Intelligent Design

Stolen Obligations: Why do atheists care about truth, reason or morality?

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Truth, rationality, and morality under naturalism, are irrelevant commodities, in and of themselves. The naturalist’s (atheistic materialist’s) concern with truth, reason and morality are stolen obligations – obligations that are not derivable from naturalism.

If minds are the computed product of physics, they output whatever they output.  There is no ideal form, perfection, or “truth” outside of what physics produces in any particular instance to compare what physics produces against.  Whatever any individual computation of physics outputs with the label “rational” attached is the natural limit of what can be termed “rational”.  There’s nothing the individual can compare it against; they are stuck with their own ruler and no means by which to check its length.  What is considered “true” can be both X and not-X.

Similarly, morality is just whatever physics says it is.  Like a computer programmed to output “3” when asked “what is 1 + 1”, the computer is not in error, it is simply producing the output determined by its program.  “3” is only an “error” if one assumes there is some standard outside of that program by which to judge it; under naturalism, there is not. If the physics ends up in some case saying it is moral to behead infidels, then it is moral in that case; if in some other case it says it is immoral to do so, then it is immoral in that case.  Under naturalism, what is moral can be both X and not-X; there is no absolute arbiter.

Under naturalism, truth, reason and morality are all relative, subjective commodities (being entirely mental phenomena), housed in a mind produced by forces unconcerned with truth, reason and morality, generated by a process only “concerned” with reproductive success.  At the very core, mind cannot be said to have anything whatsoever to do with reason, truth or morality; those are just titles we assign to various output as our particular individual physics commands as those physics pursue reproductive success.

Which brings up the question: why do atheists, materialists and naturalists care whether or not their arguments are rational? Why do they care if what others say is untrue?  Why are they concerned with appearing to be “moral” or to have moral cares and considerations? Why bother with any of that at all, considering that the basis of their existence is not assumed to be about any of those things, nor is their any intrinsic reason to care about them under their paradigm?

If life is fundamentally about reproductive success, what’s the point of caring about truth, reason or morality, per se?  I find it odd that under a paradigm where those things have no intrinsic or ultimate value in and of themselves, many atheists go to great lengths to demonstrate they are more moral, more rational, and more truthful than theists. Why? Who cares? Are there points being scored somewhere for being moral, truthful, or rational?

No, under atheism/materialism/naturalism, the only points being scored are for producing children, and statistics show that atheists produce less children than theists (something they are often proud of, strangely enough).  However, they don’t seem to have read the memo.  They still argue and act as if they have some kind of binding, necessary obligation to truth, reason, and morality.

228 Replies to “Stolen Obligations: Why do atheists care about truth, reason or morality?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM: Always good to see you posting. Sobering issue. Grounding on a worldview basis. Some of course try to suggest worldviews are all equally groundless so shrug and walk away. Not so, hence the significance of self evident first truths and first principles of right reason, as a cornerstone to a worldview foundation that per comparative difficulties, coherence and anchor-points and lines, is finite [no infinite regresses] with coherence and superior explanatory scope, power and elegance multiplied by a due recognition and distinction of what is self evident and certain from what is plausible and empirically reliable but provisional, that avoids circularity, also. KF

  2. 2
    nightlight says:

    The article conflates non-belief in god with non-belief in anything. Belief in laws of nature can be, depending on postulated laws, behaviorally indistinguishable from any ethical system. Any scientific system postulates set of laws from which it deduces (constructs, weaves) the rest of phenomena, hence belief is a more general concept than god. Conflating the two is an attempt to co-opt the concept of general ‘belief’ into service of religious priesthoods.

    Keep also in mind the “laws of nature” need not be what the current science postulates, just as the present science is quite different to what ancients thought it to be. The current science is fundamentally inadequate since, among others, it lacks a model for the most elemental fact of existence, the “mind stuff”. As with religious priesthoods hijacking the spiritual aspects of existence, the science has attracted its own parasitic layer, the ‘scientific priesthoods’ (self-serving, mutual back-patting societies). The latter is evident in any field one becomes familiar with.

  3. 3

    The article conflates non-belief in god with non-belief in anything.

    Obviously not, since “naturalism” is a belief.

    One can believe it is important to tell the truth and be an atheist/naturalist; the question is that given atheism/naturalism, why should they?

  4. 4
    jerry says:

    I have a lot of pet theories or pet observations. One of them is that the most interesting thing about the evolution debate is the behavior of the individuals engaged in it. I often have made the concurrent observation that I have never found an honest Darwinist or pro naturalistic evolution person in this debate except one.

    The anti-ID people are certainly not interested in truth. They are certainly not willing to admit that those they disagree with them have a rational argument except for some peripheral issues that has nothing to do with the basic discussion. Then to show how rational and agreeable they are will bend over backwards to agree with you. If you make an embarrassing point to their argument, they will not acknowledge it. But in a sense they do by their very direct non-reply.

    I find them rational in the sense that is easy to see their minds at work. They immediately seek to find some shortcoming in one’s argument as opposed to dealing with the over all strength of one’s point. They are clever at distractions, diversions, using words in senses other than meant for the debate (witness the times they disrupt a discussion by misrepresenting what the terms intelligence, information, macro-evolution, life etc. mean.)

    I often wonder what drives them. Why are they here making such absurd arguments? They cannot possibly believe them. What do they hope to accomplish?

    Of course if they are right and everything is determined, they cannot help themselves. In fact there is no self to really help.

  5. 5
    nightlight says:

    Obviously not, since “naturalism” is a belief.

    It conflates them by shifting the boundary between general ‘belief’ and ‘belief in god’, by narrowing down the former to some sterile, mechanistic caricature, a strawman, labeled ‘naturalism’, leaving the rest as ‘god domain’.

    One can believe it is important to tell the truth and be an atheist/naturalist; the question is that given atheism/naturalism, why should they?

    Disregarding the caricature labeling, if one understands the laws of universe as manifestation of intelligent (computational) harmonization process of particular kind (explained in earlier thread), the ethics resulting from following the “exceptional path” (to immortality) is behaviorally indistinguishable from the most “saintly path” of any religion.

  6. 6
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    nightlight: the ethics resulting from following the “exceptional path” (to immortality) is behaviorally indistinguishable from the most “saintly path” of any religion.

    Is there some path I can follow today that will give me immortality? If so, sign me up. Otherwise, why should I not “eat, drink and be merry, and do whatever the hell else I want, even kill you, if it makes me happy, for tomorrow we die” ?

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    It all hinges on the word, ‘(if one) understands’, doesn’t it?’

    To my mind, it takes a degree of serious mental impairment to use as one’s premise, Unintelligent Design (or however you may wish to describe the alternative(s) to ID), and then construct an enormous, erudite, highly technical edifice thereupon. In short, to ‘understand’ what is intrinsically nonsense would seem to require a corresponding want of sense.

    Shades of J M Keynes’ response to a book written by Hayek, based on false assumptions:

    ‘The book, as it stands, seems to me to be one of the most frightful muddles I have ever read, with scarcely a sound proposition in it beginning with page 45 [Hayek provided historical background up to page 45; after that came his theoretical model], and yet it remains a book of some interest, which is likely to leave its mark on the mind of the reader. It is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in bedlam.

    On Friedrich Hayek’s Prices and Production, in Collected Writings, vol. XII, p. 252’ – from Wikiquotes.

    I do a similar thing myself a good deal of the time, albeit in a much less erudite vein than your good self, and not in terms of a deficiency in my premises, but by writing long screeds for posting to forums, which I remind myself, even as I’m writing, have ‘mine and Buckley’s chance’ of being accepted by the moderators. But I plough on.

    I salute you, Sir, as one of the more inspired materialist ‘nutters’. I am on the side of truth, and you, folly, but clearly ‘folly’ in one form or another, nevertheless, knows no borders.

  8. 8
    goodusername says:

    Truth, rationality, and morality under naturalism, are irrelevant commodities, in and of themselves. The naturalist’s (atheistic materialist’s) concern with truth, reason and morality are stolen obligations – obligations that are not derivable from naturalism.

    How are the obligations derived from your worldview?

    they are stuck with their own ruler and no means by which to check its length.

    But what ruler are you using that materialists don’t have? If you’re just assuming that there’s this other ruler out there, then that’s the opposite of caring what is true. Assuming a ruler, and assuming its dimensions, and then comparing things to that ruler, is not “caring about what’s true.”

    I don’t think God is why you care about morality. Morality exists because we care about it, and there are many different theories as to why we care about it, God being one of them.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    For an atheist to try to maintain that truth, reason, morality, value, meaning, and purpose, can be grounded in the atheistic/materialistic worldview is to blatantly deny common sense (Haldane, CS Lewis, Plantinga) as well as to deny what many leading atheistic leaders themselves have said about what atheism entails (Dawkins, Rosenberg, Singer) as well as to deny the horrific history of atheistic/totalitarian regimes (Weikart, Berlinski), But what does the Christian Theists have to offer to counter such claims as,

    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
    Richard Dawkins

    What can the Theists offer to show that the universe, at bottom, does care. I would offer that one powerful piece of evidence is here:

    The first full-sky image (Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation – CMBR) from Europe’s Planck telescope – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5BeGg4xWVM

    The Known Universe by AMNH – video – (please note the ‘centrality’ of the Earth in the universe in the video)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U

    Once when I pointed out the ‘surprising’ centrality of the earth in the universe an atheist retorted ‘So what! Every place is central in the universe!’. But that ‘So what!’ attitude (an attitude which you’d expect from a person who believes he has no intrinsic worth) misses two important points. One thing that that ‘So what!’ attitude misses is that materialism did not predict that any position in the universe would be central. In fact materialism predicted that the material universe was infinite in size and duration! The other thing that that ‘So what!’ attitude misses is that it turns out in order to explain how every position in the universe can possibly have a central position within the universe one is forced to appeal to a higher dimension. In fact, ‘higher dimensional’ mathematics had to be developed before Einstein could elucidate General Relativity, or even before Quantum Mechanics could be elucidated;

    The Mathematics Of Higher Dimensionality – Gauss and Riemann – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6199520/

    Moreover, if one digs deeper, one finds that it is impossible for the 4-Dimensional space-time of General Relativity to give a complete description as to why we observe centrality for ourselves within the universe, but that a ‘quantum explanation’ must be brought in in order to offer a complete explanation as to why we ‘consciously observe’ centrality for ourselves within the universe. The implications of all higher dimensional stuff this is fairly obvious:

    The Galileo Affair and the true “Center of the Universe”
    Excerpt: I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its ‘uncertain’ 3D state is centered on each individual conscious observer in the universe, whereas, 4D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism, Christian Theism in particular, offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe. [15]

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BHAcvrc913SgnPcDohwkPnN4kMJ9EDX-JJSkjc4AXmA/edit

    Of note: Objective morality can be derived from the ‘perfect Being’ argument:

    God Is Not Dead Yet – William Lane Craig – Page 4
    The ontological argument. Anselm’s famous argument has been reformulated and defended by Alvin Plantinga, Robert Maydole, Brian Leftow, and others. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive of anything greater than God, then that would be God. Thus, God is the greatest conceivable being, a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? He would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. But then we can argue:

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    Now it might be a surprise to learn that steps 2–7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers would agree that if God’s existence is even possible, then he must exist. So the whole question is: Is God’s existence possible? The atheist has to maintain that it’s impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor or a round square. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn’t appear to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, all knowing, and all-good in every possible world seems perfectly coherent. And so long as God’s existence is even possible, it follows that God must exist.
    per – Christianity Today

    Ontological Argument For God From The Many Worlds Hypothesis – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4784641

    And as weird as it may sound, this following video refines the Ontological argument into a proof that, because of the characteristic of ‘maximally great love’, God must exist in more than one person:

    The Ontological Argument for the Triune God – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGVYXog8NUg

    It is also interesting to note, in conjunction with the ‘perfect Being’ argument, that the necessity of Christ’s propitiation on our behalf (atonement for sin), so that we may dwell in the presence of God, becomes self evidence:

    G.O.S.P.E.L. – (the grace of propitiation) poetry slam – video
    https://vimeo.com/20960385

    In relation to all this it is interesting to note that within the life review portion of Near Death Experiences, that every minute detail of a person’s life is gone over, in the presence of God, and every action is morally judged as to how it measures up to the perfect standard of God’s perfect, infinite, love.

