Whataboutism (also known as whataboutery) is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument. How did CR employ it here? Let’s examine it step-by-step.
For example, the vignette Becky’s Lesson is set in an alternate history in which the Nazis won World War II, conquered the world, and completed their Final Solution by completely eradicating all 13 million Jews. In the story, the Nazis control all media and education. They control society with an iron fist and have indoctrinated the society they control to celebrate The Final Solution as a great good, instead of an unspeakable evil. The obvious purpose of the story is to refute the lame materialist assertion that we see all-too-many times in these pages that “morality comes from society.” The story exposes the vacuity of this position by demonstrating that if society determines morality, the Holocaust would have been moral if the Nazis had won the war and controlled societal discourse.
A commenter who goes by “Critical Rationalist” responded to the story not by disputing its logic but by trying to change the subject. CR does not want to talk about Europe in living memory. He wants to talk about the Old Testament stories about the conquest of Canaan over 3,000 years.
Let us say for the sake of argument that CR is right; that the Israelite conquest of Canaan was an example of evil ethnic cleansing. How is that a response to the point of Becky’s Lesson? Of course it is not.
The whole point of CR’s whataboutism ploy is not to refute the logic of the story, but to change the subject. And why is CR so desperate to change the subject? Because he knows as well as anyone that materialists such as he have no answer to the logic of Becky’s Lesson. And instead of admitting that basic truth, they will go to any length to avoid addressing it.
84 Replies to “Darwinian Debating Device #20: The “Whataboutism” Tactic”
Good post. Spot on logic. CR misses the point… completely.
Yes, Barry. Your intention was just that. But your purpose for a story doesn’t limit it’s usefulness. We do cannot control how our ideas will be used. That’s because what we care about is the contents of an idea, not its source or the source’s intention.
It’s not? Then how does “living memory” make the Holocaust any worse, or a 3,000 years old command to slaughter Cannonite women and children any better? Why mention it at all?
Again, your assuming the story represents two different viewpoints. I’m saying that, on closer inspection, they actually share the same underlying philosophical position. Both are justificationists arguing over which “final solution” is authoritative. That’s not “what about-ism.” That’s pointing out a similarity you apparently failed to identify when you write it, as outlined in this comment
IOW, you seem to be assuming your story can only be used for the purpose you intended.
If people needed punishment, why only the people in the land they were given?
In the summer of 1945, Harry Truman ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on two Japanese cities killing over 100,000 people, including women, children, and infants. Most a/mats rationalize Truman’s actions as being necessary for the greater good, but then spit vitriolic hatred toward God for ordering the Canaanite purge.
Modern politicians (including a/mat liberals) regularly order the slaughter of women, children, and infants in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, I rarely hear a/mat outrage over such carnage… just hypocritical rationalizations.
Change the concluding words of Becky’s Lesson to “The Left controls society with an iron fist and have indoctrinated the society they control to celebrate abortion on demand as a great good, instead of an unspeakable evil.”
How many millions have died by this SO FAR? How many a/mat will claim it’s justifiable because society determines moral values? All of them?
No need to go back to WWII or the O/T when there is this and many other current examples of the vacuous nature of a/mat moral preening.
I was actually the one who first brought up the Canaanites as relevant to the discussion.
Barry and others define morality as rules that must come from some transcendent all powerful being that are then imposed on people. Therefore atheists either cant be moral, or at best will only have ‘feel-good’ arbitrary morals.
I dont think morals can be rules imposed on a people, anymore than you can force someone to love you.
The example of the Canaanites is relevant because it shows that however flawed you think my definition of morality is, yours doesnt do any better. Believing that God is the source of morality forces you into the absurd position of having to claim that immoral atrocities described in the past were moral because God commanded them.
Barry posted his alt-history as an argument that in such a world Christians would be the only people to think that the holocaust was wrong. But he admits that he believes that whatever God wants is moral. Therefore the holocaust was moral if God wanted it, and it would be easy for Christians in that reality to believe that God did want it.
No one cares.
And yet we do by the laws we make.
That is your opinion and an opinion based on ignorance at that.
Well God, being God, knows better than we do.
True, but no one is making that claim.
Again, I’m saying that there are no sources that cannot lead us into error. This includes Joshua and company, in the case of God, and a future US that supposedly follows Hitler. So, no, I’m not vilifying God. I’m pointing out that we don’t have infallible access to any source, including God, that cannot lead us into error.
The key characters are both justifications arguing over which “final solution” they should accept. Both of which, at one time or another, demand genocide. What they are not arguing about is whether they should follow authoritative sources. This they have in common.
IOW, I’m criticizing the philosophical positions that both of them share equally.
The question is, why didn’t God just destroy all of the people on the land he promised them as opposed to sending the Israelites to do it themselves? What of the desensitizing effect of cutting down woman and children with a sword while looking them in the eyes would have on the men when interacting with their own people and even their own families. Was that for the greater good too?
After all, if Yahweh was the Christian God, who supposedly made the entire universe appear out of nothing, as opposed to simply the tribal god of Israel, then it should be child’s play making a few people disappear in an instant.
In many cases, wars are fought because we lack the knowledge of how to argue against the philosophical position that knowledge comes from authoritative sources, which is self perpetuating because It holds specific ideas as immune from criticism.
A self-defeating statement. To point this out it should suffice to ask you: By what infallible source do you infallibly know that “we don’t have infallible access to any source, including God, that cannot lead us into error”?
Here is the ‘justification’ nonsense again. To point this out it should suffice to ask you: How do you justify your judgement that “the key characters are both justifications arguing over which “final solution” they should accept”?
Maybe mass slaughter of women, children, and infants is sometimes morally good, even necessary, in this fallen world. No?
