Intelligent Design

Nihilism Explicated by KN

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In a recent comment KN wrote:

Where we really disagree, though, is about how to conceive of the relation between norm-governed practices and principles. On your view, I take it, the principles have some sort of priority, and the practices are justified (or not) in light of those principles. On my view, the principles are just explications of what is already implicitly at work within the epistemic and moral practices themselves.

So we can appeal to various principles as tools for articulating what it is that we are committed to, and hence they are valuable tools for critically reflecting on and revising those practices, but they cannot endow our practices with any more authority than those practices already and implicitly have, nor can the principles explain just why it is that the practices have any implicit authority.

(emphasis in the original; it is unclear why KN insists on emphasis on words that begin with “e” 😉 )

Let’s see how KN’s theory works with a little imagined back and forth:

Barry: Genocide is evil.

KN. By all means I agree.

Barry: Genocide is evil because it violates the self-evident, objective and transcendent moral principle “You shall not murder.”

KN. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Our prohibition on genocide is a norm-governed practice. You say that practice is justified on the basis of a principle, namely the principle “you shall not murder,” but your principle is simply a valuable tool for critically reflecting on and revising our prohibition on genocide. It does not, however, endow our prohibition on genocide with any more authority than it already implicitly has. Nor can the principle “you shall not murder” explain why our prohibition on genocide has any implicit moral authority.

Barry: You say that the principle “you shall not murder” cannot endow our prohibition on genocide with moral authority or explain why our prohibition on genocide has any implicit moral authority. That it not true. Indeed, it is exactly the opposite of the truth. Our prohibition on genocide is either based on the self-evident, objective and transcendent moral principle “you shall not murder” or it is based on no principle at all. And if it is based on no principle at all, then it is arbitrary and therefore subject to the whims of those with power.

Let me ask you this KN: Suppose I were the only person in the world who believed genocide is evil. Would I be right and everyone else wrong?

KN: [I will let KN answer that question himself]

11 Replies to “Nihilism Explicated by KN

  1. 1
    Alan Fox says:

    Suppose I were the only person in the world who believed genocide is evil. Would I be right and everyone else wrong?

    It would hardly matter if everyone else acted on their beliefs. If genocide was the norm, there wouldn’t be anyone left to argue with! 🙂

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    If Mr. Arrington is right and morals are objective (i.e. real) then there should be a noticeable difference in the morals of various cultures with the highest morals being achieved by those living closest to that objectively real morality. Whereas if KN is right and morals are merely illusory, set by cultural ‘norms’ and with no real objective ‘authority’, then societies should be ‘all over the map’ as to their ability to live up to the standards of objective morality.

    Well it is no secret, that purposely atheistic societies have, by far, the worst record on human rights.,, And while it is debatable whether Hitler’s paganism, mixed with the pseudo-science of eugenics, would have matched purely Atheistic societies, given that Hitler did not have as long to work his atrocities as the atheists did, it is no doubt that the forsaking of Christian Theism in Russia and Germany had a pronounced negative effect on human morality. And though this type of study could probably be nuanced out quite a bit, and would probably be quite interesting, I would like to draw out just a couple of points to back up my assertion that morals are objective, ‘real’ and are not illusory ‘norms’ as KN holds:

    Though Dr. Craig doesn’t make the connection to the removal of prayer from public schools by the supreme court in 1963, Dr. Craig does note a study that found a steep decline in altruism of young people since the 1960’s

    What Lies Behind Growing Secularism by William Lane Craig – May 2012 – podcast (steep decline in altruism of young people since early 1960’s)


    United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2010 (Please note the skyrocketing crime rate from 1963, the year prayer was removed from school, thru 1980, the year the steep climb in crime rate finally leveled off.) of note: The slight decline in crime rate from the mid 90s until now is attributed in large part to tougher enforcement on minor crimes. (a nip it in the bud policy)

    AMERICA: To Pray Or Not To Pray – David Barton – graphs corrected for population growth

    The following video shows that the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores for students showed a steady decline, for seventeen years from the top spot or near the top spot in the world, after the removal of prayer from the public classroom by the Supreme Court, not by public decree, in 1963. Whereas the SAT scores for private Christian schools have consistently remained at the top, or near the top, spot in the world:

    The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped – David Barton – video

    you can see the dramatic difference, of the SAT scores for private Christian schools compared to public schools, at this following site;

    Aliso Viejo Christian School – SAT 10 Comparison Report

    As well,,

    Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany – October 2011
    Excerpt: I had discovered that over the same period of the twentieth century that the US had risen to scientific eminence it had undergone a significant Christian revival. ,,,The point I put to (Richard) Dawkins was that the USA was simultaneously by-far the most dominant scientific nation in the world (I knew this from various scientometic studies I was doing at the time) and by-far the most religious (Christian) nation in the world. How, I asked, could this be – if Christianity was culturally inimical to science?