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    Verse:

    Galatians 2:16
    Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Axel,

    I decided, let’s have this thread not go down the well worn paths Jerry highlighted at 4. I looked up Hayek’s P & P to see Hayek’s side of the story, from the Austrian view:

    __________

    http://mises.org/books/hayekcollection.pdf

    Preface 2nd edn: >> This book owes its existence to an invitation by the Univer-sity of London to deliver during the session 1930–31 four lectures to advanced students in economics, and in the form in which it was first published it literally reproduced these lec-tures.

    This invitation offered to me what might easily have been a unique opportunity to lay before an English audience what contribution I thought I had then to make to current discus-sions of theoretical economics; and it came at a time when I had arrived at a clear view of the outlines of a theory of indus- trial fluctuations but before I had elaborated it in full detail or even realized all the difficulties which such an elaboration pre-sented. The exposition, moreover, was limited to what I could say in four lectures, which inevitably led to even greater over-simplification than I would probably have been guilty of in any other case. But although I am now conscious of many more defects of this exposition than I was even at the time of its first publication, I can only feel profoundly grateful to the circum-stances which were such an irresistible temptation to publish these ideas at an earlier date than I should otherwise have done.

    From the criticisms and discussions that publication has caused I hope to have profited more for a later more complete exposi-tion than I could possibly have done if I had simply continued to work on these problems for myself. But the time for that more exhaustive treatment of these problems has not yet come.

    It is perhaps the main gain which I derived from the early pub-lication that it made it clear to me that, before I could hope to get much further with the elucidation of the main problems discussed in this book, it would be necessary considerably to elaborate the foundations on which I have tried to build.

    Con-tact with scientific circles which were less inclined than I was to take for granted the main propositions of the “Austrian” the-ory of capital on which I have drawn so freely in this book has shown—not that these propositions were wrong or that they were less important than I had thought for the task for which I had used them—but that they would have to be developed in far greater detail and have to be adapted much more closely to the complicated conditions of real life before they could pro-vide a completely satisfactory instrument for the explanation of the particularly complicated phenomena to which I have applied them. This is a task which has to be undertaken before the theses expounded in the present book can be developed fur-ther with advantage.

    Under these circumstances, when a new edition of this book
    was called for, I felt neither prepared to rewrite and enlarge it to the extent that a completely adequate treatment of the problems taken up would make necessary, nor to see it reappear in an alto-gether unchanged form. The compression of the original exposi-tion has given rise to so many unnecessary misunderstandings which a somewhat fuller treatment would have prevented that certain additions seemed urgently necessary. I have accordingly chosen the middle course of inserting into the (on the whole unchanged) original text further elucidations and elaborations where they seemed most necessary. Many of these additions were already included in the German edition which appeared a few months after the first English edition. Others are taken over from a number of articles in which, in the course of the last three years, I have tried to develop or to defend the main thesis of this book . . . .

    Considerations of time made it necessary for me in these lectures to treat at one and the same time the real changes of the structure of production which accompany changes in the amount of capital and the monetary mechanism which brings this change about. This was possible only under highly simplified assumptions which made any change in the monetary demand for capital goods proportional to the change in the total demand for capital goods which it brought about. Now “demand” for capital goods, in the sense in which it can be said that demand determines their value, of course does not consist exclusively or even primarily in a demand exercised on any market, but to a perhaps even greater degree in a demand or will-ingness to continue to hold capital goods for a further period of time. On the relationship between this total demand and the monetary demand for capital goods which manifests itself on the markets during any period of time, no general statements can be made; nor is it particularly relevant for my problems what this quantitative relationship actually is. What was, however, of prime importance for my purpose was to emphasize that any change in the monetary demand for capital goods could not be treated as something which made itself felt only on some isolated market for new capital goods, but that it could be only understood as a change affecting the general demand for capital goods which is an essential aspect of the process of maintaining a given structure of production. The simplest assumption of this kind which I could make was to assume a fixed relationship between the monetary and the total demand for capital goods so as to make the amount of money spent on capital goods during a unit period of time equal to the value of the stock of capital goods in existence.>>

    ___________

    Now, Hayek was one of the most brilliant and original thinkers on economics, from one of the key alternative schools of thought that has had significant things to say to the mainstream over these past 50 – 80 years.

    So, it is fascinating to see how there was an obvious firestorm of criticism, and to observe the key point in reply: there is such a thing as responsible length of exposition and explanation going back to foundations which becomes all the more important when materially divergent schools of thought intersect. Failing of patience to examine such a responsible exposition and associated dialogue on foundational matters, little gaps in the beginning are liable to lead to massive misunderstandings in the end.

    Multiply that by the sadly familiar devices of ruthless manipulatore: red herrings led away to strawman caricatures soaked in ad hominems and set alight to distract, cliud, confuse, polarise and poison the atmosphere and things can get way out of hand.

    Here, in the case of ID and UD, we are now back to first principles of right reason, worldviews, ethics and policy influenced by such.

    I find it sad that there is a patent unwillingness to accept that the reality of distinct things leads to a world partition and immediately, LOI, LNC, LEM. Likewise, that PSR is foundational, asking if A is, why so? (From which contingency and necessity of being arise and thus also causality.)

    I find it of sobering concern that foundations of mind, responsible freedom of choice and thus morality also, are being ideologically undermined by materialism dressed up in a lab coat and demanding genuflection.

    I think we need to pause, look at where we are plainly headed as a civilisation and soberly ask ourselves if we really, genuinely want to go there.

    $0.02

    KF

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    Hayek is one of my heros. He was a socialist till Mises explained how prices work and how socialism destroys the price system. So Hayek became a champion of the free market. Keynes has been discredited as well as the consumption theory of economics on which his ideas were based. James Buchanan completely destroyed the concept of government investment with his Public Choice Theory. Government officials are more corrupt than any private individuals so it is best to limit the money government has access to. Growth is the result of investment and that is best done by non-goverment entities who have an economic stake in the success of investment.

    Now these are completely irrelevant things to say for this thread. So there should not be a reply from anyone even though I am sure a lot of people have strong opinions. Maybe we can discuss economics on some other thread but it hard to see how it fits in with UD. But such provocative commens show how thoughts can go astray.

  12. 12

    How are the obligations derived from your worldview?

    From the premise of final cause and means provided by god to deliberately serve that final cause.

    But what ruler are you using that materialists don’t have?

    I didn’t say materialists don’t have it; I said that under materialism, no such absolute ruler is premised to exist, which makes their sense of obligation to truth nonsensical.

  13. 13
    5for says:

    Why do bonobos (for example)demonstrate altruistic behaviour and other behaviours that seem to have a moral basis? Many such behaviours have been documented including; using wood pulp to make sick animals comfortable; foregoing food to enable older or less able members of a group to eat; exhibiting grief at the death of group members. Presumably these animals do not have a belief in god and final causes yet they care about each other sometimes to the the detriment of their own needs?

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    5for, and Darwinism explains altruistic behavior how?

    Richard Dawkins interview with a ‘Darwinian’ physician goes off track – video
    Excerpt: “I am amazed, Richard, that what we call metazoans, multi-celled organisms, have actually been able to evolve, and the reason [for amazement] is that bacteria and viruses replicate so quickly — a few hours sometimes, they can reproduce themselves — that they can evolve very, very quickly. And we’re stuck with twenty years at least between generations. How is it that we resist infection when they can evolve so quickly to find ways around our defenses?”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62031.html

    i.e. Since successful reproduction is all that really matters on a neo-Darwinian view of things, how can anything but successful reproduction be realistically ‘selected’ for? Any other function besides reproduction, such as sight, hearing, thinking, altruism etc.., would be highly superfluous to the primary criteria of successfully reproducing, and should, on a Darwinian view, be discarded as so much excess baggage since it would slow down successful reproduction. Indeed, instead of eating us, time after time these different types of microbial life are found to be helping us in essential ways that have nothing to do with their ability to successfully reproduce,,,

    Of related note:

    ABC News – The Science Behind the Healing Power of Love – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t1p-PwGgE4

    Social isolation and its health implications January 2012
    Excerpt: Studies show that social isolation and/or loneliness predict morbidity and mortality from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and a host of other diseases. In fact, the body perceives loneliness as a threat. Research from the University of California suggests that loneliness or lack of social support could triple the odds of being diagnosed with a heart condition. Redford Williams and his colleagues at Duke University directed a study in 1992 on heart patients and their relationships. They discovered that 50% of patients with heart disease who did not have a spouse or someone to confide in died within five years, while only 17% of those who did have a confidante died in the same time period.12
    http://www.how-to-be-healthy.o.....lications/

    Moreover the positive effect of a caring attitude is found to work both ways, in that not only does the person receiving loving care from another person heal more quickly, but it is also found that people of a happy, charitable, loving, nature also receive the tangible benefits of a longer and healthier life in return:

    Study finds it actually is better (and healthier) to give than to receive – February 4, 2013
    Excerpt: A five-year study by researchers at three universities has established that providing tangible assistance to others protects our health and lengthens our lives.
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....thier.html

    Perhaps this tangible effect of love on health goes a long way towards explaining why women, who are generally more loving and caring than men are, live on average five to 10 years longer than men do. Of course from a Theistic perspective this tangible effect of love is to be expected, whereas from a materialistic perspective, well to put it mildly, from a materialistic perspective of survival of the fittest, dog eat dog, it is very counter intuitive:

    Verse and music:

    1 Corinthians 13:1-8
    If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.,,,

    For King & Country “The Proof Of Your Love” – Live Music
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr9YVD05x8M

  15. 15

    Why do bonobos (for example)demonstrate altruistic behaviour and other behaviours that seem to have a moral basis? Many such behaviours have been documented including; using wood pulp to make sick animals comfortable; foregoing food to enable older or less able members of a group to eat; exhibiting grief at the death of group members. Presumably these animals do not have a belief in god and final causes yet they care about each other sometimes to the the detriment of their own needs?

    Under naturalism, why should I consider altruism to be “moral” in the first place? You argument assumes a standard (altruism) that doesn’t exist beyond your subjective belief that altrusm is moral.

  16. 16
    5for says:

    WJM@15: That’s not the point I was making. The point is, if theism is true why do non-human animals have moral codes?

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    5for, and Darwinism explains altruistic behavior how?

  18. 18
    bornagain77 says:

    5for, you don’t seem to appreciate the exponentially worse problem that altruistic behavior presents for Darwinism than it does for Theism (If altruism can be said to present any problem for Theism in the first place). ,, Why the hypocritical bias in how you judge between the worldviews?

    Matthew 7:5
    You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

  19. 19
    5for says:

    BA, Darwinism explains it very well, but what has that got to do with anything? My point is that if the urge to act in a moral way comes from god why do other animals have similar urges? I guess maybe they have their own animal gods telling them to do it….

  20. 20
    Barb says:

    5for, animals operated primarily by instinct. They do not plot elaborate revenge against other animals, nor do they contemplate their own morality. Non-human animals have behavior that we might label altruistic or moral, but that doesn’t mean its on par with human behavior.

    You stated it yourself: they “seem to have a moral basis.”

    Seem to have =/= actually does have.

  21. 21
    5for says:

    Barb, those are just unsupported assertions. You have no idea whether, for example, other animals contemplate their own mortality.

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    5for, you make an unsupported claim:

    “Darwinism explains it (altruism) very well,”

    Survival of the fittest does not explain altruism very well at all. In fact it is antithetical to the survival of the fittest mantra. For you to deny this is any problem at all for Darwinism reveals that you could care less for the truth of the matter and are only interested promoting your false materialistic/atheistic worldview.

  23. 23
    5for says:

    BA, I hope it makes you feel better to accuse me of dishonesty.

  24. 24
    Barb says:

    Barb, those are just unsupported assertions. You have no idea whether, for example, other animals contemplate their own mortality.

    And you have absolute proof of this? Oh, wait. You don’t.

  25. 25
    Axel says:

    Your #11, Jerry. You are naive in the extreme. Much learning doth make thee mad.

    Your neoliberal pals have brought the world to the brink of an unparalleled economic catastrophe and you have the brass b*lls to peddle their mendacious tripe!

    On the other hand, Bertrand Russell said that after arguing with Keynes he always felt a little stupid; and Galbraith was as towering a genius as Friedman was a cretinous jackanapes.

