Home » Intelligent Design » “The universe is too big, too old and too cruel”: three silly objections to cosmological fine-tuning (Part One)

“The universe is too big, too old and too cruel”: three silly objections to cosmological fine-tuning (Part One)

In previous articles, I have argued that even if our universe is part of some larger multiverse, we still have excellent scientific grounds for believing that our universe – and also the multiverse in which it is embedded – is fine-tuned to permit the possibility of life. Moreover, the only adequate explanation for the extraordinary degree of fine-tuning we observe in the cosmos is that it is the product of an Intelligence. That is the cosmological fine-tuning argument, in a nutshell. My articles can be viewed here:

So you think the multiverse refutes cosmological fine-tuning? Consider Arthur Rubinstein
Beauty and the multiverse
Why a multiverse would still need to be fine-tuned, in order to make baby universes

Scientific challenges to the cosmological fine-tuning argument can be ably rebutted, as this article by Dr. Robin Collins shows. However, there are three objections to fine-tuning which I keep hearing from atheists over and over again. Here they are:

1. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does it have to be so BIG, and why is it nearly everywhere hostile to life? Why are there so many stars, and why are so few orbited by life-bearing planets?

2. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does it have to be so OLD, and why was it devoid of life throughout most of its history? For instance, why did life on Earth only appear after 70% of the cosmos’s 13.7-billion-year history had already elapsed? And Why did human beings (genus Homo) only appear after 99.98% of the cosmos’s 13.7-billion-year history had already elapsed?

3. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does Nature have to be so CRUEL? Why did so many animals have to die – and why did so many species of animals have to go extinct (99% is the commonly quoted figure), in order to generate the world as we see it today? What a waste! And what about predation, parasitism, and animals that engage in practices such as serial murder and infant cannibalism?

In today’s post, I’m not going to attempt to provide any positive reasons why we should expect an intelligently designed universe to be big and old, and why we should not be too surprised if it contains a lot of suffering. I’ll talk about those reasons in my next post. What I’m going to do in this post is try to clear the air, and explain why I regard the foregoing objections to the cosmic fine-tuning argument as weak and inconclusive.

Here are seven points I’d like atheists who object to the cosmological fine-tuning argument to consider:

1. If you don’t like the universe that we live in, then the onus is on you to show that a better universe is physically possible, given a different set of laws and/or a different fundamental theory of physics. Only when you have done this are you entitled to make the argument that our universe is so poorly designed that no Intelligent Being could possibly have made it.

At this point, I expect to hear splutterings of protest: “But that’s not our problem. It’s God’s. Isn’t your God omnipotent? Can’t He make anything He likes – including a perfect universe?” Here’s my answer: “First, the cosmological fine-tuning argument claims to establish the existence of an Intelligent Designer, who may or may not be omnipotent. Second, even an omnipotent Being can only make things that can be coherently described. So what I want you to do is provide me with a physical model of your better universe, showing how its laws and fundamental theory of physics differ from those of our universe, and why these differences make it better. Until you can do that, you’d better get back to work.”

2. Imaginability doesn’t imply physical possibility. I can imagine a winged horse, but that doesn’t make it physically possible. The question still needs to be asked: “How would it fly?” I can also imagine a nicer universe where unpleasant things never happen, but I still have to ask myself: “What kind of scientific laws and what kind of fundamental theory would need to hold in that nicer universe, in order to prevent unpleasant things from happening?”

3. As Dr. Robin Collins has argued, the laws of our universe are extremely elegant, from a mathematical perspective. (See also my post, Beauty and the multiverse.) If there is an Intelligent Designer, He presumably favors mathematical elegance. However, even if a “nicer” universe proved to be physically possible, in a cosmos characterized by some other set of scientific laws and a different fundamental theory of physics, the scientific laws and fundamental theory of such a universe might not be anywhere near as mathematically elegant as those of the universe that we live in. The Intelligent Designer might not want to make a “nice”, pain-free universe, if doing so entails making a messy, inelegant universe.

4. If a Designer wanted to design a universe that was free from animal suffering (i.e. a world in which animals were able to avoid noxious stimuli, without the conscious feeling of pain), there are two ways in which He could accomplish this: He could either use basic, macro-level laws of Nature (e.g. “It is a law of Nature that no animal that is trapped in a forest fire shall suffer pain”) or micro-level laws (i.e. by making laws of Nature precluding those physical arrangements of matter in animals’ brain and nervous systems which correspond to pain).

The first option is incompatible with materialism. If you believe in the materialist doctrine of supervenience (that any differences between two animals’ mental states necessarily reflect an underlying physical difference between them), it automatically follows that if a trapped animal’s brain and nervous system instantiates a physical arrangement of matter which corresponds to pain, then that animal will suffer pain, period. No irreducible, top-down “macro-level” law can prevent that, in a materialistic universe. So if you’re asking the Designer to make a world where unpleasant or painful things never happen by simply decreeing this, then what you’re really asking for is a world in which animals’ minds cannot be described in materialistic terms. Are you sure you want that?

The second option is unwieldly. There are a vast number of possible physical arrangements of matter in animals’ brain and nervous systems which correspond to pain, and there is no single feature that they all possess in common, at the micro level. An Intelligent Designer would need to make a huge number of extra laws, in order to preclude each and every one of these physical arrangements. That in turn would make the laws of Nature a lot less elegant, when taken as a whole. The Intelligent Designer might not want to make such an aesthetically ugly universe.

Eliminating animal suffering might not be a wise thing to do, in any case. One could argue that the conscious experience of pain is, at least sometimes, biologically beneficial, since it subsequently leads to survival-promoting behavior: “Once bitten, twice shy.” (An automatic, unconscious response to noxious stimuli might achieve the same result, but perhaps not as effectively or reliably as conscious pain.) However, if the Designer is going to allow survival-promoting pain into His world, then He will have to allow the neural states corresponding to that pain. If He still wants to rule out pain that doesn’t promote survival, then He’s going to have to make funny, top-down “macro-level” laws to ensure this – for instance: “It is a law of nature that neural state X [which correspinds to pain in one's right toe] is only allowed to exist if it benefits the animal biologically.” Note the reference to the whole animal here. You’re asking Mother Nature to check whether the pain would be biologically beneficial to the animal as a whole, before “deciding” whether to allow the animal to experience the feeling of pain or not. But that’s a “macro-level” law, and hence not the kind of law which any card-carrying materialist could consistently ask a Designer to implement.

5. Objections to fine-tuning are of no avail unless they are even more powerful than arguments for fine-tuning. I’d like to use a simple mathematical example to illustrate the point. (I’ve deliberately tried to keep this illustration as jargon-free – and Bayes-free- as possible, so that everyone can understand it.) Suppose, for argument’s sake, that the cosmic fine-tuning argument makes it 99.999999999999999999999 per cent likely (given our current knowledge of physics) that the universe had a Designer. Now suppose, on the other hand, that the vast size and extreme age of the universe, combined with the enormous wastage of animal life and the huge amount of suffering that has occurred during the Earth’s history, make it 99.999999 per cent likely (given our current scientific knowledge of what’s physically possible and what’s not) that a universe containing these features didn’t have a Designer. Given these figures, it would still be rational to accept the cosmic fine-tuning argument, and to believe that our universe had a Designer. Put simply: if someone offers me a 99.999999999999999999999 per cent airtight argument that there is an Intelligent Designer of Nature, and then someone else puts forward a 99.999999 per cent airtight argument that there isn’t an Intelligent Designer, I’m going to go with the first argument and distrust the second. Any sensible person would. Why? Because the likelihood that the first argument is wrong is orders of magnitude lower than the likelihood that the second argument is wrong. Putting it another way: the second argument is “leakier” than the first, so we shouldn’t trust it, if it appears to contradict the first.

6. For the umpteenth time, Intelligent Design theory says nothing about the moral character of the Designer. Even if an atheist could demonstrate beyond all doubt that no loving, personal Designer could have produced the kind of universe we live in, would that prove that there was no Designer? No. All it would show is that the Designer was unloving and/or impersonal – in which case, the logical thing to do (given the strength of the fine-tuning argument) would be to become a Deist. Of course, you might not like such an impersonal Deity – and naturally, it wouldn’t like you, either. But as a matter of scientific honesty, you would be bound to to acknowledge its existence, if that’s where the evidence led.

I’m genuinely curious as to why so few Intelligent Design critics have addressed the philosophy of Deism, and I can only put it down to pique. It’s as if the critics are saying, “Well, I don’t want anything to do with that kind of Deity, as it’s indifferent to suffering. Therefore, I refuse to even consider the possibility that it might exist.” When one puts it like that, it does seem a rather silly attitude to entertain, doesn’t it?

7. From time to time, I have noticed that some atheist critics of the cosmological fine-tuning argument make their case by attacking the God of the Bible. I have often wondered why they focus their attack on such a narrow target, as people of many different religions (and none) can still believe in some sort of God. I strongly suspect that the underlying logic is as follows:

(i) if the cosmological fine-tuning argument is true then there is a Transcendent Designer;

(ii) if there is a Transcendent Designer then it’s possible that this Designer is the God of the Bible;

(iii) but it is impossible that the God of the Bible could exist, because He is a “moral monster”;

(iv) hence, the cosmological fine-tuning argument is not true.

This is a pathological form of reasoning, since it is emotionally driven by a visceral dislike of the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, I believe this form of reasoning is quite common among atheists.

What’s wrong with the foregoing argument? (I shall assume for the purposes of the discussion below that step (i) is true.) At a cursory glance, the argument looks valid:

if A is true then B is true; if B is true then it is possible that C; but it is not possible that C; hence A is not true.

The argument is invalid, however, because it confuses epistemic possibility with real (ontological) possibility. If something is epistemically possible, then for all we know, it might be true. But if something is ontologically possible, then it could really happen. The two kinds of possibility are not the same, because we don’t always know enough to be sure about what could really happen.

Step (ii) of the foregoing argument relates to epistemic possibility, not ontological possibility. It does not say that there is a real possibility that the God of the Bible might exist; it simply says that for all we know, the Transcendent Designer might turn out to be the God the Bible.

Step (iii) of the argument, on the other hand, relates to ontological possibility. It amounts to the claim that since the God the Bible is morally absurd, in His dealings with human beings, no such Being could possibly exist, in reality.

Now, I’m not going to bother discussing the truth or falsity of step (iii) in the foregoing argument. All I intend to say in this post is that even if you believe it to be true, the argument above is an invalid, because the two kinds of possibility in steps (ii) and (iii) are not the same.

Indeed, if you were absolutely sure that step (iii) were true, then you would have to deny step (ii). In which case, the argument fails once again.

In short: attacking the cosmological fine-tuning argument by ridiculing the God of the Bible is a waste of time.

I would like to conclude by saying that atheists who object to the cosmological fine-tuning argument really need to do their homework. Let’s see your better alternative universe, and let’s see your scientific explanation of how it works.

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172 Responses to “The universe is too big, too old and too cruel”: three silly objections to cosmological fine-tuning (Part One)

  1. Another thing I think should be noted, VJ, is that none of those atheist arguments can even pretend to be proofs against the existence of God. They are merely difficulties that would seem to require further explanation. Therefore, for instance, even if you were to find the-problem-of-evil argument compelling, the most you could say in its behalf is, “Yes, it does seem strange that a good God would allow these things.”

    The arguments for the existence of God, on the other hand, are intended to be actual proofs, whether evidential or apodictic. Therefore, if these arguments are successful, then the rational person will be compelled by them to positively affirm the existence of God, not just recognize difficulties in the atheist position.

    From this it is easy to see that one could accept all the atheist arguments as being truly valid difficulties, while affirming God’s existence according to the evidence and apodictic proofs.

  2. There is a strong undercurrent in the many variants of the “Why Isn’t the World Perfect” line of arguing, and it is this: In trying to rebut the notion of an omnipotent and omniscient God, they argue as if God merely rubbed His lamp and commanded a genie to make things as they are, and posit that they would have commanded the genie differently.

    That is full-blown straw man argumentation. An omniscient creator does not merely toss a series of unrelated desiderata into the mix and call the world created; instead, such a being works with the full knowledge of every detail and consequence across the entire spatial and temporal domain on which He works.

    Not a single event, whether past, present, or future, is independent of the remainder of the macrocosmic universe, and yet the atheist argues as if—for instance—the death of an innocent child can be treated as an absolute tragedy which could have been reversed without any repercussions to the remainder of the world.

    That God did not do as we think best is by no means a conclusive argument against His being.

  3. The fine tuning argument always seemed fallacious to me, even back at a time when I was religious.

    Assume a completely random universe. The appropriate probability is the conditional probability that the universe will support human life, given the condition that human life arose in that universe. The conditional probability is 1. That is to say, it is a certainty. And therefore there is no argument that the improbability of the universe suggests non-randomness.

  4. Hi Neil,

    Thank you for your comment. Your argument seems to contain an ambiguity. You wrote: “Assume a completely random universe.” By “completely random”, do you mean one where physical constants are allowed to vary at random, in different regions of space-time? In that case, then you would be wrong to assume that the conditional probability that some region of space-time within this cosmos will be hospitable to life. It might appear that with an infinite amount of time and space, sooner or later some life-friendly bubble of space-time would turn up, but that would be a mistaken supposition. The reason, in a nutshell, is that not all infinities are equal. Physicist Rob Sheldon argues that the infinity of possible universes you can get by branching is aleph-1, but the number you can get by varying the physical constants is only aleph-0. Aleph-0 divided by aleph-1 is still infinitesimal. See Infinitely wrong by Dr. Rob Sheldon.

    If on the other hand you assume that the physical constants are NOT allowed to vary in your cosmos, then I have to ask: what keeps them fixed? Why are they not allowed to vary by even a tiny amount? Grant me even this tiny amount, and I can generate a “fly-on-the-wall” cosmological fine-tuning argument. There is nothing we know about the constants of nature that suggests that they are necessary facts. They seem to be utterly contingent – in which case, it is reasonable to ask why they are that way.

  5. Neil: I won the lottery last week. When asked about the odds, I said 1:1. Since I had won the lottery, it was clear that the probability for winning the lottery was a certainty.

    Fail.

  6. You are misinterpreting.

    What is clear, is that the probability that everything happened just right for you to win was 1. This is a conclusion about past events. You cannot use it to draw conclusions about unknown future events.

  7. By “completely random”, do you mean one where physical constants are allowed to vary at random, in different regions of space-time?

    Sorry, but I cannot make sense of that. Physical constants are parameters in the system that we have designed to allow us to describe the universe. The Ptolemaic astronomers had a very different system for describing the universe, and very different parameters (physical constants).

    To pose the question that way, you would need a system for describing the universe that was completely independent of human influence, preferably a system that is canonical (in the mathematical sense of “canonical”). I doubt that is possible.

  8. Pardon NR

    But it looks like it is you who are misinterpreting.

    You have inserted an a posteriori into your a priori estimation. Which is what S9A — great aircraft BTW (and, a Spitfire points to a Reginald Mitchell as its best explanation . . . ) — was highlighting.

    Yes, that we do exist entails that the cosmos is such that we must be possible to exist. But, when we look at what that in turn requires at origins of said cosmos, we then find that the circumstances are peculiar indeed. It is most definitely not fallacious to ask why those circumstances, when we see that there are dozens of factors that if tipped a tad one way or another, would lead to a cosmos wildly inhospitable to life like ours.

    And that holds even if there are other possible zones of correlated parameters that would make for regions that would not be fine-tuned like this.

    So far as we can see, our observed cosmos sits at a rather fine-tuned cosmological operating point that facilitates C-chemistry cell based life as we enjoy. Given the challenges implied in a multi-component complex system that exhibits such functionally specific complex organisation, and associated implied prescriptive information, on our experience of what is needed to set up things that have that sort of wiring diagram and co-tuned component architecture, it is highly reasonable to infer the best explanation as design.

    At a crude level, when I see a well tempered audio amplifier exhibiting great class AB bias with good bandwidth and minimal distortions, I infer to design, not good luck.

    There is no reasonable lottery on the gamut of the observed cosmos that would give rise to such an amp by lucky chance.

    And just so, when the cosmos itself looks a lot like such an amp, I am most definitely not irrational to infer that it points beyond itself to a designer.

    GEM of TKI

  9. F/N: I should note that this is not meant to be a deductive proof, but an inference on evidence, to credibility of an explanation as a possibility. It then opens the door to looking at other evidence, instead of shutting out what else is there. But for those who want nicely slammed and tightly bolted doors . . .

  10. On #1, the fact that an atheist questions why a Designer would so such-and-such is not a positive argument against a Designer. If anything, it presumes a Designer exists! And #1 has already found its answer anyway, in the old-earth perspective. On the old earth view, the creator God of the Bible used the time and materials of 10B years of star formation to provide sufficient quantities of metals and elements necessary for highly advanced, intelligent life. Without sufficient space between a multitude of necessary stars, the universe would simply collapse upon itself. Obviously this didn’t happen, since the expansion rate of the universe is one of the best tested and confirmed discoveries in all of science.

    On #2, that also has been answered by the old earth perspective. The age of the universe corresponds to the rate of star formation, star death and supernovae (that spreads life-essential material) throughout the universe, the expansion rate and other finely tuned parameters. Life began at just the right time in cosmic history as soon as the essential metals and elements would be both present and amazingly abundant on a single, finely tuned planet strategically placed in the best place for both life and scientific observation. The question has been answered. Do atheists have a more compelling alternative? Not one that doesn’t require blind faith in something that does nothing…chance.

    On #3, this is just icing on the cake. Let’s put all three atheist objections together and see how it sounds as a single argument.

    1-3 is thus stating, “The universe is too old, too big and too cruel to have been designed. Therefore, the universe was not designed.”

    Firstly, the atheist (or whoever) who makes this kind of argument assumes that the universe is cruel, but not cruel enough. If the universe was REALLY cruel, then there would be some universe-imposed prohibition on enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks, reading a good book, enjoying time with one’s family or admiring beautiful aspects of the natural realm. Why would the universe only be cruel enough to allow what atheists believe is evil, but not what others believe is evil?

    Really. Any universe that is old, big and allowed the ant I stepped on this morning to suffer for a minute pales in comparison to a universe that prohibits me from having a coffee at Starbucks, reading a good book, spending time with my family or admiring the beauty of nature. Is the debate settled then? Not quite.

    There seems to be a silent debate among atheists on this matter of a cruel universe. Some think the universe is cruel , since one of their most vociferous number is well known for stating…

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

    How a blind, pitiless, indifferent universe and a cruel, evil universe can co-exist is an interesting question. Why atheists would care how cruel the universe is, or its designer, merely demonstrates that the universe is not the way they say it is. Thus, we don’t live in an atheist (or at least Dawkinish) universe.

    Next, it assumes that suffering is evil, which is bad. Of course they don’t believe they have any epistemic responsibility to show that such a designer/God wouldn’t have a sufficient moral reason for allowing or causing that suffering. They just hope nobody notices this little omission.

    Rather than face up to the challenge of having a backbone (in other words, make a positive case) for their view, they make money from their faithful by book and video sales, and hope that the masses are converted to their cause via taxpayer funded public broadcasting, glossy magazine covers and government imposed science curricula that seek to indoctrinate the philosophies of naturalism, scientism and atheism into innocent, impressionable minds of young children in taxpayer funded classrooms instead of focusing on good science. Such underhanded, Machiavellian measures aren’t evidence of a compelling world view, but of fear.

    It’s evidence of a few disgruntled atheists who cannot resolve the difficulties the implications their own world view invites, imposing their emotional and philosophical baggage on the rest of us within a framework of scientific terminology, bullying and lawsuits. Sure, a few are converted to their cause. The majority are not. Why is that? Because the argument from evil is just an emotional argument, not an argument grounded in objective reality. Most people want to keep it real. Most people are more interested in truth than the emotional hang-ups of atheists who make poor arguments.

    For those atheists who ask such questions as 1-3 as VJTorley has stated…and seriously…I have a few questions myself…questions I should have asked myself when I was once an atheist.