    Now KN can argue morality is not objective until he is blue in the face, but the plain fact of the matter is that reality itself shows that morality is not ‘all over the map’ as would be expected if morals were merely subjective ‘norms’ as he holds, but that morals do in fact have a fairly consistent positive effect on societies as would be expected if morals were actually real and ‘objective’ as the Christian Theist would hold.

    Of somewhat related interest, there seems to be a irrational hatred against Christianity in American universities,,,

    Majority of American University Professors have Negative View of Evangelical Christians – 2007

    Even though a majority of this country is Christian, and even though the majority of American Universities were founded by Christians:

    The History of Christian Education in America
    Excerpt: The first colleges in America were founded by Christians and approximately 106 out of the first 108 colleges were Christian colleges. In fact, Harvard University, which is considered today as one of the leading universities in America and the world was founded by Christians. One of the original precepts of the then Harvard College stated that students should be instructed in knowing God and that Christ is the only foundation of all “sound knowledge and learning.”


    I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily…. All my discoveries have been made in an answer to prayer.
    Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time

  3. 3
    Tim says:


    With due respect, reconsider posting when you think you are being clever . . .

    A year by year look at the 20th century suggests that genocide was the norm.

    It is sad enough that Mr. Arrington has to give such extreme examples to demonstrate such obvious points.

    KN has not sufficiently hidden the arbitrary nature of his stance within, “On my view, the principles are just explications of . . . (the) moral practices themselves.” which suggests that as practices change, so would our “explications”.

    KN may be able to weasel out of this with some incredibly byzantine rhetoric. I doubt it will erase or address the pain “we know” of genocide.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:


    Good catch.

    I add as a footnote, what is embedded as a real world governing principle can be extracted inductively by critical reflection on praxis or experience. (This is how both science and history work.)

    That something is induced from praxis or experience through reflection does not mean that it is not objective.

    And, as moral praxis exists in the context of yet another thing radical relativists would deny (following Provine’s denial of genuine morally responsible freedom . . . ) — real freedom to truly decide as a person and first cause — is will not act with mechanical, near 100% incidence.

    But (oddly, as Kant himself highlighted!) it can be discerned by observing that evils can only exist as parasitical behaviours.

    That is, as teh Categorical Imperative summarises: when something is indeed evil, if it were to spread like an epidemic and become the norm, it would lead to chaos and destruction. Lying is a capital example, it can only work in some cases because even liars the vast majority of the time — even Cretans — will and must tell the truth. Or else language and society would utterly break down.

    In short, the evidence is that we are indeed morally governed creatures, and that the pattern of our behaviour and its consequences shows the results of the actual policies we adopt.

    The current increasingly habitual Alinskyite tactics of too many radicals and their fellow travellers — BTW, notice how, having been corrected, the raging accusers in a recent thread have tippy-toed away to other threads and elsewhere, without taking time to actually make amends for some pretty serious false accusations? Typical . . . — bespeak just such parasiting off the world as a going concern, and portend ruin if allowed to further accelerate out of control.

    Let me list the pivotal Alinsky rules for radicals (aka “community organisers” where the first step to neo-marxist — yes, as I have shown here, neo-marrxist, LT et al . . . — community “reorganisation” [neo-marxist subversion of communities and strategic institutions, thus civilisation] is disorganisation by willfully destructive promotion of polarisation, breakdown and chaos):

    1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
    2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
    3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
    4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
    5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
    6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

    7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
    8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
    9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
    10: “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
    11: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
    12: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
    13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

    I have highlighted the rules that lay out the underlying bully-boy vicious nihilism.

    They boil down to poisoning and polarising the atmosphere in which discussions and eventual negotiations have to be made, while poisoning the well by seeking to maliciously and unfairly discredit and twisting those under attack into scapegoated caricatures projected as hypocrites through gleefully cruel and sadistic mockery, never letting up on that tactic. (Resemblance to what is going on all around us is NOT coincidental.)

    Those who poison the well we may all eventually have to drink from thereby reveal themselves to be enemies of humanity.

    All the time of course, while such poisoning and polarisation are going on, someone is being groomed to take over, but in a context where increasingly people are living in a world of spin-driven calculatedly deceitful Plato’s cave shadow shows that distort reality.

