Intelligent Design

KN Throws in the Towel

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I have decided to withdraw (perhaps temporarily) from these discussions, for the following reasons:

(1) I [i.e., KN] no longer believe that Uncommon Descent is a hospitable forum for examination of my criticisms of design ‘theory’ (as distinct from the design hypothesis, which I accept as a reasonable abductive ‘leap’);

(2) I believe that my pleas for a version of “liberal naturalism“, as distinct from “materialism”, in the sense of “whatever it is that design advocates oppose”, have fallen on deaf ears;

(3) I am presently writing a book on intentionality, normativity, and naturalism, and I no longer can afford the time and energy that I expended on my contributions to Uncommon Descent and The Skeptical Zone.

Too bad. I enjoyed sparring with him.

23 Replies to “KN Throws in the Towel

  1. 1
    Alan Fox says:

    Too bad. I enjoyed sparring with him.

    I was reminded of the film, Rashômon, on reading Barry’s post.

  2. 2
    Timaeus says:

    I, too, will miss Kantian Naturalist. One of the problem with the creation/evolution debates, and with religion/science debates generally, is that most of the combatants come from either a narrowly scientific or a narrowly theological background. Philosophy is the natural mediator between science and theology, and more input from philosophers is needed. I don’t mean, of course, dogmatic philosophers such as Dennett, but philosophers whose views show nuance on the subject-matter in question. Such was Antony Flew in the end (though he had been a dogmatist earlier in life), and atheists Thomas Nagel and Bradley Monton must be numbered among the thoughtful philosophers as well, as well as Alvin Plantinga among the Protestants, and Edward Feser among the Catholics. Kantian Naturalist was enjoyable to read because his comments on ID and evolution seemed much less programmatic and partisan, much more fresh and original, than those of most ID critics. The site will be less interesting without him.

  3. 3
    Alan Fox says:

    Headsup to Barry!

    If Barry is missing the intellectual cut and thrust previously offered by Dr Liddle and Kantian Naturalist, perhaps he will find the time to respond to Larry Moran, who has offered Barry an opportunity to engage with him at his blog. Unfortunately, Larry finds himself currently unable to participate at Uncommon Descent. Larry seems to have a different view to Barry on junk DNA and who claimed what and when.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: After a bit of searching I found this exchange from here on a couple of weeks back. (There is also other stuff going back a considerable way.)

    Let’s clip from WJM’s charitability thread:

    ____________

    >>641
    Kantian Naturalist September 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

    [cites KF:] there is a substantial challenge to ground the very principle of ought that EL et al have been using, on their evo mat premises. So let us ask such if ought is real and binding. If so, what grounds it relative to their evo mat premises?

    [responds:] Challenge: accepted (PDF).

    [–> This is a scanned copy of Flanagan’s ethics naturalised]

    642
    kairosfocus September 21, 2013 at 9:46 am

    PS: Too much of the reaction from evolutionary materialist advocates above boils down to how dare you hit back first, we have a right — what’s a right and on evo mat grounds how can it be founded? [hint: a right is a binding moral claim rooted in one’s inherent dignity as a human being . . . what dignity does a bit of accidental detritus thrown up by a blind cosmos have, and apart form might or manipulation how can such appeal to a right? Thence absurdity . . . ) — to run, enable and participate in hate- and slander- fests (to challenge such is a “phoney war” reflective of “paranoia” in the latest talking point). Sadly revealing.

    643
    kairosfocusSeptember 21, 2013 at 10:17 am

    KN:

    I will respond in more detail, but you should advert to the onlooking public that by p.20, the second page we read:

    ,blockquote>“contemporary mind science has no place for a faculty with the architectural features of reason as traditionally construed.” [Flanagan, O: “Ethics Naturalized,” in Mind and Morals, ed May et al, MIT press 1996.]

    I can say right out that t5his may be plausible within pomo thought, but it boils down to an abandonment of reason, in the form of an intelligent, responsible thinker free to learn, warrant, know, decide and draw implications and inferences on the basis of first principles of right reason, i.e. it is a manifestation of exactly the concerns of reduction to self referential absurdity I have pointed out in the company of a great many others.

    if reason is dead, why should we have any respect for Mr Flanagan’s arguments which presumably seek to warrant his claims on ethics?