    When did the universe begin to have the capacity to inflict cruelty upon its inhabitants?
    Is cruelty in the universe an emergent quality?
    Exactly how cruel is the designer (or the universe) anyway? Has the designer/ God always been cruel, or did we humans just put him in a bad mood? Is this the same designer (universe) that allows goodness, kindness and love to exist?

  11. F/N 2: What are the odds of a Reginald Mitchell [or a similarly competent designer], given a Spitfire?

  12. Some pretty sobering issues and points.

  13. Hi Neil,

    I’m afraid I cannot agree with your assertion that “physical constants are parameters that we have designed to allow us to describe the universe”. If you’re talking about measuring units, then of course that is a choice; however, if you’re talking about the physical parameters that they measure, they are a “given” – an objective feature of the cosmos. An alien civilization observing the cosmos would have just as much of a fine-tuning problem as we do, even if they expressed it in somewhat different terminology.

  14. Pardon NR:

    I think, first, the issue VJT raises is pretty straightforward, he is asking you to clarify your terms.

    For instance, when YOU suggested “[a]ssume a completely random universe” do you mean a lawless universe where it is sheer coincidence and selection by success that creates the illusion of lawlike order?

    VJT then went on to put on the table the serious alternatives under discussion. (Having already pointed to a useful survey in the OP.)

    So far as we can observe, the cosmos seems to obey the same set of laws across its width. That at minimum makes the cosmos within our horizon credibly a zone in which one particular set of parameters and laws obtains, and since we are discussing science in a context of human beings, it seems rather selectively hyperskeptical to stipulate “you would need a system for describing the universe that was completely independent of human influence.”

    Especially, when you also say: “Physical constants are parameters in the system that we have designed to allow us to describe the universe.”

    We have indeed developed various models of the cosmos across time, and have used them to describe the evident lawlike order of the universe, however provisionally. So, in all we do, there is provisionality, that is the nature of scientific thought and knowledge claims, and it holds for ALL scientific work. Indeed, such provisionality holds for all cases of claimed knowledge on empirical observation or “facts.” We are finite and fallible.

    That by no means suffices to negate that with our present studies we have seen that the empirical data warrants a certain set of factual claims about our cosmos:

    [e.g. expansion, a beginning, certain descriptive laws about its behaviour as a whole and of the various aspects of it such as say the properties of H2O which point to the roots of the cosmos and raise issues of fine tuning of the overarching laws of the cosmos per Hoyle's notes since 1953],

    . . . and there are certain candidate explanations for such a cosmos as we see, explanations that are physical models with certain parameters, and in a context where successor models will have to at least as well explain what these models explain.

    Now, that is our context as practitioners of science.

    In that context, it is indeed legitimate to ask questions about the antecedent odds of a sub-cosmos like ours bubbling up, given that we are here and that this entails on the scientific evidence that there must be origins conditions and constraints that are consistent with our being here. For argument, accept the multiverse claims, and address the onward import, of a “cosmos bakery” that has to be set up right to scan the zone of parameter space where we sit, sufficiently well to plausibly throw up at least one sub cosmos habitable by the likes of us, with H, He, C, O and N as the first five most abundant elements [with also a sprinkling of other key elements], and having the properties that make C-chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life possible.

    Fine tuned, well wired operating point based systems point to designers, on strong empirical warrant. (And if they did not, we would not be seeing the sort of abstruse objections instead that we are seeing. So, we know the reasonable default position, absent a priori materialism a la Lewontin et al.)

    In that context, sorry, but it is your main objection above that does not look very plausible:

    Assume a completely random universe.

    a –> Clarification of what is meant here is conspicuously missing in action, despite request.

    b –> On the reasonable interpretation that we are looking art at least a bubble cosmos, we find reason to believe that this bubble has consistent laws across it.

    c –> So, what is to be addressed would be an underlying cosmos as a whole that bubbles up at least one such sub-cosmos with evidently fine-tuned C-chemistry cell based life friendly parameters.

    The appropriate probability is the conditional probability that the universe will support human life, given the condition that human life arose in that universe.

    c –> Looking at the matter from the wrong end.

    d –> That we are here to observe implies the cosmos must be consistent with that, which then raises issues as to how that condition came to be. A cosmos that credibly had a beginning. So, it is not self-explanatory.

    e –> This then leads to the issue of the sort of required generating laws of a cosmos that would be consistent with the existence, abundance and peculiar properties of water, and with the abundance and properties of H, He, C, N, and O etc.

    The conditional probability is 1. That is to say, it is a certainty.

    f –> That the cosmos, looking back, must NOW be such that humans are possible and even actual, does not sweep off the table the question, what is required for such a contingent universe to come into being.

    And therefore there is no argument that the improbability of the universe suggests non-randomness.

    g –> Do you see how you have set up and knocked over a strawman?

    h –> Hint: the relevant issue is that we live in a cosmos that had a beginning, is contingent and is evidently lawlike. The relevant laws so far as we can discover, are not internally constrained to take the values they have. And, the actual values seem to be set at a fine tuned operating point. So it is quite reasonable to look at why such contingency is manifested, in light of the two main candidate explanations for high contingency, chance and choice.

    i –> Even if it were the case that there is a prevailing super-law or mechanism that forces our sub cosmos to be as it is, that too would be subject to the same question of its fine tuning. In short this issue is not so easily swept off the table.

    Do you see why the objections you have made look rather strained, misdirected and weak?

    GEM of TKI

  15. F/N: one way to look at the cardinality challenge is that for all we know the physical parameters may vary continuously, but sub-cosmi bubble up one at a time. the former specifies a contiunnum-cardinality, the latter, a countable cardinality. the former is “infinitely” bigger than the latter, i.e you cannot adequately scan a continuum for isolated and UNrepresentative points, by random individual samples, even infinitely many of them! [This is an extension of the finite search space challenge for trying to capture the islands of function in genome space, though in that case the search is finite and the space is also finite. Just YOU EXHAUST PLANCK TIME QUANTUM STATE ATOMIC RESOURCES WAY BEFORE YOU CAN ADEQUATELY SAMPLE THE CONFIG SPACE OF A GENOME FOR ORIGINAL LIFE OR A MAJOR NEW BODY PLAN.]

  16. A lot of this turns round the extent to which the nature of the designer is specified and what is mean’t by possible (“possible” is always relative to some kind of impediment – the laws of logic, the laws of physics, the law of chess etc).

    Does the designer prefer:

    (a ) beautiful physical laws

    (b ) not to have vast amounts of non-living space and time

    (c ) avoiding pain

    Clearly the objections assume (b ) and (c ).  You appear to say (b ) and (c ) are not necessarily true of the designer – but (a ) is.

    When you say something can be imagined but is impossible – what kind of impossibility is this? Obviously something which the designer is incapable of overcoming!  So this implies another characteristic of the designer  – depending on the type of impossibility you have in mind.

    (d ) cannot create a universe which has both elegant laws and avoids the physical conditions which correspond to pain

    All of this leads up to what I think is the biggest single objection to both the fine-tuning argument and ID as applied OOL.  Collins explains it rather well in the excellent paper you link to.  If we are to consider the design hypothesis as an alternative explanation for anything then it must not be “ad hoc”.  If we just look at the universe and note that it has characteristics x,y and z – then of course an omnipotent designer who wants a universe with characteristics x,y and z is a perfect explanation. And of course this is totally unsatisfactory. As Collins explains – there has to be some independent reason for supposing such a designer exists.  As I see it the objections you take on above make certain implicit assumptions about the designer based on their idea of what the designer wants and is capable of doing.  You respond by questioning those assumptions.  That is all very well – but at some point the design hypothesis has to put a stake in the ground and say something about this designer and the independent grounds for believing it exists.  Otherwise you are creating an ad hoc explanation – a designer which has motives and limitations which correspond to what we observe.

  17. 17

    One doesn’t have to have knowledge of a designer’s motives and limitations in order to infer that something was designed. Indeed, one can only begin arguments about such motivations and limitations after one has first reached the reasonable, separate conclusion that the thing in question was probably designed.

    The design inference is abductive reasoning to best conclusion via comparison to a known commodity (human ID); it is no different than when we infer from evidence that in the past voclanic activity or meteor impact created features on other planets or moons. Such an inference is not ad hoc.

    The only thing that is “ad hoc” are the “too big, too cruel, too old” objections to the fine-tuning argument. One would necessarily have to be inserting ad hoc assertions about the motives and limitations of the designer in order to claim that the universe is too big, or too cruel, or too old to have been designed.

  18. I’m afraid I cannot agree with your assertion that “physical constants are parameters that we have designed to allow us to describe the universe”.

    Then it’s a good thing that I never said that. I certainly don’t agree with that alleged assertion.

    No, it is not just measuring units. We describe the universe using concepts. As best I can tell, there is nothing necessary about the particular concepts that we use. I could easily come up with completely different systems of concepts that could be used to describe the same universe.

    Sure, once we have a suitable system of concepts, then we determine constants according to data. But the system of concepts itself is a human design. To avoid that, you would need some system of concepts that is demonstrably independent of human activity. That’s what would need to be canonical (in the mathematical sense).

    As long as we depend on a human created system of concepts, it is pretty much impossible to unravel the question of design. If the system of concepts is a human design, then everything that looks designed might merely be a result of that human design.

    An alien civilization observing the cosmos would have just as much of a fine-tuning problem as we do, even if they expressed it in somewhat different terminology.

    If we ever come across an alien civilization, and if we ever solve the communication problem so that we could “talk” to them, then we can ask. In the meantime, your statement seems to be no more than an unevidenced guess.

  19. For instance, when YOU suggested “[a]ssume a completely random universe” do you mean a lawless universe where it is sheer coincidence and selection by success that creates the illusion of lawlike order?

    My statement was intended to be vague. What it might mean played no role in the argument that I gave. I only made that statement to point out that my argument was not making any assumptions about how the universe got to be the way it is.

  20. But it looks like it is you who are misinterpreting.

    I’m a mathematician. Probability theory is part of my area of knowledge. I have taught classes on statistical inference.

    I am only pointing out the limitations as to what conclusions you can draw on the basis of probability.

  21. 21

    Neil Rickert says at 5:

    Physical constants are parameters in the system that we have designed to allow us to describe the universe.

    VJ says at 5.1:

    I’m afraid I cannot agree with your assertion that “physical constants are parameters that we have designed to allow us to describe the universe”.

    At 5.1.1 Neil Rickert says:

    Then it’s a good thing that I never said that. I certainly don’t agree with that alleged assertion.

    I guess when you are just matter animated by physics, contradicting yourself is just one more thing that happens that cannot be helped.

  22. 22

    As long as we depend on a human created system of concepts, it is pretty much impossible to unravel the question of design. If the system of concepts is a human design, then everything that looks designed might merely be a result of that human design.

    The same would hold true for non-design, and all claims about the nature of anything, including materialism/physicalism, matter, etc., since we are relying on human concepts in our discussion about anything.

    That’s the problem with self-refuting intellectual nihilism; you end up turning any argument you can make into rhetorical garbage.

  23. I guess when you are just matter animated by physics, contradicting yourself is just one more thing that happens that cannot be helped.

    No, I have not contradicted myself.

    You have yourself quoted what I actually said, and what was asserted that I said. The two statements are clearly different in both wording and meaning.

  24. Neil, in today’s world, with the thorough subversion of theoretical science (incl. math) to serve political and materialistic ends, it is no longer helpful to know that someone is educated in a topic. It can often mean miseducation. Either one has defensible arguments or they don’t, regardless of background.

    In the case of convenient limitations to conclusions on probability, there is 100% justified certainty that if you successfully double-down five times in a row on a number bet in roulette, puffy-armed men in suits will come to escort you to the exit of the casino. They will not be impressed with your Certainty argument, nor should they.

  25. Test

  26. My goodness, where to start?

    “1. If you don’t like the universe that we live in, then the onus is on you to show that a better universe is physically possible, given a different set of laws and/or a different fundamental theory of physics. Only when you have done this are you entitled to make the argument that our universe is so poorly designed that no Intelligent Being could possibly have made it.”
    This is an ID classic! May I remind everybody that it’s pretty standard Christian theology that God has already built a much better universe – a perfect universe in fact. It’s called “Heaven”. Consider that a “Proof by Demonstration” that a better universe can be built.

    With respect to point 4: Since it is ID Dogma that ONLY an intelligence can create information, and particularly the information found in the DNA of living organisms, then the Intelligent Designer logically must have also designed the DNA in malaria parasites (Behe admits this), typhus, influenza, bacterial meningitis, the black plague, small pox, diphtheria and all the other thousands of diseases that have been causing misery and death through all of human history. (Not to mention all the animals that fall victim every day.) Would it be asking too much of the Intelligent Designer to stop making them? Or to at least spare the children?

    And what’s all this predation? According to Christian and Jewish orthodoxy, the lions used to lay down with the lambs until two people ate one fruit and thus learned the difference between right and wrong. Was it really necessary for an omni-potent being to condemn half the animals on earth to become prey for the other half because of this? What did mice ever do to deserve cats?

    “5. Objections to fine-tuning are of no avail unless they are even more powerful than arguments for fine-tuning.”

    An extremely large or infinite number of universes, each with randomly generated laws, completely answers the fine-tuning argument. If you say the odds of any particular universe are 99999999999999999 to 1 against, all it takes is a few gazillion times more universes to make it a dead certainty. This works for any odds.

    7: “(iii) but it is impossible that the God of the Bible could exist, because He is a “moral monster”;
    (iv) hence, the cosmological fine-tuning argument is not true.
    This is a pathological form of reasoning, since it is emotionally driven by a visceral dislike of the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, I believe this form of reasoning is quite common among atheists.”

    Not really. The Bible does make God out to be a moral monster – dooming humanity because of the sins of the first two humans, killing everybody on earth save eight because of the Hitlerian claim that they were all evil, hardening Pharaoh’s heart so He could continue to torment Egypt in order to show off His powers, punishing David for seducing Bathsheba and murdering her husband by killing their baby, finding Himself somehow unable to forgive the human race until He’d had His own Son tortured to death – but atheists tend not to believe the Bible. Personally, I think the only thing God could really be blamed for in the above list is killing the baby. The Fall, the Flood and the Exodus are mythical.

    Our objections are based on the universe as we find it. It’s about what we’d expect if materialism is true – but if it was DESIGNED, then there is a DESIGNER and that designer truly is a moral monster. Why Christians want to blame this universe on your God is beyond me.

  27. Note to administrators: if you enter a message and then click on the “Reply” at the bottom of the text box which shows what you’re written with the final formatting it will have, and then click on “Post Comment”, your reply seems to go to the earliest message available.

  28. Dmul,

    So your objection is completely a religious one and not a scientific one? Hmmm.

  29. 29

    dmullenix,

    Of course, your objections fail under general theism & deism, but to follow up on your Christian-specific and morality-specific objections:

    Not really. The Bible does make God out to be a moral monster – dooming humanity because of the sins of the first two humans, killing everybody on earth save eight because of the Hitlerian claim that they were all evil, hardening Pharaoh’s heart so He could continue to torment Egypt in order to show off His powers, punishing David for seducing Bathsheba and murdering her husband by killing their baby, finding Himself somehow unable to forgive the human race until He’d had His own Son tortured to death – but atheists tend not to believe the Bible.

    IF we assume Christianity is true, then God is the source of “what is moral”; THEN what god does is necessarily moral, even if contingent acts seemingly contradict general moral rules, “God’s will” is the only source by which morality can be judged.

    IF we assume that Christianity is not true, then what system of principled morality do you refer to in your judgement that the god of the Bible is a “moral monster”? You failed to provide your basis for your judgement – please do so.

    Our objections are based on the universe as we find it.

    Are you also a materialist or a physicalist? If so, then your objections are not based on “how you find it”, but rather on how you have been programmed by physics to interpret it. Without a basis for free and independent will and the discernment of true statements from false, using such pronouns as if you are separate from any other entity fronting accumulative physical causes is intellectually dishonest.

    It’s about what we’d expect if materialism is true

    You mean, your physical programming instructs you to believe that it is what you’d expect if materialism is true, while the same physics programs others to believe in the converse? Why is what you are commanded by physics to say and believe better than what anyone else commanded by physics says or believes?

  30. There isn’t any evidence to support the claim of a completely random universe.

  31. dmullenix

    You say here “May I remind everybody that it’s pretty standard Christian theology that God has already built a much better universe – a perfect universe in fact. ”

    That’s not true. Heaven is not a “universe” in the sense of a natural universe that we live in. Heaven is a place in the spiritual realm, a non-physical, immaterial yet very real place with different conditions that is perfect for righteous beings, sufficient for their needs for eternity forward.

    You say here “The Bible does make God out to be a moral monster ”

    Obviously you have not read Paul Copan’s book “Is God A Moral Monster?”. You need to.

    “dooming humanity because of the sins of the first two humans” Absolutely false. God made a way for humanity to be saved, forgiven of their sin and rebellion against God, made righteous from God’s perspective and have a secure future in heaven for all eternity. This can hardly be characterized as doom. But if the atheist world view is true….well that would be a real downer wouldn’t it?; The ultimate fail, not having any ultimate, enduring hope. That’s doom.

    Here you say ” killing everybody on earth save eight because of the Hitlerian claim that they were all evil”

    I don’t know where you’re getting the Hitlerian thing…but it’s not going on. Have you heard of Godwins Law? In any case, eight people were not saved because everyone else was evil, but for humanity to live. Murder was so rampant during that time that it was boasted about (Gen 4:23-24) from the time of Cain to the time of Noah (Gen 6:5,11). It was a matter of human survival that those who were evil be destroyed so that the few (8) righteous in the Mesopotamian Basic could live.

    The Hanuaorani tribe in eastern Equador is a prime example of what can happen when murder and evil goes unchecked. Due to murders and revenge-killings, they were almost extinct by the time they had first contact with Christian missionaries in the early 1950′s. In the case of the unchecked evil and murderous culture just prior to the biblical flood, it is evident that God had a morally sufficient reason to eliminate the ones who were causing humanity’s near extinction, and saving the few who were not evil.

    Here you say ” finding Himself somehow unable to forgive the human race until He’d had His own Son tortured to death ”

    If this statement is true, then the biblical account would have to be true. If you believe the Bible on this count, why not on all counts?

    In any case, here you are admitting that God did sacrifice His own Son, Jesus, who endured torture and experienced death. You’re making good progress here. There’s more though. Jesus was resurrected from the dead and witnessed by over 500 people over a 40 day period. I invite you to check out the positive evidence for the Resurrection, beginning with some of the debates by Dr. William Lane Craig vs everyone, or Mike Licona vs Ehrman.

    It needs to be clarified, just so that you aren’t mistaken, that God has not forgiven the entire human race. After the Resurrection, God only forgives those who choose to be forgiven based on the work Jesus accomplished on the Cross. If after hearing about Jesus and the gospel anyone is not forgiven, it is because they chose not to be. In which case, their eternal demise, if not with God, is not God’s fault but one’s own.

    Here you say “Our objections are based on the universe as we find it. It’s about what we’d expect if materialism is true”

    Others have come to different conclusions, based on evidence from the same universe. The universe they (we)find has characteristics of what they (we) would expect if the universe was designed.

    Here you say “but if it was DESIGNED, then there is a DESIGNER and that designer truly is a moral monster.”

    In order for this statement to be true, you first have to prove that God did not have any morally sufficient reason to allow or cause what you consider to be evil. Until that time, I think the best you can do is just make an emotional appeal via the objection from evil. But that’s not very interesting. In fact, it’s kinda boring.

    More interesting is that if God did NOT exist, then evil would not exist. You have made it very clear that evil does exist (obviously you believe God is a moral monster…most people would consider that evil). Therefore, God exists.

  32. 32

    One wonders, if materialist physics programs both the expectation of what one would expect from a materialist universe, and how one interprets the universe (in accordance with such expectations), how such a system would be different from solipsism?

    It would be like being in a dream where physics is the dreamer; what would seem “out of place” or “against expectations” when you are programmed by the dreamer to not feel surprise or any sense of conflict with expectations, no matter what occurs? You only feel surprise if the dreamer dreams you that way, not because something contradicts your expectations – because “you” are not an independent agency within the dream.