    Sooner or later such a house divided against itself and endarkened, benumbed, and twisted in heart, mind and soul, will predictably suffer the fate of such communities long since taught by history: collapse leading to defeat and despotism under tyrants native or foreign or Quislings to such foreign ones.

    “If it succeed, none dare call it treason (or subversion).”

    “If there is disorder in the city, it is because there is disorder in the souls of its citizens.”

    Jesus warned, aptly:

    Matt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! . . . ” [ESV]

    In the name of enlightenment and Big-S Science, our civilisation is steadily being endarkened and refuses to hear much less heed even the warning of Plato in The Laws, Bk X:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that . . . The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily “scientific” view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

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

    We have been warned by principle, by instructive, apt metaphors, and by repeated historical examples. Yet, we seem by and large deaf to sound reason and blind to flashing alarms, benumbed in conscience.

    How well did Jesus warn of people in such a sadly deluded and benumbed state: BECAUSE I tell the truth, you are unable to hear what I have to say.

    At this stage, I don’t know if there is enough of a remnant to rise up and make a difference, but I don’t care.

    As the Jews of Warsaw rose up seventy years ago regardless of odds and with whatever they could lay their hands on, so too we must rise up today as principled people, with whatever we have — not what we may hope to have or wish we had — and refuse to go along with evil as it seeks to enmesh us in a spreading web of deceit and destruction.


    PS: I cannot but notice how the projection of hate continues at the usual penumbra of hostile sites, coming from those who have played the bully boy, smearing, slandering, trying outing tactics on the assumption that it would do economic harm and damage credibility, threatening family and tolerating or harbouring those who do so. For same, I cry! And, FYI, denizens of certain fever swamp sites, it is not hate to point out (giving principled reasons and pointing to serious historical exemplars) destructive consequences of evidently foolish policies and trends dependent on willfully twisting words such as “rights” and “equality” into pretzels in defiance of duties of care to truth, fairness, prudence and even common sense. Not at all. Instead, it is to warn that there is a bridge out, stop the train before we plunge off into predictable and avoidable destruction!

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Tim: Excellent point, if all there is to morality is summary of praxis then all is culturally relative and reduces to the push and counter-push of ruthless factions. Plato’s grim warning stands. KF

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    OOPS: I see a “teh,” creeping in, and I actually in the end cited Wiki instead of my own summary chain of clips here. Snipping some of the clips:

    “The end is what you want, the means is how you get it. Whenever we think about social change, the question of means and ends arises. The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. … The real arena is corrupt and bloody.” p.24

    “The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displace by new patterns…. All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.” p.116

    4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.” [–> I would think that in a world of finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill-willed creatures, a fairer view would be that we all struggle to live by the right consistently . . . ]

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

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

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

    “One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.”


  7. 7
    Axel says:

    What maddens me is that the atheist, putative theoretical scientists, not just the myrmidons, are endlessly and shamelessly – indeed, seemingly, ignorantly – parasitical, battening on the the sovereign and unimprovable paradigm worked out by the Christian giants, such as Planck and Bohr; ipso facto, believers in ID (as well as I dare say the odd pink pixie and unicorn…),

    I come back again and again to Planck’s words:

    ‘As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.’

    But no. In their muddle-headed desperation to look anywhere but to Intelligent Design, they come up with nonsense that would, surely, fall below that of a person afflicted with the lowest IQ measurement possible, above catatonia, such as the multiverse of infinite possibilities (and none) and the world having been created by the Laws of Nature!

    The sub-cretins even scoff at believers in a 10,000 year old earth, when the primacy of mind over matter surely renders the whole question of the earth’s age academic in the extreme.

    But of course their parasitism doesn’t stop there by any stretch of the imagination. The post WWII Labour party in the UK had been founded by a Methodist, lay-preacher, who stated that everything he had ever done in politics had been inspired by his reading of the Gospel.

    And indeed, his successors, obliged to use the Second Commandment as a front, built a wonderful welfare state, which would have been worthy of a Christian nation (unlike, alas, the regimes in so many nominally Christian nations, notably Catholic, too, alas). But it sure didn’t take long for the atheist ‘chancers’ to show their hand.

    And now look what it has led to: treachery of the first order; collusion with the lunatics of the far-right, the ‘beasts of he earth’, with their neo-liberal economics, which has brought our world close to an unparalleled, economic collapse.