    And of course with reason would collapse anything deserving the name, ethics. (Which he hints at on the first page, e.g. when he contrasts the Greek concept of shame/honour — which here can easily become radically relativist as Plato hints at in a familiar passage when he contrasts conceptions of what is honourable — with the ethical ought and suggests a dismissal of ought as having too much of the shadow of “religious transcendentalism” i.e. God as the foundational IS who grounds OUGHT.)

    So, right from the opening, it looks to me that reason and morality being abandoned, we are going to play at redefinitions in a radically relativist pomo world. One that leads us straight back to might plus manipulation make ‘right.’

    If these hints are right, we have a fail stumbling out the starting gates.

    I will of course follow up and adjust in light of evidence, but the first results are pointing down the road I just outlined.

    KF >>

    >>645
    kairosfocusSeptember 21, 2013 at 10:48 am

    By later on p 21 we are analogising to epistemology on the idea of “it works” put in fancier terms, leading to relativisation on descriptive ethics and a strange allusion to testing ethics as statistical hyps, as we go through p 22. What is is patently not equal to what ought to be, and oughtness is a foundational issue in ethics. There is an attempt to turn about the issue of the emerging relativism by suggesting that objectivity in ethics is a power ploy. Strange, the cry for justice is characteristic cry of the powerless and a restraint on the powerful. The challenge of finding out what is really right or good is dismissed. In short, we are back at radical relativism as the end point (implied directly in the start point) of an attempted ethical scheme that does not start from an essentially good IS capable of grounding ought. The pattern hinted at in the opening is carrying through. Unless something drastic corrects this, which is unlikely, we have a fail, one that would leave my ancestors in chains. >>

    >>651
    Kantian NaturalistSeptember 21, 2013 at 11:42 am

    [cites KF:] it boils down to an abandonment of reason, in the form of an intelligent, responsible thinker free to learn, warrant, know, decide and draw implications and inferences on the basis of first principles of right reason.

    [responds:] What is at stake here is whether these capacities are only intelligible in terms of “the architectural features of reason as traditionally construed,” or whether the more modest conception of reason that is consistent with naturalism can provide a sufficient account of our rational capacities.

    This next point is of the utmost importance: a Platonic-Aristotelian conception of our rational capacities is incompatible with an Epicurean conception of nature.

    In that respect I completely agree with the objections constantly raised by Kairosfocus, WJM, StephenB, Timaeus, nullasalus, and other philosophically sophisticated critics of naturalism. (I would very much hope that I never came across as anything other than agreeing on that point!)

    Where I have been disagreeing is whether we ought to be committed to those particular conceptions of those general concepts. For my view is that a more modest, generally Kantian/post-Kantian conception of reason is compatible with an emergentist, dynamic, quasi-teleological conception of nature.>>

    >>667
    kairosfocusSeptember 22, 2013 at 1:33 am

    KN:

    It seems to me that there are sobering problems with any view of human reasoning, warrant and knowledge that undermines our ability to in many cases accurately perceive and understand external reality, or that the act of recognising distinct identity A — you will recall [–> let me link here on in context for the onlooker] my bright red ball on the table (in honour of a somewhat sad story from childhood told to me by my wife that led me to go out and buy her a bright little red ball that she still has . . .) — in a world W immediately imposes a dichotomy W = { A | NOT_A } from which we instantly have the corollaries, LNC and LEM to go with LOI.

    Labelling this as Aristotelian with hints of telling truth by the clock does not make this framework vanish, poof.

    Even the notion that error exists leads to the existence of truth, certainly knowable truth, and knowledge, not to mention the reality of self evident truth.

    Further, once we may simply ask and hope to answer of A why it is, we have sufficient reason in action and a grounding for cause and effect, necessity or contingency of being and possibility vs impossibility of being. From this, much follows. (And of course I am being very post Kant here, giving a weak form version on Schopenhauer.)

    Then also, if we are physical systems wholly caught up in chains of cause-effect and blind watchmaker evolutions from hydrogen to humanity, we run into exactly the issues of self referential undermining of rationality identified already and given several illustrative examples. Where, if reason is undermined, moral reasoning is undermined.

    And on morality, I normally start from our sense of having rights, duties of justice owed to us per our inherent dignity. This implies that binding moral obligations — OUGHTs — are real. This leads to the need for adequate grounds, and via the valid part of Hume’s guillotine, that can enter at just one level; the roots of reality and the proper foundation of our worldviews. That is, there must be an IS at that level capable of adequately grounding OUGHT (on pain of being reduced to a might and manipulation makes right nihilistic chaos) and the leading candidate for this is the inherently good and wise Creator God.

