. Plantiga was the first I’d read who was against it. I’m only a dilettante with lots of other stuff I have to do.

    You correctly encapsulate Plantinga’s argument, at least as I understood it, though of course he’s much more detailed. I count myself both a theist and a Platonist. For me it’s not that the eternal verities aren’t ideas in the Mind of God, it’s that God does not transcend them. All theodicies, no matter how complex, come back to this—even if the authors do not admit it: There are some things God cannot do. God cannot grant free will and also determine the outcome, have his cake and eat it too, make two plus two equal anything other than four. Even Granville Sewell’s wonderfully readable chapter that goes a long way in explaining natural evil assumes that even God couldn’t create a stable world and make it completely safe (maybe if God hadn’t hidden his face he might intervene on our behalf more). Paul Davies, a nontheist Platonist, chides Christians in this regard in The Mind of God.

    Does God transcend time and space? I’m the heretic here too, but I think we must all concede that we really do not know the nature of ultimate reality. I can neither understand there having been a past eternity of events nor there not having been such—it’s all really too wonderful for me to grasp. I think that people are just too certain of their grand scientific and theological theories. That’s one reason why ID provides stronger evidence of a Designer than the Big Bang—it’s closer to home and not dependent on all encompasing theory. Another reason is that the Big Bang (and the various “front loading” preferences) make God too remote.

    Is all this weakening God? Perhaps there are those out there who would make God weaker even than man, a creature or essence that cannot even plan the future or carry out his will. But to paint all Open Theists (such as, say, Alan Rhoda) this way is a straw man.

    Anyway I’m glad that these things are being discussed and dissenters no longer having you-know-what done to them. I predict that eventually ID will lead some to focus more on the Agency of God—that more than timelessness and disembodiment and abstractness we will come to see God as first and foremost a living God, a hands-on Creator, all those things that would put God squarely in the dimension of time just as in the Book.

    Well I think I’ve blathered on too much here. Appreciate your comments and knowledge.

  167. Late to the party:

    Here is a truly classic cite, from Plato in The Laws, Bk X, implicitly discussing Alcibiades and co. and the era of the demise of Athens as leading Greek state.

    Here, Plato speaks in the voice of the Athenian Stranger who has fled Athens to Crete, and is dialogging with Cleinias and Megillus:

    ________________

    >>Ath. . . . [The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] 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. [In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! This is important for gaining some perspective on what it is, and where it leads on ethics as well as on the credibility of the mind, etc . .. ]

    . . . .

    [Thus, they hold that t]he 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.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them. >>
    ________________

    In short, the sort of cites we see above simply lay out the logical implications of the philosophical premise and ideology of materialism.

    Which as we well know, is currently being embedded into the novel, ideologically loaded definition of science being offered up by the US National Academy of Science, etc.

    So, once materialism is posited and established, amorality is in effect its implication.

    The known consequences have a very long and sad history in the record of our civilisation.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I have never been able to figure out why the Euthyphro pseudo-dilemma is held up as a significant challenge to Judaeo-Christian theism. When you had gods dealing with a primordial order that they then had the dilemma of trying to shape to their will, that was one thing. but, in the worldview now being challenged, the point is that God is both Good and Creator, so he creates in accord with his character, and morality is inseparable form the foundation of the cosmos and from the character of its Creator. And, as Love, the ground and one-word summary of the virtues, requires real choice, evil is possible once virtue is possible. The Judaeo-Christian worldview then addresses the resolution of the world of clashing good and evil through redemption. (This discussion is helpful.)

  168. StephenB @ 162

    Notice again that naturalism cannot survive scrutiny, makes no attempt to provide a rational justification for itself, and, as always, resumes its scrutiny of theism—-always on offense, never on defense—always posing objections, never answering them—always holding the other side accountable, never holding itself held accountable or permitting others to hold it accountable.

    Notice again an attempt to deflect legitimate criticism of an argument that included two fallacies by attacking the methodology of the critics. But it won’t hurt to re-state the case for methodological naturalism (MN) as it is usually understood.

    The term “methodological naturalism” appears to have been coined by philosopher Paul de Vries in 1983. His purpose was to distinguish the working hypothesis of science, that the world may be explained in terms of its nature or observable properties, from philosophical naturalism which is the metaphysical claim that the natural or material world is all there is.

    As a methodology, MN takes no position on whether or not God exists or what constitutes moral or immoral behavior. It is purely an investigative procedure. It may study the origins and function of morality in human society but it cannot pass judgment on whether any particular moral belief is right or wrong, except in a provisional and functional sense.

    Also, as a methodology, MN is only vulnerable to attack on the grounds that it is ineffective as a means of finding out how the world works. As a defense, it can rest on a track record of discovery which unmatched thus far.

