A reply to Dr Dawkins’ September Playboy interview

 

In an interview with Playboy, September just past, Dr Dawkins made some dismissive remarks  on the historicity of Jesus, in the context of having made similarly dismissive talking points about Intelligent Design.  As UD News noted:

PLAYBOY: What is your view of Jesus?

DAWKINS: The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real. Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy.

PLAYBOY: You’ve read the Bible.

DAWKINS: I haven’t read it all, but my knowledge of the Bible is a lot better than most fundamentalist Christians’.

Since this matter is a part of the wider issues of atheism and its cultural agendas, which are often presented in the name of Science sez, I have now responded in some details, here.

On this wider cultural agenda of atheism issue, Lee Strobel’s video on The Case for Christ may also be of interest:

embedded by Embedded Video

vimeo Direkt

One may wonder why such is relevant to an ID blog. Right from the very beginning, however, Darwin made it very clear that there was a wider socio-cultural, worldviews agenda connected to Darwin’s science. This may easily be discerned from his 1881 letter of reply to a man better known to history as Marx’s [de facto?] son-in-law, Aveling:

. . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [--> NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [--> NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.

The letter just cited makes it utterly clear that a key background motive for Darwin’s theorising on origins science was to put God out of a job, thus indirectly undermining the plausibility of believing in God.  In thinking and acting like this, he probably believed that he was championing enlightenment and science-led progress in their path to victory over backward, irrational but emotionally clung-to beliefs. And so his strategy was to lead in a science that was in his mind showing just how outdated and ill-founded the Judaeo-Christian theism that had dominated the West since Constantine in the 300′s was.

In short, there has always been an anti-Christian socio-cultural agenda closely tied to the rise of Darwinism. And, that has to be faced and is a legitimate part of the wider discussion, though of course — as my reply to Dawkins should make plain — it is tied more closely to principles of historical warrant than to science.

On the design issue Dawkins also raised during the interview, my 101 level response is here on.

A key point in that response is to take note of a basic problem, typified by prof Richard Lewontin (cf five cases in point here, including more details from Lewontin) who openly admitted to a priori evolutionary materialism in his NYRB review of Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World:

. . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated . . . [["Billions and billions of demons," NYRB, Jan 1997.  Further excerpted and discussed here.]

Seminal ID thinker Prof Johnson”s reply in First Things that November is apt:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”
. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

So, while the scientific issues are central to UD’s purpose and are therefore given pride of place in our posts, wider concerns are also legitimately to be addressed, and we will not allow silly talking points about “Creationism in a cheap tuxedo” intimidate us from speaking to such issues.

For that matter, let us observe what that silly red-neck Bible-thumping Fundy — NOT, Plato had to say in solemn warning on the socio-cultural associations of evolutionary Materialism, in The Laws, Bk X, 2350 years ago:

Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors:  (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

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

 Just in case you think that is an improper, unwarranted projection unto Science from objectors to Darwin, let me cite the well known remarks by prof William Provine at the 1998 Darwin Day keynote speech at the University of Tennessee (this being his native state):

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 . . . . Without free will, justification for revenge disappears and rehabilitation is the main job of judicial systems and prisons. [[NB: As C. S Lewis warned, in the end, this means: reprogramming through new conditioning determined by the power groups controlling the society and its prisons.] We will all live in a better society when the myth of free will is dispelled . . . .
How can we have meaning in life? When we die we are really dead; nothing of us survives.
Natural selection is a process leading every species almost certainly to extinction . . . Nothing could be more uncaring than the entire process of organic evolution. Life has been on earth for about 3.6 billion years. In less that one billion more years our sun will turn into a red giant. All life on earth will be burnt to a crisp. Other cosmic processes absolutely guarantee the extinction of all life anywhere in the universe. When all life is extinguished, no memory whatsoever will be left that life ever existed. [Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract).]
Such remarks find a striking parallel in Dawkins’ words in a 1995 Scientific American article:

Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.

We humans have purpose on the brain. We find it difficult to look at anything without wondering what it is “for,” what the motive for it or the purpose behind it might be. The desire to see purpose everywhere is natural in an animal that lives surrounded by machines, works of art, tools and other designed artifacts – an animal whose waking thoughts are dominated by its own goals and aims . . . .

Somewhere between windscreen wipers and tin openers on the one hand, and rocks and the universe on the other, lie living creatures. Living bodies and their organs are objects that, unlike rocks, seem to have purpose written all over them . . . . The true process that has endowed wings, eyes, beaks, nesting instincts and everything else about life with the strong illusion of purposeful design is now well understood.

It is Darwinian natural selection . . . . The true utility function of life, that which is being maximized in the natural world, is DNA survival. But DNA is not floating free; it is locked up in living bodies, and it has to make the most of the levers of power at its disposal. Genetic sequences that find themselves in cheetah bodies maximize their survival by causing those bodies to kill gazelles. Sequences that find themselves in gazelle bodies increase their chance of survival by promoting opposite ends. But the same utility function-the survival of DNA-explains the “purpose” of both the cheetah [--> i.e. predator]  and the gazelle [--> i.e. prey] . . . .

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so. If there is ever a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [[ “God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 - 85.]

[[NB: This article raises the issue of the problem of evil, here emphasising the problem of natural evil; probably the strongest argument in the atheists' arsenal, but one that only works by implicitly assuming that good and evil, thus moral obligation, are real; while ducking the implication that the only valid worldview in a world in which OUGHT is real, is one that has a foundational IS that adequately grounds ought. And materialism -- scientific atheism today, has no such is. So, the objecting atheist actually has no grounds to stand on to make the argument; his argument, in the end is self-defeating, and so the proper response is to insist that such an atheist face that issue before proceeding further. (Cf here for a preliminary discussion of the problem of evil from a Christian perspective.)]

So, it is entirely appropriate for us to respond to that wider view of science, society, worldviews and cultural agendas. It therefore seems to me that there are some serious issues that we need to ponder as we reflect on where our civilisation is heading at this time. END

_____________

F/N, Nov 6th: Given the onward attempted objections to the list of minimal facts and the failure to substantially respond to my onward rebuttals at 34 below, it is worth adding as a footnote from the linked post in my personal blog, the following summary of the criteria of authenticity, and a table that addresses how well ten skeptical theories from C1 – 21 can handle a key cluster of credible facts.

First, the criteria of high quality facts — while in many cases from antiquity, high quality sources do not meet such facts, the following are strong indicators of a credible claim:

  1. Multiple sources – If two or more sources attest to the same fact, it is more likely authentic
  2. Enemy attestation – If the writers enemies corroborate a given fact, it is more likely authentic
  3. Principle of embarrassment – If the text embarrasses the writer, it is more likely authentic
  4. Eyewitness testimony – First hand accounts are to be preferred
  5. Early testimony – an early account is more likely accurate than a later one

Second, the table that compares alternative explanations of four key credible facts that meet such criteria:

“Theory”
Match to four major credible facts regarding Jesus of Nazareth & his Passion
Overall score/20
Died by crucifixion
(under Pontius Pilate) at
Jerusalem
c 30 AD
Was buried, tomb was found empty
Appeared to multiple disciples,
many of whom proclaimed
& suffered for their
faith
Appeared to key
objectors who then became church leaders: James & Paul
Bodily Resurrection
5
5
5
5
20
Visions/
hallucinations
5
2
2
1
10
Swoon/recovery
1
3
2
2
8
Wrong tomb
5
1
1
1
8
Stolen body/fraud
5
2
1
1
9
Quran 4:155 -6: “They did not slay him, neither crucified him.” 1 1 1 1 4
 ”Jesus never existed” 1 1 1 1 4
 ”Christianity as we know it was cooked up by Constantine and  others at Nicea, who censored/ distorted the original record” 1 1 1 1 4
“What we have today is ‘Paulianity,’ not the original teachings of Jesus and his disciples” 2 1 1 2 6
Christianity — including the resurrection –  is a gradually emerging legend based on a real figure
5
1
1
1
8
Complete legend/pagan copycat (Greek, Persian, Egyptian, etc)
1
1
1
1
4

(I have given my scores above, based on reasoning that should be fairly obvious. As an exercise you may want to come up with your own scores on a 5 – 1 scale: 5 = v. good/ 4 = good/ 3 = fair/ 2 = poor/ 1 = v. poor, with explanations. Try out blends of the common skeptical theories to see how they would fare.)

Laying a priori anti-supernaturalism aside as a patent case of worldview level question-begging closed mindedness, the above table shows that there are two serious candidates today, the resurrection as historically understood, or some version of a collective vision/hallucination that led to a sincere (but plainly mistaken) movement.

The latter of course runs into  the problem that such collective visions are not psychologically plausible as the cultural expectations of a resurrection would have been of a general one in the context of the obvious military triumph of Israel. Nor, does it explain the apparently missing body. Moreover, we know separately, that the culturally accepted alternative would have been individual prophetic visions of the exalted that on being shared would comfort the grieving that the departed rested with God. So, an ahead of time individual breakthrough resurrection — even, one that may be accompanied by some straws in the wind of what is to come in fulness at the end — is not part of the mental furniture of expectations in C1 Judaism.  Where, hallucinations and culturally induced visions are going to be rooted in such pre-existing mental “furniture.”

So, it is in order to call for a serious rethinking on the part of Dr Dawkins and co.

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

251 Responses to A reply to Dr Dawkins’ September Playboy interview

  1. DAWKINS: The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky.

    Somebody needs to remind Dawkins about his debate with John Lennox. He recanted from this once before: “Maybe I alluded to the possibility that some historians think that Jesus never existed. I take that back. Jesus did exist.”. He follows with doubts about the miracles. This part of the debate starts around 37:55 with Dawkin’s recantation at 44:40.

    _________

    “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still,” aptly illustrated. KF

  2. The science isn’t producing the results they had hoped, so now they attack the religion (as long as it isn’t Islam).

  3. Ah gentlemen:

    Thoughtful points. Thanks.

    Just, I thought there was a need to respond.

    KF

  4. 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 . . . .

    Said the unflappable Provine, unable to stop himself from saying so, as he had no free will in the matter . . .

  5. Isn’t it funny how humans, having no free will in the matter, can reach totally contradictory conclusions regarding the truth of a proposition?

  6. Richard Dawkins ( after supposedly reading enough to know what’s in the Bible ) – “It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real.”

    Apostle Paul in I Cor 15:3-4,12-17 ( an early epistle ) “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, 4 that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. …..12 if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

    So the Apostle Paul, in an early Epistle – says that if it is not a FACT that Christ ACTUALLY died, was ACTUALLY buried, and was ACTUALLY resurrected, then the whole Christian message is a fraud.

    Even in a purely linguistic sense, this does not square with Dawkins’ statement.

    I don’t mind Dawkins having an opinion about the truth of the Bible. I just wish he would not parade around his utter ignorance of what it actually says.

  7. JDH. Well stated.

    Unfortunately, nearly everything Dawkins says on any subject is a parade of ignorance . . .

  8. 8
    Kantian Naturalist

    Dawkins is pretty much the worst poster-child for metaphysical naturalism, ever — he’s smug, condescending, and inconsistent. (Not that anyone here would disagree with me — I just wanted to say that to make clear that he doesn’t represent my version of metaphysical naturalism.)

  9. What’s his opinion on the centrefold chick?
    Playboy and company should be censored as they are porn.
    It’s a immoral enemy of Christianity , manhood, and America.

    Knpw’s more then fundamentalists about the bible etc??
    Nope.
    First the word fundamentalist is usually a slur and is not what we call ourselves. THe word is evangelical/ That’s the species name for classification.
    Fundy is not used and is a slur as used.

    The issue is whether from chance came the great complexity of the universe!
    Airplane out of a junkyard is impossible.
    The universe says there is a thinking mind behind it and obvious.
    mankind has always agreed on this and on this mankind got something right.

  10. 10
    Kantian Naturalist

    “Fundy” is certainly a slur, not to be used in polite conversation, but “fundamentalist” and “fundamentalism” come from “The Fundamentals“. In it’s original use, it was not a derogatory term.
    _______
    F/N: Correct, so far as it goes. Cf. here for my own discussion. By and large the term has become a slur, mainly because of media usage now picked up in the academy and by the intelligentsia. The tendency to use one and the same term to — say — describe bin Laden and Billy Graham as though their religious views, moral tendencies and socio-cultural agendas are effectively potentially the same, should warn that something is deeply wrong. Historically, in response to rising hyperskeptical Modernism at the turn of C20, a series of pamphlets on the Fundamentals of the Christian faith were published c. 1910, and those who adhered to these core points were dubbed “fundamentalists.” (Many were written by significant theological voices and the overall editor was Dr Reuben Archer Torrey, founder of BIOLA.) From the days of the Scopes trial — itself a subject of massive manipulative spin — derogatory connotations have been attached, and there has been a tendency to think that there is a “Fundamentalist” mindset that can be applied broad-brush across religions to those who view modernist/ progressivist/ liberal/ liberationist projects with disapproval based on a religious tradition. (Plato doesn’t count as his disapproval of the equivalent was based on philosophy.) The reduction to a smear word has become so notorious that AP advises not to use the term, save for groups that — deriving from the original Fundamentalists — specifically use the name. KF

  11. KN:

    Dawkins is pretty much the worst poster-child for metaphysical naturalism, ever …

    Do you think you can get him to confess his beliefs are metaphysical?

    Dawkins is pretty much the worst poster-child for metaphysical naturalism, ever …

    Do you have a better candidate? ;)

  12. 12
    Kantian Naturalist

    Do you think you can get him to confess his beliefs are metaphysical?

    I very much doubt it. In any event, I wouldn’t presume to try. As the old saying goes, “never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and annoys the pig.”

    Do you have a better candidate?

    You mean a better candidate for being the worst representative of metaphysical naturalism, or a better representative of metaphysical naturalism?

  13. KN @10:

    You impress me more and more, lol. Not just a philosopher, but also a historian!

  14. You mean a better candidate for being the worst representative of metaphysical naturalism, or a better representative of metaphysical naturalism?

    lol. the latter.

  15. 15
    Kantian Naturalist

    You impress me more and more, lol. Not just a philosopher, but also a historian!

    Thanks. I read Armstrong’s A History of God and The Battle for God, and that’s my background in the history of religion. I’m sure I’ve inherited some of her biases, too — I’m not well-read on the subject beyond her work.

    As for “a good representative of metaphysical naturalism,” the person who stands out foremost in my mind is John Dewey, especially for his Experience and Nature, A Common Faith, and The Quest for Certainty. A close second would be be Richard Rorty, who gets a bit of a bad rap (I think) as a post-modernist, but I think he’s much more indebted to metaphysical naturalism than he lets on.

  16. F/N: I have commented on Fundamentalism in 10 above. KF

  17. KN: With all due respect, Mr Dawkins is leading a major movement, and in that pursuit, has published NYT bestsellers that have been widely influential. A response to the New Atheists is called for, relative to the claims of that movement. And on the underlying issue of the dismissiveness to the historic Christian understanding of the passion of Jesus, I suggest that you may first wish to look here, with particular reference to the table of alternative explanations in context of the cluster of credible facts based on Habermas’ survey of principles and the spectrum of scholarship. The same blog post also addresses the actual text of 1 Cor 15:1 – 11 (cf. onward to 17), which belies any notion that the authors of the epistles had little concern with historicity or facts. 1 Cor 15:1 – 11 summarises the official summary testimony of the C1 church, c. 35 – 38 AD, with about 20 specifically identifiable witnesses from a circle of 500 (at a time when that could easily cost you your life). And, we need to note that not one of the core witnesses was ever noted to have recanted this essential testimony, not in the face of whips, fire and sword or worse, much worse. Where also the subtle evasiveness in the Dawkins clip should be understood in light of the recantation he had to make in a debate with Lennox. KF

  18. The whole idea of morality for religious people, Christian or otherwise, is that

    the only valid worldview in a world in which OUGHT is real, is one that has a foundational IS that adequately grounds ought.

    For religious people, that “Is”, obviously, is God. God’s existence grounds morality because God tells us what is good behavior and what is sin.

    But does He? The problem with this ethical position is that God clearly has not communicated to us this distinction at all. The evidence for this assertion is that every sect of every religion has its own version of what sin is. In Catholicism, use of contraception is a sin, whereas in most protestant sects it is not. In some Christian belief, homosexual acts constitute sinning, while in others they do not. (This is true even within certain sects, witness the controversy in the Episcopal church surrounding the sexual orientation of Bishop Gene Robinson.) To many Christians, abortion is murder, to others it is not a sin at all. These are just three of many, many examples of Christian ethical beliefs that contradict one another. I have not even addressed the differences in ethical imperatives between Christian faiths and the other religious traditions.

    If God really did have a set of ethical guidelines that He wants us all to follow, wouldn’t He have made it clear to all human beings what those guidelines are? Can you imagine anything more cruel than setting up rules of behavior along with punishment of an eternity in Hell for violating them, and then not making it crystal clear and unambiguous to all human beings exactly what those rules are? Do you doubt that an omnipotent and omniscient God could not have done so if He had wished to?

    Here’s an alternative possibility: God is not interested in morality—morality is a human invention and a human preoccupation. Rather, God is interested in the expansion of love in the Universe. If we want to act in concert with God’s will, we will not be asking “What is the right thing to do?” Instead, we will be asking “What is the loving thing to do?”

    We are each of us made in the “image and likeness” of God. If one wishes to access our God-like nature, one of the ways to do so is to live in the question, “What would Love do now?” and act accordingly.

  19. BD:

    If you cannot ground morality — OUGHT — in a foundational IS in your worldview, you cannot properly introduce it thereafter, it has no basis. That is not a religious issue (which is a commonly used dismissal term in this context), it is a logical one, and specifically a response to Hume.

    And, I suspect that John Locke, when he set out to ground principles of liberty, hit the nail on the head when he saw that “the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker” in his Ecclesiastical Polity had made the pivotal point in his Ecclesiastical Polity, of 1594 on. Let me cite from Locke’s 2nd treatise on civil govt, Ch 2 sect 5 as he cites Hooker with approval, and add augmentation from what Hooker went on to say in his own book:

    . . . 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]

    This clip, of course comes from the IOSE, here on, in a context that discusses the wider question of the grounding of morality with particular reference to today’s dominant evolutionary materialism.

    I add to that, that the basic point is that the one who would dehumanise the other, denying the fundamental equality and worth of the fellow human being, is already signalling — through patent reductio ad absurdum — all we need to know to walk away from such a one.

    However, in all of this, let us not lose sight of the main issue for this thread, the public attempt to undermine the historic foundations of the Christian faith, by the leading New Atheist in the world. Done, in a way that utterly reveals his own failure to seriously address the material evidence.

    KF

    PS: While I will not follow up several distractive hot button issues, I will note that it is possible to be objectively wrong on moral claims, so mere disagreement or dispute is not sufficient to dismiss the grounds of morality or to walk away from both sides of such a disagreement as though they necessarily both lack good warrant. And, given the past 200 – 300 years of the history of theology and the rise and entrenchment of hyperskepticism etc among some academic theologians and those they influence, such disputes and diverse views are to be expected. Where also, I draw attention back to the core warrant presented here, which — cf Paul at Mars Hill in Athens, in Ac 17 — has inter alia moral import relevant to the grounding of morality and of specific principles for particular circumstances.

    PPS: I should also note with Hooker, that the practical grounding of ought starts with our equality and moral worth. That we inescapably find ourselves to have rights — “you unfair/’advantage me” is the usual cry here in the CARIBBEAN — imposes the principle of consistency in recognising the rights of those who are as us. Or if you would try another formulation, we cannot properly use others as mere means to our ends or equivalently should operate on principles that can coherently be universalised across those who are as we are. And by this, we see that love is central to morality.

  20. Dawkins and friends may be setting themselves up quite nicely for this train of thought: “If scientists play God, it’s also possible for them to be treated as the Devil.”

    That’s taken from a thought provoking article found here: http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/13016/

  21. 21
    Kantian Naturalist

    I’m not really sure if Kairosfocus’ (17) was directed at me. I wasn’t detracting from the importance of a response to Dawkins from “your side of the aisle,” as it were — I was merely pointing out that, though I’m a metaphysical naturalist, Dawkins does not speak for me, either. That’s all.

    As for the historicity of the Gospels, I have no opinion one way or the other. I haven’t looked into the debate and, quite frankly, the debate doesn’t particularly interest me. If I were asked whether I thought a historical Jesus existed, I’d respond, “I guess so.” I have about as much reason to deny a historical Jesus as I do to deny a historical Socrates — which is to say, none.

    the main issue for this thread, the public attempt to undermine the historic foundations of the Christian faith, by the leading New Atheist in the world. Done, in a way that utterly reveals his own failure to seriously address the material evidence.

    I certainly hope that Dawkins is not “the leading New Atheist in the world”, or at any rate, if that’s true, it certainly indicates how pathetic “New Atheism” is. Then again, I’m not really clear on what “the New Atheism” is, they left me off the mailing list, and it seems very silly to me.

  22. KN: I am afraid, prof Dawkins is indeed the dean and chief spokesman of the school of new atheists; who have been grabbing a lot of headlines and accolades over these past several years. So, when he makes the sort of dismissive remarks that are cited on the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and claims a lack of concern with matters of fact in the NT documents, he needs to be brought up short. Where, there is significant warrant for the historicity of the NT to be seriously respected, which in turn leads to some pretty serious worldview questions that we need to face as a civilisation. KF

  23. IP: It is sad really that the courts in Italy gaoled scientists, but it is clear that they should have made it clear that there are significant limitations to scientific analyses and projections of seismic phenomena. Projecting a false confidence can lead people to run risks they should not — that is similar to what officials did here between 95 and 97, and it ended in the deaths of some 19 people due to pyroclastic flows that overwhelmed them. The officials claimed to be acting on the “consensus” of the scientists, and painted a rosier picture than was warranted. People got used to the mountain, and were caught. Since then, projections have been based on expert elicitation, and have come with a range of estimates for likely scenarios, but that is more complex than many people are willing to live with. The pressure not to talk too much about nasty possibilities while they are simply possibilities, can be enormous. KF

  24. Kantian Naturalist
    Thats fine about what you said.
    Fundamentalist is today used and meant as a slur on the intelligence or morality of those its directed at.
    Its beyond Bin laden etc.
    They are hostile to true believers in the bible and our influence in civilization.
    In fact its always a slur because they know the modern word is evangelical or still protestant.
    I never find its used as a neutral word of identity.

    likewise WASP or WHITE are always, or almost, slurs by those who use them.
    the ones who most demand slurs not be used against them.
    It shows deeper motives of hostility in the hearts of mankind.

  25. 25
    Kantian Naturalist

    I agree that Dawkins should be criticized with regards to his skepticism about the historical existence of Jesus. (James McGrath, a decidedly ‘liberal’ theologian, calls this “Jesus Mythicism”.) It seems to me that Dawkins should follow his own advice: accept the preponderance of evidence as determined by the relevant experts.

    That’s the basis on which he thinks people should accept Darwinian evolution, after all, and from little I know of the subject, the consensus of Biblical scholars is that Jesus was a real person. So I don’t think you need to go into world-view issues here, but simply point out that Dawkins is going against his own methodological precept in calling into question the existence of a historical Jesus.

    (Whether the historical Jesus actually did and said all the things that he is said to have done and said is quite another matter, and perhaps that is where worldview-level issues come into play.)

    In any event, I tend to think you’re regarding Dawkins as having more authority than he actually has, let alone deserves. I do tend to run in fairly rarefied circles, so I shan’t claim to have my fingers on the pulse of American culture, but Terry Eagleton and Michael Ruse find Dawkins to be insufferable, hardly worth taking seriously on the subject of religion, and they’re not the only ones. I don’t have much use for Harris’ The End of Faith, either, and Hitchens’ God is Not Great was, I found, witty but shallow. I guess you can call me an “Old Atheist,” if you want.

  26. KF:

    If you cannot ground morality — OUGHT — in a foundational IS in your worldview, you cannot properly introduce it thereafter, it has no basis.

    I’m saying, actually, that there is no OUGHT. My statement is a conditional: IF you wish to act in accord with your true nature (the image and likenes of God) and IF you wish to act in accord with God’s wish for the world, then act always from Love. Implicit in this is a recognition that no two moments of Now are ever exactly alike, that acting out of the question, “What would Love do now?” is always a creative act, that the answer to that question in any particular set of circumstances will be found within (it comes to you in the moment), and that it will be unique to those circumstances.

    I add to that, that the basic point is that the one who would dehumanise the other, denying the fundamental equality and worth of the fellow human being, is already signalling — through patent reductio ad absurdum — all we need to know to walk away from such a one

    To which I would add that acting from Love never dehumanises another (and never knowingly harms another, either). What it does do is avoid the trap of the Golden Rule, which is that what is appropriate for myself may well not be appropriate for another. For example, I may wish others to interact with me totally and even ruthlessly honestly. Yet someone else may find ruthless honesty in some circumstances so upsetting that the result of it could damage the relationship between us and do more harm than good. If one has the intention of acting from Love, and if they are in touch with their inner knowing, they will see what is the appropriate way to interact with each person in each circumstance in which they find themselves.

    I will note that it is possible to be objectively wrong on moral claims, so mere disagreement or dispute is not sufficient to dismiss the grounds of morality or to walk away from both sides of such a disagreement as though they necessarily both lack good warrant.

    You have missed my point, which is that if we believe that morality comes from God, then it is incumbent on God to make the rules unequivocally clear and unambiguous, especially since the presumed penalty for breaking the rules is so severe. Furthermore, given that He is both omniscient and omnipotent, it is well within His power to accomplish this. However, He has clearly not done so, witness the massive disagreement as to what those rules are throughout the world. Therefore, the only conclusion, given a belief in a loving, merciful, and compassionate God, is that the whole attribution of God as the source of morality is incorrect. Hence my contention that God is not interested in morality; it is a purely human concern. Rather (to repeat) He is interested in the expansion of love in the world. But this “interest” is not in the nature of a commandment. Rather, it is an invitation.

  27. JDH included this chain of reasoning from Paul of the Epistles:

    12 if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

    And then berates Dawkins for a lack of knowledge of biblical content.

    But hang about – take a look at the reported quote. It is a chain of “ifs” that begins with a dubious claim of authority: “if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”.

    Am I obliged to accept this chain of iffings solely on the strength of a claim by a person who clearly had a material interest in asserting his authority? I think not.

    I suspect that it is precisely this manner of reasoning that Dawkins was objecting to: Paul was asserting the authority of his preaching on the basis of an undemonstrated “if”.

    For what it is worth, I don’t have a problem with accepting that Jesus is a historical figure, nor that he may have been a very influential and charismatic teacher. I simply reject the supernatural post-hoc constructions that latter-day believers continue to pile on top (including the son of god business).

  28. TA:

    Pardon me, but have you taken time to read the cross-post here, and more particularly to actually read 1 Cor 15:1 – 17 — this last being a pivotal text that any who wishes to seriously discuss the Christian faith should know inside out?

    If you have read the whole context in light of wider trends, you will have seen that first, Paul is addressing some sort of vulgarised Platonism that tried to syncretise Judaeo-Christian and characteristically Hellenistic thought forms, maybe a sort of early step to what would become Gnosticism as we call it over the next century.

    One way to look at this is to see that people under that sort of influence would see the body as a prison, an evil produced by an evil demiurge in some form (later YHWH would be type-cast as the demiurge by Gnostics). So they would want to escape the prison of materiality [Gnosticism promised secret knowledge for the elites initiated into the system that would allow one to do so . . . ], not undergo a resurrection.

    Hence their denial/dismissal of same.

    (And BTW, one of the responses to that sort of system, would be to deem the body irrelevant to “true” “spirituality”; from one perspective allowing one to freely indulge the sins of the flesh. The opposite response, of seeking to subject the body to a hyper-rigorous legalistic “”discipline is also possible and is echoed and equally vigorously corrected in other NT letters. Corinth being Corinth [to Corninthian-ise was a byword . . . ], Paul’s challenge here — a subtle point of fitting in with local colour — is to deal with characteristic sins of the flesh. Paul’s rebuttal is going to pivot on the value of materiality and its fundamental integration with the spiritual, as can be further seen as one goes on into the eschatological part of the text, following down. And yes, the historic, foundational Christian view VALUES materiality, as the Creation of the good God.)

    Now,in answer to all this error, Paul intends to upend their logic by exposing its want of soundness as well as its want of coherence with foundational, fact-based historically anchored morally certain (a term that refers to a criterion of warrant) premises of the Christian view.

    That is, he is going to argue by rooting his response in hard, effectively undeniable historical fact with hundreds of then still living — AD 55 — eyewitnesses.

    That is why starts by reminding the C1 readers of the eyewitness anchored factual basis for the gospel he spoke to them c. 51 – 52 AD, in the form of the solemnly passed on official summary of the Jerusalem Church’s witness. A testimony formally received by him c 35 – 38 AD. That is what is “of first importance,” and it is the basis for the Christian’s hope of salvation.

    This is addressed in vv 1 – 11, and vv 12 – 17 go on to use the anchorage on facts to upend the logic implicit in the ideas that those advocating the notions he was overturning were promoting. So, we read:

    1 Cor 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

    20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [NIV '84]

    In v 20, he points back to what he has established on the testimony of 500 eyewitnesses in vv 1 – 11, which upends the whole chain of implications from the premise that we do not rise from the dead. In effect, if the dead do not rise, there are no exceptions, so then on this premise Christ himself could not have been so raised, and that has some consequences that end up in the futility of hope for salvation through trusting Christ, and in making out the 500 witnesses to be liars.

    In short he is bringing out a glaring inconsistency rooted in a deeply entrenched cultural notion, and exposing its consequences.

    Then, he reminds them in v 20 of the facts as summarised from vv 1 – 11.

    So, pardon, but pointing to the chain of implications while ignoring its context is tilting at a strawman.

    If you would object to the gospel, you need to address its historical roots, as recorded c 55 AD for events of 30 AD solemnly and publicly passed on to this pivotal missionary c 35 – 38 AD by the lead witnesses in Jerusalem, the Apostles. And notice, the centre of early opposition to the Christian faith was also the early centre of its proclamation, in the very city where the events happened.

    That brings you up against the Morison challenge, from the book, Who Moved the Stone?:

    [N]ow the peculiar thing . . . is that not only did [belief in Jesus' resurrection as in part testified to by the empty tomb] spread to every member of the Party of Jesus of whom we have any trace, but they brought it to Jerusalem and carried it with inconceivable audacity into the most keenly intellectual centre of Judaea . . . and in the face of every impediment which a brilliant and highly organised camarilla could devise. And they won. Within twenty years the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish Church and impressed itself upon every town on the Eastern littoral of the Mediterranean from Caesarea to Troas. In less than fifty years it had began to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire . . . .

    Why did it win? . . . .

    We have to account not only for the enthusiasm of its friends, but for the paralysis of its enemies and for the ever growing stream of new converts . . . When we remember what certain highly placed personages would almost certainly have given to have strangled this movement at its birth but could not – how one desperate expedient after another was adopted to silence the apostles, until that veritable bow of Ulysses, the Great Persecution, was tried and broke in pieces in their hands [the chief persecutor became the leading C1 Missionary/Apostle!] – we begin to realise that behind all these subterfuges and makeshifts there must have been a silent, unanswerable fact. [Who Moved the Stone, (Faber, 1971; nb. orig. pub. 1930), pp. 114 - 115.]

    To address that challenge you need to ponder the list of facts that have been sifted through the principles of critical historiography — multiple attestation, enemy attestation, admission that is embarrassing or against interest (e.g. the tomb of Jesus was discovered empty by women going to administer Jewish burial rites, where women were not respected in that culture as credible witnesses in C1 . . . ) etc — that have therefore won the support of most to almost all scholars seriously investigating the matter.

    Let me clip that list of minimal facts, in its longer form:

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion [--> which implies his historicity!].

    2. He was buried.

    3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

    4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).

    5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).

    6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.

    7. The resurrection was the central message.

    8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.

    9. The Church was born and grew.

    10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.

    11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).

    12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

    Your challenge is to address this on inference to best explanation without a priori imposition of anti-supernaturalistic bias.

    (Such bias is unfortunately common in our day. Indeed, the Lewontin clip in the original post shows — and I have given four other examples, including the US NAS and NSTA — how, in origins science, we too often see imposition of a priori materialism. A similar bias warps discussion on matters linked to the gospel, including too often in academic — much less chic radical –theology.)

    In that context, I suggest you work your way through the table of alternative explanations commonly offered, and their fit to a key cluster of these facts, a part of the companion post to this here at UD, which can be found here.

    You may also find the video in the original post above helpful.

    KF

    PS: And, if you have a problem with the deity of Christ as eschatological Son of Man (cf. Dan 7:13 – 14) and as Son of God, very God of Very God, Light of Light, etc, this too is anchored in the foundational materials we have, faithfully recording the witness of the C1 Church. Indeed, let me go on a bit from v. 20, noting that all of this is from an AD 55 letter:

    1 Cor 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.”[c] Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

    In short, the concept that Jesus is Son of God is right there, inextricably embedded in this indisputably early record. And in fact the Nicene creed of 325 and 381 AD — there were fifty years of debates with members of the Imperial family taking various sides including Arianism and an attempted neopaganism under Julian the Apostate, that ended up underscoring and amplifying the 325 conclusions — is demonstrably largely excerpts from 1 Cor 15, with a prefix and an appendix that set the context from the Source of all things, God, down to the culmination in the second coming. Where of course, the main issue at stake was the debate over what it means for Jesus to be Son of God. Which, as I have shown, is embedded in the core C1 texts. Indeed, the concept has its roots in OT texts.

  29. BD:

    Re:

    I’m saying, actually, that there is no OUGHT

    Thank you for frankly stating your relativism and letting us see its underlying amorality.

    Remember, that in dealing with me, you are dealing with a descendant of slaves, who knows very well that in the end it was the principle that slavery was unjust and therefore OUGHT not to be done (even to the utterly powerless and voiceless members of an allegedly inferior race), that led to its abolition. An abolition that was materially contributed to by Christians standing on biblical premises.

    Premises of OUGHT.

    Anchored in the inherently good Creator God who makes a cosmos in which OUGHT is grounded in that IS.

    I therefore again call on you to read and reflect on then respond to Canon Richard Hooker’s remarks, as cited by Locke when he set out to ground principles of liberty and justice in government in his second essay on Civil Govt, and again as extended by going on in the cited context:

    . . . 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]

    KF

  30. KN: While I appreciate your point that Dawkins is refusing to take the actual consensus of serious scholarship seriously (or more exactly the underlying warrant; I am no friend to naked appeals to authority), his behaviour as the dean of the popular new Atheism movement of “brights,” so self-designated, needs to be highlighted and answered. KF

  31. Kairosfocus posted a lot of words, among which is this summary (permit me to interpolate comments):

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion [--> which implies his historicity!].

    [Well, no. It is an assumption, not an implication, but it is a reasonable assumption, based on the further assumption that Jesus was a historical person]

    2. He was buried.

    [Also reasonably assumed, given burial was a common social act of the Semite community of the time]

    3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

    [We don't know this actually happened, but it is a reasonable supposition, based on what is recorded about the proto-Christian community]

    4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).

    [Yes it is contested, and we have no reliable knowledge on this question, so presumably you won't rely on it]

    5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).

    [Sorry, but in what way are these reported experiences proof of anything?. If you want to rely on their testimony, you should at least have some independent corroboration]

    6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.

    [I will take your word for that, but on what basis are you making the claim?]

    7. The resurrection was the central message.

    [When did it become the central claim? On what basis? So far it seems it wasn't "central" to Christian doctrine until Paul came along thirty years later.]

    8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.

    [I will take your word for that]

    9. The Church was born and grew.

    [And remained marginal until it was granted the imperial warrant by Constantine (including the bogus Donation)]

    10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.

    [I have no idea what this idea signifies. If you think it is important, perhaps you can explain your reasoning.]

    11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).

    [The Jamesian record claims this, but why are you accepting it as a fact with no independent corroboration?

    12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

    [More confirmation bias. It seems to be a feature of your way of thinking.]

  32. TA:

    I will comment briefly for now, in prep for a sitting later this morning.

    The twelve points listed are the result of a bibliography of academic studies impinging on the passion of Jesus, over the past thirty years and covering the full range of academic perspectives, now in the neighbourhood of 3,000 studies.

