Home » Atheism, Culture, Darwinism, Intelligent Design, News » Rabbi pleads with Darwinian atheists: Turn back from legal pedophilia. But they can’t.

Rabbi pleads with Darwinian atheists: Turn back from legal pedophilia. But they can’t.

Moshe Averick

Jewish? I'll pester you until you take your heritage seriously ...

The Maverick Rabbi, author of The Confused, Illusory World of the Atheist speaks up on the unmentionable subject in “A Plea to Atheists: Pedophilia Is Next On the Slippery Slope; Let Us Turn Back Before It Is Too Late” (Algemeiner, August 29, 2011) Moshe Averick points out that materialist atheism is intrinsically amoral. One results is capsuled by the journey of a philosophy professor:

Joel Marks, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the U. of New Haven, who for 10 years authored the “Moral Moments” column in Philosophy Now, made the following, rather shocking about-face in a 2010 article entitled, “An Amoral Manifesto.”

“This philosopher has been laboring under an unexamined assumption, namely that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I now believe there isn’t…The long and short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality…I experienced my shocking epiphany that religious fundamentalists are correct; without God there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality.

Marks then quite boldly and candidly addresses the implications of his newfound beliefs:

“Even though words like “sinful” and “evil” come naturally to the tongue as say a description of child molesting. They do not describe any actual properties of anything. There are no literal sins in the world because there is no literal God…nothing is literally right or wrong because there is no Morality…yet we human beings can still discover plenty of completely naturally explainable resources for motivating certain preferences. Thus enough of us are sufficiently averse to the molestation of children and would likely continue to be…

At this point the utter intellectual (and moral) bankruptcy of Marks’ position becomes apparent. After correctly concluding that a world without God is free from the shackles of the illusory concepts of morality and immorality, he pathetically attempts to have his cake and eat it too by suggesting that there is something “good” or “better” about the preference to being averse to child molestation.

Well, Darwin – the materialist atheist’s only true deity – could explain the preference of some for molesting girls because it sexualizes a girl early, resulting in more selfish genes being spread later. Of course, he can’t offer quite the same explanation for molesting boys. Oh wait, Darwinian theory accounts for homosexuality because gays can help siblings raise children, thus spreading some of their selfish genes more successfully. Thus molesting boys gets them into the habit of helping others spread their selfish genes.

What about those uptight folk who oppose the practice? Darwin can explain that too, as it happens: They evolved in such a way as to conserve their selfish genes until there is a high chance of success.

It all lays waste to any argument for protecting children.

In this context, “atheists” means “materialist atheists,” of course. The Dalai Lama (as other Buddhists) is technically an atheist, but the heart of Buddhism is the idea that the cosmos is – among other things – profoundly moral. Thus karma forbids any escape from the consequences of one’s actions. That kind of atheism is unlikely to catch on seriously in today’s West.

The Darwinian atheist, by contrast, thinks that morality is an illusion, as Michael Ruse puts it – maybe useful, maybe not. But the atheist decides which it is, depending on the preferences dictated by his selfish genes. That’s just so much more attractive.

How will it end? In “Our atheist commenters have kindly explained why atheism is doomed”, we see how atheists will destroy atheism: From time immemorial, people who flirt with “no actual morality” are easy prey for people dedicated to an evil morality.

See also: “Rabbi: Dawkins claimed that a debate he lost had never occurred – until it was posted online”, featuring yet another rabbi who doesn’t play rollover for Darwinists.

Follow UD News at Twitter!

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

204 Responses to Rabbi pleads with Darwinian atheists: Turn back from legal pedophilia. But they can’t.

  1. 1

    While in one sense admitting that there is no morality under atheism is a commendable adherence to intellectual honesty no matter where it leads, it’s a shame that the “Maverick” allows his anti-theistic compulsion to direct him farther than the edge of the cliff.

    Most atheists (like many here) stay away from the edge simply by not pursuing the ramifications of their belief that far, and are content to sit farther back up the road, pointing towards the cliff and telling themselves and others “there is no cliff.”

  2. C’mon, William J. Murray. it’s only farther than the edge of the cliff today. In the 1970s, UD News used to be friendly with atheists who were anti-abortion. There were plenty of them then. Few now. Back then we used to say that the current state of affairs was “farther than the edge of the cliff.” Guess the Reb thinks it’s time to start calling them on their history.

  3. 3

    Well, IMO there’s a difference between admitting to yourself and denying to yourself that there is no morality under atheism (or materialism), and that is where one recognizes the cliff and faces the choice.

    You can do all sorts of concept-gerrymandering up to that point to rationalize all sorts of things, but when you’re faced with the stark realization that your philosophy is necessarily amoral (as the “Maverick” did), then you have to make a choice that either everything is allowable, or it is not.

    That’s one of the reasons I turned back from the cliff; I didn’t care how absurd I thought belief in a god was, or what kind of grudge I held against it, or how superior to such “superstitious” thinking I thought I was, there are (to paraphrase Robert Duvall from “Secondhand Lions”) some things a man must believe in, whether they are true or not, because to not believe in them leads to his inevitable ruin.

  4. Hmmm. It’s legitimate to doubt any concept that would lead to one’s ruin, because such concepts are usually objectively wrong. How about: One more drink won’t kill me … I am unlikely to get caught … Traffic cops never patrol this stretch … Hospitals and jails are chock full of people who accepted assumptions that lead to one or another kind of ruin. The smart people just doubt those assumptions, as you wisely did. What can we then infer about materialist atheism, if we generalize from experience?

  5. “There is literally no right or wrong.” Then please explain under which circumstances would the following be morally acceptable: (1) child molestation; (2) rape, and (3) torture.

    To theists, all of the above are morally repugnant. To a materialist atheist, they’re the natural consequences of following where your selfish genes lead you.

  6. This is the problem with atheism. If all life is just chemicals at the mercy of physics and without free will, then the pedophile is not immoral, he’s just ‘nature’ acting the way his DNA forces him to act. So, the pedophile or rapist are no different than lightning…all can harm people and all are just chemicals at the mercy of physics and without free will. I’m just not gullible enough to be an atheist.

  7. Has God ever actually said that pedophilia is wrong? The Bible is a bit vague on the issue, particularly in the bits about Moses, and some of the stuff on marriage and rape.

    I’m not an atheist, but I don’t have a direct line to God so I actually have no idea if God thinks it is wrong or not. The issue for me is much simpler. Why would anyone want to do something like this? Would you want to cut your own fingers off?

    Saying that atheism will lead to it as a natural consequence makes no sense UNLESS you see pedophilia as something desirable, yet prohibited. To me it sounds like the people on this thread, and the Rabbi in the OP, are talking about pedophilia as if it is something they would want to do if it wasn’t immoral.

    Can any of you think of any reason why it might be a bad thing to do, in the absence of some authority just declaring it as wrong?

    Or to put it another way:

    “Why aren’t you raping those children?”

    Answer:

    “I dunno, I was just following orders”

  8. DrBot:

    The OT law is only vague if you think it’s edicts are age specific. That is, a male raping a female is rape no matter their ages. A male sodomizing another male is still sodomy no matter their ages.

    As far as following orders, do you really want to discover the consequences of such actions through experiment? We don’t need to be personally burned to know that playing with fire is bad. We can learn from those who came before us.

    However, we probably all know people who were abused as children and can still see the effects.

    Blue_Savannah: right on the money. Since chemical reactions are amoral, and if we are nothing but bags of chemical reactions, everything we do is amoral. In that case, “we” don’t really “do” anything. “We” quite literally react.

    Jean Paul Sartre was roundly criticized by other existentialists because he opposed Nazi Germany. Those atheists were being consistent in their beliefs. Sartre wasn’t.

  9. 9

    Can any of you think of any reason why it might be a bad thing to do, in the absence of some authority just declaring it as wrong?

    Because an authority declares something wrong doesn’t make it wrong; things are morally wrong because they detract from or violate the purpose of humanity.

    Things can only be “right” or “wrong” in terms of a purpose. Throwing oil, machine parts, tree bark and ocean water into a bowl and mixing it isn’t “wrong” unless one is trying to bake a cake; neither can harming children be “wrong” unless it contradicts or detracts from the purpose inherent in the adult-child relationship.

    If one denies that humans have an objective purpose (Aristotlean “good”, final cause), then everything is permissible.

  10. Those atheists were being consistent in their beliefs.

    If I were an atheist why would it be inconsistent with atheism to believe that harming children was wrong? – like you said, the damaging effects of abuse can be seen. Burning oneself causes harm and I don’t need an ultimate lawgiver to tell me that.

    I could believe in a God for whom the suffering of children was inconsequential.

  11. Because an authority declares something wrong doesn’t make it wrong; things are morally wrong because they detract from or violate the purpose of humanity.

    So if God (the ultimate authority) declares that it is wrong, then it doesn’t have to be, unless it contradicts our purpose.

    Any idea how we divine our purpose (in a way that everyone can agree on), and from that, how we determine if child abuse detracts from it?

    If one denies that humans have an objective purpose (Aristotlean “good”, final cause), then everything is permissible.

    why?

  12. Blue_Savannah, that sounds scary, but what if its true? What if the paedophile and rapist are no different to lightening? I don’t see where gullibility comes into it. If the evidence leads to that conclusion (and I’m not saying it does) then we have to follow it there. It seems to me that a lot of what drives the theist approach is one of fear. Fear at where our investigations might lead us.

  13. Timbo writes, ‘Blue_Savannah, that sounds scary, but what if its true? What if the paedophile and rapist are no different to lightening?’

    This is utter nonsense, and everyone knows it. People can choose not to rape children; lightning cannot choose to not hit the ground.

    Seriously, if you genuinely believe this, then I question your intelligence.

    ‘ I don’t see where gullibility comes into it. If the evidence leads to that conclusion (and I’m not saying it does) then we have to follow it there. It seems to me that a lot of what drives the theist approach is one of fear. Fear at where our investigations might lead us.”

    So, it’s not morally wrong, but it’s legally wrong. Should we abolish laws that relate to rape, molestation, and torture because they’re as natural as lightning? If the answer is yes, then whats’ your reaction when one of your friends or family members is raped or tortured? If the answer is ‘oh, well, it’s nature at work,’ then you are proof positive of the Bible’s correctness when it speaks of people ‘running to a low sink of debauchery’ at First Peter.

    DrBot writes, “Has God ever actually said that pedophilia is wrong? The Bible is a bit vague on the issue, particularly in the bits about Moses, and some of the stuff on marriage and rape.”

    Actually, the Bible is pretty clear that rape is wrong. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed shortly after a mob made up of adults and young boys persisted in asking for Lot’s guests to come out and be raped.

    “I’m not an atheist, but I don’t have a direct line to God so I actually have no idea if God thinks it is wrong or not. The issue for me is much simpler. Why would anyone want to do something like this? Would you want to cut your own fingers off?”

    According to scientists like Dawkins, we’re helpless against our selfish genes. If it feels good, do it, no matter what the consequences.

    “Saying that atheism will lead to it as a natural consequence makes no sense UNLESS you see pedophilia as something desirable, yet prohibited. To me it sounds like the people on this thread, and the Rabbi in the OP, are talking about pedophilia as if it is something they would want to do if it wasn’t immoral.”

    Atheism leads to it as a natural consequence because, according to the Rabbi, there is no real right or wrong. Apparently, we shouldn’t create laws to protect children from pedophiles because there’s nothing that makes it wrong. I’m not an atheist–thank God for that–but I question the intelligence of anyone who says that nothing is right or wrong. They’re denying reality in doing so.

  14. Barb, it doesn’t matter what I believe or what you believe or want to be true. To say something is “utter nonsense and everyone knows it” is pointless. Many people have thought they have known many things over the centuries and derided “nonsense”. It’s not going to make the facts go away.

    “If it feels good, do it, no matter what the consequences.” You imply this is Dawkin’s position. Please provide a reference for this. It certainly doesn’t follow from his coinage of the phrase “selfish gene”.

    You might also like to provide some support for your statement that atheists don’t have a concept of right and wrong. I live in a secular country where very few people are religious, and we certainly have laws against rape.

  15. Atheism leads to it as a natural consequence because, according to the Rabbi, there is no real right or wrong.

    But you haven’t explained why people in general would want to do this. If there is no right or wrong then why doesn’t atheism naturally lead to people NOT raping children?
    Why do ID ists keep insisting that atheism means people will inevitably do the worst things possible just because (they claim) anything is permissible – why isn’t the best inevitable – or is that the point: It’s not about reality it’s about political rhetoric and fostering hate and fear of people who don’t believe the same as you.

  16. Because “wrong” has no meaning, except perhaps as “Here is how my molecules happen to be reacting today”.

  17. Why does the lack of an ultimate authority figure render wrong meaningless in the context of human society?

  18. Personally I don’t think that atheists in general want to rape children or that atheist pedophiles are more or less likely to do so than religious pedophiles (with the exception that an appearance of faith creates one additional way to gain the trust of children or their parents.)
    Atheists inclined to pedophilia know it’s wrong just like someone religious does. The question about how they derive that knowledge is a good one, but it has no bearing on the outcome.
    Whatever a person does or does not believe is only one factor but does not determine whether or not they will do something they know is wrong.
    Who’s done more evil than the devil? He’s not an atheist.

  19. I don’t understand the point being made in the OP.

    There is absolutely no reason why anyone should draw a moral lesson from a scientific model, whether or not it fits the data.

    Nobody argues that because e=mc^2m therefore atomic warfare is ethical, so why should they argue that because young girls are fertile, having sex with them is ethical?

    Science can tell us some useful things to bear in mind when considering some ethical questions (for instance, how much suffering a living being is likely to experience as a result of some action) but it can’t tell the answers to ethical questions.

    My challenge to anyone who claims that atheism has no moral answers is to tell me what answers theism provides.

  20. Elizabeth, I dont think anyone is saying that atheists don’t have morality. What is being said is that under atheism there can only be subjective morality.What is right to one person might not be right to another, so that there can be no objective morality independent of the different opinions of people.

  21. The point that I take away from the OP is that belief in G-d is a useful pseudo-morality for psychopaths.

  22. I believe that atheists have the same god-given conscience as anyone else, and are just as likely to chuck it aside as anyone else. That means that we all have mostly the same basis for morality, even though many of us ignore it. (That might irk atheists, but it’s not my intention.)

    Most atheists I know are normal people who don’t do wrong things because they don’t want to do wrong things. I don’t see what’s constructive about telling people that their morality is imaginary. It’s like looking for evil in people who haven’t done anything. Why not see the good in people instead? We can debate where the conscience comes from, but they have them whether they like them or not.

  23. I can see someone is angry!

  24. Well said :)

  25. Well, let me pose to you directly the question I’m asking: how do you derive an objective morality from theism?

    And what is it?

  26. Very sensible comment – thanks.

  27. I believe that atheists have the same god-given conscience as anyone else, and are just as likely to chuck it aside as anyone else.

    Don’t you think you’re more likely to chuck it aside if you believe that whatever conscience you have is not only not God-given, but can never be informed by God or even some platonic Goodness, but rather is necessarily the result of factors not only beyond your control, and forces which are ultimately purposeless and pointless, and always will be?

    I mean, I understand the general desire to see the good in people. But not to the point where we start pretending their beliefs are more than they are.

    I don’t see what’s constructive about telling people that their morality is imaginary. It’s like looking for evil in people who haven’t done anything. Why not see the good in people instead?

    So, you’d object to atheists telling theists that their morality is imaginary, that there is no such thing as objective morality, etc?

    On the flipside, is it really “looking for evil in people who haven’t done anything” to point out what their worldview necessarily entails? Isn’t it pretty dangerous to pretend the person who thinks all morality is ultimately subjective really doesn’t think that?

    I notice that this thread’s OP has an atheist explicitly saying they ‘must embrace amorality’, that words like ‘sinful’ and ‘evil’ don’t describe properties of anything. Let me ask you this: Is the problem with Marks thinking this? Is there a problem with his beliefs? Or is it only his language? Like, ‘Oh, well, even if that’s true, he shouldn’t say it.’?

  28. So, nullasalus, how do you derive an objective morality/ethical system from theism?

  29. Nullasus,

    I agree that atheism, followed to its logical conclusion, means that there is no morality and that we should all do whatever we want if we can get away with it. But in practice, that’s not how they typically live or think. The guy in the OP is some weirdo in a turtleneck sweater. (That’s just how I imagine him.)

    I’m not minimizing the importance of objective morality. Without it no one would have a conscience. But it’s a huge leap to say that someone is going to ignore their conscience and do wrong just because they think it evolved.

    Atheists sometimes use their atheism as an excuse for evil. Theists sometimes use theism as an excuse for evil, or they just ignore their beliefs or pretend not to see the conflict.

    I’m not lumping them all together and saying it doesn’t matter. It does. But I can’t see looking at the OP and conclude that atheists want to rape children or murder. They say they don’t, and whatever other disagreements there are, I find that part easy to believe.

  30. I agree that atheism, followed to its logical conclusion, means that there is no morality and that we should all do whatever we want if we can get away with it.

    But why? Can you explain the chain of logical reasoning that leads you to this conclusion?

  31. Elizabeth,

    It starts with actually believing that God exists, and is a real person who has moral standards and the authority to set standards for us.

    Next, we strive to learn what those standards are. For many of us, we believe that those are found in the Bible. In some cases those are absolute laws – don’t kill people, don’t fornicate or lie.

    Not all laws are so precise. For example, the law to love one another. How does one do that? We can learn by reading the Bible and learning how God shows love, but it’s never going to be an exact road map. We have to follow our consciences and try our best.

    And most of what we live by aren’t laws at all, they are principles, such as being peaceable (that reminds me not to get carried away with what I post!) or not showing favor to the wealthy over the poor.

    More important than knowing what to do is doing it. Which matters more, a person who knows all this and then kills you, or someone who couldn’t care less about most of it but values human life?

    Here’s where it ends up: Belief in God means belief that there is an objective, absolute morality. But we can’t “derive” it. We only have what’s given to us.

    Think of it as a parent and a child. The parent has a much deeper knowledge of right and wrong, but doesn’t lay every bit of it on the child. The parent says, “Never punch your friends,” and that’s an absolute. “Be nice to your friends,” but there’s room for interpretation. As the child grows he learns what that means. “Stay out of the street,” but that’s not even about morality, and one day the child can make that decision for himself.

    So while we do believe in an objective morality, we can’t claim to possess it. Is it wrong to kill? No. God can kill, but I can’t. God can be wrathful, but I’m not supposed to. We trust in God like a child trusts his parents. We understand as much as we can, but we obey because we know and love God.

    (I’d describe it more clinically if I could, but this is more accurate.)

  32. Timbo:

    Pardon, but if a position leads to absurdity, that is a sign that it is in gross error.

    But, it may be being protected by intellectual strongholds such as abuse of the name science through a priori imposition of materialist philosophy, as Lewontin documents so plainly.

    So, let us recognise that that censoring a priori is a stronghold on our minds, and leads to all sorts of absurdities. One of these is aptly documented by Will Hawthorne, and the consequences of the imposition as shown expose the a priori for what it is, necessarily false on many dimensions (cf here and here).

    Hawthorne:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    Reduction to absurdity, QED.

    Similarly, we need to pay attention to the basic problem that the recent Maryland Social Workers’ B4U-ACT Aug 17, 2011 conference on trying to erode social and legal objections to pederasty and wider preying on under-age girls and boys, is exposing, namely the confusion of liberty and license.

    As I noted in my recent post here, we can observe one of the key, all too revealing, talking points being pushed in that conference:

    Our society should “maximize individual liberty. We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.”

    A glance at the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is enough to highlight the confusion:

    LIB’ERTY, n. [L. libertas, from liber, free.] . . .

    3. Civil liberty, is the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty [i.e. sense 1: ". . . the power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature."], so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. A restraint of natural liberty, not necessary or expedient for the public, is tyranny or oppression. civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain every man from injuring or controlling another. Hence the restraints of law are essential to civil liberty.The liberty of one depends not so much on the removal of all restraint from him, as on the due restraint upon the liberty of others. In this sentence, the latter word liberty denotes natural liberty.

    LI’CENSE, n. [L. licentia, from liceo, to be permitted.] . . .

    2. Excess of liberty; exorbitant freedom; freedom abused, or used in contempt of law or decorum.License they mean, when they cry liberty.

    That is exactly what is going on, and as soon as one barrier is eroded enough to shift political, media and legal institutions in favour of the latest agenda of iniquity being pushed, lo and behold, an even more extreme behaviour demands to be seen as acceptable. Our civilisation is plainly sliding down a dangerous slope and off a cliff. (Cf the acid remark on what lies behind that pattern, here.)

    Ironically, all of this was warned against by Plato in The Laws, Bk X, 2350 years ago. Not as groundless scare-mongering, but as the warning from a society that lost its way and was ground down then decisively defeated by its enemies.

    Including by its best and brightest, a certain Alcibiades.

    But, those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat its worst chapters.

    It is high time to say, enough is enough.

    “Let’s roll!”

    GEM of TKI

  33. F/N: I have commented for record at 4.1.1 above.

  34. PS: Let’s put the key B4U-ACT (as in, this is an agenda . . . ) talking points on record, clipping from a previous UD post that brought them up:

    Pedophiles are “unfairly stigmatized and demonized” by society.

    “Anglo-Americans’ standard on age of consent is new (and ‘puritanical’). In Europe, it was always set at 10 or 12. Ages of consent beyond that are relatively new and very strange, especially for boys. They’ve always been able to have sex at any age.”

    “An adult’s desire to have sex with children is ‘normative.’”

    Our society should “maximize individual liberty. We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.”

    Dr. Fred Berlin acknowledged that it was political activism, similar to that witnessed at the conference, rather than scientific considerations that successfully led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder.

    “The majority of pedophiles are gentle and rational.”

    The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders should “focus on the needs” of the pedophile, and should have “a minimal focus on social control,” rather than obsessing about “the need to protect children.”

    Self-described “gay activist” and speaker Jacob Breslow said that children can properly be “the object of our attention.” He further objectified children, suggesting that pedophiles needn’t gain consent from a child to have sex with “it” any more than we need consent from a shoe to wear it. He then used graphic, slang language to favorably describe the act of climaxing . . . “on or with” a child. No one in attendance objected to this explicit depiction of child sexual assault . . . .

  35. It starts with actually believing that God exists, and is a real person who has moral standards and the authority to set standards for us.

    Fair enough. One way of deciding that there are objective moral standards is to posit an objective moral-standard-setter. But that’s where the problems begin, it seems to me.

    Next, we strive to learn what those standards are. For many of us, we believe that those are found in the Bible. In some cases those are absolute laws – don’t kill people, don’t fornicate or lie.

    Exactly. So what’s “objective” about that? As you say: “for some of us, we believe….” That’s subjective, not objective. Why did you decide that for you the bible was the authentic word of the objective moral-setter? Why not some other book? And why are those particular laws absolute, and not any of the other laws found in the bible? Those on the replacement set of stone tablets, for example?

    Not all laws are so precise. For example, the law to love one another. How does one do that? We can learn by reading the Bible and learning how God shows love, but it’s never going to be an exact road map. We have to follow our consciences and try our best.

    Exactly. We follow our consciences, which, as you rightly say, we all have. But those are, almost by definition, subjective.

    Do you see my problem? I’m constantly being told that atheists, unlike theists, have no objective morality, but I see nothing objective about theistic morality, not least because the laws that are claimed to be “objective” are cherry-picked like nobody’s business and interpreted (rightly, IMO) by conscience.

    What is the point of believing in an “objective morality” if you can’t possess it? You might as well have an honestly subjective one, and derive it as far as possible from rational principles, like minimizing harm and maximising the welfare of others. In fact I can’t think of any definition of ethics that doesn’t boil down to that – morality is, in a sense, the deprioritising of the self – the drive to pursue actions for someone else’s benefit even when it doesn’t suit our own. Ethics are the set of principles we try to devise to define those actions.