    As for philosophical naturalism, it is inferred from the lack of observations of anything that cannot be explained as part of the natural order of things and the fact that some mysteries that were previously attributed to some form of supernatural agency have been found to be susceptible to naturalistic explanation. There are certainly many beliefs about what might lie above and beyond but nothing in the way of hard evidence, at least not yet.

    Nothing to stop you trying, of course.

    Any attacks on MN on moral grounds simply founder on the naturalistic fallacy. Moralities cannot be derived legitimately from our observations of the way the Universe is set up, nor can MN be shown to imply or endorse any specific code.

  169. Seversky, your comments are, once again, irrelevant. You are simply repeating a comment you made Jan 28 on methodological naturalism, and your comments were refuted several times on that thread, especially by vjtorley @175.

    This thread is about philosophical naturalism and, as indicated, no one has even come close to presenting a rational defense for it. Your one brief paragraph that is almost relevant simply describes that which needs defending.

  170. Seversky:

    I must repeat.

    The basic problem with your core objection, the Euthyphro dilemma — so-called, is that it works off the idea that there is an unbridgeable is-ought gap. Thus, it is exploiting he ideas, thought habits and challenges of pagan or evolutionary materialistic worldviews to tyry to impugn the one worldview that has an IS that properly grounds oughtness.

    Namely, redemptive monotheism.

    For, the God who as to inmost character IS Love Himself, is Truth Himself, is Justice Himself, and is Reason Himself, is also Creator: “without Him was not anything made that was made.” (Notice, too, the philosophical and theological sophistication of that seemingly so artless remark from John 1; which distinguishes contingent from necessary being and implies that God is the latter.)

    So, we may build on that to resolve your imagined knock-down case:

    1 –> As already noted, God is Creator, but also the God of a certain character in which Love, reason and Truth are essential characteristics. So, the cosmos he made and sustains will reflect that: it will be orderly, intelligible and morally ordered.

    2 –> Thus, morality is not either independent of God – no more than reason is independent of God — nor is it a collection of arbitrary rulings rooted only in divine caprice.

    3 –> The two horns of the dilemma in short, do not exhaust the logical options. So, it is fundamentally flawed, and is in itself a persuasive but misleading argument, i.e. a fallacy. (Cf detailed discussion here.)

    4 –> Moreover, your caricature about cutting God up into parts is a strawmannish dismissal of Redemptive, Trinitarian Monotheism, which finds in the complex unity [echad vs. yachid] of the Root of being, the best explanation of and solution to The Problem of the One and the Many, including the problem of moral diversity, i.e. good vs evil.

    5 –> As Probe’s useful survey highlights:

    When it comes to discussing worldviews the starting point is the question, Why is there something rather than nothing?{6} As you may already know, there are three basic answers to this question. The pantheist would generally answer that all is one, all is god, and this “god with a small g” has always existed. Second, the naturalist would say that something, namely matter [in some form], has always existed. Third, the theist holds that a personal, Creator-God is eternal and out of nothing He created all that there is . . . .When we look around at what exists, we see an amazing collection of seemingly disparate elements such as gasses, liquids, and solids, planets and stars, horses, flowers, rocks, and trees. And seeing all of these things we notice that they all exist in some sort of equilibrium or unity. How is it that such diversity exists in such apparent unity? And are we as human beings any more important than gasses or ants? . . . .

    The pantheist’s commitment to an all-inclusive oneness leaves no room for the real world in which people live, where I am not you and neither of us is one with a tree or a mountain. The naturalist has no problem accepting the reality of the physical world and the diversity present in it. However, there is no solid ground for understanding why it is all held together. In short, [as Francis Schaeffer often noted] there is no infinite reference point so we are left with the circular argument: everything holds together because everything holds together; if it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here to see it. What a coincidence! In fact, coincidence, or chance, is the only basis for anything. As a result human beings are left with an absurd existence . . . .

    Trinitarian theism is the only option that contains within itself an explanation of both the one and the many while saying that people are important. In the Trinity, God has revealed Himself as the eternal, infinite reference point for His creation. Moreover, the Trinity provides the only adequate basis for understanding the problem of unity and diversity since God has revealed Himself to be one God who exists in a plural unity. Ultimately then, as Horrell concludes, “Every thing and every person has real significance because each is created by and finally exists in relationship to the Triune God.” [Article, What Difference Does the Trinity Make?]

    6 –> (Editors, pardon my reply to a dismissive attempted rebuttal on matters theological.) Nor are we bound up to bare unsupported assertions in a book, in claiming to have come to know God in the Face of the Eternal Son, and crucified but risen Saviour. For, the relevant texts are historically anchored in the teeth of hypersketpical dismissals, and the Spirit poured out across 2,000 years has left millions who have had a living, life-transforming knowledge of God. One may dismiss on selective hyperskepticism, but to actually face the facts and address cogently on the merits is another matter. For, the living reality of knowing God personally is something we in our civilisation know or ought to know about.)