    The most controversial of these has “only” 75% support.

    But the key point is not so much the vote, but the basis of warrant that leads to that sort of consensus. Summarising Habermas’ outline:

    The minimal facts method only uses sources which are multiply attested, and agreed to by a majority of scholars (ranging from atheist to conservative). This requires that they have one or more of the following criteria which are relevant to textual criticism:

    1] Multiple sources – If two or more sources attest to the same fact, it is more likely authentic
    2] Enemy attestation – If the writers enemies corroborate a given fact, it is more likely authentic
    3] Principle of embarrassment – If the text embarrasses the writer, it is more likely authentic
    4] Eyewitness testimony – First hand accounts are to be preferred
    5] Early testimony – an early account is more likely accurate than a later one

    While reports that do not meet one or more of these criteria can be quite true, the principles outlined are indicators that a source is likely to be truthful on the point in question. For instance, as I noted previously, the reports indicate that a circle of women were the discoverers of the empty tomb. This is very embarrassing for communicating with the immediate audience, C1 Jews; who had a serious prejudice against the testimony of women. It would also have been a challenge for gentile audiences, the second circle of witnesses.

    Similarly, that your message starts with a Jewish Messiah figure who was dismissed by the leaders of his people and who was put to death by the Roman authorities by crucifixion, is a major admission against interest in the eyes of the Jewish and Gentile audiences — indeed, 1 Cor quite early on has to deal with that fact: one crucified was seen as one hanged and accursed by Jews, and as one from the dregs of society who got what he must have deserved and should not even be mentioned by the Greeks.

    In that light, that Jesus was crucified hardly not to be dismissed as an “assumption.” We are dealing with multiply attested record from eyewitness lifetime, also supported by hostile sources, as the linked discusses. (And that is not mere “confirmation bias,” to be tagged and dismissed.)

    That you have chosen to use such words, shows the underlying real challenge of your selective hyperskepticism.

    Please, think again, and ponder what would happen to your view of relevant classical history if you applied the same standard: “poof,” gone.

    Gotta go for now . . .

    KF

  33. F/N: Simon Greenleaf has some highly relevant remarks on the nature of evidence in the context of testimony (which extends to record) on matters of fact, which I have found to be illuminating:

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [--> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. [--> he thus points to a major error of the hyperskeptic, echoing Locke in the intro to his Essay on Human Understanding, Sect 5]

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them.

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

    In his Testimony of the Evangelists, he goes on to say this:

    [26] . . . It should be observed that the subject of inquiry [i.e. evidence relating to the credibility of the New Testament accounts] is a matter of fact, and not of abstract mathematical proof. The latter alone is susceptible of that high degree of proof, usually termed demonstration, which excludes the possibility of error . . . The error of the skeptic consists in pretending or supposing that there is a difference in the nature of things to be proved; and in demanding demonstrative evidence concerning things which are not susceptible of any other than moral evidence alone, and of which the utmost that can be said is, that there is no reasonable doubt about their truth . . . .

    If, therefore, the subject [were] a problem in mathematics, its truth [would] be shown by the certainty of demonstrative evidence. But if it is a question of fact in human affairs, nothing more than moral evidence can be required, for this is the best evidence which, from the nature of the case, is attainable. Now as the facts, stated in Scripture History, are not of the former kind, but are cognizable by the senses, they may be said to be proved when they are established by that kind and degree of evidence which, as we have just observed, would, in the affairs of human life, satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man. [Testimony, Kregel reprint 1995, Sections 26, 27.]

    An apt description for this error is selective hyperskepticism; often seen in the following form:

    extraordinary claims require extraordinary [ADEQUATE] evidence

    The strike and correct, of course, highlights the characteristic error involved. Namely, inconsistently demanding arbitrarily high standards of warrant for that which one is disinclined to believe relative to what one routinely accepts on similar matters that do not cut sharply across one’s expectations. In this case, it would be interesting to see how such hyperskeptics would operate in a matter of general history, or in a court case dependent on record, or in dealing with something as simple as managerial decisions depending on testimony and record.

    I guarantee you, we do not see such lining up to demand closure of history departments or classical studies programmes, or the courts of law, or accounting systems, etc.

    So, it is that inconsistency in warrant that highlights the inconsistency and thus unreasonableness in such selective hyperskepticism.

    Okay, for now. Later.

    KF

  34. TA (and onlookers):

    I believe it is necessary to comment, point by point, to your attempt to dismiss the cluster of credible facts that represent the absolute majority to the all but absolute consensus of informed scholarship on Jesus, as has been compiled since the 1970′s.

    I will do so on numbered points:

    ===========

    Kairosfocus posted a lot of words,

    0 –> Sure, there are “a lot of words” there; but that is not the same as the evidently implied premise that these are empty and useless words. I spoke at responsible length in summary of matters that are routinely discussed at far greater length, to responsible matters of fact on a matter that is foundational to our civilisation and may just be foundational to our eternal state. As in, a matter “of first importance.” And indeed, that is also why I am taking the time — at a time when I am short of time — to answer you step by step.

    among which is this summary (permit me to interpolate comments):

    1 –> First, the summary of “minimal facts” you wish to dismiss is precisely not of my making, as should have been evident had you seriously examined the repeatedly linked. This is an attempt to personalise, then dismiss what is the result of a process of decades of serious scholarship by experts, compiling the overall views of scholarship in recent times, after centuries of serious critical study.

    2 –> The principles of investigation and criteria that were used to identify such facts are, in summary from the linked (and onward materials), as follows:

    The minimal facts method only uses sources which are multiply attested, and agreed to by a majority of scholars (ranging from atheist to conservative). This requires that they have one or more of the following criteria which are relevant to textual criticism:

    1] Multiple sources – If two or more sources attest to the same fact, it is more likely authentic
    2] Enemy attestation – If the writers enemies corroborate a given fact, it is more likely authentic
    3] Principle of embarrassment – If the text embarrasses the writer, it is more likely authentic
    4] Eyewitness testimony – First hand accounts are to be preferred
    5] Early testimony – an early account is more likely accurate than a later one

    3 –> On fair comment, while it is notorious that many reports that do not meet these criteria are credibly true, such criteria are — at least to an unprejudiced mind — strong indicators of a truthful record.

    4 –> In addition, Greenleaf highlights the Ancient Documents Rule, that can be summarised: once a document is fair on its face (showing no clear signs of fraud etc) and comes from reasonable repository or chain of custody, there is good reason to deem it a credible witness and it is the objector who would then have to overturn its credit on specific evidence and grounds.

    5 –> It is also worth the pause to draw to the attention of onlookers a clip from the already linked, a summary by Barnett on the testimony of reasonably early Non-Christian sources regarding the life of Jesus:

    On the basis of . . . non-Christian sources [i.e. Tacitus (Annals, on the fire in Rome, AD 64; written ~ AD 115), Rabbi Eliezer (~ 90's AD; cited J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1929), p. 34), Pliny (Letters to Trajan from Bithynia, ~ AD 112), Josephus (Antiquities, ~ 90's)] it is possible to draw the following conclusions:

    1] Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judaea during the period where Tiberius was Emperor (AD 14 – 37) and Pontius Pilate was Governor (AD 26 – 36). [Tacitus]
    2] The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
    3] Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
    4] His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
    5] He was called “the Christ.” [Josephus]
    6] His followers were called “Christians.” [Tacitus, Pliny]
    7] They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
    8] It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]
    9] His brother was James. [Josephus]

    [Is the New Testament History? (London, Hodder, 1987), pp. 30 - 31. Cf. McDowell & Wilson, He Walked Among Us (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993) for more details; free for download here.]

    6 –> In addition, as the chain of custody diagram and comparative table of documentation at the previously linked shows, the basic evidence on the existence and basic facts surrounding Jesus and his life are without comparison in Classical studies.

    7 –> So, to subject these to the sort of dismissiveness as is all too common, is a mark of hyperskepticism, not of sober thinking. Which is the point regarding Mr Dawkins’ behaviour when he went back to friendly company, after he had been forced to back down in public debate with John Lennox, cf comment no 1 above, which links the debate.

    8 –> That is the context in which I presented a diagram that clustered some of the facts that are credible, listed eleven alternative accounts that I have encountered over the years, and evaluated how well they fit with the credible facts:

    a: [Jesus of Nazareth] Died by crucifixion [a major point of embarrassment] (under Pontius Pilate) at Jerusalem c 30 AD

    b: Was buried, tomb was found empty [by a circle of women -- a point of embarrassment -- followers, seeking to carry out burial rites]

    c: Appeared to multiple disciples [which undermines suggestions of hallucinations], many of whom proclaimed
    & suffered for their faith [as in how many cases in history are known where a large circle of fraudsters, separated and in the face of fire, sword and worse, all serenely submitted to torture and death as being confident of the truth of what they had to say?]

    d: Appeared to key objectors who then became church leaders: James [who had doubted Jesus to the point that he and his family came to take Jesus away as demented at one point during his ministry, and who would have deemed Jesus a major family disgrace in a shame-honour culture] & Paul [the earliest critic and persecutor on record, who as the Sword of the Sanhedrin ruling council, would have been very familiar with the facts]

    9 –> That is the context where in the first linked, I noted as follows:

    You may think that this sort of balance of evidence should be well known and that educated, responsible and reasonable people would at minimum be willing to accept it as well-grounded that Jesus of Nazareth was a significant Galilean Jew and teacher who had clashes with the Jerusalem authorities which cost him his life. Whereupon, his followers then proclaimed to one and all across the eastern littoral of the Mediterranean and beyond over the next several decades, that Jesus was the prophesied Jewish Messiah, and that though shamefully (though unjustly) crucified — blatantly true by the criterion of admitting an utterly embarrassing claim — he was risen from death as Lord and eschatological Judge; until Nero would find it convenient to divert suspicion be falsely accusing Christians of setting fire to Rome in 64 AD.

    10 –> I will now turn to point by point comments.

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion [--> which implies his historicity!].

    [Well, no. It is an assumption, not an implication, but it is a reasonable assumption, based on the further assumption that Jesus was a historical person]

    11 –> ASSUME: >> 1. (may take a clause as object) to take for granted; accept without proof; suppose to assume that someone is sane >> [Collins Eng. Dict]

    12 –> To examine record that is fair on the face, comes from good chain of custody, and is multiple, is not to assume. Period.

    13 –> What is being done without justification is to project a shadow of question-begging credulity. That is improper.

    2. He was buried.

    [Also reasonably assumed, given burial was a common social act of the Semite community of the time]

    14 –> The same error, repeated.

    3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

    [We don't know this actually happened, but it is a reasonable supposition, based on what is recorded about the proto-Christian community]

    15 –> And, again. The objector needs to address seriously how we can come to hold historical knowledge on record, noting that many matters of science are crucially dependent on just such issues of record and warrant of claims on record.

    4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).

    [Yes it is contested, and we have no reliable knowledge on this question, so presumably you won't rely on it]

    16 –> 75% of scholars of all stripes accept this. This record is also in the context of embarrassment as it is women — not regarded highly as witnesses in C1, due to prejudice, who are reported as the discoverers of the fact. That is not the way to get an audience in C1. Similarly, James and Paul are objectors, and in the latter case, legally commissioned opponents. That Paul agrees on this is a matter of in the first, crucial instance, enemy attestation. We can find no early record by opponents or authorities, that indicates the tomb was full. (And notice the supposition of the discoverers: the officials had for reasons of their own, removed the body.) Of course, one family of objections to day is to assert or suggest that Jesus did not receive an honourable burial, and so six weeks later there was nothing to find. This of course simply skeptically brushes aside record, and runs into the difficulties that he leading opponents would have known exactly what was done to the body. There is no credible early objection along these lines. Indeed, the early objection we DO know of, the stolen body story, pivots on burial in a known tomb. And again, Paul was the sword of the Sanhedrin. If there was no honourable burial, he would have known this and would never have been a convert to the faith he formerly harried to the death. Paul affirms by repetition and appeal to the hundreds of then living witnesses, the testimony that Jesus “was buried.”

    17 –> The effect of the “assumptions,” suppositions” and dismissals here, is to duck addressing the quality of the record, and the quality enhancing factors as already outlined. This is selective hyperskepticism at work.

    5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).

    [Sorry, but in what way are these reported experiences proof of anything?. If you want to rely on their testimony, you should at least have some independent corroboration]

    18 –> These C1 written reports from primary source materials are evidence that the disciples of Jesus — and his family members who had not hitherto been disciples [I allude to that incident where members of the family inappropriately but obviously very embarrassingly showed up where he was teaching (with his Mother in tow) to take him in charge as one demented . . .] — reported experiences that are contrary to the pattern of known expectations in Jewish culture at the time, and they go to the sincerity of the witnesses.

    19 –> Next, we observe multiple experiences reported, and multiple observers at a given setting. These make hallucination or subjective vision theories maximally implausible.

    20 –> In addition, we find the substance of the reports significant. The observers are not reporting seeing a miracle, but seeing a known friend. At two suppers, for instance, and at a trial that led to his execution. None of that is exceptional. What is, is the timeline, the second supper being after the execution and burial in a known site, with the tomb being found empty.

    21 –> This experience then explains why they were willing to go up against the world and were willing to put their lives on the line in testimony of their experience and understanding of their experience.

    22 –> Remember, as well, this is not MY report — there is a rhetorical tactic here of transferring epistemic responsibility to me, rather than where it lies: we are here examining a summary list of academic studies over decades per the sort of criteria above, with overwhelming agreement. The disciples were credibly patently sincere. That means they were either utterly deluded, or were witnesses of truth.

    6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.

    [I will take your word for that, but on what basis are you making the claim?]

    23 –> The same attempted transfer again. It founders in light of the well known historically credible report of the C1 church and its foundation, and it founders int eh face of the massive fact that — rooted in that C1 proclamation — the Christian Church exists and has existed since the 30′s AD.

    7. The resurrection was the central message.

    [When did it become the central claim? On what basis? So far it seems it wasn't "central" to Christian doctrine until Paul came along thirty years later.]

    24 –> The first recorded Christian sermon in AD 30, in Ac 2 (by a long tested, known reliable historian, Luke, who probably wrote at least as a first draft c 62 AD) pivots on the resurrection, and the document we have looked at, the letter to Corinth, is the first stated record, c 55 AD. That record in turn integrates with other record to c AD 49, and speaks to incidents c AD 35 – 38. These incidents include the former lead persecutor of the Christian Faith, describing the formal handing on to him by the lead — named or identified — witnesses of the official testimony. This is within a decade of the event, and the record explicitly indicates the majority of the witnesses were still living.

    25 –> Notice, the gospel, including the resurrection, is deemed by Paul to be “of first importance.

    26 –> Where also again, you are here speaking of a minimal bare fact, accepted by the overwhelming majority of academic scholarship on the subject.

    8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.

    [I will take your word for that]

    27 –> It is not my word, it is record, and the record per the criteria above, has come to be the overwhelming consensus of informed scholarship.

    9. The Church was born and grew.

    [And remained marginal until it was granted the imperial warrant by Constantine (including the bogus Donation)]

    28 –> The church’s birth and growth are critical, events such as the AD 750 – 850 bogus donation to the papacy are simply irrelevant to events of 30 – 95 AD, the span of the first generation of eyewitness leadership.

    29 –> However, the rhetorical purpose of this suggestion is that there had been fraud all along. This is an unworthy accusation, moreso when put forth by suggestion and invidious association with an irrelevant matter. C 30 – 95 AD, being a Christian leader would definitely be a subject of derision and, worse, could easily get you killed; c 800, it is one of the highest positions of leadership in the community and invites the ambitious and unscrupulous. A better view can be had from this excerpt of the Pliny-Trajan Correspondence over Christians in Bithynia, c. 112 AD, here from Pliny:

    . . . in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

    Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

    They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. [the eucharist and probably the Agape love-feast] Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. [probably, in the end, to death . . . ] But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition. [In other words, Christian faith and practice much as already described.]

    I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded. [of course, in the end, it failed to be checked by such persecution and "reformations]

    10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.

    [I have no idea what this idea signifies. If you think it is important, perhaps you can explain your reasoning.]

    30 –> Again, this is not my statement, it is the consensus view of scholarship, per the criteria above. The Sabbath day was the Jewish day of worship. Sunday, the “eight day” as has been said classically, was the day of Christian worship for the excellent reason that this was the day of the resurrection, long known as “the Lord’s Day.”

    11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).

    [The Jamesian record claims this, but why are you accepting it as a fact with no independent corroboration?

    31 --> Again, I cite a summary of the overwhelming consensus of scholarship. And, it so happens that this is also the record of an enemy, Josephus.

    12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

    [More confirmation bias. It seems to be a feature of your way of thinking.]

    32 –> This is an unworthy personality.

    33 –> Again, I cite the overwhelming consensus of scholarship. You have sought to deride and dismiss by personalising then characterising me as being insufficiently critically aware. that you have done so insead of addressing what would be your epistemic responsibility speaks, and not to your favour. Please do better.

    34 –> As a matter of fact and record — start with his undeniably authentic epistles that give significant details, then go on to the record of that proved historian Luke, Paul’s conversion is one of the best attested facts of C1 history , and it is one of the pivotal features of our history as it is Paul’s Mission that shaped the Western Church, and synthesised the heritage of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome that led to the basic shape of Western culture as we have come to know it.

    ===========

    The specific objections above crucially pivot on distorting the character of the summary, and suggesting that it is a matter of dubious statements I am making. When, in fact these are the summary facts that per the criteria of quality above, are well grounded and that is why they commend themselves to the absolute majority to the overwhelming consensus of relevant scholars, across the spectrum.

    Notice, the warrant comes before the consensus.

    And, oddly, these facts do not constitute a demonstrative proof of the resurrection. History is incapable of that, but it is capable of warrant on best empirically anchored explanation, often to the point of moral certainty.

    In this case, what I did was to invite the reader to examine a table of a summary of the credible facts, and to look at a list of eleven commonly offered explanations. I have scored them based on fairly obvious criteria, and then have invited readers to score for themselves and give an explanation.

    I even invited mixing and matching.

    A glance at the list will show that one is head and shoulders above the rest as an explanation, once anti-supernaturalistic prejudice is not allowed to sweep the issues away in a wave of hyper skepticism.

    And there, I suspect, lieth the rub.

    KF

  35. F/N: I have now completed my response on points to TA’s attempt to dismiss the list of minimal facts supported by the quality factors already highlighted, thus leading to the twelve minimal facts supported by the absolute majority to the overwhelming majority of scholarship. KF

  36. KF re. #29

    Well, the truth is that we are all moral relativists, whether we like it or not, whether we recognize it or are in denial regarding that fact. The reason is that the one source of absolute moral truth can only be the Deity, and God has not made it unambiguously and unequivocally clear what that moral truth might be. Thus, it is incumbent upon each of us to decide for ourselves what the OUGHTs in life are, either by doing our best to interpret scripture (whether it be the Bible, the Koran, the Buddhist scriptures, the Tao Te Ching, etc.), by using our reason (like Kant, Aristotle, or your example, Canon Hooker), by going with our feelings or our intuition, by taking someone else’s word for it, or by whatever other resources we might bring to bear on the problem.

    But whatever decisions we make regarding the OUGHTs, the ultimate authority is always our own best understanding. There is no escaping this fact. In the last analysis, you and only you must choose for yourself what to believe regarding what the OUGHTs in life are.

    Given this, and particularly given God’s obvious indifference to the issue (for reasons I have already given above), I take the stance that there are no OUGHTs, really. Instead, I say that when needing to decide what course of action to take in any particular circumstance in which one finds oneself, let Love be your guide. Answer the question, “What would Love do now?” for yourself, and do that.

    And let me be clear; I do not present this as another OUGHT. I am not saying that we ought to behave this way. I am offering it as an invitation, an invitation to act in accordance with your own highest nature—the image and likeness of your Creator. Act according to this precept not because you ought to, but because you will find that it is the most joyful and satisfying way to live your life. You will also find that the amount of love that comes back to you is stunning.

    And I believe that this is what God wishes for us also, but, as I said above, not as a commandment, but rather as an invitation.

    Remember, that in dealing with me, you are dealing with a descendant of slaves, who knows very well that in the end it was the principle that slavery was unjust and therefore OUGHT not to be done.

    And in dealing with me you are dealing with a man whose mother is Jewish, her father being first generation and her mother second, so that I almost certainly have relatives who died in the holocaust. Who among us can not find examples of inhumanity perpetrated on his or her fore bearers if we look hard enough?

  37. BD:

    On the contrary, we all firmly believe from our earliest days, that we have rights that are undeniably plain to others. That is why we are so characteristically concerned with justice or fairness.

    Indeed, that is underscored by how we quarrel: you unfair me. (To which, the typical reply is not, shut up sheep, and slide down de throat nicely. Nope,t he reply shows that we acknowledge rights.)

    That is, we accept that we do owe binding duties to respect the other, especially when we are the ones to whom the duties are due.

    So, when I see attempts to relativise such on core matters, I see that as little more than a failure to examine the human predicament with sufficient clarity and coherence.

    We may err about a particular case, but it is not credible that on the whole, on balance, we err. That is similar to our experience with multiplication tables and addition facts.

    So, OUGHT is real, and we need to ask sharp questions on why we then see so many taking up worldviews that due to inadequate foundational ISes, cannot bear the weight of OUGHT.

    And, your invitation to act in accord with our highest nature, is in effect premised on the reality of ought, that for instance we ought to listen to the call to moral excellence. But, without explicitly acknowledging that.

    KF

  38. Kairosfocus posted this:

    So, OUGHT is real, and we need to ask sharp questions on why we then see so many taking up worldviews that due to inadequate foundational ISes, cannot bear the weight of OUGHT.

    All ideas are “real” in the sense that ideas motivate people to act in certain ways. Saying so tells us nothing about whether any idea is true.

    “Ought” ideas are invented by intelligence. The only intelligence of which we have any knowledge is the human one. It seems possible that our near relations in the primate tribe may have primitive versions of this concept, but that hardly matters, since you aren’t asking chimpanzees for their opinion.

    “Is” ideas, on the other hand, are matters of verifiable observation or inference.

    We may, individually, confuse what actually “is” with what we believe or hope “ought” to be observed (and you certainly do this). Peer review usually takes care of that form of wish-fulfilment.

    But not in all cases, as this blog demonstrates.

  39. TA:

    I suggest that oughtness, on the undeniable sense that we are owed a duty of fairness and even benevolence, is objectively binding. As I pointed out, we may err on this or that point [as we do with our sums], but the overall is overwhelming and uniform in its force. Ought is not just a perception, it is plainly a real governing principle that we find ourselves bound by.

    I suggest you try this one for size, and tell us how this errs or is merely subjective: we OUGHT not to torture innocent children for pleasure.

    Let us take this concrete case — here I just now heard on BBC of a girl who in Kashmir looked at two young men on a motorbike, then was reported to her parents, only to be beaten and doused with acid; leading to her death in hospital a day later, and thence prosecution by the Indian Authorities — and see how the implications of evolutionary materialist relativism stack up against reality.

    KF

    PS: I have responded point by point to your earlier assertions and attempt to turn a summary of the consensus view of relevant scholarship into something I had said on the strength of my own authority.

  40. Kairosfocus posted this:

    I suggest you try this one for size, and tell us how this errs or is merely subjective: we OUGHT not to torture innocent children for pleasure.

    Let us take this concrete case — here I just now heard on BBC of a girl who in Kashmir looked at two young men on a motorbike, then was reported to her parents, only to be beaten and doused with acid; leading to her death in hospital a day later, and thence prosecution by the Indian Authorities — and see how the implications of evolutionary materialist relativism stack up against reality.

    A Kashmiri couple murder their child in a particularly atrocious manner. Which of the two following explanations do you think is more likely?

    1. They were motivated by an overdose of evolutionary materialist relativism; or
    2. They were motivated by a moral absolutism derived from their religious belief in the objective truth of a holy book

    Next time you want to make a case for the objectivity of morals, find an example that actually supports your argument.

  41. TA:

    You have ducked the issue of the objective case of whether it was objectively wrong to hurt and kill this child. Save, that you used a morally loaded word, murder. (And whether her parents had a religious or an honour-shame cultural motivation or both or something else, it boils down very simply. This is a torture-murder of a child and is blatantly, obviously wrong. BTW, there is also a fairly long list of mass torturers and murderers motivated by evolutionary materialist ideologies. In all cases, the tortures and murders are wrong, are obviously wrong and are inexcusable.)

    Your failure to say aye or nay to the question at stake, objectivity of morals as applied to an unfortunately real case, is revealing.

    KF

    PS: We also await your further response to the point by point reply above, also.

  42. Kairosfocus posted this:

    Your failure to say aye or nay to the question at stake, ojectivity of morals as applied to an unfortunately real case, is revealing.

    What are you smoking? The child’s murder was atrocious. I said so. If you want to load up the act with unexampled tripe about the superiority of objective morality, feel free. I don’t buy it. Morals are human constructs, constructed socially. They are subjective by definition.

    P.S. Your seven-page defence of the historicity of Jesus is painfully noted, but unnecessary (I already agree that Jesus was born, preached, was a significant teacher, gained a following and was crucified). It is the supernatural woo piled on top that is too improbable to accept.

  43. 43
    Kantian Naturalist

    I don’t know if this matters, but from where I sit, the problem here is that if (a) objective and subjective are exclusive; (b) objective means absolute, and (c) subjective means arbitrary, then what we’re left with is a dichotomy between absoluteness and arbitrariness. And that’s clearly (well, to me, anyway) a false dichotomy.

  44. 45
    Kantian Naturalist

    Mung @ 44: I like the Very Short Introductions books. If you find it interesting and helpful, let me know. It might give me some tricks to pass on to my students. I find their knee-jerk moral relativism quite frustrating — not so much because they are moral relativists, but because it’s knee-jerk. Teaching Plato to first-years is like pulling teeth.

  45. hahahah. will do.

    I think I would ask my students if they know what moral relativism is. Then ask if they consider themselves to be moral relativists. Set forth some cases of moral relativism and see how they respond.

    Where do you think they learn their moral relativism, popular culture?

    I think to reach people you have to ask them who or what they think they are, then pose to them questions which challenge how they view themselves to be.

    Are you against the death penalty?

    What’s the difference between killing a baby that has just been born and killing a baby that is only about to be born?

    Are you against the death penalty for an unborn child?

  46. KF:

    On the contrary, we all firmly believe from our earliest days, that we have rights that are undeniably plain to others. That is why we are so characteristically concerned with justice or fairness.

    Indeed, that is underscored by how we quarrel: you unfair me. (To which, the typical reply is not, shut up sheep, and slide down de throat nicely. Nope,t he reply shows that we acknowledge rights.)

    That is, we accept that we do owe binding duties to respect the other, especially when we are the ones to whom the duties are due.

    What you are missing is the fact that what those rights are, or what it is specifically that is regarded as unfair varies dramatically from person to person, culture to culture, religion to religion, and by different historical periods. So although the idea that we have rights is fairly universal, what specifically those rights are (and thus what are the corresponding OUGHTs) varies enormously and is thus quite relative.

    Some examples: 1) Many parents in various parts of the world hold that they have the right to demand that their daughters be virgins when they marry. If they find out that a daughter has had sex, they hold some version of “You have dishonored us.” or “You have shamed the family.” In Europe and much of the United States, however, no such “right” is recognized. 2) Some people feel that they have the right to be dealt with honestly, and if they are consistent, do not lie to others. Others, however, find “white lies” quite acceptable, both from others and from themselves. 3) Some people believe that they have the right to demand that another refrain from behavior that they find offensive or dangerous, for example the right play loud music late at night or the right to smoke in their presence. Others believe that they have the right to do what they want in such cases. 4) Some people believe that they have the right to kill an unfaithful spouse along with his or her lover. Most hold that murder is never justified.

    So you see, although the idea that there are OUGHTs (or rights) is common among most people, what those OUGHTs actually are is quite relative.

    So, when I see attempts to relativise such on core matters, I see that as little more than a failure to examine the human predicament with sufficient clarity and coherence.

    And I would say the same in reverse to you: Any time I see the attempt to absolutize morality, I see that as an unwillingness or inability to see the situation as it actually is—moral precepts are always and inescapably relative, no matter how much one wishes it were otherwise.

  47. 48
    Kantian Naturalist

    I think I would ask my students if they know what moral relativism is. Then ask if they consider themselves to be moral relativists. Set forth some cases of moral relativism and see how they respond. Where do you think they learn their moral relativism, popular culture?

    I teach a public university in the South, and what I’ve seen of my students, I’m not sure how much popular culture is to blame. What I sense — dimly, intuitively — is that it’s a combination of an awareness of cultural and religious pluralism with an inability to have a rational conversation with someone very different from themselves. Because they’ve never been shown how to do that, they don’t think it’s possible, so in the absence of any model of how to engage in the cooperative search for truth, relativism becomes the default option.

    (P.S.: I’m a staunch liberal, and I believe in objective morality. Sometimes I feel like a rare specimen of a species on the brink of extinction.)

  48. TA:

    Kindly tone down the emotive language. “That’s atrocious,” is an emotive term, not a clear answer to whether torturing (and in this case, even worse, murdering) a child is wrong. That is, that it OUGHT NOT to have been done.

    Let’s interpret your answer as saying, yes, it is wrong.

    That is the set of things that are objectively wrong is non-empty, on your admission by outrage.

    Case over.

    OUGHT being an objective and non-empty category, you now have the challenge of providing a grounding IS in your worldview or set of plausible worldviews that can objectively warrant OUGHT.

    Where, only a worldview with an IS that grounds OUGHT will be coherent.

    (Hint, that is going to require an entity that frames reality and is both powerful enough to shape reality [with reason to believe that it did so], and is inherently good so that reality will reflect that, or else you will be back at the problem of ought being arbitrary or ungrounded.)

    But, I am prepared to bet that you will try to find some way of saying no, you have not acknowledged THAT.

    KF

    PS: Onlookers, you may wish to look at the discussion here on in context.

  49. BD:

    Have you observed, that I have taken time to point out that just as with Arithmetic, it is possible to have correct and incorrect answers, but that the reality of objectively correct answers does not pivot on there being no errors?

    FYI, I am a small-r reformation thinker (and am enormously suspicious of radical revolutions and would-be revolutionaries, especially those connected to violent overthrows of the state, on grounds that such usually end up in the hands of the most ruthless and nihilistic factions, on a long, sad, bloody history with many millions of ghosts since 1789).

    So, the issue is not, whether there are differences of opinion on the subject of whether P1, P2, P3, etc are fair, but instead, whether there is a reasonable basis to conclude that there is a well warranted conclusion that the set of fair actions is non-empty.

    As a comparative, if we were to ask a typical circle of people to answer to the product of say 4,587 and 674,302 through a mental calculation in a minute of effort [no calculators, and no pencil and paper], we would be very likely to get a range of answers. Perhaps, all of the answers will be incorrect, unless an old fashioned computer [that used to be a job title!] like my dad were present — when he first got an electronic calculator he would repeatedly check its result in his head, to assure himself the calculator was reliable, I guess he was thinking about keying errors. [I recall when I was in 5th form and he tried to teach me the algorithm for adding three columns of decimal digits to any length in your head, I had to ask him to stop.]

    But, the error is irrelevant to whether the answer is correct or not, and once we see that here is an answer that is closer or farther, we can show that there is the possibility of progress from wrong to right.

    Just so, in ethical matters, we can start with the universality of the sense of fairness and the existence of cases that are patently right/wrong on pain of absurdity.

    Sadly, we had such a case in our world news recently, and we had a similar one of a young girl who was shot in the face by a terrorist because she wanted to be educated. The parents involved in the honour killing and the terrorist involved in a larger scale honour killing attempt, may well think themselves justified, but this is a patent absurdity. One that points to some4thing seriously wrong with the underlying ideology, whether it be culturally based, or ideologically based or religiously based, or extending to say the holocaust, based on allegedly scientific theories of race that were generally accepted by most educated people at the time. Or the victims of the Gulag point to something deeply wrong with the evolutionary materialist ideology that seemingly justified such a system. And, sadly, more.

    In short, we have here two clear cases that show us how the set of what OUGHT NOT to be done, is non-empty.

    That is, oughtness is credibly objectively real and knowable.

    Therefore, we are right back at the issue of grounding a worldview in an IS that can properly warrant ought as a knowable category.

    Kindly, refer to my comment to TA for more.

    KF

  50. F/N: Onlookers, kindly also observe my markup of TA’s attempted dismissal of the minimal facts surrounding Jesus of Nazareth at 34 above. This is a further illustration of the rhetorical patterns of relativism we are dealing with. Especially note the use of emotive and specifically hyperskeptical, dismissals such as “woo” (not to mention, oh it’s seven [by implication pointless and ill founded] pages . . .] in response to an inference to best explanation case on a matter where — as the linked tableau on alternative explanations shows — the critical matter that is driving dismissals is antisupernaturalistic bias. Also, I should think that there is a significant difference between “I accept” that and “that’s an ASSUMPTION” on the one hand, vs there is good warrant on credible record per canons of quality, to accept that. Not to mention that between, “you must persuade me to whatever arbitrary standards of demanded warrant I impose” and that I have a duty of care to attend to credible warrant for a case of a given kind, acknowledging that matters of fact and history etc are not capable of the same warrant as applies in say Mathematical demonstration. KF

  51. KN:

    All knowledge requires a knower, and so subjectivity is not antithetical to objectivity.

    Opinion becomes knowledge when the relevant accepted beliefs are warranted to an appropriate degree that grounds reasonable trust. That is why you will typically observe me roughly summarising knowledge in the relevant sense in and around UD as warranted, credibly true belief. That is, weak form knowledge such as we use in the affairs of science, management, law courts and general life.

    I also happen to believe that there are first principles that can be warranted to a stronger degree, warranted and certainly true on pain of patent absurdity, i.e. self-evident truths. And, no I am not equating such to the Kantian forms and arguments. I am saying that on our experience of the world around us, we can see that there are some things that are so, must be so on pain of patent absurdity, and are thus effectively undeniably true, if we are to be rational.

    As an existence illustration, I commonly use the Josiah Royce-Elton Trueblood case: error exists.

    This category of truths includes, in my considered opinion, certain first principles of right reason, especially the classic triad: identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle regarding distinct entities. (I often use the illustration of dichotomising the world into A and not-A, where A is say a bright red ball sitting on a table. And no, Quantum mechanics is NOT a counter-example, in fact it is premised on these points, in many ways, cf this UD Weak Argument Corrective here and onward. My view on this goes back to when I studied QM way back now. SB has summed up the matter aptly: “Scientists do not use observed evidence to evaluate the principles of logic; they use the principles of logic to evaluate such evidence.”)

    Ironically, those who are ever so convinced of their cleverness — brights, they call themselves — and are ever so prone to emotively deride and dismiss those they differ with with clever in-group selectively hyperskeptical and bias-driven neologisms such as “woo” — too often turn out to only be reflecting someone’s party-line that is in fact too often sophomoric at best. (Which is a main point of the original post.)

    KF

    KF

  52. KF: re #50.

    No, I’m sorry, but you cannot claim that your outrage at a particular act can ground an absolute moral imperative. You are outraged at the two examples you cited, as am I, but our outrage in no way implies that there is therefore a universal moral imperative involved. The perpetrators of each of those acts, and many others from the same cultural milieu, obviously see them as morally justified. Hence moral relativism.

    The only warrant for an absolute moral imperative is direct revelation from God—clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous—and this we simply do not have, as I have argued above.

    Given the absence of such a warrant, each of us is of necessity thrown onto our own resources and our own best judgment regarding moral decisions. There is simply no other option.

    Your arguments are just that—your arguments, your reasoning, as is Kant’s, Bentham’s, and all the other philosophers who attempted to derive moral truth. Those who attempt to derive morality from their scripture of choice must in all cases decide for themselves how said scripture is to be correctly interpreted. Those who choose to take the word of some authority are still responsible for deciding in whom to place that trust. And on and on. In all cases, the final authority for our moral judgments is each of us. There is no escape.

    And personally, I think God wants it that way. Morality, which of necessity includes judgment of our fellow man, stands between us and love. We cannot love when we judge, and God is interested in love, not judgment.