Also, on another note, a/mats keep telling me not to blame violent video games, movies, and music for real-life violence. They claim that said “entertainment” has no effect on human actions in real life. Does anybody know of modern research that might dispute that?
I think that the flaw in your argument is that you are judging the hypothesized alternate future where the Nazis won and eradicated all of the Jews from a modern day perspective. Of course, from our perspective the holocaust was immoral. Thus your argument that morality coming from society is vacuous. However, to support your argument that societally driven morality is vacuous, you have to look at the morality of the holocaust from the perspective of those in this alternate future, not that of modern day people. Would that society see the holocaust as moral? I would love to be able to say that they would still see it as immoral, but our societal norms have changed far too drastically over the centuries for me to confidently draw this conclusion.
I hope that I am am making my point clearly. I have re-read this several times and it still seems poorly worded, but it is the best that I can do.
CR and RodW continue to play the whataboutism game. The reason they do so is it is very successful. They have, again, changed the subject and gotten people to talk about something other than the point of the post.
You seem to be saying that if the society in the alternate future saw the Holocaust as moral, it would be moral. That is correct under materialist premises where morals are derived from society.
My point is that if it is even possible for your premises to lead to a self-evidently absurd conclusion (i.e. the Holocaust was moral), then your premises are flawed.
I do not prefix every sentence with “This is a conjecture:” So what?.
But I have given up the quest for justification. All we have is fallible criticism, which isn’t guaranteed to find problems in our ideas.
But we’ve been over this before, so this is nothing new. Despite significant criticism of justificationism, you just keep making the same assumption.
CR @ 7
If I accept for the sake of argument that you are correct, that the Canaanite and Holocaust episodes are examples of the same sort of thing, that does not refute the point I made in the Becky’s Lesson story.
Do you actually have a point that you would like to make?
It wouldn’t help to do that CR. A self-defeating statement is false and cannot be fixed by “This is a conjecture … [self-defeating statement]”. For instance, “I always lie” is a self-defeating statement and it would not be fixed if you change it into
Since a self-defeating statement is false, conjecturing what is false cannot be successful.
Then be quiet.
And how do you justify that view? See? It’s better for you to be quiet.
We have, and I will keep explaining it to you until you get it.
CR: All we have is fallible criticism, which isn’t guaranteed to find problems in our ideas.
O: And how do you justify that view? See? It’s better for you to be quiet.
That has been my view of CR a long time. But speaking of giving the Devil his due, CR manages to confuse a lot of people with his incoherent pseudo-profundity tarted up as sophisticated analysis. You gotta hand it to him.
But doesn’t that then support CR’s (or RW’s) comparison to the killing of the Canaanites? I’m sure that they believe that justifying a genocide, regardless of the justification, is self-evidently absurd. Why is one moral, and the other not?
“But doesn’t that then support CR’s (or RW’s) comparison to the killing of the Canaanites?”
And again, elucidating the reason for that is not the subject of the post.
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. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
— Romans 2:14-15
Morality seems objective in some sense – so many moral values are shared across all societies. But …
– Divine commands cannot ground objective morals — Plato, Euthyphro
– Material facts about the world (social cooperation etc.) cannot ground objective morals – Hume: we cannot derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’
Therefore, it seems our shared morality must be some sort of objective but non-physical thing – like maths or logic perhaps?
This is a very good video on the subject:
I particularly like this quote from the preceding video
Here is a more detailed defense against the Atheist’s Canaanite argument
I have to say Barry your’s and other poster’s, ‘moral relativism’, that if God commands it, it’s okay, but if man commands it, it’s not, is absurd.
Take this from ET@ 7;
CR asks; ‘Therefore the holocaust was moral if God commanded it?’
ET, unbelievably; ‘TRUE but no one is making that claim.’
ET, if Jesus arrived tomorrow, and all your dreams of the redeemer and His second comming were fulfilled, and then He asked the faithful to butcher the rest of the world and proclaim his kingdom, would you join in the command of the Christ Risen?
I’d like to believe I’d say, ‘Your morality is evil, so evil in fact I proclaim you Lucifer and will do all in my humanist power to stop you and your fellow travellers.’
You see ET, following such an immoral God that would command the genocide of the Canaanites is actually a form of moral cowardice.
E.M.Forster said; ‘If it ever came to a choice between betraying my country and betraying a friend, I hope to God I would have the courage to betray my country.’
Apparently all the Christians here would happily join in God’s command to murder their unbelieving friends; I would not, my MORAL fiber I hope, (HOPE!) would not let me down.
rvb8- I was responding to RodW and not to CR. Wake up and smell the coffee.
I don’t hold the belief that Jesus is God. And I am 100% certain that Jesus would never do such a thing.
And it sounds like EM Foster is a loser.
Look, loser, you can make up any retarded scheme you want. It just exposes your desperation.
Dear fellow Qu,
CR, RodW, and some others here seem to possessive infinite flexibility in their arguments. Nothing they say in one post that contradicts what they say in another affects them at all. This apparently is not a problem as long as these statements are in separate posts.
When you consider that “In the beginning was the Word” (i.e. logos), and that all things were created through Him. one can see that while Greek gods might be subject to logic, the true Creator in very essence IS logic and truth and light. Thus, authentically revealed Divine commands are in essence no different than objective morality.
Where some people get tripped up is that they assume that the Creator is a human who is trapped in time with finite knowledge as they themselves are. They also make God-like judgments from a position of ignorance.
I think it’s likely that the objective morality most people seem willing to accept (or to apply against the people they disapprove of) is a subset of the essence of the Creator. That any apparent discrepancies from this are far more likely due to our not being omniscient and having a time-bound perspective rather than the Creator being deficient in some way.
