Intelligent Design

On worshiping the right God: Jerry Coyne asks a sensible question

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It had to happen sooner or later. Professor Jerry Coyne has identified what he sees as an inconsistency in Dr. William Lane Craig’s Divine Command theory of ethics, and after reading his latest post on the subject, I have to agree that Coyne is basically right and Craig is wrong. Consider the following statements by Professor Craig (see here and here):

Remember: on perfect being theology, God is a maximally great being, a being which is worthy of worship.

According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God.

On voluntaristic theories God’s commands are based upon His free will alone. He arbitrarily chooses what values are good or bad and what our obligations and prohibitions are….

Most divine command theorists [including Craig himself – VJT] are non-voluntarists who hold that moral values are not grounded in God’s will but in His nature. Moral duties are grounded in His will or commands; but moral values are prior to His will, since God’s own nature is not something invented by God. Since His will is not independent of His nature but must express His nature, it is logically impossible for Him to issue certain sorts of commands. In order to do so, He would have to have a different nature, which is logically impossible. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

So far, so good, but Craig also says this:

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

One might ask: could God legitimately command someone to kill, then, or would that be murder? Craig responds:

No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder.

Comments Coyne:

If that’s not voluntaristic DCT [Divine Command Theory], I don’t know what is. It basically says that God’s commands ARE the arbiter of right and wrong.

I have to say that I think Coyne has a legitimate point here. In order for Professor Craig to extricate himself from the inconsistency that he appears to have fallen into, he would have to do the following:

(1) show that there are certain actions that God could not possibly command us to do, because they would be contrary to His character;
(2) specify at least some of these things that God cannot command us to do; and
(3) explain why ending someone’s life isn’t one of the things that God cannot command us to do.

Meeting the first requirement is fairly easy, if one defines God as a maximally perfect (and hence, all-loving) being, as Craig does. For then it follows that God could not command any action which can only be justified by appeal to values which run contrary to universal love.

The real problem, as I see it, lies in the second requirement. Consider the example of torture. If the infliction of torture is not self-evidently wrong, then it is hard to see what would be. But now consider a surgeon operating on a patient back in the old days before anesthetics had been invented. Surgical patients had to be forcibly held down during operations, because the pain was so great. Was that torture? “Obviously not!”, I hear you reply. “After all, the surgeon was intending to heal the patient, and the infliction of pain was unintentional.” But now consider this: what if God is like a surgeon, inflicting pain on us for our own good? C.S. Lewis explored this possibility in his book, A Grief Observed:

The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport—might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.

But now ask yourself this: what if God, instead of inflicting these tortures on us Himself for our own good, were to ask some human being to inflict them, acting in His name? Would it be possible for an all-loving God to command someone to do that? If you are inclined to answer “Yes,” then you can no longer hold that God could never command us to torture someone.

“But surely,” it will be urged, “an all-loving God could never command the torture of innocent children?” Not so fast. What if God (by virtue of His infallible foreknowledge) foresees that if a certain degree of suffering is not inflicted on this child, he will grow up to become a bad person, and eventually be damned? Would it then be consistent with the character of an all-loving God to command a human being to inflict the torture on the child – perhaps because it would have a more salutary effect on the child if it is inflicted by a human authority figure (e.g. a parent or schoolmaster)? And where does one draw the line between corporal punishment and torture, anyway? It seems that someone acting with good intentions, and at the behest of a Being possessing unlimited foreknowledge could justly inflict any degree of pain on an innocent human being, provided they knew that it was necessary for that person’s ultimate good.

Now, someone might object that while it would be theoretically possible for God to act in this way, it would be epistemically irrational for any human being to trust what purported to be a vision of God commanding them to torture someone: for how could they be sure that the Being in the vision was God, and not the Devil? And since critical reason is a God-given gift, God could hardly blame us for prudently rejecting any such command – which in turn means that it could never be obligatory, which implies that God could never justly command such a thing in the first place. But this objection assumes that it is impossible in principle for a human being to distinguish a vision from God and one from the Devil. That hardly seems likely. And if it were true, it would rule out the possibility of our having a warranted belief in any revealed religion.

One way out of this ethical impasse would be to hold that there are certain things which it is morally acceptable for God to do, but which He may not command human beings to do. On this view, it may be all right for Him to inflict painful tribulations on people, for the sake of their ultimate good (i.e. their eternal salvation), but it could never be right for Him to command us to inflict these tribulations on our fellow human beings.

Fair enough; but then the nagging question arises: why, precisely? Why would it be wrong principle for us to do these things to others, if God may licitly do them? One plausible answer is that it would violate some principle of fellowship which we share with our fellow human beings: all men are brothers, and you don’t torture your own brother. But you don’t kill your own brother, either. If torturing another human being contravenes the principle of fellowship, then surely killing another human being does so, too. In that case, Professor Craig will be unable to meet the third requirement I specified above: explaining why ending someone’s life isn’t one of the things that God cannot command us to do.

Another possible answer is that the act of inflicting torture is inherently desensitizing, for the person who inflicts it: it hardens the torturer’s heart and dehumanizes him in the process, corrupting his soul and placing his own salvation in mortal peril. And since God cares about the salvation of each and every human being, He could not justly command one person to inflict torture on another human being: while the act just might (conceivably) prove to be conducive to the eternal salvation of the victim, it would at the same time jeopardize the eternal salvation of the torturer. But once again, it seems that the same train of logic would rule out the possibility of God commanding one human being to kill another. For if killing someone is not desensitizing, then what is?

There’s another problem with the “desensitization” argument, too. God, being omnipotent, can heal the wounds of the heart. That which has been desensitized, he can re-sensitize. What if God were to reassure the torturer that He would reverse the hardening of the heart resulting from obeying His commands – or even better, prevent it from occurring in the first place?

Perhaps, then, we need a more radical solution. Perhaps it would be wrong not only for human beings, but also for God to deliberately inflict pain on human beings, even if it is intended for the sake of their ultimate good (e.g. to break their stubborn pride and induce them to repent). “Why?” one might ask. Because the supposition is premised on the assumption that God knows what would happen to us if the pain were not inflicted – in other words, that there are true counterfactual statements about what I would or would not choose, if placed in these particular circumstances (e.g. the statement that if I were to suffer paralysis, I would repent and turn to God). But if we have genuine libertarian free will, then it seems that such statements make no sense: for what they amount to is a kind of psychological determinism.

This sounds more promising, but it also entails that God may not justly bring about someone’s death for the sake of procuring their salvation – a conclusion that some believers may find surprising and even counterintuitive.

Another apparent problem with the radical solution proposed above is that while it seems absurd to suppose that there is a there is a true counterfactual statement about what I would or would not choose, in each and every possible situation, there are surely at least some true counterfactual statements about what I would or would not choose, in some situations. For instance, if I were starving, I would surely eat a piece of bread that was dangled in front of my nose. And if I were an alcoholic, then there are surely some situations in which I would find a glass of wine irresistible.

Now, a libertarian might grant this, but still urge that to the extent that there are true counterfactual statements about what I would or would not choose, in some situations, then precisely to that extent, my will is not genuinely free. And since decisions which are not genuinely free are not truly choices on my part, they cannot possibly be conducive to my ultimate good or eternal salvation. (For if I am eventually saved, it can only be through some freely chosen act on my part, even if the supernatural grace required to make that choice can only come from God.) Hence it would be impossible for God to appeal to these counterfactuals in order to justify inflicting pain or death on innocent people.

In that case, then, we have to conclude that God is not like the surgeon after all: He does not inflict pain or death on people for their ultimate good.

So where are we now? It seems that the acts which God cannot command us to do – and which God cannot justly do either – are simply those which are not good for us. And we cannot appeal to counterfactuals about good consequences that would occur or bad consequences that would be avoided, in order to justify the performance of these acts. For as we have seen, these counterfactuals are irrelevant to the extent that we possess libertarian free will.

So far we have only spoken of the innocent, but what of the guilty? May God justly punish the guilty? Surely the answer is yes. May He then command human beings to punish the guilty, acting in His name? And if so, is there any limit to the punishment that one human being may inflict upon another, when acting at God’s behest?

Here, it seems, the difficulty is genuine. For whatever one thinks of corporal and capital punishment, there are surely some cases where the infliction of these punishments brings wicked people to their senses, causing them to repent of their sins. And who among us (little children excepted) is not guilty of some personal sin? (I am not speaking here of original sin.) It seems, then, that there is no reason in principle why God could not justly command one person to punish another. And the severity of that punishment might amount to what we would call torture.

The only answer I can propose here is that it would be out of place for God to ask a creature to perform a task which belongs to the Creator. Judgement of the wicked is a task for God (Who sees into our souls) to perform; punishments inflicted on the basis of that judgement are also God’s responsibility, not ours. Not can it be urged that the State is an instrument of God’s Will in this regard; for the purpose of the State is not to secure absolute justice, but social harmony, and lawbreakers are punished only insofar as they disrupt this harmony by tearing a hole in the fabric of society. For this reason, a pure theocracy, in which human judges strove to be instruments of God’s Will, would be a fundamentally immoral society.

And that’s about as far as my deliberations have taken me. But perhaps I have overlooked something. What do readers think?

One last request. Could we please keep the Bible out of the arguments below, for the sake of polite discussion? I’d like readers to try to resolve the difficulties I have posed above, by appealing to general ethical principles. And now, over to you.

154 Replies to “On worshiping the right God: Jerry Coyne asks a sensible question

  1. 1

    Even though at the end you ask us to keep the Bible out of the discussion, both Craig and yourself are arguing from the perspective of a Judeo-Christian god (“salvation”), which means that what you are “missing” is a non-Judeo-Christian perspective. Once outside of that box, these problems no longer exist and, IMO, the nature of our moral existence becomes much more clear.

    Command authority morality is a failed concept because there’s no reason (other than conformity to preconceptions) to consider the “command problem” at all. God doesn’t give commands in any significant sense of the term. God’s nature is good, and so creation has that moral quality infused in it just as it has the other properties of god infused in it (logic, for example). God no more has to (or can) “command” what is right in a given situation than god has to “command” what the answer is to 1+1 in a given situation (or can command that 1+1=3).

    As you point out, trying to rationalize the idea of command morality becomes problematic with regards to the concept of free will and fallibility. It’s just not reasonable to commit what one knows to be an otherwise immoral act because one thinks god is commanding him to do so. That gives license to any madman to commit any kind of atrocity in the name of god. The idea that god is trying to “save” humans in spite of their own free will is a non-starter. Is god like a materialist trying to punch all the right buttons to effect a physiological change in us that we otherwise don’t want?

    It’s only when you try to reconcile the concept of god with certain preconceptions – such as certain scriptural references – that one runs into these issues.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    VJTorley,

    Very interesting post. Thank you.
    Perhaps the answer to my question is in your text, but my reading comprehension is poor (my wife doesn’t like when I reveal this truth, but she’s not reading this blog).
    How does a believer in God recognize a command from God?

  3. 3
    mahuna says:

    You start a discussion about a Jehovah-like god and then say to leave the Bible out of the discussion? That’s ridiculous.

    1. Why is an all-powerful being, like the one or ones who created the universe, worthy of worship, and why would such beings care that we worshipped them?
    2. Without a document like the Bible, exactly how is it that even a Jehovah-like god transmits messages to: kill, rape, steal, enslave, and generally not play nice with others? There are winos wandering the streets of America right now who know for absolute certain that they heard a god speak to them just last night. So the “personal message” thing quickly degenerates into “your god is really a devil, only messages from my god are good ideas”.
    3. Morality is a feature of human culture, and varies between cultures and over time within the same culture. Infanticide was/is widely practiced, and none of the parents killing their children consider there to be anything wrong with it. Deciding that there IS something wrong with infanticide involves a change in the culture (and a more plentiful and reliable source of food).

  4. 4
    Dionisio says:

    #1 William J Murray

    God doesn’t give commands in any significant sense of the term.

    Can you prove it? Thank you.

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    #1 William J Murray

    God no more has to (or can) “command” what is right in a given situation…

    How do you know that? Can you prove it? Is that an absolute statement?

    Thank you.

  6. 6
    Silver Asiatic says:

    1. Why is an all-powerful being, like the one or ones who created the universe, worthy of worship,

    Because that being is All-Good. Worship = Love. The more good a thing is, the more it is worthy of being loved (worshipped).

    and why would such beings care that we worshipped them?

    Because that being wants what is best, so therefore wants us to love what is most Good.

    3. Morality is a feature of human culture, and varies between cultures and over time within the same culture.

    As spiritual learning increases over generations, moral awareness increases. People learn more about God and pass that learning on. The human population was less educated, in general, in the past. So, moral understanding can be refined.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    #1 William J Murray

    It’s just not reasonable to commit what one knows to be an otherwise immoral act because one thinks god is commanding him to do so.

    what one knows? How does one know?

    one thinks? Is this OP about what we think or about what God commands?

    In any situation -i.e. at work, on the street, in the army, etc.- how does one recognize a command?
    IOW, how to distinguish an authorized command from personal wishful thinking?
    Then how does one recognize the authority of the entity issuing such a command? For example, at work or in the army or even in the street traffic, how does one distinguish a command from a rumor or opinion or biased preference or convenience?
    Also, how does one understand the exact meaning of a command?
    Thank you.

  9. 9
    VunderGuy says:

    “But if we have genuine libertarian free will, then it seems that such statements make no sense: for what they amount to is a kind of psychological determinism.”

    Ummm… no… God knowing what any creature would freely do in a given situation does not imply that we don’t have free will, Libertarian of otherwise and the assertion that it does assumes that the number of actions and situations a person my find themselves in is are both A) Unpredictable, B) That Predictability and Free Will are uncompatable and C) That the number of actions and situations a person may do and may find themselves in go on ad infinitum.

  10. 10
    Peter says:

    ” maximally perfect (and hence, all-loving) ”

    Why not have a God that’s based on the bible, otherwise your just making up a story?

    Would an all-loving god wipe out all of humanity except Noah and his family, Sodom, etc.

    Everything thing written on this subject is a total waste of time until you can incorporate an understanding of God that is based on God’s revelation.

    God must be feared by his worshipers. That is a divine command stated numerous times in the bible. And why must he be feared if he is only loving? Obviously he is not only loving, He will evict any unworthy tenant, in other words he will wipe the unworthy off the face of the earth.

    If this is to abstract for you to understand try looking at what is happening to Western civilization. It turned secular from Christian. Shortly afterward feminism lowered the birth rate below replacement (the family is the means God created to sustain the life of a society). Now the secular are being rapidly replaced by God fearing Muslims. In America secular whites are being replaced by Hispanics and Muslims. ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the world.”

    So try incorporating the basic truths of God before you waste your time building this worthless theology.

  11. 11
    Dionisio says:

    #6 Silver Asiatic

    As spiritual learning increases over generations, moral awareness increases. People learn more about God and pass that learning on. The human population was less educated, in general, in the past. So, moral understanding can be refined.

    spiritual learning? What’s that?

    moral awareness increases? On what basis? On education?

    Wasn’t the world population more educated in the 1940s than before that time? So why were more people massacred in those years than in the preceding years?

    Thank you.

  12. 12
    VunderGuy says:

    @Peter

    You forget, as many people often do, that in addition to his Mercy, God is also Just.

    http://www.str.org/Search?q=Hell+

  13. 13
  14. 14
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Peter #10

    Why not have a God that’s based on the bible, otherwise your just making up a story?

    Not everybody accepts the bible as divine or authoritative.

    Would an all-loving god wipe out all of humanity except Noah and his family, Sodom, etc.

    God is all-good. So God loves the good. All-loving doesn’t mean that God loves both good and evil in equal measure.

    Everything thing written on this subject is a total waste of time until you can incorporate an understanding of God that is based on God’s revelation.

    As above, not everybody accepts the Bible as true revelation. If you have to start with an acceptance that the Bible is true, then there’s no argument against atheism since the bible says that God exists. The only argument there is “accept that the bible is true”. But that doesn’t work very well for people who don’t accept it. You have to show that God exists and has a certain nature without reference to the bible, at least at first.

    … Western civilization. It turned secular from Christian … In America secular whites are being replaced by Hispanics …

    Hispanics are predominantly Christian, so as they replace secular whites, that’s a good thing, right?