    Outrage and judgment will never change the minds of the Taliban militants who shot Malala Yousafzai, who, after all, are convinced that they are doing the will of Allah. Only love has any chance at all of bringing them into connection with their own essential loving nature. The fact that they are so far out of touch with that nature is a cause for compassion, actually. Forgive them, for they know not what they do, and they suffer for it, although they may not be aware of it.

  53. BD:

    It is patently obvious that you cannot bring yourself to say that it is perfectly in order to torture and perhaps murder a child, and that all that we can bring up to opposes this is anger and force to impose our will.

    That speaks volumes.

    As in, you cannot bring yourself to say, that your view implies that might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    In short, radical relativism opens the door to amorality and nihilism, often at first via the dehumanisation and/or demonisation of the intended targets.

    Now, the perpetrators may well see themselves justified, as did the Nazis and the operators of the gulag, or those who operated the slave trade and plantation system. And, they had the power to back up what they did.

    But that has nothing to do with whether they were actually right or wrong. The issue is whether they were ACTUALLY in the right or wrong, and it is quite evident that all of these were morally monstrous, though the callous or indoctrinated and manipulated may not see or be willing to acknowledge it.

    (The rage and attempt to intimidate into silence with which such often react to public exposure and to name- it- and- shame- it of what they have done, though, is telling. Those who hide and try to silence exposure, are by their behaviour exposing that they deep down concur with the judgement, only, they hope to do evil that they may gain an advantage of some kind. In the case of torture and honour killing being mentioned, it is evident that there is an attempt to preserve family “honour,” by something that is twisted. And, it seems to be driven by a despising of females as inferior creatures who are a gateway to being shamed. The recent case of a young boy battered, burned and murdered for failing be able to to memorise religious texts, shows a failure to recognise that a child is to be respected, even if that child is either a discipline problem or one of low mental ability. And as for the case of the young lady handed over to another family in “payment” for the crime of a male relative, and then having her nose cut off and who was then left to die in the cold, that is in effect turning a human being into a commodity, even if disguised as a marriage — which was forced.)

    And, to see the principle that allows us to make an objective judgement, we simply need to acknowledge the common moral worth of one another. As the judicious canon Hooker long ago noted, consistent thinking on such will point to the principles.

    Now, as to the roots of such moral worth, that is another question. One that in fact goes to the key moral dilemma of evolutionary materialism, as the only ground in the end is going to have to be in a worldview foundational IS that is both good and the source of creation including of ourselves.

    And the obvious further point is that we find ourselves under moral government as we have been implanted with moral law and associated capability to reason concerning moral matters. But, that being under moral law is massively evident from how we characteristically think and even disagree on moral points, by trying to point out how the other party is in the WRONG.

    And, I am by no means convinced that we are tossed back on reasoning form individual notions and in idiosyncratic ways. There is far too much of a consensus on major moral themes for that. There are no societies of consequence that cherish cowardice in battle, or betrayal of trust, or fraud and rapine etc in the in-group or murder of those who are recognised as of full moral worth etc.

    That consistency tells against us, and it tells decisively against amoral, nihilist systems so much so that we can discredit them as viable worldviews.

    As to the misbehaviour of Taliban etc, the first thing is that they try to hide what they do, or to intimidate critique into silence. That tells me that there is some shame there that needs to be stirred, and then called forth into penitence and responding with respect, thus love and responsible behaviour.

    I also think we need to distinguish between war crimes and crimes in the context of an established and legitimate civil order from issues of education and moral suasion. In that context there is legitimate policing power that uses the power of the sword and the judge’s bench in defence of the civl peace of justice, and legitimate defence against those who would seize and dominate then oppress. But that does not justify taking policing power to oppress, and to tyrannise on the conscience or impose manipulative censorship — including under false colours of education — are plainly improper.

    KF

  54. KF: Your objection that “[my] view implies that might and manipulation make ‘right.’” is a classic example of trying to refute an argument by pointing out that it has implications that you don’t like. This is not a refutation.

    Nothing you have said refutes my point that in the absence of a direct, clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous mandate from the Creator, we are each on our own to determine what constitutes morally upright behavior. All your arguments are just your grappling with that problem for yourself, and then proclaiming that your conclusions have the authority of absolute truth.

    You also continue to ignore my alternative to judgment, which is love.

    Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    A life lived from love will not “torture and perhaps murder a child”. Love never operates from “might makes right”. And it never engages in “dehumanisation and/or demonisation of the intended targets.”

    What a life lived from love does require is the abandonment of judgment. Rather, it lives in kindness and compassion, even compassion for those who perpetrate acts that are cruel and heartless, because it understands that such acts arise from people who have lost their connection with their own highest and deepest nature, from God, from their fellow human beings, and indeed, from love.

    And only love has the possibility of rescuing them. Judgment is powerless in that regard.

  55. KF (54):

    Now, the perpetrators may well see themselves justified, as did the Nazis and the operators of the gulag, or those who operated the slave trade and plantation system. And, they had the power to back up what they did.

    But that has nothing to do with whether they were actually right or wrong. The issue is whether they were ACTUALLY in the right or wrong, and it is quite evident that all of these were morally monstrous, though the callous or indoctrinated and manipulated may not see or be willing to acknowledge it.

    I agree with you that all the examples cited are hideous and wrong. But the people who perpetrated those acts clearly felt otherwise. So how are we, as human beings, supposed to pick moral absolutes when ‘we’ disagree? You and I might be able to come up with a list of ‘oughts’, but there will be those whose list is different. Who is ‘right’? How is that determined?

  56. Bruce David

    A life lived from love will not “torture and perhaps murder a child”. Love never operates from “might makes right”. And it never engages in “dehumanisation and/or demonisation of the intended targets.”

    If, as you say, we are free to choose our own morality, why can we not also choose our own interpretation of what it means to love? Clearly, you arrogate to yourself that very same right in the name of personal choice. If, as you say, there is no objective truth with respect to morality, then it follows that there is no objective truth with respect to love.

    So, if a child murderer claims that he is loving in his own way, or if someone who participates in dehumanization claims that he is loving in his own way, you are, by your own perverse reasoning, bound to respect his view. Who are you to say that the dehumanizer is not living his life from love? According to your standard, he is entitled to decide for himself what it means to love.

  57. StephenB, re #57:

    You don’t “choose” an “interpretation of what it means to love.” Love is what you are. Acting from your deepest and highest nature (the image and likeness of God) has nothing to do with “interpretation” or what your reason tells you love is. It comes from an entirely different place; it involves a whole different kind of knowing. As my teacher, Reshad Feild, once said, “Reason is powerless in the expression of Love.”

    And I can recognize Love acting in another when I see it, because I have direct knowledge of what Love is (since it is what I am in my deepest essence). Likewise, I can recognize when another is acting from a motivation that is other than Love. Being speaks for itself. When Love is present it is unmistakable; it shines like a beacon; it cannot be missed, and it cannot be counterfeited.

    In addition, because I have direct knowledge of what Love is, I know that there are acts that Love will never sponsor. Love doesn’t murder children, regardless of what the murderer may claim regarding his or her motivation.

    I know you won’t accept what I have said. It really doesn’t matter to me. What I have said in the above two paragraphs is a reflection of my direct experience. It isn’t some theory. I know the truth of it because I have lived it.

  58. Correction to #58: The phrase, “the above two paragraphs” in the final paragraph should read, “the above three paragraphs”.

  59. Bruce (58):

    In addition, because I have direct knowledge of what Love is, I know that there are acts that Love will never sponsor. Love doesn’t murder children, regardless of what the murderer may claim regarding his or her motivation.

    Just playing Devil’s Advocate here . . .

    Are you accounting for mercy killings? Say the child was in hideous pain and debilitating and deteriorating circumstances like cancer which they were not going to get over? Or the big baddies were coming with bayonets wiping out everyone brutally and viscously?

    Apparently, during some of the conquests of Jerusalem during the Crusades the victors rampaged through the streets killing at will ’til the streets were flowing with blood. I can’t say, never having been subjected to such an atrocity, but I can conceived of not wanting my loved ones to suffer a painful and scary death when death was inevitable. Is that murder? It is love surely.

  60. Folks

    Some quick notes on points:

    1: BD, 55: a classic example of trying to refute an argument by pointing out that it has implications that you don’t like. This is not a refutation.

    On the contrary, I am pointing out a reduction to absurdity by direct contrast to patent fact. The very fact that you cannot come out and openly support torture and murder of innocent children shows that you know we are morally governed and that this is a clear case of what ought not to be done.

    Yet, you advocate a radical relativism that boils down to just such, might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    2: in the absence of a direct, clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous mandate from the Creator, we are each on our own to determine what constitutes morally upright behavior.

    Which is a form of saying just what I pointed out, unless we understand that we are morally governed and that this points to the only morally credible worldviews being such that they have a foundational IS that grounds OUGHT. Where also, the only credible candidate for such is the inherently good Creator and architect of our world. Which would have us endowed with inalienable rights rooted in our being made in his image and duty-bound to respect that image in one another. Hence, the patent duty of neighbour-love and associated mutual respect.

    3: You also continue to ignore my alternative to judgment, which is love.

    Given what I have plainly and repeatedly stated and linked, this is a strawman.

    4: Jerad, 56: I agree with you that all the examples cited are hideous and wrong. But the people who perpetrated those acts clearly felt otherwise. So how are we, as human beings, supposed to pick moral absolutes when ‘we’ disagree?

    The first issue is to understand what an absolute moral standard is: that which is true and right, the whole relevant truth and right, and nothing but the whole relevant truth and right. Like pure, undiluted unadulterated untainted milk.

    This, we plainly fall short of, all of us.

    So, the first step is that what we can attain to is the path of virtue that acknowledges and seeks to live by the objectively true and right, slowly and painfully correcting our errors and wrongs.

    That means, we need criteria of detecting and correcting our errors and wrongs by “the candle that is set up in us.” (I here Echo Locke in the intro to the essay on human understanding sect 5, and his allusion to Solomon in Prov 20:7.)

    Locke clips “the judicious” canon Hooker, from his Ecclesiastical Polity, in his 2nd Essay on Civil Govt, sect 2.5, as he lays the foundation for modern democratic polity with liberty and justice for all. Let me clip and extend from Hooker, where he cites Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics:

    . . . 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]

    Given that this is a learned and deeply respected canon, it should not surprise us to see that this echoes Paul, Jesus and Moses alike, on the Golden Rule. The broad base of sources on such ethical reasoning that could be brought to bear in unison, also highlights that there is indeed a candle set up within us that is a moral compass that, duly encouraged, leads us in the struggle of virtue.

    However, in society, we also have wolves and vultures, so we need shepherds and sheep dogs — genetic wolves who have taken up a new role under the shepherd.

    5: SB, 57: If, as you say, we are free to choose our own morality, why can we not also choose our own interpretation of what it means to love? Clearly, you arrogate to yourself that very same right in the name of personal choice. If, as you say, there is no objective truth with respect to morality, then it follows that there is no objective truth with respect to love.

    Very well put, as usual. You and GP are tremendous assets to this site.

    6: BD, 58: You don’t “choose” an “interpretation of what it means to love.” Love is what you are. Acting from your deepest and highest nature (the image and likeness of God) has nothing to do with “interpretation” or what your reason tells you love is.

    With all due respect, this is wrong, and it is patently wrong. Perception, evaluation, decision and thought-guided action are through and through aspects of love. Let me clip 1 Cor 13:

    4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;2 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    8 Love never ends.

    It should be plain that the cognitive is just as much part of love as anything else. Here, through appropriately viewing, valuing, caring and serving.

    7:Jerad, 60: Say the child was in hideous pain and debilitating and deteriorating circumstances like cancer which they were not going to get over?

    This reflects a major gap in US medicine, in pain management. Because of the panic-driven decisions taken on narcotics, pain management has been mishandled for decades.

    There is no reason for anyone to suffer in unendurable pain.

    Mere pain is no grounds for thinking that killing in the name of caring is justified.

    This is in fact a first step down the path of the cascade from abortion on demand to euthanasia to forced so-called mercy killing to genocide.

    That is a path that was walked in Germany across the first half of C20, and we do not need to go back there.

    Period.

    Likewise, we have no basis for playing God, whether at Masada in the teeth of Roman Legions, or at any number of cities attacked by the historic or current Jihadists, or scripturally ill-advised crusaders, or Genghis Khan’s hordes, etc.

    What we have done by way of reform is to try to codify laws of war, define and punish war crimes.

    KF

    PS: Notice the continued silence on the issue of Dawkins’ dismissal of the historicity of Jesus and the centrality of that historicity to the NT, including the epistles. This is beginning to join the growing list of Darwinist do not touch and/or twist into pretzels issues: OOL, OO body plans in light of the Cambrian, the contradictory trees of life, lack of empirical evidence of the causal effectiveness of blind chance and mechanical necessity to originate FSCO/I etc.

  61. Bruce David:

    In addition, because I have direct knowledge of what Love is, I know that there are acts that Love will never sponsor. Love doesn’t murder children, regardless of what the murderer may claim regarding his or her motivation.

    And this is true for all, and objective, or true only for you?

  62. Jerad:

    Apparently, during some of the conquests of Jerusalem during the Crusades the victors rampaged through the streets killing at will ’til the streets were flowing with blood.

    Yes, I hear the Turks were particularly bloodthirsty.

  63. Bruce

    Likewise, I can recognize when another is acting from a motivation that is other than Love.

    By your standard, you can recognize when another is not acting from a motivation other than love and he can recognize that same lack in you by his standards. Isn’t relativism wonderful.

    Being speaks for itself. When Love is present it is unmistakable; it shines like a beacon; it cannot be missed, and it cannot be counterfeited.

    So, in your judgment, no one has ever been fooled by a self-serving charlatan who merely pretended to love him/her?

    In addition, because I have direct knowledge of what Love is, I know that there are acts that Love will never sponsor. Love doesn’t murder children, regardless of what the murderer may claim regarding his or her motivation.

    I agree that love doesn’t murder children, and I would hasten to add that it doesn’t kill unborn babies in the womb. Unlike you, I don’t think love would dismember a baby and suck out the body parts for the sake of convenience and then develop a convenient philosophy of life that would rationalize that barbarous act? I, too, know love when I see it, and that isn’t it. So, we are back to the same problem. I know love when I see it and you think you know it when you see it, yet we disagree on its nature. Isn’t relativism wonderful?

    I know you won’t accept what I have said. It really doesn’t matter to me. What I have said in the above two paragraphs is a reflection of my direct experience. It isn’t some theory. I know the truth of it because I have lived it.

    Yet, I have the opposite experience and I, also know the truth because I have lived it. I claim that you are wrong, and you claim that I am wrong. How do we settle that question except to appeal to a higher standard of objective truth as the final arbiter? I say love cannot be separated from truth, but you deny that any such objective truth exists. I rely on experience and the natural moral law that can judge the validity of any moral claim, but you rely solely on experience and justify your moral claims on that basis. If objective truth is not the final arbiter, then only one standard is left—might makes right. I choose the former; you choose the latter, though unwittingly.

  64. Isn’t relativism wonderful?

    It may be wonderful for you, but not for me.

  65. Mung:

    Isn’t it funny how humans, having no free will in the matter, can reach totally contradictory conclusions regarding the truth of a proposition?

    Ilion:

    What’s even funnier is how humans, having no free will in the matter, can recognize when another human has — or they themselves have — previously reached a false conclusion regarding the truth of a proposition.

    indeed

  66. Jerad, re. 60:

    As I said in 26,

    Implicit in this is a recognition that no two moments of Now are ever exactly alike, that acting out of the question, “What would Love do now?” is always a creative act, that the answer to that question in any particular set of circumstances will be found within (it comes to you in the moment), and that it will be unique to those circumstances.

    So yeah, it’s possible that in some extraordinary circumstances, it might be an act of love to end the life of a child. But like you, I would not call that murder (a word I chose carefully in my post for just that reason).

    Mung, re 62: “And this is true for all, and objective, or true only for you?”

    It’s true in my direct experience. Because my beliefs include that the love I experience is a manifestation of the fact that we are made in the “image and likeness” of God, I believe that this love is God’s Love operating in and through me. Since I also assume that every human being is also made by our Creator in His image and likeness, it will be true for everyone who is in touch with their essential nature. And my experience of people who are clearly acting from love confirms these conclusions.

  67. Isn’t relativism wonderful?

    It may be wonderful for you, but not for me.

    That’s right. Relativism is not simply a philosophy of life with no consequences. It get’s people killed.

  68. that should read, “it gets people killed.”

  69. KF:

    On the contrary, I am pointing out a reduction to absurdity by direct contrast to patent fact. The very fact that you cannot come out and openly support torture and murder of innocent children shows that you know we are morally governed and that this is a clear case of what ought not to be done.

    No. It shows that I am governed by Love, which, as I have taken great pains to point out, is essentially different, even antithetical to, morality. The reason it is antithetical is that morality inevitably involves judgment of our fellow human beings, and judgment precludes (or rather masks, blocks the experience of) love.

    Yet, you advocate a radical relativism that boils down to just such, might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    I do not advocate “a radical relativism”. I advocate acting from love. My position on moral relativism, if you will read my posts carefully, is that it is the inescapable human condition. I neither advocate it nor deny it. Rather, I point out that it is simply an unavoidable fact of life here on planet earth, given that God has not provided us with a clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous statement of what constitutes moral behavior.

  70. Bruce David:

    The reason it is antithetical is that morality inevitably involves judgment of our fellow human beings, and judgment precludes (or rather masks, blocks the experience of) love.

    But you’re wrong. Without judgment, there is no mercy.

    Would it be safe to say that you are not a Christian?

  71. 72
    Kantian Naturalist

    I tell my students that “relativism might be true for you, but it is not true for me.” That usually gets some chuckles but the deeper lesson rarely penetrates — that being that “relative” is a comparative term, e.g. “x is P relative to y”, where y is some absolute.

  72. KN,

    Are you familiar with Ernst Cassirer?

    Just ordered his The Philosophy of the Enlightenment

    c.f. Kant’s Life and Thought

  73. Stephen:

    How do we settle that question except to appeal to a higher standard of objective truth as the final arbiter? I say love cannot be separated from truth, but you deny that any such objective truth exists. I rely on experience and the natural moral law that can judge the validity of any moral claim, but you rely solely on experience and justify your moral claims on that basis.

    First of all, I do not justify “[my] moral claims”. If you will read what I write carefully, you will see that I reject the validity of morality altogether. Rather, I advocate deciding what action to take in any given circumstance by asking and answering for yourself the question, “What would Love do now?” My philosophy transcends morality.

    And what, pray tell, is the source of this “natural moral law” of which you speak? Do you have a direct line to God? I submit that the source is you. You decide what natural law is and then proclaim it to be “objective truth”. If you tell me that it is true because it is the result of reason, I would ask you what makes your reasoning power more accurate than the many other thinkers, at least as smart as you, in the history of Western philosophy who have used reason to arrive at different ideas from yours (I know that at most one of them can agree with you because they all disagree with each other!) If you have taken it whole cloth from some other thinker, then I would point out that it is you who have decided which particular thinker is correct.

    But however you have arrived at your particular formulation, it is you who have decided to accept that one and reject the many other candidates for moral law.

    In other words, you are the source of your moral judgments, just as we all are the source of ours. Each of us must ultimately decide for ourselves what, if anything, constitutes moral behavior.

    I know that you would like to have “a higher standard of object truth” when it comes to morality, but I’m afraid it doesn’t exist. You’re on your own, just like the rest of us.

    If objective truth is not the final arbiter, then only one standard is left—might makes right.

    That is simply incorrect. The truth is that each of us decides for himself what constitutes moral behavior. “Might makes right.” is one possible choice. But many—most, in fact—moral relativists do not choose that option. Like my brother, the atheist, who is one of the kindest, most upright, and most honest men I know. He has clearly chosen a different standard for himself than “might makes right”. There is nothing in moral relativism that imposes the standard of “might makes right”. It’s an option, I agree, but one seldom chosen, if you consider the population as a whole.

  74. 75
    Kantian Naturalist

    Mung, I haven’t read Philosophy of the Enlightenment, but I have read his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, volume 3: Phenomenology of Knowledge. Really good stuff!

  75. Bruce David

    That is simply incorrect. The truth is that each of us decides for himself what constitutes moral behavior. “Might makes right.” is one possible choice. But many—most, in fact—moral relativists do not choose that option.

    “Might makes right” follows moral relativism as surely as the night follows the day. No society has ever successfully managed a hundred or a thousand different moral codes at the same time. In the absence of an objective moral code, multiple personal codes of conduct come into conflict with each other, creating chaos. To re-establish unity, the most powerful members of that culture seize control and intrude their code of preference, tyrannizing all competitors. There are no exceptions to the rule.

  76. To re-establish unity, the most powerful members of that culture seize control and intrude their code of preference, tyrannizing all competitors. There are no exceptions to the rule.

    And without exception, the tyrannisers insist on the objectivity of their version of morality. To whit: Stalinism, and religions of all dominant varieties.
    ______

    And today’s versions of evolutionary materialist scientism, which absolutises their institutionalised preferences under the name of relativism and tolerance, similar to what happened under the French, German and Russian revolutions, just to highlight three. I note as well that the point of “objective” is that we may and do err. So, the issue of warrant comes to the fore. That which an ideologue announces as so, is not necessarily so. But, no one has yet bettered the premise that we are equally in the image of the inherently good Creator God, and so have a mutual duty of respect and neighbour love in light of that common nature. Hence the principles and rules that “the judicious” canon Hooker pointed to, and cited, even listing from Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics. KF

  77. BD: Sadly, you have only managed to underscore the force of the reductio ad absurdum. Please, please, please think again. KF

  78. What I find hard to understand is how other Christians have distorted and used the same basic texts to oppress and slaughter those who disagree with them. And not only Jews or Muslims. If you are not aware of the persecution of the Waldensians I recommend you read up on it. The Wikipedia article is as good a place to start as any. Here is an excerpt from the section on The Piedmont Easter:

    By mid-April, when it became clear that the Duke’s efforts to force the Vaudois to conform to Catholicism had failed, he tried another approach. Under the guise of false reports of Vaudois uprisings, the Duke sent troops into the upper valleys to quell the local populace. He required that the local populace quarter the troops in their homes, which the local populace complied with. But the quartering order was a ruse to allow the troops easy access to the populace. On 24 April 1655, at 4 a.m., the signal was given for a general massacre.

    The Catholic forces did not simply slaughter the inhabitants. They are reported to have unleashed an unprovoked campaign of looting, rape, torture, and murder. According to one report by a Peter Liegé: “Little children were torn from the arms of their mothers, clasped by their tiny feet, and their heads dashed against the rocks; or were held between two soldiers and their quivering limbs torn up by main force. Their mangled bodies were then thrown on the highways or fields, to be devoured by beasts. The sick and the aged were burned alive in their dwellings. Some had their hands and arms and legs lopped off, and fire applied to the severed parts to staunch the bleeding and prolong their suffering. Some were flayed alive, some were roasted alive, some disemboweled; or tied to trees in their own orchards, and their hearts cut out. Some were horribly mutilated, and of others the brains were boiled and eaten by these cannibals. Some were fastened down into the furrows of their own fields, and ploughed into the soil as men plough manure into it. Others were buried alive. Fathers were marched to death with the heads of their sons suspended round their necks. Parents were compelled to look on while their children were first outraged [raped], then massacred, before being themselves permitted to die.”

    This was all sanctioned by Rome. Against other Christians in Europe. How am I to ever trust anyone who says they know THE moral code when that kind of surety leads to horrors like the above? What criteria can be used to be sure when people who use the same holy scripture are capable of such atrocities against their fellow believers?

    (Some of the Protestant countries tried to help, this was all part of the 120 years or so of religious wars that raged across Europe after Martin Luther nailed up his 95 protests.)

    How can we know what is true and right? Who has the right to say?

  79. Jerad:

    You err on your history, but I must also note that it is possible to have Christians erring grievously in handling scripture and doing grave wrongs, without undermining the very premise by which we recognise such to be wrong: there is that which is objectively right and that which is objectively wrong. Which entails, that we can access adequate warrant to discern the two.

    Now, in the medieval period you advert to, and in the case of Torquemada and co, it is not the teachings of the scriptures on core ethics, but the imposition of power and the flying the false colours of godliness, that did the trick. Power, after all, tends to corrupt is proverbial.

    That is why St Francis rebuked the Crusaders by example, and it is why Torquemada was rebuked by the two leading saints in Spain at the time. Less saintly people were such that he had to be guarded by a troop.

    You are clipping a bit that seems to come from the wars with the Cathars, which fall into the same pattern. I should note that the fighting was started by the Cathars.

    Similarly, the wars over the Protestant reformation, were wars among stubborn power elites, not matters of serious and sober discussion of what is warranted. The list of wars started by power agendas and enforced by pride, stubbornness etc, is long. The American Civil War is but one example and should be contrasted with the case of how slavery was abolished in the British Empire with far less bloodshed.

    In other words,the issue is that we need to be MORE consistently and thoroughly moral, not less.

    The matter is not WHO is right, but WHAT is right, on what grounds.

    I have no brief to try to defend Islam, much less IslamIST radicalism.

    This is a distinct tradition, with its own challenges, and to juxtapose like you did raises the question of invidious association that works rhetorically through guilt by psychological association and atmosphere poisoning.

    Let’s just say for the moment on Islam, that once M went to Yathrib and became a warlord (inter alia slaughtering an entire Jewish tribe of 600 – 900 men in the process and taking the women and children), his Medinan — new name for Yathrib — stances and teachings shifted sharply in ways conducive to that aggressive role. The key problem is that there is a principle of abrogation by which the Medinan teachings supersede the more irenic Meccan ones of the period before.

    But the bottomline is that if we can recognise these wrongs as wrongs, then that means we imply that there are rights, and the possibility of being wrong when one imagines himself right. Familiar, doubtless from arithmetic.

    So, we are right back at the core issue: there is objective right and wrong, and we can recognise it by reference to core and self evident principles of morality tracing to our common human nature and experience of the world.

    The fondness of too many secularists for one-sidedly pointing out that religious people and institutions have a history of being wrong even in gross ways, while failing to acknowledge what the ghosts of over 100 million victims of secularist regimes in the past century remind us of, is telling.

    So is what StephenB is highlighting: the US Abortion holocaust, sponsored by the institutionalised relativists, is now well past 50 millions. And that this is sold under the label of “a woman’s right to choose,” is both utterly cynical — for a right is a MORAL claim based on one’s inherent nature (and unborn babied credibly or at least arguably share that nature and so have a patent claim on the first right: life) — and hypocritical. For, if my right is to be recognised, I have a plain duty to recognise the rights of others who share the same nature.

    As I am not an American, I can say plainly what I think.

    Too often the litanies of accusations against Christians in the contemporary USA, serve only to distract attention from those who are busily imposing her agendas that have led to this legalised slaughter of almost unprecedented proportions, and who are busy pushing for the legal distortion of the creation order nature of marriage, KNOWING that this will criminalise serious Christian faith and that Christians who are serious will take this as a hill to stand and die on. (And of course twisting morality about to project the smear term, bigotry, against those who stand for that which is patent from the order of creation, is just as cynical.)

    With that in focus, we can see such for what they are and brush aside all the atmosphere-poisoning talking points that try to belittle or denigrate or dehumanise and demonise the intended targets of the new pogroms to be.

    There is no excuse, especially knowing as well that what is being fatally undermined is the foundational institution for stable society, the family.

    Our civilisation is being weighted in the balance as we speak, and found sadly wanting.

    And, the vultures are circling.

    So, if you want to play at atmosphere poisoning, there are far closer examples to hand that run the other way.

    Instead, I suggest that we can focus on the core fact: by our behaviour and words, even those who espouse relativism, end up affirming or implying the objectivity of morality.

    That brings us to the focal issue, OUGHT is credibly real, and objectively identifiable in sufficient cases to make it clear that it is central. We therefore need to ask ourselves what sort of worldview foundation has in it an IS that can ground that OUGHT.

    The first candidate on the table is the inherently good Creator God.

    Is there another?

    Failing such, the choice of serious worldviews, worldviews we can live with as moral creatures, is set in the circle of theistic views or their near relatives such as Deism.

    Which means that materialistic views are off the table, for instance.

    (Which also means that today’s institutionalised evolutionary materialism is counter to good community order. On the premise that truth is unified, those who advocate such in the name of science had better do some serious rethinking. Where also, we know that an obvious alternative, to see that the cosmos and certain features therein are replete with observable signs that on much testing reliably point to design, is by and large being suppressed not on evidence but on a priori imposition of evolutionary materialism.)

    KF

  80. KF (80):

    You are clipping a bit that seems to come from the wars with the Cathars, which fall into the same pattern. I should note that the fighting was started by the Cathars.

    The Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars had one of its worst moments in the siege of Carcassonne in the early 1200s. It was also a horrible example of how people of faith can behave against their fellow human beings: Again from Wikipedia:

    The Cathars spent much of 1209 fending off the crusaders. The leader of the crusaders, Simon de Montfort, resorted to primitive psychological warfare. He ordered his troops to gouge out the eyes of 100 prisoners, cut off their noses and lips, then send them back to the towers led by a prisoner with one remaining eye. This only served to harden the resolve of the Cathars.
    The Béziers army attempted a sortie but was quickly defeated, then pursued by the crusaders back through the gates and into the city. Arnaud, the Cistercian abbot-commander, is supposed to have been asked how to tell Cathars from Catholics. His reply, recalled by Caesar of Heisterbach, a fellow Cistercian, thirty years later was “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”—”Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own.” The doors of the church of St Mary Magdalene were broken down and the refugees dragged out and slaughtered. Reportedly, 7,000 people died there. Elsewhere in the town many more thousands were mutilated and killed. Prisoners were blinded, dragged behind horses, and used for target practice. What remained of the city was razed by fire. Arnaud wrote to Pope Innocent III, “Today your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex.” The permanent population of Béziers at that time was then probably no more than 5,000, but local refugees seeking shelter within the city walls could conceivably have increased the number to 20,000.

    The Cathars were effectively eliminated within 100 years whereas the Waldensians were not persecuted for another 200+ years after that.

    In other words,the issue is that we need to be MORE consistently and thoroughly moral, not less.

    The matter is not WHO is right, but WHAT is right, on what grounds.

    I agree with you but there seems to be a wide variety of opinion of WHAT is right. And the opinions vary from place to place and from time to time.

    This is a distinct tradition, with its own challenges, and to juxtapose like you did raises the question of invidious association that works rhetorically through guilt by psychological association and atmosphere poisoning.

    I could pick any culture, just about any religious tradition. Maybe not the Quakers, they do seem pretty peaceful. I picked the Waldensian and Albigensian Crusades because I know something about them and I find them particularly abhorrent as they were perpetrated on ‘fellow’ Christians. And the imprecation to “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own” is surely one of the most heinous statements ever recorded. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

    But the bottomline is that if we can recognise these wrongs as wrongs, then that means we imply that there are rights, and the possibility of being wrong when one imagines himself right. Familiar, doubtless from arithmetic.

    So, we are right back at the core issue: there is objective right and wrong, and we can recognise it by reference to core and self evident principles of morality tracing to our common human nature and experience of the world.

    But the perpetrators of the European Crusades came from the same background and the same moral traditions as those they slaughtered. If there are objective morals and standards then how could they get it so terribly wrong in reference to their fellow countrymen?

    So is what StephenB is highlighting: the US Abortion holocaust, sponsored by the institutionalised relativists, is now well past 50 millions. And that this is sold under the label of “a woman’s right to choose,” is both utterly cynical — for a right is a MORAL claim based on one’s inherent nature (and unborn babied credibly or at least arguably share that nature and so have a patent claim on the first right: life) — and hypocritical. For, if my right is to be recognised, I have a plain duty to recognise the rights of others who share the same nature.

    Case in point: I agree with abortion on demand at least up to a reasonable threshold currently set at about 25 weeks I believe. Does that make me amoral? Wrong? I’m not some hideous, wicked person who thinks nothing of inflicting pain and agony on others. I’m highly educated and come from an American Christian background.

    Too often the litanies of accusations against Christians in the contemporary USA, serve only to distract attention from those who are busily imposing her agendas that have led to this legalised slaughter of almost unprecedented proportions, and who are busy pushing for the legal distortion of the creation order nature of marriage, KNOWING that this will criminalise serious Christian faith and that Christians who are serious will take this as a hill to stand and die on. (And of course twisting morality about to project the smear term, bigotry, against those who stand for that which is patent from the order of creation, is just as cynical.)

    If I disagree with you about abortion and gay marriage then I’m in the wrong? Your version of morals is correct and mine is incorrect?

    Are the people who murder abortion doctors right or wrong?

    There is no excuse, especially knowing as well that what is being fatally undermined is the foundational institution for stable society, the family.

    Our civilisation is being weighted in the balance as we speak, and found sadly wanting.

    And, the vultures are circling.

    So, if you want to play at atmosphere poisoning, there are far closer examples to hand that run the other way.

    There are examples in all cultures of course. I use the ones I am more familiar with.

    That brings us to the focal issue, OUGHT is credibly real, and objectively identifiable in sufficient cases to make it clear that it is central. We therefore need to ask ourselves what sort of worldview foundation has in it an IS that can ground that OUGHT.

    The first candidate on the table is the inherently good Creator God.

    Is there another?

    And who speaks for this Creator God in a voice and manner that we all can hear and not misinterpret? Unlike the Crusaders.

  81. 82

    @StephenB:
    Wouldn’t it be the same situation when people are sure that there’s an objective morality, but have different opinions of what the objective morality is?

    Look: “(…) multiple personal codes of conduct come into conflict with each other, creating chaos. To re-establish unity, the most powerful members of that culture seize control and intrude their code of preference, tyrannizing all competitors. There are no exceptions to the rule.”

    I don’t think there’s really a human solution to such problems. However Christians do know that a time will come when Christendom, Humanism and other religions will be destroyed and Jesus can claim his throne under his father to reestablish paradise on earth.

  82. Jerad:

    Yes, there were awful things done in the name of religion. Yes, there are awful things being done and also that were done in living memory in the name of secularist ideologies.

    Did you see that I spoke to both?

    Have you understood that I have repeatedly pointed out that while we are under moral government — which you acknowledge by making appeals to outrage — we face a common problem that we are finite, fallible, morally fallen/struggling, and too often ill-willed? Did you notice how I kept highlighting that power elites face the problem that power tends to corrupt and power without effective accountability corrupts without limit, so that by and large the great ones of history are bad men? Do you understand that a major reason for the rise of democracy was the idea that an informed public should regularly hold leaders to account for their stewardship? Have you seen that one of my concerns is that we have a modern media culture that is more inclined to manipulate than to soundly and fairly inform?

    Do you not see that — given the grievous sins of post-Christendom — the time for rhetorical games where one tries to discredit the Judaeo-Christian foundations of our civilisation by pointing to the sins of Christendom has long since passed?

    And, did you see that I pointed out that playing the invidious association game will go nowhere positive, but that it will distract from the key point?

    Again, why do we see the wars over the Cathars as having atrocious things done? Why do we see the Gulags and the Holocaust as awful? Why are there troubling questions over 53 million abortions since 1973 in the US and a global total that I have seen that I find it hard to believe?

    Again, because we realise that there is something that is recognisibly wrong.

    That is, that objective wrong and right exist.

    So, OUGHT is real.

    All this ends up highlighting is that we need an IS that grounds OUGHT in the foundation of our worldviews.

    And, BTW, here is the scriptural answer to what was being done the Cathar wars:

    Rom 13: 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    That’s Paul. He was citing Moses:

    Lev 19: 15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

    16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.

    18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

    In so citing Moses, he was following Jesus:

    Mt 22: 37 . . . “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    KF

  83. KF (83):

    I agree there are examples from all creeds and cultures. I somehow expect better of the Christians though. They read the same Bible you read and yet . . .

    I agree: we should love our neighbours as ourselves. I just see most people not doing that. And so I keep wondering: if there is an OUGHT and it’s obvious and easy why isn’t it followed? Just this last week a prison official was killed in Northern Ireland by partisan thugs just because he worked at a prison where Irish Republicans were trying to stage a no-wash protest.