    Whoever can’t see the truth of the matter, mustn’t want to see it, it is that simple. Try meditating on extreme polarisation of the nations’ wealth, as promoted by the Chicago boys, through casting fathomless greed as the sovereign economic virtue, maintaining that, left unfettered by the least moral consideration, it would lead to ever-growing wealth for the masses. If that were so, India would have been a super-power centuries ago.

  26. 26
    bornagain77 says:

    5for, it’s not an accusation. It is a fact! The only question is to whether you are being purposely dishonest or whether you are actually gullible enough to believe the falsehood you have put forth as to altruistic (selfless) behavior being compatible with Darwinian evolution. Moreover, being the helpful, altruistic, guy I am 🙂 , I suggest if you really want to make your argument for atheism/Darwinism more plausible, then you need stick to the traditional argument from theodicy of Darwinists, as to what God would and would not allow in the world in regards to evil, not in regards to altruism. You can appeal much readily to emotion instead of logic in that fashion and thus have a better chance of making atheism seem rational to the uniformed!

    Notes:

    “The strength of materialism is that it obviates the problem of evil altogether. God need not be reconciled with evil, because neither exists. Therefore the problem of evil is no problem at all.,,, And of course since there is no evil, the materialist must, ironically, not use evil to justify atheism. The problem of evil presupposes the existence of an objective evil-the very thing the materialist seems to deny. The argument (from Theodicy) that led to materialism is exhausted just when it is needed most. In other words, the problem of evil is only generated by the prior claims that evil exists. One cannot then conclude, with Dawkins, that there is ‘no evil and no good’ in the universe.,,,
    The fact that evolution’s acceptance hinges on a theological position would, for many, be enough to expel it from science. But evolution’s reliance on metaphysics is not its worst failing. Evolution’s real problem is not its metaphysics but its denial of its metaphysics.,,,
    Cornelius Hunter – Darwin’s God – pg. 154 & 159

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 2011
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    The Descent of Darwin – Pastor Joe Boot – (The Theodicy of Darwinism) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKJqk7xF4-g

    The role of theology in current evolutionary reasoning – Paul A. Nelson – Biology and Philosophy, 1996, Volume 11, Number 4, Pages 493-517
    Excerpt: Evolutionists have long contended that the organic world falls short of what one might expect from an omnipotent and benevolent creator. Yet many of the same scientists who argue theologically for evolution are committed to the philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism, which maintains that theology has no place in science. Furthermore, the arguments themselves are problematical, employing concepts that cannot perform the work required of them, or resting on unsupported conjectures about suboptimality. Evolutionary theorists should reconsider both the arguments and the influence of Darwinian theological metaphysics on their understanding of evolution.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....34/?MUD=MP

    Dr. Seuss Biology | Origins with Dr. Paul A. Nelson – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVx42Izp1ek

    The Microbial Engines That Drive Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles – Falkowski 2008
    Excerpt: Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides. – Paul G. Falkowski – Professor Geological Sciences – Rutgers
    http://www.genetics.iastate.edu/delong1.pdf

    NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body – June 13, 2012
    Excerpt: Microbes inhabit just about every part of the human body, living on the skin, in the gut, and up the nose. Sometimes they cause sickness, but most of the time, microorganisms live in harmony with their human hosts, providing vital functions essential for human survival.
    http://www.nih.gov/news/health.....gri-13.htm

    We are living in a bacterial world, and it’s impacting us more than previously thought – February 15, 2013
    Excerpt: We often associate bacteria with disease-causing “germs” or pathogens, and bacteria are responsible for many diseases, such as tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and MRSA infections. But bacteria do many good things, too, and the recent research underlines the fact that animal life would not be the same without them.,,,
    I am,, convinced that the number of beneficial microbes, even very necessary microbes, is much, much greater than the number of pathogens.”
    http://phys.org/news/2013-02-b.....tml#ajTabs

    Why Do We Invoke Darwinism?
    Excerpt: Further, Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.
    Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology.
    Philip S. Skell – (the late) Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Letter: Adam Sedgwick to Charles Darwin – 24 Nov 1859
    Excerpt: There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly.,,
    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-2548

  27. 27

    That’s not the point I was making. The point is, if theism is true why do non-human animals have moral codes?

    You haven’t shown that they do. You’ve only pointed at some animal behavior and have made the unwarranted leap that because an animal may at times behave like a moral human would, that it is in fact acting morally.

  28. 28
    jerry says:

    Darwinism explains it very well

    I doubt that. I have seen very little that Darwinism explains. One would have to show which proteins are affecting the behavior, why these proteins are being expressed in the particular species and not others and then explain how these proteins were created and selected for. That is a minimum to be able to say Darwinism explains it.

    There is a wide range of animal behavior in the world. Right now what do we mean by altruistic behavior in animals? For bonobos from Wikipedia

    Primatologist Frans de Waal states bonobos are capable of altruism, compassion, empathy, kindness, patience, and sensitivity, and described “bonobo society” as a “gynecocracy”. However, some have disputed how peaceful bonobos are.

    We would need to examine what are supposed to be altruistic acts. I have seen all sorts of animal behavior that would classify as all of the attributes that de Waal says are part of bonobo behavior. Most of us have seen photos shared on the internet with cats taking care of mice, a dog feeding a kitten, a lion and a lamb that are buddies or other unusual combinations of animal behavior.

  29. 29
    bornagain77 says:

    of note:

    The Descent of Darwin – Pastor Joe Boot – (The Theodicy of Darwinism) – article
    http://www.ezrainstitute.ca/ez.....spring.pdf

  30. 30
    Barb says:

    Paul Raubiczak, a professor of philosophy, mentions some of the effects of evolutionary thinking upon mankind:
    “Evolution has been made the basis of a complete philosophy. . . . In fact the philosophy based on Darwinism has exercised an extremely strong influence, far beyond the realms of science and philosophy upon the whole development of European thought. The ruthless life and death struggle for survival has been translated into a new morality, as ruthless competition in a capitalist, as ruthless warfare in the communist world, and as ruthless nationalism everywhere.”

    The philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche [1844–1900], was most notably known for his vehement attacks on Christianity and for his “God is Dead” philosophy. He had also developed a philosophy of heredity from Darwin’s postulate of evolution that the fittest for survival dominate the species. In Existentialism — For and Against Paul Raubiczak, professor of philosophy at Cambridge University, observes:
    He [Nietzsche] continually demands the breeding of a new master race and the prohibition for its sake of the reproduction of all the “discontented, the rancorous, and the grudging,” the sterilization of criminals and “the annihilation of millions of misfits.” The spectre of the Nazi gas chambers looms behind such statements. . . We must not forget that it is not only Nietzsche’s philosophy, but also the theory of evolution which leads to such consequences.”

    How is it that evolution accounts for “survival of the fittest” in nature and in human philosophy while simultaneously causing people to behave in an altruistic manner? You obviously can’t have both.

  31. 31

    I doubt that. I have seen very little that Darwinism explains.

    I agree.

    Darwinism, which is largely an appeal to chance (especially in light of SCordova’s “neutral mutation, non-selection” expose, doesn’t explain what occurs; it just allows for it to occur. By chance.

    Appealing to chance is not an explanation; it’s the abandonment of explanation.

  32. 32
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: podcast – William Lane Craig Critiques “The Unbelievers” Movie
    http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/.....iques.html

  33. 33

    Darwinists, naturalists, atheists – there are a few historical philosophers I respect that didn’t shy away from the ramifications of their worldview, even though that worldview tends to drive serious philosophers mad.

    When I was an atheist, I was at least intellectually honest about it. These atheists stay safe on the conceptual reservation of theism, stealing concepts and obligations while condemning that which actually produces them. They’re intellectual cowards, clinging to the teat of theism and living high and safe off of its product, while screeching out mindless, anti-authoritarian condemnation, unwilling to go off the reservation to see what’s really waiting for them out in the wilds of their own worldview.

    Cue Jack Nicholson: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” And so we get treated to Rube Goldberg compatibalisms and post-modernist, self-refuting blather.

  34. 34
    bornagain77 says:

    Podcast : In this Reasonable Faith Podcast, Dr. William Lane Craig responds to CNN’s interview of Frans de Waal, director of Emory University’s Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He recently published a book entitled “The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates.”
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....y_2013.mp3

    article: Do Animals Display Morality? A Reasonable Faith
    http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/.....nable.html

  35. 35
    5for says:

    William Lane Craig. He’s the guy that says genocide is moral if God commands it. Don’t think I will be seeking moral guidance from him….

  36. 36
    Querius says:

    bornagain77,

    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. Richard Dawkins

    I wonder whether Dawkins personally aspires to this description, attaining a sort of atheist nirvana without any illusions of morality.

    Or maybe . . .

    – He elevates a Darwinistic ideal, the survival and evolution of life on Earth, as his ultimate morality.

    – He takes an anthropological perspective to consider pragmatic community values to ensure harmony and the perpetuation of humanity as his ultimate morality.

    – He’s adopted a more selfish view that enhances his fame and book sales.

    Any ideas?

  37. 37
    Querius says:

    William,

    They’re intellectual cowards, clinging to the teat of theism and living high and safe off of its product, while screeching out mindless, anti-authoritarian condemnation, unwilling to go off the reservation to see what’s really waiting for them out in the wilds of their own worldview.

    Wow, very nicely stated! In other words, they are hypocrites.

  38. 38

    In this post, William derives moral principles from naturalism, steals them, invents a God to justify them, and then accuses naturalists of stealing them back.

    I don’t call that “intellectually honest” at all, and I’m fed up of people like William calling atheists dishonest if they are moral, and immoral if they are not.

    You cannot derive morality from theism – all you can “derive” is a set of putative incentives to behave morally.

    Indeed any morality that declares that what is good is what God wants is, in my view, morally bankrupt, as William Lane Craig demonstrates. What kind of “morality” is it, that declares genocide and sexual slavery “good” simply because God commanded it?

    It’s not even Christian – Jesus had the sense to realise that we are all capable of figuring out what is good (bread, not stone, fish, not snake, for our hungry children; pull the donkey out of the well whether it’s the Sabbath or not; “by their fruits you shall know them”), and in so doing recognising God, not the other way round.

    Religion is a fine way of reifying what we have already figured out is good; it’s a terrible way of doing the figuring.

    If some people need the threat of eternal damnation, or the reward of eternal bliss, or karma, or “necessary consequences” to do the right thing – fine. Even cardboard cutouts of policemen tend to reduce crime, and we all tend to be a little more circumspect in our behaviour if we think we are being watched.

    But we can’t derive a morality that way – it simply drives us to do what we think the watcher requires, not what we think is right. And all too often, what we are told the Watcher requires is wrong.

    Mark Twain’s Huck Finn had it right. Sometimes saving a friend is worth going to hell for.

  39. 39
    bornagain77 says:

    Many times atheists, even though they cannot ground objective morality within their worldview, will try to claim that God, as He is portrayed in the Old Testament, is morally evil. In fact Richard Dawkins, in his cowardly refusal to debate William Lane Craig, upon Craig’s tour of the UK in the fall of 2011, said he would not debate Craig because Craig supported genocide/infanticide in the Bible. This tactic, to try to cover his cowardice to debate Craig, backfired terribly for Dawkins!

    Richard Dawkins Approves Infanticide, not William Lane Craig! (mirror: drcraigvideos)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmodkyJvhFo

    (Is God a Moral Monster?) New Atheists and the Old Testament God – Jeremiah Johnston – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JNwXxHOzP8

  40. 40
    bornagain77 says:

    Peter J Williams on New Atheists & Old Testament (incl. The Canaanites) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulCbh_1SlwE

  41. 41
    jerry says:

    Religion is a fine way of reifying what we have already figured out is good; it’s a terrible way of doing the figuring.

    If this is true, then mankind has a horrible track record.

  42. 42

    No, BA77 – this atheist, anyway, is not trying “to claim that God, as He is portrayed in the Old Testament, is morally evil” (although I think this is true).

    My claim is that attempting to define “good” as “what God commands” does not lead to objective morality, because it depends on a subjective interpretation of “what God commands”.

    At best, we ascribe to a good God those attributes that we deem to be good, not the other way round. At worst we claim Divine authority for deeds that most of us would agree were evil, whether it’s the alleged genocide of the Canaanites, or 9/11.