    Everything seems normal in the dream; usually, it’s only when one wakes up that one realizes anything was amiss. Unfortunately, under materialism there is no “waking up”.

  33. It looks like somebody we know is hunting for photos of Kairosfocus, I and others.

    Here is the quote from the blog entry

    “Does anyone have a picture of kairosfocus?
    AKA gordon e. mullings of Montserrat. I’d really like to find pictures of him.

    Also, clive hayden, uprightbiped, joseph (joe g), vjtorley, jack cole, ilion without his fingers glued to his forehead, cannuckianyankee, lamarck, meleagar, stephenb, or bantay. I may think of others later.

    Any links to photos of them would be appreciated.”

    http://theidiotsofintelligentd.....focus.html

  34. Bantay,

    Consider the source! The whole tard is deeply and emotionally troubled.

  35. 35

    That site is easily explained as the result of mindless interactions of matter.

  36. We ought to send that guy a thank you note for being such a shining example of neo-Darwinian dogmatism,,,, post after post of nothing but hatred towards anything, or anyone, remotely reflecting on God’s handiwork;,,,

    =================

    Mandisa – Waiting For Tomorrow – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5VlRwoaf8k

  37. dmullenix

    Thank you for your post. I’d like to make a few points in response.

    1. You write:

    May I remind everybody that it’s pretty standard Christian theology that God has already built a much better universe – a perfect universe in fact. It’s called “Heaven”. Consider that a “Proof by Demonstration” that a better universe can be built.

    Uh, no. I’d consider that an ad hominem argument. It only works on people who believe in Heaven. Intelligent Design theory says nothing about the existence of Heaven. It is quite compatible, for instance, with the existence of a God who just made this universe.

    And since you can’t describe how Heaven works, on a physical level, I’d hardly call that “proof by demonstration”.

    By the way, you do realize, don’t you, that according to at least one very prominent Christian theologian (Aquinas), there will be no plants or animals after the end of the world:

    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/QDdePotentia.htm#5:9

    If God had made a universe like that from the get-go and put us there, there would certainly have been no suffering – but there would have been no animals either.

    2. You also write:

    Since it is ID Dogma that ONLY an intelligence can create information, and particularly the information found in the DNA of living organisms, then the Intelligent Designer logically must have also designed the DNA in malaria parasites (Behe admits this)…

    I happen to have Behe’s book, The Edge of Evolution (The Free Press, New York, 2007), in front of me. Here is what he says on pages 237-239:

    Here’s something to ponder long and hard. Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely designed purposeful arrangement of parts. C-Eve’s children died in her arms partly because an intelligent agent deliberately made malaria, or at least something very similar to it.

    What sort of designer is that? What sort of “fine-tuning” leads to untold human misery? To countless mothers mourning countless children? Did a hateful, malign being make intelligent life in order to torture it? Or one who relishes cries of pain?

    Maybe. Maybe not. A torrent of pain indisputably swirls through the world – not only the world of humans but the world of sentient animal life as well. Yet just as undeniably, much that is good graces nature. Many children die, yet many others thrive. Some people languish, but others savor full lives. Does one outweigh the other? If so, which outweighs which? Or are pleasure and pain, good and evil, incommensurable? Are viruses and parasites part of some brilliant, as-yet-unappreciated economy of nature, or do they reflect the bungling of an incompetent, fallible designer?

    Whether on balance one thinks life was a worthwhile project or not – whether the designer of life was a dope, a demon, or a deity – that’s a topic on which opinions over the millennia have differed considerably. Each argument has some merit. Of the many possible opinions, only one is really indefensible, the one held by Darwin. In a letter to Asa Gray, he wrote: “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living body of caterpillars.

    Wasp larvae feeding on caterpillars is certainly a disquieting image, to say nothing of malaria feeding on children. So did Darwin conclude that the designer was not beneficent? Maybe not omnipotent? No. He decided – based on squeamishness – that no designer existed. Because it is horrific, it was not designed – a better example of the fallacy of non sequitur would be hard to find. Revulsion is not a scientific argument. (Bold emphases mine – VJT.)

    I believe Professor Behe is quite clear here that the DNA in malaria parasites was intelligently designed. But by whom? Behe leaves his options open here: it may have been “a dope, a demon, or a deity”. You are assuming that all of the complex specified information (CSI) found in living organisms is the work of a single intelligence. That’s not my assumption, and it’s not Behe’s, either.

    For my own part, when talking about structures containing large amounts of CSI, I believe it is legitimate to ascribe the pervasive features of the cosmos (e.g. fine-tuned constants) and of life as a whole (e.g. DNA, commonly shared cellular machinery and molecules) to a single designer. But if we are talking about this or that piece of biological machinery in this or that organism – that’s a different kettle of fish. The designer of these things could well have been a malevolent agent, and not the Designer of the cosmos.

    On the subject of malaria: according to a recent press release (see http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_s....._id=117259 ) by the National Science Foundation, modern malaria parasites began to spread to various mammals, birds and reptiles about 16 million years ago. Malaria parasites may jump to new, unrelated hosts at any time, decoupling their evolution from that of their hosts. The ancestors of humans acquired the parasite 2.5 million years ago – very close to the time when Homo first appeared. However, according to Dr. Robert Ricklefs, one of the biologists who conducted the recent research into the origin of the malaria parasite, “Malaria parasites undoubtedly were relatively benign for most of that history, becoming a major disease only after the origins of agriculture and dense human populations.”

    As for Darwin’s famous example of Ichneumonidae feeding within the living body of caterpillars: modern neurologists are unanimous that insects are incapable of conscious suffering. They are not sentient. See The Neurobehavioral Nature of Fishes and the Question of Awareness and Pain . So Darwin used a really silly example to argue against a beneficent Deity.

    3. You also write:

    And what’s all this predation? According to Christian and Jewish orthodoxy, the lions used to lay down with the lambs until two people ate one fruit and thus learned the difference between right and wrong. Was it really necessary for an omnipotent being to condemn half the animals on earth to become prey for the other half because of this? What did mice ever do to deserve cats?

    Once again, you appeal to “Christian and Jewish orthodoxy”. Intelligent Design theory as such doesn’t assume the truth of either orthodoxy, although there happen to be many Christians and Jews who support ID. Where’s your scientific demonstration that a world containing animals but not predation would be possible? Under what laws would it operate?

    I should add that St. Thomas Aquinas did not believe that there was no predation before the Fall. See here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1096.htm#article1 (scroll down to the reply to objection 2)

    Quite a few Christian theologians sided with Aquinas, too, even back in the Middle Ages.

    Here’s something else to think about: death from predation is at least quick. Most other ways of dying (e.g. death from disease, starvation or cold) are long and drawn-out. Maybe a God who designed predators isn’t so bad after all.

    4. Concerning fine-tuning arguments, you write:

    An extremely large or infinite number of universes, each with randomly generated laws, completely answers the fine-tuning argument. If you say the odds of any particular universe are 99999999999999999 to 1 against, all it takes is a few gazillion times more universes to make it a dead certainty. This works for any odds.

    No, it doesn’t. Please see these articles by me:

    Why a multiverse would still need to be fine-tuned, in order to make baby universes
    Beauty and the multiverse

    and this one by Dr. Rob Sheldon:

    Infinitely wrong

    5. You also write that “atheists tend not to believe the Bible”. Of course – but I’ve encountered some atheists who argue so ferociously and so incessantly against the God of the Bible that I can only assume that deep-down, they are afraid that He might be real after all – which is why they feel the need to belittle Him constantly. I’m not saying that most atheists are like this, but they are by no means rare.

    6. Finally, you write that “the universe … [is] about what we’d expect if materialism is true – but if it was DESIGNED, then there is a DESIGNER and that designer truly is a moral monster.”

    If materialism were true, I’d expect a much crazier universe than this one. I wouldn’t expect laws of Nature, for one thing. And if you object that I wouldn’t be here if there weren’t laws of Nature, here’s my response: (i) I certainly wouldn’t expect to find myself (or any other sapient being) in a materialistic universe; (ii) even if there had been natural regularities holding up until now, enabling me to come into existence, I wouldn’t expect them to continue holding, as the number of ways they could break down vastly exceeds the number of ways they could continue to hold. So I’d be expecting the sky to fall any second.

    By the way, there about 8.7 million species of creatures living on this planet. Of these, no more than 15,000 species (mammals and birds) are sentient. That’s 0.2%. Of these, the vast majority, at any given time, are not in a state of extreme pain. If all these creatures had a Designer, I’d hardly call Him a monster.

  38. This is the same who was warned that he has been painting targets on the backs of my family [as in we know you, we know where you are, we think we know your family], and was formally and publicly asked to cease and desist.

    This is clear cyber harassment and will be treated as such.

  39. To put in perspective, let’s say one word:

    BREIVIK

  40. F/N: In addition to all this, it seems DM believes in the reality of evil. So, the reality of OUGHT.

    Thus, DM is in the position of defending a worldview that has no IS that can ground OUGHT, by making objections to what DM thinks ought not to be.

    DM needs to address the question of whether DM’s evident materialism or evident outrage at perceived evils,is more soundly based; and in the former case DM would be guilty of cynical emotional manipulation.

    NB: This mainly philosophical discussion on the import of evil as a reality may help; this on evil from a specifically Christian perspective, will also help those who are not simply stirring up rage to warp judgement. (It also points to fora that are better suited to that sort of discussion.)

    And, given the recent example of Breivik, and the matters that have come up in this thread from here on, I think DM and others of like ilk who resort to moral monster and theocracy accusation rhetoric or the like, should pause and think very carefully indeed on what the more unhinged on their side of the fence may be tempted to through such intemperate and irresponsible rhetoric.

    I think the time has plainly come for all reasonable minded participants in the ID debates, to stoutly stand up and say no to the sort of dangerous line of rhetoric and behaviour that have begun to emerge over the past several months.

    Before, something goes horribly wrong.

    Remember, the students at Columbine gave off warning signals in good time, if people had woken up and been inclined taken them seriously as a call to urgent action.

    It is therefore time to think very seriously, objectors to design theory, as to what the sort of rhetoric that has too often been by your side used points to, in the hands of the Harrises, Klebolds and Breiviks of this world.

    Let’s clip the just linked, and do some serious thinking:

    Early warning signs began to surface in 1996, when Eric Harris first created a private website on America Online. The site was originally set up to host Doom levels that he and Dylan Klebold had created, mainly for friends. Harris began a blog on the site, which included jokes and small journal entries concerning his thoughts on parents, school, and friends. By the end of the year, the site contained instructions on how to cause mischief, as well as instructions on how to make explosives, and logs of the trouble he and Klebold were causing. Beginning in early 1997, the blog postings began to show the first signs of Harris’s ever-growing anger against society.[4]

    Harris’s site had few visitors, and caused no concern until late 1997, when Dylan Klebold gave the address to Brooks Brown, Harris’s former friend. Brown’s mother had filed numerous complaints with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office about Eric Harris, believing him to be dangerous . . .

    Of course, no-one took the signs seriously enough to act in good time.

    I am taking this opportunity, in one of the leading ID blogs, to say that there is an ugly, potentially dangerous side to the objection to ID movement, and it is high time that responsible people on that side who have more direct access to the sort of individuals in view, took time to police them.

    Before something horrible happens.

    And if you are tempted to dismiss this, jut think about names like Harris, Klebold and Brevik, among others. What I am seeing above is target-painting behaviour, and it is beyond any reasonable or responsible behaviour on this topic.

    It needs to stop now, before the unhinged take it as “licensing” them to do the sort of things that have already happened with other things.

    I think enough has been said.

    GEM of TKI

  41. In this article and another, the word “may” is used, and I’d like some clarification (emphasis mine).

    On the other hand, ID implies that some events may potentially have irreducible final causal explanation
    [from "Broader Implications of ID"]

    …materialism implies that there is no such thing as an irreducible final cause while ID says there may really be final causes

    If you meant to say that ID theory does not rule out an irreducible final cause, then it’s reasonable to conclude that ID theory also does not rule the antithesis – materialism.

  42. rhampton7

    Good question. As the case for Intelligent Design is built on complex specified patterns that we find in Nature, then we must assume that this case could never be made unless Nature conformed to underlying regularities in the first place. I couldn’t point to the bacterial flagellum as evidence for design, for instance, unless it were reliably visible under the microscope, under the right conditions.

    The laws of Nature (e.g. energy conservation) may be relatively low in CSI, but they must reliably hold, in order for us to make the case for Intelligent Design. In other words, ID theory implicitly assumes that things behave according to built-in tendencies or dispositions. That, as Professor Edward Feser would readily agree, is final causality. So in answer to your question, ID theory assumes final causality in at least a minimal sense. Let me add that it’s a fairly non-controversial sense; all we are acknowledging is that things have tendencies or dispositions. I think most scientists would grant as much.

    Professor Feser goes a little further and argues that these natural tendencies are future-directed, in both the organic and inorganic realms. ID theory does not require this assumption, although I’d have to say that in the biological realm the empirical evidence for future-directed tendencies is overwhelming (think of genetic programs). In the inorganic realm, it’s a different matter: the laws of Nature are time-symmetric. But that is the subject of a future post.

  43. Kairosfocus,

    Thank you for alerting readers to recent examples of what hatred can do to an individual. We in the ID community need to unite against any form of violence or intimidation. I’m sure many readers (of all ideological stripes) will stand with us on this one. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Take care, and thanks for the updates.

  44. Didn’t mean to stir things up, but just figured if someone is targeting some of us in some desperate (and misguided) smear campaign that you would want to know. Fortunately, the camera doesn’t like me.

  45. Bantay

    Thanks for the alert.

    TARGETTING BEHAVIOUR, JOINED TO THE SORT OF PROJECTION OF WANTING TO “TAKE OVER” THE WORLD (GUESS WHO ARE THEREBY INADVERTENTLY CONFESSING TO ALREADY CONTROLLING THE WORLD BY ASSOCIATION WITH THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD OF MATERIALIST/”RATIONAL[IST]” SCIENTISTS . . .), IN THE HANDS OF THE EXCESSIVELY ANGRY AND NIHILISTIC, IS QUITE DANGEROUS.

    We are only just beginning to learn some of the dangers of a webbed world.

    Breivik should be a lesson, and a clear warning of what can be going on on the fringes. So let us resolve not to foment hate or dehumanise and demonise the “other.”

    That is why the trifecta fallacy I have repeatedly warned against —

    (1) distractive red herrings, led away to (2) strawmen caricatures soaked in (3) ad hominems and ignited through incendiary rhetoric that then clouds, poisons and polarsies the atmosphere [especially in fever swamps like you linked above, where the unhinged go to tank up on rage and talking points] —

    . . . is such a dangerous sign.

    It is not only design thinkers who need to address this, those who lead the anti-ID movement, if they are at all responsible, must police their own movement and clean up their act. Before further abuse, or violence or bloodshed comes of it.

    It is not for nothing that the apostle James warns:

    James 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

    In this context, the moral monster talking point Dr Torley highlighted in the original post is particularly irresponsible. When the advocates who use it are themselves rooted in a worldview, evo mat, that has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT, thus no defence against Nietzschean nihilism, then there is a dilemma.

    If they know this, but insist on emotively loaded language designed to stir up emotions or moral outrage and hostility, then they are being cynically manipulative in order to poison the atmosphere to their advantage. If they are instead unaware of the IS-OUGHT gap and are genuine in their outrage, they reveal a telling ignorance, as they SHOULD know better. And, if morality is real then that immediately points to the need for a worldview that has a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. At worldviews and comparative difficulties level, as can be seen from here on, the only serious candidate for such an IS that can ground OUGHT is that the world is the creation of an inherently good God.

    Obviously the God at the centre of the Judaeo-Christian tradition that is foundational to our civilisation, is that kind of God. Yes, one can pick especially OT texts of judgement out of context . . .

    [e.g. if the literal meaning of the rhetoric involved in the key OT snippets is racialist genocide (and now manifest in an alleged inherently racist sand apartheid-like "Zionist entity" per that now regretted UN vote and the series of Durban conferences -- yes, this is what is really going on . . . ), why does the text immediately envision living with survivors across generations? And, why is it that the greatest King of Israel, David, is portrayed as having Moabite ancestry, as being guarded by Philistines, as having 600 Philistines adhere to him, as having Ittai from Gath [Goliath's hometown!] as one of his three top generals, and of course as less righteous than Uriah the Hittite who was married to the granddaughter of his chief counsellor?],

    . . . and can cite misbehaviours of the Israelites as though that were endorsed behaviour [why did they go into exile under judgement TWICE, and why is it that for ten plagues of the Egyptians, we see ten tests of nascent Israel in the wilderness?], but to then turn around and suppress the context of justice, principles of neighbourliness, praising of the righteous of all nations, etc etc, is willful stirring of hostility by erecting a demonised strawman.

    Let us pause to highlight the central teaching of ethics in community in the OT, right there in that so-despised “bronze age” law that so patently (and NOT coincidentally) cuts across politically correct, destructive proclivities in our day — e.g. the habit of slander that this comment is having to address:

    Lev. 19:11 “‘Do not steal.

    “‘Do not lie.

    “‘Do not deceive one another.

    12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

    13 “‘Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him.

    “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.

    14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.

    15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

    16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.

    “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD.

    17 “‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.

    18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. [notice, the immediate context of the Golden Rule] I am the LORD.

    You will search in vain to find its close parallel in the law systems of the ANE, and that you find this principle in the historical foundation of our own legal systems is precisely because this Israelite precedent is its root. Notice, particularly, the focus on avoiding a pattern of hostility, slander and deception in the community.

    [ . . . ]

  46. It is no surprise then to see that when Locke, in his 2nd essay on Civil Government, Ch 2, where he laid the foundations of modern democratic praxis, did so by citing the then famous Anglican Canon Richard Hooker, in his classic Ecclesiastical Polity, thusly:

    . . . 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, cf. here.]

    The same Spirit breathes in Blackstone’s 1765 Commentaries on the Laws of England, the now often neglected foundation stone of modern anglophone legal education. Citing:

    Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being . . . consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker’s will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws . . . These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly [NB: cf. Exod. 20:15 - 16], should hurt nobody [NB: cf. Rom 13:8 - 10], and should render to every one his due [NB: cf. Rom 13:6 - 7 & Exod. 20:15]; to which three general precepts Justinian[1: a Juris praecepta sunt hace, honeste vivere. alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. Inst, 1. 1. 3] has reduced the whole doctrine of law [and, Corpus Juris, Justinian's Christianised precis and pruning of perhaps 1,000 years of Roman jurisprudence, in turn is the foundation of law for much of Europe].

    So, we had better be careful indeed about carelessly trifling with the foundations of the civil peace of justice through promoting inherently amoral worldviews and caricaturing that which lies in the tap-root of modern liberty and democracy. In case you think I am exaggerating the matter, let me finally cite Will Hawthorne’s expose:

    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’.

    These are the challenges that promoters of atheistical, angry, evolutionary materialism that holds science hostage as an a priori, would distract us from by focussing ill-deserved outrage elsewhere through unjust, strawmannish caricatures.

    So, it is high time that we held such accountable for their wanton arguments and willfully mischievous, hostility-stirring slanderous misbehaviour and blatant painting of targets on those they object to. (For instance, the particular case particularly in point has not only falsely accused me of being a child abuser, but wishes to project he “right ignorant/ stupid/ insane/ wicked, wing Christo-fascist theocratic would-be tyrant” slanderous caricature, in the teeth of pretty direct evidence that I am a convinced democrat and civil libertarian who — having lived through its consequences — is deeply suspicious of any species of political messianism. [And BTW, FYI, as National SOCIALIST reveals, despite much propaganda and misinformation to the contrary, Fascism is statist and leftist in character; it is rightwards from outright Communism, indeed, but that does not put it on the right-wing of the full political spectrum.)

    GEM of TKI

  47. Dr Torley:

    Thank you.

    For the sake of the civil peace of justice, we need to take a firm stand against the pattern of willful misrepresentation, hostility and target-painting that is now emerging.