    To be honest, I find that more often than not, religious/theistic beliefs get in the way of those ethics, because they introduce unsubstantiated weirdnesses, such as that it may be in someone else’s best interest, in some postulated afterlife, that they refrain from some particular form of sex, or some particular item of diet.

    Atheists keep it simple – what’s good for you is what is good for you, not what some subjectively selected book says will be good for you in the next world, if not in this.

  36. Dr Liddle,

    this has been pointed out to you, over and over and over again. Why do you insist on pretending there is not cf here on a worldview level grounding framework [just one quick case . . . ] for objective morality in the inherently good Creator God, as the IS who can bear the weight of OUGHT?

    The ONLY serious worldview foundation candidate for such . . .

    GEM of TKI

  37. F/N 2: For record, cf. here on, on grounding morality and a lot of other things on a theistic worldview.

  38. 38

    ScottAndrews said:

    I’m not minimizing the importance of objective morality. Without it no one would have a conscience. But it’s a huge leap to say that someone is going to ignore their conscience and do wrong just because they think it evolved.

    If one believes that morality describes an objective good, then that means one must believe that there is a purpose for human beings, and that there are consequences to fulfilling or not fulfilling that purpose. This provides fundamental grounds and motivation to not only examine morality as the most important aspect of our existence, but to understand it and do our best to be moral.

    If one believes that morality are just evolved, happenstance sensations that we have due to differential reproduction, one can consider morality nothing more than a taste – a flavor, so to speak, something that one can do or not do.

    It would be similar to not liking the taste of beer, but for the sake of peer pressure or some other desire, one acclimates themselves to the taste. Why not? It’s not going to kill you. Also, if one finds themselves in a gang and they want you to rob someone to gain respect, why not? Also, if you’re in the military and they order you to gun down a bunch of Jews herded to the side of the railroad tracks, why not? Morality is just whatever subjective tastes one happens to have acquired, which can be changed.

    Therefore, atheism opens the door to the rationalization of anything, as long as it is perceived to ultimately serve one’s own goal, whatever that may be.

    Elizabeth asks:

    …how do you derive an objective morality/ethical system from theism?

    If one begins with the premise that morality describes an objective good, then like any objective phenomena we find self-evidently true (it is always wrong to torture infants for personal pleasure) and necessarily true statements (if there is a self-evidently true moral statement, humans must have a purpose, since morality must refer to a purpose to provide any oughts), then on to contingently true moral statements (we should stop Joe from putting his cigarettes out on his toddler’s skin), to generally true moral theory (it’s generally wrong to harm the weak and defenseless).

    From such a grounding and premises, we can infer a rational moral structure by reaching sound conclusions about what is moral and what is immoral.

  39. I’m sorry, kf, but I simply do not understand the point you are “point[ing] out”!

    It seems to me that you have not solved the Euthyphro dilemma at all, but rather you have done what any reasonable person would do and to come down on one side: to assign what is morally good to God, not the other way round. And by coming down on that side you do not solve the subjectivity problem, but are in the same boat as a non-theist.

    My own position is that it isn’t such a bad boat to be in, for the reasons Scott Andrews gives – we do have an inbuilt sense of what is good, whether we call it God or not, which is why I think it’s the right side of the dilemma to be on.

    The other side is appalling, and no less subjective, as I see it – first you make a subjective decision about which of many postulated gods is the True God, then obey what you (again subjectively) figure out to be that God’s True Word. Which is where religion gets extremely dangerous IMO.

    But it seems to me you can’t have it both ways. There is no resolution to Euthyphro’s dilemma. There is no objective morality, merely what we, with our human intelligence and moral capacity can figure out. I’d say that capacity evolved, you might say it is God-given, but the outcome is the same either way.

  40. Elizabeth asks:

    …how do you derive an objective morality/ethical system from theism?

    If one begins with the premise that morality describes an objective good, then like any objective phenomena we find self-evidently true (it is always wrong to torture infants for personal pleasure) and necessarily true statements (if there is a self-evidently true moral statement, humans must have a purpose, since morality must refer to a purpose to provide any oughts), then on to contingently true moral statements (we should stop Joe from putting his cigarettes out on his toddler’s skin), to generally true moral theory (it’s generally wrong to harm the weak and defenseless).

    From such a grounding and premises, we can infer a rational moral structure by reaching sound conclusions about what is moral and what is immoral.

    But what’s that got to do with theism? Any atheist could, and most probably would, say the same.

  41. Elizabeth,

    I’m not entirely disagreeing with you. There is objectivity at the top. After that we have to start making decisions.

    And why are those particular laws absolute, and not any of the other laws found in the bible?

    Because that’s what the Bible says. Most laws were expressly for the Jews and are no longer binding. Even still they usually provide some insight into what God expects from us.

    I’m constantly being told that atheists, unlike theists, have no objective morality, but I see nothing objective about theistic morality

    No argument here. For what it’s worth, the Bible said that would happen too, more than once. But if we’re willing to try to sort that out then it shows that we’re really looking for it. Or it can be our reason for turning away from it all. It’s interesting that God doesn’t approach these things the way that we might. Rather than hang a neon light in the sky, he lets us show what we want by looking for it.

    To be honest, I find that more often than not, religious/theistic beliefs get in the way of those ethics, because they introduce unsubstantiated weirdnesses … that they refrain from some particular form of sex

    That goes back to my first point about being a theist, believing that God actually exists. As parents, do we set rules regarding when our children should have sex? (I hope so!) Why? Because we know things that they don’t. What if our children decided that our rules were “unsubstantiated weirdness?”
    Likewise, is it so hard to believe that someone smart enough to design life and the human brain might know something about that creation that we don’t, and might provide certain rules both for our protection and for that of society as a whole?
    Don’t we go to doctors and ask them to use their knowledge and training to tell us what to do? Or do we reason that what’s good for us is what’s good for us and that’s good enough?

  42. F/N: This is more specifically focussed on grounding morality, on a comparative difficulties basis, and explicitly addresses the Euthyphro dilemma, so called.

  43. Dr Liddle,

    this has been done countless times here at UD and enough times in your presence that you should be well aware; cf above at 4.1.1, noting the discussion by Hawthorne.

    Do you need a further discussion, on Provine, or on Plato’s warning from 2350 years ago on the inherent amorality of atheism?

    Atheists have the same implanted conscience as the rest of us, but the point is that the process of turning to atheism and trying to justify it on the usual premises tends to benumb said conscience, precisely through the amorality factor that radically relativises moral judgements; hence the way fashionable evils get promoted.

    And the issue at stake in this thread, B4U-ACT’s conference, is another case in point of yet another group trying to exploit that amorality and relativism, to the harm of individuals and the civilisation as a whole.

    Let us not lose sight of that.

    GEM of TKI

  44. Dr Liddle,

    you know or should know that the key issue ias the worldview level foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. Theism has such an is, evolutionary materialist atheism — the relevant sort – - plainly does not.

    This has again been outlined and linked above.

    So, this is for record, on a worldview level intellectual stronghold that seems to be blocking you from seeing what is right there in front of you, and has been put there over and over, here at UD.

    GEM of TKI

  45. F/N: Cf link at 13 above, and other comments from 4.1.1 above on.

  46. 46

    Elizabeth said:

    One way of deciding that there are objective moral standards is to posit an objective moral-standard-setter. But that’s where the problems begin, it seems to me.

    One doesn’t “decide” that there are “objective moral standards” BY “positing an objective moral-standard-setter”; one decides which premise is best for a moral system (that it describes and objective or a subjetive good) by examining the ramifications of each premise.

    Since a subjective-good based morality can justify and validate anything one wishes, allowing one to do whatever one wishes, there is hardly any reason to call such a system “morality”.

    Exactly. So what’s “objective” about that? As you say: “for some of us, we believe….” That’s subjective, not objective.

    You seem to be confused here about what the terms “subjective” and “objective” are referring to. Everything humans come in contact with is subjectively processed, including rocks, the taste of beer, concepts, gravity, dreams, buildings and faerie tales. We either believe those things to be entirely subjective in nature, or we assume we are subjectively interpreting an objectively-existent phenomena.

    The term “subjective” and “objective” refers to what we believe about the nature of what we are experiencing.

    Exactly. We follow our consciences, which, as you rightly say, we all have. But those are, almost by definition, subjective.

    No, they are not “by definition” subjective, unless one presupposes an atheistic or physicalist worldview. The conscience, like any sense, can be assumed to be interpreting either a purely subjective or an objective phenomena.

    What is the point of believing in an “objective morality” if you can’t possess it?

    What is the point of believing in an objective exterior reality, if you cannot possess it (and no one can, if by “possessing” you mean “prove”)? There are some things which must be believed whether or not one can prove them because to not believe them leads to madness or ruin (if one is brave enough to follow their beliefs where they inevitably lead). Objective grounding for morality is one of the things one must believe in, or failing that, on must simply ignore the ramifications of their belief, which IMO is intellectually dishonest.

    Atheists keep it simple

    If by “keeping it simple” you mean “unexamined to avoid dealing with the consequences”, I agree.

  47. Fair enough. That’s inaccurate and I’ll retract it. A set of morals can be derived from other sources such as one’s culture or parents. That explains why people can belong to a religion but follow conflicting morals provided by their peers or parental examples.

  48. Yes, I do need it, kairosfocus. I simply don’t accept that atheism is inherently amoral. I don’t think the statement makes any sense.

    As for Hawthorne – I find it odd that someone here should argue that you can’t derive an ought from an is. In one sense I entirely agree, which is why I think the argument that Darwinism justifies eugenics is absurd. Darwinist theory is an “is” theory – like all scientific theories, of course, it’s a provisional “is” but it certainly isn’t an “ought”.

    However, in another sense I disagree – I would argue that we can derive our oughts from what we know, or think, “is”, quite simply: if we know that some action of ours will cause pain and suffering (and science can tell us a lot about that) then we shouldn’t do it, or, at any rate, not without extreme counter-weighing reasons (to prevent greater pain and suffering, for instance).

    We don’t need to posit a god to figure that out. All we need to do is to transcend our own immediate and personal desires – look above the parapet, if you will. Believe in Good. As my son said: I believe in God as long as it’s spelled with two o’s.

  49. There are plenty of good reasons to believe in God. Atheism = no morals just isn’t one of them. It doesn’t hold up. If it did, we would see a consistent pattern of atheists committing horrible crimes and religious folk just staying out of trouble. We would all be afraid of atheists. We would tell our kids not to play with atheists’ kids. Presumably they would be easy to pick out of a crowd.
    If I were an atheist, this line of reasoning wouldn’t convince me at all. If anything it would have the opposite effect by drawing attention to how hypocritical religions can be.
    If all of the positive evidence doesn’t persuade an atheist, this certainly isn’t going to help.

  50. Dr Liddle,

    it seems your problem is you disagree with the solution, in light of your worldview level premises.

    That matter of opinions has nothing to do with the fact that it is demonstrably sound.

    The good God who is the ground of reality would make a world in accord with that goodness, and the goodness of what is right will reveal itself by objective factors such as are captured in the CI; i.e. evil profits by parasiting off the good. That is, if evils were to become the norm, the community would collapse.

    Morality is not arbitrary, nor is good independent of the foundational reality of the cosmos, the inherently good, Creator God.

    We therefore have here an IS who can ground OUGHT, and one simply not vulnerable to the Euthyphro dilemma, so called: morality is not arbitrary, God’s commands per his character will be for our own good, and good is not separate from God.

    QED, in summary.

    GEM of TKI

  51. SA:

    The issue is NOT “Atheism = no morals” — a strawman caricature, but instead that atheistical worldviews cannot warrant OUGHT on a foundational IS. the consequence of that inherent amorlity is that morality will be relativised and manipulated by the clever or powerful, much as we are seeing.

    And, notice the sponsoring organisation for that pederasty conference: B4U-ACT.

    This is the beginnings of yet another radically relativist, amorality rooted agenda that seeks to becloud and benumb to get the institutions of society to approve yet another destructive evil and censor or shut down those who would dare object.

    GEM of TKI

  52. 52

    Elizabeth asks,

    But what’s that got to do with theism? Any atheist could, and most probably would, say the same.

    For there to be a good that is universally objective for all humans, humans must have a purpose that is not open to subjective designation (note: not “interpretation”). IOW, we must be subjectively interpreting a purpose that is outside of our selves, much like our belief that our senses interpret objective phenomena that exist outside of our selves.

    If humans actually have an objective purpose, that necessarily means that some sentient entity created us for thta purpose, because inanimate, non-sentient matter does not generate “purpose”; only a sentient entity can do that.

    If you have an entity that created humans to fulfill a purpose, which we interpret through the sense we call “conscience”, then I think it is appropriate to label such an entity “god”, at least for the time being, and also in light of other, associated arguments which would also lead to a finding that such a label would be appropriate.

  53. Interesting reply :)

    I go back to my earlier question to Scott though – in what sense is a purpose “objective” if it can only be accessed subjectively?

  54. You are right that I can’t see it, kf. It seems circular to me.

  55. 55

    Elizabeth says:

    I would argue that we can derive our oughts from what we know, or think, “is”, quite simply: if we know that some action of ours will cause pain and suffering (and science can tell us a lot about that) then we shouldn’t do it, or, at any rate, not without extreme counter-weighing reasons (to prevent greater pain and suffering, for instance).

    The problem is that you are begging the question. Why should I care about causing others pain and suffering in the first place? The “ought” you are referring to is that we ought not cause others pain and suffering; why is that? That pain and suffering exists doesn’t tell us we should stop it or avoid causing it.

    You’ve lept over your premise; what premise or principle indicates that we should not inflict pain or suffering on others?

    We don’t need to posit a god to figure that out.

    You don’t need a god to assert whatever unfounded assertions you wish to make, but you do require some sort of grounding or premise to hold up your claim that we ought not harm others, when I could simply make the counterclaim – we ought to harm others – and have it rest as valid as your claim when there is no principle by which we can arbit our disagreement.

    All we need to do is to transcend our own immediate and personal desires – look above the parapet, if you will. Believe in Good. As my son said: I believe in God as long as it’s spelled with two o’s.

    Another begged question; why should I transcend my own immediate and personal desires?

  56. Hi Scott,

    It’s the difference between theory and practice. In theory, atheists have no reason whatsoever to lead a moral life and every reason to lead an immoral life whenever it serves their interests, ie. most of the time. In practice, atheists borrow their morality from religion because religious influence is strong, true and enduring… even atheists cannot escape that fact. Remember, morality is an exclusively religious concept.

    The purest area for discussion therefore is atheistic theory, not atheistic practice. For too long, atheists have been pretending that they’ve got a rational basis to be moral when they have nothing of the sort. It’s about time that people like you and me emphasised that fact (again and again, until it finally sinks in).

  57. 57

    I go back to my earlier question to Scott though – in what sense is a purpose “objective” if it can only be accessed subjectively?

    In what sense is a rock “objective” if it can only be accessed subjectively?

  58. KF,

    I don’t mean to oversimplify. But the underlying issue doesn’t change. Religions relativise and manipulate morals too. We just finished watching the trial of a man who raped and impregnated young girls and claimed that it was God’s will. What will we say, that atheists do evil because of their atheism while theists do it despite their theism? One is always a confirmation while the other is always an exception?

    Don’t forget, I do believe in God. I believe that what morals he gives us are the greatest anyone could have, and that everything else falls short.

    But in practice, in real life, the difference isn’t so easy to see. And as I said, that’s what the Bible predicts repeatedly. It’s an intentional obfuscation, and it works.

    And as a direct argument to an atheist, it amounts to stating that, yes, they are moral, but for all the wrong reasons. And as an example of properly grounded morals we use another group whose individuals may be more or less moral than that atheist.

    I’m not disagreeing with you. It just seems inflammatory and unconvincing to anyone who isn’t already convinced. An observation of people who profess belief in God does not tell the desired story.

  59. A rock isn’t “objective” or “subjective”. It’s just a rock. What is objective or subjective, in the sense in which I was interpreting the words, is our knowledge of its existence. If a number of different observers can examine the putative rock, and agree that according to shared criteria, that it is, indeed, what is normally referred to as a “rock”, then we can say that our knowledge that the object is a rock is objective. However, if several people look at the putative rock, and some think it’s a dog dropping, others think it’s a piece of plastic, and others think it’s a sea slug, and no-one is in a position to test it to determine which of those models best fits the data, then the knowledge is pretty subjective. And if someone comes into a clinic and says they have a rock lodged in their head, that no-one else can see, but prevents them thinking, we say that their perception of the rock is entirely subjective, and that “objectively” i.e. verifiably by lots of different people, using shared criteria) there is, in fact, not rock there, and the person is delusional.

    So my point is that if the only way we know that some objective moral standard exists is because we believe it to be the case, then that isn’t “objective” at all – in fact it’s an oxymoron. And if the only understanding of what that supposedly objective moral standard is is by subjective methods like the consulting of one’s own conscience, then it doesn’t even matter whether it exists “objectively” or not – in fact, I would argue, that the word “objective” simply wouldn’t mean anything in that context.

    We cannot establish the existence, or otherwise, or God, as we can of a rock, by measuring His/Her properties according to some agreed criteria and determining His/Her presence or absence accordingly. Or rather, I don’t think we can. I have some respect for those who say – Turin Shroud, therefore God, therefore the 10 commandments are true, although I think that argument is full of holes.

    So in what sense does it mean anything to say that “there is an objective morality”? Especially when you also say: “but we can’t know for sure what it is”?

  60. Inflammatory, certainly, but more importantly, unconvincing, as you say :)

    This was my point to kf regarding the Euthyphro dilemma. If we first accept the existence of goodness (and define it, which, I would argue, we can do quite easily, to most people’s satisfaction) then, in order to convince people of a the existence of a good God, theists can point to evidence that goodness is an intrinsic quality to the universe, or to other evidence that there may be that something beyond ourselves is Good.

    But without that first recognition of goodness, there is no way to separate the question of God’s existence or otherwise, from the question of whether that God is worthy of worship. There could be clear evidence that the universe was created by an Intelligent Designer, but that would impose no obligation on us to worship that Designer unless we had evidence that the Designer was also Good – and to know that, we’d need to have a prior understanding of what that concept entails.

    Unless you define Good by what the Designer says is Good, and even then, the only sources are via human media, and there is no guarantee that what is written is what the Designer Really Meant. And even if it was, I’d have more respect for someone who rejected the Designer even on threat of everlasting torment, because her conscience said otherwise, than someone who denied their conscience to obey the literal words that some human being thought were Divine.

    Wouldn’t you (plural)?

    (Not arguing with you, Scott, I agree with most of what you have said, possible all :)

    For most of my life, the most convincing argument I found for a good God was the simple existence of goodness in the world – of grace as I called it then, and still do, sometimes. I never found it confined, however, to those who claimed faith in a good God.

    Then I lost faith in anything other than the goodness part. Which was the best part anyway :)

  61. That would be fine, kf, if I was convinced by prior evidence for a good God, without first requiring knowledge of goodness. But how am I expected to regard a good God as the IS that tells me what is good without first having a recognition of what constitutes goodness?

    You say that your argument is “simply not vulnerable to the Euthyphro dilemma” – but you do not say why, you simply assert it.

    How am I to know that a good God IS without first knowing what goodness is?

  62. Well, I see others have happily responded to you thus far. Let’s have a look at your responses to them first.

    A rock isn’t “objective” or “subjective”. It’s just a rock. What is objective or subjective, in the sense in which I was interpreting the words, is our knowledge of its existence. If a number of different observers can examine the putative rock, and agree that according to shared criteria, that it is, indeed, what is normally referred to as a “rock”, then we can say that our knowledge that the object is a rock is objective. However, if several people look at the putative rock, and some think it’s a dog dropping, others think it’s a piece of plastic, and others think it’s a sea slug, and no-one is in a position to test it to determine which of those models best fits the data, then the knowledge is pretty subjective.

    The “sense in which you are interpreting the words” is then part of your problem. Saying it’s “just a rock” begs the question: Is it “just a rock” objectively? Or subjectively? If this universe lacked groups of people coming up with criteria (And how do we judge their criteria? Other criteria? How do we judge that? Wait, this sounds familiar..), were there still rocks? Atoms? Quanta? Energy?

    I suggest part of your problem is in your apparent belief that things ‘objectively’ are what they are only by virtue of a group of humans forming a committee and agreeing about such.

    And of course, there’s this:

    In one sense I entirely agree, which is why I think the argument that Darwinism justifies eugenics is absurd. Darwinist theory is an “is” theory – like all scientific theories, of course, it’s a provisional “is” but it certainly isn’t an “ought”.

    However, in another sense I disagree – I would argue that we can derive our oughts from what we know, or think, “is”, quite simply: if we know that some action of ours will cause pain and suffering

    I love it. In one sense you agree, so long as it lets you evade a conclusion you dislike. But in another sense you disagree, so long as it lets you bolster a conclusion you like.

    In other words, we CAN derive an ought from an is. Here’s the system: Ask Liddle, “Hey, do you like this ought I derived?” And if she says, “No! BAAAAAAAAD!” then you cannot, in that case, derive an ought from an is. And if she says, “Yes! GOOOOOOOD!” you can, in that case, derive an ought from an is.

    What’s really fun about this is that it actually brings back the Euthyphro dilemma. Either what is ‘moral’ is whatever we decide is moral (horn one, and if it’s okay for humans, clearly it’s okay for God), or morality is determined by something external (Which would mean no appeals to merely human ‘criteria’ – a Platonic Goodness, a God who Is Goodness, etc. Anathema on materialism.)

    Again, I suggest that the reasons you’re having problems understanding why theism and non-materialism actually opens the doors to providing proper grounding for ‘the good’ is because you’re purposefully confusing yourself. Likewise, you seem to think that so long as you really, really insist that ‘treating others nicely’ is ‘good’, that atheism and materialism has no problems with morality. But that’s clear bunk. You know it, I know it, everyone here knows it, and the atheist in the OP knows it.

  63. 63

    Elizabeth said:

    A rock isn’t “objective” or “subjective”. It’s just a rock.

    As I have already said, the terms “objective” and “subjective” refer to what we believe about the phenomena in question – its existential status. Do you believe a rock exists independent of your existence? Or do you believe, like solipsists, that the rock is nothing more than a subjective manifestation of your mind?

    Even though we can only access any phenomena, concepts, physical entity, rock, feeling, etc. through subjective sensations, we either believe that thing to be an objective entity, or a subjective entity.

    We only access sensory information about a rock through subjective, interpreted sensations; we only access sensory information about “right” and wrong” via the conscience. We then have to decide whether or to believe the rock is an objectively-existent entity; and we have to decide if what we experience through the conscience is an objectively existent entity.

    Solipsists believe that the rock – and everything else we experience – is all subjective. Moral subjectivists believe that the sensations of the conscience are reporting an entirely subjective experience; moral objectivists believe that the conscience is reporting information to us about an objectively-existent phenomena.

    What is objective or subjective, in the sense in which I was interpreting the words, is our knowledge of its existence. If a number of different observers can examine the putative rock, and agree that according to shared criteria, that it is, indeed, what is normally referred to as a “rock”, then we can say that our knowledge that the object is a rock is objective. However, if several people look at the putative rock, and some think it’s a dog dropping, others think it’s a piece of plastic, and others think it’s a sea slug, and no-one is in a position to test it to determine which of those models best fits the data, then the knowledge is pretty subjective. And if someone comes into a clinic and says they have a rock lodged in their head, that no-one else can see, but prevents them thinking, we say that their perception of the rock is entirely subjective, and that “objectively” i.e. verifiably by lots of different people, using shared criteria) there is, in fact, not rock there, and the person is delusional.

    You are begging the question. Why should we believe, in the first place, that anyone else exists outside of our mind, much less accept that if they agree and run various tests, we have established anything of any value? If all of that occurs in a dream – people agree with you that X exists, and run tests and conclude that yes, X in fact exists, and then you wake up, did X objectively exist? Or did you just believe that it did?