    That is, it is reasonable to conclude that we are under moral government for the excellent reason that we are made by a good moral governor.

    As time permits I will go further with the paper but I think it reasonable to outline key aspects of my initial response.

    KF >>

    {–> I confess other things have intervened, forcing me to expend energy I was husbanding for more personal challenges coming up in November.]
    ____________

    I don’t know if KN will want to follow up further, but the main points of concern are already evident.

    I think, over the next 24 hrs, I will try to comment on further points of note from Flanagan, but the fundamental issues should be evident.

    KF

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    Are you sure it wasn’t KN’s corner that threw in the towel? Usually it’s the corner that thrown in the towel. I did see a move once where the fighter threw out the towel.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104107/

  6. 6
    Querius says:

    …perhaps he will find the time to respond to Larry Moran, who has offered Barry an opportunity to engage with him at his blog.

    What on Earth for? Dr. Moran seems to be filled with vituperation–sound and fury, signifying nothing. What useful conversation can be had with someone who starts out by calling dissenters “IDiots” (as if that was either clever or persuasive)?

    Regarding “junk” DNA, Dr. Ohno, who coined the term, blundered by assuming *no* purpose to something with an *unknown* purpose at that time. I doubt that any Darwinist predicted that 90% of the human DNA would turn out to be “junk”—usually Darwinist predictions seem to come after the fact, announcing that whatever new discovery was made, is yet another Triumph of Darwinism that was predicted all along. It’s safer that way.

    However, IDers do believe that organisms and their DNA bear the evidence of design, which should manifest itself everywhere in an organism and its DNA. They assume that everything has a purpose: greater, lesser, or unknown.

    In this case at least, IDer’s had the better approach.

    Sadly, Dr. Moran sounds like many people we’ve argued with. He scoffs, labels himself as a skeptic, and launches angry ad hominem attacks against those who disagree with him. Perhaps Dr. Moran should take up Dr. James Tour’s challenge to explain macroevolution in biochemical terms. At least some the interchange would be interesting.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Following up further, noting absence of overt response on KN’s part:

    1 –> My fundamental concern has been that once we allow the naturalistic premises in the door, and reject the evidence we directly access of conscious responsible freedom and thought, we inevitably slide over the precipice into self-referential incoherence. That is, much like Liebnitz’s Mill, we will not find the true explanation of mind in the grinding away — err, ion flows — of neurons in networks.

    2 –> I have already long since alluded to F H Bradley on why a concept that posits an effectively unbridgeable ugly gulch between the phenomenal world and that of things in themselves must be incoherent, as this is a claim to know things in themselves in a key aspect. Safer is Josiah Royce’s error exists, which becomes a self evident and undeniable first truth. One that even as it humbles us, reflects the glory that truth is real, knowable and even in some cases knowable to undeniable certainty. So, we have hope as an anchor, even though we know that sometimes our anchors start.

    3 –> On p. 22, there is a bit of dismissiveness on the IS-OUGHT gap, all that stuff about how normative ethics cannot be naturalised and the attempt leads to relativism being a fantastical way of trying to see what is REALLY right or good.

    4 –> But this rather reveals the aptness of the IS-OUGHT gap for naturalised ethics, as certain moral claims are self evidently true. For instance, only moral blindness will deny the wrongfulness of kidnapping, torturing, raping and murdering a child. If you doubt me, I dare you to look in C________’s eyes and tell him so as he mourns a lost son even 25 years later. I knew both father and son, and I have looked in that father’s eyes both when the horrible wound to his soul was fresh and after many years.

    5 –> So, the IS-OUGHT grounding problem must be faced.

    6 –> You may dictate [we are still on p. 22] that you will not seek the rationale for morality in a priori reason or divine design, but that is simply to lock out the most obvious serious candidate from the outset. Namely, that morality is evident to the eye of responsible freedom to think and choose, as it is part of a world that was built by an inherently good and reasonable Creator God. So, it is binding that if our own dignity demands respect for our rights and freedoms, it also bears on us the duty to respect the same in those who are as we are. And the echo of Richard Hooker from Ecclesiastical Polity as cited by John Locke in Ch 2 Sect 5 of the 2nd essay on civil govt is intended:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

    7 –> At this point, it seems clear that Flanagan has locked out a priori a major alternative from the table of comparative difficulties. So, hard as it may sound, he has irretrievably begged the question by p. 22.