  43. 43
    bornagain77 says:

    I think Peter S Williams’ version of the moral argument, at the 8:40 minute mark, is very impressive as to being very well thought out and nuanced, in the following video,,

    Peter S. Williams vs Christopher Norris – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....inY#t=398s

  44. 44

    jerry:

    If this is true, then mankind has a horrible track record.

    We do indeed.

    And I’d say that that record is at its worst when people have acted in the belief that what they do is justified by some higher goal, whether that higher end is the will of some god, or some utopian ideal on earth.

  45. 45
    lpadron says:

    EL @ #38:

    1. In what way did William derive moral principles from naturalism?

    2. How does one derive the principles that genocide and sexual slavery are wrong from naturalism?

    3. How does one explain the obligatory nature of moral codes given a purely physical universe? For example, you seem to argue that we not only can’t derive morality from a watcher but that we shouldn’t as well. Given atheism how does the obligation built into “shouldn’t” arise in a physical universe?

  46. 46
    lpadron says:

    EL @ 42,

    “My claim is that attempting to define “good” as “what God commands” does not lead to objective morality, because it depends on a subjective interpretation of “what God commands”.”

    How does deriving moral principles from naturalism avoid the problem of subjective interpretation?

  47. 47

    lpadron @42

    It doesn’t, reliably, but at least naturalists don’t pretend that total objectivity is possible – that the way we discover things is by finding out what works, independently, and comparing notes.

    And if many different people and societies conclude that the moral system that produces a productive and peaceful society is one based on reciprocal altruism with penalties for cheaters, then we can at least conclude that it’s something that can be independently arrived at, which is as good as objectivity gets, I’d say, given the fallibility of human understanding and measurement systems.

    And it’s significant, I think, that the Golden Rule has emerged so often as the fundamental moral principle, from many different cultures. And also, signficant, I think, that it underlies most legal systems in democratic states.

    lpadron @ 45:

    1. In what way did William derive moral principles from naturalism?

    He starts from what he considers a “self-evident” moral truth (that torturing babies for pleasure is wrong). I see no reason why you have to be a theist to find this “self-evident”, and he doesn’t invoke it. He only invokes theism to explain why you would pay any attention to this self-evident moral truth (because you’d worry about the “necessary consequences” of violating it).

    2. How does one derive the principles that genocide and sexual slavery are wrong from naturalism?

    In exactly the same way as William finds torturing babies for pleasure self-evidently wrong. The worrying thing is that at least some theists (WLC, famously) don’t find it so – they find that although it seems wrong and would normally be wrong, it is actually morally obligatory if God commands it So far from theism adding to the precept, it can undermine it. However, I don’t hold that against William, because he has designed the God he believes in in such a way that it doesn’t command self-evidently wrong actions. Which is fine. But in that sense he has “borrowed” God from self-evident (i.e. evident to anyone, not just theists) moral truths, rather than deriving those truths from a given God.

    3. How does one explain the obligatory nature of moral codes given a purely physical universe? For example, you seem to argue that we not only can’t derive morality from a watcher but that we shouldn’t as well. Given atheism how does the obligation built into “shouldn’t” arise in a physical universe?

    Because of conflicts between what we want for ourselves, immediately, and what we want, for the future, for ourselves and others.

    Once a being is capable of seeing and valuing both the immediate and more remote consequences of a choice, then, when one conflicts with the other, the need for a word, or concept, such as “ought” will become necessary: I want this chocolate eclair, but I want to be thinner, so I ought not to eat it; I want this chocolate eclair, but I also want to make my children happy, so ought to spend the money on a packet of chocolate biscuits to take home.

  48. 48
    Joe says:

    He starts from what he considers a “self-evident” moral truth (that torturing babies for pleasure is wrong).

    That has nothing to do with naturalism.

    Naturalism is a failed philosophy. You cannot derive anything from it.

    BTW one can eat a chocolate eclair and still become thinner

  49. 49
    bornagain77 says:

    The Story of Jesus: History or Hoax? Peter J. Williams and Bruce Zuckerman at USC – veritas video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U47TTG4JiEc

  50. 50
    lpadron says:

    EL

    “It doesn’t, reliably, but at least naturalists don’t pretend that total objectivity is possible – that the way we discover things is by finding out what works, independently, and comparing notes. And if many different people and societies conclude that the moral system that produces a productive and peaceful society is one based on reciprocal altruism with penalties for cheaters, then we can at least conclude that it’s something that can be independently arrived at….”

    I fail to see what your problem with genocide and sex slavery is. Many different people have independently discovered that these engaging in thse can lead to peaceful, productive societies too. Why prefer one over the other? Or why are we obligated to one over the other?

    “And it’s significant, I think, that the Golden Rule has emerged so often as the fundamental moral principle, from many different cultures. And also, signficant, I think, that it underlies most legal systems in democratic states.”

    It’s also significant that the anti-Golden Rule has emerged as a moral principle across all cultures equally as often. It also underlies an equal number of legal systems. What to do?

    “He starts from what he considers a “self-evident” moral truth (that torturing babies for pleasure is wrong). I see no reason why you have to be a theist to find this “self-evident”, and he doesn’t invoke it.”

    From an atheistic POV it’s not at all evident that torturing babies is wrong. Just one viewing of the National Geographic and History channels will convince anyone of that. From an atheistic POV what does it mean for torturing babies to be “self-evidently wrong” anyway?

    “He only invokes theism to explain why you would pay any attention to this self-evident moral truth (because you’d worry about the “necessary consequences” of violating it).”

    I think WJM would argue that it’s wrong to torture babies even if there were absolutely no necessary consequences. I can’t see how that would be the case from an atheist’s POV.

    “Because of conflicts between what we want for ourselves, immediately, and what we want, for the future, for ourselves and others. Once a being is capable of seeing and valuing both the immediate and more remote consequences of a choice, then, when one conflicts with the other, the need for a word, or concept, such as “ought” will become necessary: I want this chocolate eclair, but I want to be thinner, so I ought not to eat it; I want this chocolate eclair, but I also want to make my children happy, so ought to spend the money on a packet of chocolate biscuits to take home.”

    First, your “ought” seems merely another way of saying “in my best self interest” as far as I can tell. Second, when you object to genocide and sex slavery you go from saying “I want to be thinner so I ought not eat chocalate eclairs” to “I want to be thinner so YOU ought not eat them either”. But, really, why shouldn’t I? I happen to like eclairs and think I look just fine. I don’t see how *I’m* obligated to not eat eclairs because *you’re* feeling a little on the paunchy side. See?

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    Joe:

    I would be interested to know if anyone is prepared to argue that, understanding what is meant by “torturing babies for pleasure is wrong,” this is not blatantly true, and/or that the attempt to deny it does not land one instantly in monstrous absurdity. (And, BTW, there HAVE been cases, sadly.)

    It seems rather that the attempt is being made to belittle, brush off and dismiss the force of there being self-evident moral truths.

    Which this case shows to be so by example.

    And you are right, secularist, scientistic evolutionary materialism is self referentially incoherent and falls of its own weight.

    KF

  52. 52

    lpadron:

    I fail to see what your problem with genocide and sex slavery is. Many different people have independently discovered that these engaging in thse can lead to peaceful, productive societies too.

    Can you name one?

    It’s also significant that the anti-Golden Rule has emerged as a moral principle across all cultures equally as often. It also underlies an equal number of legal systems. What to do?

    Can you name some?

    From an atheistic POV it’s not at all evident that torturing babies is wrong.

    In that case it can’t be self-evidently true as William claims. I think it is pretty self-evidently true myself, but can you explain why it should be so to a theist but not to an atheist?

    I think WJM would argue that it’s wrong to torture babies even if there were absolutely no necessary consequences. I can’t see how that would be the case from an atheist’s POV.

    I would hope he would, but he’s written stuff that implies otherwise – that without belief in necessary consequences there would be no reason to think it is wrong. However, I agree that it is wrong to torture babies for pleasure. Why would not being a theist make that not the case?

    First, your “ought” seems merely another way of saying “in my best self interest” as far as I can tell.

    Not necessarily. It can be – I’m sure we’ve all said that we “ought” not to do something because we know that it is not in our own self interest, even though we want to. But equally we say that we “ought” not to do something if it is not in others interest. So, no, not all “oughts” are in our own best interest.

    Second, when you object to genocide and sex slavery you go from saying “I want to be thinner so I ought not eat chocalate eclairs” to “I want to be thinner so YOU ought not eat them either”. But, really, why shouldn’t I? I happen to like eclairs and think I look just fine. I don’t see how *I’m* obligated to not eat eclairs because *you’re* feeling a little on the paunchy side. See?

    I think you’ve missed my point. I’m not saying that you ought to avoid eclairs because they’ll make you fat. I’m saying that we all experience conflict between what we want NOW and what else we value – our own future health, the well-being of others. And that’s where morality originates.

  53. 53
    Axel says:

    I cannot but regret the animosity towards you, conveyed by my #25, Jerry, since the love of money, which seems to have taken hold of all you monied, American Christians on here, seems so anomalous in the context of who you have shown yourselves to be, in general, as Christians.

    Nevertheless, it is a relief to me that you considered it pointless to respond to me, for whatever reason, since I could no more argue on this subject without a very labour-intensive transcription of scripture, than I could with our materialist friends on the basis of their deranged assumptions. Just John’s NT writings are replete with strictures concerning the money we possess and our duties to use it to significantly assist the stranger, the prisoner, the orphan and the widow et al. And I could never have imagined that I would feel the need to re-post this link:

    http://www.internetmonk.com/ar.....offend-you

    Just two final points I’d like to raise:

    Why growth? Why? Why? Why? It’s not necessary at all, yet for all of you, it is nothing less than the ‘bottom line’.
    I’ll admit that in a ‘dog eat dog’ geopolitical world, unilateral sanity might be an open invitation to another predatory nation or coalition of nations to invade and occupy.

    However, it IS madness; and stating your objections as Christians, might have gone some way towards ‘tempering the wind to the shorn lamb’, as did the British Labour Party, founded by Methodist lay-preacher, Keir Hardie, after WWII – before it was taken over lock-stock and barrel by the godless, who, once their own feet were some way up the ladder, found the far-right, neoliberal economics of Thacherdom (a nationwide extension of the Highland Clearances of the 19th century), much more congenial.

    The second point, also rhetorical in intent, how do you think the malefactors would have been able to rescind Sarbanes-Oxley, without first fallaciously discrediting Keynes, the man who brought us out of the last Great Depression (despite right-wing denials), arising from the very same villainy as has led to this pretty pass, which the whole world now faces. And, of course, they would have discredited or silenced in one way or another, any other objectors standing in their way? The US today is a society in a much worse position than in the thirties, to cope with what appears to be in the pipeline – not least because the population is now so much more urbanized. It was reported yesterday that already 80% of your population is either in poverty or close to it, right now. And God hasn’t even begun to stir the pot yet, with the more biting effects of resource depletion and global, climate change further down the line.

    However, making endless economic growth the ultimate aim, to which even considerations of morality must defer, is insanity, (im)pure and simple, and infinitely immoral.

    End of rant. Thank you for your patience.

  54. 54
    Alan Fox says:

    Querius asks:

    I wonder whether Dawkins personally aspires to this description, attaining a sort of atheist nirvana without any illusions of morality.

    Or maybe . . .

    – He elevates a Darwinistic ideal, the survival and evolution of life on Earth, as his ultimate morality.

    – He takes an anthropological perspective to consider pragmatic community values to ensure harmony and the perpetuation of humanity as his ultimate morality.

    – He’s adopted a more selfish view that enhances his fame and book sales.

    Any ideas?

    Well, you could ask him. Here is his website. I am sure you’ll be able to find a contact email there.

  55. 55
    Alan Fox says:

    Jerry, a voice of reason in the wilderness, says:

    We would need to examine what are supposed to be altruistic acts.

    Indeed! Can Christians be truly altruistic? They are motivated by the belief if they are very, very good, they will get to Heaven. Altruistic? Really?

  56. 56
    Alan Fox says:

    KF asserts:

    And you are right, secularist, scientistic evolutionary materialism is self referentially incoherent and falls of its own weight.

    Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. The trend is to leave dogmatism behind and emerge into pragmatism.

    PS How is your son? Health issues under control?

  57. 57
    Charles B. Dumas says:

    Elizabeth B Liddle:

    “Can you name one?”

    *snicker* Just one?. History and contemporary earth is filled with such examples of this type of thing.