  15. 15
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Dionisio

    spiritual learning? What’s that?

    It’s teaching, learning and knowledge about religion, spiritual values, moral obligations, prayer, theology, etc.

    moral awareness increases? On what basis? On education?

    Yes, in the fullest extent of what education means.

    Wasn’t the world population more educated in the 1940s than before that time? So why were more people massacred in those years than in the preceding years?

    A couple of answers …
    1. The people in Noah’s time were worse since God had to wipe out all of humanity except for Noah’s family.
    2. The number of people killed in modern wars is a function of modern weaponry. The USA, for example, killed about 200,000 people by dropping atomic bombs on Japan. That kind of rapid death-rate would not have been possible in previous generations.

    I’ll just say that it’s difficult to measure the spiritual and moral quality of a population based on the number of people killed in wars. Often, wars and their consequences are the decisions of only a small minority within the public.

  16. 16

    WJM:

    God doesn’t give commands in any significant sense of the term.

    Dionisio:

    Can you prove it?

    Of course not. I’m expressing my personal view, which I can argue for.

    WJM:

    God no more has to (or can) “command” what is right in a given situation.

    Dionisio::

    How do you know that? Can you prove it?

    It’s a belief, not knowledge. Of course I can’t prove it, although I can argue for it.

    WJM:

    It’s just not reasonable to commit what one knows to be an otherwise immoral act because one thinks god is commanding him to do so.

    Dionosio:

    what one knows? How does one know?

    one thinks? Is this OP about what we think or about what God commands?

    It’s a matter of premise characterizations. The premise vjtorley uses is one reconciling a supposed command from god that appears to conflict with what the person in question would otherwise consider to be immoral. Command morality as a concept has a problem here – which should the person in question consider to be less fallible – his innate sense of morality, or his capacity to understand that it is in fact God that is commanding him to do what appears to be something immoral?

    I don’t know how Craig or anyone else solves this dilemma (not to mention the free will dilemma it raises); it’s not part of my moral philosophy. I don’t believe god issues commands in any meaningful sense of the word – well, any more than gravity issues commands.

  17. 17
    Mung says:

    Why not have a God that’s based on the bible, otherwise your just making up a story?

    Why present a false dichotomy?

    First, Christianity holds that the attributes of God can be known through natural reason.

    Second, the Bible hasn’t always been available to all people.

    Third, the nature of God can’t depend on the fallible interpretation of fallible men of a book written and/or passed on by fallible men.

  18. 18
    HeKS says:

    It seems to me that there shouldn’t be a problem bringing the Bible in at this point in the argument. The argument has already been made that if objective moral values and duties exist at all, they must be ultimately grounded in the nature of God, or, more specifically, that moral values are rooted in his nature and his commands, issued in accord with his nature, constitute our moral duties.

    The challenge here seems to be that, on Divine Command Theory, there exists a potential for God to issue commands to humans that are contrary to what we perceive our objective moral values and duties to be, such that God might command us to torture someone; perhaps a child.

    Well, it seems to me, based on the title of this post (among other things), that what we’re interested in here is a particular model of Divine Command Theory, situated within a particular framework of belief, that works and is not subject to this problem. If the Christian one, and specifically the Biblical one, gives us that, why should we ignore it? After all, we’re not trying to prove God’s existence at this point. All we’re doing at this point is trying to determine whether there’s a system of belief that is consistent with the extra-Biblical arguments for God’s existence and also happens to resolve some of the secondary questions they may raise, such as this one.

  19. 19
    Dionisio says:

    #15 Silver Asiatic

    The number of people killed in modern wars is a function of modern weaponry.

    The horrendous atrocities committed in the extermination camps in the referred years have not much to do with the power of modern weaponry at all.
    Please, try another explanation. Thank you.

  20. 20
    Querius says:

    Hypothetical questions are problematic because they require you to accept something bizarre as the Immutable Truth, and then act on it.

    The resulting implication is that this hypothetically immutable truth has equal standing to anything you accept on faith—after all, someone might be just as convinced of the hypothetical truth as you are of yours.

    For example:

    * If God were truly evil, delighting in carnage an suffering while lying to his creation, would you join the devil in a rebellion against such a God? (After all, carage and suffering is easily observable, and God claims he’s all powerful.)

    * If it could be demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubt that women unconsciously enjoyed rape, and it were proven scientifically beyond any shadow of doubt that the greater genetic diversity that resulted were vital for the survival of the human race, would you accept this important role and rape women?

    * If the voices in your head were truly from God, and you were ordered to assassinate your postman, would you obey God?

    Well then, what right do you have in critizing someone with different beliefs if they hold to them in all sincerity?

    If the premise is false, everything else that follows is untrustworthy.

    How do you really tell? Jesus said that you would be able to key a tree from its fruit, the results. He also said that his sheep would know his voice, which implies a personal revelation of some kind. Personal revelation through a dream or vision is a common experience in some religiously oppressive countries.

    -Q

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    It seems evident that Divine Command theory, precisely because it seems to attribute a different morality to God than to us, must be wrong. Surely, morality can be rational only if it is understood in terms of God’s unchanging nature. Otherwise, we fall into the same trap as Islam and the irrational notion that God can literally change His mind about what is right and wrong. Who wants to aim at a moving moral target? Who wants to build a life of virtue and self-sacrificial love only to have God pull the rug out at the last minute with a new set of rules?

    At the same time, it seems evident that we just don’t know all there is to know about morality, although we can deepen our understanding through time. It is a question of progressive knowledge. If we could live long enough and remain good enough (be holy like God), we would eventually come to the point where we think exactly like God about all moral issues.

    Accordingly, we do not need the Bible in the beginning since we can apprehend the natural moral law through the exercise of our reason. Indeed, one can build a credible moral life and learn good moral habits by consulting the wisdom of conscience, unless of course, conscience has been compromised through ideological brainwashing or immoral behavior. However, morality doesn’t end there because natural moral law also bids us to follow the light we are given, and part of the task in following that light is to continue searching, which means being open to Divine revelation–if that revelation is grounded in rationality, and if it has the capacity to illuminate reason once it has passed the test of reason.

    Although the Old and New Testaments present the same moral law, for example, The Ten Commandments do not contain the subtle aspects found in the Sermon on the Mount, which in turn, does not articulate every possible detail that a saint would learn who has been applying the unchanging Biblical morality to his ever-changing circumstances for fifty years. Wisdom = morality + reason + practice.

    Obviously, God doesn’t need practice, being the manifestation of perfect wisdom. He understands and lives by the same moral code that we do, while understanding it at a deeper level. Just as humans, who have advanced beyond a primitive knowledge of morality, can know that it is moral to kill an aggressor to save one’s own life, God may know (I am speculating) that it is moral to kill if is necessary to preserve His plan of salvation. It’s just a question of having a deeper understanding of the same moral law. Humans are responsible for knowing right from wrong, meaning that they must follow their rational understanding of the moral law, but they are also responsible for knowing what they don’t know, meaning that they may not play God and presume to decide who deserves to live and die or who should suffer and who should not.

    When it comes to the morality of suffering, many factors come into play. There is the question of guilt or innocence, the degree of suffering, its duration, the reasons it is deemed necessary, what the end result will be, and the capacity of the sufferer to endure it. Thus, it doesn’t follow that when God does something that we cannot immediately justify, that He is playing by a different set of rules. It is more the case that He understands the rules better than we do, meaning that we do not have enough wisdom to weight all the variables and cannot, therefore, presume to act as if we did.

    Although a ten year old child has free will, he will exercise that free will under different moral circumstances than an adult, who, by virtue of his maturity and experience, is better equipped to appropriate the natural moral law in complex circumstances. In this case, it is the child’s moral duty, though he is bound by the same moral law as adults, to obey his parents because he is not equipped to decide on some moral matters. In like fashion, we must, under some circumstances, obey God until we gain sufficient understanding to go ahead on our own.

    We already know that God allows a measure of suffering and even asked his own Son to endure it for our sake. So suffering, while evil, is not unconditionally evil. That doesn’t mean we can ask our children or someone else to suffer for some perceived motive, nor does it mean that God is playing by a different set of rules than we are. It’s simply a question of knowing what we know, knowing what we don’t know, and acting accordingly.

  22. 22
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The horrendous atrocities committed in the extermination camps in the referred years have not much to do with the power of modern weaponry at all.
    Please, try another explanation.

    In this case modern technology. How would you transport people to die in gas chambers before railroads and before poison gas?
    More importantly those crimes were committed by a small minority of humanity.

  23. 23
    Candylolz says:

    I really liked your comment StephenB. Very well put.

  24. 24
    jerry says:

    From a Christian perspective which means that the bible has to be a relevant issue, God is unfathomable because He is infinite and we are mere slugs in comparison. In Job, the worms have a better understanding of humans then we have of God. Yes, we can know some aspects of Him from reason and we know more from revelation. But it is just a spoonful out of the ocean.

    If God commands some human to kill, God is doing the killing and there is no big deal here for Christians. Life on this earth for every creature is infinitesimally brief and the shortening of anyone’s life by God is so small as to make no difference. The Christian God offers eternity for all, so that any shortening of a life or even millions of lives is insignificant. We must assume as Christians that God has plans for those who lives are shortened by others or natural events.

    When one focuses on the loss of worldly benefits or happiness, then we are saying that this is more important than what God extends to everyone for eternity. Eternity is something that is hard to understand so we emphasize what we do know and that is existence here and now. But for Christians that is a lesser importance.

    I am not saying God does not want something out of us while we are here and who knows how we will be judged. Maybe, we are obliged to make existence on earth as nice as possible. Groundhog Day was an illustration of what we should be doing on earth but it is not the end game.

    To look on the actions in this world in terms of earthly happiness only is in the end trivial for those who believe in salvation.

    That is why any argument about evil is meaningless. Because the so called evil act is trivial unless in has relevance for salvation. So maybe the bible in certain areas has to be an issue since it says that what happens here in terms of well being in irrelevant except as it is a means for us to achieve something higher.

    The atheist does not believe in God but he cannot make us some criteria of a God for others that doesn’t exist. Coyne is not addressing the Christian God with his examples, only some make believe creature that he hopes will discredit something that says he is wrong in what he believes.

  25. 25
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mung

    Third, the nature of God can’t depend on the fallible interpretation of fallible men of a book written and/or passed on by fallible men.

    Important point. When it comes to divine commands, what we get in the bible has been mediated to us indirectly. The command was usually received by one person (some exceptions are when the command was received by a group “this is my beloved son, listen to him”).

    Then there is the writer of the book. After that there is an interpreter of the written word explaining what is a command and what isn’t (Book of Leviticus, for example).

  26. 26
    StephenB says:

    Candylolz @23, thanks for the kind words. We both seem to agree that this is a vitally important topic.

  27. 27
    Dionisio says:

    #16 William J Murray

    WJM: God doesn’t give commands in any significant sense of the term.

    Dionisio: Can you prove it?

    WJM: Of course not. I’m expressing my personal view, which I can argue for.

    Dionisio: Agree, you can’t prove it, hence your statement could be false in absolute terms. Therefore, God may give commands, according with the purpose of His sovereign will. Arguing won’t change this.

    WJM: God no more has to (or can) “command” what is right in a given situation.

    Dionisio: How do you know that? Can you prove it?

    WJM: It’s a belief, not knowledge. Of course I can’t prove it, although I can argue for it.

    Dionisio: Which means that what you wrote is not true in absolute terms. Is it?
    God may not have to command anything, but He may want to, according to the purpose of His will. And as you well stated, you can’t prove it or disprove it. Therefore your statement could be false in absolute terms. Arguing won’t change this.

    WJM: It’s just not reasonable to commit what one knows to be an otherwise immoral act because one thinks god is commanding him to do so.

    Dionisio: what one knows? How does one know?
    one thinks? Is this OP about what we think or about what God commands?

    WJM: which should the person in question consider to be less fallible – his innate sense of morality, or his capacity to understand that it is in fact God that is commanding him to do what appears to be something immoral?

    Dionisio: Very simple: both are equally fallible, because both are subjective, i.e. not absolute, hence both could be wrong.

    Where does that person get “his innate sense of morality” from? How?

    In any context, how can that person discern a command from wishful thinking or biased preference?

    Maybe Hitler claimed to be under divine guidance to lead his people to a better future, but genuine followers of the One who claimed to be “Via, Veritas et Vita”, would have seen an irreconcilable conflict between His command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves vs. the Nazi party’s Kristallnacht, just to provide an example, though there are many more available in recent history. There are some examples of German citizens who did not want to compromise with the Nazi doctrine:
    http://www.amazon.com/Christ-H.....helm+busch

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....HWK55XCGG2

    However, even that command, given by Jesus Himself, has to be analyzed very carefully in exegetical details: what does it mean “as one loves oneself”? Well, that’s a long discussion that does not fit in this post, but basically, every statement we hear, read, write or say, should be tested against an absolute standard, before we can conclude on its validity. And we should be open to constructive criticism.
    At the end of the day, the real problem is what one uses as the ultimate absolute standard. That’s priceless. Everything else can be purchased with VISA or MasterCard.
    🙂

  28. 28
    Barry Arrington says:

    Because the supposition is premised on the assumption that God knows what would happen to us if the pain were not inflicted – in other words, that there are true counterfactual statements about what I would or would not choose, if placed in these particular circumstances (e.g. the statement that if I were to suffer paralysis, I would repent and turn to God). But if we have genuine libertarian free will, then it seems that such statements make no sense: for what they amount to is a kind of psychological determinism.

    Christian X is a Calvinist. He believes in the concept of sovereign election or predestination. He believes that from the beginning of the universe God in his sovereignty intended for him to become a Christian. He believes in the “I” of TULIP, that the God’s grace is irresistible, which means he had no choice in the matter. This leaves little room for free will.

    Christian Z is an Arminian. He believes God gives us the ability to choose (or to reject) him, and the fact that God has perfect foreknowledge about who will choose him and who will reject him is not inconsistent with affirming that each person is nevertheless free to choose. This leaves little room for absolute determinism.

    I believe the two views cannot be reconciled. Either I have a choice or I do not have a choice. Either God is absolutely sovereign or he is not. I personally believe I have a choice. I also believe God is absolutely sovereign. I affirm both propositions, because they are both affirmed in scripture.

    I must live with the tension between those apparently contradictory beliefs until some day when “I know even as also I am known.” For now, it seems to me that this is one of those things we see only “through a glass darkly.” I think we have a hint about the truth in Romans 8: “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” If predestination were the only concept in view here, the comment about his foreknowledge would be superfluous; Paul might just as well have written “he predestined some to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Working on the assumption that the phrase is not superfluous, we ask ourselves why it is there. A possible answer is that God in his perfect foreknowledge knows absolutely how each person will exercise his free will. Based on that perfect foreknowledge he predestines each person to be saved or not according to how they will choose anyway. It is a mystery how his absolute foreknowledge about my choice can be reconciled with calling it a choice.

    At the very least, it seems to me that there is some scriptural warrant for rejecting the “absolute foreknowledge” equals “psychological determinism” premise of VJT’s argument. And this brings me to why I broke VJT’s rule about quoting scripture. As a Christian I believe we submit to the tension between God’s sovereignty and our free will not by pure reason but by faith. Therefore, any suggestion that we can resolve the problem on the basis of general revelation or human reason alone is doomed to fail. Like the seemingly logically incoherent notion of the triune God itself, this is one of those places where our faith requires us to depend on special revelation and to affirm the truths taught in that special revelation even when we do not fully understand them. Thus, VJT might just as well have written, please present an argument for how God can be three and one at the same time; don’t quote scripture. Can’t be done.

  29. 29
    Dionisio says:

    #22 Silver Asiatic

    D: The horrendous atrocities committed in the extermination camps in the referred years have not much to do with the power of modern weaponry at all.
    Please, try another explanation.

    SA: In this case modern technology. How would you transport people to die in gas chambers before railroads and before poison gas?
    More importantly those crimes were committed by a small minority of humanity.

    Let’s put your latest statements against your original statements on your post #6

    SA: As spiritual learning increases over generations, moral awareness increases. People learn more about God and pass that learning on. The human population was less educated, in general, in the past. So, moral understanding can be refined.