    8 –> Nor is the above a matter of disguised pragmatic rationales. I invite you to look in C_________’s eyes and tell the wounded soul you see there mourning the lost potential of his son, murdered through the careless lust of some wicked man, different. (And C_______ or any of his acquaintances who may chance on this, forgive my pointing to your pain. Mayhap, this can at least bring some sliver of good out of the wanton evil that foully pounced on a young schoolboy walking home on an afternoon.)

    9 –> By p 23, the towel is tossed into the ring:

    With regard to the alleged is-ought problem, the smart naturalist makes no claims to establish demonstratively moral norms. He or she points to certain practices, values, virtues and principles as reasonable based on inductive and abductive reasoning.

    Third, ethical naturalism implies no position on the question of whether there really are, or are not, moral properties in the universe in the sense debated by moral realists, anti-realists and quasi-realists.

    10 –> Game over, case conceded and dodged, red herring introduced and subject changed.

    =========

    In short, by p. 23, it is evident that there is no IS that can ground OUGHT on naturalism, so the debates are shifted to playing off moral intuitions and whatever consensus can gain enough of a critical mass of determined support to have its way.

    We are back to the nihilist’s “might and manipulation make ‘right’ . . . ,” however cleverly disguised.

    Which was the fundamental absurdity of materialism as pointed out in a chilling warning by Plato in The Laws, Bk X 2350 years ago.

    I cite, just as a reminder:

    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.

    In whatever direction we go, we find Plato and Socrates on the way back.

    KF

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    Ironical or what, that Dr Moron should have labelled dissenters, ‘IDiots?

    tee hee thither thither, as they used to chortle in the Beano and Dandy.

    Do I hear a squeaky, moronic little voice, wail, ‘Now who’s a moron?’ Stand to attention, when you’re speaking to me!

  9. 9
    Querius says:

    In whatever direction we go, we find Plato and Socrates on the way back.

    Indeed! And they had a distinct advantage over modern civilization—plenty of time to think things through and argue with others like themselves, and they recognized logical pitfalls, fallacies, and ploys.

    Sorta like the Internet but face-to-face. 🙂

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Q:

    As you probably recognise, I am citing a classical allusion — at least as I recall it from a cited snippet somewhere.

    Also, in the very same The Laws, Bk X we read Plato speaking in the voice of Clenias:

    Cle. Yes, [Athenian] Stranger; but then how often have we repeated already that on the present occasion there is no reason why brevity should be preferred to length; who is “at our heels”?-as the saying goes, and it would be paltry and ridiculous to prefer the shorter to the better. It is a matter of no small consequence, in some way or other to prove that there are Gods, and that they are good, and regard justice more than men do. The demonstration of this would be the best and noblest prelude of all our laws. And therefore, without impatience, and without hurry, let us unreservedly consider the whole matter, summoning up all the power of persuasion which we possess . . .

    Some things both need and, being of first importance, deserve to be carefully and slowly pondered in the material aspects at responsible length to yield a sound and thought-through, well balanced conclusion informed by the relevant aspects and perspectives through comparative difficulties.

    Yes, we can then head them up with a good precis and seek to present short snippets and summaries but that in turn depends on there being that proper and accessible “backative” available, to use one of the colourful words coined in my homeland.

    A lesson for a day that too often substitutes quips, talking points and slogans for careful reflective thought.

    Nor should we forget a point I summarised for young students of phil. Some few things will make sense right away. Others will take effort and across the span of a course will be grasped. Some will take years and decades to soak in, some, a lifetime.

    And of course, there will be yet more, once we deal with the truly profound.

    KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    Querius & Axel (with KN etc probably lurking):

    Also, let us ponder a chilling echo of this from Flanagan on p. 23 of the essay provided by KN:

    With regard to the alleged is-ought problem, the smart naturalist makes no claims to establish demonstratively moral norms. He or she points to certain practices, values, virtues and principles as reasonable based on inductive and abductive reasoning.

    Third, ethical naturalism implies no position on the question of whether there really are, or are not, moral properties in the universe in the sense debated by moral realists, anti-realists and quasi-realists.