    “In Netherlands, the Bureau of the Dutch Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings in 2005 estimated that there are from 1,000 to 7,000 trafficking victims a year. Most police investigations relate to legal sex businesses, with all sectors of prostitution being well represented, but with window brothels being particularly overrepresented.[55][56][57] Dutch news site Expatica reported that in 2008, there were 809 registered trafficking victims in the Netherlands; out of those 763 were women and at least
    60 percent of them were reportedly forced to work in the sex industry.”

    -So in the Netherlands, the legal sex trade does not seem to hinder this peaceful and productive society one bit. Would an atheist in the Netherlands tell their
    18 year old daughter that the legal practices of their productive and peaceful society are actually somehow immoral? Fail. The peak of the particular evolutionary path in which Netherlands finds itself is one of a productive, peaceful society in which it is legal in parts to rent bodies for sex.

    Why shouldn’t your daughter choose such a path?

    Further, the illegal sex slavery does not in any way hinder the peace or productivity of the Netherlands atheist culture. In fact it may help maintain it. As long as the productive men in the society have a place to get sex and release some tension, this might aid in their effort to be more productive in which a fully stocked sex industry may benefit to the overall flourishing of the Netherlands. And if some have to be forced into it, well, then that is all for the continued flourishing, the greater good, of the society.

    The Incas, Mayans, Aztecs are famous for having thriving, prosperous civilizations that have contributed to some of the most amazing architectures and fascinating languages on Earth, and they all were based on human, adult and child, sacrifice. They’re particular evolutionary pathway that they found themselves at the apex of, was one of prosperous flourishing and baby killing. An atheist has not a single grain of sand to stand in in condemning their moral framework due to the unique evolutionary pathway
    these people happened to find themselves on. It gets even more absurd when atheist post-modern slight of hand hucksters try to sell us such a moral framework.

    The Matses:

    “The Matses are polygamists like many other Amazonian tribes with each man having one or more wives. Until recently, the Matses men commonly kidnapped and assimilated women from other tribes (or Peruvian and Brazilian women) into Matsés society.”

    The current point of the Matses’s unique evolutionary pathway is one where polygamy happens to be moral. Further, kidnapping ones wife from other tribes was also moral practice. The atheist has not a grain of sand to stand on
    in condemning these people (who have persisted for ages) for their moral behavior.

    What works for the mastes works for the matses.

    William Murray has done a fascinating job at lifting up the rock and shining a light on these liddle charlatans.

  58. 58

    Charles:

    And if some have to be forced into it, well, then that is all for the continued flourishing, the greater good, of the society.

    What makes you say this?

    And how do you square the culture of the Aztecs (which was a religious culture) with the idea that theism somehow makes it possible to discover that such behaviour is evil?

    William Murray has done a fascinating job at lifting up the rock and shining a light on these liddle charlatans.

    I’m not seeing lack of charity coming from the atheists here.

  59. 59

    Charles: tell me, given that you do not think that morality can be derived under atheism, how do you derive it under theism?

  60. 60

    I think WJM would argue that it’s wrong to torture babies even if there were absolutely no necessary consequences. I can’t see how that would be the case from an atheist’s POV.

    The thing to be wary of, lpadron, is when mixed concepts are being used because of stolen terminology. When a theist speaks about a moral “wrong”, they are talking about an objective fact that has necessary consequences in terms of impeding a final, divine cause – our purpose, the purpose of the world and existence. When an atheist speaks about a moral “wrong”, they are talking about nothing more than a personal, subjective feeling, or about actions that serve a cause they personally think should be pursued – such as Liz’s “happy society”.

    Moral “oughts”, to atheists (despite their attempts at Rube Goldberg redefinitions and compatibalisms), are just feelings – things they feel they ought do, or ought not do, for no more reason than they personally like or dislike a particular goal they believe the behavior pursues. Liz thinks pursuing maximal happiness is “moral”; others think pursuing maximal obedience to a manuscript is “moral”; other think that property and wealth is immoral; others think that homosexuality is immoral; others think that stealing from corporations is moral… etc.

    Without an absolute to sift through the morass of personal views, feelings and ambitions, what we are left with is nothing other than consensus/might makes right, manipulation and rhetoric as people group up and find ways to support and enact their particular “moral” compass.

    There are, of course, no necessary consequences involved; consequences are haphazard, unpredictable and often arbitrary. You might do something you feel is right, but then everything goes to hell because of it, or do wrong and good things come about because of it. There is the law of unintended consequences, where even the best intentions can end up serving a dire end.

    If all we have to look at is the physical world, we can see this is an obviously true statement; evil men can prosper; good men can be vilified; vicious groups can rule and enjoy life; kind and caring groups can be horribly annihilated. Liz’s particular subjective moral cause – a socialist dream of a happy state where morality = some sort of social justice – has been tried before, and has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions in wars and cultural cleansings. It’s obvious from history that the ideal of creating some sort of social utopia on Earth always falls to bitter ends because of base human nature.

    So when I say that without necessary consequences, there is no right and wrong, I mean it in the theistic, significant sense where “right” and “wrong” mean more than “personal like” and “personal dislike”, and moral actions are in pursuit of something more than just personally held social or political ideals.

    The absence of necessary consequences doesn’t mean that my personal likes and dislikes (atheistic morality) disappear; it just makes my behavior largely irrelevant to the ends. If good behavior can bring about bad ends, and vice versa, there’s really no reason to lend much thought to whether or not what you are doing is good or bad – the outcome is unpredictable even in terms of subjective goals.

    Only if consequences are inevitably and absolutely attached to what one wills, regardless of if we can see those outcomes or not, and even if what appears to result is negative, can we have faith that our good behavior will ultimately aid in the good purpose – which provides reason to call something “wrong”, and stick by it, even to one’s own misery and death.

    IOW, if I knew there was no God, and that my actions had no necessary consequences, I would still dislike (hate, even) the idea of torturing children for pleasure, but if it came down to torturing children for pleasure or being killed by a society that demands such activity, I’d pull out my lighter and hammer and try my best to enjoy it, because I have no compelling reason to cling to my personal preference … because there are no necessary consequences to any purpose being served in not torturing them, thus no reason other than personal, subjective feeling to call that act “wrong”.

    At that point, I might as well agree with Liz et al that “What is right” is determined by consensus, and admit I was wrong about not torturing children, and fall in line with what society says is moral.

    Under atheism/naturalism, it could only be self-serving, egocentric zealotry to insist that torturing children for pleasure was wrong when society insists it is right, to insist that my personal view was “more right” or “better” than the consensus of experts. It would be deluded insanity to carry that conviction to my own death by refusing to partake in the torture of children.

    It is only by Divine, absolute morality, with necessary consequences, that there is reason for and value in standing up against all others for what is right even to your own miserable end. For an atheist/naturalist to do so could only be explained under their paradigm as egomaniacal narcissism.

  61. 61

    In that case, tell me how you derive a morality under theism, William.

    You may think you have done so, but you have not.

    Why is it possible to conclude that torturing children for pleasure is wrong, under theism, but not, in your view, possible to conclude that torturing chidlren for pleasure is wrong, under atheism, without “stealing” a concept?

  62. 62
    bornagain77 says:

    In a letter to William Graham on July 3, 1881, Darwin wrote:
    “Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
    The epistemological nihilism inherent in Darwin’s theory ultimately becomes the refutation of every Darwinist. If we are the chance products of Darwin’s undirected processes from our purported ape-like ancestors, what possible convictions could any of us have regarding our own “certainties” (Prothero, Poenie, and Matzke not excepted)? –
    ,, it is worth remembering that the Cambrian explosion wasn’t Darwin’s only doubt.,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....74911.html

  63. 63
    lpadron says:

    EL,

    I’ll add 4 to Charles’ list of peaceful, productive anti-Golden Rule types: the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba. Quite peaceful and productive in many ways despite the murder, genocide, prostitution, etc.. I’ll thrown in Rome for good measure.

    You wrote: “I’m not saying that you ought to avoid eclairs because they’ll make you fat. I’m saying that we all experience conflict between what we want NOW and what else we value – our own future health, the well-being of others. And that’s where morality originates.”

    I understand. And that still sounds a heck of a lot like self interest or “because it makes me feel good”. Prior to that you wrote:

    “Indeed any morality that declares that what is good is what God wants is, in my view, morally bankrupt, as William Lane Craig demonstrates. What kind of “morality” is it, that declares genocide and sexual slavery “good” simply because God commanded it?”

    Why would it be morally bankrupt for God to declare genocide and sexual slavery good? He wants to eat the eclair. You don’t want to. How is your abstaining from the eclair (for whatever reason) be any better than His enjoying it?

  64. 64
    jerry says:

    And I’d say that that record is at its worst when people have acted in the belief that what they do is justified by some higher goal, whether that higher end is the will of some god, or some utopian ideal on earth.

    And I’d say that that is nonsense. I suggest pointing to specific instances. I am interested to see what is proposed to support the above statement.

    By the way, I am quite familiar with the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Thirty Years War and the Salem Witch trials, some of which have been brought up by people in the past to justify similar statements. Let’s compose a list of the “worst.”

  65. 65
    Graham2 says:

    You need god to be good. Sigh. Could someone explain that to the Pope, and all those priests ?

  66. 66

    Thanks for the list lpadron. And I might also add a number of theocracies to your list of societies that have been based on something other than the golden rule.

    But if you think that those societies were “peaceful and productive”, I’d beg to differ (with the possible exception of Cuba). But in any case, I think you missed my point, which is that it is possible to derive, independently, the principle that reciprocal altruism is good basis on which to build a peaceful productive society. It can even be done mathematically, using game theory. Not all societies have done so (which is why I reject William’s equating of “independently derived” with “consensus” and with “might makes right), and the result, generally, is violence. But what is clear is that religion has no better track record than any other.

    And that still sounds a heck of a lot like self interest or “because it makes me feel good”.

    I think that interpreting “value” as “feel-good” is to miss an important point.

    What we value is what we seek – the “pearl of great price” if you like. It needn’t be what makes us “feel good”, and certainly not feel-good in the here and now.

    In that sense all behaviour is “self-interest” whether it’s self-sacrificial or not. But I’d say it was value-led, rather than self-interest led, because we pursue what we value, whether that is our selves or the well-being of others.

    And my position is that atheists are as capable of valuing the well-being of others as theists are. Not only that, but they can derive a perfectly good moral system based on the principle that if everyone treats others as they would be treated themselves, everyone will be better off.

    Theists are welcome to borrow it – in fact, they can have it for free.

    Because I am still waiting for anyone to explain how to derive a moral principle from theism.

  67. 67

    jerry, I’d just ask you to think of any atrocity that hasn’t happened because some people thought that what they were doing, though evil, was justified by some higher goal.

    I’m sure there are some. But I’d list:

    9/11
    Rwanda
    The NI Troubles
    The Holocaust
    Mao’s purges
    Stalin’s purges.
    Countless genocides
    Most colonial occupations
    The French revolution
    Pretty well all religious wars (and there are many)
    The burning of heretics
    The Inquisition
    The Crusades
    All religious practices based on appeasing an angry God.

  68. 68
    Phinehas says:

    Liz:

    However, I agree that it is wrong to torture babies for pleasure. Why would not being a theist make that not the case?

    From a materialist standpoint, how does telling someone that they should not torture babies for pleasure differ from telling them that they should not eat chocolate ice cream for pleasure?

    What gives you the right to tell anyone else what they should or should not do?

    And how do you square the culture of the Aztecs (which was a religious culture) with the idea that theism somehow makes it possible to discover that such behaviour is evil?

    Discovery misses the point entirely. The point is warrant for constraining another’s right to choose for themselves how they wish to behave. You want to constrain how others behave, but you have no warrant for doing so. You have no warrant for telling the Aztecs or anyone else that their approach to life is somehow wrong. Or, if you do, you seem incapable of elucidating what it is.

  69. 69
    Phinehas says:

    Graham2

    You need god to be good.

    No one is claiming this here (though a theological discussion on what Jesus meant when He said, “There is none good but God,” could be interesting).

    The issue here is warrant. What warrant do you have for constraining the right of others to choose for themselves how they wish to behave?

  70. 70
    Barb says:

    Dr. Liddle @ 67: you seem to be conflating atrocities which could have a religious background (the Inquisition, Crusades) with atrocities that have nothing at all to do with religion (Mao and Stalin’s purges). You’re arguing that religion doesn’t necessarily lead to morality, but you’re also showing (inadvertently?) that neither does atheism.