    IOW, how do you vet the position that science, empiricism, and others are indications of the objective existence of something else unless you first accept that science, empiricism, and others actually exist outside of your mind? How do you prove that your proving system is objectly existent in the first place?

    You cannot. There are some things you just have to believe first or else no argument can ensue. You must first elect to believe that some things (others, empiricism, science, regularity and consistency of experience) actually exist outside of your mind, or else your reasoning is in ruins and you have no option but solipsism.

    Similarly, that god exists and that morality refers to an objective must be true or else your moral reasoning is in ruins. Sure, you can skip the premise and beg the question and remain in intellectual dishonesty by staking out a position between premise and ultimate consequence and refusing to think about either, instead always arguing from the unsupported and unexamined ground in-between – but that is the essence of intellectual dishonesty, even if you don’t “feel” like you are being dishonest.

    So my point is that if the only way we know that some objective moral standard exists is because we believe it to be the case, then that isn’t “objective” at all – in fact it’s an oxymoron.

    The only way we “know” anything to be objectively existent is via fundamental, assumptive beliefs. There’s no way around the fact that all knowledge ultimately relies upon faith in necessary axioms, and that everything we know is ultimately only subjectively experienced.

    You either must assume some things exist independently of yourself, or you must embrace solipsism. If you do not assume some things exist independently of yourself, and also assume there is some valid means of gathering knowledge about those things, then you cannot proceed.

    And if the only understanding of what that supposedly objective moral standard is is by subjective methods like the consulting of one’s own conscience, then it doesn’t even matter whether it exists “objectively” or not – in fact, I would argue, that the word “objective” simply wouldn’t mean anything in that context.

    Then it doesn’t mean anything in any context, because by the same reasoning you’ve dismissed morality as objective, you’ve dismissed everything. If “what we generally and consistently sense (as humans), correlated to and arbited by necessary first principles and sound logic” cannot be trusted to discern what is objectively existent from what is subjective, then we are lost and might as well adopt solipsism.

    We cannot establish the existence, or otherwise, or God, as we can of a rock, by measuring His/Her properties according to some agreed criteria and determining His/Her presence or absence accordingly.

    You’ve begged the question yet again. Who says, and by what standard, that meausuring a rock = vetting it’s objective existence? You keep inserting your vetting standard without providing any basis for accepting it, exactly like you insert “not harming others” as the moral standard without any basis why anyone should adopt that standard in the first place. Without proper grouding or framing, your moral standards are just baseless assertions, and nothing more.

    Why should anyone adopt your method of having others and science vet what is objectively existent? What principle or foundation grants them that power, if not axiomatic, assumed principles and assumptions that we must necessarily adopt without evidence, since such premises are necessary before we can even describe what “evidence” is, much less what it means?

    We can establish the existence God the same way we can establish the other necessary first principles; without the existence of God, our arguments fall to ruin. Without assuming we exist, arguments fall to ruin. Without assuming other things exist, arguments fall to ruin. Wihtout asuming we have the capacity to willfully discern true statements from false, arguments fall to ruin. We can establish that God exists the same way we can establish that we exist, and things exist outside of us, and that reason works; not by proof or evidence, but because it must be true.

    So in what sense does it mean anything to say that “there is an objective morality”? Especially when you also say: “but we can’t know for sure what it is”?

    Once again: morality is a subjective interpretation of an objectively existent good. There are many moral statements that we can know for sure are true: they are self-evidently true moral statements.

  64. Why should I care about causing others pain and suffering in the first place?

    Because you are not a selfish person and care about others.

    Why should you care what God tells you to do? Is it just fear of future punishment?

  65. 66

    Because you are not a selfish person and care about others.

    That I am not now selfish, and that I now care for others and lead a moral life, is directly due to the result of theistic reasoning that largely began with my first exposure to ID; before that I was entirely amoral.

    Let me put it this way: my former book publisher dropped me when I forwarded a manuscript to him titled “The Right to Kill” which advanced the idea that we all have the right to kill anyone for whatever reason we deem fit.

    Unfortunately, that is where materialist/atheist moral reasoning ultimately leads to – read Ragnar Redbeard’s “Might Makes Right” – and I followed that reasoning to the precipice before turning back. It’s easy to just hang around in the middle ground and float commentary about “feelings” and “it seems to me”; it’s another to actually follow your reasoning forwards and backwards to see what is lurking in the unexamined shadows.

    Why should you care what God tells you to do? Is it just fear of future punishment?

    God doesn’t tell me to do anything; God leaves it up to me to do what I wish. What is moral is moral not because God says so, but because it is the nature of existence that God can no more change than God can manufacture a 4-sided triangle.

    Of course there are consequences to fulfilling the good or not, but one can hardly call what happens as a consequence of the way existence is a “punishment”, any more than gravity “punishes” you for stepping off a cliff.

  66. Also, if you’re in the military and they order you to gun down a bunch of Jews herded to the side of the railroad tracks, why not? Morality is just whatever subjective tastes one happens to have acquired, which can be changed.

    That’s interesting because every German soldier, upon induction, swore an oath by God to serve Hitler. These men who gunned down helpless men, women, and children were not all atheists. And the overwhelming majority were never excommunicated. To paraphrase, ‘I don’t want to be in any club that would have them for members.’

  67. 68

    Just an observation:

    MarkF and Elizabeth Liddle both, in debate after debate, “float in the middle ground”, unwilling to pursue their positions either downriver towards necessary conclusions (often simply asserting that such consequences aren’t necessary), nor upriver, never offering any grounding, basis or principles which could then be logically examined to see if their “middle ground” is warranted.

    IOW, they offer “not harming others” on an island, unwilling to rationally pursue those assertions beyond their comfort zones. They frame their posts with a lot of “it seems to me” and “I feel that”, as if such exhortations are part of a rational debate, as if they remove the obligation to pursue their reasoning beyond such simple exhortations, never responding to the challenge of why “it seems to me that simply killing you will make me the winner of this debate” would be a non-valid instance of “it seems to me” grounding, or what principle would establish their “it seems to me” as correct and mine as wrong.

    These two don’t offer logical arguments (markf has so much as admitted so); they offer announcements of how things “seem” and “feel” to them.

    It might be noted to that to ultra-modernists, how things “seem” and “feel” to them is all that is necessary as grounding and warrant for anything they wish to claim; everything else – logic, reason, first principles – is viewed only as bourgeois control mechanisms they are free to dismiss via their innate “will-to-power”.

    You can’t argue with people that ground their arguments in what things “seem” and “feel” to be to them, because that is functionally no different from a solipsist worldview.

  68. 69

    That’s interesting because every German soldier, upon induction, swore an oath by God to serve Hitler. These men who gunned down helpless men, women, and children were not all atheists. And the overwhelming majority were never excommunicated. To paraphrase, ‘I don’t want to be in any club that would have them for members.’

    It is only by theism that such an act can be rationally considered immoral; under atheism, it’s just another event that occurred like any other. I never claimed theism necessarily makes people moral; it just provides them the necessary grounding from which a rational morality can be built.

    Only a theism-based morality can condemn any act as immoral, even those that are claimed to be moral acts based on theism. Atheism cannot condemn any act as immoral.

  69. And it’s a waste of time arguing with people who refuse to admit to the weaknesses in their position, while demonstrably failing to reflect on those weaknesses after they have been repeatedly highlighted and exposed. Without refutation.

    Most atheists aren’t interested in the truth. If they were, they’d acknowledge their losses and substantiate their claims. When was the last time you saw an atheist here do either?

  70. I see the distinction and it makes sense.
    Playing atheists’ advocate (because that’s my job today) that means that if I’m an atheist, the belief system that provides a rational basis for morality is narrowed down to any except mine. The religious folk can all disagree with each other, but they’re all right and I’m wrong.

    (I’m not of the ‘all roads lead to the same place’ persuasion. If I believe something and also believe that you can believe the opposite and also be correct, then do I believe anything?)

    I’d be curious to know to what extent that influences atheism. Perhaps some are persuaded by science, but I suspect that for many it’s either disgust with the activities of religions or frustration with the illogic of thousands of contradictory “truths.”

  71. 72

    Atheism could be true, but that would necessarily mean that there is no objective grounds for any morality (and it would mean a lot of other bad things too, but I’ll stick with morality here).

    While I understand the religious problems that lead to anti-theism (I’ve been there), it is really no different than looking over the history of science and coming away with a disgusted anti-science attitude (which many do, BTW).

    Because there have been contradictory scientific beliefs, acrimonious and hateful events, blackballed theorists, false claims and views that endured for decades (or longer); because science has been used to kill countless people, harm the envionment, harm people; because science is used by bad peole to defraud or manipulate others … does that mean science itself is bad?

    Or, is scientific investigation a necessary perspective regardless of how often it is abused and misused by corrupt people? The institution of science, and the institution of theism (religions) are inescapably corrupt to varying degrees, because humans are largely corrupt and so corrupt any institution they administer.

    Regardless of how corrupt and fraudulent and absurd the institution of science is, scientific method and principles are still valid, and still necessary; regardless of how corrupt and fraudulent and absurd the institution of theism (religion) is, the principles and methods of theism are still valid and necessary.

    Only the non-discerning throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater. You can’t blame science for the BS done or claimed in its name; you can’t blame theism for the BS done or claimed in its name.

  72. Chris, this seems very bitter. And I find your assertion simply untrue in my experience. Most atheists of my acquaintance are extremely “interested in the truth” and many became atheists because they became reluctantly convinced that the truth lay outside religion. Most, in other words, have been more than willing to “admit to the weaknesses of their position” when that position was theism. So to assert that it’s something intrinsic to the atheist personality (if there is such a thing) is demonstrably false.

    What they do is disagree with you. They don’t “admit to the weaknesses in their position” for the simple reason that they honestly believe that the weaknesses lie in yours (and other theists’).

    Now, we can argue about which actually is the weakest position (and clearly I think my own is stronger, or I wouldn’t hold it!), but no conversation about the issue is going to get anywhere unless both sides are prepared to accept that the other is a genuinely held position.

  73. William, I’d like a specific instance of where I have grounded my argument in the way that something “seems” or “feels” to me, because I do not recognise my position from your description.

  74. 75

    Well, I didn’t do so here, but I was an atheist – so was Mr. Dodgen, I believe – and I did see that my position was unsupportable, largely due to arguments I examined on ID sites like this. So, I have reason to believe it is possible to change minds – even those hardened against the idea of God.

    The ultra-modernistic will-to-power mindset is very alluring; you don’t have to submit to any logical discipline whatsover; nothing takes precedence over one’s own “authentic” feelings.

  75. Well, that’s very interesting, but I think you make a great mistake when you assume that the position you held as an atheist is the position held by most atheists, although of course I am glad that you came to the conclusion that your amorality was untenable, as I think it is.

    I’d be grateful if you’d explain, step by step, the reasoning that led you to that position, and what the theistic reasoning was that led you elsewhere.

    Specifically, I’d like you to explain this:

    God doesn’t tell me to do anything; God leaves it up to me to do what I wish. What is moral is moral not because God says so, but because it is the nature of existence that God can no more change than God can manufacture a 4-sided triangle.

    which makes no sense to me.

    Nor does the analogy with gravity.

  76. Scott –

    if I’m an atheist, the belief system that provides a rational basis for morality is narrowed down to any except mine

    There is a persistent fallacy here which is:

    An atheist cannot have a set of moral rules set by a God or Gods therefore they can only have their own private set of rules.

    It just doesn’t follow. For example, an atheist may believe that morality is based on the golden rule or Kant’s categorical imperative or one of the many flavours of utilitarianism. As it happens I think morality is at its core based on common human compassion – but all these are positions on morality which both atheists and believers have decided is the right set of rules to follow. This has as much justification as following the set of rules set by the particular God you believe in. They all succeed in setting an objective basis for morality – but you have to make a subjective decision as to which set of rules you go for – as you a theist makes a subjective decision to adopt the rules set by the particular God he/she believes in.

  77. 78

    William, I’d like a specific instance of where I have grounded my argument in the way that something “seems” or “feels” to me, because I do not recognise my position from your description.

    What is your moral standard “Do not harm others” based on, if not that you feel or it seems to you that harming others is wrong?

  78. Chris – because of fear of punishment or because I want to impress other human beings, prove your worth, show your dedication and loyalty, etc. i.e. exactly the same reasons as you would want to follow a theist morality – the only difference is you believe in power with the ultimate CCTV and the ultimate punishment.

    But this is not really relevant because

    1) there are very, very few people who are utterly selfish without any regard for others.

    2) it may turn out that belief in some religions causes some psychopaths to behave better but this doesn’t prove that those religions provide the truth about morality

  79. Wiiliam wrote:

    It is only by theism that such an act can be rationally considered immoral; under atheism, it’s just another event that occurred like any other.

    And I dispute this.

    I never claimed theism necessarily makes people moral; it just provides them the necessary grounding from which a rational morality can be built.

    It may well provide them with a necessary grounding but it is not the only necessary grounding. Many atheistic groundings are possible, buddhism being one.

    Only a theism-based morality can condemn any act as immoral, even those that are claimed to be moral acts based on theism. Atheism cannot condemn any act as immoral.

    Anthropomorphhic metaphors sometimes hide flaws in arguments, and I think yours does here. Who is this “atheism” that “cannot condemn any act as immoral”? There is, of course, no such thing. Substitute “Atheists” for “atheism” and the statement immediately becomes demonstrably untrue – many atheists can, and do, condemn many acts as immoral. What you presumably mean is that you cannot envisage a system of ethics that is not founded in theism.

    Well, I can, and do, and over the millenia there have been many.

    I suspect that one reason this conversation is foundering is that none of us are being as clear as we should be about “morality” versus “ethics”. If we define ethics as systems of rules that state what is right and what is wrong and morality is the reasoning or drive to keep to those rules, then both are perfectly derivable without reference to a God.

    Or, if not, then I’m not seeing a persuasive argument why not.

  80. Sorry, forget to cancel a bold tag.

  81. SA:

    Kindly notice, I am not speaking of religions, or states, or faculties or any other human institution, or any merely human leader. All of these can be flawed, and not one of them is the inherently good, Creator God who is the ground of our cosmos and our lives.

    I am noticing just how hard it is to see what is being said, and what is NOT being said. That is a measure of how deeply poisoned the atmosphere is. (And, I am always a bit less than amused when words are pushed into my mouth that do not belong there. I have said and linked more than enough that what is being said and what is a strawman caricature can be distinguished.)

    Humans, are finite, fallible, morally fallen/ struggling and too often ill-willed. None of us is strong enough to bear the weight of being an IS who can ground OUGHT. And, when we stumble, we stumble before an intuitively known moral law. That law points to a Lawgiver.

    And, as moral strugglers, sorry, I get wary when I hear ANYone putting himself forth as a paragon of virtue or goodness. Fellow-struggler, yes, and here are some ideas and practices that help, and here are some ideas and practices that do not help. NONE of us is truly “good” and “decent,” beyond, I persist, however stumblingly, in the path of the good. (That, BTW, is why I do not really buy the new stock rhetorical character, the nice, decent, wonderfully moral atheist; so much better than those hypocritical fundies who dare to challenge his worldview foundations for what he thinks is good. If that sounds suspiciously like Nietzsche’s superman, it should; and that should give us serious pause. I am not hearing about the struggle to move to virtue, and it simply does not ring true. [I have also been on the receiving end of some such over the years, and I know whereof I speak.])

    When it comes to the now so often caricatured and derided Christian tradition, the core moral premise is aptly summarised in Paul’s form of the Golden Rule:

    Rom 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [NIV 84]

    Anyone who does wrong, does so in defiance of this law, a law which is not just written with ink on parchment or papyrus or chiseled on stone then transmitted to us by printing eventually, but which is written on our hearts.

    We KNOW it, whether we hold any particular worldview or other. (And that, BTW, is specifically written in the Christian scriptures, in the very same book of Romans, Ch 2:6 – 15. In short, this is yet another irresponsible rhetorical strawman caricature foisted on the public.)

    Now, where evolutionary materialism is a particularly pernicious error is that it is inherently amoral, it has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT. So, it naturally tends to benumb the conscience, and it relativises such principles, so that we are all the more vulnerable to short circuit it where we most need to heed it. For example, in the United States, in the years since Roe vs Wade, some 50 million unborn babies have died in abortion mills, and this is celebrated as “choice.”

    That is about a 9/11 a day.

    And, the ghosts of 100 million victims of such regimes across the past 100 years, speak out on the same point.

    Please, do not let the moral equivalency tactic mislead you. We are dealing here with a known dangerous worldview that undermines morality. That, we must never forget, as Plato warned 2350 years ago.

    Let’s hear him on this, again (as an independent witness, so to speak):

    [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 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 . . . .

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

    The problem, and its worldviews roots, should be clear enough.

    Unfortunately, there are all too many historical cases in point, especially over the past 100 years.

    And no, I refuse to change teh subject, especially when we see yet anotehr outrage being pushed on us to be transformed by rhetoric and misrepresentaiton into a perceived right. I have children, and I hope one day to have grandchildren.

    I have absolutely no intention of having to worry that their teachers in schools, or the scout-master, or the pediatricians they see, may be predators hiding behind yet another manufactured, pretended right to the wrong; made persuasive courtesy the dominance of amoral evolutionary materialism that undercuts moral reasoning in the public square.

    That has already happened too many times in recent years, and the wound is already mortal.

    GEM of TKI

  82. All true. I would argue that it’s a little easier to call science an “it” while theism is more of a “them.” But whatever my odd exercise was in playing devil’s advocate, it seems to have run its course.

    The trouble with religion is that it goes to the opposite extreme – no one throws out the dirty bathwater. If anything they try to characterize it as particles of dirt in otherwise clean water.

  83. You’ve done a great job Scott :)

    Let me do the converse:

    There’s a kind of nihilistic form of atheism that I do think is problematic. I also think it is a result of mistaken reasoning. What Dennett calls the fallacy of creeping exculpability.

    And I agree with him that it is, indeed, a fallacy.

  84. William

    First from 17.1.2 above you write:

    That I am not now selfish, and that I now care for others and lead a moral life, is directly due to the result of theistic reasoning that largely began with my first exposure to ID; before that I was entirely amoral.

    If this were true this would make you a psychopath, rather a terrifying person, and unlike any atheist I know. It would mean that if someone convinced you that God actually mean’t you to go on a killing spree then you would do it. However, I am sure that is not true. When you were an atheist did you really not feel any compassion of any sort for any suffering creature? If the answer is no I suggest you seek medical as well as theological help.

    hese two don’t offer logical arguments (markf has so much as admitted so);

    I think the position we got to was we agreed that we had different ideas of what a rational argument is. I offered some examples of my rational arguments. You declined to offer my any of yours.

  85. Onlookers:

    The above is a capital example of a point Schaeffer makes in his The God who is There, where many who hold to the sort of naturalistic, disjoint worldviews that we have been addressing, will stop somewhere in the middle between their foundational premises and their patent logical entailment, building a shelter to protect them from the logic that would expose the absurdities they cannot live with.

    We need to knock off the roof, so the force of the logic has to be faced.

    It is plain above that the implications of evolutionary materialism for morals are absurd, but by borrowing without acknowledgement principles from that which DOES have a foundation for morals, the cultured materialist wants to have his cake and eat it: keeping those principles it is convenient to uphold (as it saves them from being preyed on) but dismissing those that are not, such as say to regulate one’s sexual desires and behaviour in accord with chastity, fidelity and the creation order.

    The bankruptcy of such a pattern of thought and behaviour through blatant incoherence should be plain to all.

    A bankruptcy that points straight to the reduction to absurdity of the underlying evolutionary materialism.

    GEM of TKI

  86. Well, kf, on atheism and materialism, what’s wrong with incoherence if it gets you what you want? It could be fun – the characters in Alice in Wonderland seemed to get on well enough. ;)

  87. Chris, atheists have a prefectly good rational basis to be moral. I’m not quite sure why you keep asserting that they have not. Even if put it all down to “self-interest”, they have:

    Avoiding punishment
    Avoiding disapprobation
    Wanting to be liked
    Wanting to be approved of
    Enjoying being appreciated
    Enjoying seeing others happy
    Enjoying the sense of having made a beneficial difference to someone else’s life
    Enjoying the sense that after they die, they will be remembered fondly.
    Enjoying the sense that after they die, even after they have been forgotten, someone, somewhere, may benefit, or once benefited, from their actions.

    And, as you will see from that list, the further down you go, the more the person’s “self”-interest actually becomes aligned with other people’s.

    Why this happens may be through divine grace or it may simply be how we evolved. It may be that those two things are not essentially different.

    But the fact remains, and it is demonstrably a fact, that people are inspired to acts of great goodness and great personal sacrifice despite having no belief in a interventionist god or a Final Judgement, and they found their behaviour on ethical principles derived without reference to a god or gods.

  88. 89

    Well, that’s very interesting, but I think you make a great mistake when you assume that the position you held as an atheist is the position held by most atheists,

    Where did I say I assume that?

    I’d be grateful if you’d explain, step by step, the reasoning that led you to that position, and what the theistic reasoning was that led you elsewhere.

    Such has been provided to you repeatedly in this forum. I seen no reason to reiterate it now.

    Specifically, I’d like you to explain this:

    Should I also explain electromagnetic theory to my toaster? Oh well, you never know when a libertarian free will is reading :)

    You look at theistic existence, logic and good as if some capricious god decided what “existence” would mean, or what would be good, or what would be “logical” like a customer choosing a meal from a menu. “Oh, I think that in this universe, murdering innocent people will be wrong, and helping little old ladies to cross the street will be good. Maybe in the next universe I’ll do the opposite.”

    If god capriciously chooses what is good and what is bad, it is nothing more than might makes right. If god capriciously chooses “punishments” for right and wrong, it is once again a case of might makes right, because god could as easily elect there to be no punishment for wrong behavior, thus trivializing whatever “good” means.

    Good is either a fundamental aspect of what god is, or it is irrelevant to discuss morality. God cannot change what “good” is, nor can god arbitrarily decide what ultimate consequences will ensue from moral or immoral behavior, any more than gravity can arbitrarily decide what the consequences will be for stepping off a cliff; the effects of gravity, good or bad, reflect what gravity is, not what gravity capriciously decides.

    If gravity was sapient and had a voice, it might say “Hey, walking off that cliff isn’t a good idea,” but it cannot decide to “not be gravity” if you decide to step off a cliff.

    Such things as what existence is like, what logic is, what good is, are necessarily written into the system for anything created by god, because those things reflect what god is, not what god arbitrarily decides.

  89. It’s based on the principle that if everyone helps everyone else and avoids harming other people, everyone is better off in the long term.

    You can even derive it from game theory.

    Or you can simply take the zen fable of the noodle soup and the chopsticks in heaven and hell:

    In hell there is a vast vat of tantalizing noodles that nobody can eat because the chopsticks are six feet long and must only be held at the ends.

    In heaven the situation is exactly the same, but nobody starves because each person feeds another.

    Now, can you tell me what your “Do not harm others” is based on?

  90. Chris, atheists have a perfectly good rational bases to be immoral. Even if put it all down to “self-interest”, they have:

    Avoiding punishment
    Avoiding disapprobation
    Wanting to be liked
    Wanting to be approved of
    Enjoying being appreciated
    Enjoying seeing others unhappy (or happy)
    Enjoying the sense of having stuck it to people they dislike, or having helped out someone they like
    Enjoying the sense that after they die, they will be remembered with fear and respect, or – due to deception – remembered fondly
    Enjoying the sense that after they die, even after they have been forgotten, they will have left their mark.

    And as you will see from that list, the further down you go, the more the person’s ‘self’-interest becomes detached from their still existing.

    Why this happens may be through a fallen nature or it may simply be how we evolved. It may be that those two things are not essentially different.