    I of course allude to Dawkins in his August 1995 Sci Am piece:

    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. [–> purpose is material to morality, the value of a man is reflective of there being purpose in his existence, just as we so often ask what is X good for] 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 [–>notice the concession that one must make a decisive effort to resist the evidence pointing to design] is now well understood. [–> presented through the fallacy of confident manner, where in fact no blind watchmaker chance plus necessity mechanism has been shown capable of originating FSCO/I, which is material to the whole tree of life challenge from its roots in OOL, to OO body plans to OO man with mind and morals. But once a priori materialism is imposed, the inference is that something much like the Darwinist picture “must” have happened. So the Lewontin-Sagan a priori materialism must be exposed and addressed, cf here on in context]

    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; this dodges the challenge to the abuser, you wrong me, to which in our quarrels we seldom if ever hear: just shut up and slide down my throat nicely, you are nothing but lunch] . . . .

    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. [–> an appeal to the problem of evils to try to subtly dismiss (as an argument that must not be named or fairly summed up) the evidence of the reality of God as though this problem has not been cogently answered for centuries and as though it has not been decisively answered in the deductive form since the 1970’s with Plantinga’s free will defense, which allows placing the inductive form in its due proportion, cf. here]

    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.]

    Dawkins’ raw evolutionary materialism finds its sad echo in Flanagan’s attempt to dodge the IS-OUGHT challenge.

    Clipping from this, let us hear Will Hawthorne again,from the blog Atheism is Dead, with renewed force:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The IS-OUGHT gap challenge cannot be ducked, if we are to seriously reflect on morality and its significance for not only our lives but as pointing to the nature of the roots of reality.

    Hey, who is at our heels?

    Why not let’s take time to follow this matter through?

    KF

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Of course, Dr Moran et al at Sandwalk, at AtBC and Anti-Evo with front operations at TSZ and so forth, are also obsessively and angrily monitoring what such “IDiots” as we allegedly are, think and say, with deeply hostile intent. (Let us refrain from schoolyard taunts, in the end the dogs bark but the caravan moves on. That which is genuinely significant will prevail over that which just makes hostile noise. So, as there is none dogging our heels, let us take time to soberly reflect on origins as such intersect with the IS-OUGHT challenge, thus morality. My own initial thoughts are here on in context, on origins science and society.)

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: In the spirit of taking time to ponder, let me clip the just linked, as a spark for thought and discussion on the impact of origins science thought, associated ideologies and the IS-OUGHT challenge on policy, governance and society:

    ______________

    >> (b) On morality, public policy and the challenge of reformation

    In a secularist world of “is-ness only, please” it can plainly be difficult to ground any morally tinged policy that is repugnant to those who hold power or dominate the media. For, if mere might does not make right, then policy and law must in the end have a moral basis. And, historically, that is how longstanding evils such as slavery were in the end reformed. Indeed the 2nd paragraph of the 1776 US Declaration of Independence reminds us of how the modern idea of democratic self-government of and by a free people was grounded:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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 . . . .

    But, as the elites of our culture increasingly become materialistic, oughtness as a binding moral force, has now been swallowed up by culture-, institution- or even individual- relative balances of power and tastes, preferences and values. But, such are of no greater weight than the dead weight of tradition or of the perceived wisdom of the dominant factions or individuals in a community, institution or situation. And so, ethics has been swallowed up by politics and power balances.

    Which, is precisely the problem: the characteristic “prophetic” plea of morality is for the oppressed weak in the face of the ethical blindness, arrogance and abusive misbehaviour of the strong. Plato therefore predicted/observed that such a materialistic view of the world tends to remove key social, institutional and rational barriers to amorality and license — living as “a law unto oneself” — that can easily lead to chaos, tyranny, injustice and oppression as the strong “naturally” domineer over and despise the weak.

    And, not without some historical merit; starting with the case of Alcibiades.

    The problem, then, is real, and serious; especially when in our day, “Science” has become the chief authority and gate-keeper on what we view as knowledge at the same time that its key institutions are increasingly dominated by evolutionary materialistic thought. So, while it is relatively easy to show that the claims of say a Lewontin — e.g. the mistaken, ill-instructed philosophical assertion that materialism- dominated science is “the only begetter of truth” — are often ill-founded and ill-informed, that may not be sufficient to redress an adverse balance of power.

    It is also worthwhile to pause and note that for some, who take our intuitions of good, evil and moral obligation seriously as directly accessible knowledge, the mere fact that evolutionary materialism would deny the possibility of such intuitions being knowledge in any strong sense is enough to settle the matter.