    Sometimes I dispair greatly just observing those who have no excuse for not knowing what is right and just. It’s easier for me to believe in relativism since it seems that’s the way thing really work. Everyone thinks they’re right.

  84. Jerad:

    The right is not the easy. (Clausewitz said that in war everything is simple, but the simplest things are hard to do.)

    And, sadly, the powerful seldom seek to do the right instead of the advantageous. Even, in a nominally Christian polity.

    Never mind, the present post-Christian ones.

    KF

  85. Bruce David:

    Do you have a direct line to God?

    Yes.

  86. JWTruthInLove

    Wouldn’t it be the same situation when people are sure that there’s an objective morality, but have different opinions of what the objective morality is?

    Among those who accept the tenets of objective morality (Ten Commandments, Natural Moral Law, Sermon On The Mount, Beatitudes) there are no differing opinions on the basics. That is why they are called objective. They are not made up; they are recognized for what they are. Everyone, including society’s leaders are supposed to follow them.

    Subjective morality is different because everyone feels free to go his own way, choosing or inventing a morality that seems congenial with his inclinations. When multiple personal codes of conduct (varying forms of individualistic subjective morality) come into conflict with each other, creating chaos, the most powerful members of that culture re-establish unity by seizing control and establishing their own subjective moral code of preference. That means that the people are held accountable to them, but they are held accountable to no one.

    I don’t think there’s really a human solution to such problems.

    The solution always take the form of a unifying civil law that decides who is going to be rewarded and punished and for what. That civil law, in turn, is always based on [a] the objective moral law, [b] the whims of the majority, or [c] the whims or religion of the ruling class. It is only in the case of [a] that all the people, including the rulers, are held accountable.

  87. Jerad:

    And so I keep wondering: if there is an OUGHT and it’s obvious and easy why isn’t it followed?

    The question should be it’s own answer. People are doing the easy thing. It’s the hard thing they choose not to do.

    And your cherry-picking appears just a tad bigoted.

    The Black Book of Communism

    Democide

    The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality in the Twentieth Century

  88. Mung, BD and Jerad:

    All of us do (or, may) have a pretty direct line to God.

    Namely, a well adjusted, well cultivated conscience.

    Here, again, is Locke in the intro to the essay on human understanding, sect 5:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke's allusions and citations.]

    KF

  89. Jerad

    I just see most people not doing that. And so I keep wondering: if there is an OUGHT and it’s obvious and easy why isn’t it followed?

    From a societal point of view, a good culture is one in which it is easy to be good and hard to be bad; a bad culture is one in which it is easy to be bad and hard to be good.

    From a personal point of view, it is often hard to do the right thing and easy to do the wrong thing. It’s easier to be ruled by sexual passion than to control it. It’s easier to kill a baby than to raise it. It’s easier to pretend that no moral law exists than to change one’s immoral behavior. It’s easier to fall for a lie than to stand up for the truth.

    Everyone knows, or at least once knew, that objective morality is real. Unfortunately, those who stray from the truth and form bad habits by following their own way can lose their capacity to recognize that which was once obvious to them. Smart people can suddenly become dull witted when the subject matter turns to God and morality.

    One of the silliest things a moral relativist can do is to suggest that because many churchgoers who claim to believe in a moral code do not follow it, that same code must not exist. The reason it is a silly argument is that it assumes that those who are guilty of this kind of hypocrisy have violated the very same objective moral code that is being denied in the name of moral relativism.

  90. Stephen B: re 76

    “Might makes right” follows moral relativism as surely as the night follows the day. No society has ever successfully managed a hundred or a thousand different moral codes at the same time. In the absence of an objective moral code, multiple personal codes of conduct come into conflict with each other, creating chaos. To re-establish unity, the most powerful members of that culture seize control and intrude their code of preference, tyrannizing all competitors. There are no exceptions to the rule.

    So Stephen, do you live in the same country that I do (the United States)? I haven’t noticed any storm troupers knocking on my door warning me to amend my moral views to be more in line with the “most powerful members” of my culture, whoever they may be.

    This is the most pluralistic country in the world. Every major religion and many of the minor ones are represented here. No one is demanding that they all abide by some standard “code of preference.”

    Got any other arguments that demonstrate that “might makes right” follows from moral relativism?

  91. Bruce David:

    Do you have a direct line to God?

    Don’t you?

  92. BD:

    Yet; in numbers.

    (Some laws and agendas being passed or pushed, unfortunately can easily open the gateway for such. And what agency was it recently noted as getting was it 175,000 bullets? Oh yes, Social Security Administration.)

    KF

  93. KF:

    BD: Sadly, you have only managed to underscore the force of the reductio ad absurdum. Please, please, please think again. KF

    KF, nothing in my thinking about these matters is absurd. With all due respect, the problem is that you fail to understand it. I attribute this to your commitment to the existence of objective morality, which is so strong that you cannot see beyond it. This phenomenon (being blinded by one’s paradigms) is not uncommon, by the way.

  94. Bruce

    So Stephen, do you live in the same country that I do (the United States)? I haven’t noticed any storm troupers knocking on my door warning me to amend my moral views to be more in line with the “most powerful members” of my culture, whoever they may be.

    The United States civil codes are based on the objective natural moral law, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence (“The Laws of nature” and “Nature’s God). That is why you are free to exercise your right to be who you are or to become who you want to be.

    This is the most pluralistic country in the world. Every major religion and many of the minor ones are represented here. No one is demanding that they all abide by some standard “code of preference.”

    You are obviously unaware of the founding code of your own country. The freedom that your refer to is possible because the unity of Christian principles, not moral relativism, informed the founding documents. True diversity is only possible in the context of unity. Unity without diversity is tyranny; diversity without unity is chaos. No other religion or world view other than Christianity provides for the inherent dignity of the human person and the derivative rights of diverse opinion, due process, self government. It’s all based on the objective moral law.

    Got any other arguments that demonstrate that “might makes right” follows from moral relativism?

    I simply made a statement of fact and you unsuccessfully attempted to refute it by providing an example that proves my point. Obviously, you didn’t know that the United States was founded on the Natural Moral Law. That’s a lot to not know.

  95. Mung: re. 71:

    Yes, it would be accurate to say that I am not a Christian.

    re. 86 & 92:

    Well, I believe that the love I experience, as well as the joy and love of truth, all are from God operating in and through me. In that sense, yes, I have a direct line to God.

    Beyond that, well, I am working on it (daily meditation and contemplation).

    What is the nature of your professed direct line to God?

  96. 97

    @StephenB:
    People of different creeds — objectivists and relativists — agree on things (see the Humanist Manifesto, Koran, …).

    choosing or inventing a morality that seems congenial with his inclinations.

    You’ve just described the world. You’ve choseen your morality because it is more cogenial with your inclination (that is your religion).

    … When multiple personal codes of conduct (varying forms of individualistic subjective morality) come into conflict with each other, creating chaos

    See 91.

    Btw.:

    The civil law (as the bible!!) also uses fuzzy wordings because of the fact that moral code changes from time to time!

    The greatest nations on earth are ruled by warmongers. Morality is in decline. Our intellectuals have fallen for Satan’s lies. Satan has “succesfully” ruled humans for 6000 years.
    Yet, according to you we’re doing fine. Then why should god intervene (which he WILL do, soon)?

  97. 98

    @Bruce David:

    I see you’re, as me, eager of love of truth. I often use the phrase “truth makes you free” — because… it’s the truth. :-)
    Daily meditation, unfortunately, is not enough to let God and his son into your heart. If you like you can visit this site, which provides you with the true Christian perspective on how to “get one” with God. There’s tons of free text- and audio-material:
    http://www.jw.org
    The only direct line to god is reading and UNDERSTANDING the bible.

  98. 99

    @StephenB:
    Think about this one:
    How does USA handle homosexuality? How does Germany handle homosexuality? How does Uganda handle homosexuality?
    What’s the objective moral code here?

  99. JWTruthInLove

    How does USA handle homosexuality? How does Germany handle homosexuality? How does Uganda handle homosexuality?What’s the objective moral code here?

    I am not clear on your meaning. What does “handle” mean? Did you have a specific policy in mind? What does Germany and Uganda have to do with my comment about the U.S. Declaration of Independence? What does “here” refer to in the context of the natural moral law?

  100. Stepehen: re: 95:
    Your statement is,

    No society has ever successfully managed a hundred or a thousand different moral codes at the same time. In the absence of an objective moral code, multiple personal codes of conduct come into conflict with each other, creating chaos.

    The statement is false, as the counter-example of the United States (and a number of other countries) demonstrates. The United States, containing as it does a myriad of religions plus millions of atheists and agnostics who are ipso facto moral relativists does manage hundreds of different moral codes quite nicely.

    On the founding of the United States: It’s quite a stretch to claim that the US was founded on Christian principles. I don’t believe that Christ taught that governments should be representative democracies, nor did he mention separation of powers in his messages to his followers, nor freedom of religion, nor the right to bear arms, nor freedom of the press, nor the Electoral College. The founders were for the most part Christians, yes (as was everyone in those days), but the ideas that informed the founding of this country post date Christianity by almost two millennia. They came from Enlightenment thinkers like Thomas Hobbs, John Locke, and Thomas Paine, and were not part of traditional Christianity at all.

    These ideas were not objective morality, as you claim. Rather they were the particular beliefs of particular men and women. They were not shared by the majority of Christians at the time. They were relative to a minority of thinkers, some of whom happened to use them as a basis for the founding of this country (fortunately). There is no warrant to support the claim that they are universal law or objective morality.

  101. JWTruthInLove@97

    As a general rule, it is a good idea to understand the terms being used and the arguments being made before making an attempt to challenge them. Clearly, you have not met the first condition.

  102. Stephen,

    Our disagreement is two-fold. I contend that:

    1. In the absence of a universal direct revelation from God of a clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous of moral law (which we do not have), all morality is inescapably relative. That is, everyone must decide for him or herself, on his or her own authority, what constitutes moral truth, if anything.

    2. It is false that moral relativism implies that the only standard for morality is “might makes right”.

    So far, you have not successfully refuted either statement.

  103. Bruce

    The statement is false, as the counter-example of the United States (and a number of other countries) demonstrates. The United States, containing as it does a myriad of religions plus millions of atheists and agnostics who are ipso facto moral relativists does manage hundreds of different moral codes quite nicely.

    Frankly, I am stunned at your inability to distinguish between the guiding principles of the natural moral law as a public code, which is the same for everyone (unity), and the myriad of personal beliefs that free individuals are allowed to hold, which varies from person to person (diversity).

    On the founding of the United States: It’s quite a stretch to claim that the US was founded on Christian principles.

    Not only is it not a stretch, it is a fact that the U.S. Constitution was based on Judeo/Christian philosophy.

    I don’t believe that Christ taught that governments should be representative democracies, nor did he mention separation of powers in his messages to his followers, nor freedom of religion, nor the right to bear arms, nor freedom of the press, nor the Electoral College.

    These principles were derived from the Natural Moral Law as understood first by the Catholic Church and later by reformers who aligned themselves with that same natural law tradition. In each case, they appealed to Christian Scripture to support their interpretation, sometimes the Old Testament, sometimes the New Testament. I can’t imagine why you would try to challenge these facts.

    There are many things that The founders were for the most part Christians, yes (as was everyone in those days), but the ideas that informed the founding of this country post date Christianity by almost two millennia. They came from Enlightenment thinkers like Thomas Hobbs, John Locke, and Thomas Paine, and were not part of traditional Christianity at all.

    Enlightenment thinking played a role, but that doesn’t change the foundational principle of the natural moral law or its guiding principles. The enlightenment focused on equality and the importance of the individual, but the Bible does not challenge that notion. Quite the contrary, it illuminates it and puts it in the proper context.

    The inherent dignity of the human person as a child of God is a Biblical position, influencing the policy of due process. The idea of consent of the governed comes from the book of Judges. It wasn’t enlightenment thinking that prompted the founders to call for an official national day of prayer to thank God for the success of their venture.

    These ideas were not objective morality, as you claim. Rather they were the particular beliefs of particular men and women.

    All the founding fathers agreed to establish the government on Christian principles, even the non-Christians agreed that they were the best principles to use, precisely because they were objective.

    They were not shared by the majority of Christians at the time.

    I gather that you didn’t know that the Constitutions for all 50 states (50 out of 50 is a majority, by the way) began by thanking God for their freedom and/or asking God for guidance.

    They were relative to a minority of thinkers, some of whom happened to use them as a basis for the founding of this country (fortunately). There is no warrant to support the claim that they are universal law or objective morality.

    Don’t you know what “natural law” means. It is universal and objective by definition because it refers to the one morality proper to human nature. Because the natural moral law is determined by nature, not the individual, it is universal–ascertainable through reason–prior in time to the one who ascertains. That is where the idea of “natural rights” comes from; they are rights that are inherent in nature and accessible to reason. They are not made up by the individual.

  104. Bruce

    In the absence of a universal direct revelation from God of a clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous of moral law (which we do not have), all morality is inescapably relative. That is, everyone must decide for him or herself, on his or her own authority, what constitutes moral truth, if anything.

    We have such a revelation both in Scripture and in nature. You just happen to be one of those who choose to reject that revelation. Your error is in claiming that since you don’t accept it, it doesn’t exist. On the contrary, like the law of non-contradiction or the law of identity, the natural moral law is a self-evident truth. It cannot be proven because, like other self evident truths (law of non-contradiction), it is the standard by which we prove other things. We don’t reason our way TO self-evident truths; we reason our way FROM them.

    Accordingly, if you don’t agree that it is objectively wrong to murder people, or rape their wives, or torture their children, nothing can be done with you because you have chosen, for one reason or another, to reject the truth of nature’s testimony.

    It is false that moral relativism implies that the only standard for morality is “might makes right”

    .

    You still don’t understand the argument that you are trying to refute. Moral relativism doesn’t “imply that the only moral standard is might makes right.” Moral relativism declares that NO objective morality exists at all, and therefore, that there can be no unifying objective principle on which the civil law can stand, which means that some artificial unifying principle, namely tyranny, must be put in its place to serve that same purpose.

  105. Stephen:

    We have such a revelation both in Scripture and in nature. You just happen to be one of those who choose to reject that revelation.

    No. Scriptural revelation is neither Universal (it is not available to adherents of the many other religions on the planet), nor unambiguous (different people and indeed different Christian sects interpret it quite differently). Therefore, each person must decide for him or herself what it means. Hence, moral relativism. And nature can be interpreted in a hundred different ways.

    On the contrary, like the law of non-contradiction or the law of identity, the natural moral law is a self-evident truth.

    Self-evident to you does not imply self-evident to anyone else. You decide what is self-evident to you. That decision is binding on no-one but yourself. Again, moral relativism.

    Moral relativism declares that NO objective morality exists at all, and therefore, that there can be no unifying objective principle on which the civil law can stand, which means that some artificial unifying principle, namely tyranny, must be put in its place to serve that same purpose.

    It means no such thing. People such as myself could easily decide to create a society based on love as the guiding principle. (A group of us did this in Santa Fe in a small way. We created a new thought “church” we called The Celebration which we governed by consensus—a love based paradigm. It continued in that form for many years.) Moral relativists could just as easily decide to govern themselves by a representative democracy, as have Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. There is nothing in moral relativism that compels “might makes right” as the only option.

    And please, don’t start giving me examples of the tyranny of godless societies. There have been more tyrannical societies based on some notion of objective morality than otherwise. Looking at the historical record, believing in an objective morality would seem to have little or no correlation with one’s propensity to tyranny. I refer you to Jerad’s posts above. There are many more examples from the pages of history as well, such as the way the conquistadors—all devout Catholics including the priests that accompanied them—treated the native populations they conquered in the Americas.

    From 104:

    Don’t you know what “natural law” means. It is universal and objective by definition because it refers to the one morality proper to human nature. Because the natural moral law is determined by nature, not the individual, it is universal–ascertainable through reason–prior in time to the one who ascertains. That is where the idea of “natural rights” comes from; they are rights that are inherent in nature and accessible to reason. They are not made up by the individual.

    It’s a fine theory, Stephen, but it breaks down when you examine it closely. If it were really “ascertainable through reason”, then all human beings capable of reason would reach the same conclusions regarding the details of what natural law actually entails, the way mathematicians virtually all agree, say, on the details of the calculus. But this is not the case at all when it comes to moral law. Even a cursory perusal of the different systems of ethics put forward by various Western philosophers demonstrates that. You simply cannot credibly claim that natural law (or morality) is ascertainable through reason when there is so much disagreement among philosophers and theologians regarding what exactly natural law is. It’s all relative, my friend.

  106. SB: I would add that John Locke was far more directly Biblical than a lot of people give him credit for. This can be seen in my highlighting biblical contexts that I suspect many of today’s Biblical illiterates are not aware of, notice, in the opening words of his Essay on Human Understanding as cited, and in his use of Richard Hooker’s Golden Rule-based explanation of core morality, in founding the basis for modern de3mocratic self government in the 2nd essay on civil govt. And more, including there is an interesting little discussion on the miraculous out there too. The line of influence from Phillipe Duplessis-Mornay to the Dutch Declaration of Independence of 1581, the work of Samuel Rutherford, John Locke, Blackstone and co, is also underestimated. I think there are even hints out there in original documents, that US Founders were directly influenced by the Dutch DOI in drafting their own, and more broadly by the Dutch Polity — New York was originally New Amsterdam. What is certain is that the patterns of thought in both are quite closely aligned. (All those one-sided litanies of the real or imagined sins and dismissive talking points have managed to create a strawman distortion.) KF

  107. BD: The reductio is quite evident to onlookers. And, in 74 above you went so far as to try to deny the reality of morality: “If you will read what I write carefully, you will see that I reject the validity of morality altogether.” But, the fact remains that when you were confronted with specific concrete cases, child torture and murder, you had nothing to say on the substantial point that it is patent that such are wrong. KF

  108. F/N: It is interesting to see how TA et al continue to fail to substantially address the point by point rebuttal in 34 above [on Nov 1st, today being Nov 6th . . . ], regarding the main focus of the OP, the historicity of Jesus as was treated dismissively by Dawkins in his Sept Playboy interview, which I answered in more details here. The embedded video in the OP of course makes a pretty similar point, in response to atheism, hyperskepticism and associated cultural agendas.

    In further response, it is worth excerpting Habermas’s discussion here, on criteria of credible authenticity as are fairly often applied. While it is the case that a great many high-quality sources from antiquity do not meet these criteria, the criteria are indicia of quality at particular points, and these then serve as pivotal anchors for evaluating the whole, and/or the picture built up d from the specific points which any credible historical explanation must be able to explain:

    (1) Early evidence is strongly preferred above later contributions. Even the difference of a decade or two can be crucial. With regard to the historical Jesus, any material between 30 and 50 AD would be exemplary . . . . Reports from such an early date would actually predate the written Gospels. A famous example is the list of Jesus’ resurrection appearances supplied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Most critical scholars think that Paul’s reception of at least the material on which this early creedal statement is based is dated to the 30s AD.[13] Other examples are supplied by the brief creedal statements that many scholars find embedded within the Book of Acts, which Gerald O’Collins dates to the 30s AD.[14] From the so-called “Q” material in the first and third Gospels, another instance is the statement of high Christology found in Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22.[15] Further, Paul’s earliest epistles date from the 50s AD.

    (2) Whenever these early sources are also derived from eyewitnesses who actually participated in some of the events, this provides one of the strongest evidences possible. Historian David Hackett Fischer dubs this “the rule of immediacy” and terms it “the best relevant evidence.”[16] When scholars have ancient sources that are both very early and based on eyewitness testimony, they have a combination that is very difficult to dismiss.

    In our previous example, one reason critical scholars take Paul’s testimony so seriously is that his writings provide both a very early date as well as eyewitness testimony to what Paul believed was a resurrection appearance of Jesus . . . .

    (3) Independent attestation of a report by more than one source[18] is another chief indication that that a particular claim may be factual. Ancient historian Paul Maier asserts that: “Many facts from antiquity rest on just one ancient source, while two or three sources in agreement generally render the fact unimpeachable.”[19] . . . . Several important examples might be provided. Of the five sources often recognized in the Gospel accounts,[21] Jesus’ miracles are reported in all five, with some specific occurrences reported in more than one.[22] Jesus’ crucial “Son of Man” sayings are also attested in all five Gospel sources.[23] And the empty tomb is reported in at least three, if not four, of these Gospel sources.[24] This helps to understand why these items are taken so seriously by contemporary critical scholars.

    (4) A rather skeptical criterion of authenticity is termed dissimilarity or discontinuity. Although it is frequently criticized, it continues to be a very popular tool for determining the historicity of some of Jesus’ teachings. Here it is thought that a particular saying can be attributed to someone only if it cannot be plausibly accounted for as the words or teaching of other contemporary sources . . . . Jesus’ “Son of Man” sayings are multiply attested. It can also be shown that, by the principle of dissimilarity, they are unaccounted for by either Jewish or early Christian teachings. At least some Jews did have a “Son of Man” concept (as indicated by texts like 1 Enoch 46:2; 48:2-5, 10; 52:4; 62:5-9; 69:28-29 and 4 Ezra 13:3ff.), but, of course, it was not applied to Jesus. And even though “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite self-designation in the Gospels, very surprisingly, none of the New Testament epistles attribute this title to Jesus even a single time. So the conclusion is that, in all likelihood, Jesus must have used this designation for himself.[26]

    (5) Another criterion applied to Gospel studies is the presence of Aramaic words, substrata, environment, or other indications of a Palestinian origin. Perhaps when these conditions appear in the Gospels, we are looking through a window into the actual teachings of Jesus . . . .

    (6) Coherence is a more general criterion. If a purported event or teaching fits well with what is already known concerning other surrounding occurrences and teachings of Jesus, it may be said to have a basis in history.[29] Perhaps the proposed event or saying even does more, by illuminating other known incidents, rendering them more intelligible.

    For Meier, coherence is one of the best indicators of Jesus’ teachings. For example, Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:18-27 concerning the resurrection of the dead coheres well with a “Q” saying of Jesus on the same subject of the afterlife (reported in Matthew 8:11-12/Luke 13:28-29), as well as other teachings of Jesus.[30] Meier concludes that another instance is the Gospel teaching that Jesus’ family had rejected him, which coheres well with Jesus’ repeated teaching that believers will be called to leave their own families for the sake of himself and his Kingdom (such a Mark 10:29-31).[31] . . . .

    (7) The principle of embarrassment, negative report, or surprise is indicated by the presence of disparaging remarks made by the author about him/herself, another individual, or event concerning which the author is friendly and has a vested interest.[32] The point is that, in normal circumstances, most people need a sufficient reason to report very negative things about something which they deem valuable, or someone they love dearly. This would appear to be the case especially where the purpose of the writing was to instruct the readers in holy living.

    Many examples of the principle of embarrassment can be found in the Gospels. The strong unbelief of James, Jesus’ own brother, prior to the crucifixion (Mark 3:20-25; John 7:5) begs an adequate cause for exposing this report about this apostle and pious leader in the early church. This is why the majority of recent critical scholars believes that these are authentic reports.[33] . . . . That all four Gospels report that women were the first ones to discover the empty tomb is also quite embarrassing. That it was uncustomary for women even to testify in a law court, especially when it came to crucial matters, indicates that the early church would not have desired to make them their chief witnesses unless they actually were.[35] . . . .

    (8) The criterion of enemy attestation is satisfied when an antagonistic source expresses agreement regarding a person or event when it is contrary to their best interests to do so.

    Criteria such as these, applied to the foundational accounts of especially the Passion, and to relevant key texts, yield the list of minimal highly credible facts, which can then be surveyed across the range of modern scholarship, as Habermas has done with some 3,000 references in scholarship since the late 1970s.

    That brings us to the list of up to twelve facts that have been cited above, where even the most “controversial” has support of some 75% of scholarship. That one is the burial of Jesus, which has the key embarrassment points that: (a) it is a member of the Sanhedrin who comes forward to see to the honourable burial of Jesus, and (b) it is the women followers who the following Sunday morning set out to the tomb and become the first witnesses of its emptiness and the resurrection.

    In addition, we know that a crucified man was forced to repeatedly stand on his nail-pinned feet in order to breathe, until pain and exhaustion forced him to sag on his hands, which would be just as painful. Eventually, he would lack the strength to rise again, and would expire, unable to breathe while hanging. Which also explains — on medical research — why the legs of the thieves on either side of Jesus were broken by blows, to end the process — they could not stand on broken legs, so would expire in minutes. (And in fact, Crucifixion is — sadly, there are places that have been reviving it in the ME (there is revolting photographic evidence . . . ) — a particularly cruel, slow and painful form of hanging. Reports indicate that it could take days.)

    An expired victim of Crucifixion would reveal his death by failure to rise and try to breathe. Besides, the Centurion witnessed Jesus’ death-cry.

    So, we have no reason to seriously doubt the report that the Centurion and soldiers — and frankly the onlooking public — knew Jesus to be dead. The spear thrust and effusion of serum and blood only confirm the death.

    All of this of course renders the basic historicity of Jesus morally certain. It also brings the timeline of events beyond that into focus, as pivotal.

    let me again clip the four composite credible facts that I used in the table that will appear as an appendix to the OP, clipped from the onward linked discussion on alternative explanations:

    a: [Jesus of Nazareth] Died by crucifixion [a major point of embarrassment] (under Pontius Pilate) at Jerusalem c 30 AD

    b: Was buried, tomb was found empty [by a circle of women -- a point of embarrassment -- followers, seeking to carry out burial rites]

    c: Appeared to multiple disciples [which undermines suggestions of hallucinations], many of whom proclaimed
    & suffered for their faith [as in how many cases in history are known where a large circle of fraudsters, separated and in the face of fire, sword and worse, all serenely submitted to torture and death as being confident of the truth of what they had to say?]

    d: Appeared to key objectors who then became church leaders: James [who had doubted Jesus to the point that he and his family came to take Jesus away as demented at one point during his ministry, and who would have deemed Jesus a major family disgrace in a shame-honour culture] & Paul [the earliest critic and persecutor on record, who as the Sword of the Sanhedrin ruling council, would have been very familiar with the facts]

    The table lists ten skeptical explanations and the historic, NT-derived Christian one. It hen invites a comparative analysis on ability to comport with the credible facts confirmed by criteria of evaluation and supported by the absolute to the overwhelming majority of scholarship in recent decades. The balance is revealing, as NONE of the various skeptical theories, from C1 [stolen body and fraud} to the 7th [dismissal from Q 4:155 - 6] to to the C17 – 19 Deist objections, to the C20/21 [Dan Brownism etc] even compares. Today’s most “popular” skeptical view of scholarship, subjective visions, founders on the psychology of such visions as compared with the historical circumstances.

    What I found highly significant in my earlier reply to TA at 34, is how TA tried to peronalise the summary of minimal facts, and then tried to imply that I had to warrant these facts. This suggests that some objectors fail to read in context, and/or fail to understand the relevant issue4s of historiography.

    In any case, it is patent that Dr Dawkins needs to do his homework again, especially on his latest point, that he Epistles show little concern for the historicity of Jesus, given what we may read in the early testimony cited in 1 Cor 15:1 – 11, which can be traced as to source, to AD 35 – 38, and to a circle of 500+ witnesses, about 20 of which are identifiable or named, and with the invitation c 55 AD to go talk with them as most were then still alive. (Nero’s persecution being a decade later, so that the precedent set by Gallio c 51 would obtain.)

    KF

  109. KF:

    BD: The reductio is quire evident to onlookers. And, in 74 above you went so far as to try to deny the reality of morality: “If you will read what I write carefully, you will see that I reject the validity of morality altogether.” But, the fact remains that when you were confronted with specific concrete cases, child torture and murder, you had nothing to say on the substantial point that it is patent that such are wrong. KF

    I reject morality because I am quite convinced that God is not interested in morality. If He were, He would have made it clear what the moral law is, which He has not, as I have pointed out. I also have His word for it, as recorded in Conversations with God by Neal Donald Walsch. Furthermore, the experience of many people who have had near death experiences confirms this as well. Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, for example, was “told” in his NDE “There is nothing you can do wrong.” So how can I say that anything is right or wrong—child torture or anything else—when I don’t believe in right and wrong (in the moral meaning of those two terms) in the first place.

    Your argument rests on the assertion that it is “patent” that child torture and murder is wrong. Consider this: at one point it was “patent” that the sun revolved around the earth. Anyone could see by looking that it was true. At one point it was “patent” that heavy things always fell faster than light things. At one point it was “patent” that a physical phenomenon could be a particle or a wave, but not both. Today’s “patent” is tomorrow’s outmoded theory. I believe that the human race is evolving to a state in which we will abandon the notion of judgment altogether, because we are, slowly but surely, becoming more and more aware of God’s true nature, which is unconditional Love, which precludes judgment, since love and judgment are incompatible.

    And I know this to be true: judging and condemning another, whatever they have done, only serves to harden their positions. No one does anything inappropriate, given their model of the world. Judgment and condemnation are absolutely powerless to change the world or any individual except by the application of sheer force. And even that will not change his or her beliefs.

    But I do believe in Love, and the power of Love. In fact, I believe that Love is the most powerful force in the Universe. It is the only force that has the power to transform individuals, societies, and the planet as a whole. This has been demonstrated over and over throughout our history. Mother Teresa is a good example. She had some moral judgments, but they had no effect in the world. Her love, however, affected virtually everyone who became aware of it. The Dalai Lama is another example. His love is a powerful force for transformation, in large part because he apparently doesn’t judge at all, in spite of what the Chinese did to his country.

    Ask me if child torture and murder are wrong, and I will tell you I don’t believe in right and wrong as valid categories. Ask me if they are unloving acts, however, and I will tell you, “Yes, definitely.” If you want to change the world, stop judging people and work to help them remember their own loving nature.

  110. Bruce

    Therefore, each person must decide for him or herself what it [natural law] means. Hence, moral relativism. And nature can be interpreted in a hundred different ways.

    Moral relativism is not about discerning the meaning of “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, Thou Shalt Not Murder, or Thou Shalt Not Steal,” because there is no dispute or confusion about the meaning of these commands. Moral relativism is about making the claim that there is no objective moral code that prohibits that kind of behavior.

    People such as myself could easily decide to create a society based on love as the guiding principle.

    Whose definition of love would you use? Would it be your definition of love that permits the murder of unborn children, or would it be my definition of love that forbids it? How do we settle the issue of which definition of love will be translated into civil law? Who or what is to arbitrate the matter? To speak of love will not solve the problem because we are both using the same word.

    Moral relativists could just as easily decide to govern themselves by a representative democracy, as have Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. There is nothing in moral relativism that compels “might makes right” as the only option.

    The societies of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are not founded on moral relativism or anything close to it. It is impossible to build a culture on moral relativism in the long term, which is why you will never find an example of it. Historically, what you will find is, at best, attempts to do so in the short run, followed by a timely takeover from a tyrant after everything falls apart.

    There have been more tyrannical societies based on some notion of objective morality than otherwise.

    No one has suggested that a society based on objective morality will automatically produce freedom, but rather that there will be no freedom without objective morality. Objective morality is a necessary condition for freedom; it is not a sufficient condition for freedom. It must be the right kind of objective morality, but objective morality it must be.

    If it were really “ascertainable through reason,” then all human beings capable of reason would reach the same conclusions regarding the details of what natural law actually entails, the way mathematicians virtually all agree, say, on the details of the calculus.

    You have yet to grasp the concept of a morally binding principle, which is surprising since I have explained it several times. To base a culture on the moral principle that stealing is objectively wrong is not the same thing as providing details on tax law or insider trading. To base a culture on the moral principle that lying is wrong is not the same thing as establishing penalties for padding a resume. The point is to build a culture that recognizes the difference between right and wrong and to design civil laws that reflect that wisdom. The objective moral principle will be the same in every case, but the application will be different in every case. By contrast, moral relativism claims that there are no objective, binding moral principles at all–only individual preferences that we can take or leave as we choose.

    You simply cannot credibly claim that natural law (or morality) is ascertainable through reason when there is so much disagreement among philosophers and theologians regarding what exactly natural law is.

    All rational, educated, and mentally stable people know that it is wrong to murder or commit adultery. They cannot fail to know it, but they can dishonestly claim to not know it.

  111. Does Christianity have a leg up on other religions regarding morality?

    From the Wikipedia article on Zoroastrianism:

    Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal and transcendent God, Ahura Mazda. He is said to be the one uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed. Ahura Mazda’s creation—evident as asha, truth and order—is the antithesis of chaos, which is evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.
    The religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster’s concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism. Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to “darkness”—will be reunited in Ahura Mazda, returning to life in the undead form. At the end of time, a savior-figure (a Saoshyant) will bring about a final renovation of the world (frasho.kereti), in which the dead will be revived.

    Sounds vaguely familiar eh?

    Central to Zoroastrianism is the emphasis on moral choice, to choose the responsibility and duty for which one is in the mortal world, or to give up this duty and so facilitate the work of druj. Similarly, predestination is rejected in Zoroastrian teaching. Humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in, and in the way they act toward one another. Reward, punishment, happiness, and grief all depend on how individuals live their lives.
    In Zoroastrianism, good transpires for those who do righteous deeds. Those who do evil have themselves to blame for their ruin. Zoroastrian morality is then to be summed up in the simple phrase, “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” (Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta in Avestan), for it is through these that asha is maintained and druj is kept in check.

    It’s not Christianity but it shares some elements.

    Individual judgment at death is by the Bridge of Judgment, which each human must cross, facing a spiritual judgment. Humans’ actions under their free will determine the outcome. One is either greeted at the bridge by a beautiful, sweet-smelling maiden or by an ugly, foul-smelling old woman. The maiden leads the dead safely across the bridge to the Amesha Spenta Good Mind, who carries the dead to paradise. The old woman leads the dead down a bridge that narrows until the departed falls off into the abyss of hell.

    Zoroastrian hell is reformative; punishments fit the crimes, and souls do not rest in eternal damnation. Hell contains foul smells and evil food, and souls are packed tightly together although they believe they are in total isolation.

    In Zoroastrian eschatology, a 3,000-year struggle between good and evil will be fought, punctuated by evil’s final assault. During the final assault, the sun and moon will darken and mankind will lose its reverence for religion, family, and elders. The world will fall into winter, and Angra Mainyu’s most fearsome miscreant, Azi Dahaka, will break free and terrorize the world.

    The final savior of the world, Saoshyant, will be born to a virgin impregnated by the seed of Zoroaster while bathing in a lake. Saoshyant will raise the dead – including those in both heaven and hell – for final judgment, returning the wicked to hell to be purged of bodily sin. Next, all will wade through a river of molten metal in which the righteous will not burn. Heavenly forces will ultimately triumph over evil, rendering it forever impotent. Saoshyant and Ahura Mazda will offer a bull as a final sacrifice for all time, and all men will become immortal. Mountains will again flatten and valleys will rise; heaven will descend to the moon, and the earth will rise to meet them both.
    Man requires two judgments because there are as many aspects to his being: spiritual (menog) and physical (getig).

  112. Bruce

    But I do believe in Love, and the power of Love.

    You believe in sentimentalism, not love. Love cannot be separated from truth.

  113. Kairosfocus posted this:

    And today’s versions of evolutionary materialist scientism, which absolutises their institutionalised preferences under the name of relativism and tolerance, similar to what happened under the French, German and Russian revolutions, just to highlight three. I note as well that the point of “objective” is that we may and do err. So, the issue of warrant comes to the fore. That which an ideologue announces as so, is not necessarily so. But, no one has yet bettered the premise that we are equally in the image of the inherently good Creator God, and so have a mutual duty of respect and neighbour love in light of that common nature. Hence the principles and rules that “the judicious” canon Hooker pointed to, and cited, even listing from Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics. KF

    Thank you for SHOUTING AT ME (and stop editing other peoples’ posts).

    {1 –> TA: To put an editorial comment in bold is not to shout. Emphasis in text and shouting at someone face to face are simply different. The people who tried to make an equivalence are simply wrong, period. At most, I am making a typological blunder, but I have little choice given no reasonable way to use colour to differentiate. I would thank you for stopping from trying to poison the well; and I refuse to go silent before such tactics. KF}

    Leaving aside your unsupported claims about the French, German and Russian revolutions (which particular revolutions are you referring to? 1798, 1848, 1905, 1917, 1918, 1919? Which?)