    7 –> Finally, I must address your claim that:

    As a methodology, MN takes no position on whether or not God exists or what constitutes moral or immoral behavior. It is purely an investigative procedure.

    8 –> The problem with this is that Methodological Naturalism — as imposed increasingly since the 1980′s and backed by the Materialistic Neo- magisterium that dominates institutions of Science — is not merely a method of investigation [i.e. we see a bit of a self-serving euphemism], especially on matters of scientific studies of origins; where we did not anc cannort eityher directly observe or replicate the deep past. Instead, we are making inferences to best, provisional, current explanation on the temporal roots of data we observe in the present.

    9 –> And in that context, as Lewontin so plainly admitted [and as can be discerned from parallel but subtler statements of say the US National Academy of Sciences], what is really going on is worldview level question-begging imposition of a priori materialism:

    We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [NYRB, Jan 1997]

    10 –> to this, Philip Johnson’s rebuttal of November the same year is apt:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” 

    . . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. When the public understands this clearly, Lewontin’s Darwinism will start to move out of the science curriculum and into the department of intellectual history, where it can gather dust on the shelf next to Lewontin’s Marxism. [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    ____________

    In short, at the end of the day, you still face the unanswered challenge of Plato in the Laws, 360 BC, that evolutionary materialism is radically relativist and amoral, based on the premises and assertions it imposes at the beginning of its analysis.

    As the above shows, the same challenge still stands unanswered by materialists today. (Thus their eagerness to try to use the Euthyphro dilemma, so-called, to try to drag theistic worldviews into the same morass of amorality is quite understandable, through distractive.)

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  171. So, now, Sev,

    The challenge still remains:

    can you ground morality as a binding ought, per the premises of naturalism?

    We await your answer.

    As does the ghost of Plato.

    G’day

    GEm of TKI

  172. 172

    December 31st 2009

    THREAD:

    Sagan: “The cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be”.

    Monod: “The scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity – the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. This is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever”…”Chance alone is at the source of every innovaton, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, only chance, absolute but blind liberty is at the root of the prodigious edifice that is evolution”

    Dawkins: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”

    Lewontin: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”

    Meyers: “I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.”

    Seversky:“Unlike religion, science does not deny any thing because it conflicts with some impregnable dogma.”

    - – - – - –

    February 14th, 2010

    THREAD:

    Lewontin: “materialism is absolute…”

    Sagan: “the cosmos is all that is…”

    Monod: “Chance alone…”

    Seversky “The fact is no one has a satisfactory theory of origins”.

    - – - – - –

    February 27th, 2010

    THREAD:

    Seversky: “MN takes no position on whether or not God exists”

    - – - – - – - -

    Come’on Seversky…what color is the sky in your world?.

    Have you ever noticed the gap between what humans sometimes say and what is actually practiced on the ground? Remember, for instance, those good old boys who ran the paper mill with 300 employess of which 3 were black. Two souped up chlorine mix in the basement without ventilation and the third was a thin elderly woman who sat on the box in the sun by the gate handing out hardhats to white visitors only – just so everyone was safe. The head good ole boy would pass by her and smile when he pulled his Cadillac out of the plant and headed toward his comfortable neighborhood with clean schools and defensive zoning laws. He’d puff on his cigar and could happily tell himself that “rights” was passed, and they wudn’t doin’ no wrong. Thangs was jest fine as they wuz – nuthin’ to think about. Ah hell – he might’a known sumbody who done some stuff a time or two, but them boys prolly had it comin to ‘em anyway.

    Time to wake up, Sev. Denial is intellectual laziness at this level. Quit hiding behind methodological naturalism and pretending it isn’t practiced and enforced as philosophical materialism.

    It is. Openly.

  173. 171
    kairosfocus
    02/27/2010
    6:53 am

    Seversky:

    I must repeat.

    Really?

  174. Seversky:

    Theism Compared To Materialism Within The Scientific Method:
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc....._5fwz42dg9

  175. Clive Hayden @ 166

    You still seem to be caught up on a category mistake, in thinking that God cannot be conceived as love, or goodness. He is, at least, that, not less than that. Your argument that that is as vacuous as saying that God is wetness or heat makes no sense, for goodness and love are not material things like wetness and heat, your analogy is what is vacuous.