    For such individuals, the greater certainty of knowledge directly based on our conscious experience of the world as thinking, en-conscienced creatures suffices to show that materialistic views of the world MUST be wrong; regardless of the merits or demerits and debates on the claimed weight of scientific evidence about the state of the world in the unobserved remote past.

    However one may be inclined regarding such radical views of the matter, it is plain that Ms Elizabeth Anscombe and — behind her — Plato are right: unless there is a well-warranted grounding “is” that does properly entail the “ought,” giving morality the force of transcendent law, the ought is always vulnerable to challenge in a world dominated by “is only, please.” Especially if that “is” is driven by Lewontinian a priori materialism . . . >>

    _______________

    So, what are your initial thoughts?

    You may beg to disagree, but kindly take time to understand why we are concerned, and just how currently relevant and principled such concerns may be, e.g. cf. here.

    Do you have a better response to the IS-OUGHT gap than Flanagan’s bob and weave?

    If so, what is it, and why should we take it seriously?

    KF

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: By now this is largely for reference, but that’s okay.

    One of the points that strikes me, is that part of the game going on is a redefinition of alleged theocracy, so that anyone who has any personal or institutional affiliation with the Judaeo-Christian tradition in any form that takes the scriptures and traditional Bible-supported ethics seriously, is red-ring-fenced as an alleged threat and danger. This, then being used to stir an agit-prop hysteria that warps judgement and leads to foolish mob mentality behaviour substituting for sound and responsible democratic self-government.

    BTW, this is exactly what was deeply feared by the US Founders and Framers, hence the check-balance features of the Constitutional Republic they composed.

    (As just one example this is why they locked origination of appropriation bills to the chamber of representatives that are most frequently subject to popular vote, every two years AND demanded that such bills pass both houses AND are subject to veto requiring a super-majority to over-ride. These reps in turn being further checked by being subject to easy recall, are thus the ones who hold the power of the purse strings; with neither the executive nor his vice being in that chamber. So, by design, only those things that pass their muster would be reasonably present in a budget. Hence the current deadlock where it seems the House has passed financial bills save for a controversial measure, butt he other chamber and the executive are unwilling to postpone a vote on that measure. Hence the deadlock. When the shoe was on the other foot,t he talk was about the wonderful significance of checks and balances in Government.)

    The effect is to censor by intimidation (given the actual balance of powers) and to support both questionable agendas and the unjustifiable oppression of rights to conscience, expression and more. Career busting and losing businesses thus livelihood ate involved, as can easily be seen from the current hot button issue of, under the false colours of rights, twisting marriage into a homosexualist substitute. The pretence — it is patently false — is made that the ONLY reason one could object is bigotry equal to racism (thence Nazism) etc.

    This is ugly and dangerous stuff.

    Especially, what is really at stake is that he secularist evolutionary materialist worldview and similar views, have in them no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.

    So, they are inherently amoral and lead to one species or other of radical relativisaton of morality and the agenda that might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    And, of course, I am fully aware that to stand up and say these things is to invite being further targetted and slandered.

    But, it needs to be said and understood, even as our civilisation — loudly defiant of warnings — slides ever closer to the cliff-edge.

    KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    KN (et al):

    I note the contradiction between the implicit, child learns culturally relative norms in light of our long term evolution towards successful behaviours, and the submarine detecting mines vs rocks analogy Flanagan uses.

    There are real and valuable things called subs, with even more valuable people in them, in the midst of wars, which force people who would not otherwise do so, to kill. Mines and rocks are real, having distinct properties and effects, though a sub presumably should avoid both (on the principle that it and its crew are valuable and other things equal, should be preserved). Moreover, mines — though we err on occasion — are distinguishable from rocks on observable, intelligible characteristics that are subject to reason.

    None of this actually does away with the point that certain morally freighted views, choices, acts etc are objectively real. Nor, does it succeed in diminishing the force of the horror visited on C__________’s son, his father, their family and the community by the wrong of abduction, torture, rape and murder.

    We are right back at needing to face the reality of ought, and the need for a worldview foundational IS that grounds it.

    Until this issue is squarely faced, no serious progress is possible, and those who refuse to address grounding and say we can build on success and on cultural agreements and how values are inculcated into children are simply not facing how some pretty serious wrongs can be entrenched by such means.

    While we are at it, we are back at the need for finitely remote grounding of a worldview if it is to be reasonable, involving inter alia certain pivotal self-evident truths. Among which are Royce’s error exists, entailing that undeniable truth and knowledge warranted to certainty exist, never mind how humbling this first truth is.