    Many people who perpetrated and supported those crimes were very educated. Education ‘per se’ does not lead to better morality. Just look around us now.
    Remember that for cannibals it’s fine to eat another person, although to you and me is a horrendous abomination.
    Education is good, but there must be an absolute moral standard against which we can measure all our thoughts and activities. That’s priceless. The rest can be purchased with VISA or MasterCard. 🙂
    Here’s an example of a German woman, who probably was not the most educated in that society, but referred to an absolute standard, hence she did not like the new doctrine they were imposing in those dark years of their history:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....HWK55XCGG2

    Here’s an example of a German man, who did not want to accept the imposed doctrine in those dark days:
    http://www.amazon.com/Christ-H.....helm+busch

    Both, the lady, along with her family, and the preacher, had one important thing in common: they both measured thoughts and actions according to an absolute standard that told them to love God with all your mind and strength (vertical component of the cross) and to love their neighbors as they loved themselves (horizontal component of the cross). They simply didn’t want to compromise their principles. Unfortunately, many did compromise and surrendered -our of fear or for convenience- to the evil philosophy of the group in power. The rest is known history. A sad one for that matter. 🙁
    Jeremiah wrote that our hearts are deceiving and can’t be understood. No education can remedy that. God has offered one unique cure. It’s up to each of us to accept it or reject it. One day every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Christ is Lord. By then, it will be too late for many. That’s why we should constantly say the good news to all. Some will still hear and recognize the voice of their Master and run to Him as prodigal children.

  30. 30
    JDH says:

    VJT – I think you have major problems in your thinking. You are making some arbitrary assumptions which cloud your judgement.

    It appears that you are trying to evaluate ONE moral act apart from the existence of all acts.

    “Is it wrong for God to ask someone to do (insert supposedly INDEPENDENT action here)?”

    I think we can learn something from physics here. A lot of the science of physics is learning what can be ignored AND how to estimate the error that is introduced by ignoring that factor. Physics also entails knowing when no answer is available at all without considering non-locality, non-linearity, etc.

    Thus when trying to solve for the trajectory of the baseball given its initial direction and velocity, we can choose to ignore wind resistance, and then admit our answer is only good for a baseball in reasonable conditions to within a certain error. It is important to be able to estimate what the error is. That way, a specific instance of a baseball being thrown in a hurricane does no invalidate are theory. Our answer is only good ignoring wind resistance.

    Sometimes the wind effects are so great that it is impossible to ignore them. For example, what is the trajectory of a baseball, given its initial direction and velocity, if thrown into a tornado. The problem is that the initial conditions are totally wiped out by the chaotic nature of the wind pattern in a tornado. There is no calculation we can do to get close to the right answer because the answer depends upon the trajectory inside a strong wind field with non-zero curl (i.e. the streamlines of flow double back onto each other ). There is NO way to figure out what can be ignored because the effect can not be ignored.

    So here is your problem. You are conflating the case where it is simple to decide INDEPENDENTLY whether an act is moral, with the case where all acts have to be summed up together to decide the morality of it.

    Bear in mind that the arbitrary distinction in time of what you consider a SINGLE act is just that, an arbitrary distinction.

    Sometimes that arbitrary distinction of labeling an act as something whose morality can be judged INDEPENDENT of all other actions is valid. A proper estimation can be done of the morality of that act ignoring all other acts. God gives us moral rules to help us in those cases. ( i.e. Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal). These moral laws help us because they give absolute guidance for actions where the estimate that this is an INDEPENDENT act is valid and gives the correct answer.

    However, in some cases, the arbitrary split of actions into INDEPENDENT moral actions is not valid. This is because the judgement of the action can not be estimated given the non-local in time evaluation that must take place. Your estimate of the action as a separate action falls apart because other actions ( which will occur later in time ) effectively make your answer not true.

    When considering actions of GOD, we must realize that GOD is a timeless creature that we can’t even begin to comprehend. So as long as we try to insert the actions of GOD or the actions GOD asks a human to do into the finite time domain, we can only make an estimate about whether the action is moral or not based on a time-bound estimate of true morality and our assumption that this action can be judged independently. We can not make an absolute determination because the second we try to evaluate the arbitrarily labeled SINGLE action, we are making an invalid assumption.

    Thus your argument falls apart, not because there are compensations ( i.e. God doing one SINGLE act because it will be compensated by another SINGLE action in the future ) or justifications ( i.e. God doing one SINGLE act because it prevents another SINGLE worse act in the future ).

    Your argument falls apart because in the acts considered it is not valid to arbitrarily separate these as SINGLE actions. The morality of the whole events of time must be judged as one action over time.

    I hope this is clear. If not the blame is on me. I am trying to use the analogy of physics to show how we must differentiate between the cases where it is possible to estimate the morality of a SINGLE act, and where the totality of all acts must be considered to arrive at a good judgement.

    Conflating these two types of actions can get us confused.

  31. 31
    Dionisio says:

    Barry Arrington

    I believe we submit to the tension between God’s sovereignty and our free will not by pure reason but by faith. Therefore, any suggestion that we can resolve the problem on the basis of general revelation or human reason alone is doomed to fail. Like the seemingly logically incoherent notion of the triune God itself, this is one of those places where our faith requires us to depend on special revelation and to affirm the truths taught in that special revelation even when we do not fully understand them.

    🙂

  32. 32
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Hi Dionisio, for myself, I find education to be a valuable means of sharing moral, religious and spiritual teachings. I’m not sure why you disagree with that, but you seem to have strong beliefs about your views and I appreciate that.
    Thanks.

  33. 33
    JDH says:

    BTW – please ignore the grammatical and typographical errors above. ( e.g. “does NO invalidate ARE theory” ). I have often requested that permission be given to authors of posts to correct the grammatical errors in their posts. It does NOT invalidate OUR arguments if we are not accurate typists, or make an incorrect substitution of a homophone in a statement.

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    VJT,

    But if we have genuine libertarian free will, then it seems that such statements make no sense: for what they amount to is a kind of psychological determinism.

    I think that God plays it right down the middle. If He allows his presence to overwhelm us, for example, our behavior is psychologically determined since we are simply taken in with His majesty and we will have no choice but to be good. If, on the other hand, He provides no indication whatsoever of his existence, our behavior is equally determined inasmuch as all hope is lost and we will not even try to be good. Thus, God give us just enough information that we could go either way and are, thus. responsible for which way we go. Thus, our free will, in that context, would not seem to indicate psychological determinism.

  35. 35

    Dionisio said:

    Agree, you can’t prove it, hence your statement could be false in absolute terms. Therefore, God may give commands, according with the purpose of His sovereign will. Arguing won’t change this.

    Arguing isn’t about changing what actually exists, but rather is about trying to come to the best conclusion about what actually exists.

    Dionisio said:

    Which means that what you wrote is not true in absolute terms.

    It may or may not be true in absolute terms. I didn’t claim it to be true in absolute terms. Virtually all assertions I make about anything are provisional in nature.

    Where does that person get “his innate sense of morality” from? How?

    I believe our conscience is able to sense the moral quality of our existence, similar to how our other senses work.

    I consider what is good to be a discernible quality, and that our conscience is our means of making such discernments. As with other senses, it is fallible and open to interpretation. However, some things are self-evidently true moral statements (such as, it is immoral to gratuitously torture children), and it is my view that from such self-evidently true moral statements necessarily true, conditionally true and generally true moral statements can be found.

  36. 36
    Dionisio says:

    Silver Asiatic

    Please, don’t take me wrong. I’m for education too. Big time. Actually, I enjoy learning, and think we all could benefit from true serious education.
    My point was that education ‘per se’ does not guarantee morality or wisdom. Check this out:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Mengele
    True wisdom comes from the source of wisdom. Morality standard must be absolute, above all possible subjective standards, for it to work in any situation. Absolute moral law can come from an absolute law giver.

  37. 37
    Dionisio says:

    #35 William J Murray

    I believe our conscience is able to sense the moral quality of our existence, similar to how our other senses work.

    Really? How?

    A cannibal may not see any problem with eating another person, though to you and me it’s beyond horrible just to think about it.
    Joseph Mengele apparently didn’t have any problems with doing what he did.
    Actually the Nazi party considered a highly civilized duty to get rid of the inferior races.
    How does that relate to your statement quoted above?
    Am I missing something?

  38. 38
    Dionisio says:

    #35 William J Murray

    I consider what is good to be a discernible quality, and that our conscience is our means of making such discernments.
    As with other senses, it is fallible and open to interpretation.
    However, some things are self-evidently true moral statements (such as, it is immoral to gratuitously torture children), and it is my view that from such self-evidently true moral statements necessarily true, conditionally true and generally true moral statements can be found.

    “I consider”
    “it is my view”

    Joseph Mengele could have said those words to justify what he did. The same applies to many cases in history.

  39. 39
    Dionisio says:

    #33 JDH

    You got my vote on that. 🙂

  40. 40
    anthropic says:

    BA 28: “I believe the two views cannot be reconciled. Either I have a choice or I do not have a choice. Either God is absolutely sovereign or he is not. I personally believe I have a choice. I also believe God is absolutely sovereign. I affirm both propositions, because they are both affirmed in scripture.”

    I agree. To me, the Middle Knowledge or Molinist position (God knows all possible choices and their consequences in advance without taking away our freedom to make choices) makes the most sense.

    Or perhaps a better way of putting it is that we can freely choose, but we cannot freely choose the consequences of our choice. Queen Esther was told that perhaps she had gained her position for “such a time as this”, to save the Jewish people. But she was also told that if she chose not to intervene, salvation for the Jews would come from another place.

    Free choice, yes. But God knows all our possible choices and may intervene in the consequences, depending.

  41. 41
    Mung says:

    “In Job, the worms have a better understanding of humans then we have of God. ”

    If Job said this Job was an idiot.

  42. 42
    Querius says:

    Is chaos theory deterministic or probabilistic?

    If this is hard to fathom, how much harder is it to understand God?

    -Q

  43. 43

    WJM said:

    I believe our conscience is able to sense the moral quality of our existence, similar to how our other senses work.

    Dionisio asks:

    Really? How?

    I don’t know how; I only know that it does. I experience the sense of conscience. I don’t know how my other senses work either, but I do know that they work. I let my conscience, tempered by reason, with the humility of knowledge of my own fallibility guide me in navigating the moral landscape to the best of my ability.

    A cannibal may not see any problem with eating another person, though to you and me it’s beyond horrible just to think about it.

    Well, it’s really not horrible for me to think about it. I don’t really think there’s anything innately immoral about cannibalism. I think it’s pretty disgusting and sickening, but that’s more cultural than anything I suspect.

    Joseph Mengele apparently didn’t have any problems with doing what he did.
    Actually the Nazi party considered a highly civilized duty to get rid of the inferior races.
    How does that relate to your statement quoted above?
    Am I missing something?

    All of our faculties and senses are fallible, open to interpretation and misuse, cognitive biases and outright denial. I don’t see your point. Because some people, even large numbers of people willfully do evil things or make mistakes doesn’t mean there is no actual right thing, no objective good.

    I agree that morality is a often a difficult to understand and navigate landscape, but without the premise that there is, in fact, an objective, intrinsic good that matters, existence makes no sense and no argument here is worth making.

  44. 44
    Dionisio says:

    #43 William J Murray

    … but without the premise that there is, in fact, an objective, intrinsic good that matters, existence makes no sense and no argument here is worth making.

    Yes, there’s an absolute moral law, hence an absolute law giver. All the other relative, subjective stuff you referred to before were irrelevant.
    Glad to see you finally agreed. 🙂

  45. 45

    Dionisio said:

    Yes, there’s an absolute moral law, hence an absolute law giver. All the other relative, subjective stuff you referred to before were irrelevant.
    Glad to see you finally agreed.

    I think we’re talking past each other or something. I have said many times in this forum that morality must refer to an objective good, and that some moral statements are self-evidently true. Regardless of how one believes that objective morality is instantiated – natural law morality (an intrinsic characteristic of god), written in scripture, commanded by god – it is still subject to the subjective, fallible and erroneous faculties and interpretations by humans as they attempt to understand and adhere to it.

  46. 46
    phoodoo says:

    I think this is a very good example of why Intelligent Design often gets a bad name in public discourse.

    Not a single person on this site, or on the planet knows what God is like, or what he thinks or doesn’t think, what he expects or doesn’t expect, or what he is or isn’t capable of. People who claim to know this, invariably offend those who are equally sure certain individuals don’t have a special pipeline to truth that others don’t own.

    Maybe God is sinister, maybe he is flawed, maybe he is limited in what he can do. Who knows? No one, that is the answer.

    Is this a bible study class or a site on the science of biological origins?

    I think you end up looking just a silly as Jerry Coyne does when you insist on mixing the two. I don’t think its that hard to find sites that want to preach religious doctrine. This site shouldn’t be that one.

    Intelligent Design is about science not religion-no matter what Coyne wants to believe.

  47. 47
    vividbleau says:

    BA RE 28

    I think we have a hint about the truth in Romans 8: “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” If predestination were the only concept in view here, the comment about his foreknowledge would be superfluous;

    I would suggest a word study on foreknowledge in the context used in R 8 would be helpful. The Greek word is “proginosko” I think that’s it I don’t have my notes at the moment. The ” knowing” is the same type of knowing
    we find when Scripture declares that God “knew” Abraham” or Adam “knew his wife” more basically to foreknow is to fore love. It is to love beforehand and is translated as such in several Bible translations. Also this fore knowledge is about a whom not a what they will do. It is a fore loving of individuals. I see nothing superfluous in ” For those whom He loved beforehand He predestined….

    Vivid

  48. 48
    anthropic says:

    phoodoo 46: “Is this a bible study class or a site on the science of biological origins?”

    Without a particular notion of God as a rational, law-giving, orderly Being who created a rational, law-following, orderly Universe, science would never have gotten off the ground. We know that because it didn’t, except in Christian Europe.

    Even today science is grounded on these concepts. We can never absolutely prove them, yet we must assume them to be so.

    And let us be honest: Occam’s razor says that God makes far more sense than an infinite multiverse with uncaused effects running rampant. Yet people who cling to the multiverse as a dodge around fine-tuning claim that they are the rational ones.

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

  49. 49
    Graham2 says:

    phoodoo: Intelligent Design is about science

    I think we can forget that. This site lost any claim to the practice of impartial science long long ago.

    But I cant stop coming back, and just gazing in wonder.

  50. 50
    vividbleau says:

    BA RE 28

    Christian X is a Calvinist. He believes in the concept of sovereign election or predestination. He believes that from the beginning of the universe God in his sovereignty intended for him to become a Christian. He believes in the “I” of TULIP, that the God’s grace is irresistible, which means he had no choice in the matter. This leaves little room for free will.

    Actually no room for free will but lots of room for free choice.

    Vivid

  51. 51
    Querius says:

    phoodoo and Graham2,

    It had to happen sooner or later. Professor Jerry Coyne has identified what he sees as an inconsistency in Dr. William Lane Craig’s Divine Command theory of ethics . . .

    The subject of the OP is the basis of ethics. Most people acknowledge that there are ethics issues in biology, and it should come as no shock to you that ethics in biology is not based on biology or any other science, but rather is an externally imposed restriction on the sciences.

    Unless of course you’re of the Dr. Mengele persuasion, favoring no ethical restrictions.

    -Q

  52. 52
    phoodoo says:

    Querius,

    Yes, I get that is a topic about ethics. My question is why?

    The websites stated purpose is “serving the Intelligent Design Community.”

    So can you blame people for assuming that intelligent design is a religious belief, when websites that purport to serve the community spend so much talking about bible passages, and what God must be like? Not to mention the fact that there can never be a right answer, its all just personal assumptions.

    Its the exact same logic Coyne and Dawkins make for their nonsense-they want to promote atheism, so they do it by ignoring science.

    Intelligent Design is a logical scientific argument. It is not a philosophy. It has zero to do with what God must be like. Its no wonder so many people are confused.

  53. 53
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Barry Arrington,

    Thank you very much for your post. By the way, I appreciated the quote from Romans 8. Just to be perfectly clear: I agree with you that God has perfect foreknowledge of our choices. How He has this knowledge is a mystery, although personally I favor the so-called “Boethian” solution, which says that God is timelessly informed of everything that goes on in creation, like a watcher on a high hill. A lot of Christians have different views of how God’s foreknowledge works, and some (like yourself) prefer to leave it up to God to reveal this mystery to us in the hereafter.