    But the fact remains, and it is demonstrably fact, that people are inspired to acts of great evil and great personal benefit in part due to believing in atheism and materialism, and they found their behavior on ethical principles derived without reference to god or gods.

  91. Not sure what your point is, nullasalus.

    You are not, presumably, claiming that people are incapable of being inspired to acts of great evil and great personal benefit in part due to believing in god or gods?

    My point is that it is not necessary to believe in god or gods to be inspired to great goodness, nor, for that matter, is it sufficient.

    Do you disagree?

  92. 93

    Elizabeth begs another question:

    It’s based on the principle that if everyone helps everyone else and avoids harming other people, everyone is better off in the long term.

    Elizabeth, you’ve replaced one “I feel” assertion with another one. Why should I care if everyone is better off in the long term, other than that you feel we should strive for that goal?

    Now, can you tell me what your “Do not harm others” is based on?

    Harming others is acceptable in my moral system. It isn’t “harming others” that makes an act moral or immoral, it is the intention which causes the harm that makes the act moral or immoral.

    I’ve reiterated my process towards establishing moral principles several times. So has Kairosfocus, albeit in a much more extensive and detailed manner. You are apparently immune to understanding it, so there is no reason to reiterate it once again.

  93. I don’t find arguments of the form “this has been pointed out to you repeatedly” very persuasive.

    If I thought it had been explained to my satisfaction, I wouldn’t be asking.

    And I was asking you, specifically, as it was your point.

    And my point boils down to asking for a resolution of the Euthyphro dilemma. In this thread, atheism has been taken to task for not providing an “objective” basis for morality.

    But when I ask what is “objective” about theistic morality, all I’m hearing is that God is objectively good. But when I ask how we are supposed to know what that good actually is, all I get are riddles.

    That’s why I’m asking for specifics. How does believing in a good God (or, if you like, that there is an objective moral good) help you to know what a good action is?

    In practical terms?

    And how does it encourage you to achieve it?

  94. Not sure what your point is, nullasalus.

    Sure you aren’t, Elizabeth.

    You are not, presumably, claiming that people are incapable of being inspired to acts of great evil and great personal benefit in part due to believing in god or gods?

    What makes the acts ‘evil’ or ‘good’ again? Did the criteria of their community – even if it was a community of one – declare it to be evil or good?

    My point is that it is not necessary to believe in god or gods to be inspired to great goodness, nor, for that matter, is it sufficient.

    Who here disputed that atheists can, either in mere logical principle or due to historical fact, mechanically ‘do this or that act’ that others call ‘good’? That’s been a strawman and a distraction from the beginning.

    The focus has been on what is ‘good’ and ‘evil’ when we grant materialism and atheism. Not ‘if a single atheist drops money into a donation basket for charity, the theists are making an incorrect claim’.

    I think my counter-example speaks for itself. Not in a way you’ll get or admit to getting.

  95. 96

    MarkF said:

    If this were true this would make you a psychopath, rather a terrifying person,

    Untrue. Being amoral doesn’t mean one has a socially unacceptable psychological compulsions. It doesn’t even mean .. oh, but why bother. For you, “amoral” means whatever you feel it means, right? Why bother with pesky things like definitions from dictionaries and such, when it just “seems” to you to mean “psychopathic”.

  96. Alcibiades, in one word.

  97. Elizabeth, you’ve replaced one “I feel” assertion with another one. Why should I care if everyone is better off in the long term, other than that you feel we should strive for that goal?

    It’s your word, not mine. But let me accept it for now.

    Harming others is acceptable in my moral system. It isn’t “harming others” that makes an act moral or immoral, it is the intention which causes the harm that makes the act moral or immoral.

    OK, sure. Sometimes we do harm unavoidably. I’m happy to stipulate that we don’t call someone immoral if they couldn’t have done otherwise.

    I’ve reiterated my process towards establishing moral principles several times. So has Kairosfocus, albeit in a much more extensive and detailed manner. You are apparently immune to understanding it, so there is no reason to reiterate it once again.

    But both of you have completely ignored my counter-points, merely insisting that you have already “pointed out” where I am wrong.

    I see nowhere where anyone has resolved, or even attempted to resolve Euthyphro’s dilemma. A couple of people have claimed that the specific miracles of Christianity are evidence that the Christian God is the True God and that therefore the precepts of the Christian bible are true moral laws, in other words have opted for the “X is good because it is God’s law” horn, which I find a) unpersuasive and b) even if persuasive, not very moral. I’d go for my conscience over a biblical text any day.

    On the other hand, you and kairosfocus seem to want to have both horns without resolving the dilemma. At least I see no resolution in any of the links kf has given, nor in your own posts.

    And the question is very simple: How do you know that God is good if you don’t know first what good is? And if you already know what good is, why do you need to believe in God to figure it out?

    That’s the ethical version. Here’s the moral version:

    Is it more moral to do the right thing because it makes you feel better when someone else is happy, or to do it because you fear that if you don’t you will be punished?

    If you have answers to these questions, I would like to read them, or at least to be given a direct link to somewhere where they are very specifically addressed.

    Thanks.

  98. MarkF is justified in his definition. Robert Hare, a highly influential contributor to the construct, describes it as being “without conscience”, and “lack of empathy” is one of the core characteristics. Empathy, of course, is, in fact precisely about “feeling” – the ability to feel what another person is feeling, and by so doing so, to wish to avoid causing other people pain.

    Of course the psychopaths that land in prison often have antisocial personality disorders as well, and “deviant lifestyles” but, at least in Hare’s conception, the “successful” psychopaths do not, and are often remarkably successful, being able to ignore the rights and feelings of others in order to achieve their own ends.

    I’m sure you were not, and are not, like that, and it is MarkF’s point that you are not – and that therefore, unlike psychopaths, you were not, in fact “amoral”. I suggest that instead, you found yourself unable to systematise a moral or ethical code in the absence of a ruling principle, which you found in theism. That’s fine.

    But I strongly disagree with your notion that theism is a necessary grounding for ethics and morality.

    I think it’s interesting that so many people here (or at least a few) came to theism from atheism. I think it’s important to recognise that for most atheists it is the other way round – they came to atheism from theism.

    So to project on to most atheists what one came to reject is not necessarily sound, just as it is not sound for atheists to project on to most theists what they themselves came to reject.

  99. Spot on Nullasalus! This has all been pointed out to Elizabeth, here and elsewhere, by people like you and me, repeatedly, for months . She will not see the truth of her chosen worldview because, for some personal emotional reason not susceptible to things like evidence, reason or logic, she does not want to. She joins the ranks of almost all atheists in this respect.

    The best policy for any atheist is to free-ride on society: maintaining the appearance of moral goodness while, when the opportunity presents itself and detection can be avoided, acting immorally whenever it suits and serves.

    If any atheist attempts to respond to this, notice that they will be unable to refute this fact. They probably won’t even try. They’ll probably bring up religion instead.

    And what a waste of time that will be.

  100. BTW, very well said WJM.

  101. My point is that it is not necessary to believe in god or gods to be inspired to great goodness, nor, for that matter, is it sufficient.

    Who here disputed that atheists can, either in mere logical principle or due to historical fact, mechanically ‘do this or that act’ that others call ‘good’? That’s been a strawman and a distraction from the beginning.

    Well, at least some people (I thought it included you) denied that logical principle could lead from atheism acts “that others call good”.

    I’m glad to hear you disavow this position. But what is “mechanically” doing in there? What is “mechanical” about it?

    The trouble I’m having with this conversation is that you won’t actually say how you figure out a) what is right (ethics) or b) why one should do it (morality) from theism.

    An example would be helpful.

  102. That difference makes all the difference, Mark. And, in the real world (beyond the insulated bubble of a pleasant town or village in the South of England) many people are more selfish and more nasty than you will ever be aware of. Atheism is not always the cause of this but, with all its meaninglessness and inevitable oblivion, it certainly reinforces this behaviour.

  103. Well, at least some people (I thought it included you) denied that logical principle could lead from atheism acts “that others call good”.

    I assume you mean ‘some people denied that atheists could in principle engage in an any act that others call good’. Great – who denied it? Where? Who are these “some people” in this thread, and where did they do it?

    I’m glad to hear you disavow this position. But what is “mechanically” doing in there? What is “mechanical” about it?

    It’s a loose bit of language by me meant to illustrate that what you’re asserting is uninteresting and amounts to irrelevance in this exchange. If a person is condemning pedophilia, noting that it’s logically possible for pedophiles to give to charity gets the conversation nowhere.

    The trouble I’m having with this conversation is that you won’t actually say how you figure out a) what is right (ethics) or b) why one should do it (morality) from theism.

    And the trouble I’m having is that, again and again, you keep trying to dodge the implications of atheism and materialism by strange fiat (‘My conscience says..’ But who cares what your conscience says? ‘More would benefit..’ But who cares about who benefits, other than the direct individual benefiting? And what’s the metric for benefit anyway? Yet more ‘group criteria’? ‘An atheist can do an act other people call good…’ But who denied this? What does it have to do with anything?), and responding to replies with what amounts to ‘I don’t understand. Therefore I’m not persuaded, therefore it’s not a good argument.’ And then getting boggled when people are tired of the conversation and decline to repeat themselves again.

    I’d gladly go into my views on viable theistic and non-materialist foundations for morality – whether it’s classical theism, personalistic theism, platonic good, or otherwise. But when it’s clear that it’d be a waste of time, I won’t bother. And what I’m seeing with your interaction with kf and William is that yeah, it’s a waste of time, because you have other problems you need to sort out first. You either can’t see or can’t cop to the problems in a moral system you adhere to and claim to be familiar with. That rather stunts the conversation possibilities from the get-go.

  104. I would agree, Chris, that a sense of meaninglessness is a powerful reinforcer of antisocial behaviour.

    I would just disagree that atheism makes life meaningless. I think the problem here is that when you talk of life being “meaningless” you are thinking “I wasn’t put here for any reason”, whereas when I think of it, I think of “there is no point in living”.

    Those are not the same thing of course! I guess my position is that we make our own meanings – it’s what we are so well equipped to do, by virtue of symbol-making-brains that give us our ability to make long term decisions, and devise long term goals, as well as our capacity to feel empathy – to see and feel things from a point of view that is different from our own.

    It is not necessary to think that someone else (some higher being) has a purpose for us to think that our lives have meaning. Indeed I’d argue that the reverse is potentially true – that the idea that we are pawns in some grand plan beyond our understanding is potentially more dispiriting than the sense that we can be masters of our own destiny, set our own goals, and fulfil our own visions of our role in the world.

    I think that nihilism (as I think I said earlier) is a real problem, but it is not a necessary corollary of atheism, and is not necessarily solved by theism. There are some very fatalistic religions out there.

  105. It is not necessary to think that someone else (some higher being) has a purpose for us to think that our lives have meaning. Indeed I’d argue that the reverse is potentially true – that the idea that we are pawns in some grand plan beyond our understanding is potentially more dispiriting than the sense that we can be masters of our own destiny, set our own goals, and fulfil our own visions of our role in the world.

    Of course, “our own visions” are “visions that were thrust upon us by the machinations of a pointless universe”, “set our own goals” means “have no choice to do other than what we are determined to do by those same machinations”, “masters of our own destiny” means “tell ourselves that those machinations are ours somehow”, etc.

    Sounds great, until you examine it. “I am the master of my own universe!” cried the machine, as dictated in his programming, helpfully provided by no one at all.

    I think that nihilism (as I think I said earlier) is a real problem, but it is not a necessary corollary of atheism, and is not necessarily solved by theism.

    Of course, the wiki definition given for nihilism is: “Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.”

    In other words, it’s not at all clear that saying ‘well, subjective meaning!’ is at all a response to nihilism. By the above, it seems downright compatible with it.

    Ah wait, let me guess. ‘Well I use a completely different definition of nihilism’ or ‘Well maybe nihilism isn’t so bad after all!’

    Further down:

    “Moral nihilism, also known as ethical nihilism, is the meta-ethical view that morality does not exist as something inherent to objective reality; therefore no action is necessarily preferable to any other. For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for whatever reason, is not inherently right or wrong. Other nihilists may argue not that there is no morality at all, but that if it does exist, it is a human and thus artificial construction, wherein any and all meaning is relative for different possible outcomes. As an example, if someone kills someone else, such a nihilist might argue that killing is not inherently a bad thing, bad independently from our moral beliefs, only that because of the way morality is constructed as some rudimentary dichotomy, what is said to be a bad thing is given a higher negative weighting than what is called good: as a result, killing the individual was bad because it did not let the individual live, which was arbitrarily given a positive weighting. In this way a moral nihilist believes that all moral claims are false.”

  106. And, Chris, equally, it has been “pointed out” to you that it is simply not the case that “the best policy for any atheist is to free-ride on society”, and that, on the contrary, simply replacing human vigilance with an all-seeing God does nothing for morality per se, though it might (although there’s not a lot of evidence to support it) do something for compliance with an ethical code.

    There are plenty of incentives for atheists to act morally, not least being social disapproval and punishment, but for more importantly being the fact that behaving well to our fellow creatures tends to make us happier (I can even cite you studies if you like).

    Your “fact” has been “refuted”, with examples, many times, as far as I can see.

    Clearly you disagree, but you might at least do your interlocutors the honour of granting that they might actually disagree with you, rather than that they simply refuse to “see the truth” because of “some personal emotional reason not susceptible to things like evidence, reason, and logic”. You have been provided with plenty of all three!

    As Scott Andrews has argued, very eloquently: both atheists and theists are capable of behaving badly, and, indeed, of justifying their behaviour in terms of their stance vis a vis god or gods. Equally, both atheists and theist are capable of behaving magnanimously, generously, and even self-sacrificially. How are we to explain this if theism is the only foundation for ethical principles and moral behaviour?

    It seems to me quite easy to explain: that we are an extraordinary species capable of making long terms decisions that place weight on both our own long-term welfare and those of others. This means that we are capable of what we call “moral” decisions – of decisions that can either tend to place higher value our own welfare than that of others, or those that tend to value the welfare of others as equal, or even greater, our own. Not only that, but we are capable of elevating those capacities into an abstract system of values that we call ethics, and of constructing systems of rules and laws that govern the conduct of all members of our communities, on pain of rejection by the community, in order to ensure that everyone benefits, rather than a few “free-loaders”; not only that, but we are capable of enshringing those rules and laws as part of our child-rearing culture, so that our children have a chance of learning the wonderful lesson that it really is, on the whole, more fun to give than to receive, and more rewarding to do a job that gives others pleasure, or relieves distress, than it is to do a job that exploits others and leaves us with the transient pleasures that leisure and money can provide.

    Obviously it often doesn’t work that way, but that’s no fault of atheism, nor even due to lack of theism, but, I’d argue, a symptom of our inexperience as a population. We are learning, I think, and hope.

  107. 108

    MarkF is justified in his definition.

    Only in the sense that anyone who offers whatever definition they feel applies is “justified” in whatever way itseems to them “justified” means.

    Me, I go by definitions found in dictionaries. But I don’t expect subjectivists to – god forbid – acquiesce to an objective standard.

    Robert Hare, a highly influential contributor to the construct, describes it as being “without conscience”, and “lack of empathy” is one of the core characteristics.

    Why should I accept what Robert Hare has to say, other than that you feel he is a “highly influential contributor to the construct”, whatever on god’s green earth that’s supposed to mean?

    Empathy, of course, is, in fact precisely about “feeling” – the ability to feel what another person is feeling, and by so doing so, to wish to avoid causing other people pain.

    Funny, I don’t see the words “empathy”, “conscience”, or “psychopath” in the definition of “amoral” at dictionary.com or at merriam-webster online. However, this is understandable since you are conflating a system of rules (which is what morality is) for a set of feelings.

    I’m sure you were not, and are not, like that, and it is MarkF’s point that you are not – and that therefore, unlike psychopaths, you were not, in fact “amoral”.

    I challenge you to find a standard definition of “amoral” that even comes close to anything you and markf have said.

    But I strongly disagree with your notion that theism is a necessary grounding for ethics and morality.

    So?

    I think it’s interesting that so many people here (or at least a few) came to theism from atheism. I think it’s important to recognise that for most atheists it is the other way round – they came to atheism from theism.

    Why is that important to recognise?

    So to project on to most atheists what one came to reject is not necessarily sound, just as it is not sound for atheists to project on to most theists what they themselves came to reject.

    Who here has done that?

  108. 109

    Elizabeth said:

    It’s your word, not mine. But let me accept it for now.

    What does that mean? You either have something more substantial than whatever you subjectively feel is a good principle, or you do not. Replacing what you subjectively feel is a good principle with another principle you subjectively feel is good changes nothing.

    Oughts necessarily pertain to goals or purpose. If I ask, “what is the best road to take” (corresponding to “how should I act”), and you reply “Highway 63 because it is very scenic” (“we should try not to harm anyone”), the problem is that you have not ground your answer in anything other than your personal view of what “best” means – the most scenic route. You have answered my question about how I should act based on your personal preference of what goal you would like to pursue.

    If I don’t care about scenery, your answer is not helpful. The only intelligent, honest response for a moral relativist to the question “how should I act” is “What are you trying to accomplish?”, because “how one should act” is necessarily relative to the goal they have personally selected.

    Only if there is a universal, objective goal or purpose for humanity can one rationally respond to the question “how should I act” with a specific principle, such as “do not intentionally and needlessly harm others”, without asking them “what are you trying to accomplish?”.

    When you and other atheists offer such moral rules without even asking others “what are you trying to accomplish” and without the explanation “Well, I’m trying to accomplish X, so I act this way, but I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, so I can’t say how you should act”, you are stealing the concept of an objective purpose for humanity.

    As has already been argued and not refuted, purpose only exists in the mind of a sentient entity; if humans have an objective purpose (and not subjective, arbitrary ones they each pick individually, but rather one that exists independent of their choices and beliefs to the contrary) from which universal “oughts” can be drawn (such as the golden rule or the categorical imperative), that can only be because a sentient entity has generated humankind for that purpose. If we were not created by a sentient entity for a purpose, then it would be our subjective choice. We can invent our own purpose.

    OK, sure. Sometimes we do harm unavoidably. I’m happy to stipulate that we don’t call someone immoral if they couldn’t have done otherwise.

    No. It is okay to harm others purposefully if there is good reason.

    I see nowhere where anyone has resolved, or even attempted to resolve Euthyphro’s dilemma.

    Euthyphro’s dilemma isn’t relevant to what I have argued. God doesn’t command what is good, nor does god command us to be good. God ***is*** good; God ***is*** reason; God ***is*** existence; God ***is*** intention; good is not good because god has commanded it; good is good because it is what it is – it is a first principle. God cannot change what good is, what reason is, what existence is, what intention is, nor can god change the necessary relationships of those fundamental principles, because that is what god ***is***.

    How do we know what specific acts/intentions are good/not good? The same way we know anything about anything; we find self-evidently true moral statements; we take those statements, combined with other necessarily true first principles (right reason, existence, capacity to discern true statements), and reason necessarily true moral statements; find generally true moral statements, and solutions to contingencies.

    A couple of people have claimed that the specific miracles of Christianity ….

    Take that up with them, then.

    On the other hand, you and kairosfocus seem to want to have both horns without resolving the dilemma. At least I see no resolution in any of the links kf has given, nor in your own posts.

    Resolution to what? Show me where the dilemma exists in my argument, not in the amalgation of my argument with other arguments from other theistic views.

    [blockquote]And the question is very simple: How do you know that God is good if you don’t know first what good is?[/blockquote]

    How do you know that a peach tastes like a peach unless before you taste your first peach you already know what a peach tastes like? Can you taste of a peach and say, “that doesn’t taste like a peach”? It is the peach that defines what “tastes like a peach”.

    God is taken as the definition of good. You don’t compare god to some set of rules and conclude that god is good; God is what the rules of good are derived from. “Good” for humans is a goal that implicates a direction, and those directions are “oughts”; an “ought” cannot exist without a sentient entity; there cannot be a universal set of “oughts” for all humans unless humans were created by a sentient entity to fulfill a purpose. It is appropriate to label such an entity “God”.

    And if you already know what good is, why do you need to believe in God to figure it out?

    Belief in God is a necessary ramification of the belief that an objective good exists from which moral rules are subjectively interpreted but are universally applicable. One must believe in an objective good in order to develop any rationally sustainable, universally applicable moral framework, because without an objective good moral justifications collapse into whatever people “feel”. Without an objective, rational arbiter of moral statements, one has nothing to police their “feelings” by.

    The same rational framework is necessary to to arbit any supposed edicts of what is moral and provides grounds for challenging any social or religious or consensus claim or tradition about morality. If all we go by is “feelings”, or what consensus says, or what religious institutions say, or tradition, then anything can be, and has been, morally justified.

    The only model that has grounds to police moral claims regardless of who makes them is if we assume morals describe an objective good and are subject to rational discernment.

    Is it more moral to do the right thing because it makes you feel better when someone else is happy, or to do it because you fear that if you don’t you will be punished?

    Since both pursuit of feeling good and escape from feeling bad are selfish concerns, I’d say that neither motivation contributes any “extra” goodness to the act of doing the right thing. We must do the right thing whether it makes us feel good or not.

  109. 110

    Dr Liddle,

    You are as impotent are at empiricism. It’s in your phenotype and thus unavoidable, it seems.

  110. 111

    I want to take something Elizabeth said in this thread:

    There are plenty of incentives for atheists to act morally, not least being social disapproval and punishment, but for more importantly being the fact that behaving well to our fellow creatures tends to make us happier (I can even cite you studies if you like).

    ….and use to show the blatant stolen concept she is employing (not that it matters to her).

    Notice that she says … “There are plenty of incentives for atheists to act morally ….”

    First, morality is a set of “oughts”; “oughts” are statements of preferred actions/behaviors that are employed to reach a goal or fulfill a purpose. IOW, “What road should I take” is a meaningless question unless one knows what the driver is subjectively trying to achieve. Are you trying to get to Sacramento? Are you trying to get to the nearest gas station? Are you looking at scenery? Do you want to find a convenient, isolated area to bury your ill-conceived worldview?

    But notice, Elizabeth speaks as if she knows what the specific, subjective goals of atheists are. She even lists some incentives for them without even posting what she thinks the their goal is that would correspond to those incentives; she says atheists “ought” to act in a way that avoids social disapproval, ought to act in a way that avoids punishment, and ought to act in a way that makes them feel happy. She’s also said that people ought to act in a way that doesn’t needlessly harm others.

    But she doesn’t even know what their goal is! What if their goal is to change the morals of the society to accept things that are not currently acceptable? Would the same incentives apply? What if the moral goal of the atheist was to point out the hypocrisy of the current social order? What if the goal of the person in question is to self-destruct into nihilistic misery? What if they consider pursuit of happiness a moral failing? What if happiness and legalities must be abandoned to reach their goal?

    No, Elizabeth can only offer such blanket “incentives” for “moral behavior” for atheists if she assumes that what morality describes is in fact objective and would be universally applicable towards any real moral goal whether pursued by an atheist or a theist.

    Otherwise, she’d have to admit that she has no idea what would incentivize any atheist towards their goal until she found out what their goal was.

  111. 112

    Freekin phone. My apologies.

    You are as impotent in logic as you are in empiricism.

  112. God cannot change what good is, what reason is, what existence is, what intention is, nor can god change the necessary relationships of those fundamental principles, because that is what god ***is***

    I’m almost with you, except for stating what God cannot do. The Bible says that for him to lie is impossible, although that may indicate a consistent choice rather than a limitation.

    The Bible describes him as the epitome of many qualities, but only as the personification of one, love.

    The Bible emphasizes not just imitation, but also obedience. For that reason God cannot “be” the morality he expects of us, because he never needs to be obedient.