    KF

  16. 16
    Querius says:

    KF,

    I appreciate your insightful, articulate overview of the moral dilemmas facing humans. On reflection, I don’t think there’s a satisfactory answer to the OUGHT, and even the IS is subject to interpretation and worldview.

    What most people consider evil seems to have a powerful butterfly effect—a nail the rattles out of the back of a tradesman’s truck finds its way by chance into embedding itself in the sidewall of my expensive tire, possibly causing an accident.

    What most people consider evil might actually be good—I lose my job, am subjected to increasing stress over the months that follow. I sell my house at a big loss and move my family to a place where I have a lower paying job, but now I’m far more compassionate toward people going through the same misfortune. Is the outcome of this experience good or bad?

    Then, regardless of my life, worldview, values, decisions, and accomplishments, or lack thereof, I die. Those who are left alive might be grateful. Momentarily. Or not. But the elephant-in-the-room question of “What does it matter?” goes unanswered. As you pointed out, Dawkins finds the universe pitiless.

    Pontius Pilate asks the person who was known then as Yeshua Ha’Nazaret “What is Truth?” and receives no answer.

    However, in the Gospel of John, the following was recorded:

    Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.

    The Hebrew prophet Micah writes

    “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

    So, from my admittedly limited perspective, my actions are of necessity fundamentally based on faith, faith that God will have my well-intentioned actions turn out for good.

    This assurance is something in which that I have no foreknowledge or ability to control. Thus, I’m convinced that humans, even assuming the absence of any corruption, have no capability to engender cosmic justice. Both the IS and the OUGHT turn out to be illusory.

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    Q: Pardon but I will take a little while to come back to you. Later today — a couple of hours or so, I think. KF

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Q:

    Let’s try a quick comment.

    First, we need to distinguish our perceptions — which are indeed error-prone — from reality, while understanding that there are cases where we not only can accurately grasp reality, but can be quite confident about it.

    A good place to start is Aristotle’s remark on truth in Metaphysics 1011b, that truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.

    Next, we can look at Royce’s comment that error exists. If we try to deny it, we only end up confirming it, it is undeniably, certainly true and knowable as such. Truth exists, knowledge exists — including knowledge of the external world, with cases where our experience (think of those red X’s in primary school when we got sums wrong) and we can warrant these in some cases to certainty on pain of absurdity. Self evident truth exists.

    That is an important antidote to a trend in current thought to dismiss truth and its knowability.

    It also shows why it is not just academic that the Kantian notion of an unbridgeable ugly gulch between the inner world we each have and the external common reality we share, is self referential and incoherent. To deny access tot he external world it claims to access an alleged major feature of that world, that it is unknowable.

    Safer to accept that error exists, but that this also means that truth and knowledge exist, so we need to use self evident first principles or right reason and common good sense to set ourselves as straight as we can. With a dose or two of willingness to be corrected.

    Yes, we often have to accept a lesser standard of knowledge, to live: warranted, credibly true belief, but that is to be taken in the context of other things that are more certain. And, in many cases, warrant is to moral certainty in any case.

    Faith, in the modern sense, is often irrational, denoting a leap without good grounds. But in the NT and in wider subsequent historic Christian thought, it speaks to well founded trust. In fact, pistis (the word for “faith”) is related to the word for rhetorical proof, without any implication of necessary manipulation. Confident trust based on soundly arrived at conviction, in a nutshell. Duly anchored by the prophesied Messiah, and his life death burial and resurrection, with 500+ unshakeable witnesses.

    That is where Thomas comes in.

    He had a circle of credible witnesses and their reports, he had access to the empty tomb. He knew there was no plot.

    But, he would not believe as it cut across where his expectations and disappointments pointed.

    This is the context in which he was invited to put his hand into the fearsome but now powerless wounds for himself and was gently chided that he should respond to reasonable warrant, as many would never be able to demand what he did and received.

    Selective hyperskepticism is not a reasonable option.

    Similarly, I could invite you to join me in a trip to Jamaica, where we could look up C_________, and then look in his eyes as we ask about the case with his son. When I say that it is self evident that we OUGHT not to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a child, I am not just speaking int eh abstract, the image of a boy I knew is floating in my visual field, just to the left of this keyboard.

    I also come form a nation, where the hard-fought recognition that there is a self-evident right to liberty, was pivotal in rescuing my ancestors from slavery.