    All you have done is repeat your assertion that your particular version of Christianity has an objective moral code.

    {2 –> Strawman, again similar to the attempt to twist my citation of a list of minimal credible historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth facts that meet criteria of quality, and draw the support of an absolute to an overwhelming majority of academic scholarship, into a dubious personal assertion that I would need to prove. FYI, I have not made a claim about Christianity having a moral code, but about the fact that we can all see outrageous cases that are undeniably wrong. Therefore, there are certain facts of morality, namely that we see an overwhelming and undeniable consensus that we are bound by OUGHT relative to such cases. So, ought is real and we need to have a worldview that has in it a foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT. I have put forward generic ethical theism — the God of the Philosophers — as such a cluster of worldviews, and have invited proposal of another candidate that can meet the Hume guillotine challenge. This, on a comparative difficulties, best explanation basis.}

    I should accept this argument, why?

    {c –> The same rhetorical tactic applies, here in the teeth of a thread where the relevant cases and evidence have been presented over the course of several days.}

    And later this:

    What I found highly significant in my earlier reply to TA at 34, is how TA tried to peronalise the summary of minimal facts, and then tried to imply that I had to warrant these facts. This suggests that some objectors fail to read in context, and/or fail to understand the relevant issue4s of historiography.

    It isn’t surprising to me that you find significance in your own posts, but anyway.

    {d –> Further strawman setup, in a context of again failing to address on the substance.}

    Yes, I did try to imply that you have to “warrant” your assertions.

    {e –> Warrant provided, ignored and distracted from, in a strawman context.}

    Hint: if you want to convince someone, then your assertions won’t be accepted as facts until they are “warranted”.

    {f –> I have no intention to bind myself to try to persuade the selectively hyperskeptical, an impossibility. Instead I pointed in summary to the evidence of a list of well warranted facts accepted by the absolute tot he overwhelming majority of scholarship, as are rooted in quality criteria that have been given. In addition, I have taken time to give early corroboration per a summary of non-Christian sources. The issue is then a duty of care to attend to the evidence given, which is obviously being ignored on your part TA.}

    Inserting the word “fact” into your post is naughty. Bad KF, bad.

    {g –> Resort to ridicule, a la Alinsky’s rules. In fact, I have summarised a list of credible facts meeting criteria of support that has met with the absolute to the overwhelming majority support of scholarship in recent decades, for reason of meeting criteria that are normally applicable in historical and/or forensic contexts. It is highly illuminating to observe that to maintain their skeptical stance, TA and ilk cannot take the consensus view of serious scholarship seriously. KF}

  114. TA: Sadly (but now predictably), you continues to evade the weight of evidence assessed per reasonable criteria of quality on historical evidence, and the resulting consensus of an absolute majority [actually, 75% not just 66%] to an overwhelming majority [98 - 99%] of scholarship. It also seems that you have a problem with warrant on inference to best evidence anchored explanation. KF

  115. BD: We get the point that you reject right and wrong as legitimate categories of thought. This renders your view an amoral one, which is sufficient to highlight the problems it faces. KF

  116. Jerad:

    Morality is in a distinct category from religion, and if you have ever taken the time to read C S Lewis’ Mere Christianity, you will see an apt discussion of the core moral consensus of humanity across religions, philosophies and cultures, which BTW is taught in Rom 2 — all that stuff about the candle set up in us illuminating us from within in Prov 20:7 as cited by Locke etc too — if you care to look, in vv 6 – 8 & 12 – 15.

    The Christian faith therefore does not propose to introduce a NEW morality, only to draw attention afresh to the old one we know in our hearts which we are ever so often inclined to duck.

    The basic problem we face is that we are struggling sinners, not that we do not have adequate codes of basic morality. As in finite, fallible, morally struggling/fallen and too often ill-willed.

    All too familiar if we will honestly look in our own hearts.

    And in answer to this, the challenge is not awareness of morality or codes of ethics or law, but inner transformation, which is deeply challenging in all cases. That which we consent to with our minds as good, gives in itself no strength to consistently obey in light of our inclination to be wayward and self-seeking. (And that is a paraphrase of Paul from Rom 7.)

    That is the whole context of our needing redemption and inner transformation by the work in our hearts of God by his Spirit.

    Let me give a case I am dealing with day by day here.

    There is a man here, who about 30 years ago, murdered a benefactor, butchered her body to hide it, and fraudulently passed off forged checques in her name. He was caught, and found guilty, sentenced to hang, with wide popular support for the sentence. This woman was a saintly person who had been generous to many including especially this man.

    As he sat in his prison cell, with the gallows set up outside the window, and being practiced, a former policeman who was the owner of a business here, counselled spiritually with him, calling him to penitence. He predicted that God had told him that this man would not hang, never mind the evidence outside the window.

    At just that time, in the UK Her Majesty decided she had had enough of blood being shed judicially in her name in UK Overseas Territories as they are now called. In the teeth of popular support, the death penalty was removed.

    Literally on the brink of being executed, this man was given his life back.

    As he has told me, the impact of this had a transforming effect on him, and he repented, turning from his blood-stained guilt to forgiveness and grace.

    Over the course of almost 30 years in gaol, he showed this.

    He founded prison Christian fellowships here and in other territories where prisoners from here were sent during the volcano crisis. He was a model prisoner, and in fact literally was a cook for territory governors. He helped to reform corruption in prisons.

    Back here he was given day then weekend release, and worked in the same business, now run by the children of the man. (BTW, the man had been buried in a coffin built by prisoners as a statement of their appreciation for his work with them.)

    That is how I came to know him.

    And at length he has been released into the community.

    Nor is this by any means a unique case, even in my circle of acquaintance. (I think here of a former gunman in Jamaica, who founded a school in prison, taught himself and passed O levels then got admittance to a technical college where he literally walked out of the Gun Court to take the bus to and from school day by day.)

    In short, the abundant evidence of millions across the ages and around the world is that serious discipleship founded in genuine repentance and conversion, [positively transforms lives and lends to the positive reformation of communities. Paul of Tarsus, the self-confessed chief of sinners, is case study no 1.

    When I therefore see the repeated trend of litanies of the sins of Christendom that does not acknowledge the blessings of genuine discipleship and its undeniable positive impacts on history, I get suspicious. When this is joined to a ducking of the general problem across all movements and cultures, that we are struggling sinners, I get even more suspicious. When this is used to suggest that the Christian faith is useless or worse, I draw the reasonable conclusion that this is bias speaking, not a serious reflection on the human dilemma and challenge.

    And, when this is coupled to the suggestion that views and agendas that undermine the power of conscience-guided morality are "just as good" as those that actively promote moral self reflection and effort to the true the right and the good, I get seriously concerned.

    The history of amoral systems, radical relativism and the rise of nihilist factions is all too evident and recent or current. And, you obviously know EXACTLY the list of revolutions I speak of, in the case of the French I highlight events from 1789 on and 1870 on.

    For the Germans, let me simply compare the remarks of Heine with the events of 1933 on:

    Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered [the Swastika, visually, is a twisted, broken cross . . .], the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. …

    The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals. …

    … Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder … comes rolling somewhat slowly, but … its crash … will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. …

    At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in farthest Africa will draw in their tails and slink away. … A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll. [From, the conclusion to his 1831 Religion and Philosophy in Germany]

    That is from 100 years before the events. He got it right down to the eagles, and the lions, as they are symbolised.

    The history of Russia from 1917 on and of China from 1949 on, is all too well known, for any who care to look.

    Ruthless nihilistic ideological factions, who tend to rise to power in radical revolutionary situations, are dangerous. That is the case as well from 1979 on in Iran, and is a serious threat in the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring.

    Let us move on to a serious and sober reflection.

    KF

  117. F/N: One of the things that strikes me is our widespread want of basic, sound moral education. On major roots of that, I think we need to attend to Plato’s warning of 360 BC. KF

  118. KF (117):

    That’s a lovely story. And I hope there are many more like him who have reconsidered their crimes and have a chance to ‘pay it back’ as the saying goes these days.

    I try to live my live morally and responsibly. I try to abide by my inner voice. Even against the advice of friends and colleagues I am famously truthful and honest. Such behaviour has not always meant that I ‘win’ but I can at least sleep every night knowing I hurt no one intentionally.

    I’m still not sure about there being any absolute morals but I know what is right and true in my heart.

  119. Jerad:

    Even against the advice of friends and colleagues I am famously truthful and honest.

    Why did you toss that all away as soon as you started posting here?

  120. Stephen:

    Moral relativism is not about discerning the meaning of “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, Thou Shalt Not Murder, or Thou Shalt Not Steal,” because there is no dispute or confusion about the meaning of these commands. Moral relativism is about making the claim that there is no objective moral code that prohibits that kind of behavior.

    There in fact is no objective moral code, precisely because it breaks down in the details. Let’s take murder as an example. “Thou shalt not murder” is at best a general guideline. Is it murder to kill to stop a person from committing a robbery? At what level of crime: $1,000? $5.00? a pack of gum? Is it murder to kill someone to prevent them from harming another? What level and type of harm justifies lethal force? Is it murder to kill a suspected terrorist without due process of law? Is it murder if the process (say drone strikes) will inevitably cost the lives of innocent people? Is it murder to kill someone in a war just because your government has decided that military action is warranted? Even if you disagree with that assessment? What exactly constitutes a “just war”? Can war ever be justified? Is it murder for the state to execute someone for committing a crime? Which crimes? These kinds of questions are what I meant by the “meaning” of natural law. What does it mean when you get into the nitty gritty of actually living life?

    I don’t expect you to answer these questions. Your answers in any case will only be your answers. The point is that different people will give you very different answers. Reason is incapable of answering them in a way that will compel all other reasonable people to agree. Each of us must supply our own answers; there is no objective truth in the matter. Hence moral relativism.

    You believe in sentimentalism, not love. Love cannot be separated from truth.

    With all due respect, Stephen, you have no clue what love is. In fact, your belief that reason is the vehicle through which truth can be found prevents you from any real knowing.

  121. Bruce David:

    I reject morality because I am quite convinced that God is not interested in morality.

    That’s some strange logic. How does one follow from the other?

    God’s probably not interested in gravity either. Do you reject gravity?

    You’re describing your own moral code. One OUGHT to reject morality if they are convinced that morality does not matter to God. One OUGHT to be convinced that God is not interested in morality because …

    One OUGHT to accept your reasoning because …

  122. Jerad:

    Does Christianity have a leg up on other religions regarding morality?

    Who cares?

  123. 124

    Jerad,

    I am famously truthful and honest.

    And I am still waiting. :|

  124. Bruce

    With all due respect, Stephen, you have no clue what love is. In fact, your belief that reason is the vehicle through which truth can be found prevents you from any real knowing.

    I say love cannot be separated from moral truth. That should be obvious. Hitler falsely claimed to love his country; pedophiles falsely claim to love their victims; violent religious fanatics (the kind that you and Jerad lament) falsely claim to love God. The reason their claims to love are so farcical is because they presume to define love in a self-serving way, separated from any rational notion of right and wrong.

    In keeping with that point, I remind you of your earlier claim:

    People such as myself could easily decide to create a society based on love as the guiding principle.

    My question, which you evaded, persists:

    “Whose definition of love would you use to build such a society? Would it be your definition of love that permits the murder of unborn children, or would it be my definition of love that forbids it? How do we settle the issue of which definition of love will be translated into civil law? Who or what is to arbitrate the matter?

  125. Mung:

    You’re describing your own moral code. One OUGHT to reject morality if they are convinced that morality does not matter to God. One OUGHT to be convinced that God is not interested in morality because …

    By this reasoning, you can turn any statement of preference into a moral imperative: If one likes vanilla ice cream, one OUGHT to eat it. If one likes action movies, one OUGHT to go see Dark Knight.

    You are confusing two different meanings of the word “ought”.

  126. Stephen:

    “Whose definition of love would you use to build such a society? Would it be your definition of love that permits the murder of unborn children, or would it be my definition of love that forbids it? How do we settle the issue of which definition of love will be translated into civil law? Who or what is to arbitrate the matter

    You see, the very fact that you think love is a matter of definition tells me that you have no understanding of what love is. Love is not something you define. Love is what you are. It’s an entirely different kind of knowing from anything derivable from reason.

    I repeat, your belief that reason can lead you to truth prevents you from any real knowing.

  127. Jerad

    Does Christianity have a leg up on other religions regarding morality?

    Yes, Christianity defines morality not only in terms of behavior, but also in terms of the intentions that give rise to behavior. What a person does matters, but why he does it matters even more.

  128. Bruce

    You see, the very fact that you think love is a matter of definition tells me that you have no understanding of what love is. Love is not something you define. Love is what you are. It’s an entirely different kind of knowing from anything derivable from reason.

    If, as you claim, we can build a society around love, and in the absence of an objective moral code, then you should be able to explain how love, in the absence of that code, can be of any practical use.

    On the matter of abortion, my conceptiom of love forbids the killing of unborn children, but your conception of love allows it. Whose conception should be respected and translated into the civil law. If my understanding of love is respected and translated into law, babies who would otherwise be killed, will live; if your understanding of love is translated into law, babies who might otherwise live, will die. We cannot both have our way. One of us will win, and one of us will lose. Who decides between us and how will that decision be arrived at?

    I repeat, your belief that reason can lead you to truth prevents you from any real knowing.

    What good is your kind of knowing if it cannot be applied to the most important political, moral, and cultural problem of our time?

  129. Stephen: re. 129

    We have had this discussion about abortion before, as you well know. What you refuse to acknowledge is that our difference of opinion on this matter is not about whether it is ok to kill unborn children. Rather, it is about when in the process that begins at conception and ends at birth a child (that is, a human being) comes into existence. You believe it happens at conception, whereas I believe it occurs sometime during the third trimester, when the brain is sufficiently developed for a soul to join the body (given the definition of a human being—which we agree on—as a body conjoined with a soul).

    It is perfectly possible for two people to agree that it is not an act of love to kill an unborn child, but disagree on the factual matter of at what point in the process there is actually a child present.

    Your characterization of my position that I allow the killing of unborn children obscures (deliberately?) the fundamental disagreement that we have, which is a disagreement regarding the facts of the matter, not about whether killing an unborn child is a loving thing to do.

  130. Bruce

    We have had this discussion about abortion before, as you well know. What you refuse to acknowledge is that our difference of opinion on this matter is not about whether it is ok to kill unborn children. Rather, it is about when in the process that begins at conception and ends at birth a child (that is, a human being) comes into existence. You believe it happens at conception, whereas I believe it occurs sometime during the third trimester, when the brain is sufficiently developed for a soul to join the body (given the definition of a human being—which we agree on—as a body conjoined with a soul).

    All that is irrelevant to my question about who decides. Go ahead and change the terms of the debate and nothing is changed. I say life begins at conception; you say it begins sometime in the third trimester. The fact remains that one opinion will be translated into civil law and the other opinion will not be similarly honored. One of us will win, and the other will lose. You have declared that objective morality doesn’t exist and cannot, there, serve as the arbitrating principle. So, again I pose the question: How do we settle the question? You claim to be operating from a principle of love(though you have conveniently defined the first and second semester fetus as subhuman), but I also claim to be operating from that principle. So, how should the question be settled?

  131. Here is an interesting tidbit I just ran across:

    Reproductive Organs
    Excerpt: Between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, the ovaries of a female fetus contain 6 to 7 million oocytes (eggs). Most of the oocytes gradually waste away, leaving about 1 to 2 million present at birth. None develop after birth. At puberty only about 300,000 remain.
    http://lakecharlesobgyn.com/Co.....rgans.aspx

    Also of note:

    Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to birth — visualized – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKyljukBE70

    Mathematician Alexander Tsiaras on Human Development: “It’s a Mystery, It’s Magic, It’s Divinity” – March 2012
    Excerpt: ‘The magic of the mechanisms inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go, the complexity of these, the mathematical models on how these things are indeed done, are beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician, I look at this with the marvel of how do these instruction sets not make these mistakes as they build what is us. It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.’
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....57741.html

    This following video gives a glimpse of this ‘divine’ information in action:

    Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Glimpses At Human Development In The Womb – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4249713

    verses and music:

    Jeremiah 1:5
    “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for my holy purpose.

    Psalm 139:15
    My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

    Steven Curtis Chapman – Lord of the Dance (Live)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDXbvMcMbU0

  132. Bruce David,

    The underlying assumption in your last comment is that the soul is preexisting and complete, entering the body only when it is sufficiently developed to handle the intellect of the soul. This seems to presuppose knowledge of the characteristics of soul. Yet, I don’t think we have this information from Christ or the Apostles.

    IMO, what is more likely is that a spec of God’s spirit is conjoined to the fertilized egg at the moment of conception and develops in tandem with the developing body, thus giving us our individual souls apart from God.

    Yet, even if the soul is pre-existing as you suppose, what would be the difference between entering the body at conception and entering at the third trimester? In fact, if the soul enters at chapter 3, it more likely would be confused since it missed the beginning couple of chapters. Wouldn’t it be better to start from the prologue to get a head start on what’s ahead? The soul, already possessing intellect, would be able to follow the development of the body from day one, better to understand its association to the body. So no need to wait for the third trimester.

    StephenB’s position makes more sense.

  133. Bornagain77 posted this among other things:

    Between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, the ovaries of a female fetus contain 6 to 7 million oocytes (eggs). Most of the oocytes gradually waste away, leaving about 1 to 2 million present at birth. None develop after birth. At puberty only about 300,000 remain.

    Are you saying that a human woman is a sac of eggs?

    And this:

    Even though I am a mathematician [quoting Alexander Tsiaras], I look at this with the marvel of how do these instruction sets not make these mistakes as they build what is us. It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.

    So a mathematician doesn’t understand biology. And this is important why?

  134. as to: “So a mathematician doesn’t understand biology. And this is important why?”

    Timothya, biologists don’t even understand biology because of the immense complexity they are dealing with!

    Systems biology: Untangling the protein web – July 2009
    Excerpt: Vidal thinks that technological improvements — especially in nanotechnology, to generate more data, and microscopy, to explore interaction inside cells, along with increased computer power — are required to push systems biology forward. “Combine all this and you can start to think that maybe some of the information flow can be captured,” he says. But when it comes to figuring out the best way to explore information flow in cells, Tyers jokes that it is like comparing different degrees of infinity. “The interesting point coming out of all these studies is how complex these systems are — the different feedback loops and how they cross-regulate each other and adapt to perturbations are only just becoming apparent,” he says. “The simple pathway models are a gross oversimplification of what is actually happening.”
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....0415a.html

    “Complexity Brake” Defies Evolution – August 2012
    Excerpt: “This is bad news. Consider a neuronal synapse — the presynaptic terminal has an estimated 1000 distinct proteins. Fully analyzing their possible interactions would take about 2000 years. Or consider the task of fully characterizing the visual cortex of the mouse — about 2 million neurons. Under the extreme assumption that the neurons in these systems can all interact with each other, analyzing the various combinations will take about 10 million years…, even though it is assumed that the underlying technology speeds up by an order of magnitude each year.”,,,
    Even with shortcuts like averaging, “any possible technological advance is overwhelmed by the relentless growth of interactions among all components of the system,” Koch said. “It is not feasible to understand evolved organisms by exhaustively cataloging all interactions in a comprehensive, bottom-up manner.” He described the concept of the Complexity Brake:,,,
    “Allen and Greaves recently introduced the metaphor of a “complexity brake” for the observation that fields as diverse as neuroscience and cancer biology have proven resistant to facile predictions about imminent practical applications. Improved technologies for observing and probing biological systems has only led to discoveries of further levels of complexity that need to be dealt with. This process has not yet run its course. We are far away from understanding cell biology, genomes, or brains, and turning this understanding into practical knowledge.”,,,
    Why can’t we use the same principles that describe technological systems? Koch explained that in an airplane or computer, the parts are “purposefully built in such a manner to limit the interactions among the parts to a small number.” The limited interactome of human-designed systems avoids the complexity brake. “None of this is true for nervous systems.”,,,
    to read more go here:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62961.html

    With a Startling Candor, Oxford Scientist Admits a Gaping Hole in Evolutionary Theory – November 2011
    Excerpt: As of now, we have no good theory of how to read [genetic] networks, how to model them mathematically or how one network meshes with another; worse, we have no obvious experimental lines of investigation for studying these areas. There is a great deal for systems biology to do in order to produce a full explanation of how genotypes generate phenotypes,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....52821.html

  135. Francis Collins on Making Life
    Excerpt: ‘We are so woefully ignorant about how biology really works. We still don’t understand how a particular DNA sequence—when we just stare at it—codes for a protein that has a particular function. We can’t even figure out how that protein would fold—into what kind of three-dimensional shape. And I would defy anybody who is going to tell me that they could, from first principles, predict not only the shape of the protein but also what it does.’ –
    Francis Collins – Former Director of the Human Genome Project
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/t.....enome.html

    The Humpty-Dumpty Effect: A Revolutionary Paper with Far-Reaching Implications – Paul Nelson – October 23, 2012
    Excerpt: Put simply, the Levinthal paradox states that when one calculates the number of possible topological (rotational) configurations for the amino acids in even a small (say, 100 residue) unfolded protein, random search could never find the final folded conformation of that same protein during the lifetime of the physical universe.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65521.html

    Physicists Discover Quantum Law of Protein Folding – February 22, 2011
    Quantum mechanics finally explains why protein folding depends on temperature in such a strange way.
    Excerpt: First, a little background on protein folding. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that become biologically active only when they fold into specific, highly complex shapes. The puzzle is how proteins do this so quickly when they have so many possible configurations to choose from.
    To put this in perspective, a relatively small protein of only 100 amino acids can take some 10^100 different configurations. If it tried these shapes at the rate of 100 billion a second, it would take longer than the age of the universe to find the correct one. Just how these molecules do the job in nanoseconds, nobody knows.,,,
    Their astonishing result is that this quantum transition model fits the folding curves of 15 different proteins and even explains the difference in folding and unfolding rates of the same proteins.
    That’s a significant breakthrough. Luo and Lo’s equations amount to the first universal laws of protein folding. That’s the equivalent in biology to something like the thermodynamic laws in physics.
    http://www.technologyreview.co.....f-protein/

    Finding the ‘quantum transition model’ to be a ‘universal law’ of protein folding is no small matter since a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause must be supplied to quantum entanglement within proteins (and DNA). Theism has always postulated a beyond space and time cause for life. Reductive materialism, upon which neo-Darwinism is built, has no beyond space and time cause since it postulates that material particles are self-sustaining from which life simply ‘emerges’:

    notes:

    Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight – 2009
    Excerpt: DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn’t be able to.,,, The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.
    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_.....ave-t.html

    Coherent Intrachain energy migration at room temperature – Elisabetta Collini & Gregory Scholes – University of Toronto – Science, 323, (2009), pp. 369-73
    Excerpt: The authors conducted an experiment to observe quantum coherence dynamics in relation to energy transfer. The experiment, conducted at room temperature, examined chain conformations, such as those found in the proteins of living cells. Neighbouring molecules along the backbone of a protein chain were seen to have coherent energy transfer. Where this happens quantum decoherence (the underlying tendency to loss of coherence due to interaction with the environment) is able to be resisted, and the evolution of the system remains entangled as a single quantum state.
    http://www.scimednet.org/quant.....d-protein/

    Quantum states in proteins and protein assemblies:
    The essence of life? – STUART HAMEROFF, JACK TUSZYNSKI
    Excerpt: It is, in fact, the hydrophobic effect and attractions among non-polar hydrophobic groups by van der Waals forces which drive protein folding. Although the confluence of hydrophobic side groups are small, roughly 1/30 to 1/250 of protein volumes, they exert enormous influence in the regulation of protein dynamics and function. Several hydrophobic pockets may work cooperatively in a single protein (Figure 2, Left). Hydrophobic pockets may be considered the “brain” or nervous system of each protein.,,, Proteins, lipids and nucleic acids are composed of constituent molecules which have both non-polar and polar regions on opposite ends. In an aqueous medium the non-polar regions of any of these components will join together to form hydrophobic regions where quantum forces reign.
    http://www.tony5m17h.net/SHJTQprotein.pdf

    Further note:

    Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? – Stuart Hameroff – video (notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/29895068

    Being the skunk at an atheist convention – Stuart Hameroff
    Excerpt: When metabolic requirements for quantum coherence in brain microtubules are lost (e.g. death, near-death), quantum information pertaining to that individual may persist and remain entangled in Planck scale geometry.
    http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/skunk.htm

  136. Stephen: re. 131

    To answer your question, let me begin with some background. As I mentioned in #106, I was a member of a congregation we called The Celebration for many years. All major decisions were made by the governing council, which was open to anyone who wished to attend. Decisions were arrived at by consensus, which meant (and we took this seriously) that every person present had to be satisfied with a decision before it was adopted. The process of coming to consensus was often time consuming, and frequently the solution that emerged from the dialog would be creative and a surprise to everyone. But the process worked, and it worked for years. It may still be working for all I know (I left Santa Fe for China a number of years ago).

    In a society based on love, problems such as you describe would be resolved by a similar process. Interested parties would begin a dialog characterized by love, respect, acknowledgement that everyone’s views were legitimate, and a lack of moral censure. A solution would emerge that probably would be surprising and creative. What that solution would be for the situation you describe, I of course cannot say, because no such process of decision making has been undertaken as yet.

  137. Steve: re 133

    I did not come by my beliefs about the incarnational process by simply making them up. (And yes, I am a believer in reincarnation.) My primary source material in the matter is two books by Michael Newton, Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls.

    Michael Newton is a psychotherapist who uses hypnosis and regression to treat his clients. He began his practice as a materialist. However, in the process of regression, his patients began remembering past lives. He developed hypnotic techniques to develop very deep trances, and was able to take his clients into a past life, and then through the death process into a remembrance of life between physical existences. The consistency among the reports of his clients, none of whom had any knowledge of what the others had said or experienced, gradually convinced him that the memories he was invoking in them were recollections of valid, real experiences. The two books are basically collections of transcripts of several hundred such sessions, and are informative and fascinating.

    One of the aspects that got discussed in several of these cases was the process of incarnating into a new body to begin a new physical life. His clients reported basically what I have stated in this thread on the subject—that they do not join a body until the brain is sufficiently developed for them to begin to merge with it. They state that to hang around the developing body before that time is simply too boring, and they choose not to do so.

  138. Bruce, I am a big fan of the consensus decision making process, however, I hasten to point out that it works only in a culture where members agree on fundamental goals and on the utility of a group decision. This same process does not work when ideological, philosophical, or religious conflicts exist, as in the case of abortion. I will never negotiate away any part of my pro-life position and you will never negotiate away any part of your pro-abortion position. There is no room for compromise. One side will win and one side will lose.

    Let’s apply this. You, I, and one other person live in a community of three. Among the three of us, I am the only one who subscribes to pro-life morality (it is illegal to kill babies). You and the other person subscribe to pro-abortion morality (it is legal to kill babies). We have a conflict that cannot be resolved through negotiation. You have stated that you do not accept the authority of the natural moral law, which means that some other source must decide on the question of which moral position will be the law of our community.

    Due to our respective non-negotiable positions, a consensus decision is not an option. Even so, the problem must be settled. There are only three possibilities:

    [a] The natural moral law

    [b] Tyranny of the majority (You and the other person decide by fiat and against my will)

    [c] Tyranny by one person (The most powerful person among the three of us decides by fiat against the other two)

    So my question for you is very simple: which option do you choose?

    I hope the relevance of this example to my earlier claim is evident. Moral relativism always leads to tyranny (amoral authority backed by power) because it rejects the authority of the natural moral law (moral authority backed by reason).

  139. Bruce, with reference to @139, feel free to substitute the word “fetus” in the womb if you cannot identify with the word “baby.”

  140. StephenB posted this:

    There are only three possibilities

    Please tell me that you are at least able to imagine the fourth possibility. It really isn’t that hard.

  141. timothya

    Please tell me that you are at least able to imagine the fourth possibility. It really isn’t that hard.

    It must be very hard, indeed, since you cannot conceive it well enough to articulate it. But to give you the courtesy of a straight answer to a straight question (just to show you what that kind of behavior might be like) no, I can’t imagine a fourth possibility because I already know that only three possibilities exist.

    Bruce doesn’t believe that reason can help anyone to arrive at the truth, which is why, in this case, he didn’t bother to consult it. I gather that you labor under that same misconception.

  142. Bruce doesn’t believe that reason can help anyone to arrive at the truth, which is why, in this case, he didn’t bother to consult it.

    Since there is no truth, what use is reason?

    A reason for the uselessness of reason?

  143. Mung @143: If there is no destination to arrive at (truth), what is the point of the vehicle (reason)?

  144. Stephen, re 139:

    What started this subthread of our conversation was my statement in 106,

    People such as myself could easily decide to create a society based on love as the guiding principle.

    What I meant by the phrase “people such as myself” is people who reject the objective validity of morality and who choose instead to act from love. Such people could do what I described in 137. You obviously couldn’t. A society based on love cannot be built—or populated—by people who believe in absolute moral law.

    But it could be built by people who are in touch with the love that is their essential nature (the image and likeness of God) and who have chosen to live their lives from that place. Such a society would be about as far from tyranny as it is possible to get.

    In fact, it is my belief (and hope) that the human race is slowly but surely maturing to the point where such societies will arise naturally and inevitably out of our increased awareness and remembrance of who and what we really are.

  145. Bruce, love cannot be separated from the moral law because only the latter can tell us when we are performing loving acts and when we are not. Hitler claimed to love his country; pedophiles claim to love their victims; heretics claim to love their church. In order to be real, love must be informed, directed, corrected, disciplined, and tested. Most of all, it must be aligned with the truth.

    If one doesn’t respect or acknowledge the moral code, he cannot love because he cannot know what he should or should not do in the name of love. He can only know what he wants to do. He can only guess about what others might need or want because he has no way of knowing if they even share his nature. He can only seek to please himself and try to find some philosophy of life that will encourage his self-serving behavior.

    The moral task of life is not simply to love, but to love the right things for the right reason and to refrain from loving the wrong things for the wrong reason. To say that there is no objective right and wrong is to say that anyone’s definition of love will suffice. Oh yes, and we also have this lingering cultural problem to the effect that, as I have made clear, moral relativism always leads to tyranny.

  146. Stephen:

    Bruce, love cannot be separated from the moral law because only the latter can tell us when we are performing loving acts and when we are not.

    Totally wrong. Only love can tell you when you are performing loving acts. And only knowledge of love (direct personal experience of love) can give you the capacity to know when another is acting from love. What they claim has nothing to do with it. And morality has nothing whatsoever to do with it either.

    You do not understand love at all.

  147. ‘You do not understand love at all.’

    I beg to differ. From the tolerance, clarity, and patience, I have seen StephenB, over the last few years, exercise towards those who, IMO, unreasonably disagree with him, I would say StephenB has a far better grasp of the Christian imperative for love than most other Christians I’ve seen on the internet, especially myself!

    I like this lyric in this following song:

    ‘death has lost and love has won’

    Natalie Grant: “Alive (MARY MAGDALENE)” – Official Lyric Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1GzOUnUN20

  148. Bornagain: re. 148

    Yes, it’s a nice song. I can see where a Christian would be moved by it.

    My view: because of God’s love, death has never existed. We are eternal, now and always.

    World without end, amen.

  149. Bruce

    Only love can tell you when you are performing loving acts. And only knowledge of love (direct personal experience of love) can give you the capacity to know when another is acting from love. What they claim has nothing to do with it.

    You do not understand love at all.

    I think I understand. Claims about being a loving person mean nothing unless you happen to be the one making them. You’re the man.

  150. Folks:

    Pardon, I have been busy elsewhere (not only with local issues such as that airplane crash of Oct 7th, but with addressing implications of current events for the world and region, cf here (LT et al, cf. here), here and here — my suspicion (cf here on the link between the spiritual and the geo-strategic) is, the first point where things are likely to go off bang, is that we are now very close to disruptive war in the Middle East, with oil spiking to unprecedented levels . . . ).

    But coming back to monitor this thread just now, I see BD to Mung in 126:

    you can turn any statement of preference into a moral imperative: If one likes vanilla ice cream, one OUGHT to eat it. If one likes action movies, one OUGHT to go see Dark Knight.

    You are confusing two different meanings of the word “ought”.

    This confusion of subjective preferences with moral imperatives — which (given how often we are selfish or deluded or addicted to destructive pleasures etc) are often exactly what we would not prefer — is inadvertently revealing, but in the process draws out a key point: the centrality of purpose to oughtness. If we have no purpose, then oughtness evaporates. And by the way, so does “good.” And, just as significantly, evil becomes a matter of subjective distaste.

    The result: amorality, thence nihilism and “might and manipulation makes ‘right’ . . .” chaos.

    (And BTW, when those caught up in the chaos of confusing subjective preference with rights and freedoms, see genuine morality they see this as imposed domination not reasonable limits in the ambit of civil liberty towards maintaining the civil peace of justice, which explains the resentful rebellion. They do not know the difference between liberty and license in light of our underlying nature, inherent value and purpose. Hence the notion that manipulating a public and so voting in or getting appointed judges to enforce the preferences of the “progressives” by ruling in that which is fundamentally chaotic and destructive,is sufficient to create a new moral order. There is a failure here to understand the cutting edge of what our in-built nature imposes. So for instance, if we were to shift to a base where falsehood, willful distraction and poisonous caricature, manipulation, slander and distortion dominate public discourse and decision-making, then such a community will do a lot of harm to or even outright destroy itself. Similarly, when more and more people live in a drink and or drug or porn addiction [etc] induced fog multiplied by a miasma of willfully distorted propaganda passed off as news, and have been dumbed down to the point where they cannot sensibly understand truth vs error, valid reasoning from fallacies, and do not have a sufficient fund of well warranted historical facts and patterns in mind to see the likely consequences of decisions being made, then such a community is sliding down a slope to ruin. [For just one instance, consider the implications of neo-marxist political messianism and where it is quite likely to end up in a world where mahdist IslamISM in Shia and Sunni forms -- the Mullahs and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda -- is beginning to dominate a pivotal region of the world.] Resemblance to what is now patently happening to our civilisation across the globe is not coincidental.)

    In short, we see what C S Lewis long ago now called the poison of subjectivism, and also one of the reasons why the empirically backed design inference on best explanations of features of objects in our world, and the observed cosmos itself, are so revolutionary in a world dominated by evolutionary materialist ideology, often wearing the holy lab coat.

    Yes, without a purpose, you do not have an ought.

    But, the problem is back ways around here.

    In steps of thought:

    1 –> The examples already put such as torturing and murdering children (and, sadly, there were specific examples), show that we recognise the reality of our being bound by OUGHT.

    2 –> There are some things that we instinctively recognise and cannot deny, ought not to be done.

    3 –> That points to the reality of ought.

    4 –> And in turn, we know that there is a possibility of an IS-OUGHT gap, as Hume famously highlighted.

    5 –> So, we can see that unless our worldview foundation has in it an IS that can effectively and objectively ground OUGHT, then such worldviews will have an is-ought crack that points to their want of good grounds.

    6 –> In addition, we have here seen that OUGHTNESS implies purpose.

    7 –> So, unless that foundational IS is capable of giving a purpose to our nature, thus also a value, we are again looking at a fatal IS-OUGHT crack across the worldview.

    8 –> But, purpose — per massive experience — is an inherent property of mind with will.

    9 –> Multiply this out and we see that we need a worldview foundational mind that has the power to create a universe, a mind that is inherently good and builds goodness into the essential structure of the cosmos, including us as valuing, purposeful, choosing, acting creatures.

    We are right back at the credibility of a worldview rooted in an inherently good architect and maker of the world. AKA, the good God.

    On that premise, we may freely argue something like Locke did c. 1690 by citing Hooker c 1594 in his 2nd Treatise on Civil Govt, Ch 2 sect 5, here as extended:

    . . . 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]

    And again (as history shows derived from the above in context), as did the US founders in 1776:

    When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions [Cf. Judges 11:27 and discussion in Locke], do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    But, not otherwise, it seems. (If you think not so, kindly provide at least an outline explanation.)

    Which again points to the civilisation-destroying danger of dressing up a priori evolutionary materialism in the holy lab coat and handing to such amoral ideologues the control levers for government, law, education, media etc.