    That also means that what we might call morality is subject to change, because the instructions we obey are also subject to change. It was difficult for Hebrew Christians to learn that what they considered moral absolutes were only temporary laws. It’s evident that certain principles will never change, but certain specific behaviors might.

    The Bible sidesteps the morass of objective vs. subjective morality. The emphasis is not on morality, but on recognition of God’s authority and obedience to him. His laws and principles contain all of his expectations of us, both our inner thoughts and our actions. Therefore we don’t need to ‘be moral’ or ‘have morality.’ We just need to obey.

    See how that clears things up? Now there’s no question of whose morality is grounded, etc. There’s only the question of whether we choose to obey.

  113. 114

    My theism-based moral arguments here are not predicated on anything found in the Bible.

  114. And that’s why I am curious to know how you derive any specific moral precepts from your theism.

  115. His laws and principles contain all of his expectations of us, both our inner thoughts and our actions. Therefore we don’t need to ‘be moral’ or ‘have morality.’ We just need to obey.

    That’s very honest but rather frightening. Suppose someone believes that God expects him to kill all Jews (it doesn’t even have to be a correct interpretation). Do you really want him to obey? Doesn’t it remind you of someone who is dedicated follower of a dictator such as Stalin?

    That is why I not only think that morality is based on our subjective emoptions (primarily compassion) but also think it is important that this is recognised. Luckily it is by far the most common approach to morality in practice.

  116. William – when you say someone is behaving morally what do you mean?

  117. I have a longer response to make to this, but first tell me how you yourself discern the goal of moral behaviour from theism.

    And what it is.

  118. Possibly true.

    How impotent that is, of course, is an empirical question.

  119. You say:

    How do we know what specific acts/intentions are good/not good? The same way we know anything about anything; we find self-evidently true moral statements; we take those statements, combined with other necessarily true first principles (right reason, existence, capacity to discern true statements), and reason necessarily true moral statements; find generally true moral statements, and solutions to contingencies.

    And I agree. But why is that process not available to an atheist?

    I’m fine with a theology that says that God is good – it was, and in sense remains, my own theology. But that makes belief in God secondary to the understanding of what is good. It doesn’t render the first part dependent on the second.

  120. Unless by this:

    How do we know what specific acts/intentions are good/not good? The same way we know anything about anything; we find self-evidently true moral statements; we take those statements, combined with other necessarily true first principles (right reason, existence, capacity to discern true statements), and reason necessarily true moral statements; find generally true moral statements, and solutions to contingencies.

    But then your theism is based on your moral arguments, not the other way round.

    And I agree. But why is that process not available to an atheist?

    I’m fine with a theology that says that God is good – it was, and in sense remains, my own theology. But that makes belief in God secondary to the understanding of what is good. It doesn’t render the first part dependent on the second.

  121. Onlookers (And Dr Liddle and Mr MarkF et al):

    Pardon some painful but neccessary corrective steps:

    1: First, do you observe the denial- of- the- patently- plain tactic in action above on the part of advocates for evolutionary materialism?

    2: I am really disappointed to see these sorts of tactics surfacing.

    3: In the in brief previously linked, on dealing on the Euthyphro dilemma, had there been a willingness to seriously read and reflect then address the matter on the merits [instead of simply to brush the response aside], you would have seen:

    . . . the point of this dilemma is to try to suggest that theism or the like has no real answer to the is-ought gap [faced by evolutionary materialism] either. So in effect, we have to shrug, take moral feelings as a brute given, and try to work out the best compromise we can.

    However, the fatal defect of the dilemma argument lies in its pagan roots: the Greek gods in view in Socrates’ original argument were not the true root of being; so, they could not ground reality. But the God of theism is the ground of reality, so it is a classic theistic answer that the inherently good Creator of the cosmos made a world that — in accordance with his unchangeably good character — not only is replete with reliable, compelling signs pointing to his eternal power and Deity as the root of our being, but also builds in a real, reasonable, intelligible moral principle into that world. That intelligible moral principle is implanted inextricably in our very nature as human beings, so that for instance by our nature as creatures made in God’s image with ability to know, reason and choose, we have a known duty of mutual respect. And, when this inherently good Creator-God and Lord commands us on moral matters, what he says will be decisively shaped by that goodness on the one hand — commandments are “for our good” — and will also reflect a responsiveness to human beings who are morally governed creatures, in a relevant situation. (A subtlety in this, is that there will be cases where there is ameliorative regulation of behaviour too deeply rooted in a culture shaped by “the hardness of our hearts” to be pulled up at once without unacceptable harm [cf. here the classic "I hate divorce" case of the Judaeo-Christian tradition], but there will also be provision onwards for reformation of the culture [cf. here for a similar case, on slavery].)

    As a result, objective morality is grounded in the roots of our nature and in the moral Creator behind those roots.

    4: That’s the in-brief part. In the immediately following text at IOSE, reference was then made to Locke’s use of Hooker’s discussion in Ecclesiastical Polity [1594+] in Ch 2 of his second essay on civil govt, when he grounded the principles of liberty, justice, rights and self-defence [individual and collective] in the community.

    5: Let me cite Hooker, as Hooker actually elaborates on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, to explain himself:

    . . . 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 . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80]

    6: In short, the central issue is to ground OUGHT in an IS in the foundation of a worldview, given the force of Hume’s notorious “I am surprized” IS-OUGHT challenge. And, as WJM et al have highlighted, oughtness is also inextricably bound up with the purpose of that which the ought applies to. It is also tied into a concept of reciprocity of equals that ties into mutual respect.

    7: As long since repeatedly highlighted, evolutionary materialism as a matter of patent fact has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT, thus it is inherently radically relativist and amoral, reducing morality to psycho-social or rhetorical manipulation and might makes right.

    8: The utter destructiveness of that is patent, on abundant history — and notice the telling silence on Alcibiades (the real world historical prototype for the Nietzschean superman, if we needed one . . . ) as linked above.

    9: Since there is no justification of morality on evo mat — patent to all who would behold and reflect ever since the days of the collapse of Athens that was so materially contributed to by the machinations of said Alcibiades through his amoral behaviour — the rhetorical tactic of resort is to try to drag theism down to the same level.

    10: If that tactic succeeds rhetorically, we would think we were all in the same amoral boat — observe for instance the increasingly common atheistical pretence that God giving us commands for our own good [as in "when all else fails follow the manufacturer's instructions'] is equivalent to a Hitler or a Stalin imposing evil by might makes “right” totalitarian tactics.

    11: Truly, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks! And, by your words you are justified or condemned! (Such words of projection — and outright blasphemy, frankly — are an utterly telling self-condemnation.)

    12: Now, with the modern use of the Euthyphro so-called dilemma, we are here dealing with a bit subtler level; one that is not so crude. But it is the same fundamental error.

    13: You will see in the clip above, that I pointed out the correction tot he Euthyphro dilemmma that has been on the table for 1500 or more years: an objection to the limitations of gods who were in effect Nietzschean supermen writ large, has nothing to do with the grounding of morality in the goodness of the Creator God who is — by core conception — the foundation of reality.

    14: In short the Euthyphro dilemma, as used nowadays to try to undermine the ethics of theism, is a subtle strawman argument, which is also therefore automatically a red herring distractor from the real issue. [Strawman arguments are inherently distractive and irrelevant, so this fallacy is always a sub-set of the red herring fallacy.]

    15: Let me repeat, as such needs to be hammered home to get through the protective roof of fallacies that deflects the force of the issues faced by evo mat and its fellow travellers: the Euthyphro dilemma is simply and utterly irrelevant to the grounding of OUGHT in the inherently good character of the Creator, Lord and God who made us, loves us, and guides us towards our purpose as his stewards on earth, stewards who by DESIGN are free so we can have actual capacity to love and act towards virtue under moral government.

    16: Now, let us look briefly at the logical structure of the grounding of OUGHT in that IS:

    a –> God — by core concept — is the ground of being, the necessary being behind our contingent world, the Creator and Lord, so all of reality would be rooted in that IS.

    b –> And if you doubt or reject that IS, remember that first, the issue is the validity, just look at this as an explanation on a candidate. Then, you can also explore — start here on — why there is a serious reason to accept that this IS is not only suggested, or possible, but actual. (That is an important but tangential issue dealt with elsewhere, so let us not go off after a second distraction.)

    c –> As Designer, Maker and Creator, God’s intent would build purpose into the cosmos, and what is in it, including us. So, the concept of goodness and that of oughtness, will be deeply embedded with that purposiveness.

    d –> The pivot is that God’s character is INHERENTLY good, so his purposes and operations to give those purposes effect will reflect that character. Therefore the OUGHTNESS built into the cosmos and those in it, will be good.

    e –> Nor is this circular, as the goodness of God and the reasonablenesss of the principles of ought are sufficiently intelligible to the willing heart and mind, that we can see that reasonableness and find it sufficiently warranted to be plainly responsible to act on it. As Hooker highlighted in the clip above, and as Locke says elsewhere in his too often overlooked “candle that is set up in us” remark.

    f –> As I have repeatedly pointed out (and just as repeatedly been studiously ignored on), the Categorical Imperative approach that examines the sustainability of a pattern of thought or speech or action, is a good example on this.

    g –> That is, actions that are morally unsound parasite off the fact that the majority of people, the majority of the time, do not act like that, or society would be seriously harmed or would even collapse.

    h –> For instance, if we could not take it as given that most of the time, most people tell the truth so far as they know it, verbal communication would break down and society would collapse, frustrating human flourishing.

    i –> Similarly, if sufficient of a proportion of checques in a community become rubberised, the whole enterprise of using checques will collapse.

    j –> Yet again, if enough counterfeit money gets into a society, the money will be discredited and the economy would suffer severely, again undermining human flourishing. And so forth.

    k –> So, we can recognise enough about the purpose of our existence, that we can see that specific evils, if hey become prevalent, would undermine it. That is, key moral principles are objectively discernible, once one is willing to accept that there is a purpose to human existence and a consequent moral value of the individual human being, thence an equality among us that should be respected.

    l –> Immediately, it is apparent that that which persuasively tends to undermine our ability to discern our purpose, value, dignity and equality, is an existential threat to humanity. (And evolutionary materialists, in case you were wondering: this means your favourite worldview, whether dressed up in the holy lab coat and pronounced in suitably august tones by the new high priesthood as they censor questions and exposure of problems, or not.)

    m –> By utter contrast, the inherently good God, has a goodness that is discernible to those who will but look and reflect seriously. And the basic principles of commanded morality do commend themselves as being consistent with that sustainability principle. Namely, the Golden Rule, as we all know, and as Hooker so eloquently discussed. And indeed, from this and its cognate, to respect as well our inherently good Creator, all the law and prophets do depend.

    17 –> So, plainly, theism has an IS that can properly ground OUGHT. Actually, the only serious candidate to be such an IS: the inherently good Creator God.

    18 –> nor is this a secret or an unintelligible mystery. Save, to those who have so willfully forgotten their purpose that they have sought to create a world of knowledge that locks out the possibility of God from what they will accept as knowledge.

    19 –> The entirely predictable result is en-darkened minds, and benumbed consciences, leading to the sort of incoherent, patently absurd chaos that we have been warned against for thousands of years, starting with Plato in The Laws, Bk X, with Alcibiades as Exhibit no 1.

    20 –> In case you are inclined to doubt me on the specific relevance or accuracy of this, let me cite again prof Lewontin in that famous 1997 NYRB article, on Sagan and the scientific elites, per the refreshingly honest report of one of said elites:

    . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    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 [[another major begging of the question . . . ] 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 [[i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [And if you have become so endarkened as to imagine tha the immediately following words JUSTIFY the above, kindly cf here for the fuller cite and notes with onward links.]

    _____________

    The matter is plain enough for those who are willing to see.

    Let us see if we will now at length have a serious engagement on the merits, instead of more dismissive or distractive rhetoric.

    GEM of TKI

  122. OOPS, I forgot to close an italicisation properly.

  123. 124

    Elizabeth asks:

    And I agree. But why is that process not available to an atheist?

    There’s no such thing as a self-evidently true moral statement under atheism, because there is no objective good that could produce self-evidently true, universal moral statements. Under atheism, all “oughts” are derived from subjectively-chosen purposes.

    But that makes belief in God secondary to the understanding of what is good. It doesn’t render the first part dependent on the second.

    It doesn’t make god a secondary conclusion; it makes god a necessary premise. IOW, you can’t claim a universal, objective good for humanity exists (good, which is a final cause, goal or purpose) without also premising God (sentient creator) as the source of that goal or purpose.

  124. 125

    But then your theism is based on your moral arguments, not the other way round.

    In this particular case, the argument reveals that in order to have a rational, universally applicable moral system by which one is logically empowered and sustained to challenge any moral edict or rule with reasoned, grounded argument, is if and only if one holds that morals must correspond to an objectively exsistent, universal “good” (purpose, final cause).

    This solid, logical reasoning reveals that we must posit another premise in order to achieve (ground, provide basis for) a universally-applicable objective good; we must have sentient creator that provides a “purpose” or “final cause”.

    This is not what my theism is based on; it is one argument for the existence of god I’ve developed after becoming a theist.

  125. There are so many different questions here it is beginning to make my head hurt.  So I am going to try and identify what I think are the most important ones and comment on them. I am sorry it is rather long.

    Q1) What do words like “good”, “bad”, “right” and “wrong” mean when used in their moral sense?

    (a) If we are using them in different ways then our dispute is purely semantic and not very important.

    (b) Assuming we are using them in the same way, then clearly they do not mean something like “as God ordains” because many of us don’t even believe in God – so we can’t be meaning that!

    (c) The answer may not be easy.  Just because you know how to use a word it doesn’t mean it is easy to describe how you use it – just like riding a bicycle.

    Q2) Is there an ultimate justification for our moral judgements which is objective and in some sense the true or correct justification?

    (a) We all justify our moral judgements in the sense of producing reasons, but this doesn’t entail there is an ultimate justification.  There may only be partial justifications available which influence others but are not logically clinching.

    (b) Many people, if challenged, will produce a set of rules which they consider to be their justification.  For some this is based on their God and the rules they believe their God has given them for being moral.  For others (including some theists) it is based on considerations such as the Golden rule. 

    (c) Others, including myself, don’t think such a set or rules can ever be an ultimate justification because for any such set of rules you can always ask “but why do you believe this set of rules to be good?” i.e. you have to make a subjective decision about which objective set of rules to adopt.  We base on our justification on common human nature and the natural desire most of us have to help others. For us, following Hume, we believe ethical rules to be descriptive rather than prescriptive (or possibly to be useful heuristic tools to help us behave in a manner most of us find (subjectively) moral.

    (d) It is inadequate to answer this by saying your set of rules defines what is good. This is to provide an answer to question 1 not question 2!  If you define good as conforming to your God’s rules then we have a semantic dispute – because that is not what I mean by good.

    Q3) If people do not believe in an ultimate justification how will they behave? Chris in particular seems to think they will behave very badly.

    (a) This is a question about how people will behave given a belief.  It is not a question about whether that belief is true.  It might be the case that there is no ultimate justification for morality but we ought to keep quiet about it because if the truth were known people would behave very badly.

    (b) The answer to this question is empirical not logical, to be discovered through studying how people actually do behave. The experts are psychologists and sociologists – not philosophers or theologians.

    (c) It is closely related to the question – how will people behave if they do not believe there will be an ultimate sanction for misbehaviour.  Again this is an empirical question – not a logical or theological one.

    Q4) If there is no ultimate set of rules why wouldn’t I behave amorally?

    (a ) Almost the same as Q3 but this is asking what logical reason is there for me to behave morally if there is no set of rules.  Lizzie gave a list of reasons above:

    Avoiding punishment
    Avoiding disapprobation

    Wanting to be liked

    Wanting to be approved of

    Enjoying being appreciated

    Enjoying seeing others unhappy (or happy)

    Enjoying the sense of having stuck it to people they dislike, or having helped out someone they like

    Enjoying the sense that after they die, they will be remembered with fear and respect, or – due to deception – remembered fondly

    Enjoying the sense that after they die, even after they have been forgotten, they will have left their mark.

  126. 127

    MarkF asks:

    William – when you say someone is behaving morally what do you mean?

    It means they are pursuing/fulfilling the good, which is embodied by God. In practical, specific terms, it means they are behaving in a way that comports with self-evidently true moral statements (such as: it is always immoral to torture infants for personal pleasure) and rationally-derived extensions and inferences based on those true statements, arbited by first principle considerations (we exist, other things exist, logic works, we are capable of discerning true statements from false, there is an objective good, we are responsible for our intentions).

    Elizabeth says:

    I have a longer response to make to this, but first tell me how you yourself discern the goal of moral behaviour from theism.

    The goal is a necessary extension of the logic; since god is “what good is”, and morality is the pursuit or fulfillment of the good, the goal can only be to become like god, towards union with or re-union with god, or to get closer to god. There are many ways to phrase it.

    IOW, we are not now as “like god” as we could be; we have the option (free will) to choose to become more like god (move in god’s direction), to hang around in our current status, or to actively pursue the opposite.

    BTW: under this argument, since god “is” what existence “is”, and god “is” what love is; and god “is” what good “is”; and god “is” what reason “is”; I leave it to you to figure out the inescapable consequences of a path of god-abandonment.

    Gravity, if sapient, might say “Don’t step off the cliff!”, but it cannot stop being gravity if you are intent on doing so. God cannot stop being god, nor change the consequences of a path of god-abandonment.

  127. Pardon, MF, but that looks a lot like trying to bury quite reasonable explorations and answers under a blizzard of fallaciously complex questions repeated drumbeat style, in the teeth of any and all responses that threaten to resolve them.

    For instance, why are you suggesting there may be no ultimate answer as your rebuttal to a test case on a necessary being who would perforce be the ultimate answer: the inherently good, creator God, if real [and I here allude to the issue in Modal logic on necessary beings and possibility vs actuality]?

    Why not instead actually engage the points made, cogently, on the merits?

  128. 129

    Kairosfocus,

    Posts such as yours above open the door wide, leaving it only up to the choice of the reader to take the step through or not. As always, your enduring patience and efforts are not only appreciated, but are inspiring.

  129. 131

    I don’t think markf abides by the rules of argument theory; his comments (I believe) are generated to elicit a feeling in the audience (appeal to emotion) rather than as an attempt to discern truth.

    From what I understand (from what he has explicitly said elsewhere), that is how markf defines “a rational debate”.

    From “The Universe is Too Big… (Part One)”:

    Me:

    Since you have already in this thread said that you consider debates about morality where appeals to emotion are used to reach conclusions are a form of “rational debate”, it is clear that you and I fundamentally disagree on what constitutes a “rational debate””.

    markf responds:

    That’s true. Is there any disadvantage to my kind of rational debate? (There is a difference between manipulating emotions and making a straightforward argument to emotion). It is certainly the most common kind of debate.

    Since markf is admittedly not compelled to conduct his debate in accordance with argument theory or abide rules of logic, and admits (even endorses) use of fallacies such as appeals to emotion, I suggest respondents and onlookers keep that in mind.

  130. In this particular case, the argument reveals that in order to have a rational, universally applicable moral system by which one is logically empowered and sustained to challenge any moral edict or rule with reasoned, grounded argument, is if and only if one holds that morals must correspond to an objectively exsistent, universal “good” (purpose, final cause).

    This solid, logical reasoning reveals that we must posit another premise in order to achieve (ground, provide basis for) a universally-applicable objective good; we must have sentient creator that provides a “purpose” or “final cause”.

    I don’t see anything either solid or logical about this reasoning! It seems like a truism followed by a non sequitur to me. Your argument seems to me to boil down to:

    In order to argue that some action is good you must assume there is such a thing as a good action. Which is self-evidently true to the point of near-tautology.

    Then you seem to claim, with no logical steps intervening, that there can only be good actions if we were made by a sentient creator with the intention that we should perform good actions.

    Here is my position:

    In order to argue that some action is good, we must first agree on a definition of what constitutes a good action.

    No sentient creator is required, and far from being “subjective”, to reach agreement on criteria for goodness there must be a shared recognition of what the essentials of goodness are – i.e. some measure of objectivity.

    In contrast, your system provides no criteria at all to judge what is good and what is not, but merely demands the conviction that some things are good and some are not.

  131. 133

    ;)

  132. William – when debating whether something is right or wrong I maintain that not only is acceptable to make an (explicit) appeal to emotions – it is unavoidable. Even you have to do it – although you may not realise.

    When debating what is the correct description of morality i.e. the debate we having now – then it is not necessary or apppropriate to appeal to emotions and I don’t think I have done it at any stage. The question of the nature of morality is not itself a moral issue (just as the question of the nature of science is not itself a scientific issue).

    When it came to debating whether something is right or wrong I directed you to one or thousands of examples where clearly the proponents were appealing to emotion and yet the debate seemed rational enough. You were unwilling to provide any examples of the kind of debate of an ethical issue that you maintain is required for it to be rational.

    Here is an analogy which may help. Some people play a variant of chess which does not allow for en passant or for a pawn to move two squares on its first move (these were relatively recent iinnovations). Suppose two people from these different traditions are organsing a tournament. The question arise – ought we allow players to move two pawns two squares on the first move. Your position is like saying that we cannot have a rational debate about this until we decide which set of rules we are following. (You can imagine one person saying “of course they ought to be allowed to move two squares – that is the rules of chess” – and the other saying something similar in favour of only one square). I am saying that they should decide which set of rules on the (emotional) grounds of which set will provide the most entertaining and satisfactory game.

  133. Hi, Lizzie. Just for fun, I will answer your question.

    According to the Bible, that which is objectively “good” is life. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. This makes like sacred.

    Now as you know, to say that something is “good” simply means that it is desirable. There is no “goodness” without desirability. I admire the heroic efforts of some commenters to make it seem otherwise, but desirability is the objective content of goodness.

    And for men, the most desirable thing of all is life: “In him was life, and this life was the light of men.”

    I’m going to tell you a story about what is “good,” how we lost it, and how we can get it back again that uses no axioms. It is not based on reason. It is based entirely on desirability.

    Man was given the gift of life and put into a paradisical place on our beautiful planet where he had access to the tree of life. He himself was not immortal, like God—he was a created being—but neither was he mortal as long as he had access to this tree.

    Out of vanity, he made a deliberate choice to accept death. God told him that if he ate of the forbidden fruit he would surely die. He did it anyway because he wanted to be “like God.” That is, he was not content to be a creature and wanted to be equal to the creator.

    Because of his sin, he was cursed with death. He was cast out of paradise and lost access to the tree of life. He lost the highest good, which, according to the Bible, is life, and this was the source of his sorrow. After his sin, all of creation “groans in bondage to the grave.”

    There is a fundamental difference between “the good” of Plato and Aristotle and what is good or most highly desirable in the Bible. The philosophers thought “the good” was intellect, in which case you are right—it requires axioms.

    But the Bible identifies life as the good. Life becomes our standard of value, and by this light it is possible to identify good behavior without resorting to axioms. Everything that preserves and builds up life is objectively good; everything that detracts from life is evil.

    Or as you would put it, hurting other people is bad. Your observation that atheists can be moral is perfectly reasonable because atheists are no different from anyone else. They too innately value life—their own, at the very least.

    Christ reversed the curse by restoring the tree of life to men on the cross. Unlike Adam, he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped. Instead he poured out his life out of love for the world, so that we could have life, the thing we thirst for.

    You say treating others well makes you happy. The Bible says the same thing. It proposes a way of living that leads to happiness, and this way is based entirely on love of God and love of our neighbor.

    Happiness is the good most men seek. You and the Bible agree on its source.

  134. Onlookers:

    The best answer to MF’s tactic here is to cite Aristotle in The Rhetoric, Bk I Ch 2, on how arguments persuade:

    Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible . . . Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile . . . Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question . . .

    No appeals to emotion are better than the underlying accuracy to reality of the perceptions and judgements that excite the emotions.

    Just ask the ghosts of Socrates and those who unjustly sentenced him to die on ill-founded feelings and perceptions.