    I have literally seen how that sort of hostility, demonising, targetting and trumpeted talking points can rapidly lead the unhinged — like Breivik — to act out the hate. Thirty one years ago, I lost an “aunt” to such propaganda tactics, and I can never forget hearing the representatives of the radical Front group who spread the slander that led to murder, on radio blandly denying any responsibility for the results of their cultivation of a fever swamp of hate.

    Of course, predictably, we do not like to learn from history like that. That is why it tends to repeat itself over and over again, predictably.

    So, the time to stop this madness is NOW, before it gets utterly out of hand. Criticism that focuses on issues and makes fair comment is one thing, target-painting is another, and those who indulge in it should feel the full force of the disapproval of all well-thinking people, including ESPECIALLY those who agree with them on the issues.

    That’s vital, as in the sort of twisted minds we are now talking about, those on the other side have been demonised and discredited long since.

    I hope my remarks below will begin to help clear the air of the poison that is in it from burning, ad hominem soaked demonised strawmen.

    GEM of TKI

  48. 48

    I was really hoping Dmullinex or some other non-theist would answer the question I posed above at #11:

    IF we assume Christianity is true, then God is the source of “what is moral”; THEN what god does is necessarily moral, even if contingent acts seemingly contradict general moral rules, “God’s will” is the only source by which morality can be judged.

    IF we assume that Christianity is not true, then what system of principled morality do you refer to in your judgement that the god of the Bible is a “moral monster”? You failed to provide your basis for your judgement – please do so.

    … because I think this goes to the root of the “god is a moral monster” issue.

    I, too, rejected the “moral monster” god that had been presented to me as a child growing up; I think that it is appropriate to do so. However, that emotional outrage must be eventually tempered by a rational justification. If one is going to judge that perceived entity based on moral grounds, then what are your moral grounds for doing so, and how are those grounds any more rational, or better, than the “moral monster” you are condemning?

    This is where atheists fail in their moral perspective; they can offer no better a moral grounds for their conviction that god is a moral monster than that which authorizes the behavior of that perceived god in the first place. IOW, it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    Atheistic materialists cannot rationally condemn what they percieive as the Biblical god as “immoral” on grounds based on the Bible being true, because if the Bible is true, then god is the author of “what is moral” and so no behavior of god can be found immoral, even if certain contingent acts of god seem to violate general rules of morality provided to humans by god.

    So, the only way to logically assert their perceived Biblical god as a “moral monster” is to judge it from some other moral perspective. But, what “other” moral perspective are atheists/materialists judging the Biblical god by? What are their grounds/principles that justify such a judgement?

    As we have more thoroughly pursued in other threads, without an objective grounding for what is “good” in relation to a final cause (purpose) of humans, morality cannot be anything more than subjective justifications for subjective goals based on subjectively-chosen principles, which always boils down to one form of “might makes right” or another – the might of consensus, of physical power, or of emotional/intellectual manipulation.

    Yet, this kind of morality can only validate the Biblical god’s actions as moral, regardless of how the atheist/materialist interprets them, because god would have arbitrarily selected the moral principles it wants to install and has used a form of might to install them. If god seems hypocritical in its application of morality, so what? Hypocrisy is only immoral when and if god says it is, because god – the mightiest of us all – gets to subjectively justify whatever morality it wants based upon the only kind of morality that exists for the atheists/materialists – subjective morality.

    Thus, the atheist/materialist has no grounds upon which to rest a case that the god of the bible is a moral monster (regardless of whether or not their interpretation of that god is well-informed or a simple childhood-based caricature), because it cannot be justified using the Bible’s morality (since god is the source of morality), and it cannot be justified using the subjective morality grounds of the atheist/materialist.

    If they cannot rationally make the case (and they cannot) that the god of the Bible is a “moral monster”, from whence (other than ill-considered emotional outrage) comes their confidence that such a god is a “moral monster”, if not the hidden, unspoken grounds that everyone should find such an entity immoral?

    I think this is the basis for the atheist/materialist outrage, and justification for dirty tricks used against believers, for the name-calling and no-holds-barred attacks; while they give lip-service to “subjective morality”, they consider the Biblical god (at least, their conception of it) so objectively evil that they are willing to go to virtually any lengths to stop those who follow it.

    It is relatively easy to see their situation for the self-refuting, groundless position that it is; if morality is fundamentally relative, then Biblical morality is just another morality among many, and there exists no objective “good” by which the god of the Bible can be judged a “moral monster”.

    The only way one can justify a condemnation of a “moral monster” god based on any grounds that do not simultaneously justify that god or condemn one’s own position, is if an objective good actually exists, and morality is a description of an objective good; and the only way an objective good (final cause, purpose of humans, ground for “ought”) can exist is if god actually exists – just not the conception of god they are rightfully condemning as immoral.

    Thus, the only way to rationally, with grounds, condemn a concept of god as a “moral monster” is to posit that a better god exists; because such a god cannot be successfully condemned on ultimately subjective-morality grounds. “Because I say so”, when invoked by the atheist/materialist as grounds for moral condemnation, is no different from when a “moral monster” god asserts the converse.

  49. WJM:

    You have raised some very serious points. The issue is, are there real grounds for morality, or is it just a matter of might in one form or another, in one set of hands or another, makes right? That’s the heart of why the long since passed sell-by date Euthyphro dilemma, so-called, has been resurrected in current debates.

    Put in simple, direct terms, there is a global consensus that some things are really right, and other things are really wrong. That is we are plainly under moral law, so must find a worldview that is grounded on an IS that can soundly ground OUGHT.

    As I have pointed out over and over again, across time, there is only one serious candidate for that: we live in a world where we are morally governed creatures created equally in his image by an INHERENTLY good Lord, God; who is the necessary being ultimately behind our contingent cosmos.

    Generic ethical theism, in short.

    The onward debate over whether the God we find in the Bible’s pages, in Israel’s history and that of wider Western Civilisation, is a good candidate to be that God, is a second order question. There is good reason to infer that a responsible person can answer, yes [cf my comments just above, and onward discussions]. But that is a matter of a specific tradition, not of a bare, skeletal worldview core as such.

    What is much more material to the live issues that we are confronting, is the way that objectors tot he design inference to design as the likely cause of C-chemistry cell based life and its forms are reasoning, and how they are behaving in response to the cosmological design inference, which is much more directly related to the sort of generic theism just highlighted.

    Namely, through willful misrepresentation, demonisation and unhinged hostility that is now seeing itself as justified in painting targets on people’s backs.

    This must stop.

    NOW.

    And, abusing the general consensus on morality to try to push God in the dock through willful scripture-twisting [the correctives are there for all to find, if they have even a modicum of good will] thence those who seek to adhere to him, is wrong.

    To demonise and then take opportunity of so dehumanising the other, to play at outing individuals, their families and locations, then now posting up mug shorts, the better to guide the unhinges who might want to do violence, is inexcusable.

    Such Saul Alinsky tactics must be exposed and corrected forthwith. Clipping Rules for Radicals:

    1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” . . . .

    3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

    4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

    5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.” . . . .

    13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. [NB: Notice the evil counsel to find a way to attack the man, not the issue. The easiest way to do that, is to use the trifecta stratagem: distract, distort, demonise.] In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’…

    “…any target can always say, ‘Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?’ When your ‘freeze the target,’ you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments…. Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the ‘others’ come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…’

    “One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” [And DK et al, I have answered your red herring attempt to distract the issue on whether or no Alinsky was a neo-marxist here, as clipped from the answer I gave in your blog comments that you seem to have ignored.]

    Have we learned anything from Breivik and all the way back to Columbine?

    GEM of TKI

  50. PS: And, on good reason, on a soundly conscience-informed worldview that is willing to accept our fellow creatures as being our equals, and that we collectively have a stewardship over our world, we may often identify the OBJECTIVELY right path. That is, moral knowledge is possible, and ethically informed decision making grounded on sound moral insights is also possible.

    Here is my own briefing note on that [with attached tools], as an advocate of a properly understood premise of sustainable development, and here is where I stood up in public as an SD practitioner, to defend it [slide show here as a PDF]; as an invited public lecture in my homeland, subsequently published as a peer-reviewed theology and ethics paper in the leading regional Evangelical Journal of theology.

    In short, through the generic ethical, creational view of the cosmos and of ourselves in it, with the concept of being equally valuable morally governed creatures, with a stewardship, we can in fact construct a pretty reasonable and publicly defensible ethics for life in community and public policy. And if you want to view this as a political agenda, kindly observe what it advocates, i.e. consultative, participative consensus-driven informed public democracy in a generally communitarian frame of thought. (Cf here an actual national energy policy specifically informed by that frame and developed through that approach.)

    The pivot of that position is a correctly understood, well-informed application of the Golden Rule/ Categorical Imperative — despite Kant’s dismissals, on a calmer look, they are logically equivalent in force — that guides personal and community level moral thought, and informs public policy through its application to a reasonable form of the sustainability principle that respects liberty and the civil peace of justice.

    So, we are not at all locked up to one form or another of might makes right.

    Let us start the corrective from there.

  51. 51

    I wish that I had been brought up in a more philosophically instructive environment. I hadn’t even heard of the concept of “first principles” until I started reading ID materials. That’s when I realized my world-view and positions were not grounded in any sustainable or meaningful foundation.

    I was lucky in that my anti-theistic passion had been softened by my love for a theist woman, which compelled me to find a way to be more than just “tolerant” of theism. Other anti-theists are not so lucky, and can’t see past their righteous indignation that they’ve indeed thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

    While the ritual of “this is what the Bible says” may provide a traditional framework for good moral habits, that just doesn’t cut it for many, like me, who have a need to ask “Why?”or “Who says?”, and have that question meaningfully answered. “Because X says so” is not a sufficient answer.

    I was never introduced to Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas or Lewis – I had to find them on my own much later, but that was well after I had already run my train off the rails and into the self-destructive pit of atheistic materialism because of my own righteous outrage at “Because X says so.”

    In a free society, “Because X says so” is not good enough, because one can legally and socially dissent and say “Who says?” Drawing the rebel back towards that which they have rebelled against is a much harder emotional task than providing them the rational grounds for X in the first place.

    IMO, children need to be instructed in the basic principles of reason and in a more informed and nuanced concept of theistic principles because, IMO, a hellfire and damnation introduction to theism is at least partially to blame for the modern exodus into the wilderness of materialism.

  52. William

    I was really hoping Dmullinex or some other non-theist would answer the question I posed above at #11:

    IF we assume Christianity is true, then God is the source of “what is moral”; THEN what god does is necessarily moral, even if contingent acts seemingly contradict general moral rules, “God’s will” is the only source by which morality can be judged.

    IF we assume that Christianity is not true, then what system of principled morality do you refer to in your judgement that the god of the Bible is a “moral monster”? You failed to provide your basis for your judgement – please do so.

    This debate has been covered literally thousands of times here and a multitude of other places on the internet. I am surprised you want to raise it again!

    But if you really want a non-theist view.

    1) Most of the actions/attitudes that are attributed to the Christian God seem OK to me – but some seem morally wrong.

    2) This my subjective feeling about the rightness of those actions.

    3) Subjective is not the same as “trivial” or “unjustified” or “lacking a rational basis”. For example, if you find a film funny and I find it boring – that is presumably subjective. However, we will both have justifications for our view and if are committed to go to see the same film then our view is not trivial.

    I have lost count of the number of times I have tried to explain this in different ways. I never seem to succeed – but maybe one day :-)

  53. Mr MarkF:

    I know that on one excuse or another you studiously ignore what I have to say.

    But, as a first note, before dealing later on with specifics, YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THIS THREAD’S DISCUSSION IS IN THE DIRECT CONTEXT OF FURTHER TARGET PAINTING BEHAVIOUR BY .

    I think that puts a particular burden on those on you4r side of the ID debate, to police those who are on the unhinged extremism side. For they are unwilling to listen to correction from those on our side.

    Kindly cf the discussion overnight from Bantay’s warning here at 13 above. (Photographs have actually been posted.)

    Could you let us know what steps you are talking to make it clear that in the aftermath of Breivik, there is a zero tolerance policy for hostile outing tactics, implicit or explicit threats especially to innocent third parties [as in families etc] target-painting behaviour and related incivility?

    GEM of TKI

  54. Mr MarkF:

    I know that on one excuse or another you studiously ignore what I have to say.

    But, as a first note, before dealing later on with specifics, YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THIS THREAD’S DISCUSSION IS IN THE DIRECT CONTEXT OF FURTHER TARGET PAINTING BEHAVIOUR BY SOMEONE WHO WAS BASED AT YOUR BLOG AS A REGULAR COMMENTER, AND WHO WENT ON TO FOUND THE HATE BLOG THAT HAS AGAIN COME UP FOR CONCERN HERE AT UD.

    I think that puts a particular burden on those on you4r side of the ID debate, to police those who are on the unhinged extremism side. For they are unwilling to listen to correction from those on our side.

    Kindly cf the discussion overnight from Bantay’s warning here at 13 above. (Photographs have actually been posted.)

    Could you let us know what steps you are talking to make it clear that in the aftermath of Breivik, there is a zero tolerance policy for hostile outing tactics, implicit or explicit threats especially to innocent third parties [as in families etc] target-painting behaviour and related incivility?

    GEM of TKI

  55. oops, sent by mistake, incomplete, cf below

  56. Onlookers,

    MF’s points will be addressed point by point, DV later, but in the meanwhile cf here on above — as usual ignored by him — for a framework of thought that anticipates them.

    GEM of TKI

  57. F/N: cf here above for some links and a brief note on principles.

  58. Neil, you have reasoned away all rationality.

    If you find a billboard in the middle of a desert saying Accept ID. Dembski is right you can say the probability of its existence is 1.

    If, on the other hand, you insist that the billboard can exist solely due to a series of random events without design being necessary, well, you’ve become a stereotype of an American academic.

  59. Onlookers (And MF):

    Let us examine MF’s non-theistic morality from 19.2 above:

    ____________

    >> But if you really want a non-theist view.

    1) Most of the actions/attitudes that are attributed to the Christian God seem OK to me – but some seem morally wrong.

    a –> Is such “seeming” a matter of one’s taste and 0references as programmed by whatever forces of chance and necessity have formed one in a world in which there is no IS that can ground OUGHT. or is that seems an acknowledgement that morality is objective.

    b –> Have you taken time to examine careful and responsible analyses of the data — and what is your response as one trained in philosophy in light of the evidence and arguments [e.g. cf here etc], or are you simply echoing superficial views and talking points of objectors who have not seriously done their homework?

    2) This my subjective feeling about the rightness of those actions.

    c –> This is subjective, so are your views well-grounded, on what basis?

    3) Subjective is not the same as “trivial” or “unjustified” or “lacking a rational basis”.

    d –> So, you now have a duty of providing responsible warrant, or at least linking to a serious presentation. Can you do this?

    For example, if you find a film funny and I find it boring – that is presumably subjective. However, we will both have justifications for our view and if are committed to go to see the same film then our view is not trivial.

    e –> You have picked an utterly trivial and morally irrelevant comparison, on the level of liking or disliking prunes; not something that goes to the question whether there is a credible worldview foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT, whether or no I agree or feel like it.

    f –> For instance, is it right or wrong to take a newborn infant and place it in the white-hot arms of an image of Molech, in order to gain the favour of that ANE “god”? Why or why not?

    g –> And, if you confront an aggressive and powerful, militarily threatening culture that says yes to that sort of thing, what do you do? (Even, as, what do you do about what Libya or Syria or Iran were doing in the face of peaceful protests against tyrannical practice of ruling elites?)

    h –> On what grounds, beyond mere we agree to, or, we have bigger guns?

    i –> Or taking a film, in the 1970′s Deep Throat was supposedly the first porno flick to be shown generally in theatres. The objections were not on like/dislike but right/wrong. Latterly backed up by Linda Loveleace the “porn star” saying that in watching that film you were watching her being raped, with guns and fists either right there or close to hand. Was it right to show this film in theatres, and if the testimony before the US Congress is accurate [it seems so], then was what was done right or wrong enough that legal action should be taken, why or why not?

    j –> In short, your position as stated comes across as radical relativism rooted in an inherently amoral worldview of evolutionary materialism, that implies that “justification” of moral views has no objectivity that can lead to an intersubjective consensus that is warranted on facts, logic and reasonable, and agreeable starting point assumptions; rather than might makes right. Do you have an answer, not to whether individual acts may be seen by some people as wrong, but whether they are objectively wrong, and on what grounds?

    I have lost count of the number of times I have tried to explain this in different ways. I never seem to succeed – but maybe one day

    k –> if the above is a summary of how you have tried to explain, maybe that is why it has been seen as not good enough, in the teeth of what is really on the table. >>
    ____________

    Onlookers, contrast again what I remarked on and linked at 19.1 and 19.1.1 above, earlier this morning.

    Reflect on Plato’s warning here (and on his onward inference from the self to the foundation of the cosmos), then ponder on how central moral issues are to how we govern ourselves, ground law and regulate communities, then ask you what is the responsible thing to do as a civilisation on the subject of grounding morality.

    Take time onwards to ponder Provine’s remark here in the 1998 Darwin Day celebrations in U Tenn:

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

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    Observe the critique of this speech here:

    Provine’s . . . [[address] centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (Provine, 1998).

    It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally as clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Mr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended . . . . [[However, i]f it is true that naturalistic evolution cannot provide an ultimate foundation for determining the difference between actions that are right and ones that are wrong, then the door is wide open for subjective speculation about all human behavior. [[Rape and Evolution, Apologetics Press, 2005.]

    Reflect on the significance of freedom to choose for moral government of ourselves and our communities, as well as rationality in thought.

    Ask MF for me — he will not answer me directly — how he grounds morality and the credibility of the mind, in light of the issue of freedom of will and thought.

    Do you see why a great many people are deeply concerned about what is being done and said at worldviews level in the name of science and science education?

    GEM of TKI

  60. 60

    Apparently, to the materialist, “it seems to me” = “rational basis”, and “non-trivial” = “subjective taste in movies”.

    Biological automatons say the darnedest things!

  61. William – are you prepared to continue this discussion on the basis of mutual respect? If so, I will give it my best shot. Otherwise let’s not waste each others time.

    Mark

  62. 62

    Markf:

    It seems to me that I have been quite respectful. On what grounds do you assert the contrary?

  63. William

    I am sorry. I got the impression you had not taken my comment seriously. Perhaps it was my fault for not explaining it very well. Let me try again. That means a rather longer comment for which I apologise.

    I propose that because an issue is subjective it does not entail that people’s opinions are:

    a)trivial
    b)unjustified
    c)have no rational basis

    We often form opinions which are very important for us and others. And those opinions can be based on reasons and reasoning while still remaining subjective. I offered films as a lightweight example but there are many others. A more solid example is whether it is worth spending billions on knowledge for its own sake as in much of astronomy (assuming it is unlikely to bring utilitarian benefits). We can offer all sorts of reasons for our opinion that knowledge is worth it for its own sake and this can be based on detailed and correct reasoning (either way). But in the end our opinion will be based on our subjective feelings about the value of knowledge. There is no clinching objective standard to turn to.

    It is my firm belief that in the end morality is also subjective. We have firmly held opinions on what is right and what is wrong and can bring reasons to bear and make rational arguments – but underlying it will be commonly held but subjective attitudes. Many people feel the need for objective justifications ranging from religion to the golden rule. However, any of those objective justifications can also be assessed subjectively. Someone can say “I find your framework leads to morally unacceptable consequences” and there is no way to prove that person wrong.

  64. “Someone can say “I find your framework leads to morally unacceptable consequences” and there is no way to prove that person wrong.”

    This is only the case if atheism is true. On the other hand, if there really is a God then anyone who rejects the 100% objectively true Moral Law (ie. Thou Shalt Not Kill, Thou Shalt Not Steal) would be 100% objectively wrong in the same way as denying that 2+2=4 is indisputable false.

  65. Onlookers:

    [MF,25.1: It is my firm belief that in the end morality is . . . subjective. We have firmly held opinions on what is right and what is wrong and can bring reasons to bear and make rational arguments – but underlying it will be commonly held but subjective attitudes.