    Much as Plato warned against in The Laws, Bk X, c. 360 BC:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

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

    So, we see how the radical relativism, undermining of knowledge and moral principles that are inherent in evolutionary materialism opens the door to nihilistic might makes right factions, who will manipulate and intimidate with whatever they think they can get away with, leading to chaos and tyranny.

    All of which sounds ever so familiar.

    Our civilisation has clutched a venomous asp to its bosom.

    In the teeth of abundant reason, history and experience to the contrary.

    Isaiah was ever so right to warn, speaking in the name of God to a people treading much the same path to ruin 2700 years ago:

    Isa 5: 20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
    who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
    who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
    21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!

    KF

    PS: I see still no serious response on the issues of the credible facts brushed aside by Dawkins, and the implications of teh explanatory power of alternatives as I appended to the original pose and discussed in more details here.

  151. SB: Very well put, as usual. KF

  152. Stephen:

    I think I understand. Claims about being a loving person mean nothing unless you happen to be the one making them. You’re the man.

    You think I’m just talking about me? Do you imagine I don’t know literally hundreds of people personally who know exactly what I’m talking about? In fact, I’m talking about everyone. It’s just that some know what Love is, and some have yet to find out. But we all will come to know eventually.

    There are millions of us Stephen, millions.

  153. Bruce

    There are millions of us Stephen, millions.

    OK, let’s revise it. Any claim about being a loving person is meaningless unless someone in your group happens to be making it. There you go.

  154. Stephen:

    OK, let’s revise it. Any claim about being a loving person is meaningless unless someone in your group happens to be making it. There you go.

    Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I would say, though, that any statement about love that is dependent on an assumption that loving acts can only be known by reference to objective morality will be false.

    In fact, any assertion about the nature of Love that requires reference to anything other than Love will be false. Love is known only by Love. Love is sufficient unto itself. That’s just the way Love is. I know this directly. You may heap as much ridicule on me as you care to; it won’t change the truth.

  155. Bruce,

    I wasn’t heaping ridicule on you. I was simply demonstrating that your subjective notion of love, based solely on personal experience and void of any objective substance, cannot possibly be transmitted to another human being, much less can it be used as a standard of moral judgment.

    When I remind you that the pedophile, by his subjective standard of morality, thinks his behavior is also of a loving nature, you can only say that his standard of love is different from your standard. You cannot, like me, say that his standard is perverse and wrong because you do not, in fact, believe that any such thing as perverse and wrong standards exist.

  156. Stephen re 156:

    The Love to which I refer is absolute. It is God’s Love, which is available to and through each of us by virtue of the fact that He made each of us in His “image and likeness”. The way you characterize it indicates that you really don’t understand what I am talking about.

    The pedophile may convince himself that he is acting out of love, but he is confusing attraction for love. And I also believe that deep in his heart somewhere he knows that his acts are in fact in contradiction of the Love that he actually is. We each of us typically live many lifetimes before we begin to be able to reliably access the essence of ourselves that is Love. But that will come to each of us in the fullness of time. It is guaranteed.

  157. Bruce

    The pedophile may convince himself that he is acting out of love, but he is confusing attraction for love.

    According to you, he is confusing love with attraction; according to me, you are confusing love with sentimentality; according to him, we are confusing love with traditionalism. When we refuse to accept the relationship between love and truth, we remain in intellectual quicksand.

    According to me, tearing a fetus into pieces, regardless of anyone’s perception of when it obtains a soul, is not a loving act; according to you, it is a loving act. So how do we decide which of us is right? Are we, in the name of your relativism, all free to choose our own definition of love, or is your definition absolutely the only correct one? If yours is absolutely the right one, what happened to the relativism?

    The Love to which I refer is absolute. It is God’s Love, which is available to and through each of us by virtue of the fact that He made each of us in His “image and likeness”. The way you characterize it indicates that you really don’t understand what I am talking about.

    Perhaps the way I describe it uncovers is vacuousness and you would prefer to say that I don’t understand it. Or, perhaps your description of love, absent any real definitions of key terms, cannot be articulated well enough to be understand. Perhaps you are fooling yourself into believing that even you understand it.

  158. Stephen:

    Perhaps the way I describe it uncovers is vacuousness and you would prefer to say that I don’t understand it. Or, perhaps your description of love, absent any real definitions of key terms, cannot be articulated well enough to be understand. Perhaps you are fooling yourself into believing that even you understand it.

    You are writing in the language of reasoned arguments. Love (and indeed all fundamental Truth) cannot be understood in those terms. Real knowledge is “seen”, not reasoned to. And that “seeing” is bestowed by Grace.

    You of course can’t see this because your commitment reason prevents the possibility.

    At this point we appear to be at our usual impasse.

  159. Bruce, my question persists:

    Due to our respective non-negotiable positions on abortion, a consensus decision in the three-person community is not an option. How, then, do we decide which person’s preference will be translated into law:

    [a] The natural moral law

    [b] Tyranny of the majority (You and the other person decide by fiat and against my will)

    [c] Tyranny by one person (The most powerful person among the three of us decides by fiat against the other two)

  160. Stephen re 160:

    I explained how the process would work in number 137, and it will work in a community of any size if all members 1) renounce judgment in the recognition that morality doesn’t exist, and 2) commit themselves to acting from Love. In such a community, there will be no non-negotiable positions on anything. Everyone who has a position on an issue that is in conflict with those of others in the community will always be open to the possibility 1) that those other positions, being held by people in good faith, may very well embody valid points worthy of consideration, and 2) that Love operating through the members of the community can reveal a creative resolution of the conflict.

  161. BD:

    Do you hear yourself saying:

    renounce judgment in the recognition that morality doesn’t exist

    This is reductio ad absurdum, and only underscores your evasiveness on a direct challenge such as, the torture, abuse, sexual assault, rape etc of an innocent child, is wrong, and is obviously wrong. And, this is a non-negotiable, there is and can be no compromise with that sort of vile predatory activity.

    You cannot admit this, and simply refuse to admit that your position plainly reduced to might and manipulation make ‘right’ in the community.

    And, Stephen is perfectly right to underscore that love has in it perceptions and judgements, valuings etc that are chock full of intelligent acts and content subject to issues of truth and falsity, right and wrong. But you evidently want to do that as you please without having to ask whether your claims are right and your valuings or choices are right, in a forum that will make a serious evaluation. Indeed, it seems you have tried to make over God in your image to fit your predilections.

    The amorality that you have been reduced to speaks volumes.

    Please, think again.

    KF

  162. I explained how the process would work in number 137, and it will work in a community of any size if all members 1) renounce judgment in the recognition that morality doesn’t exist, and 2) commit themselves to acting from Love. In such a community, there will be no non-negotiable positions on anything. Everyone who has a position on an issue that is in conflict with those of others in the community will always be open to the possibility 1) that those other positions, being held by people in good faith, may very well embody valid points worthy of consideration, and 2) that Love operating through the members of the community can reveal a creative resolution of the conflict.

    Obviously, your process doesn’t work since you cannot apply it by answering my very simple question. The reason you will not answer any of my questions is because the process of doing so would refute your position, which I have shown to be untenable.

  163. Bruce: “In such a community [based on love], there will be no non-negotiable positions on anything.”

    So, in your judgment, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, pro-lifers, and pro-choicers, all of whom hold non-negotiable religious views, could never be a part of such a community?

  164. “non-negotiable [religious] views” should read, “non negotiable views.”

  165. Stephen:

    Obviously, your process doesn’t work since you cannot apply it by answering my very simple question. The reason you will not answer any of my questions is because the process of doing so would refute your position, which I have shown to be untenable.

    Stephen, that is a stupid comment. The process I described cannot be done in the comments section of this post. That should be obvious.

    I described the process I believe would happen in a community of people who believe as I do. You want an answer to a question that doesn’t have an answer (“What would the outcome of such a process be?”) so that you can prove that you are right. Well, it’s a nice rhetorical trick, but it’s flaws will be obvious to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

  166. KF:

    This is reductio ad absurdum, and only underscores your evasiveness on a direct challenge such as, the torture, abuse, sexual assault, rape etc of an innocent child, is wrong, and is obviously wrong.

    You see it as absurd because you are at this point in time incapable of imagining the possibility that morality doesn’t actually exist. When you reach the point where you can step outside of that intellectual box and imagine a Universe ruled by Love instead of right and wrong, you will understand what I am trying to convey here.

  167. Stephen:

    So, in your judgment, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, pro-lifers, and pro-choicers, all of whom hold non-negotiable religious views, could never be a part of such a community?

    It would depend on how rigidly they held on to those views. If they had the perspective that their religion was “the only way”, then no, they could not be part of such a community, nor indeed would they want to be.

    However, it is far from true that all religious people “hold non-negotiable views”. If their position was that “ours is not the only way, ours is just another way”, then they could very well be part of such a community.

  168. KF:

    And, Stephen is perfectly right to underscore that love has in it perceptions and judgements, valuings etc that are chock full of intelligent acts and content subject to issues of truth and falsity, right and wrong. But you evidently want to do that as you please without having to ask whether your claims are right and your valuings or choices are right, in a forum that will make a serious evaluation. Indeed, it seems you have tried to make over God in your image to fit your predilections.

    First, I have shown that there is no absolute right and wrong. All you can say is that torturing and killing innocent children is obviously wrong, and similar statements with which most of us in this culture would agree. Now I contend that even those statements are relative to you and anyone else who accepts them. They do not have the force of absolute morality because they come from you, not from God.

    But even if I grant you that those judgments are objective, those are not the moral choices facing each of us in everyday life. There is no absolute standard to tell us what is the correct action given the choices with which we are actually faced. A woman I perceive as overweight asks me if she is fat. Is it “right” to lie to her about what I think? I submit that there is no absolute answer to this question. But living in the question, “What would Love do now?” can answer the question, if I am in tune with my own deepest knowing. I could give you a thousand examples like this. Morality is relative. Love works.

    Second, neither you nor Stephen has a clue what I mean by Love. It is God’s Love, and it operates in and through each and every one of us if we make the space within ourselves for it to do so. If we can clear ourselves to be an open channel for this Love, it is unerring. But it has no rules. Just as each situation in which we find ourselves is unique, each answer to the question, “What would Love do now?” will also be unique.

    The amorality that you have been reduced to speaks volumes.

    By a strict definition, I suppose you could say I am amoral, but I can tell you with a great deal of confidence that people who know me in daily life, whatever their position on the objectivity of morality, would never describe me as an amoral person.

  169. Bruce

    “It would depend on how rigidly they held on to those views.”

    We already know how rigidly you and I hold our respective views. You are committed to the non-negotiable proposition that abortion is not immoral and I am committed to the opposite view, which is non-negotiable. So we cannot both be a part of a loving community the way you define it. I am sure that you have been able to figure this out which is why you refuse to answer my question.

  170. Bruce:

    “The process I described cannot be done in the comments section of this post. That should be obvious.”

    It is obvious that you cannot do it at all. It wouldn’t matter how much space you were given. If you asked me a question, and it was important enough to you that you repeated it over and over again, I will not weasel out of it by claiming that I don’t have enough space to provide an answer. Your evasions have already used up a hundred times more space than would be needed.

    I described the process I believe would happen in a community of people who believe as I do.

    So what? As I pointed out earlier, there is no problem in coming to a consensus when members of a group do not hold any conflicting, non-negotiable positions, as is the case with a group like yours. I have been a member of similar groups. The problem is in forming a community around those who hold substantially different views that cannot be resolved by simply talking them out.

    Second, neither you nor Stephen has a clue what I mean by Love.

    The problem is not that we do not understand it. The problem is that YOU don’t understand it. Your notion of God’s love is just a feeling with no substance. Because it doesn’t rise to the level of a rational concept, it cannot be articulated in rational terms. You try to justify that lack by saying that you don’t believe in rationality at all and, therefore, bear no responsibility for providing a rational defense. Sorry, but public discourse doesn’t work that way.

    To say, for example, that your definition of love is “God’s love” or that “it operates through each one of us who open enough to make the space for it” is to tell me nothing. A pedophile or mass murderer could make the same claim by saying that God’s love is real for him and is operating through him–and that we are just too close-minded to understand his position. Your argument is no better than that, which means that it is no argument at all.

  171. Stephen:

    Bruce

    “It would depend on how rigidly they held on to those views.”

    We already know how rigidly you and I hold our respective views. You are committed to the non-negotiable proposition that abortion is not immoral and I am committed to the opposite view, which is non-negotiable.

    I am committed to the proposition that absolute, objective morality does not exist. In the community in which I proposed that the process we are discussing would occur, everyone would share that view. Hence, no problem.

    Your evasions have already used up a hundred times more space than would be needed.

    I keep answering your question. You evidently don’t like my answer because you keep asking the same question. That’s why we keep using up space.

    I have answered your question. You don’t accept my answer as valid. Each person reading this thread will have to decide for themselves who is right about it.

    The problem is in forming a community around those who hold substantially different views that cannot be resolved by simply talking them out.

    I stated, way back in 106, that “People such as myself could easily decide to create a society based on love as the guiding principle.” You have been unsuccessfully trying to prove me wrong about that ever since. So now you change the terms of the debate by arbitrarily including in the community people who are not like me in that they don’t share my views about morality and Love. I have already agreed that that would not work.

    The problem is not that we do not understand it. The problem is that YOU don’t understand it. Your notion of God’s love is just a feeling with no substance. Because it doesn’t rise to the level of a rational concept, it cannot be articulated in rational terms. You try to justify that lack by saying that you don’t believe in rationality at all and, therefore, bear no responsibility for providing a rational defense. Sorry, but public discourse doesn’t work that way.

    I’m a mathematician. Of course I believe in rationality. However, I don’t believe that rationality or reason by itself can arrive at any kind of truth other than mathematical or logical truth, which is essentially of the form “B follows from A”. But to establish the truth of the fundamental “A” (or A’s) requires knowing from some other source than reason.

    And where do you get the rule that “public discourse” has to work the way you want it to? That’s like materialist scientists arbitrarily declaring that science must consider only material causes. My comments express to the best of my ability how I see the world. If I tried to fit them into your constraints, they would cease to express my vision of reality altogether.

    To say, for example, that your definition of love is “God’s love” or that “it operates through each one of us who open enough to make the space for it” is to tell me nothing.

    I don’t define Love. I have never attempted to define it. It’s not something that can be defined. You either know what it is by having direct experience of it or you don’t.

    The quotes you cite are not definitions. They are statements of some things that are true of Love. And it doesn’t surprise me at all that they tell you nothing.

    A pedophile or mass murderer could make the same claim by saying that God’s love is real for him and is operating through him–and that we are just too close-minded to understand his position. Your argument is no better than that, which means that it is no argument at all.

    Anyone who reads the pedophile’s claim would have to decide for him or herself whether the claim had any merit, just as anyone who reads my comments must make the same assessment. They are not really arguments at all (with the exception of my argument that objective morality does not exist). Rather, they constitute a statement, to the best of my ability, of some of my views of the true nature of reality—of God and us and our relationship. People who read them will judge their validity based on their own experience and whether, to them, they have the ring of truth.

  172. Bruce

    I am committed to the proposition that absolute, objective morality does not exist. In the community in which I proposed that the process we are discussing would occur, everyone would share that view. Hence, no problem.

    That is another evasion. The question was about abortion and the fact that our respective positions are both non-negotiable and irreconcilable inside your proposed community of love.

    I have answered your question.

    That isn’t true. You have either ignored my question or reframed it into something unrecognizable. That is why you merely allude to it in general and never refer to it word for word as a quote.

    You have been unsuccessfully trying to prove me wrong about that ever since.

    I have proven you wrong many times. Unfortunately, you do not recognize the refutations because you don’t accept rational arguments as refutations. No one who would explicitly deny that reason can lead to truth, as you do, would ever acknowledge the truth in a reasoned argument.

    So now you change the terms of the debate by arbitrarily including in the community people who are not like me in that they don’t share my views about morality and Love. I have already agreed that that would not work.

    Oh, please, stop that nonsense. I said that moral relativism always leads to tyranny, which it does. Clearly, I was referring to the real world where real disputes and substantive ideological conflicts take place. Consensus decision making will not solve those kinds of fundamental conflicts. That technique only works in social clubs and sympathetic groups, like yours, where fundamental values are already agreed upon. In the real world, where conflicts of vision occur, there are only two types of resolution: The natural moral law, or tyrannical power. There is simply no doubt about this fact, either logically or historically. I have proven this point several times with a very simple example that you refuse to address.
    It was you who introduced irrelevant new subjects by offering your own self-made community as a counter example, an example which is, and always been, irrelevant, since there are no ideological differences in your group that could possibly lead to a meaningful conflict. Now that we can agree that your community experience is irrelevant, please do not bring it up again.

    I’m a mathematician. Of course I believe in rationality.

    What does that dubious claim have to do with the fact that your description of God’s love has not been rationally defined? A true believer in rationality would not hesitate to define his terms.

    I don’t define Love. I have never attempted to define it.

    That is correct. You have not rationally defined your terms. Indeed, disciplined and well-thought out definitions are an essential part of the rationality that you explicitly reject, but that fundamental deficiency doesn’t prevent you from throwing undefined terms around (God’s love) post after post as if they could mean something or be used as an argument for anything.

    The quotes you cite are not definitions. They are statements of some things that are true of Love. And it doesn’t surprise me at all that they tell you nothing.

    Your quotes do not tell me anything because they do not say anything. That raises the question as to why you would provide meaningless comments as an answer to my meaningful questions.

    Anyone who reads the pedophile’s claim would have to decide for him or herself whether the claim had any merit, just as anyone who reads my comments must make the same assessment.

    Well, here I have you at a distinct disadvantage. I know that the pedophile’s claim of love for his victim is illegitimate because it is based on his misguided and perverse notion of love. Since you have no rational knowledge of the relationship between love and truth, you would have no way of knowing how perverse his claims really are—or how empty your claims really are.

  173. Stephen:

    That is another evasion. The question was about abortion and the fact that our respective positions are both non-negotiable and irreconcilable inside your proposed community of love.

    You are transporting yourself into a community in which you by definition would not be present. An understanding that morality doesn’t actually exist (except in men’s minds) and a willingness to live in the question, “What would Love do now?” are the prerequisites for being in the community. The people in such a community would not have non-negotiable and irreconcilable positions, as I have already explained. My position on abortion is not non-negotiable, by the way.

    I know that the pedophile’s claim of love for his victim is illegitimate because it is based on his misguided and perverse notion of love. Since you have no rational knowledge of the relationship between love and truth, you would have no way of knowing how perverse his claims really are—or how empty your claims really are.

    My way of knowing is that Love recognizes Itself in another, and Love also knows when Love is not the motivation for another’s actions, as I have already stated. You reject this statement. I can’t help that. I know what I know.

    For the rest of 173, you are merely restating your positions, which are based on the assumption that valid knowledge must be based on a rationalistic model. My responses would just be restatements of mine, which reflect my certainty that true Knowledge cannot be reached by reason alone.

    It’s interesting Stephen, that the more frustrated you are at being unable to find a way to prove my point of view wrong, the more insulting you become.

    I think it would be rather pointless to continue in this vein, don’t you?

  174. BD: Whether or no I can imagine that morality may/does not exist — in a robot world where there is no responsible choice, it would not exist (there, I can imagine a logically possible world in which such would not exist . . . ) — is immaterial to the issue that in THIS world, we very much find ourselves bound by principles such as that it is something that OUGHT not to be done, to torture, rape or murder an innocent child, and indeed that we OUGHT to protect, nurture and help such. In short, once we have every good reason to understand that we can choose and that some choices harm others and ourselves while others cherish and nurture others, this world is patently one in which morality exists. KF

  175. PS: My recent comments here and here respectively address the moral issues of abortion and governance in the community that I think will be increasingly relevant in the current situation in our civilisation.

  176. Bruce

    I think it would be rather pointless to continue in this vein, don’t you?

    If you think it is pointless, why do you continue? You have extended this discussion far beyond its natural life by denying a historical fact, namely that when competing moral philosophies seek to get translated into civil law, either the natural moral law or tyrannical power will settle the issue. In keeping with that point, moral relativism always leads to tyranny. As a moral relativist. you don’t like that fact so you deny it.

    So far, you have avoided the essential question about relativism and tyranny by saying that this could not happen in a community of love as you “experience” it. But there is nothing remarkable about that fact because your community was designed for like-minded people, which means that there are no competing moral philosophies.

    Here is the question again (for the tenth time?)

    In the real world where people live, conflicts arise. You and I are in such a community right now (The United States) and my three person example is just a microcosm of that community. The issue of abortion must be settled.

    Due to our respective non-negotiable positions on abortion, a consensus decision in the three-person community is not an option. How, then, do we decide which person’s preference will be translated into law:

    [a] The natural moral law

    [b] Tyranny of the majority (You and the other person decide by fiat and against my will)

    [c] Tyranny by one person (The most powerful person among the three of us decides by fiat against the other two)

    Since I know that you will never answer the question, I will explain why you continue to evade the point:

    You recognize that no other options are available except those that I listed, and you further recognize that it proves my point. So, rather than be forthright and provide an honest answer to the question, you continually introduce your own love community as a counter example, even after I explain why it is irrelevant. Call it an insult if you like, but those are the facts.

  177. SB:

    Sadly, you seem to be exactly correct.

    To survive, real communities — not narrow groups of the like-minded — have to have means of resolving morally loaded issues. And if the natural moral law tied to our common nature is not accepted and respected, there only remains the imposition of force based on interests or balances of power and alliances by the powerful, or the power of majority (a rough index of probable power in a fight).

    When it comes to abortion on demand, we are talking of the value of life. This, in a context where there is historical precedent that points from abortion to infanticide to “voluntary” then forced euthanasia, then outright naked genocide. The driving force of this being, the erosion of the perceived value of life through rhetoric of dehumanisation and/or marginalisation. Life, unworthy of being lived by being inferior or burdensome to itself and/or others.

    Those are the matches our civilisation is playing with, with it seems like the blood of coming on half a generation crying up from the ground against us.

    On the more specific case I raised above, that WE OUGHT NOT TO TORTURE, RAPE AND/OR MURDER INNOCENT CHILDREN, it is interesting to see how objectors try to evade the specific case, substituting things like, how awful this is, or distracting attention by pointing elsewhere or trying to indict the Judaeo-Christian moral tradition for the sins of Christendom, etc.

    All of this comes down to, a clear illustration of having no cogent answer on the merits.

    It is quite clear that OUGHT is a real, binding obligation rooted in our duty to respect others who are as we are, and hold inherent value that must be respected. The problem with this, for the fashionable secularism, skepticism, atheism, evolutionary materialism etc of our day, is that his then puts squarely on the table, the challenge that answers to Hume’s IS-OUGHT gap. Namely, the only point where OUGHT can be grounded is in the foundation of our worldviews, i.e. we need an IS that grounds ought right from the root, suffusing up from there.

    There is one serious candidate on the table for this, the inherently good creator God who makes a cosmos in which morally governed creatures are ruled by a built-in sense of the value of those that are as themselves, rightly guided conscience.

    I found it interesting how there was an attempt to brush aside the understanding that we cannot argue to turtles all the way down or in a circle, leading to an ultimate turtle. The raft illustration — meant to be a coherence based case, founders on the underlying ocean that through the law of floatation is the foundation of a viable raft. The spaceship illustration only succeeds in pointing out that there has to be a space that supports the possibility of a spaceship, including of course a planet such as ours.

    And as for the imagine a world in which morals are irrelevant, that is easy to do: a world of pre-programmed robots who make no real choices. A world in which love is meaningless, so the claimed objection on (undefined but “intuited”) love founders in a second way.

    And of course the favourite Euthyphro dilemma argument founders on the inability to separate the inherently good Creator God and goodness; who is utterly distinct from the sort of gods Socrates had in mind who were not the true ground of reality so the issue of goodness separate from the will of such squabbling mythological deities was a relevant objection t their reality. (That is why I have always found it less than convincing to see such put forth as an objection to the one, true, living, inherently good Creator God.)

    Inference to best of competing explanations on comparative difficulties is really interesting when applied to ultimates.

    KF

  178. KF:

    …in THIS world, we very much find ourselves bound by principles such as that it is something that OUGHT not to be done, to torture, rape or murder an innocent child, and indeed that we OUGHT to protect, nurture and help such. In short, once we have every good reason to understand that we can choose and that some choices harm others and ourselves while others cherish and nurture others, this world is patently one in which morality exists.

    Anyone who lives his or her life from Love would never torture, rape, or murder an innocent child, and indeed would protect, nurture, and help such. There are several differences between someone who lives his life from morality and one who lives his life from Love, however:

    1) The one who lives her life from Love has a guide to help her through the difficult choices for which morality, objective or otherwise, really doesn’t supply an answer, such as the one I presented in 169.

    2) The one who lives his life from Love will not judge or condemn another. Rather, he will have love and compassion for those who commit acts that do not emanate from Love. This is in no way condoning those acts. However, that love and compassion has a much better chance of generating in the perpetrator an understanding of the fact that what he or she has done he has violated his or her essential nature, and thus a much better chance of producing real change in that person than judgment and condemnation ever will.

    3) A life lived from Love is far more satisfying, peaceful, loving, and joyful than one lived in judgment and condemnation. I know this from personal experience—I have done both.

  179. Stephen: re 177

    Now who is extending the conversation?

    You wish to prove that moral relativism always reduces itself to “might makes right”. It can’t be done, for these reasons:

    1) The vast majority of people who are moral relativists do not live their lives in that paradigm. You have only to look around to see that this is true.

    2) Your attempt to demonstrate that a society based on moral relativism will devolve to tyranny also fails. Here are two counter examples:
    a) My proposed society composed of people who reject morality and embrace Love as the guiding principle of their lives. These are the only prerequisites for inclusion in such a society. Beyond that, there could be many different viewpoints on many different questions. In particular, some could hold that a human being is created at conception, while others could hold that a human being comes into existence later in the process. I claim that such differences could be resolved by creative dialog in an environment characterized by love and respect for each other’s point of view, similarly to the way creative solutions emerge from the consensus process. I also claim that a society in which Love is the guiding principle would never devolve to tyranny. Love is simply not tyrannical.
    b) There is no logical reason that a society could not be created by moral relativists in the form of a representative democracy with a constitution and separation of powers, similar to that of the US or of the parliamentary democracies of Europe. Now if you wish to characterize a representative democracy as “tyranny of the majority”, go ahead, but it hardly qualifies as “might makes right”.

    You recognize that no other options are available except those that I listed, and you further recognize that it proves my point. So, rather than be forthright and provide an honest answer to the question, you continually introduce your own love community as a counter example, even after I explain why it is irrelevant. Call it an insult if you like, but those are the facts.

    “Facts”, Stephen, “facts”? This paragraph is nothing more than an attempt to rescue your failed attempt to prove a point by maligning my character. Tsk, tsk. Are you sure that inventing motivations for me out of thin air that accuse me of dishonesty is in keeping with natural law and objective morality?

  180. BD:

    Duly, you try to divert, yet again.

    First, not everyone lives consistently by love.

    And, that is assuming you are accepting an understanding of love that is reasonable and right. Where, you have ducked and dodged, implying that you have a subjectivist-intuitionist non-cognitive version.

    “Love” is an empty mushy feeling word for you, if you pardon my bluntness. It simply leaves open the door for the pedophile who “loves” little boys or girls, to do such great harm.

    I contrast the Apostle Paul on good citizenship, neighbourliness and love, in Rom 13:8 – 10:

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

    Notice, how Paul specifies the moral content of the law of love?

    Similarly, when in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summed up, here is how he put the matter:

    Matt 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. [NIV '84]

    Both were speaking in the context of Moshe’s remarks in Lev 19:15 – 18, which I will cite in light of v 11 on:

    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. I am the Lord.

    In short, you are subverting the concept of what neighbour-love is and requires. And, you are using it as a distraction. So let us go back tot he example that you consistently try to evade, an example of the reality of moral government based on what we ought to do and what we ought not to do, which of course should be motivated by respect for others as made in the image of God, leading to cherishing — loving — them:

    We OUGHT not TO TORTURE, RAPE OR MURDER INNOCENT CHILDREN, but instead we OUGHT to nurture and protect them

    Now, let us see if you can say yes, this is so, or will imply by evasion that you reject ought. Including, this specific ought.

    Which should serve as a grim warning to at least others, even if you have so convinced yourself that you are simply not open to correction. (And remember, this is in the context where there is an ongoing issue at BBC.)

    Secondly, it is not the relativists who live off a fading memory of the past Judaeo-Christian consensus who are pivotal, at least so long as they do live off those principles — though, notoriously, such are vulnerable to rhetorical manipulation through twisted rights talk and false accusations of scapegoat groups. The problem is that evolutionary materialism driven relativisation of our views on truth and values (even that term is suspect) — a better one is morality, and it is exactly one of your no-no words — opens the gateway to the nihilistic, ruthless factions who act on the might makes ‘right’ premise.

    So, by your attempted disarming of the law- of- our- morally- governed- nature principles of justice and protection of the right that underpin the civil peace of justice, you open the gateway to the chaos, oppression and tyranny that flow from nihilism.

    That has been pointed out long since by Plato, in The Laws, Bk X:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that . . . The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

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

    The road to tyranny in a nutshell.

    We can hardly say that we have not been warned.

    Oh yes, I see this in your onward comment to SB, in an attempt to rebut his point about the alternative between the moral law, and the tyranny of the powerful or the large, manipulated mob:

    Your attempt to demonstrate that a society based on moral relativism will devolve to tyranny also fails. Here are two counter examples:

    a) My proposed society composed of people who reject morality and embrace Love as the guiding principle of their lives . . .

    1 –> You have chosen an ARTIFICIAL society, which can only exist in a small club of the like minded, SB was addressing the real world where we have to deal with the real range of beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and tactics.

    2 –> This immediately means that you are erecting and trying to knock over a strawman caricature, in the teeth of SB’s explicit correction, i.e you are deliberately misrepresenting him the better to gain a rhetorical advantage.

    3 –> I would love to see you explain hos this is consistent with your understanding of “love.”

    4 –> Likewise, I have already highlighted enough on the moral content of love to show that your usage of “love” is empty and incoherent. True neighbour-love deeply embeds morality.

    5 –> Where also, SB is right, there are heaps of all too chilling facts that document the empirical reality of his three alternatives. You can discuss some of them, such as the French Revolutions of 1789 and 1870, the Russian one of 1917 on, the German one from the 1930s, the Cambodian one of the 1970′s, the Chinese one from the 1940′s, or even in our backyard the Cuban one from the 1950′s. And so forth.

    6 –> So, your rebuttal falls apart.

    KF

    PS: Onlookers, and all of these are on a grand side track from the pivotal issue for the OP. For, in answer to Dawkins’ dismissive statement to Playboy published in September, I pointed to the game changing impact of the minimal facts evidence of the C1 regarding the passion of Jesus, as may be observed in the embedded video and the linked discussion. Observe the appendix to the OP on the various ways popular skeptical theories on that passion fail to match the credible facts, by sharp contrast with the historic Christian view, tracing to C1, by 35 – 38 AD in prime source documents, and actually to 30 or 33 AD based on the collective force of the documents. namely, the well-founded historical credibility of the account of the gospel that “God so loved that he gave . . . “

  181. Stephen:

    Oh, and by the way, your contention that in the “real world” a large diverse society can use “natural moral law” to adjudicate differences is self delusion. This is because each sect of every religion has its own version of absolute morality. There is your version, the Catholic version, the liberal Christian version, the Mormon version, the fundamentalist Islamic version, the liberal Islamic version, the various Buddhist versions, the Taoist version, the different Hindu versions, and on and on.

    In many cases, these can be resolved by the different sects simply being allowed to follow their own moral requirements within their own communities, but there are many instances in which they conflict in the larger society. For example, on the issues of gay rights, gay marriage, whether sex between consenting adults shall be legal and whether the participants must be of opposite sexes, whether contraception shall be available for sale, abortion rights and under what circumstances, whether the Sharia shall be the law of the land, capital punishment and for what crimes, women’s rights, gender roles in general, how important is individual freedom vis a vis government functions, shall polygamy be legal, what degree of undress shall be tolerated in public by each sex, where is the line between self defense and murder, whether the use of lethal force to defend one’s property is acceptable and under what circumstances, to what extent and in what forms cruelty shall be illegal, in what circumstances shall profanity and the taking of God’s name in vain be illegal…

    These are just a few examples. I could come up with many more. The point is that each sect of each religion will have its own version of “objective morality” which gives different answers to these questions. So the use of objective morality (even if your version, Stephen, is the correct one) is doomed to failure. The issues will be resolved the way they are in the US—by democratic process moderated by judicial oversight—or they will be resolved by fiat in a dictatorship.

  182. KF: re 181

    You evidently hold Biblical scripture to be an inerrant source of truth. I do not. My “scripture” derives from many sources, but the one that has the most ring of truth for me are the books in the series, Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch. Here are some quotes directly from God:

    P. 38 of Conversations with God, Book I:

    There are no “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” in God’s world. Do what you want to do. Do what reflects you, what re-presents you as a grander version of your Self…

    But judge not, and neither condemn, for you know not why a thing occurs, nor to what end

    And remember you this: that which you condemn will condemn you, and that which you judge, you will one day become.

    P. 39 of the same volume:

    I have never set down a “right” or “wrong”, a “do” or a “don’t”. To do so would be to strip you completely of your greatest gift—the opportunity to do as you please, and experience the results of that; the chance to create yourself anew in the image and likeness of Who You Really Are; the space to produce a reality of a higher and higher you based on your grandest idea of what it is of which you are capable.

    P. 130 of the same volume:

    Yes, let all those who have ears to hear, listen. For I tell you this: at the critical juncture in all human relationships, there is only one question:

    What would love do now?

    No other question is relevant, no other question is meaningful, no other question has any importance to your soul. [Emphasis in the original.]

    P. 349 of The New Revelations:

    There is no such thing as Right and Wrong. There is only What Works and What Does Not Work, depending upon what it is that you seek to be, do, or have.

    P. 386 of Tomorrow’s God:

    Tomorrow’s God will be unconditionally loving, nonjudgmental, noncondemning, and nonpunishing.

    Note: He is using the phrase “Tomorrow’s God” as shorthand for a fuller understanding of God that will come to us in time.

    Now I know that you won’t accept my source as valid revelation. But each of us must determine for him or herself what does constitute revelation from among all the claimants that exist in the world (and there are many). Frankly, I find it odd that anyone would accept the Bible as such, given that it is rife with internal contradiction.

  183. BD:

    I have simply cited peaks of wisdom in the moral thought of our civilisation. If you are an educated person, and you are, you know that the Golden Rule is precisely that.

    I have simply cited the actual sources, and remarked that love in the context of that GR is not contentless.

    You have still failed to adequately address the fundamental case in point, and you have not given any reason to believe that in absence of reliance on natural law, the law of our nature as morally governed creatures, we will avoid some form or other of might makes ‘right.’

    Which makes the point quite starkly plain for had you a genuine answer you would have gladly given it.

    I see no good reason to toss over the likes of a Paul or a Plato, or a Moshe or a Jesus, to take up the fluffy warm feelings that cannot stand the test of a real community facing real irreconcilable differences.

    KF

  184. KF: re our entire conversation on the subject of morality:

    To anyone who believes that morality is real, whether they be relativists or absolutists, what I have been presenting in these comments is nothing less than a paradigm shift. I realize now that trying to explain a paradigm shift to one who is unwilling to make the shift simply appears him or her as nonsense that flies in the face of reason and indeed the “obvious”. I see this as the reason that “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” in the immortal words of Cool Hand Luke.

    It was also a paradigm shift for me, but I am very glad that I made that shift, because my life is richer and more rewarding by far than it was when I lived in the former paradigm.

    Peace.

  185. KF:

    You have still failed to adequately address the fundamental case in point, and you have not given any reason to believe that in absence of reliance on natural law, the law of our nature as morally governed creatures, we will avoid some form or other of might makes ‘right.’

    I’m sorry, but the burden of proof lies with you. Neither you nor Stephen have been able to supply a valid demonstration of your contention that moral relativism leads inevitably to “might makes right”. I don’t have to “address” it, even though I have, most succinctly in 180.