    I had not thought to find myself agreeing with Plantinga but, in the paper by Jeffrey E Brower cited earlier by vjtorley, he states my view succinctly:

    In the first place, if God is identical with each of his properties, then each of his
    properties is identical with each of his properties, so that he has but one property … In the second place, if God is identical with each of his properties, then since each of his properties is a property, he is a property—a self-exemplifying property. (Plantinga 1980,
    47)

    and

    No property could have created the world; no property could be omniscient, or indeed, know anything at all. If God is a property, then he isn’t a person but a mere abstract object; he has no knowledge, awareness, power, love or life. So taken, the simplicity doctrine seems to be an utter mistake. (Plantinga 1980, 47)

  176. Upright BiPed @ 173

    - – – – – –

    February 14th, 2010

    THREAD:

    Lewontin: “materialism is absolute…”

    Sagan: “the cosmos is all that is…”

    Monod: “Chance alone…”

    Seversky “The fact is no one has a satisfactory theory of origins”.

    - – – – – –

    February 27th, 2010

    THREAD:

    Seversky: “MN takes no position on whether or not God exists”

    Anyone can quote-mine.

    If I wanted, I could mine a few choice quotes from, say, Martin Luther or even Fred Phelps which, by modern standards, would hardly redound to the credit of their faith. But would anyone believe that they are authoritative on contemporary Christian theology?

    By the same token, neither Sagan, Monod or Lewontin claim – or claimed – to speak on behalf of all science. They were expressing their own opinions or beliefs as was their right.

    There is also a big difference between personal opinion and scientific theory. Everyone has an opinion on the question of origins but there is still no theory of origins in the sense that there are theories of evolution or relativity or quantum mechanics.

  177. kairosfocus @ 172

    So, now, Sev,

    The challenge still remains:

    can you ground morality as a binding ought, per the premises of naturalism?

    We await your answer.

    Straight to the point as always so I will try to be equally succinct.

    Short answer – no.

    Slightly longer answer – neither methodological nor philosophical naturalism are theories of morality nor even take positions on the question of morality. Proponents are well aware that the naturalistic fallacy precludes the possibility of validly inferring any moral position from what we observe of the natural world.

    All we can say is that moral codes are observed in human cultures. Their function appears to be to regulate the way that human beings behave towards one another in society so as to improve social cohesion and adhesion.

    Adherents of individual religions are observed to claim overriding authority for their specific moralities but the grounds for their claims are no more firmly-grounded than any others unless they are grounded in evidence that their theology has some basis in fact.

  178. 178

    Seversky,

    Anyone can quote-mine.

    Ha! yeah right Seversky – I misrepresented the scientist in question. Hilarious reply.

    If I wanted, I could mine a few choice quotes from, say, Martin Luther or even Fred Phelps

    Knock yourself out. And when you’re through, I am going to ask how it impacts the observable evidence for design.

    neither Sagan, Monod or Lewontin claim – or claimed – to speak on behalf of all science.

    …oh, and the effort of (S)cience and scientists to distant themselves from the overreaching comments has been deafening, hasn’t it? I’m sure the NCSE has a position paper on it.

    There is also a big difference between personal opinion and scientific theory.

    Yes, when the public flips on a program on TV about science, or reads a newspaper, or listens to an interview, its just too difficult to follow along with the constant stream of disclaimers being issued about scientist’s mere opinions.

    Everyone has an opinion on the question of origins but there is still no theory of origins

    Oh, not true at all. There is a most definite theory of origins. In fact, its so much of a theory – so captivating in its absolute certitude – it has superceded mere theory status and become a priori assumption for all science to follow.

    The origin of everything happended by the authoratative mandate of chance, and chance alone.

    After all, if it happened to have occured in any other fashion, it would be in immediate violation of the prescribed doctrine set forth by the community of (S)cience. (which is, of course, not allowed)

    - – - – - –

    Seversky, you are pushing a position and making statements that are indefensible.

    Keep it up.

  179. kairosfocus @ 171

    The basic problem with your core objection, the Euthyphro dilemma — so-called, is that it works off the idea that there is an unbridgeable is-ought gap. Thus, it is exploiting he ideas, thought habits and challenges of pagan or evolutionary materialistic worldviews to tyry to impugn the one worldview that has an IS that properly grounds oughtness.

    The fact that the Dilemma highlights a flaw in the claim of your faith to a supreme moral authority grounded in your concept of a ‘tri-omni’ deity is not a problem from my point of view. Nor should you feel that you are being singled out for special attention since the Dilemma is not aimed specifically at Christianity but at any attempt to preclude by fiat questioning of a faith’s moral prescriptions or any consideration of alternatives.

    For, the God who as to inmost character IS Love Himself, is Truth Himself, is Justice Himself, and is Reason Himself, is also Creator: “without Him was not anything made that was made.”