    This is unfortunately, little more than a nicely phrased way of saying that evolutionary materialism is amoral and radically subjectivist. On such amoral worldview premises, morality can ONLY be subjective (anything dealing with us as subjects is ALSO subject-ive . . . ), without any real objective warrant.

    So, as Plato warned so long ago, for such IT IS MIGHT MAKES “RIGHT,” MIGHT OF FORCE OR MIGHT OF MANIPULATION.

    And yet, it is plain — just take nihilists for a capital case — that a lot of times our feelings on moral matters are wrong, so we need to recongise that we are under the governance of principles that transcend our impulses, desires and perceptions.

    In my case, some one out there is targetting me, is falsely accusing me of child abuse, is saying menacingly “we know you, we know where you are, we know those you care for,” and is now backing this up by posting pictures — talk about targetting!

    And, with further false accusations.

    Someone who was coddled at MF’s site, and not restrained before he went utterly out of control.

    At the same time, we see outright declarations that the God of the Bible is a moral monster, and those who follow him are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked would-be tyrannical Christo-fascist theocrats and child abusers.

    Plainly, some one out there — Dawkins and ilk — thinks he can smear people and build up morally driven rage against them by appealing to precisely the moral absolutes that he denies when they would cut in ways that he does not want.

    The hypocrisy would be amusingly revealing, if it were not so dangerous. For that sort of incendiary language is feeding the fever swamps that allow the unhinged to tank up on rage and a sense of permission to act out their hostility on the scapegoated.

    The end of such a pattern is predictable on all too much history: violence and blood as ruthless nihilist factions vie for power, and worse, if they gain it.

    There is a name for a world like that, where each does as he pleases so long as he thinks he is powerful enough to get away with it, regardless of the blatant inconsistency.

    Hell.

    Just ask the ghosts of 100 million victims of evolutionary materialist tyrannies over the past 100 years.

    In short, we have again reached reductio ad absurdum and bankruptcy for evolutionary materialism, this time on the moral side.

    Let us take grim warning, if we care for our civilisation; or even just our families and communities.

    GEM of TKI

  66. Sorry, but your response hasn’t helped me sort out an answer. From reading these articles I must conclude that ID does not claim there must be an irreducible final cause, only that there may be such a terminus. So should I understand that ID theory leaves open the possibility of the alternative, materialism? Are there other possibilities? If not, then why use the word “may”?

    On a related note, I think it would be more accurate to say that materialism rejects the orthodox Christian view of God as an “irreducible final causal explanation,” but not First Cause per se:

    Materialism, which professes to find in matter its own cause and explanation, may go farther, and positively exclude the existence of any spiritual cause.
    - The Catholic Encyclopedia

    Furthermore, materialism itself does not reject a concept of god in general, though materialists often do:

    It does not necessarily follow, because the natural cognoscibility of a personal First Cause is denied, that His existence is called in question: nor, when matter is called upon to explain itself, that God is critically denied…

    In the eighteenth century, and especially in France, the doctrines of materialism were spread broadcast by the Encyclopedists. La Mettrie, Holbach, Fererbach, and Fleurens are usually classed among the foremost materialistic atheists of the period. Voltaire, on the contrary, while undoubtedly helping on the cause of practical atheism, distinctly held its theoretic contrary. He, as well as Rousseau, was a deist. Comte, it will be remembered, refused to be called an atheist. In the last century Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin, and Herbert Spencer, with others of the evolutionistic school of philosophy, were, quite erroneously, charged with positive atheism.

  67. F/N: Let us hear Plato again, in The Laws, Bk X, 2350 years ago.

    Perhaps, this time, we will learn from history before we have to repeat its worst chapters yet again:

    ____________

    >>[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . 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.] 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 real “dominionism,” folks.

    The evolutionary materialists, from 400 BC on, have always begun with chaos in the heavens that is imagined to somehow give rise to the things that are ordered, and this leads them to radical relativism and might makes “right” amorality. Thence come factions and from factions come chaos in the community, and tyranny.

    But always, it is ever so hard to believe that things are that bad in our time and place, until the horrors are let lose with full force.

    (How I remember the shock of that morning in May 1980 when we learned of a dance shot up with M-16 automatic rifles that had come out of nowhere, funded doubtless by the illicit drugs trade, and well do I remember studying thermodynamics some nights later, only to hear away in the distance bang, bang then pop-pop-pop-pop . . . , like ten pops per second in two bursts. A brave policeman cut down. All within the same cluster of weeks in which I lost my “aunt” to murder on a radical front organisation’s slander. Believe me, when things go bad like that, when the demons are let loose, events can go bad so fast you will be like one caught up in a whirlwind. That terrible weekend of May 10, 1940 must have been much like that for Europe.)

    But, we had better believe the magnitude of the danger in front of us, the depth of the moral bankruptcy and anarchy that have been revealed before our watching eyes and take decisive, grimly determined resolute, corrective action.

    Now.

    Before it is horribly, bloodily too late.

    GEM of TKI

  68. 68

    Markf:

    You say:

    There is no clinching objective standard to turn to.

    It is my firm belief that in the end morality is also subjective.

    And so, as long as someone feels strongly that torturing infants for personal pleasure is moral, and putting cigarettes out on the flesh of girl scouts they have chained up in the basement is moral, and systematically exterminating Jews is moral, then it is moral because morality is, as you say, in the end, subjective. Right?

    In that case, markf, why bother with morality at all? Why not just dispense with it and do whatever you feel like doing, as long as you can get away with it?

  69. In what form would “decisive, grimly determined resolute, corrective action” take? Any specifics?

  70. William

    I wrote a reply last night which seems to have disappeared.  So I will try again – but may give up if I keep losing replies.

    And so, as long as someone feels strongly that torturing infants for personal pleasure is moral, and putting cigarettes out on the flesh of girl scouts they have chained up in the basement is moral, and systematically exterminating Jews is moral, then it is moral because morality is, as you say, in the end, subjective. Right?

    No this does not follow.  That’s like saying if someone strongly believes there is no value in pursuing knowledge for its own sake then there is not value in pursuing knowledge for its own sake and we should stop funding astronomy.  Remember what subjective means.  If there is someone who really believes these things are moral then it is moral for that person – but not for you or me or the vast majority of people.  There are people who have moral feelings that are completely out of kilter with most others.  We typically call them psychopaths and regard them as mad.  But we don’t have an objective way of proving them wrong. Do you?

    In that case, markf, why bother with morality at all? Why not just dispense with it and do whatever you feel like doing, as long as you can get away with it?

    Because I care about others. It is built into me, as it is built into you. Morality isn’t something you choose to have or not.  It is basic human drive like the need to eat.  It is like saying lets dispense with hunger.  And just as with hunger there are a few people whose hunger is completely abnormal.  Only having abnormal moral passions doesn’t just affect them – by its nature it effects others.

  71. But my question is – how do you prove that the Moral Law is moral to an atheist?

  72. You can’t, Mark. The Moral Law is only moral and binding if there really is a God out there who we will answer to on Judgment Day. Atheists – by definition – will never accept this so have no rational basis to be bound by the Moral Law (even though many will still irrationally follow it anyway thanks to the enduring and positive influence of religion).

  73. Chris

    (Apparently it is not possible to have a 25.1.1.1.1.1! So this is my reply to your 25.1.1.1.1)

    You can’t, Mark. The Moral Law is only moral and binding if there really is a God out there who we will answer to on Judgment Day.

    Even if there is an ultimate law enforcement agency out there – that doesn’t make the law right. You can objectively determine if an action conforms to the “moral law”. But you cannot objectively determine if the “moral law” is moral.

  74. Hi Mark,

    And it appears as though you can’t have a 25.1.1.1.3 either! If God exists, and the Book of Scripture (in the widest sense of that term) has Divine authorship then the Moral Law was given to us by God. Given these premises, asking whether or not the Moral Law is really moral is the same as asking whether or not the Football Association Rules and Regulations really are football.

    The Law belongs to the Law-giver.

  75. Paragwinn,

    Have you read the comments and onward linked at 19.1 and 19.1.1 above?

    Have you looked in the public lecture that calls for education and advocacy in a community based context that stresses participation and sustainable development — did you observe the thinly veiled fictionalised composite Portview [= Portmore + Harbour View, with inputs from several other similar cases across the Caribbean] case study?

    Have you at least skimmed through the actual national energy policy?

    Did you notice the centrality of the synthesis of the Golden Rule, the Categorical Imperative and a modified version of Gro Harlem Bruntland’s Sustainable Development principle?

    Do click on the links, and see if you find in the above and onward linked anything above and beyond a call for communitarian, democratic reformation on a call to repentance; similar to the peaceful, public advocacy based democratising and reformation movements sparked and/or led by Wilberforce in C18 – 19, against the slave trade [the deliberately prioritised low-hanging fruit], slavery and a host of other ills that ran in parallel with the Wesley-Whitefield sparked spiritual and moral Awakening.

    Then, contrast what I was reading overnight from Les Kinsolving, on a recent conference in Baltimore — B4U-ACT (as in, compare ACT-UP) — the next step in the amoralistic agenda (I guess it has been cropping up enough in the porn to begin to benumb consciences through addiction, so it can now begin to be publicly pushed):

    The Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and New York Times had no coverage of this event, which was attended by a number of admitted pedophiles – or, as this conference re-labeled them, “minor-attracted persons.” . . . .

    Among “highlights” of this conference, as reported by Barber and Reisman:

    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 . . . .

    “B4U-ACT is the driving force behind this movement. It’s goal is to reconceptualize our thinking about what they politely call ‘minority-attracted persons.’ If they had it their way, sex between adults and minors would no longer be taboo, and pedophilia would no longer be listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.”

    That there has been no coverage of B4U-ACT in the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post and the New York Times attests not only to their immorality, but also to their growing loss of subscribers.

    Do you see where our civilisation is headed if it is left in the hands of such?

    It is time to wake up, understand the driving force behind the rising amorality and agendas to literally de-moralise our civilisation through reducing morality to a matter of views and feelings that can then be manipulated by clever advocates [demonising and targetting those who dare object -- I notice your silence in the face of tactics that amount to: we know who you are, where you are, who you care fr, and here's the targetting photo . . . ], publicly expose the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the underlying evolutionary materialism, and also take heed to the urgency of reformation.

    GEM of TKI

  76. I don’t go with “might makes right”

  77. F/N: I have pointed out the emerging next step courtesy B4U-ACT, 26.1.1 above, in response to Paragwinn.

  78. MF:

    I notice you continue the ignore policy, in the teeth of the next step, circulation of targetting photos. I have asked you to respond to the triggering issue in 19.2.2 above, kindly do so.

    On the matter in hand, you now point to an innate moralising drive, but still have yet to address the central issue: the objectivity of morality, on what grounds.

    Yes, morality is innate, we are bound by inescapable moral law. So, whence that law, what meaneth it for us, and where do we go from here?

    In particular, what is a worldview foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT in the teeth of the sort of Nazi-like nihilsm and sadism that WJM highlights.

    Not to mention the sort of thuggery that is now beginning to lay siege to UD.

    GEM of TKI

  79. So you have come down on the side of “X is good because God says it is good”. He sets the rules.

    Now consider this. There are some places in the Bible where it appears to condone slavery. I know this is open to interpretation – but most Christians feel a need to reinterpret this or see it in the context of the time. My question is why do they feel the need to do this? No one feels the need to reinterpret “thou shalt not kill” in the context of times. What criterion are theists using that stops them just saying – slavery is in the Bible so it is good.

  80. Well, that’s a completely new use of the term “ad hominem” to me. I’ve always heard it was Latin for “to the man”, meaning attacking the arguer instead of his arguments.

    I don’t understand how the engineering in the Golden Gate Bridge works, at least in enough detail to build one, but the existence of the Golden Gate Bridge is a Proof by Demonstration that it is possible to build a bridge across the Golden Gate. Similarly, if Heaven exists, it is a proof that God can make a perfect environment for humans.

    If God made a universe with no plants or animals, there would be no humans either, since we aren’t minerals.

    Thank you for confirming that Behe said God made the Malaria parasite. Dr. Behe could probably use some reading comprehension lessons, since Darwin said, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living body of caterpillars.” The operative words are “beneficent” and “omnipotent”. Darwin was hardly squeamish about wasps and caterpillars. He made his living cutting them up to see what was inside.

    In a similar vein, a beneficent and omnipotent Designer can’t blame the Devil for the state of the universe, since He, by the definition of “omnipotent” has the power to stop him.

    Finally, saying “The ancestors of humans acquired the parasite 2.5 million years ago – very close to the time when Homo first appeared.” Immediately makes me think of the ID claims for front loading.

    “Once again, you appeal to “Christian and Jewish orthodoxy”. Intelligent Design theory as such doesn’t assume the truth of either orthodoxy, although there happen to be many Christians and Jews who support ID.”

    ID is Paley poorly re-written. Of all the ID supporters I’ve ever heard of, only two don’t claim to be Christians, Jews or Muslims. One was such an egomaniac that he got booted from this blog and the other has a really bad case of William F. Buckley envy. Both claimed to be agnostic, but anybody can be an agnostic, even myself and the Pope. Every other ID advocate I’ve ever met or heard of is a believer and appears to support the theory because the theory supports their religion. ALL of the ID funders I’ve ever heard of are hard core conservative Christians. So I don’t feel out of place referring to religion when talking of ID.

    I’ll stand by my fine tuning math. Dr. Sheldon only “escapes” it by diving into Hugh Everett’s Many World’s theory which has nothing to do with the Multiverse theory. I’ll let Roger Penrose concentrate on looking for the mind in his microtubules. When it comes to cosmology, I’m a layman and I will go with the professional physicists.

    5. Atheists have the Bible and God thrown at them constantly. Many of them have the silly notion that if they point out the yawning logical and moral sinkholes in the Bible and its description of God, believers will suddenly see the light. This never works, but we keep trying.

    6. Why wouldn’t you expect laws of nature in a materialistic universe? I can see where most of them would be chaotic, but ALL? Most improbable.

    “By the way, there about 8.7 million species of creatures living on this planet. Of these, no more than 15,000 species (mammals and birds) are sentient. That’s 0.2%. Of these, the vast majority, at any given time, are not in a state of extreme pain. If all these creatures had a Designer, I’d hardly call Him a monster.”

    “Sentient” is not the same as “conscious” or “self-conscious”. If you can feel pain, you’re sentient and if anybody thinks reptiles don’t feel pain, hit one’s paw with a hammer. (Pleae don’t really do this experiment!)

    I’m going to just note that every single member of every single species eventually dies and then try to forget that you wrote that.

  81. Regarding Breivik. Is reminding us of a right-wing Christian who murdered five dozen liberal teenagers supposed to intimidate me?

    You’re from Jamaica originally, aren’t you? I vacationed in Ocho Rios a couple of decades ago and I remember the guide proudly telling us that Jamaica has more churches per capita than any other country in the world. Is this true?

    I also noticed that I couldn’t find a newspaper at the hotel we stayed at and an employee told me that the manager didn’t allow them to be sold there. When I found one downtown, I saw why.

    Would you like to comment on the murder rates for ultra-Christian Jamaica, excessively Christian America and Breivik’s relatively non-Christian Norway?

    According to

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....icide_rate

    the murder rates per 100,000 for the three countries are:

    Jamaica 60 per 100,000

    US 5.0 per 100,000

    Norway 0.6 per 100,000

    Do you have any explanation for why ultra-religious Jamaica’s murder rate is 12 times higher than merely super religious America’s which in turn is 8 times higher than nearly atheistic Norway’s?

    I doubt if it’s guns. They’re nearly totally illegal in Jamaica and the US and Norway are both awash in firearms. I doubt it it’s poverty – Norway and America are about tied here. I doubt if it’s language or legal traditions. Jamaica and America are both scions of Great Britain.

    What differences are there between these three countries aside from their religiosity.

    I’m going to stop now before you heed the command of Jesus as quoted in Luke 19:27 and get a gun and come looking for me, but before I do I want to say that nobody on this blog whines about “oil of ad hominems”, “strawmen caricatures”, “distractive red herrings”, “willful misrepresentation, hostility and target-painting “ and “incendiary rhetoric” as much as you do and nobody holds a candle to you when it comes to indulging in those practices.

    F/N Luke 19:27 “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

  82. Oh, all right Bill. I go for the Golden Rule, which predates Jesus by at least several centuries.

    A question for you: When God allegedly commands Moses, “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.” As In Numbers 31:17, what moral perspective do you judge the Biblical God by?

    Pardon me if I don’t turn my back on you.

  83. As you know, I’m not a Christian. Nonetheless, could you please quote the chapter and verse of the Bible that informs us that slavery is morally good.

  84. Sorry – forgot you are not a Christian. What are you?

    It is simple to Google “Bible on Slavery”. The first item I get is: http://www.evilbible.com/Slavery.htm which contains many quotes.

    But remember my point. I am sure the relevance and message of these quotes can be debated. My point is why would it occur to a Christian to even debate them. What criterion are they using that makes them doubt the quotes should be taken at face value?

    Dmullenix has made the same point better in 19.3 above:

    A question for you: When God allegedly commands Moses, “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.” As In Numbers 31:17, what moral perspective do you judge the Biblical God by?

  85. In other words, you can’t produce a quote from the Bible that encourages Christians to acquire slaves because this is morally good. People shouldn’t make claims that they can’t substantiate. Or ask nonsensical questions like the one you quoted from Dmullenix. It’s like saying, how does the person sitting the exam mark the examiner?

  86. 86

    Dmullinex: I’m assuming that by “Bill” you mean me, since I don’t see anyone else that you could be referring to.

    Oh, all right Bill. I go for the Golden Rule, which predates Jesus by at least several centuries.

    Unless your choice of moral principle was arrived in some manner other than subjective selection based on personal predilection, then it was made in the same manner and authorized by the same foundation that your perceived christian god makes its choices of principle, even if that god’s moral principle is “whatever I say, goes”.

    A question for you: When God allegedly commands Moses, “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.” As In Numbers 31:17, what moral perspective do you judge the Biblical God by?

    Since I’ve never read the Bible, and my arguments about god and morality do not stem from the Bible, I’ll assume the above is a faithful account.

    What informs my moral perspective/evaluation of such propositions is the same process that informs my evaluation of all things I consider to represent objective phenomena. I find self-evidently true moral statements, such as “it is always wrong to harm infants for personal pleasure”, use logic from there to find necessarily true moral statements (infants are entities that must be protected from harm), contingently true moral statements (yelling at an infant because I’m tired and frustrated is wrong), and generally true principles (the weak need to be protected by the strong).

    Since it is self-evidently true that purposefully harming children for no good reason is immoral, and there doesn’t appear to be a good reason for harming the children in the passage, I would consider that an immoral command, and if Moses carried it out, an immoral action (with the caveat that I’m not familiar with the context or any apologetic reasoning that might put the passage in a different light.)

    Now, let’s compare our two moral systems. In your moral system, moral principles and views are subjective. You can select whatever principle appeals to you and it is valid for no reason other than that you have selected it; that method validates the moral principles and choices of what you perceive as the Christian god. If god subjectively picks “whatever I say or want is moral” as opposed to your subjectively-chosen “golden rule”; then since there is no objective, fundamentally existent morality, you are both fully authorized to make morality whatever you wish.

    IOW, the basis of your moral system is relativism (not the golden rule, since you didn’t claim it was the objective standard, nor explained it as such, its just the one that works for you), and relativism validates both your choice and god’s choice of moral system, leaving you no grounds by which to complain that the Biblical god’s choice is wrong. How can something chosen purely by subjective taste be considered wrong? It would be like asking someone to pick their favorite color, and when they say “red”, you say “wrong”.

    On the other hand, my moral system is based on the assumption that morality describes an objective commodity – an objective good. God doesn’t pick what is good; god is assumed not to “have” goodness, but to “be” goodness, and thus cannot be anything else, and cannot capriciously or arbitrarily decide what “good” is or means.