    The view I was criticizing was the Molinist view (which Dr. William Craig happens to accept) that God not only knows what I will do, but what I would do, in every possible situation. On this view, as I understand it, humans possess libertarian freedom, but when God decides to create this world rather than that one, He thereby guarantees that I will make a certain choice, but at the same time, make it freely. Personally, I don’t buy this attempt to square free will and foreknowledge, because a God Who knows what I would do in every possible situation and Who then decides to actualize a particular situation and place me in it, thereby determines my choice and thus negates my freedom. That was what I meant by my reference to psychological determinism: if there is one and only one choice that I would make in each possible situation, then it really doesn’t sound like I’m free.

    If God did possess that kind of counterfactual foreknowledge, however, then it seems to me that He could (in principle) command human beings to inflict pain on others for their own ultimate good – and if that were the case, then we can no longer say that God could never command someone to torture anyone else, unless we defined “torture” in the strict sense of inflicting pain purely for the fun of inflicting pain. The problem I see with that narrow definition is that it would mean that a wicked and/or crazy person who abducts someone and inflicts pain on them would not be guilty of torture unless it were established that his primary motive was sadistic. If he cited some other motive, he’d be off the hook.

    But as I’ve said, perhaps I’m missing something in all this. I wrote this post in haste (it only took me a couple of hours) as a “kite” – a kind of exploratory posing of the question. It was partly inspired by reading this one by Dr. Lydia McGrew, which is well worth perusing and mulling over:

    http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot......cient.html

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

  54. 54
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    Got to go now, but I’ll be back in 24 hours and will attempt to reply to readers’ comments then. Cheers.

  55. 55
    anthropic says:

    Graham2 49

    So an infinite number of universes where anything can happen without reason is science?

    😉

  56. 56
    anthropic says:

    Dr Torley (and whoever wishes to join in!)

    If God has perfect foreknowledge of all our choices before we make them, how to explain Esther? Was the prophet lying when he told her that God had prepared plan B to save the Jews in case she didn’t step up? Did God deceive the prophet?

    If the answer to the last two questions is No, why in the world would God prepare a plan B since He knew it would not be needed?

  57. 57
    Dionisio says:

    #46 phoodoo

    This site shouldn’t be that one.

    I think I see your point and understand your concern.

    Hey, I have good news for you. Here’s an opportunity to stay away from these boring philosophical discussion threads. Do you want to talk pure science? Ok, then join me in this thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-515383

    and help me to answer a few questions I have there.

    Don’t worry, they are very easy questions. Piece of cake. After all, science has it all figured out by now, right?

    Most probably you will answer those questions in a blink. They have to do with simple stuff, like the cell fate specification and determination mechanisms operating on intrinsic asymmetric mitosis.

    That includes things like the mitotic spindle checkpoints, precise centrosomes segregation, microtubules/kinetochores connection tension. All with as many details as one can think of.

    I’m sure you will enjoy it, specially knowing you’re going to help other folks, who are not as gifted as you seem to be, so they too can understand that subject and move on with their studies. Being charitable makes one feel good, doesn’t it? Many folks in this site will highly appreciate your assistance with answering those questions.

    Note that out of the 426 posts currently in that thread, maybe only 400 of them have to do with the issues referred to above.

    I look forward to hearing back from you on this invitation to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to help others. Thank you. 🙂

    PS. I could associate each question with the post # it relates to. Would that work? You may suggest a different approach if you want to. Thanks.
    I’m really glad someone is finally willing to help with this. 🙂

  58. 58
    Dionisio says:

    #49 Graham2

    phoodoo: Intelligent Design is about science

    I think we can forget that. This site lost any claim to the practice of impartial science long long ago.

    But I cant stop coming back, and just gazing in wonder.

    Hey, post #57 is for you too! Enjoy it buddy! 🙂

  59. 59
    Dionisio says:

    #49 Graham2

    phoodoo: Intelligent Design is about science

    I think we can forget that. This site lost any claim to the practice of impartial science long long ago.

    But I cant stop coming back, and just gazing in wonder.

    Here’s what I wrote in post #57, which is for you too:

    I think I see your point and understand your concern.

    Hey, I have good news for you. Here’s an opportunity to stay away from these boring philosophical discussion threads. Do you want to talk pure science? Ok, then join me in this thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com…..ent-515383

    and help me to answer a few questions I have there.

    Don’t worry, they are very easy questions. Piece of cake. After all, science has it all figured out by now, right?

    Most probably you will answer those questions in a blink. They have to do with simple stuff, like the cell fate specification and determination mechanisms operating on intrinsic asymmetric mitosis.

    That includes things like the mitotic spindle checkpoints, precise centrosomes segregation, microtubules/kinetochores connection tension. All with as many details as one can think of.

    I’m sure you will enjoy it, specially knowing you’re going to help other folks, who are not as gifted as you seem to be, so they too can understand that subject and move on with their studies. Being charitable makes one feel good, doesn’t it? Many folks in this site will highly appreciate your assistance with answering those questions.

    Note that out of the 426 posts currently in that thread, maybe only 400 of them have to do with the issues referred to above.

    I look forward to hearing back from you on this invitation to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to help others. Thank you. 🙂

    PS. I could associate each question with the post # it relates to. Would that work? You may suggest a different approach if you want to. Thanks.
    I’m really glad someone is finally willing to help with this. 🙂

  60. 60
    Dionisio says:

    #57

    Dear all,

    The invitation in post #57 is open to everyone, without exclusions. The more of us who can work on that, the faster we could get the answers to all the outstanding questions and the new questions that might arise when answering the currently known questions.
    Just write a post in that thread expressing your willingness to help and the questions will come your way. Really appreciate it! 🙂
    Just to help you relax, “I don’t know”*** is an acceptable answer too. 🙂
    (***) synonymous like “I have no clue” or “I have no idea” are also acceptable answers.
    🙂

  61. 61
    Dionisio says:

    #59 link correction

    Graham2,

    The link in post #59 was broken. Sorry, my fault.

    Here’s the correct link to the referred thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-515383

  62. 62
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 and phoodoo

    Please, keep in mind posts #57 through #61 are not jokes. I’m serious about having a number of questions to ask. See, I’m not a biology scientist. Actually, I’m not a scientist at all, and very unlikely to become one in my lifetime. That’s an unreachable to me level. Well above my pay grade.
    My only experience is working on engineering design software development projects for a number of years. Hence you’ll find my questions very simple and kind of childish sometimes. But they are genuinely serious questions, not jokes.
    I hope you understand this now. Thanks.

  63. 63
    Vishnu says:

    Theodicy has not been, nor will ever bee solved by the mind of man, as long as one clings to the Classical God. You can’t have both, that is, the Classical God and an gap-free explanation of evil. And if you have a gap, you don’t have an explanation. All the attempts and wrangling in all corners are silly to guys like me that see that this is true.

    Give it up and have the faith of a child.

    For such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

  64. 64
    Vishnu says:

    This version of “God” may resonate as a solution to theodicty:

    “In the Advaita Vedanta model, Brahman, the ‘God’ identified with the ultimate all-inclusive reality, plays a game of hide and seek with itself at many levels. In this game, called Lila, Brahman plays with individual “separations”, such as people, birds, rocks, subatomic particles, stars, galaxies, and other features of the world both separately and together, while forgetting that the game is being played. At the end of each session, Brahman is said to wake up, cease the game, applaud itself, and resume the game all over again. The state of wakefulness and enlightenment of an individual is knowing one is simply playing a game;, “good” and “evil” are merely part of the game, so are all the differences that separate individual humans, different religions and philosophies, that one is simply acting as a human being, having an illusion of being locked within a physical body and separated from the whole of the Reality. The illusion ultimately ends. Then the game restarts.

  65. 65
    anthropic says:

    Vishnu 64

    So the Holocaust was a game? A child molester and Mother Teresa are morally equivalent?

    With apologies to Baudelaire, if there is such a God, He is the devil.

  66. 66
    Graham2 says:

    vjtorley: I had a small pang of conscience and will now fess up. You actually disagreed with Craig. The usual attitude round here is uncritical admiration, so I appreciate your fairness.

    Dionisio: I violently disagree with your theology, but am employed in the same trade as you. Lifes strange, aint it ?

  67. 67
    william spearshake says:

    Phoodoo: “So can you blame people for assuming that intelligent design is a religious belief, when websites that purport to serve the community spend so much talking about bible passages, and what God must be like? “

    I am an atheist/evolutionist/materialist, but I think that you are correct here. UD, which purports to be in support of the “science” of ID, supposedly not religiously based, loses what little credibility it has when it’s moderator continues to allow articles that are purely religious.

    It also loses credibility when it allows anything under its umbrella, from YEC to evolution lite.

    And it blows its credibility out of the water when it’s argument against evolution (and science) is that it is a religion.

  68. 68
    Mung says:

    Graham2:

    But I cant stop coming back, and just gazing in wonder.

    Even Graham2 is capable of wonder!

    He must be one of those who does not believe we are all just living out our biologically determined lives.

    Or perhaps his wonder is itself biologically determined, and therefore doesn’t actually reflect anything about what goes on at this site.

    Isn’t evolution grand!

  69. 69
    Axel says:

    anthropic #56

    I don’t believe Mordecai did mention a Plan B, but simply remarked that if Ruth didn’t step up to the plate, God would find some other means to save his people. An ‘ad hoc’ recourse.

    I think BA77 has an answer derived from quantum physics, but I could be wrong.

    Paging BA77!

  70. 70
    Mung says:

    Anyone other than me sensing the hypocrisy of the critics?

    There are ample opportunities here at UD to debate the science and the empirical evidence, and when they do come up the critics run for the hills.

    So stop complaining and man up.

  71. 71
    Vishnu says:

    So the Holocaust was a game? A child molester and Mother Teresa are morally equivalent?

    They are not individual games in and of themselves. The whole created order is a game, where there is pain, pleasure, safety and danger. It is all part of Braham’s Lila. But like childbirth, it all eventually ends. Then the bliss returns. And Brahman laughs. You are Braham. But you are blind to it. That too, is part of the game.

    With apologies to Baudelaire, if there is such a God, He is the devil.

    I don’t think you’re apprehending the big picture. That may be your particular lot in the game. The thing is, you’re particular differentiated “self” desired to participate, as all “souls” do, prior to the veiling. Again, part of the game of Lila.

    All will be well in the end.

  72. 72
    Vishnu says:

    anthropic,

    So you see, “good” and “evil” are only relative notions within the game itself for the duration of the game, like rules in Football. If someone performs a pass interference, according to the rules of Football, that is “evil.” From that vantage point of an enlightened soul, that is what “moral evil” is as well.

    But it’s all transient. Ultimately there is no such thing as competition or enduring suffering. All “souls” (temporary differentiations of Brahman) voluntarily chose to partipate at various levels at every cycle of the Lila game. It would only be “truly evil” (whatever that means) if individuals were forced to participate. Nobody is forced. Everyone agrees to do it, and you did too, because prior to the veiling everyone understands that it is only a game, it will end, it will be interesting, and everyone is more than joyful to play it prior to the ending of game where, time and space unwind, then the cycle repeats. All souls return to Brahman and exist as bliss, all in all.

  73. 73
    Box says:

    william spearshake #67: I am an atheist/evolutionist/materialist, but I think that you are correct here.

    Don’t believe anything your “I” tells “you”, because the “I” is an illusion.

    FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, WE’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside. Without scientism, we look at life from the inside, from the first-person POV (OMG, you don’t know what a POV is?—a “point of view”). The first person is the subject, the audience, the viewer of subjective experience, the self in the mind.
    Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. Even after scientism convinces us, we’ll continue to stick with the first person. But at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates.
    [Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, Ch.9]

    p.s. don’t ask yourself who is having the illusion, that can get confusing.

  74. 74
    william spearshake says:

    Mung: “There are ample opportunities here at UD to debate the science and the empirical evidence, and when they do come up the critics run for the hills.”

    If by “run to the hills” you mean “banned from commenting”, I guess you are correct.

  75. 75
    Upright BiPed says:

    william spearshake.

    From my view, you have the situation exactly backwards. There is virtually intractable evidence of design in biology, and it has been discussed on this site. The problem with our current crop of critics is getting them to address it.

  76. 76
    Upright BiPed says:

    …by the way, conflating “run to the hills” with “banned from commenting” is an incoherent and opportunistic political response, and actually tells us that you are likely to have little to offer in discussions about material evidence.

  77. 77
    Mung says:

    ws:

    If by “run to the hills” you mean “banned from commenting”, I guess you are correct.

    By “run to the hills” I mean either producing no response at all (the running chicken response) or producing a response that is about something other than the science (the squawking chicken response).

    [The more advanced chickens manage to run and squawk at the same time.]

  78. 78
    kairosfocus says:

    WS: I note, mung is right there are ample opportunities to discuss science issues. There are also other linked interests connected to worldviews, phil, science in society and the like. This happens to be such a thread. And as to balance on merits, mung is a bit overstated but his description is often recognisable. Since there has been a longstanding problem of abusive behaviour from especially objectors, after reasonable opportunity, people have been moderated or banned. On all sides BTW. There was a recent case of a major contributor put on mod until he answered a pivotal Q, by the blog owner. While there have been regrettable incidents — and I have just had to discuss here about people hanging the former Premier in effigy [something I find incredible and would neither countenance nor do . . . ], also there is fallout from a live, on air political suicide that set tongues to wagging . . . — as long as you remain reasonably civil and do not over indulge in thread jacking or the like, you have but little to fear. One of the longest standing commenters here has been an objector. I hope that provides some balance. KF

  79. 79
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed. The fox in the hen house.

  80. 80
    Graham2 says:

    UBP: Barry had a hissy fit for a while there, banning anyone that didn’t agree with Plato, or something.

    If this is the way the site is run, then you can just forget about any credibility, this isn’t the way any discussion is run, in any subject, in any setting.

  81. 81
    Mung says:

    kf,

    It would seem that since many of your OP’s introduce logic and math that these OP’s are seen as non-scientific. Could you attempt to make it more clear that you are not introducing religious texts?

    Perhaps it’s time to once again post “the challenge,” now that we have this new crop of science-minded objectors to ID?

  82. 82

    Ignoring Craig and Coyne’s misleading use of the word “voluntarism” it seems clear to me Coyne’s argument here actually fails.

    Craig states “On voluntaristic theories God’s commands are based upon His free will alone. He arbitrarily chooses what values are good or bad and what our obligations and prohibitions are” Voluntarism therefore as Craig defines it refers to the position that God can command anything at all for any reason at all.

    Coyne denies this and cites the text from Craig’s writings concluding. “If that’s not voluntaristic DCT [Divine Command Theory], I don’t know what is. It basically says that God’s commands ARE the arbiter of right and wrong.”

    The problem is that this simply changes the subject. Craig did not deny that right and wrong are determined by Gods commands and his will determines what’s right and wrong, what he claimed was that God in virtue of his character could not command just anything. Pointing out Craig thinks Gods will determines what’s right and wrong does not refute this. The question is wether Gods will is totally arbitrary or based on something else.

    Its also pretty clear that Coyne’s “citation” has been creatively edited. Coyne cites Craig’s

    But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative

    This sounds like a voluntaristic position, until you look at the whole quote:

    “I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate our ethical theory that underlies our moral judgements. According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder.

    Here Craig is quite explicit, the DCT he is referring to is the view that moral duties are constituted by the commands of a *loving and just* God. His claim that God “can give and take life as he pleases” has been explicated as the claim God has no moral duty to refrain from killing. This is not the same as the claim that he can do so in the sense that its logically possible for him to do so given his nature.

    That this is what Craig means is evident from the very next line where Craig takes up a different objection. He states “All right; but isn’t such a command contrary to God’s nature? Well, let’s look at the case more closely. ..”
    Craig here in the very next line shows that he is aware of the problem that although God is under no moral obligation to refrain from commanding killing, there is a separate question of whether its contrary to his nature and he proceeds to argue that such a command is not contrary to Gods nature.

    Craig in fact in his writings claims that a general command allowing killing for any reason at all would be contrary to these character traits and so God cant issue such a command. However, there are rare circumstances where God can command killing for some greater good. And Craig thinks the Canaanite issue falls into this category. This is clear from his exposition of the same view in Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview.