    MF persistently refuses to engage those issues, which I have summarised above.

    Let Alcibiades, the prototype for the Nietzschean superman, therefore stand as our warning on what clever manipulators will do if they can get away with it, and the result for the community.

    The utter bankruptcy of evolutionary materialism, stands exposed for all to see.

    GEM of TKI

  135. And let us not forget the actual focal case in this thread: an attempt to create the perception that sexual depredations on young boys and girls is acceptable. Let us never forget that.

  136. I will echo the appreciation. But I’m afraid I remain uninspired, because kf’s argument (and your own) appear to me to be circular.

    Sure, if we posit a good creator God, we can attribute our understanding of goodness to that God. And mostly, we tend to regard as good, actions that promote the welfare of others, or minimise harm to others, even at our own expense, hence the universality of the Golden Rule. But to argue that because we have this capacity to recognise goodness, therefore we must have been made by a good creator God, means defining goodness a priori. And if we do that a priori, then we don’t need God to define goodness.

    You may consider the door open wide, but it doesn’t even look like a door from here.

    I think the problem is the old confounding of ethics and morality again.

    Let’s try to unpack: let’s say that “ought” is the word we use to refer to some action that you are not immediately inclined to do, but know will have some deferred benefit (to yourself or to someone else), as in “I’d love a chocolate biscuit but I ought not to”, or “I’d love go straight home, but I ought to visit my grandmother”. They are, in other words, about deprioritising proximal goals in favour of distal goals.

    I suggest that ethical systems are systems that enshrine, in a series of culturally shared abstractions, a set of distal goals that benefit members of that culture collectively, and morality is what we call our capacity to voluntarily prioritise those distal goals. We also call ethical systems, “justice” systems, as they are devised to promote just – fair – societies, and, to ensure that the goal of a just society is achieved, the word “justice” is also used to refer to the punitive actions we take, usually as a society, to discourage and prevent “cheaters” – those who pursue actions that benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us.

    None of this requires us to posit a good God, unless you happen to think that only a good God could have created a universe that contains creatures capable of devising such systems. But even then, you’d be defining goodness first, and then attributing its origins to God second, not the other way round.

  137. A, please remember the problem of desiring properly forbidden fruit. Desirability is a part of the good, but just because something is desired does not mean that it is good. G

  138. It would be good if you replied to post 36.1.1.1.9 over on the Three Silly Objections to Cosmological Fine Tuning (part one) thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-398816

    Or at least, admit that you’re unable to respond to that post because reason is on my side, not yours.

  139. Mark, post 29.3 was aimed at you by the way.

  140. Ah boy, are.

  141. 143

    Elizabeth said:

    I don’t see anything either solid or logical about this reasoning! It seems like a truism followed by a non sequitur to me. Your argument seems to me to boil down to:

    Do you remember when you asked me to specifically point out where you made “arguments” (and rebuttals) by referring to the way things seem to you?

    What do you want me to respond to … your feelings? I dont care how things “seem” to you; what I care about are sound premises, sound inferences, and sound conclusions. Your “feeling” like a necessary premise is nothing more than a “truism” is a post-modernist irrelevancy. Your feelings (“it seems to me”) are not logical rebuttals.

    In order to argue that some action is good you must assume there is such a thing as a good action. Which is self-evidently true to the point of near-tautology.

    It is a tautology – a self-evidently true one. Good for you!

    Then you seem to claim, with no logical steps intervening, that there can only be good actions if we were made by a sentient creator with the intention that we should perform good actions.

    Untrue. All the intervening steps are there, you are either blind to them or are choosing to ignore them. I’ll reiterate: What does “good action” mean? How can one action be good, and another not good? Actions are just actions unless they are considered according to a purpose or goal; then – and only then – can one make a rational judgement about whether or not any action is “good”.

    Let’s consider using “conscience”, or “feeling”, as a guide to moral behavior. An action might make you feel good; and one might then claim that because the action made them feel good, the action is good. This equates “good” with a sensation. However, that places the nature of good squarely upon subjective feelings; if it makes me feel good to torture infants, then by that perspective of “good”, torturing infants would be “good”.

    If moral behavior is not arbited by how we feel, then it must be arbited by principles. If we select those principles subjectively, then once again we are basing morality on “how we feel”, because we can select any principle we feel like selecting. If morality describes anything more than (essentially) what we feel, or what “seems” to us to be the correct thing, then it must describe an objective purpose for humanity.

    But – and this is the essential connection to god – there cannot be an objective purpose to the existence of humankind unless humankind has a sentient creator, because “purpose” can only be imbued upon a thing by a sentient entity. Furthermore, if some powerful being happend by after humans came into existence and asserted “okay, your purpose is to mine gold for our extraterrestrial empire”, that would just be a subjective purpose imposed on something that already exists by a subjective entity.

    If humans simply select “what the purpose of humankind” is, and write it down so that it objectively exists, it still has been chosen subjectively by whatever means humans have subjectively decided is a good way to choose it. It is an invented good we made up, not a discerned, true good that exists independently of our subjective considerations.

    Unless “the good” is an inherent, objective aspect of existence, and humans were intentionally created to fulfill that purpose, there cannot be an “objective good”, there can only be subjctively-imposed purposes placed on us after the fact, much like I can pick up a rock I find in the field and use it as a doorstop.

    In order to argue that some action is good, we must first agree on a definition of what constitutes a good action.

    And this is the place where you refuse to follow the necessary reasoning to it’s diabolical, necessary conclusion. What you describe is morality defined by consensus – IOW, the good “is” whatever people agree that it is; if they agree that torturing infants for personal pleasure is good, then it is good by definition under the consensus model.

    Also, under your consensus basis for good, you have no principled right to challenge whatever the consensus morality in your area is. IOW, you have no right to challenge religious edicts of morality if they are the consensus view in your area.

    Is that really the argument you want to pursue?

    In contrast, your system provides no criteria at all to judge what is good and what is not, but merely demands the conviction that some things are good and some are not.

    I guess, if you equate “extrapolating self-evidently true moral statements via logic towards sound conclusions” with “mere conviction”. But then, if the two “seem to you” to be the same thing, what else matters?

  142. MarkF,

    The conclusion you’re following this to is a logical one, but based on a hypothetical. We could go a step further. What if God decides tomorrow that the sound of birds should become the sounds of nails on a blackboard or that we should all wake up with bamboo under our fingernails? It doesn’t matter whether he commands us to do something hurtful or just does it himself. Either way we’re in for a world of hurt.

    A few factors to consider: God (as I believe in him) only does good, even at his own expense, and has demonstrated it.
    His wisdom is greater than my own, so I have greater reason to trust him.
    Unlike Stalin, he created me and therefore has the right to my obedience.
    And finally, the Bible teaches that it is the only true revelation of his will, so if some crazy person tells you that God wants you to kill people, just look in the Bible. (It’s not God’s fault if people do what they want anyway.)

    You’re right, though. That’s not the most common approach to morality. I’m describing what the Bible says, not what people do in practice.

    I know that all of this logic is based on at least two premises that you don’t accept (God and the Bible.) But upon those premises it makes sense.

    It even makes testable predictions. For example, the Bible indicates that not long after Christianity began it would appear to morph into something completely unrecognizable. Even an atheist historian can see the difference between Christianity in the first century and a few hundred years later.

  143. OK. I will answer it here.

    I didn’t assume all the looters were atheists, but I certainly believe that many of them did not believe they would be brought to account for their crimes: not in this life, nor the next. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Quite possibly – so what?

    And if I’m making life easy by choosing Thou Shalt Not Steal instead of Contraception, then that is only because religious morality is universal, fundamentally very straightforward and easy to understand. I could have picked Thou Shalt Not Kill, or Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, or Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother and you would still be complaining while missing this point,

    Actually I think “Thou Shalt Not Steal”  is a bit of an exception. Clearly the 9/11 terrorists (who were were committed Muslims) did interpret “Thou Shalt Not Kill” the way we would. Even Christians allow that killing is actually permissible under rather complicated circumstances – Just Wars, Capital Punishment etc.  But anyhow my point is that religious moral systems have some differences, it really doesn’t matter how few they are, and there is no objective way of standing “outside” the systems and deciding between them.

    Before we “forget” about the analogy, there is another important flaw in your reasoning which the analogy exposes and it is this:

    While Rugby Union is like Judaism and Rugby League is like Islam, Atheism rejects the fact that the game (or “test”) of rugby exists in the first place and it certainly rejects the notion that there is a Law-giving authority who sets the rules of the game. So, believers understand that this life is a test and that our performance in this test will be rewarded accordingly after the test is over. The Final Judgment will involve the perfect, true and just ruling of the Supreme Being in accordance with the Moral Law (ie. rules of the game) that most religions prescribed for us.

    Atheists on the other hand, do not even realise that life is a test: indeed, for them, existence is utterly without meaning or purpose in this indifferent universe. Atheists believe that death only brings oblivion: regardless of how ‘good’ or ‘evil’ the life was led (‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ being nothing more than illusory man-made concepts in the first place). Atheists are free to play whatever game they like or invent whatever rules they like (and change or break them whenever it suits). They have absolutely no reason to play rugby, let alone follow the rules of rugby and if they are doing either then they are living a lie by irrationally subscribing to exclusively religious teachings.

    I’m a big fan of analogies and extending them as far as is reasonably possible. But even if I have to admit that the question you asked, though more literal than analogous, will certainly lead to a failure in this analogy. When it comes to sports like rugby, then we can talk of revising the rules to suit the changing nature of the game and the changing technology that can better serve it. Indeed, this is exactly what has happened: evidenced by the many changes to all aspects of rugby, including to the rules and even the lawgivers, since 1823. Rugby is a man-made activity and thus, from the very beginning, the law-givers were just normal people (flawed and limited) who couldn’t foresee all possible outcomes of the game, all the changing variables nor even appreciate the changing demands of the participants and spectators.

    So, when you try to compare religion to rugby through this analogy, then the analogy fails. Although the world around us has changed dramatically, particularly the further back into the past we go, the Moral Law itself will never change. Or, as Jesus himself said: “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Although we are all leading unique, perhaps even tailor-made, tests we must all follow the same rules and we are certainly in no position to dispute, let alone change, them. Remember, the rules – the Moral Law – were set by none other than the Creator (who is not only vastly superior and wiser than all humans, but also knows everything we think and do).

    In light of these facts, you can see how absurd it is to even ask whether humans can make the game of life better, or more ‘interesting’, by making up the rules ourselves (or even cherry-picking from religion). You can only argue rationally about morality if you accept that you’re playing the game in the first place and that the rules have been set by the Master of the Day of Judgment (to whom we will all need to account for ourselves). Morality belongs exclusively to religion.

    That’s exactly why atheism and morality are, rationally speaking, completely incompatible and irreconcilable.

    This whole argument seems to assume your premise – that there is a Creator who set the rules and therefore we must follow them.  Even if we have to follow them or get burned in hell it doesn’t follow they are good rules.   We still have the separate subjective decision as to whether the rules are actually good.  You are saying there is only set of rules for Rugby and they will never change because of this force which will zap us if we do differently.  Even under those circumstances we can still debate in our mind whether they are actually good rules.

    I do wish you would stop telling me what Atheists think and believe.  I am one.  You are not. I find plenty  meaning or purpose in my life. I have plenty of reason to be moral.  It is because I want to. There is absolutely nothing irrational or self-deceptive about that and it is not in any way dependent upon or parasitic upon religion.  You never argue for these statements about Atheists.  You just assert them.

    And of course I can argue rationally about morality without accepting “that you’re playing the game in the first place and that the rules have been set by the Master of the Day of Judgment “.  People do it all the time.  Try me on a moral issue and see.

  144. It seems that, taken to extremes, logic confuses truth instead of establishing it.

    If I say, “Every house was built by someone, therefore this house also required a builder,” a person can reason that yes, all houses have builders. It’s simple, and they arrive at the correct conclusion.

    Or they might ask, “What is a house? Something people can live in? Is a cave a house? What is ‘built?’ Did they build the screws and nails?”

    Such questions are logical, but they tend to confuse what should be simple. I won’t speak for theism in general, but the Bible is not ‘designed’ to mount an assault on such a defense. There have been times when God chose to convince people of his existence against their will by means that circumvented logic and got right to the point. Even then not all believed.

    So I explain what I can because it’s the current topic, but it’s not realistic that I might persuade anyone through logic if they aren’t inclined to be persuaded. If anything, the inability to penetrate those defenses can only make my position appear weaker.

  145. A minor point for now:

    Do you remember when you asked me to specifically point out where you made “arguments” (and rebuttals) by referring to the way things seem to you?

    Read my sentence again carefully. I am not making an argument by referring to the way things “seem” to me. I am simply stating (not arguing) that “it seems to me” that your argument boils down to the paraphrase I gave. That is a simple true statement – that is exactly how “it seems” to me.

    I could have written that your argument does boil down to my paraphrase, but that would have been an assertion about your argument, which you may well disagree with. So instead I informed you that “it seems to me” that your argument boils down to what I said. I could equally well have written that “in my opinion” it does so.

    Please do not mistake respect and courtesy for flaccid argument.

  146. William:

    It seems to me (and I make no apology for that locution) that you are evading a point I have made repeatedly.

    You appear to think that the mere act of stating that there exists some absolute moral standard (what you call “objective” morality) is enough to remove the subjectivity from our moral judgements – that a morality can be “objective”, and thus be superior to mere “subjective” morality by the simple fact of existing even though there is no objective way of evaluating what that standard is.

    That is the elephant in the room you are ignoring.

    Yes, what society considers good is constantly changing. We no longer, mostly, flog people. In most of the world we no longer think it that judicial killing is justified. In most of the world we consider that certain forms of interrogation under duress are morally wrong. This has changed from earlier times (when, mostly, incidentally, belief in God was more widespread than it is now, as was fear of hell). What makes consensus morality more objective than individual morality is simply the very fact that it is arrived at through consensus, i.e. collectively, just as when several people measure the amount of liquid in a pipette and come to nearly the same answer, we can say it is “objectively” 5 ml.

    You seem to think you have escaped what you call the “diabolical” implications of the inevitable “subjectivity”, or, at least, the mutability, of the processes by which we devise our moral standards simply by claiming that some “objective” standard exists. That is fallacious, in my view. Unless you know what that “objective” standard is, your standard is neither more or less subjective than mine, and neither less nor more “diabolical”.

  147. 149

    Please do not mistake respect and courtesy for flaccid argument.

    You really consider the insertion of rhetoric that implies fundamental fault with my argument under cover of an unchallengable qualifier (it seems to me …, or I feel that…) to be a respectful and courteous addition to a logic-based debate?

    How about this: tell me what your basis is for your moral system – what you believe authorizes you to make moral arguments to others about what is and is not right, and tell me what principles must be considered. Flesh out your moral structure from axiomatic grounding to fundamental principles to a demonstration of logical inferences towards sound moral conclusions for some specific moral question – as I have already done.

    And try doing it with actual assertions that open your system up to critical examination, not under the ground cover of qualifiers like “it seems to me” and “I feel that”.

  148. Onlookers:

    QED . . .

    GEM of TKI

  149. Perhaps it’s better to say an “objective source of morality” than “objective morality.” Regardless of what anyone believes, we all have to make lots of choices without knowing beyond a doubt which is right. Only the easy ones are usually easy.

    To drastically oversimplify, we could compare selecting the right source of morality (or moral code) to buying a watermelon. First, you discard the ones that have worms coming out of them. Next, you tap on them to see which ones sound good (whatever that sounds like.) You reject a few because something seems wrong with them. Finally you take one home. Perhaps you cut it open and it smells funny. So you take it back and repeat.

    The process is subjective, but it will lead to a good watermelon. Unless that is, someone is a hurry and doesn’t care what kind they get, or they would just rather eat whatever melon they inherited from their parents, or, worst case scenario, they just don’t care if they eat a bad melon or maybe they even like worms.

    Or they might just not want a watermelon. I think everyone needs a good watermelon, but there’s only so much I can say about the benefits of watermelons. (Not sure why I picked that one. I hate watermelons.)

  150. Yes – but what criteria do you use for deciding which is a good watermelon? Some people here seem to be arguing that the criteria for choosing watermelon X is that it is watermelon X!

  151. 153

    Elizabeth said:

    You appear to think that the mere act of stating that there exists some absolute moral standard (what you call “objective” morality)

    If I have ever used the phrase “objective morality”, it was an error (or just laziness, not wanting to distinguish between “morality” and “the good” for the umpteenth time). Please read over my contributions to date; I have repeatedly made the distinction between “the good”, which is presumed under theistic morality to be an objective commodity, and “morality”, which is a subjective description of how to achieve or fulfill that good in terms of “oughts”.

    … is enough to remove the subjectivity from our moral judgements – that a morality can be “objective”, and thus be superior to mere “subjective” morality by the simple fact of existing…

    As I have repeatedly said: morality is not objective. What is assumed to be objective is that which moral rules attempt to describe in terms of “ought”. We can either assume that what we are describing objectively exists outside of our subjective interpretation, or we can assume that what we are describing is itself a subjective commodity.

    Moral systems based on the assumption of an objective good are superior to moral systems based on the assumption that “good” is itself subjective in nature only in the sense that they are rationally sound and provide the necessary grounding for a rationally consistent and sustainable morality that doesn’t necessarily lead to diabolical logical conclusions.

    That is not to say that every theism-based moral system necessarily produces better moral behavior, nor does it necessarily mean that all theism-based moral systems are immune to diabolical ends or irrational moral claims. Just because one believes in god doesn’t mean their moral system is sound or even good.

    ..even though there is no objective way of evaluating what that standard is.

    Since everything humans do is through the lens of subjective experience and interpetation, should we then abandon reason for solipsism in all things?

    We’ve already been over this.

    That is the elephant in the room you are ignoring.

    I haven’t ignored it; I’ve explained this repeatedly.

    Yes, what society considers good is constantly changing.

    So, do you agree you have contradicted an earlier statement you made where you agreed that “harming others needlessly” or “torturing infants for personal pleasure” were examples self-evidently immoral actions?

    It can either be true that it is self-evidently wrong to needlessy harm others, or it can be true that needlessly harming others is good as long as the consensus agrees. You can’t have it both ways.

    ….even though there is no objective way of evaluating what that standard is.

    By this hyperskeptical view of what “objectively evaluating” something, there is no “objective way” of evaluating anything. Everything comes to knowledge through the lens of subjective interpretation. Are you advocating general solipsism as well as moral solipsism?

    Unless you know what that “objective” standard is, your standard is neither more or less subjective than mine,

    Once again: the pertinent question is not whether we can prove our objective standard actually existent (you cannot even prove our physical surroundings to not be a dream or a hallucination), but rather what the consequences are that extend from the axiomatic, a priori assumptions we make about what “the good” is.

    To wit: if you premise a theism with non-removable doctrine that leads one to perform self-evidently immoral acts, then that particular theistic premise is incorrect. Check your premises. Back to the axiomatic drawing board.

    and neither less nor more “diabolical”.

    I’ll leave it to the reader which has more diabolical potential; that which allows anything given a consensus, or that which holds all moral claims answerable to logically coherent inferences drawn from self-evidently true moral statements.

  152. Yes, I do. I’m sorry if it irritates you, but, in general, it’s my habit not to state as bald assertions propositions that I think may be subject to legitimate debate or falsification. But I am more than happy to state what I believe to be the case (as I have already done – that’s precisely why I preface such statements with phrases like “it seems to me…”).

    …tell me what your basis is for your moral system – what you believe authorizes you to make moral arguments to others about what is and is not right, and tell me what principles must be considered. Flesh out your moral structure from axiomatic grounding to fundamental principles to a demonstration of logical inferences towards sound moral conclusions for some specific moral question – as I have already done.

    I don’t believe I am authorized to make moral judgments to others about what is and is not right. I do believe I am capable of making moral arguments to others as to what is and what is not right, but you do not need “authority” to make an argument. Indeed “argument from authority” is a well-known fallacy.

    I would argue that definitional basis for any ethical system, is the promotion of the welfare of everyone at the expense of no-one. I say definitional, rather than axiomatic, because we pretty well universally define an ethical system, as one that regulates individual decision-making in a manner that suppresses actions that will tend to harm others, and promotes actions that will tend to benefit them.

    Other systems of rules and principles that regulate individual decision-making exist, of course, but we do not call them “ethical” – we might call them “hedonistic” or “power-seeking” or “destructive” or “despotic” but we do not call them “ethical”.

    And I suggest that the reason we have this word, “ethics”, is because as human social animals we recognise that what suits us immediately and personally is not necessarily what will benefit all of us, and that if most people co-operate, all will tend to benefit, whilst if some people cheat, others will suffer. Devising a collective ethical system in which co-operation is rewarded and cheating is punished is therefore a sensible and coherent group strategy, and, given our human capacity for abstraction, we do it rather well.

    Now, given that ethics is definitionally (as I have argued) based on the principle of constraining individual choices in favour of what minimises harm and maximises benefit to others, the Golden Rule (found in many formulations, in many societies, at many times, in both theistic and atheistic cultures) is an obvious fundamental axiom: treat others as you would be treated yourself, which should perhaps be elaborated as: Treat others not simply as you would be treated yourself, but as you would wish to be treated were you in their position.

    So let’s take homosexuality, as I have already brought it up, and it seems a good case of where theistic morality is inferior in many cases to the system I am proposing.

    Moral question: Is it right or wrong to have homosexual sex?

    Perfectly straightforward answer according to the axiom I have presented: as long as my partner also desires to have sex with me, and is unlikely to come to any harm, or regret his/her decision, and no other people are likely to be injured or distressed, then, yes.

    Here’s another: Is it right or wrong for an adult to have sex with someone under the age of, let’s say, 15? Perfectly straightforward answer: if I am considerably older than 15 myself, then it is highly likely that my partner, even if currently willing, may come to regret the relationship, and feel that they were unfairly exploited by someone in a more powerful position. So, no.

  153. Folks:

    We are down to the definitionitis question.

    Okay, let me clip a clip from David Clarke and Robert Rakestraw, used in the intro to phil course ethics unit (which may be helpful for those trying to figure out what is really going on here with the fancy footwork moves):

    Principles are broad general guidelines that all persons ought to follow. Morality is the dimension of life related to right conduct. It includes virtuous character and honorable intentions as well as the decisions and actions that grow out of them. Ethics on the other hand, is the [philosophical and theological] study of morality . . . [that is,] a higher order discipline that examines moral living in all its facets . . . . on three levels. The first level, descriptive ethics, simply portrays moral actions or virtues. A second level, normative ethics (also called prescriptive ethics), examines the first level, evaluating actions or virtues as morally right or wrong. A third level, metaethics, analyses the second . . . It clarifies the meaning of ethical terms and assesses the principles of ethical argument . . . . Some think, without reflecting on it, that . . . what people actually do is the standard of what is morally right . . . [But, what] actually happens and what ought to happen are quite different . . . . A half century ago, defenders of positivism routinely argued that descriptive statements are meaningful, but prescriptive statements (including all moral claims) are meaningless . . . In other words, ethical claims give no information about the world; they only reveal something about the emotions of the speaker . . . . Yet ethical statements do seem to say something about the realities to which they point. “That’s unfair!” encourages us to attend to circumstances, events, actions, or relationships in the world. We look for a certain quality in the world (not just the speaker’s mind) [--> the former is objective, the latter is merely subjective] that we could properly call unfair. [Readings in Christian Ethics, Vol. 1: Theory and Method. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), pp. 18 – 19]

    I trust this helps clarify, for those who need it.

    (And, remember, we are talking about a case where people are attempting to use clever arguments rooted int eh dominance of evolutionary materialism and its radical relativism and amorality, to make preying sexually on little boys and girsl seem acceptable.)

    GEM of TKI

  154. I’ll leave it to the reader which has more diabolical potential; that which allows anything given a consensus, or that which holds all moral claims answerable to logically coherent inferences drawn from self-evidently true moral statements.