    In that context, I look askance, very serious askance, at any argument that will tend to undermine the issue of the reality and significance of OUGHT.

    And, OUGHT is grounded in reality, thus it should be grounded in our worldview foundations.

    There is and there must be a reality- foundational IS that properly grounds OUGHT.

    KF

  19. 19

    Querius,

    I don’t think our end of the covenant of morality has anything to do with any supposed capacity to deliver justice, but rather only to fulfill our personal obligation to our purpose in existence. We move on the good that is placed in our heart, and have trust in God for that good to deliver whatever ends god intends. We can only fulfill our role; we cannot deliver, or really even know, the end result.

    I can only speak to my own life, where commitment to the good in my heart and faith in God’s purpose has resulted in a complete change for the better. Even though I could not see or understand how any of my behaviors or actions could have possibly had the results they had, I faithfully committed to them anyway and have experienced the results along the way.

  20. 20
    Querius says:

    No argument from me, William.

  21. 21
    Querius says:

    KF,

    In general, I don’t find fault with your reasoning, but I’d like to point some things out.

    Safer to accept that error exists, but that this also means that truth and knowledge exist, so we need to use self evident first principles or right reason and common good sense to set ourselves as straight as we can. With a dose or two of willingness to be corrected.

    Building up a fully reliable perspective from first principles is a tough challenge (I’d say impossible), given our ignorance, limitations, and self-centeredness.

    We endeavor to strive for qualities such as integrity, humility, and reliability. But then there are temptations, negotiations, and conflicting priorities. This where things get tricky and simple moral arithmetic is inadequate.

    The Bible warns me that I won’t succeed at self-improvement and governing myself—that my standards don’t measure up to God’s standards, that I’m extremely clever at rationalizing what I do, and that I need a complete start-over, enabled by God.

    Then, there’s also the incarnation of our perspectives and attitudes into tangible actions. How do you know whether your act of charity isn’t simply enabling someone to continue in a self-destructive life style? We can’t know, so we continue to do things that seem to be the Right Thing, and claim that good intentions can hold us not accountable for any damage that might result.

    The Bible assures us that we can have a fresh start, and a willing partnership with God, resulting in his Spirit working in our lives. The result in my life has been profound peace, joy, and purpose, in spite of the life events around me. The Bible assures me that God will work things out for the good, and I’m fine with that!

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    Q:

    No-one has seriously suggested that we can build a fully reliable worldview-level global perspective. We are limited, and much of our knowledge base has to be provisional but reliable per tests and criteria. Though even in such cases many things are morally certain, such as the reality of Lincoln, or Napoleon or for that matter Julius Caesar.

    But, ironically (and following Royce and Trueblood who remembered him), the very point that error exists is itself a reminder that some things are true, are certainly true and are certainly knowable as a result. So, we can use such as yardsticks and plumb-lines to carry out our epistemic responsibilities. That is, we have duties of care to accuracy, truth, reason, what we do and SHOULD know and acknowledge, to fairness etc.

    This does not remove us from the province of reasonable faith on worldviews, but it does mean that we cannot responsibly cobble together any cluster of things that are convenient, and put them up as a worldview that is as tenable as anything else.

    First principles of right reason can start from common good sense as we are going concern thinking and knowing entities then explore foundations. I like to start with Royce’s error exists, as it blows away a lot of popular cobwebs in our day. It is self evidently true as is 2 + 2 = 4 (which a Hall-mate used to help me clear up my own thinking), etc. As a result, systems that assert or assume that there is no truth beyond true to me or us, or that knowledge is similarly inevitably relative, etc, are untenable.

    In that context, I like to then — with due respect to my wife — think about a bright red ball A on a table and the implications immediately present when we see the resulting world partition W = { A | NOT_A }. From this we see the significance of the famed LOI, LNC and LEM. Going back to A, once we see it we freely can ask why it is, expecting or at least hoping for a reasonable answer. This weak form principle of sufficient reason leads to the principle of cause, the issue of on/off enabling causal factors (thus, that which begins has a cause), and the possibility and actuality of necessary being. (Cf. here on in context for details.)

    This already is rich ground for thinking, and allows us to develop and evaluate worldviews that are expressions of responsible, reasonable faith.

    KF

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Since you referenced the Christian scriptures, in Rom 1:19 – 24 or so, Paul is outlining things that run along similar lines.

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