  71. 71

    It’s not “inadvertent” at all, Barb. What I said, was, and what Jerry queried, was this:

    And I’d say that that record is at its worst when people have acted in the belief that what they do is justified by some higher goal, whether that higher end is the will of some god, or some utopian ideal on earth.

    I don’t think either theism or atheism, per se, leads to morality. What I think leads to moral systems is when people get together and try to figure out what leads to a peaceful and productive society – which, time after time, turns out to be reciprocal altruism – not a “socialist dream” as William implies that I have in mind – but the simple principle that we treat others as we would like to be treated.

    It’s the basis of most legal systems – laws that outlaw theft, murder, and exploitation of others tend to feature highly on most legislatures.

    So my argument is simply that it’s the principle that tends to emerge when people think about how people should behave in a society, in order to make that society work well for its members. Unfortunately too often some people are excluded from the category of members – incomers, women, rival societies etc.

    But I think – and hope – that we have gradually enlarged our view of society over the centuries, as we have discovered more about each other, and even about other species.

    I don’t think this has much to do with theism, if any.

    And I’m STILL waiting for someone to tell me how to derive moral principles from theism.

  72. 72

    Phinehas:

    You have no warrant for telling the Aztecs or anyone else that their approach to life is somehow wrong. Or, if you do, you seem incapable of elucidating what it is.

    I’m not claiming one. What I would do, if faced with a society of Aztecs, is to try to demonstrate to them that the sun will still rise even if they don’t sacrifice a human being; that the crops don’t depend on rituals, but on good agricultural practice; that superstition is useless. In other words, I’d substitute empirical science for religious superstition, and hope they got the message.

    Now, can you explain what your warrant is? How do you persuade an Aztec that s/he’s got the wrong God?

  73. 73
    Charles B. Dumas says:

    E.B Liddle

    ‘Theists are welcome to borrow it – in fact, they can have it for free.’

    This comes from a person who has declared on this site somewhere that for decades she was a practicing Christian, immersed in the teaching of Jesus Christ, in a country built upon the Judeo-Christian worldview, and just now, at the twilight of her life, has chosen to walk away from God and embrace the hollow cult of scientism, deceptively wiggling and dancing through these troll posts, desperately trying to escape the empty nihilism that is the logical and inescapable conclusion of her new worldview. Only one as so shameless could utter, ‘theists are welcome to borrow it’. You lack the courage to follow your chosen path to its lonely end. And you lack the humility to ask for God’s forgiveness for what you now crusade for. You are now dug in. Shaking your fist at Him, your last years on Earth spent tirelessly trying to drag down with you as many as you can.

    Where does a theist ground his morality? In He who said it is finished.

    So the question is not, ‘where’. Certainly, if Christ was bodily raised from the dead, He would be exactly who He claimed to be. And if he was not bodily raised, then he was a fraud. So then the question should be, do we have good reason to think that Jesus Christ was bodily raised?

    Any 6th grade Christian versed in elementary apologetics can make the case for the Judeo-Christian worldview. Starting with the creation event 13.7 billion years ago and leading to the resurrection event at 33 AD. Such data at best should demonstrate that the Christian worldview is more plausible than its negation, and at worst expose you as a charlatan.

  74. 74

    Why is it possible to conclude that torturing children for pleasure is wrong, under theism, but not, in your view, possible to conclude that torturing chidlren for pleasure is wrong, under atheism, without “stealing” a concept?

    I never claimed that one cannot “conclude” that something is wrong under any premise. What I have argued, more or less, is that the term “morally wrong”, under atheism, doesn’t have any greater significance than the statement that you don’t like cherry pie, and that any pretense that it means anything more is stealing a different concept of “morally wrong” from theists.

  75. 75

    Charles:

    This comes from a person who has declared on this site somewhere that for decades she was a practicing Christian, immersed in the teaching of Jesus Christ, in a country built upon the Judeo-Christian worldview, and just now, at the twilight of her life, has chosen to walk away from God and embrace the hollow cult of scientism, deceptively wiggling and dancing through these troll posts, desperately trying to escape the empty nihilism that is the logical and inescapable conclusion of her new worldview. Only one as so shameless could utter, ‘theists are welcome to borrow it’. You lack the courage to follow your chosen path to its lonely end. And you lack the humility to ask for God’s forgiveness for what you now crusade for. You are now dug in. Shaking your fist at Him, your last years on Earth spent tirelessly trying to drag down with you as many as you can.

    This is so utterly ridiculous that saying so is my only response.

    Where does a theist ground his morality? In He who said it is finished.

    So the question is not, ‘where’. Certainly, if Christ was bodily raised from the dead, He would be exactly who He claimed to be. And if he was not bodily raised, then he was a fraud. So then the question should be, do we have good reason to think that Jesus Christ was bodily raised?

    Any 6th grade Christian versed in elementary apologetics can make the case for the Judeo-Christian worldview. Starting with the creation event 13.7 billion years ago and leading to the resurrection event at 33 AD. Such data at best should demonstrate that the Christian worldview is more plausible than its negation, and at worst expose you as a charlatan.

    OK, so you are not talking about theism in general, you are talking about Christianity, right? So is it your position that all non-Christians are equally incapable of grounding their morality? Or only atheists?

  76. 76
    jerry says:

    In that case, tell me how you derive a morality under theism,

    I personally believe it is fairly obvious for lots of reasons that the world/universe we find ourselves in was created by some entity with an immense intelligence. Thus, the main thing to derive about the creator(s) from the creation is that the intelligence to effect the creation is immense. We may be able to derive some other things from the creation but probably not a whole lot. I have seen discussions of natural law which examine just the nature of man and attempts to derive some characteristics of the creator(s) and intentions from what was created. I am sure I may get a lot of disagreement from some here on this point but I personally am not too interested in having a discussion on this. It has been examined by far more intelligent people than inhabit this site.

    Hence over history, people have created a lot of gods and motives to explain the world they see. As our knowledge about the world/universe increase many of these early opinions now seem antiquated. But the evidence indicating a creator has gotten better, not less as some of our early superstitions have proven false. Also there is no reason it has to be a single creator. But even with the advances in science our understanding of this intelligence is still very limited.

    Which brings us to the concept of “revealed religion” A lot of what we believe about this creator is based on interactions of the creator with us. I am not going to defend any specific form of revealed information here but only that it will be a main part of the basis for a moral code.

    This is imprecisely put but is the basis for codes that could not be derived from an analysis of the creation alone. I do not understand how one derives a code or standard of conduct from material laws alone. Oh, they can do it but it primarily represents what is known as PC, or politically correct. It will vary from time to time depending on those in power or trying to influence power and a lot of it may be consistent with the moral code derived from revealed religion. But I have had more than a few atheists say that what they believe should be a code of conduct at the present is arbitrary and could differ greatly in a short time depending upon the political situation.

    This doesn’t mean that the individual atheist believes in this idea of political correctness but in general those in power will determine the code as has been common for millenniums as rulers have promulgated a set of procedures/beliefs on just how their subjects are to behave and believe. Some of those promulgations have benn that the ruler is to be considered a god and worshiped.

  77. 77
    jerry says:

    All religious practices based on appeasing an angry God.

    You got to be kidding.

  78. 78

    William

    I never claimed that one cannot “conclude” that something is wrong under any premise.

    Good. And do you also agree with me that it is just as self-evident to an atheist that torturing children for pleasure is wrong as it is to a theist?

    If not, what you have written below contradicts it. If yes, then why should it not be self-evident to an atheist?

    What I have argued, more or less, is that the term “morally wrong”, under atheism, doesn’t have any greater significance than the statement that you don’t like cherry pie, and that any pretense that it means anything more is stealing a different concept of “morally wrong” from theists.

  79. 79

    “reciprocal altruism”

    Wiki:

    Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others.

    Wiki:

    In evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism’s fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time.

    Oxymoron. Altruism with the expectation of reciprocity is not altruism. Leave it to evolutionists to – once again – make self-defeating, self refuting arguments by redefining something as its opposite, for the sake of a new lexicon “compatible” with their self-deceit.

  80. 80
    5for says:

    Charles B Dumas, strong words. But the question is not where a theist grounds his morality, but how she derives it. So please, tell me, how do you decide what is moral and what isn’t?

    And I totally agree with Lizzie – theists have stolen their morality from naturalism. So rather than the overwrought emotion, a simple thank you would be nice.

  81. 81

    Jerry:

    You got to be kidding.

    No, I’m not. Many atrocities have been committed on the principle that they were necessary to appease an angry god.

  82. 82

    Good. And do you also agree with me that it is just as self-evident to an atheist that torturing children for pleasure is wrong as it is to a theist?

    Of course it is self-evident to anyone not willfully deluding themselves on the matter. The problem is that atheism as a premise doesn’t justify the concept that anything is self-evidently wrong, because the “wrongness” of anything is entirely subjective – under atheism/naturalism.

  83. 83
    lpadron says:

    EL,

    I wish to separate just a teensy bit from those who might be taking this in a personal direction. I respect your position though I disagree with it. Also, I’ve nothing against eclairs. I know eclairs. Some of my best friends are eclairs. Having worked alongside them I can tell you they’re some of the hardest working desserts one can hope to find.

  84. 84

    I haven’t “defined something as its opposite, William”. You seem incapable of seeing the difference between self-interest and seeking what you value.

    Sure, at it’s most basic, seeking the well-being of others in the hope they will return the favour doesn’t have much virtue attached. Nor does seeking the well-being of others because otherwise you will experience some unpleasant “necessary consequences” in some afterlife. But hey, if it keeps you from murder and mayhem, it’s start.

    But at a societal level, altruism can transcend personal relationships, with benefits for all. Most people don’t do things for others in the direct expectation of getting something back, but because they value a society in which this is the norm, and because they value the well-being of others for its own sake. And being smarter than other primates (with have narrower horizons) we help each other on the principle that the recipient will “pay it on” rather than simply “pay it back”.

    Sometimes it seems to me that some theists are so locked into the idea that the only thing keeping them from theft and murder and barbecuing babies for fun is the fear of incurring God’s wrath that they don’t even notice that the vast majority of people (including themselves, I’m sure, at heart) wouldn’t dream of doing any of these things, and were they to discover some long-lost Codex that revealed that God actually commands baby-barbecues, would immediately reject the idea as totally abhorrent, and worth risking hell to avoid.

    Unlike Charles’ view of non-Christians, my view of theists is more generous than their view of themselves, it seems.

  85. 85

    Thanks, lpadron. I’ve known some fine eclairs in my time too 🙂

  86. 86

    Of course it is self-evident to anyone not willfully deluding themselves on the matter.

    Good. And so, I take it, you would further agree, that just as you can extrapolate from that paradigm example to a more general principle that making other people suffer for your own personal pleasure is deeply ungood, so can atheists?

    The problem is that atheism as a premise doesn’t justify the concept that anything is self-evidently wrong, because the “wrongness” of anything is entirely subjective – under atheism/naturalism.

    Oh boy.

    William: is it, or is it not, self-evident to everyone, including atheists that torturing babies for fun is wrong?

    If yes, then clearly atheists are as entitled to regard this as an “objective” wrong as theists are.

    Nothing has been “borrowed” from anyone. You’ve just said, it’s “self-evident”. Just as self-evident as any conclusion that can be agreed by independent observers, such as the sky being blue and the sea being wet. Sure, all these are subjective impressions, but as they can be arrived at by independent subjects they can be regarded as “objective” – it’s as objective as anything gets in human observation.

    Atheists don’t deny this, or none that I know (although you said you used to, for some reason).

    So atheists and theists can agree that barbecuing babies for fun is objectively wrong.

    Theists, however, cannot agree on what God wants. Some think God wants polygamy, some that he Hates Fags, some that he wants everyone to love their neighbour as themselves, some that he wants them to destroy thousands of people working in skyscrapers in New York.

    So I see nothing “objective” about trying to derive a morality from theism, and far more objectivity in trying to derive a morality from what seems self-evidently true – that hurting people for personal gain is wrong, while treating people as you would like to be treated is right. It makes intuitive sense, and it also makes rational sense, because we are social animals and living in a society in which we can rely on others to treat us well, just as we can be relied on to treat others well, is something we value for perfectly rational reasons.