    Nonetheless, the fact that God is not duty-bound should alert us to the fact that He may well have prerogatives (for example, taking human life at His discretion) which are forbidden to us. Taking the life of an innocent person is something we have no right to do; but God is not similarly restricted. God’s having no duties also helps to explain how God can command a person to perform an action which would be sinful were the person to undertake such an action on his own initiative, but which is his moral duty in virtue of God’s command. The most celebrated example is Abraham’s sacrificing his son Isaac, an act which would have been murder in the absence of any command of God but which became Abraham’s moral duty in light of the divine command given him. This is not to say that God can bring it about that murder be good, but rather that He can command an act which would have been murder had it been undertaken in the absence of a divine command. This also not to say that God could have brought it about that it be a general moral duty for people to kill one another. The case of Abraham and Isaac is the exception that proves the rule. Issuing a general command that we should seek one another’s harm would be contrary to God’s loving nature, but in the extraordinary case of Abraham and Isaac, it was not unloving of God to so try Abraham’s devotion, and God had good reasons for testing him so severely.

    Here Craig explains that in saying that God has the perogative can take human life at his discretion he does not mean he can command anything at all. He explicitly denies that God can issue a general command to kill human beings for example. Its only in exceptional cases where doing so serves some greater good that such a command would be compatible with Gods nature.

    This means Craig in fact addresses the issues you raise. You state:

    In order for Professor Craig to extricate himself from the inconsistency that he appears to have fallen into, he would have to do the following:
    (1) show that there are certain actions that God could not possibly command us to do, because they would be contrary to His character;
    (2) specify at least some of these things that God cannot command us to do; and
    (3) explain why ending someone’s life isn’t one of the things that God cannot command us to do.

    But Craig does do this, re (1) and (2) he states there are certain actions that God could not possibly command us to do, God can’t issue a command that makes it a general moral duty to kill others. The denial that in in general or ordinary circumstances it’s wrong to kill is incompatible with Gods character. Re (3) Craig argues that in rare circumstances where it killing promotes some greater good it is compatible with his character.

    Coyne might disagree with Craig here, but to snip the line above, the line below, and pretend he said something other than he did is not the correct or rational way to express that disagreement.

  83. 83
    Upright BiPed says:

    Graham, physical evidence doesn’t change with the furniture. You might keep that in mind.

  84. 84
    Mung says:

    UD lacks objective morality. Got it.
    Credibility requires objective morality. Got it.
    There is no objective morality. Got it.

    Why did the the objectors have a hissy fit when we laughed at their having a hissy fit?

    Barry had a hissy fit for a while there, banning anyone that didn’t agree with Plato, or something.

    So?

    If this is the way the site is run, then you can just forget about any credibility, this isn’t the way any discussion is run, in any subject, in any setting.

    So?

    … this isn’t the way any discussion is run, in any subject, in any setting.

    Ever.

    Got it.

  85. 85
    Graham2 says:

    UBP: Its not a question of evidence, just etiquette.

  86. 86
    Dionisio says:

    #66 Graham2

    Dionisio: I violently disagree with your theology, but am employed in the same trade as you. Lifes strange, aint it ?

    violently disagree?
    violently?

    What des that mean? Can you explain? Thank you.

  87. 87
    Mung says:

    Graham2:

    Its not a question of evidence, just etiquette.

    Barry offended your sense of etiquette? Why should anyone care?

    Graham2:

    …this isn’t the way any discussion is run, in any subject, in any setting.

    Well, if what you really meant to say was that Barry violated your own personal sense of etiquette, why didn’t you say so?

    But then, why is that Barry’s problem? Why don’t you just change your conception of etiquette?

  88. 88
    Dionisio says:

    #66 Graham2

    Dionisio: I violently disagree with your theology, but am employed in the same trade as you. Lifes strange, aint it ?

    You’re wrong again:
    no, you’re not employed in the same trade as I am.
    Try again, buddy.

    Do you accept or decline the invitation in posts #59, #61 and #62 ?

    BTW, you missed a couple of apostrophes in your closing sentences. But that’s fine in a blog discussion thread like this. Though I doubt any exchange of posts with you would qualify as discussion. 🙂

    Definitely the moderators of this site are very patient and flexible, hence they allow all kinds of commenters here. You should be thankful to them after all. 🙂

  89. 89
    william spearshake says:

    Dionisio: “Definitely the moderators of this site are very patient and flexible, hence they allow all kinds of commenters here. You should be thankful to them after all. “

    Well, at least this statement proves that creationists have a sense of humour.

  90. 90
    Dionisio says:

    #85 correction

    #66 Graham2

    Dionisio: I violently disagree with your theology,…

    violently disagree?
    violently?

    What does that mean? Can you explain? Thank you.

  91. 91
    Querius says:

    phoodoo@52 noted

    Yes, I get that is a topic about ethics. My question is why?

    Why ethics? As I said, ethics is out of the realm of science, and there are, fortunately, few who believe that its constraints should not be applied to science. The next question is “Whose ethics should be applied and on what basis?” Yours?

    As a Christian, my ethics are derived from the Bible. Why should I be ashamed of this? My delight in science comes from my discovery of the amazing genius of God. I also believe that all of nature is suffering, either from mankind’s selfish depredations or stupidity, or from God’s partial withdrawal so that mankind can experience the direct results of the absence of God’s sustaining care.

    The websites stated purpose is “serving the Intelligent Design Community.”

    It is. Not all ID advocates are Christians. They might be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or believers in alien intervention. ID is pragmatic, so I guess a person wouldn’t necessarily even have to believe in God.

    So can you blame people for assuming that intelligent design is a religious belief, when websites that purport to serve the community spend so much talking about bible passages, and what God must be like?

    When the subject comes up, I feel free to share by faith, which is precious to me. If this website were dedicated to vegetarianism, it would be likely that I would mention that the first recorded scientific experiment can be found in the Bible and involves a vegetarian diet!

    Not to mention the fact that there can never be a right answer, its all just personal assumptions.

    But nevertheless, there is a right answer and many wrong answers. How would you expect to determine the difference?

    Its the exact same logic Coyne and Dawkins make for their nonsense-they want to promote atheism, so they do it by ignoring science.

    I would say that they try to show that existence is physically inevitable, that life is chemically inevitable, and that evolution can account for all forms of life. Thus, they argue, the simplest explanation falsifies the existence of God.

    Intelligent Design is a logical scientific argument. It is not a philosophy.

    I would say that ID is a paradigm. When unknown or puzzling phenomena are encountered or observed, ID presumes design or engineering, while Darwinism presumes random processes and lots of useless junk.

    It has zero to do with what God must be like. Its no wonder so many people are confused.

    I wouldn’t go that far. For example, do you think that the astonishing complexity of DNA, epigenetics, overlapping coding, fault tolerance and correction, complex interdependent chemical cycles, and ingenious engineering doesn’t say anything about the intelligence behind it?

    What do you think “so many people are confused” about?

    -Q

  92. 92
    Upright BiPed says:

    When it comes to material evidence, Graham, I’m afraid you are wrong.

    If we turn knives on each other, the evidence remains.

    If you are simply wishing to suggest that people can communicate better with a certain level of mutual decorum, I have no problem with that. It’s a rather trivial point.

  93. 93
    Graham2 says:

    UBP: It was the latter. It should be trivial, but not here.

  94. 94
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: In a moment of weakness I was being nice to 2 people at once, (you & vjt), that’s all. No big deal.

  95. 95
    Upright BiPed says:

    Graham,

    We are still waiting for a priest to give us a cure for a disease. Chipped in to a stone tablet would be fine. – Graham

    Is this the common courtesy you are talking about?

  96. 96
    Upright BiPed says:

    Or, is it this?

    “ID focuses on empirical science … I presume thats a typo.

  97. 97
    Graham2 says:

    UBP: Jeez, how far back did you go to dredge that stuff up ? You really carry a grudge don’t you ?

  98. 98
    Upright BiPed says:

    Grudge?

    No. My computer has a search function.

    I’m just pointing out your hypocrisy.

  99. 99
    Graham2 says:

    UBP: Should I now go back and dredge up all your angry, aggressive, insulting remarks ?

    I have a search function too.

  100. 100
    Upright BiPed says:

    Be my guest. I am not the one left to complain about etiquette. It should serve your purpose.

  101. 101
    william spearshake says:

    UBP, I don’t think that any side can take pride in our behaviour at all times. And I’m sure that Graham2 would agree. But since ID supporters almost never get banned from this site (I used the word ‘almost’ to give you the benefit of the doubt), in spite of behaviour, this discussion is moot.

  102. 102
    Upright BiPed says:

    I completely agree. This topic has been moot for some time. What is left is the physical evidence – which neither you, nor anyone else, can refute.

  103. 103
    Graham2 says:

    WS: UBP actually had a point. I mercilessly mock belief systems, particularly anything involving spirits in the sky. Its not directed at any person, it is directed at the idea, but the difference seems to be that the religious become extremely upset at this, they take it very personally indeed. If I was friends with the creator of the universe I would be untroubled by the annoying gnats.

  104. 104
    Upright BiPed says:

    The point, Graham, which you steadfastly resist, is that the condition of physical evidence is wholly un-effected by your mockery.

  105. 105
    Querius says:

    Upright BiPed,

    Speaking of scoffers, have you seen this oldy-but-goodie?

    http://www.mit.edu/people/dpol.....gMeat.html

    -Q

  106. 106
    phoodoo says:

    Querius, you said:

    “I wouldn’t go that far. For example, do you think that the astonishing complexity of DNA, epigenetics, overlapping coding, fault tolerance and correction, complex interdependent chemical cycles, and ingenious engineering doesn’t say anything about the intelligence behind it? ”

    Yes, I think it says nothing at all about the mind of any intelligence that may be behind it. It simply says that it is not random. It is certainly not going to tell you anything about the ethics of the designer, and for all you know there could be 5000 different designers, or as many designers as there are people.

    It is definitely not a subject within the scope of intelligent design.

  107. 107
    Dionisio says:

    #66 Graham2

    Dionisio: I violently disagree with your theology,…

    violently disagree?
    violently?

    What does that mean? Can you explain? Thank you.

    94 Graham2

    Dionisio: In a moment of weakness I was being nice to 2 people at once, (you & vjt), that’s all. No big deal.

    being nice ?
    No big deal ?

    This confirms that the moderators of this site are very patient and flexible.

  108. 108
    Dionisio says:

    #89 william spearshake

    Dionisio: “Definitely the moderators of this site are very patient and flexible, hence they allow all kinds of commenters here. You should be thankful to them after all. “

    Well, at least this statement proves that creationists have a sense of humour.

    By allowing you and your fellow travelers to post in this site, the moderators of this blog prove they have a sense of humor, because this way the rest of us have fun reading the incoherent gibberish y’all write sometimes. 🙂
    Free entertainment!

    FYI: [incoherent gibberish = incomprehensible hogwash] 🙂

  109. 109
    anthropic says:

    Vishnu 72

    Vishnu, I don’t mean to insult your belief system, but if at the end of the “game”, Brahman laughs at disease, child molestation, rape, torture, and murder, then I want no part of Brahman. Indeed, Brahman is lower than me morally, deeply flawed as I am, because at least I can recognize injustice for what it is.

    One of the reasons I believe in the God of the Bible is that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, knowing what was coming of its rejection of Him. This God knows that evil is both real and consequential. In fact, it breaks His heart. Amazingly, He still gives us a real choice to defy Him, because to do otherwise would render our lives meaningless and insignificant.

  110. 110
    anthropic says:

    Axel 69

    Esther 4: 9 – 14: “Hathach came back and related Mordecai’s words to Esther. 10Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai: 11″All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.” 12They related Esther’s words to Mordecai.

    13Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

    Note the counterfactuals –If you remain silent (she didn’t) then deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place but you and your father’s house will perish.

    None of that happened. But the question remains, why mention these things if God knew Esther would step up? Why look for counterfactuals for an event that did not and could not happen?

  111. 111
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: Now Im curious. What on earth are you going on about?. You have obviously discovered bold, is that it ?

  112. 112
    Querius says:

    Anthropic,

    You’re confusing Mordecai with God. What you quoted was Mordecai’s stated opinion. God is never even mentioned in Esther.

    -Q

  113. 113
    Querius says:

    phoodoo@106,

    . . . and for all you know there could be 5000 different designers, or as many designers as there are people.

    Really? And where did I say that there was only one intelligence?

    I think it says nothing at all about the mind of any intelligence that may be behind it. It simply says that it is not random.

    Aliens see New York City from space. Some of them concede that “it’s not random,” but argue that there’s no evidence that any intelligence behind it, that it’s all due to differential erosion, mineral intrusions, and natural electrical charges. Yeah, right.

    It is definitely not a subject within the scope of intelligent design.

    What do you mean? That’s the whole point of ID, the presumption of intelligence given the admitted appearance of design, and the abject bankruptcy of naturalistic explanations.

    -Q

  114. 114
    kairosfocus says:

    D, to violently disagree usually means, strongly, and expressed with words and gestures that show considerable emphasis or agitation. KF

    PS: I think the site, the free dictionary should be helpful to those for whom English is a very second language. (And for many for whom it is a first one.)

  115. 115
    Dionisio says:

    #111 Graham2

    Dionisio: Now Im curious. What on earth are you going on about?. You have obviously discovered bold, is that it ?

    Is this your reaction to my post #107 ?

    Can’t you do better than this?

    🙂

  116. 116
    Dionisio says:

    #114 KF

    Thank you for the clarification.

    Still, why does he oppose my views so strongly?

  117. 117
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung: Logic is the basis of reasoning, including scientific reasoning that seeks to warrant knowledge claims about our world. The design inference is about abductive form inductive reasoning on signs such as FSCO/I in light of general patterns of actual observation and linked analysis — and I have just linked one of those pesky pages about science that objectors so studiously avoid when they are on the opening page, as was remarked. Mathematics is closely linked and last I checked is a dominant feature of my home discipline, physics. A check of say Arxiv will easily confirm that. Matters of phil, ethics and broader worldviews and cultural agendas come up in the context that ideology is a significant issue on origins sciences when we have blatant imposition of a priori Lewontinian materialism and given that notoriously, atheism and other ideas have consequences. KF

  118. 118
    Querius says:

    Dionisio,

    Apparently, you’re too bold! 😉

    -Q

  119. 119
    kairosfocus says:

    D, G2 is a long-term objector who violently objects to the idea that some people may actually find the design inference a legitimate exercise in scientific, inductive reasoning. The undertone is obvious, just from comments and insinuations above. KF

  120. 120
    Dionisio says:

    #118 Querius

    Dionisio,

    Apparently, you’re too bold! 😉

    -Q

    Oh, I see what you mean. 🙂
    Too specific, too direct. 🙂
    Some folks don’t like that. They get very upset when facing simple questions.
    As long as I’m not the one getting upset, I can live with that. 🙂

  121. 121
    Dionisio says:

    #119 kairosfocus

    Sad, isn’t it?

  122. 122
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Matthew Flanagan,

    Thank you for your spirited defense of Dr. William Lane Craig. I think you have established that Jerry Coyne’s quotation from Dr. Craig’s writings was rather selective, and that when viewed in context, Craig is not a theological voluntarist. Summing up Craig’s position, you write:

    Craig in fact in his writings claims that a general command allowing killing for any reason at all would be contrary to these character traits and so God can’t issue such a command. However, there are rare circumstances where God can command killing for some greater good…

    … Craig explains that in saying that God has the prerogative can take human life at his discretion he does not mean he can command anything at all. He explicitly denies that God can issue a general command to kill human beings for example. It’s only in exceptional cases where doing so serves some greater good that such a command would be compatible with God’s nature.

    Fair enough. But I don’t think that’s a satisfactory response to the triple challenge that I said Craig had to meet:

    In order for Professor Craig to extricate himself from the inconsistency that he appears to have fallen into, he would have to do the following:
    (1) show that there are certain actions that God could not possibly command us to do, because they would be contrary to His character;
    (2) specify at least some of these things that God cannot command us to do; and
    (3) explain why ending someone’s life isn’t one of the things that God cannot command us to do.