    For some reason, that type of claim – “God IS love” – always reminds me of Hollywood movie trailers: “Christopher Reeve IS Superman!”

    In answer, I will simply repeat Plantinga’s comments quoted in another post:

    In the first place, if God is identical with each of his properties, then each of his
    properties is identical with each of his properties, so that he has but one property … In the second place, if God is identical with each of his properties, then since each of his properties is a property, he is a property—a self-exemplifying property. (Plantinga 1980,
    47)

    and

    No property could have created the world; no property could be omniscient, or indeed, know anything at all. If God is a property, then he isn’t a person but a mere abstract object; he has no knowledge, awareness, power, love or life. So taken, the simplicity doctrine seems to be an utter mistake. (Plantinga 1980, 47)

    1 –> As already noted, God is Creator, but also the God of a certain character in which Love, reason and Truth are essential characteristics. So, the cosmos he made and sustains will reflect that: it will be orderly, intelligible and morally ordered.

    That may be your concept of God but it is conflict with the accounts of His nature and behavior in the primary textual evidence for His existence. And although we observe moral behavior being advocated and even practiced in human society there is nothing in the nature of Nature to suggest any moral order, as the recent disasters in Haiti – and now Chile – would seem to testify.

    2 –> Thus, morality is not either independent of God – no more than reason is independent of God — nor is it a collection of arbitrary rulings rooted only in divine caprice.

    If reason and morality are properties exemplified in God but not identical with him then they are independent of Him and there is nothing to necessarily prevent them being exemplified in other intelligent beings such as ourselves. And how else would you account for natural disasters such as in Haiti and Chile except by either divine caprice, indifference or non-existence?

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [NYRB, Jan 1997]

    I was going to ignore the boilerplate quote from Lewontin but this passage is worthy of comment.

    The presumption of a material world derives not from dogma but observation. In spite of a great number of immaterial or supernatural beliefs and narratives, the world around us has been revealed as overwhelmingly material and, moreover, one that has proven to be highly-susceptible to materialistic or naturalistic explanation. It is the explanatory success of materialism that justifies our continued commitment to it. The door is not being held shut lest a Divine foot is wedged into the gap. It is wide open. But, so far, no one has walked through it with evidence for the existence of a Divine anything that is anywhere near as compelling as the evidence for the alternative.

    In short, at the end of the day, you still face the unanswered challenge of Plato in the Laws, 360 BC, that evolutionary materialism is radically relativist and amoral, based on the premises and assertions it imposes at the beginning of its analysis.

    I doubt that Plato or anyone else around in 360 BC knew anything about modern evolutionary materialism but it us far from clear that he would necessarily have had a problem with it if he had. Regardless, it is not radical relativism that prevents us from subscribing to unsubstantiated claims of being in possession of Absolute Truth, it is the burden of proof. It should take more than someone’s word – even a lot of them – to persuade any of us of that.

    The fact that methodological naturalism and science are amoral cannot be held against them as a criticism since they are not intended to investigate or adjudicate on questions of morality. To that extent, religion has no need to fear that science will trespass on that domain. Collisions will only occur where religion sees fit to pronounce judgment on claims that also fall within the jurisdiction of science.

  180. Seversky (and participants and onlookers):

    It seems to be time for taking on some specific points:

    1] Sev, 177: neither Sagan, Monod or Lewontin claim – or claimed – to speak on behalf of all science. They were expressing their own opinions or beliefs as was their right. There is also a big difference between personal opinion and scientific theory. Everyone has an opinion on the question of origins

    Actually, if you follow up my discussion and read the context of the excerpt above, you will easily see that Sagan and Lewontin DID claim to be speaking in the name of Science. Among the choicer parts:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [BTW, a self contradiction as this is an epistemological, i.e. philosophical claim . .. ] . . . . Sagan’s argument is straightforward. We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities. The vast majority of us do not have control of the intellectual apparatus needed to explain manifest reality in material terms, so in place of scientific (i.e., correct material) explanations, we substitute demons . . . .

    To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [i.e. a metaphysical assertion about he nature of reality!] , and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test . . .

    And, Monod was speaking ex cathedra as an eminent scientist and Nobel Prize winner.

    But more to the point, in the immediate context in my always linked note [scroll up just a little] — and so accessible to participants in the years long exchanges at UD, I excerpted the US National Academy of Sciences as they sought to DEFINE science, in their notorious tract against the — shudder! — Creationists.

    Here is the intro to their def’n:

    In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations.

    Of course, as I pointed out, this is a case of putting in the loaded contrast natural vs supernatural, in a context where by 2008 — if they had been inclined to do due diligence and fairness — the appropriate contrast is between the material causal factors (chance + necessity) and the artificial one, design.

    Nature vs art in short.