    Give me an example of a self-evidently true moral statement.

  155. NB: since we are conscious subjects, every act of mind is inescapably subjective. The question is whether some acts of mind connect to a real, beyond the mind world, one whose reality we intersect with in common. Objective acts, up to some possibility of error and refinement, intersect with that world with sufficient warrant that we are wise to accept these as substantially true; e,g. common-sense day to day life experiences, scientific observations of fact, etc..

  156. 158

    Markf:

    A rational debate (as opposed to “a debate” or “a conversation”) is qualified as “rational” for a reason; it is supposed to adhere to the rules of right reason, as described by argument theory.

    So, a better analogy would be that I say I want to play X variant of chess, and you agree; then you start playing by Y variant rules to gain advantage, then when I call you on it you absolve yourself by saying “it seems to me that X also means Y”.

  157. MarkF,

    Unfortunately there may be some equivocation. When everyone says “theism” they doubtless mean their own version. If they don’t they should. It’s absurd to say that picking any one of various contradictory theistic religions was good and only not picking one was wrong.

    Even within the context of Christianity we’re told as much. Using Jesus’ name means nothing. Miracles mean nothing. Size especially means nothing. Only doing what Jesus did and what he said matter. For a theist that should be an astonishing thought – being large and using Jesus’ name do not establish a religion as genuine.

    So no, X does not mark the watermelon. (I’ve always wanted to say that.) We have to thump them and smell them and cut them open.

  158. If you “quite possibly” agree “that many of [the looters] did not believe they would be brought to account for their crimes: not in this life, nor the next” then on what grounds can an atheist rationally condemn their acts? In such circumstances, looting was perfectly rational. And all you have to say to this is “so what?” This is an illustration of the very point we’ve been making about atheistic morality!

    Do you blame the motor and drink industries for the fact that people have murdered innocents whilst driving under the influence of alcohol, Mark? Do you blame “The Origin of Species” for the Final Solution? If not, then why are you mentioning the 9/11 terrorists? The Qu’ran is full of condemnation for evil acts, not encouragement (and, no, they were not ‘martyrs’ nor could they even pretend to be). By the way, there is an easily recognisable and entirely reconcilable difference between Thou Shalt Not Kill and Capital Punishment. Most believers are like me in that respect: all for both, without any contradiction.

    Now, it is true that my whole argument assumes the premise that “there is a Creator who set the rules” and it is only rational and logical to conclude “therefore we must follow them.” That is what the Theistic Worldview is all about. It’s frankly not my problem that an atheist doesn’t accept the truth of my premise. It is enough to show that, if that premise was true, the conclusion follows cogently. Let’s be honest, if you did not deny the Theistic Worldview, you would not be confused enough to even question “whether the rules are actually good”. Only the perversity of atheism can generate such absurd doubts.

    There is no higher good than Religious Morality. That is why most atheists borrow their moral values from religion, many of them (including you Mark) cannot properly function without them. Nor is Religious Morality elusive or difficult to learn: did you read “The Poison of Subjectivism”?

    I’m not telling you what you think and believe and Mark. I’m reminding you of the unavoidable consequences of atheism and the logical . It was the widely followed atheist, Richard Dawkins who said:

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

    You don’t need to be an atheist to fully appreciate the implications of that statement. Despite your protests, meaning and purpose really are illusory in such a universe. So is morality. There is absolutely no meaningful difference between you wanting to be moral or wanting to be immoral in a universe without Good or Evil. I don’t need to argue that this is the case for atheists. Richard Dawkins – and all of his many followers – already admitted that this is the case for atheists! The onus is on you, Mark, to explain why Dawkins is wrong about atheism. And that explanation needs to amount to more than “my life is meaningful and moral so that settles it”.

  159. And to continue…

    If I have ever used the phrase “objective morality”, it was an error (or just laziness, not wanting to distinguish between “morality” and “the good” for the umpteenth time). Please read over my contributions to date; I have repeatedly made the distinction between “the good”, which is presumed under theistic morality to be an objective commodity, and “morality”, which is a subjective description of how to achieve or fulfill that good in terms of “oughts”.

    OK. I am happy to use your terms and refer to an objective good, and accept that you regard “morality” as a subjective description of how to achieve it.

    As I have repeatedly said: morality is not objective. What is assumed to be objective is that which moral rules attempt to describe in terms of “ought”. We can either assume that what we are describing objectively exists outside of our subjective interpretation, or we can assume that what we are describing is itself a subjective commodity.

    OK. I just don’t see how this helps you, if you don’t know what the objective good actually is.

    Moral systems based on the assumption of an objective good are superior to moral systems based on the assumption that “good” is itself subjective in nature only in the sense that they are rationally sound and provide the necessary grounding for a rationally consistent and sustainable morality that doesn’t necessarily lead to diabolical logical conclusions.

    How can they be “rationally sound” if they involve subjective descriptions as to what actions will achieve an unknown objective good? If you don’t know where the place you want to get to is, merely knowing that it “objectively exists” won’t help you get there!

    That is not to say that every theism-based moral system necessarily produces better moral behavior, nor does it necessarily mean that all theism-based moral systems are immune to diabolical ends or irrational moral claims. Just because one believes in god doesn’t mean their moral system is sound or even good.

    Exactly. So not only is there no objective way of figuring out what the objective good is, there’s no objective way of knowing which of several putative objective goods is the true Objective Good.

    Since everything humans do is through the lens of subjective experience and interpetation, should we then abandon reason for solipsism in all things?

    No. Because we have the huge benefit of other people’s views of the world and our near-unique capacity to see the world from another point of view.

    Yes, what society considers good is constantly changing.

    So, do you agree you have contradicted an earlier statement you made where you agreed that “harming others needlessly” or “torturing infants for personal pleasure” were examples self-evidently immoral actions?

    No, I think they are, precisely because they are what consensus produces. The main reason that the boundaries change is because the boundaries of the collective itself change. Many societies regard only their own members as bound by their ethical system, and regard outsiders – other tribes, sub-groups, sub-classes as outside the pale of “others”. As centuries have gone by, we seem to be learning to extend our concept of what constitutes “others”, to include those beyond our families, national borders, racial group, normal range, etc.

    It can either be true that it is self-evidently wrong to needlessy harm others, or it can be true that needlessly harming others is good as long as the consensus agrees. You can’t have it both ways.

    Sure I can. What is self-evident is what is evident to any observer. If something is evident to you, but not to me, then it’s not “self-evident” is it? It’s a matter of debate.

    ….even though there is no objective way of evaluating what that standard is.

    By this hyperskeptical view of what “objectively evaluating” something, there is no “objective way” of evaluating anything. Everything comes to knowledge through the lens of subjective interpretation. Are you advocating general solipsism as well as moral solipsism?

    No, as I’ve said above. I’m not a solipsist at all. You seem to think there is no middle ground between solipsism and absolute objectivity. There is – there’s shared experience. We know things are likely to be true (likely to reflect “objective reality”) if different observers report the same phenomena under similar conditions, using similar instruments. That’s how science derives its objectivity. It’s not perfect – we still have measurement error, we still need double-blind trials and inter-rater reliability tests, and error estimates and so on, but many people constantly critiquing the consensus ensures that it moves closer and closer to reality – that the models fits the data better and better. I suggest exactly the same is true of morality, as long as we don’t get bogged down in arguments about which authoritative holy book represents the True Objective Good. Even politics has moved on, in my lifetime: the Tea Party may hate Obama with a passion, but both sides accept the same basic ethical premises – that what good government should do is facilitate the welfare of its citizens. The argument is merely about how best it should do this. And, sometimes, about who constitutes the citizens.

    Unless you know what that “objective” standard is, your standard is neither more or less subjective than mine,

    Once again: the pertinent question is not whether we can prove our objective standard actually existent (you cannot even prove our physical surroundings to not be a dream or a hallucination), but rather what the consequences are that extend from the axiomatic, a priori assumptions we make about what “the good” is.

    I can provide very good evidence that our physical surroundings are not a dream or a hallucination by testing it for regularities – by consulting, if you will, the consensus. If ten people in a room agree there is a brick on the table there is probably a brick on the table. If one person says their is no brick, but a hedgehog, that person is probably hallucinating. And we can tell for sure by collecting more data. That’s a huge amount closer to objectivity that the a priori axiomatic assumption that some objective good exists, when it appears also axiomatic that we cannot know what that good actually consists of (except subjectively!) This is not true of a brick.

    To wit: if you premise a theism with non-removable doctrine that leads one to perform self-evidently immoral acts, then that particular theistic premise is incorrect. Check your premises. Back to the axiomatic drawing board.

    and neither less nor more “diabolical”.

    I’ll leave it to the reader which has more diabolical potential; that which allows anything given a consensus, or that which holds all moral claims answerable to logically coherent inferences drawn from self-evidently true moral statements.

    Well, I’d like an example, as I said, of a “self-evidently true moral statement”. If “torturing babies for personal pleasure is wrong” I would agree. I suggest that it is precisely because there is such widespread consensus on this that you are justified in saying that it is a “self-evidently true moral statement”.

  160. Chris, can you explain what you mean by “illusory”? In what sense are “meaning and purpose” “illusory” in a universe that doesn’t have a God?

    I’m wondering if this is the sticking point.

    (BTW, you have misread Dawkins: he doesn’t say that there is no Good and Evil in the universe – he says the universe itself is neither good nor evil. He has perfectly prosaic and traditional views on good and evil deeds.)

  161. PS: read this piece, written by Richard Dawkins in the Guardian exactly ten years ago:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....ndsociety1

    It’s pertinent to this discussion in many ways, and acutely topical.

    It should put the lie to the canard that Richard Dawkins denies the existence of good and evil.

  162. Torturing babies is wrong.

    Try, having understood this, to deny it without immediate, patent absurdity.

    That is the key test of self-evidence.

  163. Thanks, Allanius :)

    Yes, I would agree that life is good, but I would also say that love is greater :)

    You might like this story I wrote a few years back, for a children’s carol service:

    The Garden

    The garden was hot. Rainwater shone on the dark leaves, and dripped into the pools of the stream. On a grassy bank, a peacock strutted lazily.

    God was lonely. “Are you happy in my garden?” God asked the peacock. “Do you know who I am?”

    The peacock stopped. He spread his beautiful tail, scattering raindrops in the sunlight, but he did not answer.

    God wandered along the banks of the stream, deeper into the woodland. A python slithered across the path.

    “Are you happy in my garden?” God asked the python. “Do you love me?”

    The python’s wet scales glistened in the shadows of the leaf-mould, but he did not answer.

    High in the green canopy, God could hear monkeys chattering.

    “Are you happy in this garden I made for you?” God called. “And do you love me?” The monkeys paused for a moment in their chatter, and threw mango stones at God, but they did not answer.

    God came to a clearing. A little girl was sitting on a log, poking the embers of a fire with a stick.

    “Are you happy in my garden, Eve?” asked God.

    Eve looked up.

    “I love the garden,” she said.

    “I love it too” said God, “but I need a gardener. Will you be my gardener?”

    “I would,” said Eve, “if it wasn’t for the python”.

    “You don’t have to love the python” said God. “I’ll love the python”.

    “I don’t love the mosquitoes either” said Eve.

    “Don’t worry about the mosquitoes” said God, “I’ll love the mosquitoes. Will you look after the garden for me?”

    “Maybe” said Eve. “Come back tomorrow”. And she ran off into the woodland.

    The next day, God came back to the clearing. Eve was sitting on her log, stirring the embers of her fire.

    “And will you be my gardener?” asked God.

    “Yes”, said Eve. “Until….”

    “Until when?” said God.

    “Until I have children of my own” said Eve.

    “And what will happen to my garden when you have children of your own?” asked God

    “Oh”, said Eve. “When I have children of my own I won’t have any time for your garden. And I’ll have to protect my children from the python.”

    “You will love your children more than you love my garden?” asked God.

    “Oh yes”, said Eve. “When I have children, I will love them more than anything in the world. I will weep when they are sad, and when they are happy, my heart will be filled with joy.”

    “That is how I love my garden” said God. “I weep when my creatures are sad, and when they are happy, my heart is filled with joy. But more than anything else I would love to be loved as you will love your children. Will you be my mother?

    Eve laughed at God. “I love you, God, but how could I be your mother! You are not a child!” And she skipped off into the woodland, still laughing.

    * * * * * * *

    A long time passed. Winter came to the garden. The stream froze, and frost withered the glossy leaves. When summer returned, the hot sun dried the stream, and the garden became a desert of sand and rocks and caves. Yet foxes lived in the caves, and tortoises lived in the damper sand below ground. The python was gone, but sidewinding snakes made their home in the shifting dunes.

    God wandered the garden, and loved it still. And still God searched for a mother, a mother who would love God as a child, as God loved that barren garden and all its creatures. But whenever God asked, they laughed. How could God have a mother? How could God be a child?

    One winter’s day, on a bank of pebbles by a dry stream bed, God came across a girl sitting on a rock, stirring the embers of a fire with a stick.

    God said to the girl: “You remind me of my gardener. Her name was Eve”.

    The girl said: “My name is Mary”.

    “Eve looked after my garden until her children were born” said God. “She kept it watered and fertile, and looked after all the creatures that lived in it. Then she had her own children to love, and she didn’t care about the garden anymore, and she chased away the python. My garden is dry and bare now, though it is still beautiful”.

    “I will look after your garden” said Mary. “I love the foxes, and the tortoises, and even the snakes. I will be your gardener.”

    “Until your children are born” said God.

    “Oh no, said Mary. “When I have children of my own I will love it even more because it will be my children’s garden too. When the foxes are hurt we will weep together, and when we see the tortoises burrowing in the sand we will laugh together. And when we see the snakes winding sideways across the sand, we will be filled with joy.”

    “You will be the most loving mother since time began!” said God. “How I wish you could be my mother!”

    “But how could you have a mother?” asked Mary. “You are not a child.”

    “A child is what I want to be”, said God. “I love my garden, but the creatures in my garden do not know who I am. If they do not know me, they cannot truly love me, as they sometimes love each other. That is why I want to be a child”.

    Mary’s eyes opened wide. “And you would like to be my child?”

    “Yes”, said God.

    “Then I will be your mother”, said Mary.

    And one winter’s night, under frosty stars, she kept her word.

    I guess the story still has power for me :)

  164. Exactly.

    Why do you need to be a theist to see what is self-evident?

  165. I agree, completely.

    Very nicely put.

  166. Blue_Savannah: right on the money. Since chemical reactions are amoral, and if we are nothing but bags of chemical reactions, everything we do is amoral. In that case, “we” don’t really “do” anything. “We” quite literally react.

    No, I this is fallacious. It commits the fallacy of composition – of inferring a property of the whole from a property of the parts. To give an example from wikipedia:

    Human cells are invisible to the naked eye.
    Humans are made up of human cells.
    Therefore, humans are invisible to the naked eye.

    It also renders the concept of “agency” meaningless. Used in your sense, it would be meaningless to describe any causal relationship above the level of the atom (and why stop there?) It would be meaningless, for example, to say that meteorites make craters on the moon’s surface, or that glaciers carve U shaped valleys and leave moraines.

    People make moral decisions, chemicals don’t. The unit of agency is the person, not the chemicals. As you say, all the chemicals do is react. People do far far more.

  167. Elizabeth (long time)

    “Exactly.

    Why do you need to be a theist to see what is self-evident?”

    I think the point KF is making is not that one needs to be a theist to see it as self-evident, but that it is self-evident.

    There are atheists on here who believe that morality is relative. Apparently you’re not one of them.

    But the larger point is that a purely atheistic worldview does not lend itself to self-evident morality. It comes from somewhere else. If you want to say it’s immoral because it doesn’t lead to a goal of self-preservation (or whatever other goal or ideal); it’s not exactly what self-evident means. Self-evident means that it cannot appeal to any goal or other truth to guide it. It is true in order for anything else we call morality to be true. It’s true because it is; just as 2+3=5 is true because it just is. It’s absurd to believe otherwise, just as KF pointed out that a denial that torturing babies is wrong is patently absurd.

    Now, you don’t need to be a theist to believe that things are self-evident. However, self-evident truths have a way of rendering atheist thought absurd in itself. Atheist thought tends to avoid self-evident truth and the underlying congruence of first principles (those principles that are primary, as in “self-evident”) altogether. So you’re quite the atheist anomaly if that’s what you accept.

    I know you’ll attempt to object by asking “why?” but we’ve been through this enough to know that such attempts are circular. The territory has been covered sufficiently.

  168. As you point out, if a truth is “self-evident” then surely, by definition, anyone can see that it is true, including atheists.

    So I remain puzzled by your claim that:

    However, self-evident truths have a way of rendering atheist thought absurd in itself. Atheist thought tends to avoid self-evident truth and the underlying congruence of first principles (those principles that are primary, as in “self-evident”) altogether.

    I see no basis for this assertion! And although I accept that you think “the territory has been covered sufficiently”, it seems to me that the assertion remains unsupported. Unless you are referring to the fact that IDists regard ID as “self-evident” and atheists (and many non-atheists) don’t. But I’m afraid that atheists (and many non-atheist) regard ID arguments as just as “self-evidently” fallacious!

    It’s one of the reasons I set up my site actually. To provide a place where people can get together to figure out why what seems “obviously” or “self-evidently” true to one group of people can seem “obviously” or “self-evidently” false to another. On the whole, I don’t think either “side” is faking it.

    Anyway, if you want to drop by, it’s here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/

    Chris Doyle posted a couple of times, but unfortunately seems to have deleted his posts, which I greatly regret. I hope he will return, and that you might join him. And of course I extend the welcome to everyone else here.

  169. Bertrand Russell said:
    “I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values, but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it”

    first half, speaks of [logical] refutation, and he is declaring that there are no logical arguments to support objective morality

    2nd half, speaks of his personal beliefs, and states that he can’t accept torturing babies.

    Of course, that could be because his genetic makeup, deterministically, leads him to dislike it.

    What seems to be missing is something that comes from deeper than “logic”, an innate sense, (spiritual perhaps?), that just “knows” this is wrong, beyond any logic. But, a materialist can’t grant the existence of such a source.

    What to do?

  170. Elizabeth,

    Some territory we’ve covered where we’ve had some agreement:

    A first cause is necessary. You acknowledged this in at least one post that I can recall; although you did not agree that it is foundational, just “theoretically” true (not your exact words).

    We’ve reached agreement on that because we’ve covered the ground on first principles.

    There are moral grounds that are self-evident.

    Again, we’ve reached agreement due to first principles. (i.e., torturing babies is wrong and to believe otherwise is patently absurd).

    Since a necessary first cause would be also necessarily transcendent over all that is true, the first principles we depend on for anything that is primary or fundamental depend entirely on the existence of a necessary first cause and nothing else.

    Even morality falls into the trap of an infinite regress unless there is in actuality and not simply in “theory” a necessary first cause to ground morality. Otherwise all that we refer to as truth/morality collapses.

    So atheism is rendered patently absurd on these two foundations alone. You’ve agreed to these (in principle or theory) in at least two posts that I can think of, but what you’ve failed to do (as far as I’ve seen) is to take the necessary next step in aligning them fully with a worldview. I see a real conflict between things that you’ve already agreed are reasonable and the worldview that you cling to. Such a conflict must be difficult.

    This is why I believe theism is far more satisfying, because it resolves such conflicts, but that isn’t the primary reason why it is true; it’s merely what would be expected if it is true. I think the next step is in recognizing these two issues as not only reasonable in theory, but foundational to what IS true; not just what we determine is true.

  171. es58,

    What seems to be missing is something that comes from deeper than “logic”, an innate sense, (spiritual perhaps?), that just “knows” this is wrong, beyond any logic. But, a materialist can’t grant the existence of such a source.

    Could there be a relation there to the fact that some animals are born with very complex behaviors immediately available to them after birth that they have to use to survive even immediately after birth? Obviously these “instinctive” sequences of actions don’t reside in the sperm or the egg but nonetheless are available for use.

    So from whence they came?

    Perhaps that “knowing” (presumably many many bits of FCSI are embodied in such behavior) comes from the same source you mention here? What do you think?

  172. Well, first of all, CY, I’m not “clinging” to anything right now! I “clung” to theism for fifty years before dropping off the perch! I think this is an important point, actually, because there is an interesting symmetry, in that many of the theists here are ex-atheists, whereas most atheists (including me) are ex-theists. And so there’s a tendency for both “sides” to think that the “clingers” are the ones who still hold the view that oneself has rejected!

    I can’t exactly remember what I said about a First Cause – I do recall saying (because it’s what I think) that it’s not a very interesting question theologically. There may be some uncaused cause at the heart of the world, but I see no reason to think it is a mind, and lots of reasons to think it isn’t. It might turn out simply to be a necessary property of non-existence. Or, possibly, that there is no first cause at all, that “first” is simply a notion that we can’t shed because we exist in a causally ordered dimension.

    But I’m not trying to argue it away – I think it’s an interesting question, scientifically, just not theologically! And I don’t think that theism resolves the conflicts at all – I think it creates conflicts where none need exist.

    Presumably you’ve seen this gif?

    http://www.raige.net/pictures/images/sig_occam.gif

  173. Elizabeth:

    You: “As you point out, if a truth is “self-evident” then surely, by definition, anyone can see that it is true, including atheists.

    So I remain puzzled by your claim that:”

    Me: “However, self-evident truths have a way of rendering atheist thought absurd in itself. Atheist thought tends to avoid self-evident truth and the underlying congruence of first principles (those principles that are primary, as in “self-evident”) altogether.”

    I would expect you to be puzzled due to your a priori metaphysical position.

    Do you not accept that people whether theist or atheist can be inconsistent with what they hold as foundational to what is true? See my last response (regarding ground that we’ve already covered) and I think you will see more clearly the process I use to determine this.

    That some people don’t recognize certain primary truths as self-evident does not render them not self-evident. Truth is not in the eye of the beholder. I think we both agree with that. (truth) without the captal could be in the eye of the beholder, but the process by which we seek Truth (with a capital) requires that there is/are (a) primary principle(s) that cannot be questioned.

    But atheism does not accept the grounding for those first principles in a first (primary) cause. Therefore, atheism has a tendency towards accepting absurdity – i.e., a natural and infinite regress of causes, which naturally flows into an infinite regress (ungrounded) of truth. Atheist’s do not believe in principle that it is necessary to resolve this. You yourself have indicated that while you accept a necessary first cause, it is for you “meaningless.” Well if it is “meaningless” as you say, then all that we call Truth is “meaningless.”

    That some atheists accept the same self-evident truths as theists is quite beside the point. They do so because in order to survive intellectually they have to. Apparently some have advanced more than others in the light of reason. But they are being inconsistent with atheism in order to do so – a departure from the full light of reason. If atheism is true there is no grounding for truth. All truth is free in the infinite vacuum of space and time. But we know on self-evident principles that that isn’t true; therefore, atheism is not true.

  174. Elizabeth,

    Regarding a necessary first cause:

    “But I’m not trying to argue it away – I think it’s an interesting question, scientifically, just not theologically!”

    You have to be kidding, right?

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.

    You don’t believe that is an interesting question theologically, when it’s the subject matter of the very first sentence in a decidedly theological treatise; one that if not true would render theology as complete nonsense? It’s the very foundation of theology, and if it’s scientifically interesting, it “bridges a gap” (not that I believe there really is a gap) somewhere between the two. Somehow I’m finding more of a reason to be puzzled by your responses than you apparently find in mine.

  175. Elizabeth,

    “Presumably you’ve seen this gif?

    http://www.raige.net/pictures/images/sig_occam.gif

    The existence of God, the very foundation for first principles of reason is what renders Occam’s razor useful or meaningful in any way.

    And without first principles we render all truth as infinitely complicated – past finding out.