    Unlike your moral system which cannot judge the moral systems or choices of others as “wrong”, but rather only as something you wouldn’t personally choose, my moral system allows me to make a moral judgement about the choices and systems of others, including any so-called god or social system or law or view held by the consensus, because they can be compared to a standard held to be objective.

    What that means is that I have the axiomatic grounds by which to render meaningful moral judgements; you do not. Unless you are offering a meaningfully grounded objective standard for any finding that some proposed entity is a “moral monster”, then all you are doing is using rhetoric, attempting to sway Christians from their belief via an irrational condemnation of their god’s actions from their own moral perspective, not from your own subjective moral basis, when that rhetoric doesn’t hold up under basic logic.

    IOW, you have no meaningful moral “house”, and you’re trying to get others out of their houses by yelling “fire” when there is none. But, if you can get them to irrationally react to your claim and abandon their house, you win. Or, at least you make yourself feel better, for whatever reason.

    Subjectively choosing “the golden rule” as a personal-taste ruler by which to judge how you perceive the Christian god demonstrates that you have no meaningful basis for such a judgement, and offer no substantive any reason to adopt or even pay attention to your exclamations of personal moral taste.

  87. In other words, you can’t produce a quote from the Bible that encourages Christians to acquire slaves because this is morally good. People shouldn’t make claims that they can’t substantiate.

    Did you read the reference I gave you? Here is the first quote.

    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    Continuing …

    Or ask nonsensical questions like the one you quoted from Dmullenix. It’s like saying, how does the person sitting the exam mark the examiner?

    So do you think it was moral to kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. I guess you must do, because for you it is God who defines what is moral and these were God’s instructions. And presumably you think morality is timeless – so do you still believe this to be a moral thing to do?

    If not, what criteria are you using to question the examiner?

  88. Mark, can you explain exactly how that quote from Leviticus encourages slavery as a morally good act? At best, it merely says that slavery is permissible. There’s a huge difference between “permissible” and “morally good” wouldn’t you agree?

    Yes, morality is timeless. And the point is, the examined does not question the examiner. The examiner is not being tested, and even if he was, he couldn’t be tested by the examined. Surely you wouldn’t encourage a child to question the examiner while they’re sitting their test? They are in no position to do so and its not what they’re in the exam to do in the first place.

  89. 89

    MarkF said:

    No this does not follow. That’s like saying if someone strongly believes there is no value in pursuing knowledge for its own sake then there is not value in pursuing knowledge for its own sake and we should stop funding astronomy.

    No, that’s not at all “like” what I said.

    “Knowledge” is assumed to be objective information about something that actually exists. Under the relativist paradigm, that’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about morality; we’re talking about an entirely relative concept.

    Remember what subjective means. If there is someone who really believes these things are moral then it is moral for that person – but not for you or me or the vast majority of people.

    Then my examples do follow; if one really believes those things are moral, then they are moral for them. What difference does it make if it is considered moral or not for others? That is irrelevant to the point that for the person that believes it to be so, torturing infants for fun **is** moral. I didn’t say anything about anyone else, who obviously can generate their own particular morals from their own strongly-held beliefs.

    There are people who have moral feelings that are completely out of kilter with most others. We typically call them psychopaths and regard them as mad. But we don’t have an objective way of proving them wrong. Do you?

    Do you have an objective way of proving to me that everything I experience is not a delusion? Unless we are advocating solipsism, we must assume that some things we experience are objectively existent.

    Can we prove they are objectively existent, thus giving us a means to objectively prove statements about them true or false? No; again, such objective existence – about anything – must first be assumed. It is a necessary first principle without which rational debate about anything is impossible.

    So, we can either assume morals describe an objective good, or we can assume they do not, and that is the point. Please note: the main point isn’t about what particular moral claims can be proven or disproven, but rather that without an assumption of objective basis for morality in the first place, nothing about morality whatsoever can be “proven” in any meaningful sense, because all we are doing is asserting various aspects of personal, subjective taste.

    Knowledge about morality can only be developed (argued, examined logically, debated) if morality is based on an objective commodity. Is an argument about what tastes better, apple pie or cherry, an advancement of “knowledge” about how to discern which tastes better? I think not – at least not in any reasonable sense.

    So, do I have a means of proving moral assertions true or false? Of course, but that necessarily means assuming that “good” is an objective commodity. Once we make that assumption – like we must with anything else to develop rational arguments and knowledge about – then we can establish self-evident moral truths, necessary moral truths, general principles, and move on to evaluating contingent moral claims and solving moral dilemmas.

    The important point is: under your relativistic morality, “what is moral” is whatever I believe it to be, so my calling another entity a “moral monster” is the equivalent of saying “cherry pie tastes awful”. It is an utterly trivial statement of personal taste. I would have no more rational moral basis for arresting and imprisoning Jeffrey Dahmer than I would have for arresting and imprisoning someone for eating and enjoying cherry pie.

  90. F/N: It seems that worldview level issues in the context of the new atheist “moral monsters” talking points, are dominant at UD these days.

    So, I note for record.

    Notice, above, how studiously MF avoids the citation from the very same work that Jesus of Nazareth identified as at the core of the system of moral teachings in the OT (not to mention acknowledging the actual balance of responsible teachings — e.g. cf here — on the sort of issues that are involved with questions on regulation of the once universal institution of slavery, ANE warfare rhetoric, etc, or recognising the highly relevant history of how slavery came to be opposed and abolished, e.g. let’s call the names Wilberforce and Buxton):

    Lev 19: 9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

    11 “‘Do not steal.

    “‘Do not lie.

    “‘Do not deceive one another.

    12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

    13 “‘Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him.

    “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.

    14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.

    15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

    16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.

    “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD.

    17 “‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.

    18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

    In addition, let us notice MF’s appeal to moral outrage, in the cause of an inherently amoral view that has no foundational IS that can justify OUGHT.

    It is quite plain as can be seen from an investigation here on (cf also the work in progress here on) that we see just above a red herring led away to a strawman laced with ad hominems and ignited to distract, cloud and polarise.

    For the real issue that is central is that MF implies that ought is real. And if ought is real the only worldview foundations that can be credible are those that have in them an IS that can ground OUGHT.

    The only serious candidate for that is the inherently good God, our Creator and Lord, i.e generic ethical theism. The Judaeo-Christian tradition seeks to serve that God evident from the world and from what is in our hearts. And, it is seriously arguable that it is a reasonable and responsible tradition in that pursuit.

    I think a comparison here with my post this morning, will reveal a lot about what is really going on over this moral monsters talking point being pushed ever so hard by new atheist advocates.

    GEM of TKI

  91. Markf: So do you think it was moral to kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.

    Yahweh (or whoever wrote that book) thought it was “moral” (whatever that means.) If you don’t like Yahweh, don’t worship him. Is someone trying to twist your arm?

  92. 92

    markf said:

    But my question is – how do you prove that the Moral Law is moral to an atheist?

    Since atheists are moral solipsists, you can’t prove anything about morality to them. “Proving” something about a commodity requires the a priori acceptance that there is an objective basis by which evidence and argument can be evaluated, argued and accepted as sufficient proof one way or another.

  93. 93

    dmullenix said:

    I don’t go with “might makes right”

    While “might makes right” may not be the specific moral principle you pick, it is the more fundamental principle of ‘might makes right” that allows you to pick whatever moral principle you wish or feel comfortable with in the first place.

    You implicitly indemnify your right to pick “the golden rule” (or any other such principle) via might. IOW, you pick “the golden rule” (or whatever principle) because you **can** and because it **feels** comfortable to you, not because you are attempting to discern true principles describing an objectively existent good.

    If I subjectively choose a different moral principle, say “everyone should serve my wishes”, then I can do so because I have the might (will, personal proclivity, desire) to do so, and I don’t have to justify it according to any principle other than my own will (might).

    You might be able to hide your ultimate might-makes-right moral justification from yourself, but you cannot hide it from the light of reason.

  94. So you are saying if don’t like the moral judgements of a God don’t worship him. What criteria do you use when assessing the moral judgements of a God and thus deciding which one to worship?

  95. Let’s us stick the more moderate claim that slavery is permissable. The quote seems pretty clear on that.

    The examined should not examine the examiner. So a good Christian must accept that slavery is morally permissable and must accept it at all times (because morality is timeless). Happy with that conclusion?

  96. Both Jews and Muslims must accept that slavery is permissable. But the question is, how do you end up with slaves in the first place? In modern times, both Jews and Muslims will find it virtually impossible to acquire slaves in a morally permissible manner.

    Strictly speaking (ie. according to St Paul) it doesn’t apply to Christians.

  97. Onlookers:

    And so, the red herring drags away to the strawman soaked with ad hominems and awaiting the firebrand talking point. the better to distract us and cloud, poison and polarise the atmosphere.

    Let’s get this discussion back on track: the fundamental issue here is that MF like other materialists, has no worldview foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, and so ends up advocating the sort of amorality that is now reaching the pitch I have exposed here this morning.

    Yes, there is now an agenda to decriminalise pederasty. After all,

    “Pedophiles are “unfairly stigmatized and demonized” by society” . . . . “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” . . . .

    “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.”

    Sometimes, only the shock of seeing what is actually afoot, will open our eyes.

    Now of course what MF would like for us to be debating is whether snipped out bits of ANE war rhetoric that were not meant literally — the same “wipe-out” texts typically speak of how the defeated population is to be treated — and generally ameliorative regulations of slavery etc reveal the God of the Bible to be a “moral monster” whose followers today are Christo-fascist would be theocratic tyrants.

    This is well-poisoning rhetoric.

    But in fact at the same time he will not address the core amorality and self-referential absurdity worldview challenges of his own agenda, or its terrible history as the ghosts of 100 million victims over the past 100 years would remind us, much less the sort of sober response to exegetical and ethical difficulties that are a web click away.

    I only footnote the ante upping publication of slanderised targetting photos by the unhinged on his side of the fence, as that has already been linked.

    So, ponder: has MF or any other evo mat advocate been able to provide a grounding basis for morality within that worldview?

    If not, let us consider the implications as long since exposed by Will 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’.

    Then, reflect on the next step in the amoralist agenda as advocated by B4U-ACT in an ACADEMIC conference.

    Is that where our civilisation should be going next?

    GEM of TKI

  98. “What criteria do you use when assessing the moral judgements of a God and thus deciding which one to worship?”

    The ones fed to me by my subconscious and by my reason. Like most people on this forum, I’ve been programmed to a large degree by the better aspects of Christ’s teachings regarding tolerance, forgiveness and care of others. It just feels right.

    Now, since I have you on the line, let me ask you to consider a wild scenario regarding all those babies Yahweh had the Israelites kill: what if you came to know with metaphysical certainty that the consciousness inhabited by each one of those poor little babies was actually something akin to a Hitler or Stalin in a former incarnation on a different planet? How would that color your view about their being killed in such a manner by the Israelites during their incarnation on this planet?

  99. PS: On grounding morality and applying it to life and culture, as well as public policy, cf here on (with a sidelight on the moral monster talking points here on) and here on above.

  100. Mike, don’t play along with MF’s atmosphere poisoning rhetorical distraction.

  101. The ones fed to me by my subconscious and by my reason. Like most people on this forum, I’ve been programmed to a large degree by the better aspects of Christ’s teachings regarding tolerance, forgiveness and care of others. It just feels right.

    I would say all of these are true of me – even though I don’t believe Christ was divine. The question is: how is this different from being subjective?

    Now, since I have you on the line, let me ask you to consider a wild scenario regarding all those babies Yahweh had the Israelites kill: what if you came to know with metaphysical certainty that the consciousness inhabited by each one of those poor little babies was actually something akin to a Hitler or Stalin in a former incarnation on a different planet? How would that color your view about their being killed in such a manner by the Israelites during their incarnation on this planet?

    That’s quite a hypothetical! I don’t believe in incarnation so I really have to use my imagination very hard. It so far away from any real moral decision that my (subjective) opinion is extremely uncertain. On the whole I don’t think that if incarnation was real that I feel that people should be punished for sins performed under a previous incarnation.

    Why do you ask?

  102. Well I have to hand it you – you are consistent.

    So we now have rival examiners – the Jewish one, the Muslim one, the Christian one and a fair number of others. Each of them with their own, slightly different, definition of “good”.

    How does one choose which exam to take?

  103. Religious truth is simple, Mark, and it can be found in the scriptures of most religions: particularly the Abrahamic Faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; all of which are much closer than most people appreciate.

    Read the Torah, the New Testament and the Qu’ran. Then take your pick. Or not if you remain an atheist until the day you die. The point is, there is only one exam and we’re all sitting it together. Religion merely provides the guidance to help us get through the exam. But we’re free to choose the path we take (and, like I said before, many atheists follow the God-given Moral Law without even realising it).

  104. “That’s quite a hypothetical!”

    No kidding.

    “Why do you ask?”

    Because I was curious about how your mind works.

    “On the whole I don’t think that if incarnation was real that I feel that people should be punished for sins performed under a previous incarnation.”

    Yes, but would you feel as outraged about it?

    At any rate, I disagree. Now, is it possible that there is important information regarding conscious life on this planet that is being withheld from you that might make mitigate your judgement? I would say yes. And the point is, if Yahweh is real, you just not have a leg to stand on “morally”, even using your own morally as the criterion.

    So in the end, all this talk about your outrage about the slain babies is useless since you don’t know the extent of your ignorance about those involved.

  105. Great point, Mike, about our ignorance of what passed before (including before human existence).

    Remember you mentioned the fact that we chose to participate in this game/test we call ‘life’ on a thread called something like “God and Evil”? I would still love to hear more about that… here or elsewhere.

  106. “Have you read the comments and onward…Have you looked in the public lecture…Have you at least skimmed through…”
    I will endeavor to attend to those when time allows.

    “contrast what I was reading overnight from Les Kinsolving, on a recent conference in Baltimore — B4U-ACT (as in, compare ACT-UP)”
    What is the relevance in referring to ACT-UP in this context? In a quick follow-up I performed, it appears that there is more to the purpose of this conference than what Kinsolving et al have made it out to be.

    “I notice your silence in the face of tactics that amount to: we know who you are, where you are, who you care fr, and here’s the targetting photo”
    Must I always register in public my objections to whatever is causing drama for you? Perhaps I wish to address such issues by other means.

  107. No, that’s not at all “like” what I said.

    “Knowledge” is assumed to be objective information about something that actually exists. Under the relativist paradigm, that’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about morality; we’re talking about an entirely relative concept.

    I obviously chose a bad example.  I was talking about the value of knowledge for its own sake which is subjective.  But if the word knowledge is confusing let’s take some other examples of subjective (non-moral) issues:

    * The importance of arts as opposed to sports (you can imagine this in a funding context). 

    * Whether Mozart was a greater composer than Elton John

    * Whether American football is a more interesting sport than Soccer

    I hope you agree that for all of these you do not have to assume the answer is objective to argue, examine logically, and debate the issue (For example, in the last case someone might point to the number of scoring events, the time in play, the variety of tactics etc.) So why should it be necessary to assume morality is objective?

    So I can have a rational moral basis for arresting and imprisoning Jeffrey Dahmer just as I can have rational artistic basis for preferring Mozart to Elton John.  And neither need be based on ultimate objective criteria – although of course they will be based on deeply held human preferences.

  108. Now, is it possible that there is important information regarding conscious life on this planet that is being withheld from you that might make mitigate your judgement?

    I agree.  Of course for any moral decision there may be additional information that may sway my (subjective) feeling.

    And the point is, if Yahweh is real, you just not have a leg to stand on “morally”, even using your own morally as the criterion.

    I don’t get this.  Even if Yahweh is real I may feel that its decisions are morally wrong.

    So in the end, all this talk about your outrage about the slain babies is useless since you don’t know the extent of your ignorance about those involved.

    Neither do you – neither does anyone. So by this argument no one can make any moral judgements about anything!

  109. “What informs my moral perspective/evaluation of such propositions is the same process that informs my evaluation of all things I consider to represent objective phenomena. I find self-evidently true moral statements, such as “it is always wrong to harm infants for personal pleasure”, use logic from there to find necessarily true moral statements (infants are entities that must be protected from harm), contingently true moral statements (yelling at an infant because I’m tired and frustrated is wrong), and generally true principles (the weak need to be protected by the strong).”

    Wow! Just Wow! You know, there’s a word for that. It’s called “subjective” and you have about the purest case of subjectivity I’ve ever seen.

    It was self-evidently true to Adolph Hitler that the Jews were a corrupt and immoral race that were destroying Germany and everything decent. From there, he was able to use logic to work out the Final Solution.

    Again, I say, “Wow!”

    I am definitely not turning my back on you!

    “Unless your choice of moral principle was arrived in some manner other than subjective selection based on personal predilection, then it was made in the same manner and authorized by the same foundation that your perceived christian god makes its choices of principle, even if that god’s moral principle is “whatever I say, goes”.

    Uh, no. The golden rule also meets Kant’s categorical imperative: I would like to see everybody on earth adopt it. Or, as Kant put it, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

    Here’s a question you can ponder: WHY is it always wrong to needlessly harm an infant? Would you want someone to needlessly harm you? Would you want everybody to adopt this principle?

    Your God, on the other hand, has the same foundation for His morality as you do: “Seems right to Me!”

    You should try reading the Bible sometime. It will help cure you of your Christianity.

  110. 110

    Wow! Just Wow! You know, there’s a word for that. It’s called “subjective” and you have about the purest case of subjectivity I’ve ever seen.

    Then finding self-evidently true statements about anything “What goes up must come down”, “Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, objects in motion tend to stay in motion” are also “pure cases” of subjectivity.

    All rational thought and scientific research is based upon find self-evidently true statements first, and then proceeding from there. Without them, we have no place to begin.

    It was self-evidently true to Adolph Hitler that the Jews were a corrupt and immoral race that were destroying Germany and everything decent. From there, he was able to use logic to work out the Final Solution.

    Please support your assertion that Hitler believed that it was self-evidently true that the Jews were a corrupt and immoral race. Otherwise, your claim above has no merit in this argument. Beliefs and conclusions are not the same as “self-evidently true” statements.

    In any event, just because someone claims something is self-evidently true doesn’t make it so; just because people claim that Adam and Eve sprang whole form dirt doesn’t make it so; just because you believe that Hitler believed what he did as a self-evident truth doesn’t make it so.

    Self-evidently true statements are what we must agree to in order to develop reasoning about any subject; if you deny there are self-evidently true moral statements, then you are the equivalent of a moral solipsist, and we do not have the fundamental grounds for a meaningful debate about what is and is not moral.

    Uh, no. The golden rule also meets Kant’s categorical imperative: I would like to see everybody on earth adopt it. Or, as Kant put it, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

    By what warrant (grounding, fundamental premise) should I accept the golden rule as my guiding moral principle? How does your “liking” to see everybody on earth adopt it fundamentally different from my “liking” to see everybody on earth accept the moral rule “whatever William J Murray wants, he should get”? What indemnifies the golden rule over might makes right as right moral principle,or failing any capacity to make it the “right” choice, what makes it the better choice?

    WHY is it always wrong to needlessly harm an infant? Would you want someone to needlessly harm you? Would you want everybody to adopt this principle?

    According to your argument, it is only wrong to needlessly harm an infant if I believe it to be so, so it is not “always wrong” to needlessly harm an infant. Under my premise, that it is always wrong to needlessly harm an infant is a self-evidently true statement, which would mean that it always detracts from the good, to needlessly harm an infant, “the good” being the Aristotlean “Final Cause” or purpose of our existence.

    BTW, I don’t believe the golden rule or the categorical imperative are anything more than secondary, populist moral principles that are at best generally functionable as traditional/ritualistic truisms/catechisms for people with poorly developed free will, a lackluster connection to the good, and only fair reasoning skills. Followed via the semantics and without grasping that they are generalized, imperfect approximations of a much deeper and perfect “good”, the golden rule and the categorical imperative can easily lead to moral ruin by justifying just about any behavior.

    IOW, unless “the golden rule” and “the categorical imperative” are based on an objective good, there is (1) no reason for me to adopt them in the first place, and (2) no reason they cannot be rationalized into indemnifying virtually any behavior one wishes.