    You comment:

    But Craig does do this: re (1) and (2) he states there are certain actions that God could not possibly command us to do. God can’t issue a command that makes it a general moral duty to kill others. The denial that in general or ordinary circumstances it’s wrong to kill is incompatible with God’s character. Re (3) Craig argues that in rare circumstances where killing promotes some greater good, it is compatible with his character. (Italics mine – VJT.)

    All you’ve shown here is that God cannot issue the general command, “Kill whenever you feel like it.” But what I was asking was somthing different: is there any kind of action which is never justifiable for human beings to perform (with or without a Divine command) under any circumstances? That was what I meant by my condition number (2). In other words, is there any kind of action that would be intrinsically wrong for human beings to perform, full stop, and not just generally wrong?

    You have conceded that killing is not an action which is intrinsically wrong for human beings to perform: “there are rare circumstances where God can command killing for some greater good.” So that brings me back to my question about God’s commanding someone to inflict pain on another human being. In principle, the infliction of pain on another human being might prove to have a salutary effect on their spiritual well-being. And if (as Craig believes) God has a perfect knowledge of how each person would react to having pain inflicted on them, then God would know precisely which people would benefit from having pain inflicted on them. He would also know if those people would benefit more from having a human being (acting at His behest) inflict the pain on them, in lieu of His inflicting the pain Himself. Moreover, there seems to be no reason in principle why the salutary effects of pain inflicted at God’s command would cut out once the pain exceeds a certain level – say, 1,000 units (I don’t know how one measures pain, but I’m sure you remember the scene in 1984 where O’Brien turns the torture machine up to 3,000 volts).

    What this means is that in principle, if Craig is right, God could (under rare circumstances) command one human being to inflict any amount of pain on another human being. What’s more, that human being could even be a baby, if God (using His “middle knowledge” of what each of us would choose in every possible future) sees that it would be in the baby’s best long-term interests to be tortured.

    I think that’s a pretty disturbing moral implication of Craig’s theory, even if Craig doesn’t draw it himself. Don’t you?

  123. 123
    vjtorley says:

    anthropic,

    Thank you for your posts. You ask:

    If God has perfect foreknowledge of all our choices before we make them, how to explain Esther? Was the prophet lying when he told her that God had prepared plan B to save the Jews in case she didn’t step up? Did God deceive the prophet?

    If the answer to the last two questions is No, why in the world would God prepare a plan B since He knew it would not be needed?…

    Note the counterfactuals –If you remain silent (she didn’t) then deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place but you and your father’s house will perish.

    None of that happened. But the question remains, why mention these things if God knew Esther would step up? Why look for counterfactuals for an event that did not and could not happen?

    I believe that these verses actually support a Boethian view of free will (see my comment #53 above) rather than a Molinist view. For why would God need a plan B if He infallibly foreknew what Esther would choose to do when told about Haman’s evil plans? There would be no need to warn her that if she remained silent, then deliverance would arise for the Jews from another place, if God knew Esther would step up to the plate.

    In other words, what these verses suggest is that God’s knowledge that Esther would step up and rescue her people was ex post factonot in a temporal sense, but in a logical sense. That is, God knows what we will do because He is (timelessly) made aware of what we do, as a result of our making the choices that we do. It is precisely because God doesn’t know in advance (logically speaking) what each of us would do in every possible situation that God has to devise a Plan B, and maybe a plan C, D and E as well (including supernatural deliverance if all His human agents fail Him). Molinism, on the other hand, credits God with perfect counterfactual knowledge, so on this view (which Craig also accepts), there would never be a need for a plan B.

    I hope that answers your question. Cheers.

  124. 124
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    Some people have asked why a topic like this should even come up for discussion at Uncommon Descent. That’s a fair question – Intelligent Design is a science, after all. But one could argue that ethics too, albeit of a practical sort. Because the modern scientific method eschews norms (and final causes), ethics appears unscientific to modern eyes. But if one is willing to allow (as Aristotle would have done) that what is good for us is something written into our nature as human beings, then it follows that there could be unconditionally binding ethical norms, which it could never be good for us to violate.

    Here’s where the relevance to Intelligent Design comes in. According to some Intelligent Design arguments (e.g. Robin Collins’ version of the fine-tuning argument), the entire cosmos (by which I mean the multiverse, and not just our universe) is the product of an Intelligent Designer, Who therefore transcends the laws of space and time. In other words, if Intelligent esign is true, then a transcendent Creator is a live option. But (a skeptic might object), if such a Creator existed, He would be beholden to no-one, and would be able to command any human being to do anything. That in turn would make a mockery of the science of ethics. Consequently (the objection goes), we can make a reductio argument:

    1. If Intelligent Design theory is true, then a Transcendent Creator possibly exists.
    2. If a Transcendent Creator exists, there are no absolute ethical obligations.
    3. But there are absolute ethical obligations.
    4. Therefore a Transcendent Creator cannot possibly exist.
    5. Therefore Intelligent Design theory is false.

    Of course, I realize that the vast majority of skeptics wouldn’t accept premise 3 anyway, as they’re utilitarians (and usually act utilitarians at that). However, a skeptic who adhered to a naturalistic theory of ethics (say, a Kantian atheist, or an Ayn Rand-style objectivist who adheres to a broadly Aristotelian ethic) could argue in this fashion, and could invoke the above syllogism as an argument for refusing even to bother examining the scientific claims of Intelligent Design theory. Thus the scientific case for ID would never even get off the ground: such a skeptic would probably refuse to even listen to it.

    In order to get through to this skeptic, it is first necessary to deflate their logic. And to do that, one must show why the assumption that if a transcendent Creator existed, He would be beholden to no-one, and would be able to command any human being to do anything, is wrong. That in turn requires a careful and critical examination of the Divine command theory of ethics. One must be able to show that there are certain kinds of actions which an all-loving transcendent Creator could never command anyone to perform. And since it is at least plausible to suppose that a transcendent Creator would be all-loving, it follows that the claim that such a Creator could command any human being to do anything is false.

    It may be objected that one should examine the scientific claims of Intelligent Design first, in an impartial fashion, before making up their minds about its merits. In the real world, however, people seldom make up their minds in such a logical fashion. Many people think with their hearts first, rather than their heads. It is for that reason that I believe the post I wrote is relevant.

    Cheers.

  125. 125

    Hi Vjtorley

    We have established that Coyne’s suggestion that Craig is a voluntarist is incorrect.

    You write:

    You have conceded that killing is not an action which is intrinsically wrong for human beings to perform: “there are rare circumstances where God can command killing for some greater good.” So that brings me back to my question about God’s commanding someone to inflict pain on another human being. In principle, the infliction of pain on another human being might prove to have a salutary effect on their spiritual well-being. And if (as Craig believes) God has a perfect knowledge of how each person would react to having pain inflicted on them, then God would know precisely which people would benefit from having pain inflicted on them. He would also know if those people would benefit more from having a human being (acting at His behest) inflict the pain on them, in lieu of His inflicting the pain Himself. Moreover, there seems to be no reason in principle why the salutary effects of pain inflicted at God’s command would cut out once the pain exceeds a certain level – say, 1,000 units (I don’t know how one measures pain, but I’m sure you remember the scene in 1984 where O’Brien turns the torture machine up to 3,000 volts).
    What this means is that in principle, if Craig is right, God could (under rare circumstances) command one human being to inflict any amount of pain on another human being. What’s more, that human being could even be a baby, if God (using His “middle knowledge” of what each of us would choose in every possible future) sees that it would be in the baby’s best long-term interests to be tortured.
    I think that’s a pretty disturbing moral implication of Craig’s theory, even if Craig doesn’t draw it himself. Don’t you?

    I don’t think this argument works. The key question is this: is it possible for a God who is loving, just, impartial (i.e has all the character traits God is said to possess) to command the torture of children in the hypothetical situation you envisage.

    It seems to me you must answer either yes or no.

    If the answer is No, the a DCT does not allow the action to be morally permissible and so the “disturbing implication doesn’t follow.

    If the answer is yes, then your correct the theory entails that torture of a child is permissible, but note it entails this only under certain hypothetical circumstances, circumstances such that a, just , loving, impartial, person who was fully informed of the facts would endorse torturing a child, its under those hypothetical circumstances and only those hypothetical circumstances where torturing a child is permitted.
    The problem is nots not obvious to me that torturing a child would be morally wrong, under those circumstances . By hypothesis we have granted the circumstances are ones where the torture is not unjust and not unloving, where a doing it is compatible with being virtous, where just and impartial loving concern informed by all the facts mandates the action.

    The reason we oppose torturing children in the real world is because we believe in the real world these circumstances don’t hold, we don’t think its loving, just to do this and we don’t think any person with compassion or empathy who was concerned about justice and who has virtue would knowingly endorse the action. But these are precisely the facts that are said to not hold in the hypothetical situation.

    So I don’t think your response really introduces any problem for a DCT.

    Let me apply this point to your general question:

    But what I was asking was somthing different: is there any kind of action which is never justifiable for human beings to perform (with or without a Divine command) under any circumstances? That was what I meant by my condition number (2). In other words, is there any kind of action that would be intrinsically wrong for human beings to perform, full stop, and not just generally wrong?

    One can address this question by asking, is there any action which a person who is fully informed, rational, loving, just, virtous, would rule out as an option for us to do? If yes then a divine command theory entails that action is absolutely prohibited. If no, then, it seems to me we have good reasons for thinking that action is not intrinsically wrong.

    For the objection to create trouble you’d have to hold that its possible both for an action to be (a) endorsed by a fully informed, virtous, rational person who is loving and just and (b) morally wrong.

    I don’t think that is possible, I think once you grant the action can be (a) you cant sensibly say with confidence that it is (b) .

  126. 126
    phoodoo says:

    VJ,

    Your argument ends after statement number 1. None of the rest follows after that. Its doesn’t follow that if a creator exists, there are no absolute ethical obligations. Everything after this point is speculation based on the exact word you used, transcendent. It is beyond the limits of knowledge and experience, so making any conclusions based on knowledge which can’t be obtained is unnecessary and illogical.

    A transcendent intelligent creator may exist. That is all we can know.

    One’s own faith must take them beyond that. It is a personal belief based on one’s own intuition, nothing more or less. Saying the ethics of said creator belongs in the realm of ID science I believe is just plain wrong, and a disservice to the science that so many are working hard on. If people try to include the idea of the ethics of the creator into the discussion of Intelligent Design, I can understand perfectly well why many would object to ID being taught in schools.

    The ethics of a creator may well be a subject that is interesting to many here, but it has no more relevance to Intelligent Design, than do the topics of meditation, GMO foods, sports, or your favorite wines. Would you not be insulted to read Scientific American writing about Holy Water, and the meaning of the Rosary, or if Original Sin is true?

  127. 127
    the bystander says:

    Would you not be insulted to read Scientific American writing about Holy Water, and the meaning of the Rosary, or if Original Sin is true?
    No.I would love to see how they argue about it and contradict them

  128. 128
    Vishnu says:

    phoodoo,

    No, the difference is a matter of choice of individual souls (after their differentiation from Brahman.) All souls that choose to be incarnated on a dangerous planet such as earth do it with the full understanding of what the consequences may be. And gladly accept them. There is nobody else to “blame.” Thus no “problem” of “evil.”

    After that, the moral rules while here are part of the game. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but they relative to the sport, and are ultimately irrelevant, just like a touchdown or pass interference is ultimately irrelevant.

    The game is the universe of spacetime, in which there are many levels, and and one may choose to go thru many incarnations on many planets for various reasons and interests and activities. But when the game is over, there is nobody to “blame”, because cause ultimately, nobody “cares.” Game over. Time to go “back home” to Brahman, where all differentiation is gone, and all is bliss. We are all Brahman at play. That is to say, we are all Brahman “at sport” with “himself.”

  129. 129
    phoodoo says:

    Vishnu,

    You just demonstrated by example why ethics is a nonsense topic on an Intelligent Design-Biological sciences blog.

  130. 130
    jerry says:

    Thus no “problem” of “evil

    Yes and no.

    There is no evil in this world, only a continuum of unfortunate happenings that may be ordered from a slight stub of the toe to the horrible pain and suffering from losing your family or friends or your nation in very painful ways due to either natural or human means.

    But everything no matter how unpleasant one can describe it or think of it, is finite while the Christian God offers everyone something that dwarfs all the unpleasantness ever suffered by everyone. The real evil is the frustration of this not the pain and suffering experienced in this world.

    Thus there is no theodicy issue because there is no real evil unless we with our free wills choose it. That is if one believes in the Christian God. Someone once told me there is no unforgivable sin except the final rejection of God or what call final impenitence.

  131. 131
    Silver Asiatic says:

    You just demonstrated by example why ethics is a nonsense topic on an Intelligent Design-Biological sciences blog.

    It’s not a nonsense topic within evolutionary-biology. Ethical judgements exist. It is claimed they evolved via random/mechanical means, and are produced by physical processes.

    True or false?

  132. 132
    Silver Asiatic says:

    All souls that choose to be incarnated on a dangerous planet such as earth do it with the full understanding of what the consequences may be. And gladly accept them. There is nobody else to “blame.” Thus no “problem” of “evil.”

    This causes problems for compassion. If a person receives misfortune as his karma based on his own choices – which he gladly accepted – it would be wrong for someone else to alleviate that suffering since it would be taking away the necessary consequences of the choice.

    If there’s no problem of evil, then there’s no reason to remedy evils. If a person is born into suffering, it’s the consequence of individual choice. Thus, no reason to have compassion and mercy on that person since whatever evil we might perceive the person suffering is really not a problem and it is suffered gladly.

    I think that’s a lot like determinism.

  133. 133
    anthropic says:

    Q 112

    Mordecai is consistently portrayed in Esther as an observant, God-fearing man of great wisdom. If he is lying or deluded about his statements to Esther, it would be utterly out of character as established in the book. And, of course, his words are not contradicted in the scriptures.

    I think that given these facts, the burden of proof that his words are mistaken, wrong, deluded is very much on your side.

  134. 134
    anthropic says:

    VJ 124

    Thanks for the response! I’ll have to think about the difference between temporal and logical necessity. Interesting stuff…

  135. 135
    Vishnu says:

    phoodoo: You just demonstrated by example why ethics is a nonsense topic

    If you can demonstrate the nonsense, I’d be happy to listen. Otherwise, like any chimp, you’re just flinging, well, phoodoo

  136. 136
    Vishnu says:

    Silver Asiatic: This causes problems for compassion. If a person receives misfortune as his karma based on his own choices – which he gladly accepted – it would be wrong for someone else to alleviate that suffering since it would be taking away the necessary consequences of the choice.

    I think differently. Karma simply mean “effects.” The morality of the relative world is and always has been to decrease the karmic debt of oneself and others. If there is a Prime Directive of Brahman in his Lila of “sport”, this is it: love your neighbor as yourself. Sooner or later it all ends in this. But it ALWAYS takes a long long time.

    Settle in for the Long Ride.

  137. 137
    Querius says:

    anthropic@133 wrote:

    I think that given these facts, the burden of proof that his words are mistaken, wrong, deluded is very much on your side.

    Again, the words were recorded as Mordecai’s words, not God’s. Can’t a person have an opinion or belief without being judged as “lying,” or “mistaken, wrong, or deluded”?

    Why should I be forced to judge him? Half your opinions are probably wrong and I don’t judge you. 😉

    -Q

  138. 138
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The morality of the relative world is and always has been to decrease the karmic debt of oneself and others. If there is a Prime Directive of Brahman in his Lila of “sport”, this is it: love your neighbor as yourself.

    If there is debt, then there is responsibility. If there is a directive, then there is obedience or disobedience.
    If there is responsiblity, debt, directives and obedience – there is justice or injustice — and certainly someone to blame.

    As I see it, to say that there is ‘no “problem” of “evil”‘ in that system is contradictory or at least misleading.

  139. 139
    Querius says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    Great thought, nicely articulated!

    -Q

  140. 140
    Vishnu says:

    Silver Asiatic: If there is debt, then there is responsibility. If there is a directive, then there is obedience or disobedience. If there is responsiblity, debt, directives and obedience – there is justice or injustice — and certainly someone to blame. As I see it, to say that there is ‘no “problem” of “evil”‘ in that system is contradictory or at least misleading.