The prophet Isaiah also quotes the Creator saying,
Still hasn’t addressed the question put to him about whether he considers providing the semi-starving part of the world with a rich source of nutritious protein as somehow immoral.
He just seems to disappear or jump to another thread! LOL.
I believe God is good. I am not obligated to follow God’s commands unless God is good. But if the definition of ‘good’ is ‘commanded by God’, this is circular regardless of what I believe.
The killing of the Canaanites was the result of a military conquest which employed a drive them out, wipe them out strategy— leave and live, or stay and die. Israelites attacked fortified citadels like Jericho and employed siege tactics which like modern aerial bombing and artillery does not discriminate between civilian and non-civilian, combatant and non-combatant. If you are in the target zone you are a target. Archaeological evidence shows that Jericho was burned. Fire was an ancient “weapon of mass destruction” that was used as part of siege warfare. It did not discriminate between combatants and civilian non-combatants any more than modern weapons of war do. Again, if you were in the target zone you were a target.
When we look at modern warfare we do not typically refer to civilian noncombatant deaths (“collateral damage”) as genocide. How then does military action, which took place 3000 years ago get arbitrarily defined today as genocide? It appears to be solely based on biased non-objective interpretation of the text. BTW most secular scholars the called conquest of Canaan texts which we find in the OT are non-historical. That suggests that anyone using the texts in a polemical argument is either ignorant or disingenuous. Which should be no surprise when it comes to internet trolls
Notice that I am using Just War Theory here, not Divine Command Theory. The advantage is that I don’t have to use theology or assume the OT is divinely inspired etc. I don’t even have to mention God. I just need to interpret the text as another ANE document.
If you believe that civilian non-combatants don’t die in war then you are totally ignorant of history.
What is “good” and how can we determine what is good?
Here’s how good is defined in the Bible:
What did the Creator do that was good?
The creation in Genesis was described as good and very good. That Adam should be alone was described as not good, which was then addressed by the creation of Eve.
In summary, the scriptures indicate that Justice, Kindness, Humility, Creativity, and Companionship are all good. So are the binary divisions in the universe which fundamentally define Information. Wisdom and Logic were intimately involved in creation, expressing Good. Freedom expressed by a Free Will was also part of Good. With Free Will we can choose between Life and Death.
So, who can define good?
The only choices are limited to free moral agents: the Creator, created sentient beings as individuals, or created sentient beings as a majority.
Limited knowledge can lead to uninformed and incorrect judgments. A majority is often more informed than an individual, but a sentient being with complete knowledge and not bound by time is going to be the best choice to determine good.
Barry on the OP:
But doesn’t that actually support the materialists’ assertion? The story shows a situation where an act that the reader regards as grossly immoral is shown as being morally acceptable in another society.
Barry is correct, CR, RodW nor anyone else has addressed his actual point.
“The obvious purpose of the story is to refute the lame materialist assertion that we see all-too-many times in these pages that “morality comes from society.”
The story exposes the vacuity of this position by demonstrating that if society determines morality, the Holocaust would have been moral if the Nazis had won the war and controlled societal discourse.”
CR, RodW, et al., ignore many modern day actions like the bombing of Japan and President Truman’s orders.
Why? Because they’re not willing to look at authentic uses of military applications in large outcomes.
Was Truman wrong? If so, how do you justify more deaths of Americans to end the war? Is it mere conjecture to save lives? Or does it have real consequences?
CR, you bring up fallible criticism as if it is the only answer. This is simply your opinion. And was exposed as fallible itself.
You cannot trust your own logic to espouse such answers. You could be wrong.
And you are simultaneously claiming to have moral judgment on your side by such a fallible answer. Yet, as was admitted, your opinions are conjecture. So your opinions to label others wrong are not objective.
Is it possible by your own logic that part of society today is impressing upon you false answers of fallible criticism?
You are going in circles on this if you seriously take a look at what you propose. Your very thoughts may be wrong conjecture, not based upon logic or knowledge, but upon other people’s wrong conjecture and society conjecture as others say, or specialized group-thought conjecture.
Fallibilism is not an answer to what you seek. As you yourself are liable to err, misleading everyone you speak to down the wrong road.
In fact, your User Name, “critical rationalist” could be a fallible label of yourself, therefore an irrational claim on your part.
Your assumption of rational thoughts on your part could be based upon incorrect conjecture.
Is your User Name conjecture too?
If, “all knowledge remains… conjectural” then that applies to your thoughts as well. And yet you expect that yours is correct in this instance? And not mere conjecture?
As was pointed out you had to admit it was conjecture in your statements. Yet you lament the fact that you must point it out to others.
Maybe your User Name should be Assumed Conjecture? At least this way other users would know that all your statements are conjecture and not knowledge, fact, or truth. But conjecture that might change in the future as you yourself gain more knowledge which you cannot currently see or understand today.
Just a conjecture on my part.
I think the general argument would be distilled as – here is an example of moral relativism in the Bible therefore theres no difference and its in fact an example of morality arising out of that society not a unviersal morality.
I don’t see a way of not addressing it.So in the last thread I did.
1) there was no genocide of Caananites
2) the command references cities during battle not an ongoing command to kill all canaanites whenever and wherever you saw them
3) Theres not indication of all canaanites in an area taking refuge in nearby cities (some of which would be quite small).
3) in the very first Battle in Canaan a group of caananites were commanded to be preserved women men and children – no unviversal killing of canaanites
4) passing sentencing even at the hands of humans on people who routinely took other peoples children and killed them is hardly unjust provided you knew they would be guilty of raising children who would do the same – which is the clear expressed concern of God in the Biblical narrative.