    And so it is unsurprising that it keeps cropping up as a principle from both theistic and atheistic philosophies, and can even, it turns out, be derived mathematically. Trust is valuable, and so moral principles that promote trust are widely valued.

  87. 87
    Charles B. Dumas says:

    EB Liddle:

    ‘but on good agricultural practice; that superstition is useless.’

    Red herring. The question is why on atheism is it objectively wrong to sacrifice children. It is not about usefulness. Machine guns are useful.

    ‘So is it your position that all non-Christians are equally incapable of grounding their morality? Or only atheists?’

    Straw man. Both Christians and non-Christians are incapable of grounding objective morality. Objective moral values and duties are grounded in a transcendent being, God, His sovereignty revealed to us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those that accept this as the Truth are called Christians. In which case, the question is do we have good reason to believe that Christ was bodily raised?

    ‘because we are social animals and living in a society in which we can rely on others to treat us well’

    Lions are social animals and they eat their young from time to time. You also conflate objective moral values, with objective moral duties, (what is right, with why we should choose what is right). This is an elementary mistake. You also slither back and forth between subjective and objective moral values and duties. At times taking the absurd position that objective morals just simply exist, in some abstract form, which is often called ‘Moral Platonism’, in which case not only do you face the problem that if objective morals just simply exist, such as things like ‘do unto others…’, then objective evils also just simply exist, such as ‘torture babies for fun’. And as you try to hide behind ‘Moral Platonism’, (which is just ‘herd morality’ in a cheap tuxedo), you still cannot tell us why we OUGHT to choose ‘do unto others…’, rather than, ‘torture babies for fun’.

    Or why one’s 18 year old daughter should not choose a life of prostitution in the Netherlands.

  88. 88

    If yes, then clearly atheists are as entitled to regard this as an “objective” wrong as theists are.

    Their premise offers them no such entitlement.

  89. 89

    Good. And so, I take it, you would further agree, that just as you can extrapolate from that paradigm example to a more general principle that making other people suffer for your own personal pleasure is deeply ungood, so can atheists?

    You are apparently conflating “what an atheist can believe” with “what is logically justifiable under atheism”.

    Atheists can believe they have free will and objective, self-evidently true moral principles; that has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not such beliefs are justifiable under their premise.

  90. 90

    ?So atheists and theists can agree that barbecuing babies for fun is objectively wrong.

    Atheists can agree that there are 4-sided triangles. What an atheist can agree to doesn’t mean that what they are agreeing to is logically justifiable under their premise.

    They are only entitled to concepts, ideas and values that are logically derivable from their premise. When an atheist says that some act is objectively wrong, they are either (1) stealing a concept from theism, which logically allows objective “oughts”, or (2) they are using a convenient, “compatibalized” definition of “wrong” and/or “objectively”, which you so often do when you redefine “objective” to mean “consensus”.

  91. 91

    Nothing has been “borrowed” from anyone. You’ve just said, it’s “self-evident”. Just as self-evident as any conclusion that can be agreed by independent observers, such as the sky being blue and the sea being wet.

    You are incorrect about what “self-evidently true” means. It is not a “conclusion that can be agreedby independent observers”. This is yet another of your obfuscating, self-serving compatibalist redefinitions.

    From Wiki:

    In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof.

    It is not a conclusion of argument, evidence or made valid by independent observers. It is self-evidently true, meaning that if everyone else said otherwise, it would still be self-evidently true.

    You are attempting to redefine all the pertinent terms – morality, objectivity, self-evident truth – in terms of “consensus” because it is convenient to your argument.

    There is no dictionary that agrees with you. You are stealing terms your ideology has no right to, bastardizing them with idiosyncratic, compatibalist definitions, then employing those terms in debate as if to imply the original meanings apparently to do nothing but cause confusion.

  92. 92

    Sure, at it’s most basic, seeking the well-being of others in the hope they will return the favour doesn’t have much virtue attached. Nor does seeking the well-being of others because otherwise you will experience some unpleasant “necessary consequences” in some afterlife. But hey, if it keeps you from murder and mayhem, it’s start.

    The difference is that I have never attempted to define morality as altruism of any sort.

    Also, you seem to be under the impression that “necessary consequences” has to do with some kind of personal “unpleasantness”. I never said any such thing. I said that unless there are necessary consequences attached to moral behavior, there is no reason to care about them as anything more than happenstance personal likes and dislikes.

    I think your conceptualization what I mean by “necessary consequences” is informed by some religious stereotype that I’ve already attempted to disabuse you of several times.

    But at a societal level, altruism can transcend personal relationships, with benefits for all. Most people don’t do things for others in the direct expectation of getting something back, but because they value a society in which this is the norm, and because they value the well-being of others for its own sake.

    Please cite evidence that will support this as something more than starry-eyed idealism convenient to your particular worldview.

    And being smarter than other primates (with have narrower horizons) we help each other on the principle that the recipient will “pay it on” rather than simply “pay it back”.

    Unsupported rose-colored idealism that flounders and fails in the face of human history.

    Sometimes it seems to me …

    More misdirection and obfuscation, deliberate or not.

    You are apparently oblivious to the point of the debate, which is about whether or not “moral obligation” as a concept is supported by the premise of atheism; there is no such thing as a “moral obligation” under atheism. There are moral preferences, moral feelings, moral beliefs; but, under atheism, “moral obligation” is an oxymoron. One is not obligated to act according to their preferences or feelings.

    Unlike Charles’ view of non-Christians, my view of theists is more generous than their view of themselves, it seems.

    More of your trademark emotional side-tracking that has nothing to do with the argument.

  93. 93

    So, a lot more bluster from theists about why atheists are not entitled to moral principles, and have no grounds from which to derive them, and yet nobody has answered:

    How do you derive moral principles from theism??

    I have attempted so show that the Golden Rule, which is a moral principle, emerges from our need, as social animals, to live in a peaceful productive society. People have disagreed that such a principle emerges. Fine.

    But not one theist so far has even attempted to show how any moral principle can be derived from theism.

    I’ll see whether vjtorley has better luck on his thread.

  94. 94
    Axel says:

    ‘You are apparently oblivious to the point of the debate, which is about whether or not “moral obligation” as a concept is supported by the premise of atheism; there is no such thing as a “moral obligation” under atheism. There are moral preferences, moral feelings, moral beliefs; but, under atheism, “moral obligation” is an oxymoron. One is not obligated to act according to their preferences or feelings.’

    The problem with Elizabeth and the inevitability of the futility of these exchanges with her, is that she cannot think in terms of ‘FIRST PRINCIPLES’. It doesn’t matter if you explain them to her. Like all militant atheists/materialists/naturalists, she is totally committed to her false premises.

  95. 95

    What “FIRST PRINCIPLES” are you referring to, Axel?

    And I am not a “militant atheist”, whatever that means.

    I’m an extremely reluctant one, as I think I have explained, several times. I think a lot of religion is dangerous nonsense, but then I think a lot of non-religious ideas are dangerous nonsense as well.

    I have no principled objection to the idea of theism.

  96. 96
    Axel says:

    ‘But not one theist so far has even attempted to show how any moral principle can be derived from theism.’

    It’s very ironical that you should ask this question, since it goes right to the heart, not of morality, but of the theism/materialism controversy.

    We have seen any number of indications of the truth of theism, indeed, Christianity on this blog – no, I’m not going to plough through them for you – and this enables the theist to say, well, you may dispute the provenance of my morality and hence its validity, but I am physiologically capable of defying my natural urges to pursue selfless goals. You are not.

    Of course, a sophist might say, that, well, even accepting crucifixion to witness to one’s faith, can be construed as an act of self-interest. But then atheists are never able to draw a line; everything can made circular.* Endless abstraction affords that potential.

    So, in a sense there is a weird logic to this (although anything but an affirmation of their position), in that they resolutely repudiate the personal nature of reality through the prism of QM, clinging to scientism.

    By doing so, they thereby flesh out the truth of QM, personally confirming through their remorseless, dogged casuistry, their endless sophistries, that only nonsense can ultimately emerge from the impersonal mechanistic paradigm, so indispensable to atheism. Muddle-headed is, as muddle-headed does.

  97. 97

    What is far more “ironical”, Axel, is that no-one will answer it.

    While condemning atheism for not providing any basis from which to derive moral principles, no-one will tell me how to derive a moral principle from theism.

    Please will someone step up to the plate and show me a moral principle that is derived from theism, with your working.

  98. 98
    Axel says:

    ‘I’m an extremely reluctant one, as I think I have explained, several times…’

    I don’t think so, Elizabeth. As I mentioned before, it seems to me that your Christianity must have been of a conventional church-going type, without any personal bonding and relationship with Christ, through the Holy Spirit…. which is of the very essence. There again, that word, ‘personal’.

    No. I can’t prove your Christian faith was, in fact, superficial, a simulacrum of faith. Nor you, the converse. We must settle for our opinions here.

  99. 99

    Axel

    I don’t think so, Elizabeth. As I mentioned before, it seems to me that your Christianity must have been of a conventional church-going type, without any personal bonding and relationship with Christ, through the Holy Spirit…. which is of the very essence. There again, that word, ‘personal’.

    It seems that you have assumed your conclusion Axel. I can only have been a “conventional” Christian because I ceased to be one. Is it not possible, in your view, for a “real” Christian” to cease to be one? Is ceasing to be one sufficient evidence that a person wasn’t a “real” Christian in the first place?

    I take it you did read my earlier response to this inference of yours. In case not, here it is again, reposted at TSZ, with some interesting stories from others in comments, and here is the original, at UD.

  100. 100
    Axel says:

    You see, you proved once again, you are incapable of understanding first priniciples.

    What we are saying is not that we can demonstrate the process whereby we derive our moral principles, or that we can prove their validity. INDEED, TECHNICALLY-SPEAKING, WE COULD BE MISTAKEN IN THE WAY IN WHICH WE DERIVE OUR MORALITY.

    BUT WE ARE NOT DEBARRED THEREFROM, A PRIORI, AS YOU ATHEISTS ARE.

    So, the answer from me to your question:

    ‘Please will someone step up to the plate and show me a moral principle that is derived from theism, with your working.’

    .. is a resounding, and totally unashamed, NO!

    You see, unlike your contention, the potential for our moral tenets being true is not disqualified ‘a priori’. AND YOUR PROBLEM IN THIS REGARD IS LITERALLY IMMEASURABLY GREATER THAN OURS.

    We don’t need to show you the workings whereby we arrive at our belief in our capacity for morality. You cannot disprove its basis in truth, but the only reason we cannot disprove your claim to morality is because it never made sense to begin with, a priori (a curiously deceptive appearance of a tautology, incidentally).

    It would be a QED, when there was nowt to demonstrate. It’s just that you athesits are so used to your own illogic, your own nonsense, that you never tire of peddling it as serious reflection.

  101. 101
    lpadron says:

    EL,

    I can see the problem. Moral principles, at least objective ones, can’t be “discovered” with generic brand theism anymore than with atheism.

    But the problem remains of how anything approximating universal obligation is possible with what atheism offers. At least I haven’t seen that from your posts. Theism doesn’t seem to have that problem. I think that’s where WJM started this before eclairs entered the equation…

  102. 102
    Andre says:

    Dr Liddle

    And if many different people and societies conclude that the moral system that produces a productive and peaceful society is one based on reciprocal altruism with penalties for cheaters,

    How do you penalize those that have for whatever reason gotten the short-end of the Darwinian stick because some random mutation “broke” their conscience or ability to see right from wrong? Those people can not be held accountable for their actions in a naturalistic world.

  103. 103

    Exactly, lpadron.

    And I would agree that it is unlikely that “anything approximating universal obligation is possible with what atheism offers”. The best we can do, I think, is muddle through, finding out what works, iteratively refining what we mean by “works”, and noting that as human beings we have a quite remarkable, and slightly peculiar capacity for reifying the pursuit of the well-being of others as a “good” worth making great personal sacrifices for.

    And I suggest that this is where religion comes in – as a way of personifying this reified “good” – and that by making the leap of faith that such a personified good is objectively real in some way, at best, theists are motivated to great deeds (although it must also be said that great deeds are also possible without such objectification of good as God).