    The “good” and “evil” as I have explained is only in the context of the game of Lila, as goals and fouls are in football. It is only relative and transitory and not absolute. You apparently did not closely read what I wrote. Please read it carefully again.

  141. 141
    Querius says:

    Dionisio@57,

    Thank you for the general invitation to “A Third Way of Evolution.”

    Wow, your postings are very impressive, and your questions and knowledge in the area far exceeds anything that I could contribute to! Nevertheless, I’d find following a constructive discussion between you and your peers fascinating and worthwhile.

    I’d like to see more threads like it, distinguished perhaps by a set of prefixes in their titles.

    -Q

  142. 142
    phoodoo says:

    Vishnu,

    Sorry, no I can’t demonstrate the nonsense.

    And you also can’t demonstrate the nonsense, because no one can demonstrate the nonsense making proclamations about what exists in an unseen realm. Querius can’t demonstrate a single thing he says about the bible, or what he believes. You can’t demonstrate a thing about Vishnu or Brahmanism.

    You can not demonstrate that “The morality of the relative world is and always has been to decrease the karmic debt of oneself and others.”

    Jerry can not demonstrate: “But everything no matter how unpleasant one can describe it or think of it, is finite while the Christian God offers everyone something that dwarfs all the unpleasantness ever suffered by everyone.

    Querius can not demonstrate that Jesus said ” that you would be able to key a tree from its fruit, the results. He also said that his sheep would know his voice, which implies a personal revelation of some kind.”, He can not even demonstrate that there was someone named Jesus, unless he means Jesus Hernandez in Guadalajara.

    VJTorley can not demonstrate that “If a Transcendent Creator exists, there are no absolute ethical obligations.”

    None of this can be demonstrated, it never will be demonstrated, and it has ZERO to do with the subject of Intelligent Design. In fact, if ID is ever to be taken seriously in the science community, it absolutely can not involve, “what are the ethics of the creator?”

    It is not for us to know in this life.

  143. 143
    Graham2 says:

    phoodoo: A nicely expressed comment (my thoughts exactly). Except for that last line.

    Sigh.

  144. 144
    Querius says:

    phoodoo,

    Although it might be tedious, I can certainly demonstrate conclusively that the word “God” is not present in the book of Esther. 😉

    My Christian faith is not based on science or the scientific method. In fact, a lot of things in people’s lives, especially those that make life interesting and meaningful, are not based on scientific analysis. Love cannot be measured in Hertz (pun intended), curiosity cannot be weighed in grams. Science is a logical and systematic method of investigating our physical domain. As such it involves a subset of the human experience. Christianity includes spiritual, relational, historical (yes, most historians now accept the historicity of Yeshua Ha Natzeret), moral, and wisdom dimensions.

    But what does it have to do with science or the ID paradigm?

    In a scientific context there are three points of contact:

    1. The ID paradigm presupposing that unknown structures and phenomena have an underlying design. This view is pragmatic, being demonstratably better than the presumption of junk (think “junk” DNA, for example), but it’s not exclusively Christian.

    2. Christianity provides an ethical foundation for research and experimentation. Not everyone believes ethics are necessary—Josef Mengele certainly didn’t. Not everyone agrees with what those ethics should be. Can you demonstrate that they should be yours?

    3. Christianity provides a basis for behavioral norms in relationships with other people, particularly my colleagues. For example, “Thou shalt not steal” someone else’s research is an arbitrary social restriction on the survival of the fittest, but I adhere to it. Not everyone does.

    How can anyone know in this life?

    Well, there is undeniably a possibility that there really is a sentient God who chose to reveal himself to all humanity through the writings of ancient Hebrew prophets and through his only avatar, Jesus (to borrow a description used by my fellow believers in India).

    If this were true, how would you expect that you could find out without being coerced? Would you even want to know or would it cramp your style? Just something to think about.

    -Q

    p.s. Did you know that the first recorded scientific experiment dated about 600 BC is described in the Bible? Included is a hypothesis, a single variable, a control group, a set period of time, and an independent evaluation.

  145. 145
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Matthew Flanagan,

    Thank you for your response. You make a rather startling admission in your post, when you acknowledge the possibility that “under certain hypothetical circumstances, circumstances such that a just, loving, impartial, person who was fully informed of the facts would endorse torturing a child, it’s under those hypothetical circumstances and only those hypothetical circumstances where torturing a child is permitted.” You add that it’s “not obvious to me that torturing a child would be morally wrong, under those circumstances.” Finally, you argue that “[t]he reason we oppose torturing children in the real world is because we believe in the real world these circumstances don’t hold.”

    What you’ve just acknowledged is that the torture of an innocent child is not intrinsically immoral. It may be immoral in 99.999999999% of all possible situations, and it may even be immoral in 100% of all actual situations, but it isn’t immoral under all possible circumstances. And by extension, the same conclusion goes for any harmful or degrading that one human being might inflict on another: detonating a bomb in a crowded theater, for instance, or even raping someone. Theoretically, such an act could be justified, if Dr. Craig’s logic is correct.

    Now at this point you might ask: “Does this matter? You and I both now that in real life, God is never going to ask us to do any of these things anyway.” True. But the real point at stake here is what makes an act morally justifiable. You evidently believe that an action is justified if it is endorsed by a “just, loving, impartial, person who was fully informed of the facts,” where “the facts” include the long-term (spiritual) consequences for that person, after taking into account the choices that he/she would make if the action were carried out.

    At first sight, it seems eminently reasonable to say that an action is right if it’s the sort of action that an all-just, all-loving, impartial and omniscient person would endorse. Who could argue with that? But what’s doing the work here is what the omniscient person knows: namely, the consequences of the action, given the choices that this particular person in this particular situation would make. Consequences and counterfactuals relating to a particular person in a particular situation – that’s what determines the morality of the action. And that is the vital point which you miss when you contend that Craig’s version of the Divine Command Theory of ethics is in trouble only if I can show that “it’s possible both for an action to be (a) endorsed by a fully informed, virtous, rational person who is loving and just and (b) morally wrong.” It’s not just the loving, virtuous character of the person that determines the morality of the action; it’s also the information about the consequences of the act, given the choices that the people affected by the act would make, which determines whether the act is right or wrong. In other words, deontological natural law is out the window: we can no longer look at an act and say that by its very nature, such an act is bad (or good). Instead, what we have is a God’s-eye version of consequentialism and situation ethics. At least from God’s perspective, acts – no matter how heinous they may appear to be – can be justified by appealing to the long-term consequences, which means that as far as God is concerned, the end justifies the means. Also, since the consequences of an act vary dramatically from one person to another (because the choices you would make are likely to be very different from the choices I would make), there can be no universal moral norms – only general indicators. At best, all we can say is that there is a very strong presumption that this kind of act (e.g. torture of the innocent) is wrong, and that it can only be justified in very exceptional circumstances.

    My point is that if we accept this conclusion, then we no longer have a theory of natural law ethics; we just have a bunch of general guidelines, which we’re willing to jettison if reliable information comes to hand that they need to be jettisoned. The “reliable information” in question would presumably be a series of revelations from the Almighty, or one of His angels. And while these revelations might be public signs, they need not be, in principle: they could be private visions which the seer found totally convincing (perhaps because of the uncanny accuracy of the information that was communicated in those visions).

    Now, I have been down this path. Just a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Lydia McGrew wrote an excellent piece on her blog, “Extra Thoughts,” titled, “No magic bullet–Copan’s insufficient answer to the slaughter of the Canaanites” at http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot......cient.html (Friday, August 22, 2014). In the course of defending the morality of the slaughter in that one-off situation (see the comments on the post), I was even willing to argue that consequentialism, from a God’s-eye point of view, might be OK, and that for God at least, the end justifies the means. I also pointed out that we could surely envisage fates worse than death, and that the killing of innocents could conceivably be justified in cases where one was certain – and with good reason (e.g. a revelation from on high) – that an even worse fate would befall these innocents, were they to live. I was not willing, however, to consider the possibility that God could ever command the torture of innocent human beings – which is why I stipulated that if they were killed at God’s behest, then God must have somehow rendered them unconscious, so that they experienced neither pain nor dread when they were killed. For me, torture was beyond the pale.

    Now that I have come to realize that Dr. William Lane Craig’s version of the Divine Command theory of ethics allows for the theoretical possibility of God’s commanding one person to torture another human being, I feel obliged to publicly oppose it. On a personal level, I will say that the believing that torture could be justified, and being mentally and emotionally prepared to inflict torture if commanded by God to do so, is profoundly dehumanizing – and demoralizing as well. Don’t believe me? Just try walking around for a day, telling yourself, “If God were to command me to torture someone, then yes, I would do it.” You’ll go bananas, and you’ll lose your moral sensitivity in the process. One of my personal maxims is that one should never adopt a belief, if holding that belief makes you either crazy or callous. You’ll lose your own humanity in the process – and that’s the most precious thing you’ve got.

    Getting back to Dr. Craig’s theory: what’s the vital premise that’s doing all the damage, here? I think it’s the Molinist premise that in every possible situation, there’s one and only one choice that each of us would make, and that God (Who knows everything that can be known) knows that choice. But if there is no such choice, then there is nothing for God to know, and God cannot justify a course of action by appealing to counterfactuals about how that action would benefit the person affected, by altering the choices that they would make.

    In other words, it’s not the “Divine command” part of Craig’s theory that I object to. It’s his strong view of Divine omniscience that really does the damage. Molinism plus DCT is a fatal ethical concoction.

    Getting back to Dr. Lydia McGrew’s blog post: there is something profoundly dehumanizing in the enterprise of justifying an act by its consequences. For it is not the consequences which justify an act, but the attitude of heart and mind on the part of the person performing them, which renders an act good or bad. And to say that some acts are intrinsically bad is to say that some acts cannot be performed by a person with the right attitude – namely, one in which each and every human being is seen as an end-in-themselves, and not merely as a means to an end.

    And that brings me to another vital point on which I disagree with Dr. Craig. He maintains that God has no duties to us whatsoever, as we (being mere creatures) have no claim on our Creator. I maintain, on the contrary, that God does have duties towards us, and that He voluntarily assumes those duties in the act of creating each and every human being. Since God is our Father, He has the duty to care for us as a parent would. That doesn’t mean that He should step in to right every wrong; in the short term, His ability to do so may be constrained by conflicting duties towards otehr moral agents in the cosmos. But it does mean that it is not God’s prerogative to do with us as He thinks fit. If He were to annihilate us, for instance, that would not only be unloving but also unjust. No limitation is placed on God’s sovereignty by saying that He has duties to us, as He freely assumed those duties in the act of creating us.

    It isn’t just Dr. Craig I disagree with here; it’s also St. Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica I-II q. 94 art. 5, (reply to objection 2), Aquinas argues that since everything (including people, their spouses and their goods) ultimately belongs to God, God can justly order us to kill, have sex with people we’re not married to, and confiscate their property:

    Reply to Objection 2. All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of nature: which death of nature is inflicted by the power of God on account of original sin, according to 1 Samuel 2:6: “The Lord killeth and maketh alive.” Consequently, by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever. In like manner adultery is intercourse with another’s wife; who is allotted to him by the law emanating from God. Consequently intercourse with any woman, by the command of God, is neither adultery nor fornication. The same applies to theft, which is the taking of another’s property. For whatever is taken by the command of God, to Whom all things belong, is not taken against the will of its owner, whereas it is in this that theft consists.

    Although Aquinas does not say so, the above logic would justify rape (forced sex) as well, at the command of God. The ethically poisonous premise underlying Aquinas’ logic here is that everything – people, spouses and goods – belongs to God, Who can dispose of what He owns as He thinks fit. But if we are not God’s chattels, but God’s children, then not only could God never command rape, but He would be acting unjustly if He did so – and we would also be acting unjustly, if we carried out His command.

    For several years, I have bent over backwards, intellectually speaking, in an attempt to rationalize the slaughter of the Canaanites. I now think it is more important for me to hang on to the ethical intuitions I’ve got, as the psychological effects of trying to justify the conduct I’m alluding to are corrosive: they lead to hardening of the heart.

    I hope this makes my position clearer. Cheers.

  146. 146
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Vishnu #140

    I said:

    If there’s no problem of evil, then there’s no reason to remedy evils.

    It was in response to your comments:

    the moral rules while here … are ultimately irrelevant

    But when the game is over, there is nobody to “blame”, because cause ultimately, nobody “cares.”

    If they’re irrelevant and ultimately, nobody cares – then its a game with no ultimate meaning. I don’t think you can say people should be compassionate and “if there is a Prime Directive of Brahman” it is to love your neighbor as yourself — and at the same time say it’s ultimately irrelevant and nobody cares.

    I mean you can say it, but if the game is irrelevant, then there is reason to follow the directive. If you’ve chosen to live in this dangerous world, the consequences are yours. Ultimately, I would have no need or reason to help you.

  147. 147
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Thanks, Querius!

  148. 148
    Vishnu says:

    Silver Asiatic, If they’re irrelevant and ultimately, nobody cares – then its a game with no ultimate meaning.

    There is no ultimate meaning, except that it’s fun and frightening and interesting. Like a roller coaster. And nobody is forced to participate. Once you join the game they have to see it all the way through, sort of like strapping in to a roller coaster.

    I don’t think you can say people should be compassionate and “if there is a Prime Directive of Brahman” it is to love your neighbor as yourself — and at the same time say it’s ultimately irrelevant and nobody cares.

    The effects of Karma are part of the game. Love shortens one’s Karma. You could say that a big part of the game is to experiences various things then get to the point of wanting to undo your Karmic inbalance. But only if you chooses. You can choose to do harm and increase your Karmic “debt” within the game. This is your choice also.

    I mean you can say it, but if the game is irrelevant, then there is reason to follow the directive. If you’ve chosen to live in this dangerous world, the consequences are yours. Ultimately, I would have no need or reason to help you.

    You would seek to love if you were seeking to shorten your Karmic “debt” within the game.

    The game lasts a long time. Eventually it ends for all souls and there return to Brahman, because you are Brahman. Then a new game begins.

  149. 149
    Silver Asiatic says:

    You would seek to love if you were seeking to shorten your Karmic “debt” within the game.

    But you can exit the game any time you want and your debt is wiped out. For those suffering severely, life is not fun. For those not suffering, there apparently is no karmic debt to shorten, thus no reason to love anyone.

    It also risks making love utilitarian. We would love for the sake of debt-reduction. There’s no way to check what the precise debt-balance is either. If I have a low balance, it can be paid off easily – thus, no reason to do anything more for anyone else.

    I don’t think this gets rid of the problem of evil. There’s still a balance sheet with lots of inequality and injustice and no way for anyone living to know how much they owe or how much benefit they get from helping someone else.

    The fact that it’s a game meant for amusement removes any real incentives.

    In cosmological terms, the game had to come from somewhere. The rules came from a rule-maker. The system of debts and payments had some origin.

  150. 150
    Vishnu says:

    Silver Asiatic: But you can exit the game any time you want and your debt is wiped out.

    No you can’t. Once you join the game, it’s like strapping yourself into a roller coaster. You have to see the game through to the end, although there are ways of shortening your participation, and thereby “getting off” earlier. Love, compassion, service for others, are ways of achieving that. Some souls do not want to leave the game early. Some do. It may take many incarnations are various levels to achieve. But you joined the game and agreed to see it through to your completion. Everyone did. Knowing the joys and dangers that you will inevitably encounter.

  151. 151

    Vj Torley.

    I think you have misread what I wrote above. You state

    What you’ve just acknowledged is that the torture of an innocent child is not intrinsically immoral. It may be immoral in 99.999999999% of all possible situations, and it may even be immoral in 100% of all actual situations, but it isn’t immoral under all possible circumstances. And by extension, the same conclusion goes for any harmful or degrading that one human being might inflict on another: detonating a bomb in a crowded theater, for instance, or even raping someone. Theoretically, such an act could be justified, if Dr. Craig’s logic is correct.

    But that’s not what I said at all, above I proposed a dilemma: I said either its is possible for a loving and just fully informed virtuous impartial person to demand I torture a child or this is not possible. If the latter a DCT, does not entail that God could command this. If the former then torture is not intrinsically wrong because there are possible situations where knowingly commanding it is compatible with being loving, just virtuous and so on.