    But in any case, that whole issue is in a sense irrelevant, as I have also demonstrated that moral relativism is an unavoidable fact of life here on planet earth (see 18, 36, 47, 53, 74, and 121). Neither you nor Stephen have been able to counter that argument.

    The problem here is that what you regard as valid demonstration, I reject, and vice versa. We’re pretty much at an impasse, don’t you think?

  186. Bruce

    This paragraph is nothing more than an attempt to rescue your failed attempt to prove a point by maligning my character.

    I didn’t malign your character. I simply pointed out that you falsely claimed to have answered a question that you didn’t answer. In addition, I explained why you felt the need for the evasion. If you think that making false statements is indicative of a good character, that is your business, not mine.

  187. Bruce

    But in any case, that whole issue is in a sense irrelevant, as I have also demonstrated that moral relativism is an unavoidable fact of life here on planet earth (see 18, 36, 47, 53, 74, and 121). Neither you nor Stephen have been able to counter that argument.

    I suspect that the explanation for this delusion can found in your teacher’s own words:

    There is no such thing as right and wrong

    So, nothing you do is wrong, including making false statements.

    There is only what works and what doesn’t work,

    So, you do what you think will work, which is to evade my questions and fill cyberspace with meaningless words in great quantity.

    …depending on what it is that you seek to be, do, or have.

    This is the age-old story of the ends justifying the means all dressed up in spiritualist psychobabble. You seek to create the impression that you won a debate that you clearly lost–and lost badly, so you simply make a fanciful claim to the contrary, and you keep making it, and making it.

    Perhaps you hope, once again, that the subjective and self-serving images that you hold in your mind can exist as their own fabricated substitute for reality. Perhaps, for you, they can. If that gives you any consolation, I am happy for you. So spike the football, give yourself a few high fives, and hug yourself–if you want it to be real, it’s real for you. That’s the beauty of relativism–and the death of rational thought.

  188. Stephen:

    I didn’t malign your character.

    Here is what you said:

    You recognize that no other options are available except those that I listed, and you further recognize that it proves my point. So, rather than be forthright and provide an honest answer to the question, you continually introduce your own love community as a counter example, even after I explain why it is irrelevant. Call it an insult if you like, but those are the facts.

    You presume (as in make it up out of thin air) that I “recognize” your argument as valid, which I do not. You also presume that I accept your explanation that my counterexample is irrelevant, which I most assuredly do not. On the basis of what you have made up about me, you then accuse me of not being “forthright” and of being dishonest. Now you deny that this constitutes maligning my character. You are either totally incapable of recognizing what you have done, or you are flat out lying.

    Stephen, your need to be right causes you to destroy your own credibility.

  189. BD: Evasions and twistabouts. Simply address this case: to torture, rape, abuse or murder an innocent child is wrong and ought not to be done; instead, we ought to nurture and protect such children. It has been put to you any number of times and has been consistently evaded, no prizes for guessing why. KF

  190. kf, I think he loves torturing you.

  191. Bruce

    You presume (as in make it up out of thin air) that I “recognize” your argument as valid, which I do not.

    I didn’t say that you recognized my argument as valid. I don’t even think you know what validity means. I said that you recognized that it proves my point. You knew that you could not answer it, so you evaded it. That is not forthright behavior. To comment on someone’s behavior, however, is not to comment on his character. To cross that threshold I would have had to say that you are not a forthright person. Do you understand the difference?

    Notice, again, as I point to your false statement above (I didn’t say, as you claim, that you recognized my argument as valid), I was, again, referring to your behavior, which includes making false statements. Now one could argue, I suppose, that a person who continually makes false statements is a dishonest person, but being the harmless little fuzzball that I am, I refrain from such tactics.

    You also presume that I accept your explanation that my counterexample is irrelevant, which I most assuredly do not.

    I don’t know whether you know it or not, but it is. That you cannot understand why it is irrelevant is a problem.

    On the basis of what you have made up about me, you then accuse me of not being “forthright” and of being dishonest.

    I didn’t make up the point that you make false statements and evade arguments. This kind of behavior is neither forthright or honest.

    Now you deny that this constitutes maligning my character.

    That is correct. Assessing behavior is a different kind of thing than judging character.

    You are either totally incapable of recognizing what you have done, or you are flat out lying.

    This is an interesting exercise. Earlier, I provided you with an opportunity to respond to the same kind of either/or option, except that my offering was grounded in logic and described accurately a limited number of options, the very question you evaded.

    On the other hand, you have presented an either/or proposition that lacks that same rigor because other options are available.

    Let’s look at your options, which you declare to be the only two available:

    [a] I don’t recognize what I did (attack your character)

    [b] I lied

    Are there any other options?

    How about

    [c] I assessed your behavior, not your character.

    So, unlike my either/or propositions, which were complete enough that you dared not address them, your either/or proposition was illogical, incomplete, and presumptuous.

    Do you grasp the difference between my tightly constructed formulation that you evaded and your sloppily constructed formulation that I sliced through like butter? Perhaps you can retreat into your world of subjectivism and delude yourself once again that you won a great victory in this exchange. Frankly, I am starting to feel guilty for taking advantage of you.

    Stephen, your need to be right causes you to destroy your own credibility.

    Bruce, my credibility on this thread has never been in jeopardy. On the other hand, your credibility was shot the moment you tried to divorce love from truth.

  192. KF:

    BD: Evasions and twistabouts. Simply address this case: to torture, rape, abuse or murder an innocent child is wrong and ought not to be done; instead, we ought to nurture and protect such children. It has been put to you any number of times and has been consistently evaded, no prizes for guessing why.

    You just don’t get it. I don’t believe in right and wrong in a moral sense. Period. For many reasons, most of which I have already laid out in this thread, and not the least of which is that God doesn’t believe in right and wrong either. I have His word for it. How can I assent to the statement, “to torture, rape, abuse or murder an innocent child is wrong” when I don’t believe in wrong. I can say that to torture, rape, abuse or murder an innocent child is an unloving thing to do. You’ll have to be satisfied with that.

    Your question, for me, is of the “When did you stop beating your wife?” variety. It presumes a counter factual situation.

  193. BD:

    Re: I don’t believe in right and wrong in a moral sense. Period.

    I do understand this, and what it implies: amorality and might or manipulation makes ‘right’ nihilism; with grim, terrible consequences down the long reaches of history.

    My concern is, that you don’t seem to understand this, for reasons that I will not delve on, and imagine that love can be emptied of the sort of moral content that the great teachers of our civilisation who softened hearts and led in positive transformation all bear witness to.

    If there are millions like you, our civilisation is in even deeper trouble than I think it is, and I think it is in pretty deep trouble.

    Please, please, please, think again.

    For the sake of 100 million ghosts of victims of regimes dominated by nihilist factions from the past 100 years, please think again.

    For the sake of 53 million unborn children in the US since 1973 and hundreds upon hundreds of millions more across the world, please think again.

    Fore the sake of your own soul and those who love, please think again.

    For true love is inseparable from the truth and from the pure and the right.

    God have mercy and shed his enlightening, heart stirring grace on you.

    KF

  194. Stephen:

    I didn’t say that you recognized my argument as valid. I don’t even think you know what validity means. I said that you recognized that it proves my point.

    And you actually think that recognizing an argument as valid is different from recognizing that it proves your point?

    I quit. I can’t have an intellectual conversation with someone who is unable to see the equivalence of those two characterizations of an argument.

    Let’s look at your options, which you declare to be the only two available:

    [a] I don’t recognize what I did (attack your character)

    [b] I lied

    Are there any other options?

    How about

    [c] I assessed your behavior, not your character.

    You most certainly did not asses my behavior. You made up a story that I recognized your argument as valid (or that it proved your point, whichever you prefer). That does not qualify as “assessing my behavior”. That is assigning an intellectual position to me when you have absolutely no way of knowing whether it is true of me or not. You then used that made up story as evidence that I was not forthright and honest in my responses. You did not “assess my behavior”; you invented a back story to justify claiming that my behavior was dishonest. By claiming without justification that I was not forthright or honest in my responses, you have maligned my character. If you can’t see that, then you really don’t recognize what you did. If you can see that, then you lied about it when you subsequently denied it.

    You are not honest Stephen. You misrepresent my positions, and then deny it. You falsely accuse me of motivations and intellectual positions which you have made up out of whole cloth and then deny that you have done that as well. I’m done with this conversation.

  195. KF re 194

    Humankind has been operating out of “right and wrong” and “good and evil” for millennia. How have we been doing with that paradigm?

    I say it’s time to try something new. I say that an abandonment of “right and wrong” and a surrender to Love will save us. I have seen it, KF. I know people who no longer believe in right and wrong and who operate from Love, and I have seen the transformation that they bring to all they contact. It works. I know it works because I have seen it in action, over and over again. It is the hope of humanity, and I can see that that way of being is growing in humankind, and I rejoice for it.

  196. Bruce

    I’m done with this conversation.

    It is my sincere wish that you will someday come to a saving knowledge of the truth.

  197. Stephen:

    It is my sincere wish that you will someday come to a saving knowledge of the truth.

    Thank you, Stephen. I believe that I already have.

  198. Jon Garvey,

    That Russell statement comes from here.

    Also of note:

    William Dembski: Let me play a little bit of the devil’s advocate. Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker says that Darwin made it possible to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist. And I think there’s a sense in which sociologically, I mean, there’s been a drive from Darwinism to atheism but is there a necessary connection? Can you somehow bring them into consonance, Darwinian view and a Christian view? Ken Miller on the recent PBS evolution program describes himself as an orthodox Darwinian and an orthodox Christian. And I think it’s possible to make that sort of rapprochement.

  199. BD:

    Pardon directness: more evasions, in a context where you want to suggest both that “love” cannot be given content — in particular, specific objective moral (OUGHTNESS/ justice/ rights . . . ) content — and you wish to say that the case put on the table would be “unloving.”

    In short, you are trying to have your cake and eat it.

    Your view is incoherent.

    Sorry, that case as repeatedly put on the table — there are too many actual examples — is utterly UNJUST, and is rooted in the willingness of some to do what OUGHT not to be done, to the point of that which is patently outrageous. And, it is the duty of the state’s officers in protection of the civil peace of justice, to defend us from such predators. Including investigating, trying in open court on law rooted in principles of justice and punishing them.

    Absent that, we have a situation where the abusers will dominate and turn the community into a chaos.

    Moreover, absent the basis that we are morally governed by the law of our nature and our equality and value stemming from that nature as the premise for that needed justice, we are indeed only left to the tyranny of the majority or the powerful minority.

    Which observation has thousands of years of sad history of case after case behind it.

    KF

  200. F/N: Onlookers, observe, how at length BD has had to use “unloving” as a vague synonym for unjust and wrong to the point of being a crime against the person. This underscores just how incoherent and irrelevant to the on the ground reality of the community with the problem of abuse and crime, terrorism and war, etc — not to mention just plain moral struggle — the sort of relativism and subjectivism we are seeing in action is.

  201. F/N 2: A note and vid [hopefully!] on where the ongoing rise of evolutionary materialism rooted, “free-thought”-driven (cf. here on) secularism is clearly headed in our civilisation — and that’s just as Plato warned against 2350 years ago. KF.

  202. 203
    Kantian Naturalist

    Kairosfocus, it seems not to have occurred to you that the way to reduce the number of abortions that happen is to work on the social conditions that make women desperate enough to seek out abortions. The rate of abortions is much lower in Western Europe, even though abortion is legal. I don’t get much sense from you that you’ve thought about why this is so. Perhaps it’s because there’s better sex education, contraceptives are more freely accessible, there’s a stronger social-safety net, less economic inequality, and so on.

    It is also worth pointing that (1) abortion rates are not affected by whether abortion is legal or illegal; (2) merely arguing that something is immoral does not, in general, dissuade people from doing it.

    Here’s the bottom line: women get abortions when they do not want to be pregnant. So if one believes that all abortions are morally forbidden, then one is committed to believing that it is morally permissible to force a woman to give birth against her will.

    From where I sit, there are basically two ways to reduce the abortion rate:

    (1) promote sex education and contraceptive use, so that women will only get pregnant when they want to have children and will not seek out abortions.

    (2) ensure that pregnant women are monitored and controlled at all times so that, even if they wanted to abort a pregnancy, they would not be able to. In other words, treat pregnant women like pregnant animals.

    Or is there something behind Door Number Three?

  203. Or is there something behind Door Number Three?

    Sterilization.

  204. KN:

    With all due respect, it is not merely “social conditions” that are at work as influences.

    There are values, perceptions — here, notably the calculated drumbeat dehumanisation of the unborn child — attitudes, preferences and felt “needs.”

    Also accessibility and promotion of willing “service” providers.

    This goes to the systematic undermining of medical and related ethics. Compare, the classic Hippocratic oath, and ask yourself why it was couched as it was. Let me cite the core part, which gives several yardstick examples:

    I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.

    Let’s just say that a pregnant woman represents THREE patients: Mother, Father, and Child.

    Even basic marketing and economics will tell us that as such factors shift, demand schedules will move as will supply schedules. So, no, there is no fixed level of demand or supply schedule, even within a given society. And, at key relevant ages, contraceptives don’t tend to work as well for all sorts of reasons. Similarly, by various ways and means “sex education” — that X-edu terminology is itself revealing of a trendy push — actually affects in adverse ways those schedules.

    I put it to you that in a culture that values and recognises life and sees that life is not to be deemed inconvenient and unworthy of being lived, we would have very different S and D schedules.

    And that’s just in terms of the market.

    KF

    F/N: This also means that simply changing laws on the books at this stage will have little effect, we need widespread reform driven by growing movements once something entrenched like this — or like slavery — has to be addressed. (And the supply and demand for one of the most enduring of markets did dry up.)

  205. Mung: There are many other doors, starting with a society that realises that life unworthy of life is unacceptable. The very fact of parallel markets for fertility manipulation tells us something. So does the existence of crisis pregnancy support efforts, as well as foster parenting and adoption etc. (Let’s say that there was a reason why the table for my family of four sat six or more and why it was unusual for only four to be under the roof.) What would we be doing if Steve Jobs‘ birth mother had seen and taken abortion as the solution to her problem? George Washington Carver’s mother, too — a rape case IIRC. KF

  206. Kantian Naturalist,

    just for fun, Google “The Connection Between Contraception and Abortion” by Dr. Janet Smith, and let me know what you think.

  207. 208
    Kantian Naturalist

    just for fun, Google “The Connection Between Contraception and Abortion” by Dr. Janet Smith, and let me know what you think.

    I’m prepared to dislike it, but I will attempt to read it with an open mind.

  208. KF:

    In short, you are trying to have your cake and eat it.

    No. I am trying to convey in words my own personal experience of what living life from love is like, and the experience I have had of others who are doing the same, more successfully than I in many cases, and how transformative that is.

    I have also pointed out, irrefutably in my opinion, that no matter how much one would like it to be true that there is objective morality, the fact is that all morality is unavoidably relative. KF, you have not answered my arguments on that score. All you do is complain that the consequences would be terrible. Well, all morality is relative, and the consequences are continual fighting among various groups whose ideas of “objective” morality conflict with each other. People throughout history have killed each other over their respective concepts of absolute, objective morality.

    People who live their lives from Love do not have this problem.

    Onlookers, observe, how at length BD has had to use “unloving” as a vague synonym for unjust and wrong to the point of being a crime against the person. This underscores just how incoherent and irrelevant to the on the ground reality of the community with the problem of abuse and crime, terrorism and war, etc — not to mention just plain moral struggle — the sort of relativism and subjectivism we are seeing in action is.

    Just because love cannot be defined in words does not mean it isn’t real, powerful, and a force for transformation of the planet. It is one of those phenomena that can only be understood by experiencing it, like color, for instance. Try defining the color green to someone who is color blind (or just blind) and can’t see it. That doesn’t mean the color green is a vague concept. Once you have love, though, “unloving” is easily defined—it is the quality of not being motivated by love.

    Your claim that “unloving” is a “vague synonym for unjust and wrong” is incorrect. “Unloving” is quite distinct from “wrong”. “Wrong” carries with it censure, judgment, and condemnation towards anyone who perpetrates acts that are so characterized. It also exists within a paradigm of separation. “Unloving” simply means a lack of love. It carries no censure and it arises from a paradigm of Oneness. To say that “to torture, rape, abuse or murder an innocent child is an unloving thing to do” is another way of saying that anyone who is acting from Love would never engage in such acts.

    Live your life from Love and you will be a force for the transformation of the planet. Live your life from Love and you will be living life from your essential nature. Live your life from Love and you will be living a life that is the most satisfying and joyful possible.

    But don’t live your life from Love because you “ought” to. That will defeat the whole purpose.

  209. F/N: VJT’s discussion on ethics in the context of abortion, here, is well worth the read. If I may be so bold, perhaps even my comment here may be of help. KF

  210. F/N 2: Onlookers, observe how the central issue of Dr Dawkins’ dismissiveness to the cumulative evidence on the historical reality of Jesus, and the significance of his passion, remain as the by and large unspoken of elephant in the middle of the room. (Cf the OP and the linked discussion here.) KF

  211. BD:

    With all due respect, you continue to be evasive and unduly dismissive.

    Love, directed to our neighbours who are equally made in God’s image is itself an underlying duty and entails other duties of care once we see the value of our fellow humans.

    I will note again from Locke’s remarks when he set out to ground the moral foundation of modern liberty and justice under limited, emergently democratic accountable government. As you know by now, he did so in his second treatise on Civil Gov’t Ch 2 sect 5 by citing the judicious Hooker, in a clip I will augment:

    . . . 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]

    Going beyond that, pardon but the refusal to accept that love has positive and describable — that is, definable and intelligible — moral content through a species of emotionally loaded subjectivism, simply inadvertently highlights the underlying subjectivism and radical relativism.

    It remains that the alternatives in a real community such as we have to live in day by day, where there are genuine conflicts and genuine crimes, are much as SB highlighted:

    1: adherence to the natural, evident moral law that grounds rights, duties and the role of citizens and government in sustaining and defending the civil peace of justice

    2: the tyranny of the 51% as manipulated by subtle elites

    3: the tyranny of the minority of the powerful, mostly by a power elite, but also down to one in some cases of totalitarian political messianism.

    WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS INADVERTENTLY CONTINUING TO EXPOSE THE INHERENT BANKRUPTCY OF RADICAL RELATIVISM.

    And for that inadvertent service, I must thank you.

    KF

  212. KF:

    Love, directed to our neighbours who are equally made in God’s image is itself an underlying duty and entails other duties of care once we see the value of our fellow humans.

    You claim it is a duty. Well, you are entitled to your opinion, which is all it is—your opinion. I say that love is not a duty, it is who we are. We love others because it is our nature to love, not because we have a duty to. You can’t love because you’re supposed to for pity’s sake. You love because you do. Period.

    With respect to Locke’s and Hooker’s argument, it is essentially a reasoned argument in favor of the Golden Rule. The GR sounds good in the abstract, but it has serious problems when you get down to the nitty gritty of applying it in real life, as I have pointed out in other threads. Without spending too much time on it, the problem is that what I would have someone do unto me may very well not be what they would have me do unto them. Love is a much surer guide to the appropriate action in any particular circumstance.

    Going beyond that, pardon but the refusal to accept that love has positive and describable — that is, definable and intelligible — moral content through a species of emotionally loaded subjectivism, simply inadvertently highlights the underlying subjectivism and radical relativism.

    I don’t “refuse to accept”. I outright disagree. Your language assumes that the case is settled, and thus is a species of begging the question. Love is Love. It has no moral content whatsoever. Again, your statement to the contrary is simply your opinion.

    It remains that the alternatives in a real community such as we have to live in day by day, where there are genuine conflicts and genuine crimes, are much as SB highlighted:

    1: adherence to the natural, evident moral law that grounds rights, duties and the role of citizens and government in sustaining and defending the civil peace of justice

    2: the tyranny of the 51% as manipulated by subtle elites

    3: the tyranny of the minority of the powerful, mostly by a power elite, but also down to one in some cases of totalitarian political messianism.

    That your first alternative could work in a large diverse society is completely out of touch with reality, as I argued in 182. Neither you nor Stephen have addressed this argument.

    WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS INADVERTENTLY CONTINUING TO EXPOSE THE INHERENT BANKRUPTCY OF RADICAL RELATIVISM.

    Well, again, you are entitled to your opinion. However, I have demonstrated in 18, 36, 47, 53, 74, and 121 that “radical relativism”, as you call it, is not something you have any choice about. It is simply a fact of life here on earth. You have not addressed that argument, either.

  213. BD:

    With all due respect, you are simply insistently repeating the same errors.

    Let me illustrate by clipping 121, where you present again your claimed proof that radical relativism is the truth about morality and that’s that. I will, for the sake of argument, insert comments on bullet points (as, even though this will inevitably invite further side tracks, I am sure the onlookers will see how you have gone astray yet again and again):

    There in fact is no objective moral code, precisely because it breaks down in the details.

    a –> An assertion that moral codes are inevitably meaningless or incoherent. This is patently not so, as can be seen from say Kan’ts Categorical Imperative [here taken as a principle that is in practice a form of the golden rule], where in fact it is the incoherence and unworkability of the immoral that exposes it.

    b –> Let me state it in this form, that we must act on a maxim that is capable of universalisation, or equivalently, we must treat others as ends in themselves not merely as means to our ends.

    c –> In the case of lying, for example, if lies were the general pattern of behaviour verbal communication and trust would so break down that society would disintegrate. (That is, immoral acts like lying show themselves up by how they parasite off the fact that we usually do not live like that. They thus abuse the fact that people usually do the opposite, e.g tell the truth/lying, etc.)

    d –> This BTW, is why “Cretans are liars” stated by a Cretan does not post ultimate dilemmas. Even Cretans have to tell the truth most of the time.

    Let’s take murder as an example. “Thou shalt not murder” is at best a general guideline.

    e –> You are about to twist the definition of murder, by confusing it with kill. To kill an innocent person with malice aforethought is murder. Not all killing is murder.

    f –> Here is the legal dictionary from The Free Dictionary, first definition as excerpted:

    Under the Common Law, or law made by courts, murder was the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. The term malice aforethought did not necessarily mean that the killer planned or premeditated on the killing, or that he or she felt malice toward the victim. Generally, malice aforethought referred to a level of intent or reck-lessness that separated murder from other killings and warranted stiffer punishment.

    The definition of murder has evolved over several centuries. Under most modern statutes in the United States, murder comes in four varieties: (1) intentional murder; (2) a killing that resulted from the intent to do serious bodily injury; (3) a killing that resulted from a depraved heart or extreme recklessness; and (4) murder committed by an Accomplice during the commission of, attempt of, or flight from certain felonies.

    Some jurisdictions still use the term malice aforethought to define intentional murder, but many have changed or elaborated on the term in order to describe more clearly a murderous state of mind. California has retained the malice aforethought definition of murder (Cal. Penal Code § 187 [West 1996]). It also maintains a statute that defines the term malice. Under section 188 of the California Penal Code, malice is divided into two types: express and implied. Express malice exists “when there is manifested a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature.” Malice may be implied by a judge or jury “when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.”

    Is it murder to kill to stop a person from committing a robbery? At what level of crime: $1,000? $5.00? a pack of gum? Is it murder to kill someone to prevent them from harming another? What level and type of harm justifies lethal force?

    g –> In each of these cases, you are twisting words and situations, as it is presumable that you know that killing does not equal murder, and you may easily ascertain that in Elizabethan English, they used “slay” as we use “kill” now, Kill then being used to mean what we do by “murder.” (So, the inappropriate citing of KJV will be of no help.)

    Is it murder to kill a suspected terrorist without due process of law? Is it murder if the process (say drone strikes) will inevitably cost the lives of innocent people?

    h –> You here pose the context of illegal combat or piracy. A pirate or the modern equivalent, is at war with humanity and is an illegal combatant who is on the battlefield. In defence of civilisation, it is necessary to fight such pirates, even when such forces the unintended killing of innocents within the means that are available and in light of the credible alternative. And that has to be faced precisely because as you know such pirates routinely resort to the use of human shields, willing or unwilling.

    Is it murder to kill someone in a war just because your government has decided that military action is warranted?

    i –> There is a presumption that a government has good reason for going to war. The ordinary person or soldier has no duty to ascertain the depth of that case, but in the case of specific and obvious war crimes, such a soldier has no duty to obey such illegal and murderous orders. Even, if his own life is held hostage under the system of military discipline at work.

    Even if you disagree with that assessment?

    j –> You the individual have a resort to conscience objection and protest, assuming a democratic polity that still respects rule of law.

    What exactly constitutes a “just war”? Can war ever be justified?

    k –> You know this or should know this, war in defence of the civil peace of justice, carried out by reasonable and available means and with reasonable hope of success in good time, is just. Just, because of the alternative: surrender to enslavement or mass murder etc. Or also, the problem that some wars cannot be averted or contained, they can only be postponed to the advantage of the aggressor.

    l –> As a classic example, a just, limited war in 1934 – 6 when Germany broke its treaty with France, would have stopped Germany before it had built up its juggernaut, and we now know would have triggered a coup that would almost certainly have brought Hitler down. Failure to go to a limited war at that time gave Hitler the ability to erect a defensive belt in the Rhinelands, which allowed him to go to war by putting nearly all his troops on the other side of Germany in 1939. And before that, by 1938, Hitler was able to intimidate the British and French to dismember the defenses of Czechoslovakia, leading to his conquest of the East. That failure to go to war when it would have been far less costly — though more controversial — led directly tot he destruction of a continent and the unnecessary loss of 40 million lives in and around Europe. Would be pacifists need to know of such grim historical cases and weigh their sense of superiority against the cost of the alternative.

    Is it murder for the state to execute someone for committing a crime? Which crimes?

    m –> This pivots on perverting language. That one who is a murderer or the like forfeits his own life, and is executed in payment of penalty, is not murder in turn. To cast it in that light is a reckless and hypocritical rhetorical twisting of words.

    These kinds of questions are what I meant by the “meaning” of natural law. What does it mean when you get into the nitty gritty of actually living life?

    n –> On the contrary, it simply further shows the pattern of incoherence in your own view. Yes, every philosophical view will face difficulties, and challenges. That is inevitable and requires responsible thinking and action, it does not excuse twisting terms and circumstances into a counsel that invites a worse situation. But then, rhetoric is that wicked art that pretends that the worse is the better case and seeks means to persuade the naive of such.

    I trust that you will acknowledge that your points have been specifically answered in responsible details with relevant case in point. If not, the onlooker will be able to see for him or her self just what is going on.

    As to your pretence that your proposed circle of the like minded — how long will they remain such — is equivalent to the real world that people face, is telling on the issue of the alternatives in front of us. There is a clear and well established framework that traces to the recognition of our equality and inherent moral worth, that leads to a well established framework of rights, liberty and justice. One that gives room for reformation as opposed to imposition of the tyranny of the majority as manipulated, or the power of the elites forming oligarchies or autocratic tyrannies.

    We could go on and on and on, recirculating already answered arguemnts or irrelevancies from above, but all this shows is that unfortunately, you are unwilling to address the core incoherences in your system.

    let it stand, you are unable to even recognise and state that we OUGHT NOT to abduct, torture, rape and murder innocent children. All, patently because you (and others who similarly propose views with no answer to the IS ought gap and try to sustain such by specious argumentation) apparently dare not acknowledge the force of OUGHT, given what it so clearly points to, and which is for some reason utterly unwelcome to your view. namely, an IS in the foundation of reality and recognised by sound worldviews, that has the capability to ground OUGHT. The best and only serious candidate on the table being the inherently good, Creator God.

    Let that be the epitaph of your proposed alternative and others of like ilk.

    Please, please, please, think again.

    KF

  214. PS: Having had to do some family errands, I have come back and have a further thought.

    Perhaps, you have not been taught that philosophy is by its very nature about difficult fundamental questions, which are recognised by the fact that such have no easy and sound answers. As a result, the prime method in phil is comparative difficulties across serious alternatives on factual adequacy, coherence and relative explanatory power and elegance [i.e simple as opposed to ad hoc patchwork or simplistic] leading to responsible conclusions. In such a context, that there are difficulties, that there are hard to decide points etc etc, does not mean that an answer is not responsible. Where, ethics is just such a case. And, where, as I should add, the ethics of war is a particularly important case that pivots on knowing enough history and geopolitics to form sound judgements. (Cf my remarks here, if you wish.)

    In that regard, I am particularly appalled at how ignorant today’s generation is about the course of European history in the 1930′s, leading up to WW II. Absent understanding that history on a well balanced grasp of material facts — itself a major problem, as we deal with only too many utterly willing to spin, spin, snip and snipe — in sufficient depth, it is easy to assume that postponing war as long as possible is always the better option. When one deals with determined aggressors, there is no avoiding war; it may only be postponed until the aggressor has enough power to impose a horrific cost to defeat him.

    Today, for example, the Straights of Hormuz are the number one global choke-point. Iran is in the grips of an unspeakably ruthless and evil — you should think about how they make a hypocritical mockery of marriage to rape virgin women on the eve of their executions, because there is in Islamic theology a concept that virgin women go to paradise, as just one case in point . . . sending the families a sack of sweets in token of what they did the night before they hanged your sister or daughter of maybe only twelve years of age (probably on some trumped up charge . . . ), to multiply the psychological torture — totalitarian regime in the grips of a religiously motivated world conquest ideology. Here, ask yourself if you know what the hadith on the black flag army from the direction of Khorasan is about, and where that is, and how it relates to repeated pronouncements of Mr Ahmadinejad and co. A regime, that has sought nuclear weapons since the mid 1980′s and that in a context where satchel nukes are a reality. Multiply that by sponsorship of suicide terrorism and the training of a corps of such suicide terrorists. Mix in, on another hadith — the infamous Gharqad tree hadith that is quoted in Clause 7 of the Hamas covenant, and then look at the genocidal threats made against Jews. Then ask yourself what degree of responsibility would obtain for yourself and others who by preventing action to stop this madness when it could have relatively low cost, you were to wake up and go to work one fine Tuesday Morning, to hear on cable news that three or four cities have just gone up in smoke under mushroom clouds, not just three buildings as on Sept 11, 2001.

    Then, think about the rhetoric that we have entertained for the past decade again. Then ask yourself why it is that so much of what I just described is not in the general news or discussion of views and alternatives.

    Think twice, three times, four times.

  215. KF: re 214
    Your quibble over the definition of murder is just that—a quibble. My comment 121 is discussing whether it is possible to determine an objective standard that will enable us to decide under any circumstances whether taking the life of another human being is justified.

    I trust that you will acknowledge that your points have been specifically answered in responsible details with relevant case in point. If not, the onlooker will be able to see for him or her self just what is going on.I trust that you will acknowledge that your points have been specifically answered in responsible details with relevant case in point. If not, the onlooker will be able to see for him or her self just what is going on.

    You have not answered my point at all. You haven’t even understood it. From 121:

    I don’t expect you to answer these questions. Your answers in any case will only be your answers. The point is that different people will give you very different answers. Reason is incapable of answering them in a way that will compel all other reasonable people to agree. Each of us must supply our own answers; there is no objective truth in the matter. Hence moral relativism.

    Re 215:

    Then ask yourself what degree of responsibility would obtain for yourself and others who by preventing action to stop this madness when it could have relatively low cost, you were to wake up and go to work one fine Tuesday Morning, to hear on cable news that three or four cities have just gone up in smoke under mushroom clouds, not just three buildings as on Sept 11, 2001.

    Do you really, truly, actually believe that declaring to people who believe Allah demands Jihad against the “Great Satan” that their actions violate your standard of objective morality will have any effect whatsoever other than possibly to harden their positions? They believe that their actions are justified by a concept of objective morality that they hold to just as strongly as you hold to yours. The history of the world is the history of people slaughtering each other over their differences regarding “objective morality”.

    It’s time, past time, to try something else. It’s time to try building a world based on Love.

    P.S. This does not mean that we are not allowed to take action to protect ourselves in the mean time. We do that, however, based on a sober analysis of threat, not on moral censure. And as in any situation in which lethal force is involved, there will be difficult questions to answer, made more difficult by the fact that there is no objective moral standard by which to answer them.

  216. It’s time, past time, to try something else. It’s time to try building a world based on Love.

    Whatever that means.

    What’s the message of love you and your group are in Iran declaring to the Jihadists?

    The history of the world is the history of people slaughtering each other over their differences regarding “objective morality”.

    Assuming it’s true, which i dispute, so what?

    Replace differences regarding ‘objective morality’ over differences regarding ‘love’ and see if you get any other result.

  217. 218

    An assertion that moral codes are inevitably meaningless or incoherent. This is patently not so, as can be seen from say Kan’ts Categorical Imperative [here taken as a principle that is in practice a form of the golden rule], where in fact it is the incoherence and unworkability of the immoral that exposes it.

    Technically, it’s the Golden Rule which is a sub-type of the Categorical Imperative. The GR says either “do to others what you would like them to do to you” or “don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you”. The grounding of the GR is, either way, basically egoistic — how one would like oneself to be treated by others.

    The CI, on the other hand, says that we must respect others as ends in themselves and also ourselves as ends in ourselves, thus yielding duties of justice and duties of love respectively. These are missing from the Golden Rule. Here’s how Kant himself puts the point:

    Let it not be thought that the trite quod tibi non vis fieri est (what you do not want others to do to you) can serve as a norm or principle here. For it is, though with various limitations, only derived from the latter. It can be no universal law because it contains the ground neither of duties to oneself nor of duties of love to others (for many a man would gladly agree that others should not benefit him if only he might be excused from showing them beneficence), and finally it does not contain the ground of duties owed to others, for a criminal would argue on this ground against the judge punishing him, and so forth. (Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals 4:430, footnote.)

  218. KN: I was simply pointing out how closely related the rules are. Where, of course the secret of the GR is it evokes empathy by asking us to put ourselves in our neighbour’s shoes. And I also tend to agree with those who view the negative rule as the SILVER rule, because of its lack of a pro-active stance. I should note as well that the GR, in the context being used, does not stand on its own; it is inseparably twinned with love to the inherently good creator God (who made us equally in his image and implanted in us a sense of right and wrong, and of fairness such that your thief would naturally demand justice were he wronged . . . ), and is actually explicitly set in the context of true judgement and justice in court. KF

  219. BD: Above, you pretended that there was no objective, meaningful and coherent definition of murder. I reminded you of it in light of longstanding jurisprudential thought and practice. You simply went around the loop of your subjectivist relativism one more time. Sadly, this exposes you as fundamentally frivolous. Please, wake up and do better next time. KF

  220. KF:

    BD: Above, you pretended that there was no objective, meaningful and coherent definition of murder. I reminded you of it in light of longstanding jurisprudential thought and practice. You simply went around the loop of your subjectivist relativism one more time. Sadly, this exposes you as fundamentally frivolous. Please, wake up and do better next time. KF

    I assume from your lack of response that you cannot effectively counter my demonstrations (in 18, 36, 47, 53, 74, and 121) that it is a fact of life, part of the human condition, that morality is unavoidably relative. (This doesn’t surprise me, by the way. I’m pretty certain that there is no effective counter.) So you switch topics (acting as if the definition of murder was in any way central to the argument) and end up, as Stephen did, by simply impugning my character, asserting that I am “fundamentally frivolous”.

    Frivolous is that last thing I am. Anyone who reads my posts in this thread with anything approaching an open mind, whether they agree with me or not, can see that I have thought very deeply about this subject. Try not to confuse disagreement with frivolity. It doesn’t help your image.

  221. Mung:

    It’s time, past time, to try something else. It’s time to try building a world based on Love.

    Whatever that means.

    It means what I have repeated several times in this thread: In every moment of Now, live out of/in/from the question, “What would Love do now?” When you do this you become part of the solution. When you live in judgment, condemnation, and censure, on the other hand, you are part of the problem.

    What’s the message of love you and your group are in Iran declaring to the Jihadists?

    If we in the West interacted with those in the Islamic world who are so angry with us in a way that respected them, that saw them as valid human beings with valid concerns, if we asked them “What is it that hurts you so much that you feel you must attack us to heal it?” We might get a very different result from what we now have.

    In general, any time you deal with another person from love instead of condemnation, you open space for something positive to happen, for healing to happen, for rifts to close.