    Likewise, Communism, much of its best inspiration drawn from Judaeo-Christian scripture, Marx, himself, being a scion of a long line of rabbis. But of course, Marx no more wanted to credit the Author of all good than his followers, so that he created in a Christian, or arguably, already a post-Christian Europe, a travesty of a good society, albeit that, like the UK Labour party in the early years of government, people (non-threatening to the political establishment) were not treated like detritus, as they are today in our societies; left homeless and hungry to live on the streets,subways, culverts, tent cities, etc. Nor were pornography and strip-joints permitted, I believe, at least to the masses.

    So, in short, atheists have never ever had a good idea, promoted a good world-view, for mankind. Literally, everything associated with goodness has been co-opted by them, to serve the vilest, most vacuous and deceitful propaganda.

    Where would they ever have discovered the concept of morality. Even their putative and much vaunted ‘tolerance’ is a reactive quality, and promoted above all by Christians, who, however, recognise that it is part of a whole ‘package’, and not an item in a smorgasbord. The villains of right and left trumpet ‘freedom’, as if they had discovered or even invented it, but it is no freedom at all, because if is the freedom of Lucifer. According to their canons, he is a freedom-fighter.

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    Referring to the absolute conviction of the truth of ID of Plank and Bohr, I should have added the iconic Einstein.

    Already the nescientists held the Consensus, but you can’t miss the contempt in which Einstein and Planck held them.

    Bohr didn’t seem to find it at all remarkable. With a deeply religious father, he was affably patronising. In their wilful pagan ignorance, how could they be expected to turn their world-view around on a sixpence?

  9. 9
    SteRusJon says:

    Speaking of evil. I just read this article that discusses evil (and sin) from a Judeo-Christian Scripture perspective. I found the writer’s take to be informative.

    Purpose and Meaning of Evil

  10. 10
    Axel says:

    Informative? Don’t put yourself down like that.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Researchers study code that allows bacteria to either bet on the present or travel in time – April 22, 2013
    Excerpt: Experimental studies have revealed dozens of regulatory genes, signaling proteins and other genetic tools that cells use to gather information and communicate with one another.
    “Bacteria don’t hide their intentions from their peers in the colony,” said study co-author José Onuchic, co-director of CTBP, Rice’s Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Physics and Astronomy and professor of chemistry and biochemistry and cell biology. “They don’t evade or lie, but rather communicate their intentions by sending chemical messages among themselves.”
    Individual bacteria weigh their decisions carefully, taking into account the stress they are facing, the situation of their peers, the statistics of how many cells are sporulating and how many are choosing competence, Onuchic said. Each bacterium in the colony communicates via chemical “tweets” and performs a sophisticated decision-making process using a specialized complex gene network comprised of many genes connected via complex circuitry. Taking a physics approach, Onuchic, Ben-Jacob and study co-authors Mingyang Lu, Daniel Schultz and Trevor Stavropoulos investigated the interplay between two components of the circuitry—a timer that determines when sporulation occurs and a two-way switch that causes the cell to choose competence over sporulation.
    “We found that the sporulation timer and the competence switch work in a coordinated fashion, but the interplay is complex because the two circuits are affected very differently by noise,” said Schultz, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and a former graduate student at CTBP.
    Noise results from random fluctuations in a signal; every circuit—whether genetic or electronic—responds to noise in its own way. In the case of B. subtilis, noise is undesirable in the sporulation timer but is a necessity for the proper function of the competence switch, the researchers said.
    “Our study explains how the two opposite noise requirements can be satisfied in the decision circuitry in B. subtilis,” Onuchic said. “The circuits have a special capacity for noise management that allows each individual bacterium to determine its fate by ‘playing dice with controlled odds.'”
    Ben-Jacob said the timer has an internal clock that is controlled by cell stress. The noise-intolerant timer typically keeps the competence switch closed, but when the cell is exposed to stress over a long period of time, the timer activates a decision gate that opens brief “windows of opportunity” in which the competence switch can be flipped.
    Thanks to its architecture, the gate oscillates during the window of opportunity, he said. At each oscillation, the switch opens for a short time and grants the cell a short window in which it can use noise as a “roll of the dice” to decide whether to escape into competence.
    “The ingenuity is that at each oscillation the cell also sends ‘chemical tweets’ to inform the other cells about its stress and attempt to escape,” said Ben-Jacob, the Maguy-Glass Professor in Physics of Complex Systems and professor of physics and astronomy at Tel Aviv University. “The tweets sent by others help regulate the circuits of their neighbors and guarantee that no more than a specific fraction of cells within the colony will enter into competence.”

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