    So, when we see the institutional powers imposing a priori materialism into the very definition of science, and so suppressing the ability of science to fairly consider all relevant candidate causal factors on matters of origins, we have every right to our own — sadly, plainly well-warranted — opinion that the ideology of a neo-Magisterium is corrupting science from the disinterested pursuit of the truth about or world based on empirical evidence and credible explanations in light of known forces and factors.

    2] . . . but there is still no theory of origins in the sense that there are theories of evolution or relativity or quantum mechanics.

    First, this is quite a climb-down; though of course a deniable one. (Personal opinion, not scientific theory and all that . . . )

    And, sorry, but the theory of evolution IS an origins science theory, insofar as it seeks to explain the origin of major body plans in the deep past.

    And insofar as origin of life has no coherent factually well warranted theory, that simply means that the tree of life has no scientifically credible root.

    As well, given that he fossil record and the world around us are replete with sharp body plan level discontinuities, we further see that there is no empirical warrant for body-plan level bio-diversification on the suggested main evolutionary mechanisms; esp. chance variation and probabilistic culling on differential reproductive success in ecological niches.

    In both cases, the failure is a failure to explain credibly the origin of functionally specific complex information. Which we do observe routinely produced by art; and, which we ONLY see produced by art in a context that the associated config spaces are so huge that islands of function are unsearchable on the quantum state resources of our observed cosmos. (Just 1,000 bits specifies a space that is 10^150 times the scope of quantum states of our observed universe across its estimated lifespan, 50 mn times the usually given 13.7 BY to date. Observed life starts in excess of 100,000 bits, and novel multicellular body plans credibly need 10 – 100+ mn bits each . . .)

    So, once the censoring constraint or a priori materialism is removed, design is the obviously superior explanation for observed life and for its origin.

    But this thread is more on moral issues . . .

    3] Sev, 178: Slightly longer answer – neither methodological nor philosophical naturalism are theories of morality nor even take positions on the question of morality. Proponents are well aware that the naturalistic fallacy precludes the possibility of validly inferring any moral position from what we observe of the natural world.

    Summed up, Sev here concedes that evolutionary materialism as a worldview — and recall the claim is that in the name of Science (“the only begetter of truth”) we are placed in contact with “[physical] reality” — is inherently and inescapably amoral.

    Case closed on the main point, by direct concession.

    That is, evolutionary materialism can provide no is to ground ought in any binding sense beyond the politics and power games of culture.

    Thus, too, Plato’s warnings on the history of Alcibiades and co becomes all too relevant to our own day. As the sad history of the century just past underscores.

    Further, for those who on knowledge of the actual binding force of “ought” [just think about how we universally appeal to fairness and integrity when we disagree strongly], teh fact that this worldview is unable to face this basic fact of our nature is itself grounds for seeing it as empirically utterly and irretrievably refuted.

    So also, we have every right to scratch evolutionary materialism off the list of credible worldviews, whoever may object while shaking his lab coats threateningly.

    4] Adherents of individual religions are observed to claim overriding authority for their specific moralities but the grounds for their claims are no more firmly-grounded than any others unless they are grounded in evidence that their theology has some basis in fact.

    H’mm, didn’t I invite us to look at a first level summary on the Ac 17 offer of warrant for grounding the Judaeo-Christian tradition in fact? And, did I not also draw attention to eh millions across 20 centuries who have had their lives transformed by personally meeting God in the face of the risen Christ and in the power of his poured out Spirit, e.g. including persons such as Pascal? [In short, notice the implicit strawman misrepresentation on the warrant for a biblical worldview.]

    besides, I think it is about 60 years since C S Lewis has drawn our general attention as a civlisation — through his BBC interviews and the resulting book, Mere Christianity — to the fact that core morality (as Rom 2 discusses, and that has been around for 2,000 years or so, being the idea root for our civilisation’s idea on self-evident truth) is an in-common property across even civilisations.

    5] 180: The fact that the Dilemma highlights a flaw in the claim of your faith to a supreme moral authority grounded in your concept of a ‘tri-omni’ deity is not a problem from my point of view.

    Question begging assertion in the name of “fact,” in a context of failing to address the resolution of the claimed dilemma.

    Again, let us note: the dilemma argument originated in the worldview context of gods who had to deal with an independent chaotic order, and so they ran up intot he problem of lacking a sugfficiently capable is to ground ought.

    But the good, Creator God of theism is more than adequate to ground ought in the is of his being as a morally good God. That is morality is grounded in the basic ground of being, just as is rationality, and just as is the confidence in the intelligibility and stability of the observed world that is foundational to science. (As say Newton observed in his General Scholium to what is the greatest single work of modern science. In short, this point is obvious and accessible.)