  222. 223
    Kantian Naturalist

    In re: 219, whereas one of the things I appreciate about the categorical imperative is that it contains the seeds of the idea as to how the objectivity of moral principles does not depend on any metaphysics, theistic or otherwise.

  223. BD: Sadly, the evidence above underscores the bankruptcy of your claims. You have a view that can look at a real case of abduction, torture and rape then murder of a child and it has not got the resources to say that such ought not to be done. After that, all else is mere commentary, though it was illuminating to see how you tried to spin murder into an incoherent, confused issue. Please, think again. KF

  224. KN: Please start from why one should so value the other as to refuse to treat that other as a means to one’s end. Contrast, say Perch fish in a pond where most are stunted but some grow fat on their fellows, contrasting what happens if some people would treat their fellows much the same. Then, perhaps the implicit worldview level foundation issues behind such judgements will begin to stand clear. KF

  225. KF:

    BD: Sadly, the evidence above underscores the bankruptcy of your claims. You have a view that can look at a real case of abduction, torture and rape then murder of a child and it has not got the resources to say that such ought not to be done. After that, all else is mere commentary, though it was illuminating to see how you tried to spin murder into an incoherent, confused issue. Please, think again. KF

    Perhaps if I say it a little differently you can see what I am trying to convey here. I have already said that “abduction, torture and rape then murder of a child” is an unloving thing to do, and I have strongly advocated living a life in which what you do emanates from Love. What is the obvious consequence of those two statements? A person who does what I advocate will not torture, rape, and murder children.

    I avoid the use of “ought” because when used in the moral sense (there are other meanings), it carries with it condemnation, judgment, and censure, and it is condemnation, judgment, and censure that are responsible for a great deal of the serious mischief that plagues our poor planet. We judge and condemn fundamentalist Muslims as evil, and they judge and condemn us. So we kill each other over it, and end up killing a lot of innocent bystanders in the process. Catholics judged protestants and vice versa during the Reformation and in Northern Ireland with the same result. Israelis and Palestinians judge and condemn each other, and on and on. In most cases, each side is convinced that their ideas of morality (on which they base their judgment and condemnation) are the true and correct version.

    Can’t you see this? Can’t you? It is judgment and condemnation that is the problem. People who engage in acts that we find abhorrent in most cases actually believe that they are doing the right thing, according to “absolute morality” as they understand it. Our judging them has zero chance of changing their minds or their behavior. It will only serve to harden their positions. Those who don’t, who know that they are acting in violation of their own moral standards but don’t care, will not be swayed in the least by our censure either, which in fact will only cause them to harden their already existing rationalization of their behavior (and people always rationalize their behavior in such cases).

    Only Love, God’s Love, unconditional and absolute, can break these logjams. Only Love carries the possibility of putting another in touch with his or her own Essential Nature. If we wish to save this planet from holocaust, we must abandon judgement and condemnation and start living our lives from this Love, which is our birthright and the essence of Who We Really Are—His “image and likeness”. It is one of God’s gifts that living in this way is also immensely joyful and satisfying.

    In order to do this (abandon judgment), one must understand that there is no such thing as absolute morality. Fortunately, this is in fact the case, as I have shown a number of times in this thread (in 18, 36, 47, 53, 74, and 121).

  226. 227

    Kairosfocus, are you seriously suggesting that in order to reconcile Kantian ethics and naturalism, I would have to explain why fish don’t obey the categorical imperative and we do? I don’t even see the relevance — what have fish got to do with it?

    Put otherwise, I don’t see why someone who believes that our capacity to consider our actions from the universal point of view — our capacity for universalizability — is a ‘natural’ capacity, and like all natural capacities arose through evolution, would have to believe that the same capacity exists in any other species. Perch lack compassion and reason, but they also can’t fly.

  227. KN: I contrasted our situation with that of [European] Perch in a pond to highlight the fundamental differences at work. That is the CI is NOT separate from underlying worldview considerations that are value-laden. And you know full well that there are people who routinely — and in some cases successfully — try to prey on their fellows, like those fat Perch in the pond otherwise full of the stunted. These, we rightly view as monstrous [as opposed to the fat Perch . . . lunch, or at least a trophy], which raises a wide, deep range of foundational issues. That is why I raised the contrast, and it is interesting to see how you have tried to side-step it. KF

  228. BD: You are going in circles, imagining that you are getting closer to civilisation because you see more and more tracks. Sadly, as in the cartoon, they are your own tracks. You previously refused content to “loving” but hope to smuggle in that moral content by general connotation. As in most people understand that “unloving” actions are wrong, and that precisely because inescapably, we find ourselves bound by ought. So either you are exploiting emotive responses or else you are implying what you deny explicitly, the reality of ought. In short, your case collapses. That you have come back to this repeatedly, while trying to deny and dismiss the relevance and reality of OUGHT as a binding force, shows the futility of your position. Please, please, think again — if not for your own sake, at least understanding how untenable your claims are in a context where onlookers present and future will see your errors laid out in all too painfully blatant details for themselves. KF

  229. 230
    Kantian Naturalist

    I haven’t tried to “side-step” anything. I just flat-out disagree with several of your basic methodological commitments. In particular, I think that foundationalism — of the sort that tries to derive a systematic world-view from a few self-evident truths — arises from the mistaken attempt to do metaphysics the way we do mathematics (esp. geometry). This attempt to ‘mathematize’ metaphysics, from Descartes to Russell, is the source of a great many serious errors — among which is an inability to solve the Dilemma of the Criterion.

    In any event: certainly a naturalist and a Christian will disagree over the question how we became persons, but that doesn’t show that naturalists are not rationally entitled to employ the concept.

    Think of it this way: a Christian will likely hold that some aspect of a person, some aspect of his or her personhood, survives the death of the body. And a naturalist will deny this. And perhaps the naturalist is making a metaphysical error. But she is not making a conceptual error: there’s nothing about the concept of personhood which entails that persons survive biological death. Put otherwise, it is not a logical truth that personhood survives death.

    The point here is that, while a naturalist will reject some of the metaphysical views about persons that a Christian holds, that does not prevent the naturalist from thinking that there are persons, and that personhood plays a central role in our ethics (as it does in our epistemology, as well).

    To be fully consistent, it is true that naturalism needs some account of how personhood emerged, or how it is that a particular kind of odd African ape developed the capacities for inference and understanding to supplement its hominoid inheritance of perception, action, imagination, and empathy.

  230. 231
    Kantian Naturalist

    Bruce David,

    I haven’t wanted to interfere with your discussion with StephenB and Kairosfocus, but I thought I’d propose — not a resolution — but a slightly different approach. It seems to me that you balk at “oughts” or norms because you associate them with authoritarianism. But there are other options on the table; normativity, even moral normativity, needn’t be authoritarian.

    Here’s an example: moral norms can be more like linguistic norms, which are codified in rules for special occasions, but there’s no Church of Grammar, with priests and scriptures. Those are just the norms of our language which are mastered by any competent language-user. I think of moral norms as being basically like that, only with regards to how we treat each other rather than about language. Likewise with epistemic norms — the norms of correct thinking — Aristotle wrote them down but he didn’t invent them, and there aren’t Logic Cops arresting people who beg the question.

    So this might be a way of thinking about moral oughts or norms in a way that isn’t authoritarian, and gives no comfort to authoritarians.

  231. KF:

    As in most people understand that “unloving” actions are wrong, and that precisely because inescapably, we find ourselves bound by ought.

    It is not inescapable. That is my whole point (or half of it anyway). Morality is just another paradigm. It looks inescapable to you for the same reason that Darwinism is “obviously” true to Richard Dawkins—because you and he are unable or unwilling to step outside of your respective paradigms.

    You keep saying that OUGHT is “a binding force” (speaking of “going in circles”), but you have no warrant for that assertion other than your conviction that it is true and the fact that a lot of people would agree with you. I and many, many others (There really are millions of us.) are living proof, however, that it is possible to step outside of the paradigm of right and wrong and embrace another possibility entirely for how to decide what action is appropriate in any given circumstances.

  232. Kantian Naturalist: re 231

    It seems to me that you balk at “oughts” or norms because you associate them with authoritarianism.

    No, I disagree. I balk at “oughts” because they carry judgment, condemnation, and censure with them, and those three in operation entirely mask love, as well as impose the paradigm of separation.

    As for the rest of your comment, I agree that there are norms of behavior, cultural mores governing how we relate to each other. However, what I am attempting to present, acting always from Love, transcends cultural mores. It may well be that in a particular circumstance with a particular person, one could ask oneself the question “What would Love do now?” and get an answer whose realization violates commonly accepted standards of behavior, yet is exactly the thing that was wanted and needed in that particular moment of Now.

  233. 234

    I balk at “oughts” because they carry judgment, condemnation, and censure with them, and those three in operation entirely mask love, as well as impose the paradigm of separation.

    To be honest, I don’t see the difference between that and my casual allusion to authoritarianism, but I’m not going to raise a stink over it.

    On the other point, I can agree to a certain degree, though I don’t know what you’ll make of this line of reasoning. Aristotle (among many others) points out that a sensitive awareness to the particularity of a given situation or person can’t be covered by general rules or principles. Bedsides which, one needs to be alive to the particularity at hand in order to discern wisely which rules or principles are relevant to it. And I myself have no reservations about calling that sensitivity or attunement “love,” though personally I prefer Martin Buber’s distinction between “the I-You relation” and “the I-It relation”.

    On the other hand, while I accept that love (insofar as that’s the point of Buber’s I-You relation) is necessary for ethics, I don’t think that it’s sufficient, because I don’t think that justice is the same as love or ‘reducible’ to love. I think it’s a really different category, and it’s interesting (though of course quite troubling) that love and justice can sometimes conflict.

  234. Kantian Naturalist:

    To be honest, I don’t see the difference between that and my casual allusion to authoritarianism, but I’m not going to raise a stink over it.

    I must say, KN, that I appreciate your relaxed attitude here, in a thread whose commenters tend to be passionate and strongly assertive. (I don’t exempt myself from that charge, by the way.)

    However, to me, there is a very clear distinction. The judgment, condemnation, and censure that morality carries with it does not emanate from any authority. Rather, it is integral to the very idea of morality, of right and wrong. So it comes from within each person who subscribes to that paradigm. And it doesn’t matter whether a person is a moral absolutist or a moral relativist. Look at how the new atheists condemn the actions of religious believers, for example.

    On the other hand, while I accept that love (insofar as that’s the point of Buber’s I-You relation) is necessary for ethics, I don’t think that it’s sufficient, because I don’t think that justice is the same as love or ‘reducible’ to love. I think it’s a really different category, and it’s interesting (though of course quite troubling) that love and justice can sometimes conflict.

    In my view, the point of view I have been presenting here is not really ethics at all, except in the most general sense that ethics deals with the question, “How do we determine what is appropriate action in any given circumstance?” It would not qualify as ethics under any definition that includes a notion of “the good” or “morality” (or indeed “justice”). Justice, to me, is pretty much always simply revenge—an evening of the score by making the sinner or perpetrator suffer in recompense for the suffering he or she has caused.

  235. I balk at “oughts” because they carry judgment, condemnation, and censure with them, and those three in operation entirely mask love, as well as impose the paradigm of separation.

    And judgment, condemnation and censure are bad, Bad, BAD!

    You ought not do those things.

  236. Mung:

    And judgment, condemnation and censure are bad, Bad, BAD!

    You ought not do those things.

    You are using an old tactic of trying to force fit preference into morality. Well, it doesn’t fit.

    I prefer French cuisine to Mexican. Does that mean that Mexican cooking is morally wrong? I prefer not to live in pain. Does that make pain morally wrong? Of course not. I prefer love, joy, peace, and making a contribution to hostility and separation. Does this make the former morally right and the latter morally wrong? No, it does not.

    I am offering an alternative to judgment, condemnation, and censure. My claim is that IF you wish to be a force for transformation of the planet, IF you wish to live from your God-given essential self, and IF you wish to live a life that is joyful and immensely satisfying, give up those three and live instead from Love. But if you do it because you judge judgment, condemnation, and censure as morally wrong, you will have put yourself right back into what you were trying to escape, and you will have gained nothing.

    I have said this before. See 36.

    P.s. The words “bad”, “good”, “wrong”, “right”, and “ought” in English all have multiple connotations, some including moral sentiment and some not. It is very easy to use them in a non-moral sense and then erroneously claim that they have made a moral statement.

  237. BD:

    Sorry to have to say this, but there you go again.

    Has it not dawned on you that to highlight that there are some obvious and undeniable facts of morality such as it is wrong and ought not to be done, to abduct, torture, rape and kill a child, and which therefore leave us in a world where we cannot get away from the reality of oughtness?

    Remember, in the same time that we are having this exchange, I am a friend of a man who murdered and mutilated the body of a benefactor; leading to his being widely viewed to this day as a menace and danger to the community who should still be locked away.

    I believe in forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation of life. I also believe that the first person we each need to address in this matter is the one looking back out on us from the mirror on a morning. Which should be fairly obvious.

    I also notice KN’s remark on authoritarianism. He is right that I should have made sure to deal with that side-track. William G Perry et al were patently in error. And, I don’t know how many times I have pointed out a premise on which I live: no authority is better than his or her facts, reasoning and underlying premises. Indeed, that is a part of the context in which I have highlighted that given the FACT of OUGHT, we need to have a worldview foundational IS that grounds it.

    So, I would suggest that psychological associations of the issue of ought with a polarised view of authorites etc are off the mark.

    And, I must repeat, as Mung pointed out, you are using terms that imply the significance of oughtness, but then want to erect a barrier against the implication, because it does not suit where you wish to go. It would be quite funny, if it were not serious and sad.

    Please, think again.

    KF

  238. KN:

    Pardon, but this is inadvertently revealing of what I was highlighting:

    I think that foundationalism — of the sort that tries to derive a systematic world-view from a few self-evident truths — arises from the mistaken attempt to do metaphysics the way we do mathematics (esp. geometry). This attempt to ‘mathematize’ metaphysics, from Descartes to Russell, is the source of a great many serious errors — among which is an inability to solve the Dilemma of the Criterion.

    First, on fairly obvious grounds, I do not think that one can deduce a worldview from a cluster of self-evident truths. I do not know where such could properly have been inferred from what I have said.

    If you look, you will see that I consistently speak of comparative difficulties analysis of worldviews across factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory balance.

    However, some few self evident truths are foundational to all coherent reasoning — first principles of right reason, I particularly have in mind — and others cut a wide swath across (in the main naively accepted) worldviews that do not accept some basic and pivotal things. Such as, error exists means that truth, warranted truth and so also knowledge even to undeniable certainty exist, although of course this is not equal to being able to put everything we may please into that category.

    What I do believe is that we face a broad challenge of warrant.

    So, we move from A to what warrants A, B; thence C, D . . .

    Where, warrant is not to be equated to deductive proof or inductive generalisation. That is, I here highlight among other things, the role of credible perceptions and memories, testimony, inner reflection and abductive reasoning in warrant to various degrees, etc. Where in particular, I hold that the warrant on scientific knowledge claims is weak form and provisional.

    Thus, we now see the issue of infinite regress vs circularity vs an ultimate ground that is accepted as plausible, in part certain, in part provisional. There is an ultimate turtle, as turtles in a circle go nowhere, and an infinite regress of turtles — turtles all the way down — is hopeless.

    In that context, I have pointed to the raft under perpetual repair metaphor, or the spaceship metaphor, and say to such, they rest on a deeper foundational issue in eith4er case, as already pointed out.

    And as to the idea that no criterion for universally distinguishing truth from falsity can be established, and that those who try typically end up in circles, I note that the principle of comparative difficulties across live option views, escapes from vicious circularity.

    And yes, we are compelled to hold to worldviews that are provisional in part, and with high probability partly erroneous.

    To err is human, so we need to be open-minded and critically aware, even, humble. But the very fact that error exists and that this is undeniable, also means that truth and knowledge even to certainty exist.

    “We know in part . . .”

    “The just shall live by faith . . . ”

    We both may have good grounds for confidence in certain cases, and may be in error in other cases. But, on matters of importance, we are compelled to decide and act even in the face of possible error; on pain of gross irresponsibility and worse error.

    Welcome to the real world.

    KF

  239. KF:

    Has it not dawned on you that to highlight that there are some obvious and undeniable facts of morality such as it is wrong and ought not to be done, to abduct, torture, rape and kill a child, and which therefore leave us in a world where we cannot get away from the reality of oughtness?

    Well, you just keep repeating yourself. Your entire argument, your answer to all my points is just this one assertion, that it is an “obvious and undeniable fact” that it is wrong to “abduct, torture, rape and kill a child”. And I keep pointing out that 1) this assertion has no warrant other than your claim that it is true and the fact that many other (but certainly not all) people agree with you, and 2) this assertion can only be true within the paradigm of morality.

    You do know how paradigms work, don’t you? Until they are brought to awareness and questioned, they operate as the largely unconscious ground of assumptions upon which all conscious thinking is based. They are what is taken as so obviously true that to question them never even occurs to one. This is what the obvious wrongness of certain acts is to you—part of your paradigmatic structure. You cannot apprehend the possibility of a point of view in which “wrongness” is simply discarded for another paradigm entirely.
    The only reason you are certain that it is an “obvious and undeniable fact” that it is wrong to “abduct, torture, rape and kill a child” is that you are certain that morality is “real”.

    Give up the idea that morality is “real” and the rightness or wrongness of anything simply disappears along with morality itself.

    And, I must repeat, as Mung pointed out, you are using terms that imply the significance of oughtness, but then want to erect a barrier against the implication, because it does not suit where you wish to go.

    I answered that in 237. You keep denying the validity of my arguments without ever actually addressing them, without ever actually demonstrating where they fail. All your refutations amount to nothing more than “Well, you’re just wrong, Bruce. Take my word for it.”

  240. BD: When you can look at a case of abduction, torture, rape and murder of a child, and are unable to acknowledge that this ought not to be done (or at most try to escape by playing on connotations of “this is unloving”), there is little more that can be said, other than, reductio ad absurdum. KF

  241. KF: re 241:

    See 18, 36, 47, 53, 74, 121, 240, 232, and 226.

  242. @ Bruce David

    While not in a habit of reading threads populated by commenters such as BA7, KF and StephenB, I happened to drop in and was drawn to read many of your comments.

    My daughter has so far failed to persuade me of the health benefits of yoga and vegetarianism and the spiritual benefits of Buddhism but if I were ever to be eased out of my congenital atheism, I think I would find Buddhism a more interesting path to explore than the dogma espoused by Stephen.

    Though my scepticism causes me to wonder if it could ever be attainable, your community based on love and compromise sounds eminently more appealing than one where StephenB had a controlling interest.

  243. Alan Fox: re 243

    Thank you Alan. I appreciate the kind words.

  244. BD: Please, face the serious implications of what you have been saying, before it has an unspeakable price tag. KF

  245. KF:

    BD: Please, face the serious implications of what you have been saying, before it has an unspeakable price tag. KF

    I very much have considered the implications of what I have been saying. They are that I have taken myself out of the poisonous and lethal paradigm of judgment, censure, and condemnation, and its offspring of violence and destruction. I have shifted from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.

  246. BD:

    Perhaps, unlike you, I have lived in a society where, for instance, I have had to deal up close and personal, with the implications of murder. The very same subject where, above, you sought to irresponsibly obfuscate and which I had to correct. (To which you have never made a responsible reply.)

    That is the clue that gives me a sense of what is going so destructively wrong.

    First of all, those of us who are clever, glib and educated have a different level of duty of care to the truth, the right and more, than those who are not. And, in particular, we have a duty to avoid the error of the rhetor, whereby we use clever tactics to manipulate the unwary into thinking the worse the better case, as Jefferson famously observed on.

    As an example, Rousseau — a famous predecessor of some of your focus on the emotive as a pivot of operation and substitute for sound moral and social etc analysis rooted in first facts and first principles of right reason — bears some intellectual responsibility for the ease with which his remarks could be used to undermine legitimate authority and restraint, and lend support to the sort of radical, nihilist factions that eventually led a reign of terror in France. As Solomon pointed out 3,000 years ago, words are powerful for life and death and we who wield such weapons must do so with due prudence and restraint.

    Let us pause to consider Burke’s strictures on the man, duly balancing for the aristocratic tendencies in that writer, and an observation in his letter to a member of the French National Assembly in 1791:

    I had good opportunities of knowing [Rousseau's] proceedings [during his brief exile in the British Isles c 1766] almost from day to day and he left no doubt in my mind that he entertained no principle either to influence his heart or to guide his understanding, but vanity . . . .

    A moral taste . . . infinitely abates the evils of vice. Rousseau, a writer of great force and vivacity, is totally destitute of taste in any sense of the word. Your masters [i.e., the leaders of the Revolution], who are his scholars, conceive that all refinement has an aristocratic character. The last age had exhausted all its powers in giving a grace and nobleness to our mutual appetites, and in raising them into a higher class and order than seemed justly to belong to them. Through Rousseau, your masters are resolved to destroy these aristocratic prejudices.

    Please, do not forget, men like Robespierre saw themselves as inspired by Rousseau, and as carrying forth that general will of the people that in the end even forces men to be free. Do not ever forget the motto of the Revolution, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity — themes that come from that same philosopher and do not ever forget how it ended in terror and tyranny as the ruthless rose to power amidst bloody chaos and then plunged all of Europe and far beyond into war.

    Please, please, please, pause long enough to listen to the ghosts of history, lest you commit again the blunders that promote that which led to their unjust slaughter. (And, as a side comment, that is exactly what I see going on in the current Arab Spring uprisings and the irresponsible fostering of such. All of this, as the vultures gather, again.)

    That leads me to now turn to what with all due respect I must highlight as your superficially appealing, emotively manipulative, ill-judged and irresponsible, even self-refuting (but tellingly triumphalistic and self-congratulatory), remarks just above:

    I have taken myself out of the poisonous and lethal paradigm of judgment, censure, and condemnation, and its offspring of violence and destruction. I have shifted from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.

    How ironic, and fatally self-refuting, is the fact that these very words positively drip with the censure, condemnation, self-congratulation and judgementalism that they purport to expose and dismiss.

    They also lack the basic responsibility that recognises that whether we are in a small community in a rural area, or a great city or a nation or the world, we have to deal with the hard fact of the bully grown up, not to mention the predatory wolf-pack grown up. In the school yard or the neighbourhood, the bully does no respect appeals to reason or respect, only sufficient force to bring him up short. Hopefully, he will then amend his ways. And, in the community, the city or nation or the world, we have to deal with aggressive criminals and ideologies or simply pirates of one sort or another.

    That is why we have police forces who need to be at least as well armed and to be better trained and disciplined than those they have to deal with, it is why we need courts and laws, and it is a major part of why we need governments. It is why we need armed forces, and it is why we need peaceful elections and systems for no-confidence motions, impeachment and trial that can remove failed government within the period of elections. Yes, all of these can be abused (hence checks and balances in a world of the finite, fallible, fallen and morally struggling who are too often ill-willed), but without them, and without the check they provide, we would live in a bloody chaos.

    So, there you sit at your keyboard, deriding and dismissing that which you depend on for your own enjoyment of the civil peace of justice. Think about what you are doing, please.

    In short, I point out that your view as just cited, fails the Categorical Imperative test. While being oh so cleverly self-congratulatory on its MORAL superiority — yes, that is there too — it is patently unsustainable as a general principle for the community. Please, think again.

    Next, you have pointed me to several places where you respond to my key case, regarding how it is undeniably wrong that someone were to abduct, torture, rape and kill an innocent child, that is, it OUGHT not to be done, as an example of the facts of morality and the linked point that we are morally governed creatures who cannot escape the issue of OUGHT.

    Allow me to clip no 18 as one of the cases from above, and again mark up on points, to again — there was adequate answer above, but there seems to be a problem on your part in attending to corrective reply, hence (with all due respect) the tendency to repeat the same inaccurate or failed points over and over — illustrate the problem:

    The whole idea of morality for religious people, Christian or otherwise,

    a –> Starts by trying to poison the well, dismissing morality as a notion of “religious people,” who in all too commonly encountered attitudes, are seen as essentially irrational. In effect, you have dragged a red herring of despised religiosity across to a strawman religious figure, soaked in ad hominems whhich you intend to set alight, creating a poisonous choking and polarising cloud that confuses the issue and frustrates serious discussion. [I won't even bother to highlight that religion is a vast topic and that there are many, many religions that come from such diverse worldviews that one cannot seriously and honestly make such a broad-brush lumping together. I will only hint for now on the point that the undeniable reality of error reflective of how we are finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill-willed, brings to bear a duty of care to the truth ad the right that can be ducked or can be failed; but this does not imply that all is chaos and confusion and truth does not stand out clearly enough if we are willing to seek it seriously. That undeniable reality of error is in fact the first undeniable and self evident truth that can help us clear up many confusions, as the next linked discussion on grounding worldviews will show.]

    is that

    the only valid worldview in a world in which OUGHT is real, is one that has a foundational IS that adequately grounds ought.

    b –> You have simply rhetorically ducked and brushed away the matter of the quite serious discussion on the grounding of worldviews [and note how with KN the issue came back to an implicit foundation, as the raft and spaceship metaphors inadvertently showed], and the question of the reality of ought as is captured in the key example or the like.

    c –> The crucial issue you are studiously brushing aside is that we find ourselves morally governed, and that we cannot escape this — your own case as just discussed gives abundant illustration as to how you yourself cannot escape.

    For religious people, that “Is”, obviously, is God. God’s existence grounds morality because God tells us what is good behavior and what is sin.

    d –> Strawman. The starting issue is, that we find ourselves morally obligated, as can be ascertained as abundantly obvious fact, e.g. consider how we quarrel, i.e. habitually by trying to show one another in the wrong, and/or excusing oneself. We just don’t find ourselves — apart form a few monsters — saying shut up you sheep and slide down my throat nicely.

    e –> This presents us with the reality of being morally governed, which your own rhetoric above shows,quite plainly. So OUGHT is real. That means that when we go about worldview shopping, we need to kick some tires and see that in particular, we must have an IS in the foundation of whatever view we take up [and remember how the raft under continual partial repair sits on the foundation of not only the water but the principle and forces of floatation], that can properly ground OUGHT. And, that is a matter of philosophical discussion, prior to any particular species of religious commitment per particular doctrines, traditions and texts.

    f –> What you are doing in short, is to try to duck addressing a philosophical issue that is inconvenient — the Hume Guillotine issue on the IS-OUGHT gap that leads to Anscombe’s point that unless an IS that grounds OUGHT is in the foundation or root of our worldview, forever after it will be an ungrounded injection.

    g –> And, when I have suggested that a serious candidate to be that IS (the only one in the end that has had any reasonable prospect of success — which you seem to wish to brush aside) is the inherently good, loving and wise architect of our world, the creator God, I am here only at the God of the Philosophers [on the table since at least "that Bible-thumping fundy": NOT -- Plato]. But, an ad hominem soaked strawman ignited through clever suggestions is so much more convenient to dismiss . . .

    But does He? The problem with this ethical position is that God clearly has not communicated to us this distinction at all.

    h –> Thus speaks the ever-wise BD, ex cathedra even. Sorry, if we want a more credible and thoughtful source on the subject, let’s first turn to Locke in the intro to the essay on human understanding, Section 5:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke's allusions and citations.]

    i –> Here we see a noted philosopher, whose legacy is grounding modern democracy and liberty in the self-governing community and nation state showing how to properly use the resources of a religious tradition in a philosophical discussion.

    j –> And, when we turn to his pivotal argument that anchors the civil peace of justice and grounds the legitimate and lawful state in the community as the guardian of justice, here we find him citing “the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker” in his famous 2nd essay on civil government, Ch 2 sect 5 — and I will continue the cite, as it shows Hooker using a famous pagan philosopher, Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, to underscore his point about how we do in fact have a very widespread consensus on core morality:

    . . . 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]

    j –> Unless and until you can overturn such principles as widely understood, and as particularly evident in our quarrels, then your dismissal of the case collapses. The widespread existence of statements of the Golden and/or Silver Rule [that pivot on recognising the equal moral value of the other so the principle of mutual respect appears], is a first strong evidence that you have widely missed the mark here.

    k –> That we may often err or stumble does not imply that we do not have adequate means to hand to persistently seek, know and do the right. And since you evidently have a particular distaste for Christian expressions of morality, let me cite an often overlooked bit of that “obscure epistle”: NOT, by Paul, that is so foundational to Christian theology and moral thought (which are inseparable, whatever the judges in the recent Owen and Eunice Johns case in the UK may wish to imagine or cleverly assert, the better to rob those they object to of their freedom of conscience . . . ):

    Rom 2:6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger . . . . 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

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

    11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. [NIV '84]

    The evidence for this assertion is that every sect of every religion has its own version of what sin is.

    k –> Strawman being set up . . .

    In Catholicism, use of contraception is a sin, whereas in most protestant sects it is not. In some Christian belief, homosexual acts constitute sinning, while in others they do not. (This is true even within certain sects, witness the controversy in the Episcopal church surrounding the sexual orientation of Bishop Gene Robinson.)

    l –> The Catholics have a case in moral philosophy, not scripture as such on that. They may be wrong, but that does not mean that this means anything more than that we may err. To put this next to a case of blatant apostasy that would push aside strictures in the text that directly address a specific perversion of the Creation order for family and sexuality, shows a failure of seriousness.

    To many Christians, abortion is murder, to others it is not a sin at all.

    m –> Again, a confusion between opinion and what is right [mere disagreement does not disprove the existence of that which is objectively right, an error of subjectivism and radical relativism], but here on a subject where the implications are beginning to be evident all around us: abortion having fallen in many powerful but increasingly perverted and corrupted institutions, the erosion of the value of human life is proceeding apace as there has been injected the destructive notion that there is life unworthy or life, “Lebensunwertes Leben.” So, we see infanticide, euthanasia and looming through the mists, the whole-scale elimination of those deemed not fit to live by the powerful.

    n –> The unborn child is indisputably human, indeed half the time such a child is not even of the same sex as his mother. So, we have no moral right to deem the unborn child “Lebensunwertes Leben.” Nor the infant, nor the diseased or disabled, nor the elderly, nor Jews nor those of my own race, etc etc. (I hope you have enough sense to be ashamed.)

    These are just three of many, many examples of Christian ethical beliefs that contradict one another.

    o –> A confusion of the existence of error and disagreement for the non-existence of that which is correct. The very undeniable reality of error itself is the grounds on which such collapses. For, it is undeniable on pain of necessarily providing a counter-example and refuting itself, that error exists. So, truth, and indeed truth knowable even to undeniable certainty exists. hence, radical relativism that reduces truth to mere opinion collapses.

    p –> And, by focussing on points of disagreement on moral truth, you have sought to divert attention from cases that there is no reasonable dispute on. For instance, the very focal case that you have been challenged with ever so often in this thread and have repeatedly ducked: we ought not to abduct, torture, rape and murder an innocent child.

    q –> As has repeatedly been seen, the most you can say is, “that’s unloving,” emotively exploiting the MORAL content of neighbour love, while refusing to acknowledge that moral content and how it governs even you.

    I have not even addressed the differences in ethical imperatives between Christian faiths and the other religious traditions.

    r –> The same error of refusing to examine consensus and highlighting cases of disagreement on the rhetorical pretence that different opinion disestablishes truth.

    If God really did have a set of ethical guidelines that He wants us all to follow, wouldn’t He have made it clear to all human beings what those guidelines are?

    s –> You have had abundant opportunity to see that there is indeed a consensus on key cases, and that there is a wider pattern of core morality that is in common and shows that we are morally governed by the force of ought, but you wish to rhetorically brush it aside. Please, consider the consequences of such folly as highlighted by Plato in the Laws, Bk X, 2350 years ago — and notice, this is obviously a pagan speaking and testifying to the moral government of humanity and what happens when it was ignored:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

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

    Can you imagine anything more cruel than setting up rules of behavior along with punishment of an eternity in Hell for violating them, and then not making it crystal clear and unambiguous to all human beings exactly what those rules are?

    t –> Strawman, soaked in ad hominems and ignited through snide dismissals. God is just, and there is quirte evident warrant for the core principles of morality as already was outlined and as can be accessed in materials that are not hard to find. That those who willfully choose to disregard the evident truth and the right and willfully do that which is oppressive, exploitive ans destructive should face eternal accountability for same, is just.

    u –> As for the doctrine of a place of eternal separation from God, kindly observe the primary example and illustration that our Lord gave: Gehenna, the ill-managed city dump south of Jerusalem which was doubtless almost always afire from spontaneous combustion and/or fires set to get rid of particularly offensive rubbish. It is quite evident that God is just to provide a place where those who reject him can set up their own world. That it deteriorates into the chaos of an ill-managed dump — as so easily tends to happen here on earth when men forget God and his justice — is their fault, not his.

    Do you doubt that an omnipotent and omniscient God could not have done so if He had wished to?

    v –> With all due respect, I must correct. For, having shut your eyes firmly to lock out the blatantly obvious, you now complain against him who gave you eyelids to use for a better purpose. If you will not heed Paul above, then at least heed Locke in his warning on the candle that is set up in us that shines brightly enough for all our purposes:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke's allusions and citations.]

    Here’s an alternative possibility: God is not interested in morality—morality is a human invention and a human preoccupation. Rather, God is interested in the expansion of love in the Universe. If we want to act in concert with God’s will, we will not be asking “What is the right thing to do?” Instead, we will be asking “What is the loving thing to do?”

    w –> Having gone around the circle of your rhetoric a couple of times, triumphantly you announce your pre-determined conclusion that does not even see how it undermines itself. Please, please, please, think again and do better.

    We are each of us made in the “image and likeness” of God. If one wishes to access our God-like nature, one of the ways to do so is to live in the question, “What would Love do now?” and act accordingly.

    x –> Which immediately leads tot he moral content of the principle of neighbour love, as you know or should know. But refuse to acknowledge.

    I trust that this example is sufficient to call you to rethink. You are making yourself into a poster-child of what goes wrong when we let radical subjectivism and relativism in the door.

    Please, please, please, think again.

    KF

  247. F/N: Poster child status (with additional links that would not fit the 7 or so budget above).

  248. KF:

    Which immediately leads tot he moral content of the principle of neighbour love, as you know or should know. But refuse to acknowledge.

    No. You have it wrong. Morality can have love as part of its content (as in it is your duty to love your neighbor), but the converse is false: Love has no moral content—morality includes judgment and condemnation, which are totally antithetical to love.

  249. BD:

    Let me cite three voices that have a little more weight than you (being foundational to our civilisation), Moses, Jesus and Paul of Tarsus, on the subject of the moral content of love and thus also the Golden Rule:

    MOSHE: Lev 19: 15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

    17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

    JESUS: Matt 7: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    PAUL: Rom 13: 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    1 Cor 13: 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;2 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Contrary to your confident manner declaration, it has been long been understood as well founded, that love of neighbour which refuses to harm or wrong that neighbour but instead to do him or her good, cannot be separated from morality, being driven by the acceptance of the sacred value of that neighbour, who is made equally in God’s image.

    That is the context in which Locke’s citation of “the judicious [Anglican canon Richard] Hooker” when he set out to ground principles of liberty and justice in the community, becomes so apt, as we may see form his 2nd essay on civil govt Ch 2 sect 5, and I extend the cite from Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[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]

    Please, please, please, think again.

    KF

  250. PS: In response to your repeated “how dare you judge me” talking point, let me cite Jesus’ very wise counsel on right vs wrong judging:

    Matt 7: 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

    At first this looks like you are right. But dig in a bit more, to see that Jesus is speaking of hypocritically usurping God’s prerogative of Judgement.

    So, harking back subtly to Moses’ counsel not to hold a grudge but to reason frankly with your neighbour in the wrong AS AN EXPRESSION OF NEIGHBOUR LOVE, he speaks of dealing with planks and sawdust in eyes. He does not condemn all judgement, but hypocritical probably self serving censoriousness.

    This is a struggle, and it reveals that to be human is to struggle with hypocrisy, on the path of virtue. (As in, we are finite, fallible, morally fallen/struggling and too often ill willed.)

    But by no means does this actually teach the abandonment of critical awareness and moral suasion — i.e. in effect enabling do as I please waywardness and wicked folly by silence, just the opposite.

    Please, think again.

Leave a Reply