So its all for naught and a weak argument. Really on an emotional level it mostly comes down to an outrage that children were to be included. the problem is we don’t have this universal never ending children are always innocent feeling about all children for all time . they grow up and then we lose that. So its a beg that God who knows what men will do cannot act to preserve others against their action
Its an emotional outrage argument – not a rational argument based on an understanding we are not talking about men but God who by defintion is timeless.
“I have to say Barry your’s and other poster’s, ‘moral relativism’, that if God commands it, it’s okay, but if man commands it, it’s not, is absurd.”
In truth that argument of yours is in itself totally absurd and demonstrably so.
Observe what most of society agreees on
Its perfectly fine to sleep with my wife.
Its not fantastic for you to sleep with my wife
I am fine opening my car and starting it with or without a key
If you do that to my car – its grand theft auto
I can take just about any piece of property I own and be within my rights to destroy it. I can even command someone else to destroy it and be fine (and them too).
You destroy any of those same items belonging to me and its vandalism.
If I attempt to take my life and fail I am not subject to prison time
If you attempt to take my life its twenty years plus
So justice and right and wrong HAS ALWAYS been subject to rights of ownership (or legal privilege) without any moral relativism whatsoever.
Morality is in fact always predicated on who did what to whom and who had rights over what.
Materialists making an argument that God can never ever regardless of circumstances command the life that he gave and belongs to him to be taken away are just arguing in a circle. Essentially claiming God doesn’t have a right to life thereofore its wrong that he takes it or commands it to be taken even though he never promised or contracted ever that it be a forever gift.
Its an emotional and irrational argument and yes based on a full understanding of morality – emminently absurd.
@DATCG 30, CR
Indeed. Moreover, CR insists that there is no justification whatsoever for his opinion. None. As CR puts it:
Again exactly right. Popper and CR seem to overlook that the general statement “all knowledge remains conjectural” also applies to their own thoughts and even to the statement itself. Slagle explains this blunder eloquently:
Moreover, the statement “all knowledge remains conjectural” applied to itself, shows that the statement is self-defeating or meaningless at best:
Popper: all knowledge remains conjectural.
Does that go for your claim as well, Popper? Is it a mere conjecture that “all knowledge remains conjectural”?
Then what does your claim mean?
– – – – –
More self-defeating statements by Popper can be found here.
A good point. It avoids circularity by positing that moral goodness is not just whatever God commands; it is something God determines with wisdom and foresight …
But what is the standard God uses to determine what is good, and where does it come from?
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
— Proverbs 14:12
DATCG (to CR):
How about ‘Unjustified Conjecture’ as a user name?
The problem is deeper than that. Either our rational faculties are morally governed through duties to truth, right, justice and much more, or else they are little more than means of clever manipulation. Where, to follow that path is instantly absurd, utterly undermining reasoned discussion.
Including, in this thr4ead.
So, we face a challenge, that reason and right must be unified, the is and the ought must be unified.
What Hume actually accomplishes is that moral government can only be unified with rationality and reality at world-root level. The IS-OUGHT gap is critical.
The Euthyphro dilemma actually fails, also. ARBITRARY commands of a small-g god cannot ground morality, but what happens when we have a unification of all these things in the root of reality?
As in, we cannot but be morally governed, starting with our reasoning. That has to be at world root level or we will find ungrounded ought. And it cannot be in a small-g god giving commands with no necessary connexion to the roots of reality.
This is part of the context that leads to the only serious candidate root of reality: the inherently good and wise creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the responsible, reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.
This good wise Creator God is the framework for reality, so there is no root of reality independent of him. As he is inherently good, his commands will be right, good and wise, thus trustworthy and commending themselves to us as reasonable. As morality — governing ourselves according to sound principles of value, truth and conduct — will be inextricably fused into the root of what is, there is no ultimate gap. As a serious candidate maximally great and necessary being, the creator God will either be impossible (as a square circle is) or else will be actual.
Now, this is not an arbitrary imposition, this is philosophy. If you have a serious alternative, simply put it up: ______ .
I suspect it will be found far harder to do so than one may at the first imagine.
For instance, remember, grounding of rationality and its credibility are also in the stakes.
PS: Those who need may find here on a helpful point of balance on the usual talking points on oh the Canaanites etc.
Bob O’H @ 29:
Your second sentence is almost right. It should read:
The story shows a situation where an act that the reader
regards asKNOWS FOR AN ABSOLUTE CERTAIN FACT IS grossly immoral is shown as being morally acceptable in another society.
Thus, if “morality comes from society” is true, it can lead to a situation in which known immoral acts are moral. The materialist is then on the horns of a dilemma. He must admit that under certain circumstances the Holocaust would be good (note, “good,” not merely “regarded as good”) if everyone in the society believes that to be the case. Or he can admit that since that is patently absurd, the premise “morality comes from society” is false. We have already seen one materialist (RodW) take the first option. Which will you choose Bob?
KF @ 36: Beautiful.
Barry @ 37 –
Well, no. If I’m a moral subjectivist and I’m being precise, I can say that I regard certain acts are good, and I can say that societies (or other groups) regard these acts as good, but I don’t have any external objective standard by which to say that they actually are good.
From the essay…..
Are you suggesting, there is no distinction to be made in the third attitude?
CR,I and others feel we have addressed Barry’s point while Barry and others insist we haven’t. We in turn have points that we feel are being ignored.
I think I see the problem. We’re talking past each other because our basic assumptions are different.
Barry is comparing both God-based morals vs atheist morals in a world where God exists, while we are comparing God-based morals vs atheist morals in a world where God doesnt exist. This might be legitimate as long as one is clear and thorough in covering all possibilities. But I think it might also be helpful to compare God-based morals in a world where God does exist to atheist morals in a world where God doesnt exist.
RodW, in a world in which God doesn’t exist the only moral would be to survive. But that is moot because there wouldn’t be anything to survive.