  176. Elizabeth,

    Incidentally, Genesis doesn’t begin with an apologetic argument for the existence of God. It doesn’t do so, because it renders the existence of God as a self-evident truth. This does not mean that there were no atheists in the time Genesis was written.

    The reason why theologians, philosophers and apologists argue for the existence of God is because there are some who don’t accept God’s existence as self-evident; so it’s in part, a charitable enterprise towards those who have no faith or those who have their doubts.

    Faith and doubt: two things that require certainty about certain other things; which resolve their inherent and underlying problems. There is such thing as an unreasonable faith as well as an unreasonable doubt. Thus, there must also be such things as a reasonable faith and a reasonable doubt. Our task is to work these things out in the real world. We can’t work them out fully without the certainty of self-evident first principles. Genesis 1 gives us the very foundation from which to work them out. It’s no wonder that the advancement of science was made possible first by those who believed it.

  177. “If I have ever used the phrase “objective morality”, it was an error (or just laziness, not wanting to distinguish between “morality” and “the good” for the umpteenth time). Please read over my contributions to date; I have repeatedly made the distinction between “the good”, which is presumed under theistic morality to be an objective commodity, and “morality”, which is a subjective description of how to achieve or fulfill that good in terms of “oughts”.”

    I too need to be careful with this. It is “the good” that is objective/self-evident; not the morality that derives from it.

    I think I made this point several months back, but not in the same terms. I referred to the Shema Yisrael as the foundation for good. But I think that is just a reflection of the foundation as God’s character.

    Elizabeth objects to the necessary first cause as being personal or having a mind. But when we consider the ultimate good, we have to consider that which is personal; the expression of love, truth, meaning, etc.

    If the objective founding of morality and truth is the good; it makes no sense in discussing the first cause as non-personal. We can’t speak of Love (with a capital) apart from person. I can love a rock that is not personal, but it is entirely different than loving a human being that is. A rock has no feelings that could render my love towards it as meaningful. A human being does. Therefore, in order for human love to be meaningful the ultimate source of that love must possess that which could render that love meaningful. The good is therefore necessarily personal or it means nothing.

    Does that require a mind? Well not in the human sense of mind, but it does require some sort of consciousness of what is good. God must know (be conscious of) Himself in order to be God. If he is not, then “good” is simply an empty term.

  178. “What to do?”

    Either embrace that absurdity of it all or abandon it altogether.

  179. That was my position, CY, until a few years ago, almost precisely.

    Good to see it expressed so well, even if I no longer hold it :)

  180. Elizabeth,

    “I think this is an important point, actually, because there is an interesting symmetry, in that many of the theists here are ex-atheists, whereas most atheists (including me) are ex-theists. And so there’s a tendency for both “sides” to think that the “clingers” are the ones who still hold the view that oneself has rejected!”

    I thought I was done until I reread this.

    Whatever we cling to, there’s two possibilities: it is either true or false (well, it could be somewhat in-between as well, so “more true” or “more false”).

    But I would never make that sort of argument, because it seems quite related to an argument from consensus; which you’re obviously trying to avoid, but rendering it legitimate based on what people cling to as if their reasons for doing so don’t matter. They do matter. Your point is superflous. The only way I could know that those who abandoned theism or atheism was reasonable is to know the reasons why they did so. Trying to analyse it from relative statistics seems rather pointless.

    Did you abandon theism out of reason? Or did you abandon it out of emotion, or something else? I don’t exactly know. What I do know based on first principles is that your clinging to atheism is in conflict with things you have stated you accept as true.

    You agree somewhat that “the good” is a reasonable grounding for morality.

    You agree somewhat that a first cause is necessary for existence.

    Where the conflict lies is your contention that the first cause does not need to be personal (or “have a mind”) as you put it.

    This is definitely a conflict. Goodness requires consciousness. Not even a human being is good or bad unless there’s someone conscious around to accept or acknowledge her/his goodness or badness. Otherwise he/she just is. If only one human being ever came into existence and you are she, you would not require anyone outside yourself to acknowledge your goodness or badness, but this would not mean that there is no good or bad. You could recognize your own goodness or badness based on your own behavior towards yourself; even given that there are no other living beings.

    What you’re really saying is that goodness did not exist until conscious humans came around in numbers. Before that everything was neutral. But if it was neutral before humans came around, what renders it not neutral when humans are around? You’re back to the issue of subjective and relative truth as the basis for morality. What is good is a matter of taste and has nothing to do with anything we can ground it in. Well, that’s true of some things we call good or bad, but I can pretty much maintain to every human being that comes around that abusing a child is bad, and there’s a reason for the guilt and shame that results from it.

    The common argument I see from atheists against this is that the need for self-preservation renders certain acts good or bad. But the problem therein lies in where the need for self-preservation derives. It derives in something outside itself that is good. Otherwise it is meaningless.

    Someone locally left a 4 yo child in a car for 1/2 hour with the windows closed this last week, in outdoor temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, so they could attend a party. If it weren’t for an observant neighbor, the child would have died. The neighbor did an objectively good thing by notifying authorities and attempting to free the child from the locked car.

    The initial act was an act of evil regardless if they were just ignorant of the situation. They did harm to a child whether intentionally or unintentionally, their actions were evil. If it was unintentional, the action flowed out of ignorance or some other reason, and they may be less guilty than if it was intentional, and we might be relatively more inclined to forgive or excuse. If it was intentional, it stemmed from selfishness or some other unknown reason and they would be more guilty, and we would be less inclined to forgive or excuse. Whatever the reason, it was still evil. I think you will agree. The perpetrators, a mother and grandmother were appropriately arrested and charged.

    My initial reaction was not: “I bet they were atheists.” That has nothing to do with it. It was an evil act because it was not good. We make laws against neglect or willful harm based on what a person “ought” to do. “Ought” is derived from what we know is good. Good exists and whatever is the basis for that good is necessarily conscious of itself as good, and whatever other good flows from it.

    When there’s a conflict between one’s understanding of the basis for morality in what is objectively good and a worldview that does not identify a basis for an objective good, I’m concerned. I don’t know, I guess it has something to do with the flow of human history with such issues.

    I’m not so much concerned with the fact that people abandon long-held beliefs. So in short, I’m concerned with internal conflicts between what people claim to accept as true and their stated worldview. If there’s a conflict, they may be missing something somewhere. I think what you’re missing is in your stated belief that the necessary first cause does not have to be conscious. This to me is logically incoherent.

  181. Did you abandon theism out of reason? Or did you abandon it out of emotion, or something else? I don’t exactly know. What I do know based on first principles is that your clinging to atheism is in conflict with things you have stated you accept as true.

    Out of reason, most definitely. I did not want to reach the conclusion I found myself reaching. My emotions were most definitely pulling the other way.

    And I don’t think my atheism is in conflict with what I accept as true. If I did, I’d go back to my earlier belief in a heartbeat.

    If you are interested, the moment is recorded still in cyberspace.

    Here is my OP, entitled “Why I am a theist”.

    http://www.freeratio.org/thear.....ost4518826

    And here is when I stopped being one, 696 posts later:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thear.....tcount=696

    I don’t recommend reading the whole thread :)

  182. Der Liddle:

    Pardon me, but you are ducking and dodging.

    At no point have I said one must be a theist to see that a self evident moral truth is such. The issue, as has been pointed out to you for many months now, is warrant for morality as such.

    And BTW, without skipping a beat, you flipped from doubting objectivity of morality to trying to cleverly use suddenly implicitly accepted objectivity of at least one moral claim to suggest that it is irrelevant that evolutionary materialist atheists have a system in which morality is without foundations at all and is only subjective.

    In short you are ducking and trying to twist about an exposed contradiction in atheistical thought on morality. Namely, there is no IS in evolutionary materialism that can ground ought, so ought cannot be knowledge that is objectively warranted. And yet, here we have a clear example of a known — indeed undeniable on pain of absurdity, moral truth.

    Do you not see that your system is falling apart around your ears?

    If ought is real, and we have an objectively warranted case in hand, there MUST be an IS that can ground it. So, what is it. It sure is not the matter, energy, mechanical forces, chance, space and time that are all the resources atheism sees as foundational to the world.

    There is exactly one serious candidate for that, the inherently good Creator God.

    As was gone over in summary here above this morning; which — without proper warrant, you tried to dismiss as “circular.”

    Sorry, the argument is precisely NOT circular, and you should be able to see that by looking at it.

    Here is a simple challenge to you: as you now implicitly accept, OUGHT is objectively real, in at least some cases. Therefore there has to be a foundation of that OUGHT. That goes back to a foundational IS that can ground purpose, and can justify distinguishing things that fulfill or thwart such purpose, as foundational to worldview.

    We have already done the comparative on evolutionary materialism and theism, and evo mat failed. (And that inference to best explanation already shows that the argument cannot be circular, unless you are prepared to dismiss science itself as circular, as that is how theories in the end are warranted in science. But then, if it’s just the neurons firing, logic and meaning are irrelevant . . . yet another absurdity.)

    What other candidate IS do you have that can ground ought, so that the inference to best explanation on the good creator God is demoted form best explanation? Let’s hear it, and see the warrant for the claim.

    GEM of TKI

  183. NB: I have responded to the attempted comeback on self evidence of morality [implicitly accept the point, ignore its implications and try to strawmannise the theistic claim about that self evidence . . . i.e try to change the subject and attack a caricature of the point being argued), and on the attempt to project asserted circularity on inferring to the good Creator God as best explanation for a world in which objective morality exists, here.

  184. Reductio ad absurdum for materialism.

  185. Out of reason, most definitely. I did not want to reach the conclusion I found myself reaching. My emotions were most definitely pulling the other way.

    Not exactly illustrated by your links, either on the ‘out of reason’ count (other than in the “I made a decision” sense) or the emotional sense.

    But hey, if you say so, eh?

  186. BTW, it’s not the consensus — you could have that in favour of a wrong and it would still be wrong. The objectivity in this case is seen through the consequence of attempted denial: patent absurdity.

  187. 189

    Liz: “There’s a kind of nihilistic form of atheism that I do think is problematic.”

    And how do you determine that your brand of atheism is the correct one? Maybe by determining how closely you can get it to resemble the Christianity that you abandoned?

  188. Elizabeth,

    If what you express in your linked treatise “Why I am a Theist” is what you’re referring to as what your position was precisely to mine, I beg to differ:

    “So I regard it [the Golden Rule] as a reasonable axiom, not because it comes from divine authority (although, as it happens, it does come from at least one alleged divine authority) but because it works, not only as a rule in itself, but as an axiom from which other ethical principles can be derived.

    So, like many atheists, I consider the Golden Rule the axiom on which all other ethical principles can be derived, by reason, and also like many atheists, I consider that it derives from our biology. I do not, however, consider that it can be derived ex nihilo from reason alone as a personal strategy. I think it is something we may choose to adopt as rational strategy for survival as part of a society in which departure from that normative model is penalised. However, because there are other rational strategies we can adopt to ensure maximum personal benefit (to cheat; to restrict the application of the GR to members of the society we have a vested interest in belonging to), I do not consider that reason alone is sufficient to allow us to deduce the most beneficial behaviour for us as individuals. Therefore I do not consider reason a reliable guide to personal ethics. However, I do consider that we can account for our tendency to adopt the GR as a rational basis for our social justice systems in terms of an interaction between our capacity for empathy, altruism and co-operation and our capacity to apply an abstract principle (the GR) when devising the rules we expect members of our society to abide by if they are not to be penalised. In other words, I do not appeal to authority to account for our human systems of ethics, or to justify my adoption of the GR as axiomatic. I account for them in terms of biology and reason.” Brackets mine.

    I hold that the golden rule works because it derives from the good; the actual divine authority; not just alleged. It doesn’t come from our biology, but outside ourselves.

    I sense that you have always pretty much believed as you do now, you’ve just put a different, more appropriate label on it:

    “And I suspect that a great many atheists choose it as a model, but simply label the moving parts in different ways to mine. I think most people on this forum pragmatically, if not theoretically, regard themselves as autonomous moral agents trying to do good. The essential difference between me and you is that I countenance the possibility that this may be true. The non-essential difference between me and you is that I label one of the moving parts “God”.”

    You countenanced the possibility that it may be true, but not the glaring and appropriate necessity that it be true? There’s a huge difference in commitment here.

  189. I didn’t mean that we shared everything, but that what you expressed in that post was very much what I believed.

    I’m sure we differ on much else :)

    However, you should not doubt that I believed in a good God, creator of the universe and the ground of our being. I was not an atheist.

  190. “I didn’t mean that we shared everything, but that what you expressed in that post was very much what I believed.”

    What I wrote in that post is diametrically opposed to what you wrote in the sections quoted. I don’t see how you can equate that with agreeing with my position.

    I say that the golden rule is derived in the good; an actual being we call God. You claim, even while holding the position of a theist that “it works as a reasonable axiom, not because it comes from divine authority (although, as it happens, it does come from at least one alleged divine authority) but because it works, not only as a rule in itself, but as an axiom from which other ethical principles can be derived.”

    There’s a huge difference in worldviews present here, Lizzie. I hold that it is a reasonable axiom only because it is derived from the good; and this is why it works. You hold the opposite, that it works not because it comes from a divine authority, but because it is reasonable even if such a divine authority is only “alleged.”

    That’s hardly the position of most theists I know.

    Perhaps what you wrote in that post was in the midst of your transition from theism to atheism? That would seem more reasonable.

  191. Elizabeth,

    Well I did read your posts on what made you change.

    I found the following interesting:

    Quoting Einstein
    “‘A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’

    and is as at least as good a statement of my own theology as I could ever make, I think.

    So, the dust is settling. My views have changed. The bad news is that I still don’t get the kitten barbecue, because although there has been something of an explosion in my way of thinking, the pieces seem to be re-forming themselves into something not dissimilar to what I started with, but on what feels like a sounder footing.

    I dunno. What I did really like about Dennett is what he calls the “intentional stance” which is sort of what I have been banging on about over several threads. My theism is at bottom about teleology. The non-overlapping domains of religion and science seemed to me to be non-overlapping because one is concerned with teleology and the other isn’t. A non-teleological view of causation gives us science. A teleological view gives us something else. It gave me theism. It gives Dennett something he calls teleofunctionalism.

    Perhaps I am now a teleofunctionalist. It doesn’t seem to make my God-model any less real, but we’ll see.”

    First of all, regarding the quote from Einstein. What he’s doing is taking a bottom up approach to an appreciation of all that is good. Theism does the opposite and takes a top down approach. It starts with God and His character and works downward. With this there are obviously gaps where we don’t know the good, because we don’t know God fully.

    With Einstein’s approach, however, there’s still no basis for defining the good that he seeks to recognize in all of creation, so there’s nothing but a gap. He fills in a huge gap not with a top down approach, but pretty much his own need to actualize beyond the self; without recognizing that this need comes from God Himself.

    It’s certainly a beautiful statement, but it doesn’t ultimately work. If I start from myself and work outward, I ultimately only end up with what Einstein starts with; those closest to me. There’s too much in the world to reach out to in order to fulfill such a noble cause. Furthermore, it doesn’t escape what has been a condition of humans throughout history, and that is in thinking that they are more capable and more noble than they actually are; leading not to that which actualizes the noble intent, but to upwardly grandiose ideals that lead to tyranny. I like Star Trek, but it represents one of those grandiose ideals that doesn’t take into account the potential for human evil. I’m not a cynic either; I believe people ARE capable of great good; but not in recognizing themselves as that good; rather, that there is something greater than themselves, which drives them towards the good. Try to apply this kind of philosophy to an alcoholic, who doesn’t have it in him/her to change without the help of something outside him/herself such as a higher power or even just a sponsor, and I think you’ve lost the battle. Grandiose human utopian ideals don’t work, and history has pretty much proved this.

    The more appropriate approach it seems to me is to acknowledge that everything in the world is already embraced by God Himself, and by loving God, my approach to the world will be in line with God’s embrace, touching on issues, people and events I could never hope to affect on my own.

    This too will not lead to a utopia. It’s not intended to. HIs Kingdom is yet to come. It’s intended to counter the tendency to believe we are much more than we are. It’s also intended to help us understand that our greatness and value does not derive from who we are, but from who He is. Which is greater?

    And in case you’re thinking that this approach doesn’t solve any of the problems we have in the world, consider what organizations around the world are being the most helpful with human suffering, and from whence their perspective on human dignity derives. Christians themselves are not even interested in maligning the reputations of charitable organizations that are not so based, but are right in there with them as well; but you will find a lot of maligning of Christian charity among atheist defenders.

    Somehow I get the impression that the dust has not completely settled here.

  192. I read an argument that made sense to me. That’s reason.

  193. OK, in that case I misunderstood you. I didn’t realise that you thought it was a good axiom because it had divine provenance.

    That certainly wasn’t ever my position. My position was the reverse – that because it is a good axiom, it must have divine provenance.

  194. nullasalus, I’m just going to add: sarcasm doesn’t render your own position more persuasive.

    A specific point would be more, well, to the point. Also more charitable.

    I started that thread as a theist, and mid-thread came reluctantly to the reasoned conclusion that it was based on a false premise. It was an earth-shattering experience for me, and one that took some time to adjust to. It was two more years before I ceased attending mass, and the first Christmas I missed I wept.

    An emotional response, sure, and a very deep one, but a necessary process, because I was, and am, committed to following my head rather than my heart.

    Feel free to critique my reasoning, but please don’t mistake my conclusion for an emotional response. It was reached despite a strong emotional pull in precisely the opposite direction.

  195. It should put the lie to the canard that Richard Dawkins denies the existence of good and evil.

    It does nothing of the sort. Dawkins is merely spouting his unqualified and ignorant hatred for religious. Clearly, I know more about the atheist position than you do (you recently insisted that quote was from Darwin, and nothing to do with life…). The Dawkins quote above sums it up perfectly and is subscribed to by many atheists. That you cannot accept that is not my problem, other than wasting my time again having to refute this nonsense.

  196. Actually I didn’t “insist”, Chris – I’d seen it misattribute without realising it. I checked, and confirmed that you were correct.

    I’m always happy to be corrected, as I hope should be clear by now.

    To your main point: there is no “atheist position” – there are atheists, and their positions vis a vis many things, varies. What they have in common is simply a negative – not holding a belief in god or gods. So no, you do not “know more about the atheist position” than I do. There is no single position.

    And if you read that article by Dawkins, you will find that he makes a very clear point that what happened was evil. He actually uses that word. So clearly he does not hold the view that good and evil do not exist.

    Moreoever, he is not “merely spouting his unqualified and ignorant hatred for religious”. He is making a very specific point that it was the promise of an afterlife,that induced those men to serve as missile guidance systems. In other words, a religious belief.

    I was disappointed that no coherent response was made by any religious leader to Dawkins’ article, which seemed to me to demand a response.

    What responses there were were mostly of the generic “Dawkins is merely spouting his hatred of religion” type that you yourself have just produced.

    No, he isn’t. He is making an extremely pertinent point – religious belief can be a powerful weapon, literally – by inducing belief that this life matters less than the next, it can, and does, induce a disregard for not only your own life but those of other people.

    This is a challenge that religious people must meet, not merely dismiss as a religious hatred.

    Anyway, if you are interested, I’ve posted an OP here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=163

  197. Asking atheists to provide reasoned analysis and discussion points on the subject of theology is like asking Ayatollah Khomeini to write a detailed review of “the Satanic Verses”. Atheists cannot produce any original thought or clear thinking when it comes to theology. Most of them can’t even produce any original thought or clear thinking when it comes to atheism! Richard Dawkins’ quote about our existence (if the atheistic worldview is true) is one of those rare occasions when an atheist does utter something honest and coherent about their own beliefs:

    The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. 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.

    Any atheist who doesn’t realise that this outcome is entirely unavoidable when you embrace the atheistic worldview frankly needs to spend more time privately reflecting on their beliefs, instead of wasting time posting ill-conceived posts on the internet.

  198. The test of reason is not opinion or feeling or agreement among a given circle etc, but objective warrant; however limited our capacity to warrant in a given case. Warrant, on credible facts, factual adequacy of explanations, coherence [logical and dynamical], explanatory, predictive and application power etc.

  199. 201

    Elizabeth,

    You select whatever current, available semantic, definitinol and philosophical contrivances exist to justify your personal moral predilections and use them to do so without any regard to how they can be fundamentally justified on basis nor any thought towards ultimate ramifications.

    If you are not authorized to make moral judgements via your system, then who is? Do you rely on others who have other ethical systems to enact and carry out laws for you? Is law not based on morality and ethics? Should we do away with law?

    You “would argue” that the “definitional basis” for ethics is [insert personal preference here] … but “that you would argue” bears no weight on why I or anyone should agree to live our lives according to some arbitrary definition. What kind of basis is “I would argue that by definition ethics means X …, so from that definition we should do Y..”

    Should we also listen to “I would argue” arguments from “the definitional basis of ethics ” in terms of survival of the fittest, of might makes right, of will-to-power? Or are you and your definitional predilections special? Why should we not apply those convenient and existing definitional frameworks in our moral and ethical structure?

    Am I not allowed to define ethics and morality however I see fit? No? Why not? Of course I can, just as you are free to define them however you see fit. Since you have no authority to pass moral or ethical judgements, then you cannot complain about my morality if I decide it is moral to throw you in jail for heresy. Well, you could not complain if you actually adhered to the consequences of your statements, but ultimately you and I both know you are free to drag in any principle or redefine your own on the fly to justify whatever it is you “feel” needs to be done at the time.

    You range about finding whatever statements suit your rhetorical commentary – redefining “self-evidently true” as “consensus” when your obvious self-contradiction is revealed, as if something becomes not self-evidently true simply because someone disagrees.

    You agree that some things are self-evidently immoral, but then add the caveat after you invoke consensus as your moral guide that “self-evident” means only “universally agreed” (everyone, as you said, agrees to it), failing to realize that you cannot claim something is self-evidently true (as you did) unless you know there is universal agreement to the statement.

    Is it self-evidently true that taking newborn daughters out to the water and drowning them is wrong? I guess not – since so many Chinese mothers have thought otherwise. Is it self-evidently wrong to throw physically imperfect infants over a cliff? I guess not, since a whole culture (Spartans) did so. Is it self-evidently wrong to round up Jews, starve them and gas them to death for no reason other than that they are Jewish? By your answers, the answer is “no” simply because so many people disagreed with that assertion.

    But, all this has already been pointed out, and it apparently means nothing to you, other than as being what other people happen to argue based on the way things seem to them.

  200. “because I was, and am, committed to following my head rather than my heart.”

    I think there’s a lot of good reasons for leaving Catholicism. But what exactly, in a nutshell, has your “head” learned that has made you bail out on the theism your “heart”?

  201. Elizabeth,

    I was disappointed that no coherent response was made by any religious leader to Dawkins’ article, which seemed to me to demand a response.

    I’m no religious leader, but here’s a response:

    Dawkins equates teaching religious belief to mind control, turning men into mindless pigeons that will guide bombs.
    What about teaching people not to kill? Is that also mind control? It’s like people who think it’s okay to teach children what they approve of, but if you teach them something different it becomes “brainwashing.”

    Yes, some religions do manipulate vulnerable minds, but it’s is not exclusive to religion. Governments do it. By Dawkins’ logic I could argue that teachers of evolution do it, including Dawkins. Marketers do it. Compare ‘kill people and go to paradise’ and ‘wear this deodorant and have sex.’ The principle is the same. Only the outcomes differ.

    It’s rather twisted to equate teaching with mind control, and disingenuous to apply the principle only to teachings one doesn’t approve.

  202. 204

    So, according to MarkF and Elizabeth Liddle, it is not “self-evidently immoral”, nor objectively immoral, for an adult to have sex with a child (as per the thread’s original focus), many people don’t find there to be anything wrong with it. If society gets to the place where it is acceptable for an adult to have sex with a child, then they’re on board.

    Nice to know the kind of people we’re debating.

Leave a Reply