    [ . . . ]

  181. 6] the Dilemma is not aimed specifically at Christianity but at any attempt to preclude by fiat questioning of a faith’s moral prescriptions or any consideration of alternatives.

    Accusatory, question-begging, unjustified, ad hominem laced assertion.

    One designed to distract attention form the implications of the amorality of evolutionary materialistic secularism and the import that might makes “right.” (Which has been put out as a public warning ever since Plato in his 360 BC The Laws, Bk X.)

    In fact, the Judaeo-Christian position on morality is an intelligible, reasonable one.

    To wit, we are creatures made in God’s image and have minds of our own, which is what renders us capable of love thus virtue. So, we should each respect that same inherent dignity in all others.

    Thus, immediately, the premise and summary of core morality: “love [thus, respect] thy neighbour as thyself.” (And, this concept of neighbourliness implies a circle of the civil peace of justice, protected by the civil authority as his primary duty as sword-bearer in the cause of justice, under God our common creator.)

    Nor is this hard to find, e.g the 1776 US DOI starts from precisely this premise when it asserts that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights . . . ”

    Indeed, when we read in Locke’s 2nd essay on civil gov’t, Ch 2 we see the direct basis in Locke’s cite from “The Judicious [Richard] Hooker [in the 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity]“:

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

    –> Of course, now that many people are so ignorant on the subject, all sorts of materialistic distortions that would formerly have been instantly corrected, will seem plausible

    –> And now we see the long term implications of he moves to separate the biblical roots of our civilisation from our education system . . . a la Plato’s Cave style materialistic shadow shows substituting for accurate knowedge.

    7] if God is identical with each of his properties . . .

    Strawman.

    I am speaking of the Character of God, which leads him to act in moral ways, as opposed to any imagined/projected equating of God with his character.

    8] That may be your concept of God but it is conflict with the accounts of His nature and behavior in the primary textual evidence for His existence.

    Multiple question-begging assertions.

    First, the evidence for God’s existence is not primarily a matter of textual assertions; as the intellectual gymnastics imposed by the neo-magisterium to blind many people to the blatant evidence of Creation without and mind and conscience within testifies to all too eloquently.

    Second, you will observe my note on neighbourliness just above, which brings to bear the issue of the special duty of the Magistrate.

    The magistrate — in a world in which some abuse the power of choice to act selfishly rather than lovingly, and seek to build communities of oppression on their power — bears the sword of justice, to protect the civil peace. In that context, God is the supreme judge of the earth and wields the sword of justice in historical judgements against nations that become threats to the world. (And oh, America, please, please, please reflect soberly on where your nation — having begun so well — is now headed! It is not for nothing or merely envy that many across the world thought your nation received back some of what it asked for on 9/11; though of course Islamist radicals are murderers and threats to the world themselves.)

    You may not like the implications of magistracy, but you have no credible alternative: “might makes right” multiplied by “every man [or community] does what is right in his [its] own eyes” is an obvious recipe for disaster.

    9] how else would you account for natural disasters such as in Haiti and Chile except by either divine caprice, indifference or non-existence?

    You obviously have not followed developments on the problem of evil in recent decades.

    I suggest an introductory reading here; followed by deeper readings here.

    On the particular issue of quakes as natural disasters, we should note that the saying is “quakes don’t kill, buildings do.” (This is the reason for the case where a hundreds of times stronger quake has produced orders of magnitude lower casualties. in Haiti, there was a problem of widespread corrupt building practice, not merely poverty.)

    Going beyond that, we live in an orderly world that follows natural laws, which is a context in which actions have predictable consequences, a foundational requirement for morality. So, high-energy potentially destructive events are a feature of a world in which we can live, move about and do good. In such a world, where virtue is possible, good outweighs the prospect for suffering and evil. And, in the Christian theology you dismiss, redemption is the across time solution that rescues good from evil and ultimately transforms the world so that good prevails without destroying the possibility of love.

    10] The presumption of a material world derives not from dogma but observation.

    Let us correct that, to make it more accurately reflect the actual nature of the evolutionary materialist imposition discussed already:

    The presumption of a material [-only] world derives not from dogma but [which is prior to and shapes our in- the - name- of- Science materialistic interpretation of] observation[s].

    In short, a priori assumptions and assertions here substitute for observation and are distorting the ability of evolutionary materialists to see what would otherwise be obvious.

    Likewise, we need to further correct the naked assertions in the teeth of facts already in evidence:

    It is [not] the explanatory success of materialism that justifies [is the root of] our continued commitment to it [but instead our commitment to an a priori worldview claim]. The door is not being held shut lest a Divine foot is wedged into the gap [between what we experience and observe as minded, en-conscienced creatures in a morally and rationally ordered world, and the chaos and amorality that materialism would lead us into].