Bob O’H @39:
No, you are being a liar or a psychopath. Because only a liar or a psychopath would say he does not know for an absolute certain fact that the Holocaust was evil.
So which is it Bob?
By the way, I am sure I am not the only one who noticed that you dodged my last question. Which is it Bob: Would the Holocaust actually be good if everyone in a society said it was?
Couldn’t it be both?
RodW @ 44:
In programming and formal logic, inclusive ‘or’ is generally assumed over exclusive ‘or’. I would extend it to rhetoric.
But, honestly, how is this different than how the Nazi’s treated the Jews in Europe. The Jews that got out lived, those that didn’t…
I don’t think that there is anything arbitrary about it. It is all about intent. If a modern day commander instructed his troops to attack a city and kill all of the citizens within it, we would not think twice about calling that a genocide. Or, at least, a crime against humanity. Why would we give a pass to something that happened 3000 years ago?
AK, kindly cf the link at 36 above. KF
Barry @ 43 –
Neither. As far as I am concerned, the Holocaust was evil.
The point of my comment was that I can’t say, without having a standard by which to judge it. By my standards it isn’t good, and wouldn’t be whatever the society thought. But clearly if a society thought it was good, then by their standards it would be good.
The so-called cities that the Israelites attacked were all fortified military strongholds which had strategic military value.
On the other hand, the fire-bombing of Dresden and of Tokyo by the allies in WW II were deliberate attacks on the non-combatant civilian populations. In particular Dresden was a German cultural center with very little strategic military value. Genocide? Crimes against humanity?
How about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Neither city was considered to have high strategic value by the U.S. military. There were horrific deaths and injuries to the non-combatant civilian population. They were the targets.
It’s your call, Allen.
Simply saying that it was moral because God is the source of morality and God instructed the Israelites to kill the entire population, is really not an answer. God did not do the killing. People did. How do we know that this wasn’t a test of the Israelites, one that they failed miserably?
I don’t know who here said it, but I think that they had a good point. If the scenario Barry presents actually happened and persisted for 3000 years, how would this future society perceive the holocaust? We obviously can’t say for sure, but there are probably two possibilities.
1) A myth would arise around the holocaust such that it would be said to have been morally justified, as I suspect was the case with the Canaanite slaughter.
2) Society would realize the horror of the holocaust and acknowledge that it was evil and reprehensible, as we do now with slavery.
Personally, I would hope for the latter, but there are enough examples of societies justifying actions that we would consider immoral to make me have doubts.
What does that have to do with God instructing them to kill all of the women and children? He didn’t say that if women and children happened to die, that would be acceptable. He said to kill every last man woman and child.
Not genocide, which I think is a term that is thrown around far to casually, but I would argue that these were crimes against humanity.
I would argue that these were crimes against humanity as well. Obviously in war there are going to be civilian casualties. There always have been and always will be. In World War II the number of civilian deaths far outnumbered combatant deaths.
BA @ 21:
Excellent links, thank you.
Here is an excerpt from interview between two evangelicals, Lee Strobel and Paul Copan who have both actually studied the relevant OT texts.
Notice that in trying to establish their premise that the Israelite invasion of Canaan was one of the most horrific acts of genocide that the world has ever seen, our atheist interlocutors co-opt the most literalistic interpretation they can find. The truth is that most of them have never read any of the texts in question in context. They have just borrowed inane and stupid talking points that they have picked up from other atheists. But now just watch; they’ll take turns doubling down on their nonsense.
Nevertheless, their baseless pretension and posturing does succeed by disrupting and derailing the discussion and debate.
Relativism, as described above, is an incoherent position, which, unsurprisingly, gives rise to self-defeating statements. Let’s look at the following self-defeating statement:
The statement applied to itself:
1. Positive confirmation cannot be achieved.
2. There is no positive confirmation for [“positive confirmation cannot be achieved”].
3. [“Positive confirmation cannot be achieved”] is either self-defeating or meaningless.
… // Nota bene, this self-defeating statement is hailed by the writer as a “correct premise”. //
The second self-defeating statement is a classic:
The statement applied to itself:
1. There is no such thing as the truth.
2. [“There is no such thing as the truth”] is false.
3. There is such a thing as the truth.
More nonsense. “There is no logical way to establish a positive justification for their beliefs or any others …” is (again!) a self-defeating idea.
Let’s apply the statement to itself:
1. There is no logical way to establish a positive justification for beliefs.
2. There is no logical way to establish a positive justification for [“There is no logical way to establish a positive justification for beliefs.”]
3. [“There is no logical way to establish a positive justification for beliefs.”] is either self-defeating or meaningless.
Self-defeating statement … (sigh). Applied to itself, it becomes meaningless at best.
How does one know? Per its own claim, this theory is unjustified. So, how do you justify that view? Why do you guys value ‘critical discussion tests’? Are they able to justify a theory? If not, why bother?
Read Slagle #33 and weep.
How do you criticize or defend a position if justification plays no role? It cannot be done. How can one criticize e.g. E=mc^2 by pointing to an experiment, if pointing to outcomes of experiments is ‘justificationism’?
What is that?
Except, as I’ve been suggesting, society is not actually a source of morality knowledge in the sense you’ve implying. It doesn’t “come” from anywhere.
The contents of moral knowledge, like all knowledge, starts out as a conjecture, which is controlled by criticism. Reason always comes first. Otherwise, you would need some way to infallibly identity an infallible source of moral values, infallibly interpret them and infallibly determine when to defer to them. As of yet, you haven’t explained how that is possible.
So, what I’m suggesting is, you have depicted two confused justificationists who are mistakenly arguing over which infallible sources actually isn’t the source of their moral knowledge.