    Note the conditionals here.As you’ll know, claiming that one thing follows if another is true does not commit me to claiming the antecedent of this conditional is true nor does claiming that one thing is the case or the other is does not commit me to holding either disjunct. So I never claimed it was possible for a loving and just person to endorse those actions, nor did I claim it was possible for them to be not wrong.

    At first sight, it seems eminently reasonable to say that an action is right if it’s the sort of action that an all-just, all-loving, impartial and omniscient person would endorse. Who could argue with that? But what’s doing the work here is what the omniscient person knows: namely, the consequences of the action, given the choices that this particular person in this particular situation would make. …It’s not just the loving, virtuous character of the person that determines the morality of the action; it’s also the information about the consequences of the act, given the choices that the people affected by the act would make, which determines whether the act is right or wrong.

    This is simply a non sequitur, it does not follow from the claim that an action is endorsed by an all-just, all-loving, virtous, impartial and omniscient person would endorse an action that, the person endorses it because of its consequences. Obviously an omniscient person will know all the consequences, as well as every other non-moral fact, but whether these facts are what determines the decision will depend on whether or not they are relevant to a person who has the character traits in question. No substantive claim about whether that is the case or not is entailed by the concept of a loving and just person.

    In other words, deontological natural law is out the window: we can no longer look at an act and say that by its very nature, such an act is bad (or good). Instead, what we have is a God’s-eye version of consequentialism and situation ethics. At least from God’s perspective, acts – no matter how heinous they may appear to be – can be justified by appealing to the long-term consequences, which means that as far as God is concerned, the end justifies the means…. there can be no universal moral norms – only general indicators. At best, all we can say is that there is a very strong presumption that this kind of act (e.g. torture of the innocent) is wrong, and that it can only be justified in very exceptional circumstances.

    As I note above the fact an act is endorsed by a “loving and just, virtuous fully informed rational person doesn’t entail its endorsed solely because of its consequences.

    But even if it did, your suggestion this entails situationism and there are only “general indicators” is false.

    First there are other consequentialist theories such as rule utilitarianism which allow for universal and absolute rules which don’t have the situationist consquences you mention, these rules can be as strong as any Kantian account is.

    And second there is a modal confusion here. If it’s possible that a loving and just person could endorse torture, then it follows there is a possible world in which torture is right. It doesn’t follow that there are situations in the actual world where he does so, it could still be the case that in the actual world a loving and just person would never endorse it which would entail it was absolutely prohibited in the actual world.

    Thirdly, I think you misunderstand natural law theory here. Natural law theory is a teleological view of ethics. On the standard view of Aquinas actions are prohibited on the basis that they procure the common good, and enhance human flourishing. This is in fact a form of consequentialism.

    What I think you are suggesting here is that Kantian type theories are ruled out, but even this doesn’t follow. On a standard deontological Kantian view, moral requirements are categorical requirements of reason. So, unless you have already ruled Kantianism out as false from the outset, it doesn’t follow that a perfectly rational person will not endorse Kantian style deontological rules.

    Now that I have come to realize that Dr. William Lane Craig’s version of the Divine Command theory of ethics allows for the theoretical possibility of God’s commanding one person to torture another human being, I feel obliged to publicly oppose it. On a personal level, I will say that the believing that torture could be justified, and being mentally and emotionally prepared to inflict torture if commanded by God to do so, is profoundly dehumanizing – and demoralizing as well. Don’t believe me? Just try walking around for a day, telling yourself, “If God were to command me to torture someone, then yes, I would do it.” You’ll go bananas, and you’ll lose your moral sensitivity in the process.

    I have rebutted that argument here. http://www.mandm.org.nz/2013/0.....ncies.html. Its incoherent.

    But, First as I noted above, I never allowed for the possibility that God could command torture. I simply looked at what followed if a being with the attributes he has did.

    Second, As I point out in the above link, in fact every meta-ethical and normative ethical theory has the implication you refer to Consider utilitarianism: the theory that an action is obligatory if it maximizes happiness and good. It follows from this that if torture maximizes happiness, torture is obligatory. Similar things apply with Kantianism: the view that an action is obligatory if and only if it is categorically prescribed by reason. It follows that if torture is categorically prescribed by reason then it is obligatory to torture. The same is true with virtue ethics, the view that an action is obligatory if and only if, it would be performed by a virtuous person. It follows that if a virtuous person would torture then torture is obligatory. The same is true with natural law theory, natural law theory entails that if it was in accord with natural law to torture then torture is ok.

    Let P be any property one considers to be identical with the property of being obligatory. It will be true that this meta-ethical theory entails that if P is possessed by the action torturing children then torturing children is obligatory.

    And to say that some acts are intrinsically bad is to say that some acts cannot be performed by a person with the right attitude – namely, one in which each and every human being is seen as an end-in-themselves, and not merely as a means to an end.

    This actually undermines your objection. Remember we are talking about wether its possible for God, a perfectly virtuous, fully informed rational person would command torture. If God is perfectly virtuous, then anything he endorses will by definition be performed by a person with the right attitude. So if its impossible for a person with the right attitude to endorse torture its impossible for God to command it, on a non voluntaristic DCT.

    On the otherhand if there are possible circumstances in which God would command torture (as you argue) then its possible for a person who has the right attitude to command torture and so it’s not intrinsically wrong by your own definition.

    But it does mean that it is not God’s prerogative to do with us as He thinks fit. If He were to annihilate us, for instance, that would not only be unloving but also unjust.

    This doesn’t refute Craig because Craig’s theory is that our duties are constituted by what a loving and just God would command so he would agree that God can’t act unjustly.

    Where I think the issue lies is whether this claim is incompatible with the claim that he has a prerogative to do whatever he likes, and this seems to be to be false. Its possible for a person to have the right to do something and yet still not do it due to a just disposition.

    Consider a parliamentary democracy like New Zealand or the UK, which has a relatively just laws. Such a government is clearly possible. Now given this parliament has just laws, it follows the government is just and acts justly and with reasonable restraint, it may well be unthinkable for any ruling party in such a system to seriously consider say arbitrary execution of political opponents. Yet it will still be true that under the rule of parliamentary sovereignty parliament have the legal right to pass any law they like, that’s there prerogative. This shows its possible for a person ( or legal person) to be both (a) just and (b) have a prerogative to do what they like.

    It isn’t just Dr. Craig I disagree with here; it’s also St. Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica I-II q. 94 art. 5,…
    Although Aquinas does not say so, the above logic would justify rape (forced sex) as well, at the command of God. The ethically poisonous premise underlying Aquinas’ logic here is that everything – people, spouses and goods – belongs to God, Who can dispose of what He owns as He thinks fit. But if we are not God’s chattels, but God’s children, then not only could God never command rape, but He would be acting unjustly if He did so – and we would also be acting unjustly, if we carried out His command.

    Sure, there is a long tradition of interpretation which states God can, on rare occasions, grant exemptions to the moral rule against killing the innocent. : Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Duns Scotus, Gabriel Biel, William of Ockham, John Calvin, Francis Turretin, Peirre d’Ailly, and Paul Althaus all held that God could grant dispensations from the divine law.

    But note again your misrepresenting Craig as claiming that God can treat us however he likes even if doing so is unjust. That’s the kind of voluntaristic DCT he doesn’t hold.

    Craig’s view is that while God has no duty to treat us anyway, because he is essentially loving and just its logically impossible for him to issue cruel or unjust commands. That’s why he states explicitly that God cant issue a general command that killing is permissible, or issue commands that contradict the notion that killing is in most normal circumstances wrong. His position is that because God is loving and just he could only exempt an individual from the obligation of the law on highly unusual situations where there was some greater good at stake.

    The claim that its logically impossible for God to do X is different from the claim it violates a duty for God to do X. This is what people like Coyne, Harris and others who press this argument fail to grasp. One can claim that Gits logically impossible for God to issue unjust commands without claiming he is under an obligation or duty to refrain from doing so.

  152. 152
    jerry says:

    Jerry can not demonstrate: “But everything no matter how unpleasant one can describe it or think of it, is finite while the Christian God offers everyone something that dwarfs all the unpleasantness ever suffered by everyone.

    I can demonstrate that all so called evils are finite. It is part of Christianity that there is an infinite reward. That can be demonstrated too.

    The purpose of the statement is to show that Coyne can not use so called evil happenings against the Christian God. This is the theodicy issue. The theodicy issue fails against the Christian God by logic. He can argue against another type of God but not the Christian God.

    One can say that I have not demonstrated there is a Christian God, but that was not the question. But given the Christian God and the fact that all so called evils are finite, the theodicy argument fails.

  153. 153
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Matt Flanagan,

    Thank you for your post. The reason why I haven’t responded sooner is that I’ve been having computer problems. I’m at an Internet cafe now, so I’m afraid this will have to be brief.

    In your post #125, you considered the question: “is it possible for a God who is loving, just, impartial (i.e has all the character traits God is said to possess) to command the torture of children in the hypothetical situation you envisage.” You considered two possibilities: yes and no, and you wrote:

    If the answer is No, the a DCT does not allow the action to be morally permissible and so the disturbing implication doesn’t follow.

    If the answer is yes, then you’re correct: the theory entails that torture of a child is permissible, but note: it entails this only under certain hypothetical circumstances, circumstances such that a just, loving, impartial, person who was fully informed of the facts would endorse torturing a child; it’s under those hypothetical circumstances and only those hypothetical circumstances where torturing a child is permitted.

    The problem is it’s not obvious to me that torturing a child would be morally wrong, under those circumstances.

    That last sentence of yours (which I have highlighted) was reason why I interpreted you as cautiously endorsing a “yes” answer to your question. However, you now assure me that you were not endorsing a “yes” answer. At the same time, you are unwilling to declare that torture is wrong under all possible circumstances. So I stand corrected; but I’ll have to assume that you are genuinely undecided on the question of whether there are some possible circumstances under which torture is justifiable.

    I might add, however, that I find it rather odd that you are willing to declare that taking the life of an innocent child is justifiable under some extreme circumstances, but that you are not willing to say the same for torturing an innocent child. I would like to ask: why?

    In your recent post #151, you write:

    I think you misunderstand natural law theory here. Natural law theory is a teleological view of ethics. On the standard view of Aquinas actions are prohibited on the basis that they procure the common good, and enhance human flourishing. This is in fact a form of consequentialism.

    I’m afraid you are labouring under a misunderstanding. Aquinas’ reasoning looks consequentialist, but it’s not. The logic is as follows. First, universal ethical norms are grounded in our natures. (What else could they be grounded in?) Second, in order to identify what’s natural, you have to ascertain what holds true of human beings, or is conducive to human flourishing, all or most of the time – the idea that if it holds true always or nearly always, then it cannot be accidental and so must be natural. Finally, the norm is ethically binding not in virtue of its leading to good results all or most of the time, but in virtue of its being a statement about one of our natural ends. Observations of what leads to human flourishing simply enable us to identify those ends; the flourishing isn’t the reason why the norm is binding.

    You add:

    As I point out in the above link, in fact every meta-ethical and normative ethical theory has the implication you refer to Consider utilitarianism: the theory that an action is obligatory if it maximizes happiness and good. It follows from this that if torture maximizes happiness, torture is obligatory. Similar things apply with Kantianism: the view that an action is obligatory if and only if it is categorically prescribed by reason. It follows that if torture is categorically prescribed by reason then it is obligatory to torture. The same is true with virtue ethics, the view that an action is obligatory if and only if, it would be performed by a virtuous person. It follows that if a virtuous person would torture then torture is obligatory. The same is true with natural law theory, natural law theory entails that if it was in accord with natural law to torture then torture is ok.

    I’m afraid this doesn’t follow. If the antecedent is logically (or by definition) impossible, then the consequent doesn’t follow, and hence could never hold true in any possible world. That’s the kind of ethical theory I’m looking for: one which makes killing the innocent and torture wrong by definition. How? Well, if (i) human beings are ends in themselves, as many deontological ethical theories hold, and (ii) human beings have libertarian free will, so that it is impossible to say about what choices they would (freely) make in this or that set of circumstances, then it follows that killing the innocent cannot be justified by appealing to (i) the greater good (as utilitarians do) or (ii) the long-term well-being of the individual involved (as Craig does, by appealing to counterfactuals relating to the bad choices the individuals would have made had they lived. The same goes for torture.

    You add:

    It’s possible for a person to have the right to do something and yet still not do it due to a just disposition…
    One can claim that it’s logically impossible for God to issue unjust commands without claiming he is under an obligation or duty to refrain from doing so.

    I’m afraid this doesn’t make sense, if we’re talking about moral rights (as I assume we are). By the way, your example relating to the New Zealand parliament is not germane here, as it relates to legal rights as opposed to moral rights.

    If I have a moral right to do something then by definition, I do not act unjustly if I do it. And if a command would be unjust for God to issue, then by definition, it would be unjust to someone. In that case, someone is wronged by that command, and God has a moral duty to that person, not to issue that command.

    Well, my time is up. Got to go.

  154. 154
    E.Seigner says:

    VJT

    Getting back to Dr. Lydia McGrew’s blog post: there is something profoundly dehumanizing in the enterprise of justifying an act by its consequences. For it is not the consequences which justify an act, but the attitude of heart and mind on the part of the person performing them, which renders an act good or bad. And to say that some acts are intrinsically bad is to say that some acts cannot be performed by a person with the right attitude – namely, one in which each and every human being is seen as an end-in-themselves, and not merely as a means to an end.

    […]

    For several years, I have bent over backwards, intellectually speaking, in an attempt to rationalize the slaughter of the Canaanites. I now think it is more important for me to hang on to the ethical intuitions I’ve got, as the psychological effects of trying to justify the conduct I’m alluding to are corrosive: they lead to hardening of the heart.

    Justifying the morality of an act solely by consequences is called consequentialism. Judging the morality of an act solely by the attitude of heart and mind of the perpetrator may collapse into modern individualist relativism. In my view, morality and ethics in natural theology are a complex framework where individual motives, consequences of the act to everyone involved, broader social sense of justice, logical support for what is “natural” and what is God’s command are all considered.

    Slaughter of the Canaanites falls into perspective when we consider the kind of religion that Canaanites had, when we consider that the Israelites had arrived to claim the Promised Land promised to them by God, and when we consider the general way conquests occurred in Bronze Age. Canaanite religion would inevitably end up corrupting Israelites (in the desert years Israelites showed tendency to religious self-corruption even without any outside influence) and Canaanites naturally wouldn’t adopt the Israelite religion just so, so they couldn’t remain in the land.

    From the Canaanite point of view, politically the situation was an invasion and in religious sense it was a battle between tribal gods. In terms of Bronze Age mentality, it would have been a sign of fatal weakness if Yahweh didn’t decisively establish his own superiority. From the Israelite point of view, God’s command of genocide against Canaanites was a direct extension to the promise concerning the Promised Land, and fit the general Bronze Age tribal mentality.

    An alternative to direct genocide would have been expulsion. This would either simply postpone the death of Canaanites as they travel to other hostile lands or, if they managed to settle elsewhere, their folklore would carry a grudge against Israelites (they would even have a narrative of exodus to counter Israelite narrative) and this would become a continuous threat to Israel which might actualize as a war in some generation when Canaanites become strong again.

    Lydia and other Christians are particularly pained over the fate of the Canaanite children, who were ordered to be killed by Moses. But even this command falls into perspective, when one considers that Canaanite religion included child sacrifice. Had the Canaanites been expelled, the children would have either died more painfully or, if survived, they would carry the national narrative of exodus and become a potential threat to Israel later.

    Another small thing I’d like to point out is that in case of expulsion, Canaanite deaths would be Canaanite responsibility, which would add more to their already heavy burden. In case of direct genocide however, it would be the responsibility of Israelites to bury the dead.

    In the end, while it may seem utterly demoralizing for us to read about these things, then considering the entire context there was not much choice. Also, considering the general Bronze Age mentality, it was perhaps not so demoralizing for Israelites to carry out these commands. Quite possibly perceived it differently than we do in our days. Moreover, the price of acquiring the Promised Land perhaps induced the Israelites to value their new home more.

    Let’s also consider what actually happened. Israelites didn’t kill all Canaanites as methodically as commanded, but instead mixed with them. Consequently, Israelite mode of worship was corrupted and the land and the people fell into God’s disfavor many times over the history. All this serves to put the genocidal command at least into some perspective, if not completely justify it.

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