    Your God, on the other hand, has the same foundation for His morality as you do: “Seems right to Me!”

    You should try reading the Bible sometime. It will help cure you of your Christianity.

    I conclude from this that you are either unwilling or unable to understand virtually anything I have argued here, or are simply trying to use baseless rhetoric to incite some kind of emotional reaction.

  111. For some reason there’s no reply button to 19.3.1.1.1 so I’m replying to William Murray here.

    You continue to amaze me! This is the first time I’ve ever felt that the ID supporters on this blog are probably as astounded as I am.

    “What goes up must come down” and “Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, objects in motion tend to stay in motion” are not subjective statements. They’re objective statements of how the world works and they can be checked by anyone in the world and seen to be in accordance with how objects actually behave.

    That’s the difference between “subjective” and “objective”. “Subjective” is in your mind. You may say something, you may think something, you may believe something with all your heart, but it’s not objectively true unless other people can confirm it. When Newton said, “Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, objects in motion tend to stay in motion”, he was not making a subjective statement, he was making an objective statement about how the world works. People didn’t believe that statement because they trusted Newton, they believed it because everybody who tested it found that things did actually work that way.

    “Please support your assertion that Hitler believed that it was self-evidently true that the Jews were a corrupt and immoral race.”

    Wow again! Uh, would “Mein Kampf” do? Or how about High School history books?

    “In any event, just because someone claims something is self-evidently true doesn’t make it so;”

    Exactly! That’s the difference between subjective and objective.

    “Self-evidently true statements are what we must agree to in order to develop reasoning about any subject”

    Actually, we found a better method several centuries ago – observe the world and change your beliefs until they match, then begin to reason based on them.

    “By what warrant (grounding, fundamental premise) should I accept the golden rule as my guiding moral principle?”

    Because things that hurt me tend to hurt anybody else and things that hurt anybody else tend to hurt me. Actually, you’re getting closer to useful moral thinking here. The Golden Rule and the Categorical Imperative are shortcuts pointing to a deeper principle: nobody wants to get hurt. You could just say, “Don’t hurt me” but that’s more of a plea than a moral principle and it’s not universal – it only applies to you. “Don’t hurt me and I won’t hurt you,” makes it universal and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” is an elegant way of phrasing that universal moral principle.

    It’s also objective because it applies to everybody and it can’t be changed just by your changing your mind. You might wake up next Tuesday and decide that “I should needlessly harm infants,” is self-evidently true and how would I counter you? By saying that it’s self-evidently false to me? That’s just my feeling against your feeling. But if I point out that children are people and you wouldn’t want someone to harm you, we have an objective basis for arguing our points.

    Of course, the whole “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” thing fails when the first masochist comes walking down the road which is why it’s just shortcut to deeper, objective standards. That’s also why we want an objective basis for our morality instead of “It’s self-evidently true to me.”

    “According to your argument, it is only wrong to needlessly harm an infant if I believe it to be so”

    No, I’m arguing that your beliefs are subjective and we want an objective basis for morality.

    “I conclude from this that you are either unwilling or unable to understand virtually anything I have argued here, or are simply trying to use baseless rhetoric to incite some kind of emotional reaction.

    And I conclude from what you’ve written that you have a very poor foundation for your morality.

    Here’s morality in a nutshell: What hurts or harms sentient organisms is bad. Deliberately or carelessly doing needless bad things is evil. Work with that, everybody. See if you can get “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.” to come out as anything but immoral.

  112. Replying to Chris Doyle at 29.1.1.1.1

    See my reply to William Murray at 19.2.1.1.1 to see how we mark the examiner: by finding objective standards to measure him by.

  113. Paul says it doesn’t apply to Christians? Read Philemon. It’s a letter from Paul to Philemon, a Christian. Paul was sending Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus back to him. It’s an elegant and well phrased letter. He urges Philemon to treat him well and maybe return him to Paul. But nowhere in that letter is there any hint that Christians can’t own slaves. If Paul believed that, he certainly would have reminded Philemon of it.

  114. You lecture us about red herrings and strawmen soaked in ad hominems and here you are talking about pederasty in a thread about cosmological fine tuning!

  115. “What criteria do you use when assessing the moral judgements of a God and thus deciding which one to worship?”

    “The ones fed to me by my subconscious and by my reason.”

    That’s totally subjective. We’re looking for OBjective grounds for morality, grounds that don’t depend on how someone feels. See my reply to William Murray.

  116. Dmullenix: see my reply to Mark at 31 to see why it is absurd for the examined to even try to mark the examiner. You’re not qualified: no human is.

  117. Here’s morality in a nutshell: What hurts or harms sentient organisms is bad. Deliberately or carelessly doing needless bad things is evil.

    You’re irrationally borrowing your moral concepts from religion, Dmullenix. As an atheist, your starting point is:

    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.

    Now, kindly explain where morality fits into that unavoidable component of the atheistic worldview.

  118. I didn’t say Paul said slavery was impermissible. I said that Old Testament law and St Paul don’t mix.

  119. The universe, with the exception of the denizens of the earth and probably a few other thinly scattered inhabited planets within it, is incapable of thought and morality. It cannot provide the moral principles that we need to live and work together as social animals.

    Religion has utterly failed in this respect. Find a list of murder rates by country and compare the figures to a list of religious enthusiasm by country and see how they track. The more religious the country, the more you want to stay the heck away from it.

    It’s not atheists hijacking airliners and flying them into buildings and strapping explosives to their bodies and setting them off in crowded cafes. The people doing that are doing it for their Gods – the same Gods who allegedly command genocide and killing those who refuse to worship them.

    We’re on our own when it comes to devising systems of morality, but it turns out not to be that hard a thing to do.

  120. If God, as he is portrayed in the Bible and in the operation of the Universe. was capable of passing even the most elementary moral tests (i.e. don’t kill children), Christians and other religious people would proudly trumpet that fact. As it is, they’re reduced to quoting Matthew 4:7 to us: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ If He could PASS the test, you wouldn’t be saying that!

  121. Chris Doyle: “Mark, can you explain exactly how that quote from Leviticus encourages slavery as a morally good act?”

    Because it portrays God Almighty, supposedly the author of all morality and the very creator of good and evil as saying you can own slaves.

    If the Author of All Morality says you can do something, it’s a reasonable conclusion that the action is moral.

  122. Who writes the elementary moral test? Who grades it?
    Are the principles or rules you teach to a three-year-old the entirety of your morality, or are they a simplified version that teaches the child to err on the side of caution since they don’t understand the full impact of their actions?

    We are the three-year-olds. We’re not allowed to stab someone with sharp object because that’s very bad. But is a small child entitled to judge a doctor for drawing a patient’s blood or performing surgery?

    Admitting that we know relatively little is the first step. Or we can use ourselves as the standard by which to measure everyone else. I suspect that rejecting the former and choosing the latter is what turns many off from God.

  123. mike1962 at 32.1.2.2.1 “Now, is it possible that there is important information regarding conscious life on this planet that is being withheld from you that might make mitigate your judgement? I would say yes. And the point is, if Yahweh is real, you just not have a leg to stand on “morally”, even using your own morally as the criterion.

    So in the end, all this talk about your outrage about the slain babies is useless since you don’t know the extent of your ignorance about those involved.”

    Yeah, Mark! You can point at those slaughtered babies laying in their pools of blood and say murdering babies is immoral and quote the Golden Rule and all that other atheistic clap-trap all day long, but let’s see you prove to us that somewhere, somehow, there’s not some kind of important information or fact or moral principal that no theist can quote or knows about or can even guess at that doesn’t prove that killing babies is moral after all.

    Can you? Thought not! Yahweh rules!

  124. I’m not sure what point you are trying to make.

    Sure, if the billboard exists, then the probability of its existence is 1. That does not tell you anything about how the billboard got there, nor about whether what it says is true.

  125. 125

    markf said:

    * Whether Mozart was a greater composer than Elton John

    * Whether American football is a more interesting sport than Soccer

    I hope you agree that for all of these you do not have to assume the answer is objective to argue, examine logically, and debate the issue (For example, in the last case someone might point to the number of scoring events, the time in play, the variety of tactics etc.) So why should it be necessary to assume morality is objective?

    So I can have a rational moral basis for arresting and imprisoning Jeffrey Dahmer just as I can have rational artistic basis for preferring Mozart to Elton John. And neither need be based on ultimate objective criteria – although of course they will be based on deeply held human preferences.

    I will once again point out where you have begged the question and have refuted your own argument.

    Notice how you have subjectively selected specific objective criteria in the subject matter and then state (correctly) that you can have rational debates about music and sports only after one has selected an objective grounding for their debate.

    The problem, however, is that because there is no objective standard as to what “great” and “interesting” mean or refer to, there is no reason for me to accept any of your “objective criteria” targets in the first place as arbiters of any discussion that aims to conclude which is greater or more interesting.

    It is precisely because “great” and “interesting” are themselves concepts that refer to completely subjective perspectives (I might think that what distinguishes a great composer is how much money they make, or I might think it depends on how many people sing or hum their tunes, etc.) that choosing upon any specific objective criteria to support one’s claim of “great” or “interesting” is a completely arbitrary and subjective choice.

    You are begging the question about how to choose what objective moral criteria matter in the first place. Since you have apparently agreed that an objective basis is required for all logical arguments, no rational debate can be held about how to choose what is moral in the first place before one can even get to any “objective” facts and statistics. Objective facts and statistics about what? You haven’t said how we discern what is moral in the first place.

    Compare great composers? How do you identify someone who even qualifies as a candidate in the first place? You say “mozart”, but by my standard (how many people hum their tunes?) mozart isn’t even up for consideration.

    Where does your rational debate about locking up Jeffrey Dahmer begin? What objective criteria? His killing others? Why should I care about that? You haven’t established that harming others or killing and eating them is immoral in the first place, so the objective facts about how many he killed and harmed, or how many societies have had similar rules, or how may people agree such actions are immoral are entirely irrelevant.

    If “greatness”, how “interesting” something is, and morality are all subjective perspectives, you cannot get to an objective-criteria basis for any argument until you first explain why anyone should pick that particular basis.

    You leap over your begged questions and lack of foundation and land where you think people will just agree with you without ever questioning how you got there in the first place, or by what warrant you begin your arguments. Your arguments begin in the middle – they have no basis or foundation, and it seems you are oblivious to that fact.

    Yes, you can have rational debates with people that agree with you in the first place about what “greatness” or “morality” mean, but then the fundamental, de facto basis for your morality is nothing but consensus (since no one has established why the just-agreed-upon standard should be agreed upon), and using consensus as a basis for your morality is only going to blow up in your face as soon as you are faced with a consensus moral rule that you disagree with.

  126. Oh dear – I don’t think we are ever going to bridge this gap. You seem to think that in order to have a rational debate about anything it is necessary to agree objective criteria first. This seems to me patently false. If I have a debate with you about which sport is more interesting we don’t need to agree objective criteria for “interesting” beforehand. We just look at the kind of things that people on the whole find interesting – variety, subtley, tension. None of these is a necessary or sufficient condition – a debate clincher – but they are all rational considerations. It is similar with morality. There are all sorts of things that generally induce negative and positive moral attitudes (disapproval or approval) in people e.g. the suffering of children, failure to meet obligations, loyalty, self-sacrifice. None of these has to be a necessary or sufficient condition but they are all rational considerations.

    I get the impression you have not had much formal education in moral philosophy. May I recommend reading Hume. “An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals” is short and very readable.

  127. If I have a debate with you about which sport is more interesting we don’t need to agree objective criteria for “interesting” beforehand.

    I believe this sums up differences you and I have had in the past about this too, Mark. Can you honestly not tell the difference between finding something “interesting”, or even forming a strong opinion about something like sport or art and the duties and obligations of morality? Or the difference between rules that cannot be bent or broken and rules that change depending on your personal circumstances and emotional state?

    The unbridgeable gap that lies between atheists like yourself and believers like myself is this:

    Believers have an unconditional, objectively true and absolutely authoritative set of moral rules to guide them through this life.

    Atheists, on the other hand, are not bound by any moral rules (even if they choose to live a lie by following them nonetheless) and have every reason to make up the moral rules as they go along: and even break them whenever it suits.

    The most that these discussions can achieve is for everyone, particularly atheists, to agree to that frankly indisputable fact. Then, if you can live with that, then live with it. And promote it if you have the courage of your convictions! We’re all free to choose how we lead our lives but don’t pretend atheism offers a rational basis for morality when it obviously doesn’t. Atheists only know about morality in the first place because it is a powerful, enduring, universally true religious concept.

  128. 128

    markf said:

    You seem to think that in order to have a rational debate about anything it is necessary to agree objective criteria first. This seems to me patently false.

    It is similar with morality. There are all sorts of things that generally induce negative and positive moral attitudes (disapproval or approval) in people e.g. the suffering of children, failure to meet obligations, loyalty, self-sacrifice. None of these has to be a necessary or sufficient condition but they are all rational considerations.

    More question-begging. Why should I consider any of those things examples of morality or immorality in the first place? Because I “feel” they are moral or immoral? Is that your basis of a rational debate? Feelings?

    I guess so, since you would send me to Hume for my “rational” moral education: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” – Hume.

    For those who follow Hume, “reason” is nothing more than saying and believing whatever one feels like.

  129. Why should I consider any of those things examples of morality or immorality in the first place? Because I “feel” they are moral or immoral?

    Yes. There are distinctive motives and emotions which we categorised as moral. Why should I consider the natural moral order or whatever “rational” foundation you believe in to be about morality? Just because you use the word “moral” in its description?

    For those who follow Hume, “reason” is nothing more than saying and believing whatever one feels like.

    Uhm – how much time have you spent reading Hume?

  130. Chris I agree with some parts of what you say.

    Many believers have an unconditional, objectively true and absolutely authoritative set of moral rules to guide them through this life. Of course:

    * The differ among themselves as to what those rules are. For example, look at the very different rules on homosexuality.
    * Some don’t have any such rules.
    * Those that have rules do not typically question the rationale for whichever set of rules they happen to follow.

    Atheists are less inclined to have formal set of rules, although some do e.g. committed communists. Atheists are more inclined to have a bottom-up reality based on what they feel to be right and wrong so that their rules are descriptive rather than prescriptive.

    I have never pretended there is a rational basis for morality in the sense on an ultimate set of facts from which we can all deduce what everyone ought to do. In fact my main point is that you can have a rational debate about what you ought or ought not to without having agreed such as set of facts. Just study real debates about moral issues. People very rarely appeal to some ultimate set of rules (and when they do they typically differ over what the rules are). They appeal to emotion.

  131. Debates that feature appeals to emotion only offer heat, not light. Ultimately, in a debate concerning subjective matters, all parties can agree to disagree. So, to an atheist ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ is something they can literally take or leave and no-one will have any truthful grounds to disagree. Though of course, as we learned from the riots, Thou Shalt Steal if you believe you can get away with it. Nothing irrational about that line of reasoning if atheism is true.

  132. 132

    MarkF said:

    There are distinctive motives and emotions which we categorised as moral.

    Since your position appears to be that it is rational to consider something moral or immoral for no reason other than you feel that way (since you don’t know how others feel despite your use of the collective personal pronoun “we”), there really is no way to argue against “what one feels”, any more than I can argue against your favorite color or food, or what you consider to be the greatest composer or the most interesting sport.

    Moral solipsism provides no basis for rational argument.

    If you feel it is morally acceptable to torture an infant for fun, then by definition derived from your world-view, it is moral. The word “moral” means whatever you feel it means, or whatever it “seems” to mean to you at the time, without regard for any foundational principle.

    Why should I consider the natural moral order or whatever “rational” foundation you believe in to be about morality?

    It would allow a rational debate about morality, which is not possible under Hume-inspired anti-rationalism that describes morality (and all things) as whatever one feels it is, or whatever it seems to you to be at the time.

  133. 133

    MarkF said:

    In fact my main point is that you can have a rational debate about what you ought or ought not to without having agreed such as set of facts. Just study real debates about moral issues. People very rarely appeal to some ultimate set of rules (and when they do they typically differ over what the rules are). They appeal to emotion.

    Note how in the end markf characterized the “rational debates” he is speaking of as, ultimately, nothing but appeals to emotion.

    And here we see why atheists/materialists so often employ Alinksy attack and destroy tactics, appeals to ridicule, intimidation, denial, ad hominem, etc.; such arguments, to them, are nothing more than emotional manipulations, the attempt to get others to support their view by any and all means.

    For such post-modern Hume-anists, logic is nothing more than one more club with which to beat others into ideological submission.

  134. Ultimately, in a debate concerning subjective matters, all parties can agree to disagree.

    Not always. It depends on the subject matter. You might think it is subjective which is the best composer – but if you are on a panel that has to choose the best composer for a musical event you cannot “agree to disagree” because your opinion effects everyone else. That is true of morality. If I think homosexuality is wrong and someone else thinks it is OK we will not be satisfied with agreeing to disagree.

  135. If you feel it is morally acceptable to torture an infant for fun, then by definition derived from your world-view, it is moral.

    We are going round in circles. There might be such a person who thinks this is moral and it would be moral for them – that doesn’t make it moral for you or me. And we would think they were wrong and try very hard to stop them. Luckily there are very few such people. But we covered this before.

    The word “moral” means whatever you feel it means, or whatever it “seems” to mean to you at the time, without regard for any foundational principle.

    And what does the word “moral” mean to you? Think about this carefully before you answer. Because if we mean different things by “moral” then our disagreement is purely semantic – what is the meaning of the word.

  136. William – would you care to point a case where I have employed attack and destroy tactics, appeals to ridicule, intimidation, denial, ad hominem, etc?

  137. A few thoughts about slavery. First, it was not a tyrannical owner-property type of arrangement. An Israelite could be executed for killing a slave the same as anyone else. It was also an alternative to poverty or starvation. By law slaves were set free at regular intervals.

    In the first century slavery was already in place when Christianity spread. Contrary to its popular depiction today, Christianity was not a social movement intended to overthrow unjust laws. Christian slaves were counseled to be obedient to the arrangement. The purpose was to reflect well on Christianity, and instigating rebellion would not have served it well. Likewise, Christian slave owners were counseled to treat their slaves well and remember that both were equal in God’s eyes, which also shows that God did not make a distinction between the two.

    There is nothing in the Bible telling Christians to own slaves. It was a practice which was commonplace and which God saw fit to permit. What matters is that in neither case was the heinous slavery practiced which treated men like owned animals.

    That still doesn’t make it sit well. The idea is repugnant to us. It boils down to the same question. Are we willing to entertain the possibility that a greater mind made decisions based on knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that we do not possess? Or is our own understanding the yardstick by which everything is measured?

    The former should be familiar to us as we were all once children, and parents should understand it twice as well. (How many times do we tell our disappointed kids that one day they will understand?) But ultimately it’s just a choice. Again, contrary to some popular thinking, the Bible doesn’t tell Christians to force either their morality or their beliefs on anyone.

  138. “Hume-anists,” interesting . . .

  139. Passive-aggressive, pretend the other voice has nothing to say [or can’t say anything worth reading or responding . . . , obfuscate, etc.

  140. Looks like a full-blown case of reduction to absurdity to me. It is plain that evo mat has in it no is capable of sustaining ought beyond individual or collective subjective impulses. As was pointed out from the beginning. Cue: might makes right.

  141. Did I say you employed those tactics, markf?

    My implication, in case you missed it, was that if one views an “appeal to emotion” the equivalent of “rational debate” (which you did in the quote) as per Hume, as you many atheists/materialists do, it necessarily indemnifies the things I listed as completely justifiable and as rational an argument as anything else – explaining, IMO, why so many Hume-anists freely utilize such Alinsky-esque tactics.

    Polite and temperate wording may make a debate civil, but they do not make a debate rational. Without agreed premises, no rational debate can ensue.

  142. 142

    Sorry, logged in under “Meleagar” above. Still haven’t figured out how to get rid of that log-in.