JAD@53, please don’t get me wrong. I was never suggesting that we should interpret the bible literally. Just that when someone does make the inevitable comparison between the holocaust and the Canaanites, that we don’t try to dance around and try to spin it by saying that killing all the women and children was morally acceptable because the Israelites were instructed by God to do this. I don’t see what is wrong with simply saying that if the Israelites killed the women and children of Canaan that it was morally wrong then and is morally wrong now.
AK, did you actually read the linked from 36 above? Your comment does not sound like you did. And if you meant to summarise my point in 36 you missed badly.Try to start from “Either our rational faculties are morally governed through duties to truth, right, justice and much more, or else they are little more than means of clever manipulation. Where, to follow that path is instantly absurd, utterly undermining reasoned discussion.” Then tell us, is this so or not, why. KF
Sorry KF, but I don’t see what that has to do with whether or not instructing soldiers to kill all men, women and children is morally acceptable. Maybe you can provide your opinion on this. If a commanding general orders his troops to kill all men, women and children during an attack, are there any circumstances where this would be morally acceptable?
@CR // follow-up #54 //
1. No theory can be established or justified.
2. It cannot be established or justified that [“No theory can be established or justified.”]
3. [“No theory can be established or justified.”] is self-defeating or meaningless at best.
I do hope that it superfluous for me to explain that “no theory has a high probability” is self-defeating. Popper has made the same incoherent claim elsewhere, e.g. Popper: “… no theory can be established neither as certainly true nor even as ‘probable’”.
There is another irony here. Remember this one?
So, no theory has high probability and no theory can be established even as probable … BUT … critical rationalism (a double misnomer) is based on the idea that it is “quite likely (!) that one [position], (or some) will turn out to be better than others are in the light of critical discussion and tests.”
The utter contempt for their own crazy rules when it comes to their own position is mind-boggling.
AK, you clearly still have not read the linked from 36, which discusses the issue with significant onward relevant context; it also happens to be something I wrote some years ago as a part of a 101. On fair comment, that apparent refusal to interact with even a 101 level, initial answer tends to suggest that BA is right about the basic, red herring led away to strawman problem. And, the underlying issue is still there as context: are we under objective moral government, starting with government of the rational faculties used to discuss issues. If not, those faculties are little more than clever tools of cynical manipulation; destroying reasoned discussion — something that all too aptly explains the patent approach of too many political, media and even academic voices today: might and/or manipulation make ‘right’ ‘truth’ ‘knowledge’ ‘justice’ etc. If yes, then we do have to address the grounding of morality and the world root level solution of the IS-OUGHT gap as context for evaluating any particular moral issue or talking point. Which, makes all the difference in how we approach such issues. And no, I will not be drawn into debating perceptions and feelings in absence of a clear understanding of the underlying foundational matters at stake; e.g. that there are self-evident moral truths which thus are universal and cannot be effectively denied or dismissed without falling at once into patent absurdity. KF
The problem with the way that a man sees is that he cannot see the end. But the Creator simultaneously exists at all points in time and does indeed know the end.
But what is good? As far as the scriptures, there seems to be good, very good, and perfect. In creation, there are some things that are just “good” within the constraints of the physical laws and fine tuning that the Creator established by his Word (remember that scientists specializing in Quantum Mechanics now believe that information is the fundamental nature of existence). Good is OK when it expresses the loving and creative nature of the Creator.
1. Per your own ‘anti-justification-theory’, everything you say is unjustified conjecture. Therefore there is no reason at all to take it seriously.
2. Your own theory states “no theory can be established neither as certainly true nor even as ‘probable’” (Popper), so, the theory “all knowledge starts out as a conjecture” cannot be established as certainly true nor even as probable. Again, there is no reason at all to take it seriously. The same goes for your theory that criticism controls conjecture.
Your own theory does not allow you to make such upbeat statements — “no theory can be established neither as certainly true nor even as ‘probable’” remember? Practice what you preach.
And BTW why should ‘observation’ not come first? Why should reason not be informed (justified) by observation? Ah! I see. Because you do not like ‘justificationism’, right? You want your conjecture completely estranged from everything else.
And this is how you like your ‘criticism’ as well. Both come from nowhere: pure and completely unjustified. Astounding nonsense.
Wrong analyses. As a comparison, we both know that internet exists, but in order to know this we do not need absolute (infallible) knowledge about the specifics. Similarly, in order to know that there is objective morality we do not need to know every aspect of it.
Another idiotic requirement. As a comparison, I do not have to explain by what means the mind (or the brain) applies logic, before I apply logic. Nor do I need to explain how the internet works, before I can use it.
Utter stupidity by Bartley, made possible by the blunder of not applying his own nonsense to himself. Bartley’s statements are so self-defeating that I do not know where to begin.
Alan Keith@ 58,
forget it. The concept of answering a simpe straight forward question such as, ‘Is it acceptable for a general in the US Marines to order the murder of an entire village of non-combatants?’, is beyond these people. (In answer to this, God says fine, the US Congress says, ‘war crime’. Give me Human morality any day.)
Like kairos they will hand wave, point you to Plato, (Plato? In defense of Christ?), or like Barry, create fatuous scenarios, and then stomp their petulent feet.
It would depend on the context. If said village is rife with incurable and fatal disease that would wipe out most of the civilized world if not eradicated, then it would be immoral not to.
What if the general claimed that God told him to do this because he wanted the Americans to have the village and that the villagers practiced sorcery, witchcraft, idolatry, every kind of sexual immorality and child sacrifice?
Note that rvb8 still hasn’t addressed the question put to him about whether he considers providing the semi-starving part of the world with a rich source of nutritious protein as somehow immoral.
He just seems to disappear (for a while) or jump to another thread! 😉
RVB8 [Attn AK and CR, J-Mac et al],
a loaded question is not simple or straightforward.