    11] I doubt that Plato or anyone else around in 360 BC knew anything about modern evolutionary materialism but it us far from clear that he would necessarily have had a problem with it if he had.

    Of course, Plato did not know about the details of current materialism. But he unerringly saw the premise, the core dynamics and the implications in amorality. So, immediately on seeing the a priori suppession of inference to art as a causal facto on origins — BTW this same text is the earliest currently known intellectual record on the design inference as an argument form our observed reality of causal factors tracing to necessity [phusis], chance ["accident"] and techne [art] — Plato would cry: FOUL.

    And, in light of having seen what evolutionary materialism c 430 BC did to the leading Greek state, Athens, he set out on a proposal to correct it. (We may differ in details and some principles, but the basic analysis remains accurate and astonishingly insightful.)

    12] it is not radical relativism that prevents us from subscribing to unsubstantiated claims of being in possession of Absolute Truth, it is the burden of proof.

    Strawman, again.

    This time, putting caricatured words in my mouth that do not belong there. (And similarly for informed theistic thinkers in general; i.e we here see a biased, dismissive, prejudice-laced stereotype.)

    If onlookers will kindly examine my discussion on worldviews choice here — or simply recall my many discussions at UD on the warranted credible truth no 1, error exists — they will note that informed theists distinguish pure and undiluted truth from our potential for error. However, we also see that simply the point that error exists is undeniably true [on pain of immediate self-contradiction] shows that we may grasp certain truths as well warranted and credibly true, i.e. objectively true knowledge.

    From error exists, we therefore can see that truth exists as that which says of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not, as well as that in certain cases for good reason we can claim to have grasped it.

    Further to this, a cluster of such WCT’s then leads us to the possibility of discussing worldviews on a comparative difficulties basis, and making informed worldview choice on inference to best explanation; a type of objective warrant commonly used in the world of factual experience.

    Indeed, above [and in the always linked], I used just such techniques to show that evolutionary materialism stumbles coming out the starting gates and is simply not a credible worldview choice.

    Summing up: no-one is claiming here to be cornering the market on “absolute truth,” though there are some truths that can be known beyond reasonable doubt; some of which (e.g. first principles of right reason, error exists etc)may even be undeniably true and self evident. And, if the objective and experienced truth of the gospel is the real object of attack — and it is — Seversky et al have already been invited to examine its warrant OBJECTIVELY (but, routinely, have ducked the challenge in favour of the rhetoric of distortion and dismissal . . . no prizes for guessing why).

    13] The fact that methodological naturalism and science are amoral cannot be held against them as a criticism since they are not intended to investigate or adjudicate on questions of morality. To that extent, religion has no need to fear that science will trespass on that domain.

    A contraire, the very point is that triumphalistic, materialistic positivist scientism as advocated by Lewontin, Sagan, the NAS, etc etc, seeks to dismiss all claims tot truth that do not fit into their materialistic credo.

    So, what this is is a straight out self-deception projected out to the public as a claim or pretense that there is no war between the materialists who have seized control of science as a key institution of warrant for knowledge claims, and the vital issue of morality as a premise for civilisation.

    But,the actual, easily observed facts, tell a very different story.

    And so we have to correct yet another canard:

    14] Collisions will only occur where religion sees fit to pronounce judgment on claims that also fall within the jurisdiction of science.

    “But, mommy, he hit BACK first!”

    Sorry, the plain record and on the ground reality that is reflected therein — which Seversky et al would plainly have us forget or disregard — inform us beyond reasonable doubt that the assertion of the devotees of materialistic scientism, is that “science [is] the ONLY begetter of knowledge,” and that is in the context of an agenda to covert the public at large to that view.

    In a further context where “science” means in reality materialistic scientism.

    So, we know who the real aggressor is in the civilisational culture wars.

    And, worse, the assertion that science is the only beggetter of truth is a PHILOSOPHICAL claim, i.e. a non-scientific, epistemological one. That is, it is self-refuting and irrational.

    So, it can only be defended by tactics of distraction, distortion, demonisation and dismissal. Which easily explains what this post has had to address and refute point by point.
    ________________

    Okay, enough for the moment.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  182. Seversky,

    I am not arguing for the simplicity doctrine. I fully agree with Plantinga against that conception. But that is not what I, or the original quote from Lewis, advocate. God is not reducible to a property, but that doesn’t mean that there are no properties that anything has that actually exists. Plantinga would not argue against the scripture that God is love in John. He is not making an argument that God has no particulars, only that we cannot reduce God to His particulars. And on this head we can rule out what are category mistakes, such as was articulated by Lewis, that goodness and God are different categories, they are not.

Leave a Reply