  143. Again you assert that without agreed premises, no rational debate can ensue. This is they key issue – so I will return to it. I offered a number of counter-examples, one of which was:

    A debate about which is the more interesting sport – soccer or American football.

    When I raised this counter-example and some of the considerations that might go into the debate – variety, tension etc you responded:

    Notice how you have subjectively selected specific objective criteria in the subject matter and then state (correctly) that you can have rational debates about music and sports only after one has selected an objective grounding for their debate.

    But these were not criteria and certainly not agreed. They were just considerations that anyone might take into account when discussing the issue. Someone might respond by saying that they didn’t think that variety was relevant to how interesting a sport was and you could imagine a further discussion about that. On the other hand most people find these to be the kind of things that are relevant to whether something is interesting – and this is a reflection of human nature.

    Look at any real debate on an ethical issue – for example this one: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-1478139. No one has agreed any criteria yet a rational debate is taking place – what are the consequences for children? is it democratic? etc

    I am afraid the facts just don’t support your assertion.

  144. 144

    markf said:

    But these were not criteria and certainly not agreed. They were just considerations that anyone might take into account when discussing the issue.

    A “discussion” is not a “rational debate”, and your link doesn’t take me anywhere but “page not found”. Because people discuss a topic, and are led to conclusions via appeals to emotion or other such conversational tactics that would be considered logical fallacies, doesn’t mean a rational debate has occurred.

    A civil discussion where conclusions are reached is not the equivalent of a rational debate.

    From Wikipedia:

    Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary study of how humans should, can, and do reach conclusions through logical reasoning, that is, claims based, soundly or not, on premises.

    Nizkor.org lists Appeal to Emotion as a logical fallacy:

    This fallacy is committed when someone manipulates peoples’ emotions in order to get them to accept a claim as being true. More formally, this sort of “reasoning” involves the substitution of various means of producing strong emotions in place of evidence for a claim. If the favorable emotions associated with X influence the person to accept X as true because they “feel good about X,” then he has fallen prey to the fallacy.

    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”.

  145. Afternoon Mark,
    Just because all parties “will not be satisfied with agreeing to disagree” in a debate concerning subjective matters, it doesn’t mean that agreement will somehow be reached by continuing the debate. After all, if atheism is true, morality is subjective so there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and therefore no right or wrong answer. If some kind of “panel” makes a final decision then it will be a man-made panel prone to all the bias, errors and weaknesses of any man-made panel (particularly on the subject of morality). Furthermore, if that final decision is enforced then it will be enforced by man-made authorities and so prone to all the same fatal problems. But even if there was unanimous agreement in a debate about morality, it doesn’t mean that what has been agreed is actually morally correct. In fact, unanimous agreement could just as likely turn out to reach a morally wrong outcome, particularly if the participants all reject religious teachings.

    Realistically, in a representative debate concerning subjective matters (particularly if you want to call morality subjective), you will get no agreement whatsoever – not even agreement to disagree! The difference is, atheists are compelled to accept that outcome. Believers, on the other hand, can just ignore the debate altogether: they have a much more reliable and absolute authority to appeal to.

  146. 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”.

    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. In fact can you point me to any examples of your kind of rational debate on an ethical issue? I can’t imagine what it would look like.

    PS Sorry the link didn’t work. I don’t understand why but you can easily follow it up. All I did was go to the BBC News web site and select the leading story – Nick Clegg rules out running free schools for profit. It could have been any of thousands of issues in the news.

  147. Believers, on the other hand, can just ignore the debate altogether: they have a much more reliable and absolute authority to appeal to.

    Unless of course their debate is with someone who has different beliefs!

  148. 148

    markf said:

    That’s true. Is there any disadvantage to my kind of rational debate?

    It depends on the goal of the debate. If the goal of the debate is simply to “win” or convince others, no. If the goal of the debate is to reach the conclusion most likely to be true, yes. Logical arguments (as per argument theory) employ rules that exist to find the conclusions most likely to be true; non-rational or rhetorical arguments are generated to acquire consensus.

    (There is a difference between manipulating emotions and making a straightforward argument to emotion)

    And what would that difference be?

    It is certainly the most common kind of debate.

    The commonality of the debate style doesn’t make it a rational debate. If one isn’t going to apply the rules of logic as in argument theory to the debate, why call it a “rational” debate? It’s just a debate.

    In fact can you point me to any examples of your kind of rational debate on an ethical issue? I can’t imagine what it would look like.

    You can “bing” the terms “biblical arguments morality” and find arguments/debates that stem from axiomatic assumptions of an objective “good” informing morality. I’m not saying I agree with that particular premise or those arguments, but they are an example of beginning a rational debate with the assumption of an objective good and a common framework from which to draw inferences and conclusions.

    PS Sorry the link didn’t work. I don’t understand why but you can easily follow it up. All I did was go to the BBC News web site and select the leading story – Nick Clegg rules out running free schools for profit. It could have been any of thousands of issues in the news.

    Well, reading such debates wouldn’t make much difference, since we now agree that such debates are not what I mean when I say “rational debate”. Perhaps we could agree that what you are referring to is a civil debate (without adherence to argument theory rules), and what I’m referring to is rational debate (which obey argument theory rules). Perhaps we can even further agree that the fundamental difference between the two is that civil debate seeks consensus agreements, while rational debate seeks true conclusions given the premises.

    Our debate here suffers from the same problem; you are not seeking any “truth” from any premises (correct me if I’m wrong); you are only seeking consensus. Since my entire debate is geared towards “seeking the truth”, then of course I am stymied and confounded by your refusal to adhere to the rules of engagement under argument theory.

    You require no agreed-upon premises and are free to utilize logical fallacies, such as appealing to emotion. When it is repeatedly pointed out to you that you fail to provide any basis for your assumptions, or how things “seem” to you to be, or what you “feel” are good moral points, it is of no concern to you, because “providing basis” is not something informal, civil debates require. Neither are sound inferences, deductions, inductions, etc.

    I would tell you that the ramifications of consensus-based moral arguments are eventually self-conflicting, but what would that matter to you? If one holds an essentially self-conflicting position, that only matters if they care if their position and conclusion can be rationally justified under argument theory rules.

    Informal, civil debate doesn’t care if it is entirely irrational, self-conflcting, and self-defeating; it only cares to acquire consensus based on the way things “seem” to be and how people “feel”.

    IOW, you are speaking english, and I’m speaking chinese. Our debate languages are entirely different, and are rooted in entirely different goals and assumptions.

  149. You can “bing” the terms “biblical arguments morality” and find arguments/debates that stem from axiomatic assumptions of an objective “good” informing morality. I’m not saying I agree with that particular premise or those arguments, but they are an example of beginning a rational debate with the assumption of an objective good and a common framework from which to draw inferences and conclusions.

    So if you don’t agree with the premises how do set about finding the “truth”?

  150. 150

    As I have already said, a rational debate cannot ensue unless premises are agreed upon.

  151. Not really, Mark. That would be like someone who knows and believes in the objective laws of football debating with someone who denies the existence of the offside law. The believers are 100% right and the non-believers are 100% wrong (evidenced by the fact that they are making it up as they go along with their subjective approach to this form of knowledgde).

  152. My goodness – there must be very few debates which meet your strict criteria of rationality (including agreed upon premises). I did as you suggested and searched on “biblical arguments morality” but couldn’t find any. Presumably you are familiar with several – so maybe you could just give me the link instead of making me do a difficult search.

  153. No Chris – it is like the dispute between Rugby League and Rugby Union – each saying they have the better set of rules for Rugby.

  154. That analogy would work better if Rugby Union was Judaism and Rugby League was Islam: there are some differences, but ultimately both disciplines follow the rulebook, written by the lawgivers.

    Unless you can demonstrate otherwise, atheists don’t have a rulebook, or a lawgiver: they can (and do) just make it up as they go along or just borrow the rules from religion and hope that no-one notices. Neither approach is rational, nor do they go unnoticed.

  155. OK this is quite good fun – I will try getting the analogy sorted a bit better.

    I said “Unless of course their debate is with someone who has different beliefs!” that would for example include a Jew and an Islamist or even a strict Catholic and a Protestant.

    So, in this case a debate over a specific ethical issue (contraception perhaps) is analogous to someone saying the right thing to do when the ball goes out of play is have a line-out. The two codes could each look to their own book of rules to discover the “truth”. But how does that help if there are people from both sides involved.

    The moral subjectivist (who might be an atheist) says – well lets try and discover what people find most appealing.

    Now which has the best route to solving the problem?

  156. 156

    markf:

    I don’t see the point. I appreciate your time.

  157. A debate about contraception is much too complicated for this analogy (involving wider issues concerning family and marriage as well as technical issues including the absence of the word (or even the concept) ‘contraception’).

    So lets start with Thou Shalt Not Steal. The believers look up their rule books and find that they’re all in complete agreement. The atheists get together, via Blackberry and Twitter, and say “Let’s go looting while the police are overrun and we can get away with it”. No one bothers to mention Thou Shalt Not Steal… thay’s just a load of religious nonsense. All those who looted were in complete agreement with each other about that.

    So much for appealing to the most popular route.

  158. Hi everyone,

    Regarding arguments about Biblical slavery, please check out these links:

    Slavery, John Locke and the Bible by Dr. Matt Flannagan.

    Does God condone slavery in the Bible? (Part I: Old Testament) by Glenn Miller.

    Does God condone slavery in the Bible? (Part II: New Testament) by Glenn Miller.

    Biblical atrocities:

    http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....atrocities (my own take, for what it’s worth)

    Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites: Part One by Dr. Matt Flannagan.

    Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites: Part Two by Dr. Matt Flannagan.

  159. Why do you assume all the looters were atheists? I didn’t notice any surveys (I assume you are not arguing that they were immoral therefore they must be atheists).

    But anyhow you are making life easy for yourself by choosing an issue which it happens almost everyone – believer or not – agrees on (the looters were a minuscule proportion of the population). You have done the equivalent of saying the in a game of rugby you ought to try to score more than your opponent. You can agree on that what ever rules you follow. It would be a very boring game if you didn’t.

    But anyway forget that it is an analogy for a moment and just answer the question.

    A group of people argue about what you ought to do in a game of rugby when the ball is in touch. The unionists say a line-out beause that’s in their rules. The leaguists say a scrum because that is in their rules. Another person says let’s choose the rule that gives the most interesting game to play and watch (notice this is subjective). Which is arguing the most rationally?

  160. The point would have been to prove that such debates exist. Anyhow I appreciate your determination to stick with this interminable discussion.

  161. Afternoon Mark,

    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?

    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, one that CS Lewis makes very well in The Poison of Subjectivism:

    If a man will go into a library and spend a few days with the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics he will soon discover the massive unanimity of the practical reason in man. From the Babylonian Hymn to Samos, from the Laws of Manu, the Book of the Dead, the Analects, the Stoics, the Platonists, from Australian aborigines and Redskins, he will collect the same triumphantly monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery, and falsehood, the same injunctions of kindness to the aged, the young, and the weak, of almsgiving and impartiality and honesty.

    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.

  162. It was pointed out in another thread when things behave as designed, it is “good”. I believe we are designed to, “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” These things are much easier learned as servants than as masters. Correct, the Bible does not tell Christians to own slaves, but it does tell Christians to BE slaves.

  163. Chris Doyle at 31:

    “The unbridgeable gap that lies between atheists like yourself and believers like myself is this:

    Believers have an unconditional, objectively true and absolutely authoritative set of moral rules to guide them through this life.”

    Chris, please tell us this unconditional, objectively true and absolutely authoritative set of moral rules. I keep hearing about it, but nobody can ever tell me what it is.

    Is it in written form or is it something you “just know”? If the latter, I call BS.

    If it’s in written form, please type or paste it here or tell me where I can get it. If it’s in the Bible, I again call BS. I’ve read that book and its morality is a mixture of the sublime and iron-age barbarism. The vast majority of the “morals” in the Bible are so nasty and/or silly that Christians have long ago neutered them to their satisfaction. (“Oh, that’s the Old Testament – that’s just for the Jews. Except the Ten Commandments. And a few other parts we like.”)

    “Atheists, on the other hand, are not bound by any moral rules…” Yeah, I was just telling my neighbor that yesterday as I stole her car, but she insisted on calling the police. I tried to explain, “Look lady, I’m an atheist. I’m not bound by any moral rules,” but she called the cops anyway and it turns out that there are these man-made things called laws that apply to everybody. Who’d a thunk it?

    Anyway, I’m eagerly awaiting your presentation of the unconditional, objectively true and absolutely authoritative set of moral rules that you claim to have and I’m anticipating another disappointment.

    F/N Have you noticed that the United States is overwhelmingly populated by believers, yet we’re a high crime nation? Yet if you go to Western Europe, with its high population of non-believers, the crime rates are much lower?

  164. See post 36.1.1.1.9, Dmullenix. Also, be sure to read the essay linked in that post, “The Poison of Subjectivism”.

  165. F/N Have you noticed that the United States is overwhelmingly populated by believers, yet we’re a high crime nation? Yet if you go to Western Europe, with its high population of non-believers, the crime rates are much lower?

    Would that were true – with the exception of homocide (which is much higher) US crime rates are significantly lower than Western Europe.

  166. Ok, I’ve read both. I don’t see anything related to an absolute morality in either. (Your link doesn’t seem to work – try http://www.calvin.edu/~pribeir.....tivism.doc )

    You do quote an interesting snippet from Lewis, however. “If a man will go into a library and spend a few days with the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics he will soon discover the massive unanimity of the practical reason in man. From the Babylonian Hymn to Samos, from the Laws of Manu, the Book of the Dead, the Analects, the Stoics, the Platonists, from Australian aborigines and Redskins, he will collect the same triumphantly monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery, and falsehood, the same injunctions of kindness to the aged, the young, and the weak, of almsgiving and impartiality and honesty.”

    I remember reading a very similar quote from Chesterton once. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like, “Everywhere in the world you find laws against murder and theft” and several other things. Like Lewis, he gave that as evidence for the existence of an absolute morality.

    I remember readiing the quote and thinking to my self, “Does Chesterton think there are people in the world who WANT to be robbed and murdered?”

    The two pseudo-philosophers make the same mistake. Many DESIRES really are universal. Nobody wants to be oppressed, murdered, betrayed, or lied to or about. We all want to be treated with kindness when we are aged and weak and want to protect our young. (Almsgiving, on the other hand, has become very unpopular with the modern right and religious right. There term for that is “welfare” and “entitlements” and they’re doing their best to end them.)

    Morality is mostly universalizing those universal desires. YOU don’t want to be murdered, so you make a rule that NOBODY is to murder. YOU don’t want to be cheated, so you make a rule that NOBODY is to cheat. The upshot is that YOU get protected and so does EVERYBODY else.

    That’s the true basis of morality. Generalizing the way we all want to be treated.

    But many Christians say they have a morality that doesn’t depend on that generalizing of universal desires. They say they have an absolute morality, a morality which is independent of human desires, which emanates from Above. Yet when asked to produce it, all they can offer is the same old “triumphantly monotonous” set of universal desires generalized to all of humanity.

    Worse yet, this “absolute morality” is extracted from a book full of immorality (kill all the children) and humbug (God hates shrimp) and they NEVER have a systematic way of separating the morality from the immorality and humbug. Not good enough.

  167. markf, are you using “morals” and “morality” to mean whatever different people adopt as their guiding principles or something along that line?

    If so, then you and William and I are talking past each other. I’m looking for what “good” and “bad” mean – what makes an action good or bad. I think William is too, although I think his ‘answer’ to that question is totally subjective.

  168. ScottAndrews at 39

    “An Israelite could be executed for killing a slave the same as anyone else.”

    EXODUS 21:20,21 “And if a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. “If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.

    If you beat a man to death, you’re going to be charged with murder, even if he doesn’t die until three days later.

    “It was also an alternative to poverty or starvation.”

    LEVITICUS 25:44 ‘As for your male and female slaves whom you may have – you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.

    No mention of poverty or starvation – you can just buy foreigners.

    “By law slaves were set free at regular intervals.”

    EXODUS 21:7 “And if a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.

    Or just buy your neighbor’s pretty daughter. Or sell yours. And you NEVER have to set her free.

    Leviticus 25:45 ‘Then too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. 46 ‘You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves.

    The only slaves who have to be set free are MALE Israelis. You can keep foreigners and all women permanently.

    “Christian slaves were counseled to be obedient to the arrangement. The purpose was to reflect well on Christianity…”

    You have an odd idea of what reflects well on Christianity. The actual reason for that counsel was to keep the Romans off their necks.

    “There is nothing in the Bible telling Christians to own slaves. It was a practice which was commonplace and which God saw fit to permit.”

    So if I don’t tell anyone to kidnap you and sell you into slavery, but I allow others to do it, I’m all right in your book?

    “Are we willing to entertain the possibility that a greater mind made decisions based on knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that we do not possess? Or is our own understanding the yardstick by which everything is measured?”

    If I kill your wife, burn your house down and kidnap and sell your children into slavery, are you willing to entertain the possibility that a greater mind made decisions based on knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that we do not possess? Or is your own understanding the yardstick by which everything is measured?

    Read the Bible. It will help you become an atheist.

  169. I’m on vacation. Back in two weeks.

  170. Good, I’m glad you did, Dmullenix. I can only hope you will reflect on their contents while you’re on vacation! Enjoy.

    Remember: only if the theistic worldview is true, are there rules which must be followed and not disputed.

  171. dmullenix

    My comment 37.1 is confusing for two reasons.

    1) The blockquote tags are confused. Not everything is my words! I did not say:

    The word “moral” means whatever you feel it means, or whatever it “seems” to mean to you at the time, without regard for any foundational principle.

    2) I was trying to explain a rather subtle concept in as few words as possible – but may have been a bit too concise.

    I believe that when we say something is moral or good (in the moral sense) we are expressing a particular type of approval of it. This in essence subjective but opinions on some things such as torturing babies are so widespread and so firmly held it might as well be objective and that is why we use what appears to be objective language. However, if someone were so unusual as to hold completely different views about what is moral from most of humanity we could not in the end “prove” them wrong – although that would not prevent us from being horrified at their opinions and stopping them acting on them.

    When William says:

    If you feel it is morally acceptable to torture an infant for fun, then by definition derived from your world-view, it is moral.

    I tried to summarise my response as “moral for who” but maybe that was too simple.

    What really interests is what William thinks “moral” or “good” (in the moral sense) means. However, he never answered that. After all if he defines “good” as – conforms to God’s laws then he means something different from me and we have no disagreement!

  172. You know what, I don’t fully understand it myself. It might seem odd to accept what I don’t understand, but that’s an inevitable consequence if I don’t regard myself as the highest authority.
    If we trust a friend well enough, he can ask us to do something we don’t understand, and we might just trust him.
    But, you say, he’s asking me to to accept that he permitted slavery. That’s different! Yes, that’s a whole lot more trust. But factor in that he created me and them and everyone else and it becomes easier to trust that he knows what he’s doing.
    There’s a lot more that I’m leaving out because this forum isn’t a place for me to preach my religious beliefs. (Nothing drags your beliefs through the mud like debating them on the internet.)

    That being said, if there is a person alive, you, me, or anyone else, whose judgment or wisdom I should trust more, then -
    - What is his plan for ending warfare, disease, starvation, and other causes of suffering?
    - What is he going to do for people who are in slavery today?
    - What is his way out of our economic troubles so that everyone can do meaningful work and enjoy life without being exploited?
    - How will he fix the environment?
    - We keep dying. That’s a really tough one.
    - Billions of people have already died, including all those slaves and others who didn’t get to enjoy life as much. What does he have in mind for them?

    I liken it to a small child who doesn’t understand everything his parents do. At times it might seem horribly unjust. I’d tell him that his parents brought him into this world, they love him, feed him, and take care of him, so he should be thankful and be patient if he doesn’t understand everything. After all, they’ve been around longer and may understand consequences he doesn’t.
    Or he can decide that his parents are too unjust, run away, and see how far he gets on his own.

    You can condemn God for permitting slavery, but every evil in the world around us comes from those who reject God. And I’m not referring only to professed atheists, as they are in the minority.

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