A loaded, toxic question needs to be answered in light of underlying agendas of issues and the likelihood of twisting of an answer that is naive. (Funny, I was dealing with that in a strategic change management context just yesterday: a “simple” answer to a loaded question does little more than allow a trap to be sprung.)
Meanwhile THIRTY comments later, objectors have shown no sign of examining a 101 on the subject of their question; cf. the linked from 36 above.
In short, for coming on a day, a 101 level answer has been on the table, just that it has been studiously evaded.
That tells us that we are not dealing with straightforwardness.
That now patently goes to showing more interest in pushing what is commonly used as a “shut up” rhetorical talking point than a serious position. And, sadly, it reveals the force of the issue raised in 36, that the first point of contact for moral government is our rational faculty itself.
In that case the soldiers would sprout wings, do a fly over and see for themselves.
If the practices and acts of the villagers are confirmed to be true, would they be morally justified to kill everyone in the village?
There is no absolute universal command in the OT text that commands genocide against the Canaanites. All the commands are in the context of military assault. Allan who doesn’t know what he is talking about is now making stuff up. He is either daft (that’s a polite way to say clueless or ignorant), disdainful or dishonest.
To have an honest discussion or debate you have to begin with factually true premises or propositions. The proposition I have italicized above is factually true. You can prove it yourself by reading the relevant OT texts.
That seems pretty absolute to me. But my argument is not with you. You do not see the bible as literal truth. As I don’t. My argument is against those who read the bible as literal truth and believe that the killing of the Canaanite women and children was morally acceptable because God instructed the Israelites to do it. Just as the holocaust is evil, regardless of the times and the context, the killing of the Canaanite women and children is also evil, regardless of the times and context.
“There is no absolute universal command in the OT text that commands genocide against the Canaanites. All the commands are in the context of military assault. Allan who doesn’t know what he is talking about is now making stuff up. He is either daft (that’s a polite way to say clueless or ignorant), disdainful or dishonest.”
Thats the thing. Its this claim of a genocide that gives the atheist the only cover they have not to answer the question of objective morality. Thats why its best to just deal with it.
If they observed everyone killing children, yes.
Only ignorant people ignore context
Allan Keith @71
“That seems pretty absolute to me.”
And under what rational context would that be a genocide? You quoted “But in the cities of these peoples”. At the time cities neither contained all the canaanites nor did a city refer to an entire area as it does today. they were relatively small usually walled areas. Further the actions taken started out with the command to save a canaanite family and all their extended family. Those making a genocide argument simply ignore what actually was the case and the inconvenient verses that show them wrong.
Thats the problem with this discussion. Both sides are just talking from them their talking points (and one side chopping passages out of context to suit themselves like they elsewhere claim creationists do). I don’t recall either a definition for genocide, a discussion of why why its wrong or even a definition for evil thats based on anything rational. Its mostly emotional and irrational.
“Only ignorant people ignore context”
Plus we are now being offerad an argument based on a false equivalence. Killing people based on their race equals killing people involved in infanticide and other extreme forms of evil.
You’re cherry picking Allan,
That is not an absolute universal command to commit genocide, quite the opposite. I remember one of the first things the professor in my Biblical Hermeneutics class taught us was that “a text without a context is pretext.” You ought to do your homework first, Allan, before you start making fun of Biblical literalists.
BTW my approach to Biblical interpretation is basically the same as Pascal’s who said there are two wrong ways to interpret scripture: interpret everything literally and interpret everything figuratively… Please do not make presumptions about what I think and believe.
JAD@77, all you are showing is that there are glaring inconsistency in the bible. At one part it says that they are instructed to kill everyone. At another only to kill the women and do whatever they want with the women and children. But the fact that there are inconsistencies in the bible is known and accepted by everyone.
So, according to these instructions the citizens have a choice between forced slavery or death and rape to their women. All for trying to keep their homes and land. Seems rather harsh.
But let’s go with your version. Are you suggesting that forced slavery is morally acceptable. Or the rape of women? Surely those are universally and objectively evil, regardless of the time and place. Or is this another one of those acts that are not evil if you are instructed to do it by God?
If you read my other comments you will note that I prefer the term crime against humanity. I think the term genocide is overused.
Please explain to me how killing Canaanite infants is a morally acceptable reaction to infanticude? It is the killing of the children that I find to be the evil act here that is comparable to the holocaust.
F/N: Observe how studiously this 101 as linked in 36 above is dodged.
Almost as telling is the question as to whether our reasoning is governed by duties of care to truth, right, justice, etc. One who actually denies this or more subtly undermines it implies that rational powers are little more than cynical, clever devices for manipulation and deception, opening the door to nihilism.
That is absurd, it undermines reasoned discussion, warrant for knowledge, education and a responsible public discussion — resemblance to what is commonly seen nowadays is NOT coincidental.
So, we must face the implication that there are self-evident moral truths that govern us, starting with our rational faculties.
This means that we are responsibly, rationally, significantly free and morally governed. It also implies that creatures such as we are live in a world where morality is well-founded; which can only be done at world-root level. That in turn raises serious issues as to what sort of root our world has sprung from.
Those, I outlined in 36 and have mentioned again above.
In that context, we may soundly address particular issues and concerns with some robustness and soundness.
We can take it to the bank that the persistent attempt to dodge the core issues is a strong sign that we are not dealing with responsible, sound discussion but with the implications of a day in which we are drowning our civilisation in a sea of polarising manipulation and ultimately suicidal agendas.
BA is quite right on his main point in the OP.
Ak @ 79
“Please explain to me how killing Canaanite infants is a morally acceptable reaction to infanticude? It is the killing of the children that I find to be the evil act here that is comparable to the holocaust.”
I addressed that in another thread but the text itself has the answer – it was the concern for the future that was the issue. Focusing in on a rational rather than emotional discussion – At what age do we stop having a great love of the innocence of children? 14? 17? 18? 22?
Because we DO lose that sense with the passing of time. We don’t have THAT moral outrage of a child being killed after a given amount of time passes (and the same child is an adult).
God doesn’t have a time issue. He knows the man as well as the child. So If I get transported in time back to a five year old hitler – Do I take the shot If I know what the man will do? Yes. I pull the trigger. Under what rational construct is it evil for me to do so given that knowledge.
The issue has nothing to do with whether you believe in such God or his omniscience. Too often atheists mix their point of view into their argument. basically – no such god exists that could know the outcome of those childrens lives so its evil.
Thats not definitive. In reality its an argument thats circular.
“all you are showing is that there are glaring inconsistency in the bible. At one part it says that they are instructed to kill everyone.”
Ridiculous but just about as weak as all the other alleged inconsistencies sceptics claim. We have statutes on the books that indicate no one is allowed to murder someone else without being punished as a murderer. We then state elsewhere clauses with exceptions (mental illness etc) and clarifications (such as age). No one claims that as “glaring inconsistency”. They take that as a further clarification. The one thing obvious in the Bible is that no declaration of punishment is universal due to the nature of God. Thats the whole meaning of the word forgiveness (predicated on repentance). The guilty party under the command escapes the applicable declared punishment. That God spared some is ho hum – God being God.
The situation with the canaanites is even worse for your argument.
It only involved People in the city during conquest not a command for ongoing genocide which was John’s point. You are merely again ignoring the text. In fact if you read more than the “quote mined” portion you would see that its part of an entire section with admonishments that particularly involves a military approach to a city.
“But the fact that there are inconsistencies in the bible is known and accepted by everyone.”
FALSE and UTTERLY FALSE. You do need to educate yourself on the millions of people on this planet that accept no such thing. In all my years of hearing inconsistencies I have yet to find any that has panned out without ignoring context, culture, or the written text itself.
In your case you are trying to claim further contextual clarification is inconsistency which doesn’t logically follow in any other writing.
I was referring to the slaughter of the Canaanites as a crime against humanity, not a genocide. But, using your own definition, the holocaust was not a genocide because there were plenty of Jews outside of Europe.
What is the context between God commanding the Israelites to kill everything that breathe in one verse, and then to command to take the women and children as plunder to do with as they will? If you want to argue that God changed his mind, I am fine with that, but you might have to contend with the ire of some Christians.
If I am reading this and it’s preceding paragraph correctly, God ordered the killing of the infants because he knew they would all grow up to be evil people. Again, I can accept that as an argument, but then it brings up another inconsistency. If God knows the future of everyone, then we don’t have free will, something the bible says that God gave us.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have a problem with the inconsistencies. They are to be expected of a document written by people over hundreds of years as separated texts and then compiled by humans into a single tome. In spite of that it is an excellent text with entertaining and educational stories with much valid advice, and some not so valid. My problem is with people who view it as literal fact and the inerrant word of God. These people have to twist logic and stand on their heads to rationalize the inconsistencies in order to maintain their illusions.
sigh…so little intellectual integrity….Whats new atheists who hang out on blogs they don’t agree with?
“But, using your own definition, the holocaust was not a genocide because there were plenty of Jews outside of Europe.”
Not even close to my argument. Rather a genocide would not have had Hitler saving Jews, making no command for the continuing slaughter of Jews and would have been based on an inclusion in a race or people not guilt of a crime or future crime. You’ve failed yet again to make a logical equivalence. The texts are clear that the basis of the punishment was on the merits of their being guilty of such crimes (and future guilt) not their status as a people or race.
” If you want to argue that God changed his mind, I am fine with that, but you might have to contend with the ire of some Christians.”
I have no need to argue God changed his mind because you ignore context and clarification in a text. That doesn’t even stand as a logical claim in our own judicial systems. We make blanket statements and yet have clauses for leniency, forgiveness and mitigating circumstances over and over again in our law – all without contradiction or inconsistency. Forgiveness is a constant context more than anything ele in the Bible. You’ll fail miserably trying to argue forgiveness is an inconsistency. Its a continuity from Genesis to Revelation. If all that wasn’t enough you just ignored that the text applied and always applied to the taking of a city – not a general “kill all canaanites wherever you find them going forward”. Lets face it. You finally read the text and realize you have no genocide (except the one you made up in your head based on quote mining) so you are just spinning your wheels trying to claim theres an inconsistency since your equivalence claim fell flat – its only resulted in yet another fallng flat. and having fell flat twice you now go for the trifecta
“Again, I can accept that as an argument, but then it brings up another inconsistency. If God knows the future of everyone, then we don’t have free will, something the bible says that God gave us.”
If at first and second you don’t succeed try try again to some other topic.
A) God’s knowing all things has nothing to do with your choices. Its still your choice.
B) you have a misunderstanding of the nature of God knowing the future. He lives in the future, in the present and in the past. Time as we know it is his invention. He doesn’t have a crystal ball looking to the future. he is in that future as it happens. Don’t be too sad or feel too foolish. Most atheists are equally dreadful at understanding theology before they bumble over it. Unfortunately actually applying oneself to understanding what it is you are objecting to is part of intellectual honesty.
“These people have to twist logic and stand on their heads to rationalize the inconsistencies in order to maintain their illusions.”
You ought to know something about the last part. You twisted and rationalized constantly in this thread to maintain your illusions that you even knew what you were talking about in the text. When met with things you didn’t know you just switched to another claim each with no basis in reality (including the quote above). I can see now Why Barry doesn’t even want to address many of you on certain issues. He knew your MO.