    As you say “generic brand theism” doesn’t provide any better grounding for moral principles than atheism. The trouble is that while some specific brands may (the brand, for instance, that says that God is Love and that the greatest commandment is to Love one another as I have loved you), we have no objective way of choosing the “right” brand, other than by deriving the principles first, and choosing the brand that best matches them.

  104. 104

    How do you penalize those that have for whatever reason gotten the short-end of the Darwinian stick because some random mutation “broke” their conscience or ability to see right from wrong? Those people can not be held accountable for their actions in a naturalistic world.

    I don’t see why not, Andre. Holding people accountable for their actions is a very good way of helping them take responsibility for them, regardless of the genetic or environmental hand they have been dealt. And a system that implements the contract that membership of a society that depends on people playing fair, is contingent on actually playing fair it by withholding membership, temporarily, if that contract is broken, is a fairly (but not terribly) good way of motivating people to play fair.

    But it is not my position that retribution should have any role in a penal system. The rationale for punishment, it seems to me consists of the following functions:

    Deterrence – demonstrating that full membership of society is contingent on playing fair
    Rehabilitation – helping people to take fuller responsibility for their actions
    Restitution – helping people to put right, inasmuch as they can, the harm they cased
    Prevention – keeping society secure from people who seem unable to take moral responsibility for their actions.

    All functions are perfectly compatible with a naturalistic world.

  105. 105

    Axel

    You see, you proved once again, you are incapable of understanding first priniciples.

    What we are saying is not that we can demonstrate the process whereby we derive our moral principles, or that we can prove their validity. INDEED, TECHNICALLY-SPEAKING, WE COULD BE MISTAKEN IN THE WAY IN WHICH WE DERIVE OUR MORALITY.

    Precisely.

    BUT WE ARE NOT DEBARRED THEREFROM, A PRIORI, AS YOU ATHEISTS ARE.

    Debarred from what?

    So, the answer from me to your question:

    ‘Please will someone step up to the plate and show me a moral principle that is derived from theism, with your working.’

    .. is a resounding, and totally unashamed, NO!

    And I appreciate it. I’d really had enough of this skittishness. No, you can’t derive moral principles from theism, any more (or less) than you can from atheism.

    You see, unlike your contention, the potential for our moral tenets being true is not disqualified ‘a priori’. AND YOUR PROBLEM IN THIS REGARD IS LITERALLY IMMEASURABLY GREATER THAN OURS.

    I don’t see why, and shouting doesn’t make you any clearer. If you can’t tell whether your moral tenets are true or not, why is your problem “immeasurable” less than some putative person who doesn’t think the question makes a great deal of sense in the first place? Both are stuck with trying to figure out what we ought to do for the best in an imperfect world, knowing that there is no way of knowing for sure which is right. Unless you are suggesting that the problem is not one atheists need consider. Which would be odd, but I guess lies at the heart of all this.

    We don’t need to show you the workings whereby we arrive at our belief in our capacity for morality. You cannot disprove its basis in truth, but the only reason we cannot disprove your claim to morality is because it never made sense to begin with, a priori (a curiously deceptive appearance of a tautology, incidentally).

    You really aren’t making much sense to me, Axel.

    It would be a QED, when there was nowt to demonstrate. It’s just that you athesits are so used to your own illogic, your own nonsense, that you never tire of peddling it as serious reflection.

    I’m tempted to ask you to look in the mirror.

  106. 106
    Axel says:

    You see, you proved once again, you are incapable of understanding first priniciples.

    What we are saying is not that we can demonstrate the process whereby we derive our moral principles, or that we can prove their validity. INDEED, TECHNICALLY-SPEAKING, WE COULD BE MISTAKEN IN THE WAY IN WHICH WE DERIVE OUR MORALITY.

    BUT WE ARE NOT DEBARRED THEREFROM, A PRIORI, AS YOU ATHEISTS ARE.

    So, the answer from me to your question:

    ‘Please will someone step up to the plate and show me a moral principle that is derived from theism, with your working.’

    .. is a resounding, and totally unashamed, NO!

    You see, unlike your contention, the potential for our moral tenets being true is not disqualified ‘a priori’. AND YOUR PROBLEM IN THIS REGARD IS LITERALLY IMMEASURABLY GREATER THAN OURS.

    We don’t need to show you the workings whereby we arrive at our belief in our capacity for morality. You cannot disprove its basis in truth, but the only reason we cannot disprove your claim to morality is because it never made sense to begin with, a priori (a curiously deceptive appearance of a tautology, incidentally).

    It would be a QED, when there was nowt to demonstrate. It’s just that you athesits are so used to your own illogic, your own nonsense, that you never tire of peddling it as serious reflection.

    Your #99:

    Yet another example of your completely missing the point being made by me. Indeed, you could scarcely have misread my post more demonstrably.

    Your thumb-nail spiritual autobiography would deeply impress someone for whom the chief attraction of the RC church was its intellectual scope and profundity. Believe me there would have been many eminent scripture scholars and theologians who have abandoned the faith – some alas, even, without realising it.

    Religion is essentially AFFECTIVE, not cerebral. The analytical intelligence only has its spiritual uses when grounded in a personal bonding with the Creator, who is spirit; and even then is of secondary importance, above the level of demotic speech. Love and moral beauty, very very closely associated, are all. Love is not a negation of the intellect however, but its ground.

    The Catholic church, forty or so years ago, was badly infected by this trend, a form of intellectual elitism, which I believe Francis I categorises as a form of gnosticism. The Catholic newspapers were full of reviews of books written by Catholic lay-intellectuals, and there was a distinct sense that Christ, and indeed, the supernatural were considered quite down-market.

    It was the flowering of a strain that must always have existed in some measure in the church, so that St Martha, whose feast-day it is today, has traditionally and perversely, been associated with the manual worker, Mary, her sister, with the ‘creme de la creme’, the contemplative monks, mostly drawn from the ranks of professionals and the aristocracy in the Carthusians, when a little reflection should make it obvious that those respective statuses were misallocated. Ironically, the Carthusians had religious brothers to cook their meals for them and generally look after them while they contemplated, when if anything, it should have been the other way around.

    People don’t live on country estates and in leafy suburbs because they are simply nice. No, it’s because their hearts are more set on material possessions and status. Busy, busy, busy. Growth, growth, growth. So essential. Not! I’m only talking abut he children of light, now. There is no rhyme or reason in the behaviour of the children of darkness.

    Must gang awa for a while.

  107. 107
    Axel says:

    ‘If you can’t tell whether your moral tenets are true or not, why is your problem “immeasurable” less than some putative person who doesn’t think the question makes a great deal of sense in the first place?’

    Is there no-one who can explain to you the meaning of the term, ‘a priori’? No-one at all?

  108. 108

    It seems to me that the underlying issue that is finally being revealed here is not that theists have some hotline to objective moral standards denied to atheists who have no basis from which to derive them, but the idea that without belief in a God, there is no reason to derive moral standards in the first place.

    amirite?

    If so, then I suggest there are plenty of reasons to derive moral standards that have nothing to do with whether or not there is a God.

    Some of them will be terrible, and some will be good, but at least we have established that that’s not the point.

  109. 109

    ‘If you can’t tell whether your moral tenets are true or not, why is your problem “immeasurable” less than some putative person who doesn’t think the question makes a great deal of sense in the first place?’

    Is there no-one who can explain to you the meaning of the term, ‘a priori’? No-one at all?

    You try, Axel. I know what I mean by the term, but I can make no sense of your usage.

  110. 110

    What is far more “ironical”, Axel, is that no-one will answer it.

    Because it’s a red herring. One’s sense of what is right and wrong is not sequentially “derived from” their theistic structure; it’s innate. The ability to rationally infer moral principles from self-evident truth is not sequentially “derived from” theistic structure; it’s innate. One must deny self-evident moral truth, and willfully abandon reason, to reach a “conclusion” that “torturing children for fun” is not always, universally, objectively, absolutely immoral.

    Nobody is claiming otherwise. The argument is if a worldview premise allows the existence of self-evidently true moral statements, moral obligations and the capacity to reason to objective moral principles when they are not obvious.

    Your worldview must include first principles that rationally comport with your beliefs. Atheism does not rationally comport with the concepts of “moral obligation”, “objective morality”, “self-evident truths”, or even reason as an objective arbiter.

  111. 111

    Axel at 106: Not content with shouting, you repeat the same shout.

    Ah well.

    As for the rest of your post, I entirely agree that an important aspect of religion is emotional, rather than intellectual. I also agree entirely, that the essence of Christianity (at least the Christianity I held) is Love.

    Not sure how you missed that in my post. I’ve always held that God is Love. I just discovered eventually, that that means that Love is God.

    So the God part is essentially redundant.

  112. 112
    jerry says:

    How do you derive moral principles from theism?

    I suggest you look into something called the “natural law” and the bible.

    But I think a lot of people such as Thomas Aquinas have been there before you.

  113. 113
    jerry says:

    What is far more “ironical”, Axel, is that no-one will answer it.

    I answered it above. In it I downplayed the “natural law” mainly that to get in to a discussion of it would take a zillion pixels and I do not feel comfortable being the one to do so.

  114. 114
    Alan Fox says:

    @ Jerry in 112:

    People wrote the Bible.

  115. 115
    Alan Fox says:

    @ William

    Innate =/= objective

  116. 116
    jerry says:

    People wrote the Bible.

    What does that have to with anything? It does not mean they are the author of the content as much as a secretary is the author of the dictation taken. If you want to argue over the authenticity then that is a different issue.

  117. 117

    WJM:

    Because it’s a red herring. One’s sense of what is right and wrong is not sequentially “derived from” their theistic structure; it’s innate. The ability to rationally infer moral principles from self-evident truth is not sequentially “derived from” theistic structure; it’s innate.

    Right. So it doesn’t matter what you believe, you can still figure out moral principles, right?

    Atheism does not rationally comport with the concepts of “moral obligation”, “objective morality”, “self-evident truths”, or even reason as an objective arbiter.

    You keep asserting this but do not justify it. It actually directly contradicts what you just said.

    If we can figure out what is right and wrong without a belief in God, then what is the distinction between doing that, and figuring out we are “morally obligated” to do and what we are “morally obligated” not to do?

    What would “right” and “wrong” even mean in the absence of moral obligation?

  118. 118

    jerry:

    I answered it above. In it I downplayed the “natural law” mainly that to get in to a discussion of it would take a zillion pixels and I do not feel comfortable being the one to do so.

    Do you mean 112?

    I do not see how you derive a moral law from the bible. It contains laws, certainly, but how do you decide on which (many are contradictory), and indeed on which scripture – why the bible, not any other book?

    Natural law is interesting, so thanks for that answer. But that plays into my hand, rather than yours, because most natural law arguments are that morality can be derived from nature, and is evidence for God, not the other way round.

  119. 119
    Alan Fox says:

    Merely pointing out the bible is no more objective than, say, the Koran.

  120. 120
    Andre says:

    Dr Liddle

    Well how do you know that what they did was wrong in the first place? Please don’t give me the peaceful society solution, Inca’s thought it peaceful to sacrifice humans so the idea on what society dictates does not work, just 60 years ago the Germans thought it was a good idea to exterminate the Jews to create peace. What society dictates is purely subjective and changes from generation to generation, just have a look at woman’s rights in your lifetime alone. Who’s to say it changes again tomorrow and woman’s rights get acknowledged as the source of what’s wrong in society what then?

  121. 121
    Andre says:

    Alan Fox

    I’ll give you one simple example of its objectivity to this world….

    Qur’an

    Allah place the mountains on the earth to act like tent pegs so it will not shake….

    Bible

    God made the mountains rise up….

  122. 122
    lpadron says:

    EL,

    You wrote:

    “If so, then I suggest there are plenty of reasons to derive moral standards that have nothing to do with whether or not there is a God.

    Some of them will be terrible, and some will be good, but at least we have established that that’s not the point.”

    What are you measuring “terrible” and “good” against?

  123. 123
    Andre says:

    What are you measuring “terrible” and “good” against?

    And that is the point our friends just don’t get, where does this sense of good and bad originate? From chemical reactions? Evo-devo? if it is there is no good or evil there is just as Dawkins says pitiless indifference!

    Come skeptics answer us how do you know that something is good or bad?

  124. 124

    So, a lot more bluster from theists about why atheists are not entitled to moral principles, and have no grounds from which to derive them, and yet nobody has answered: How do you derive moral principles from theism??

    You are using the term “derive from” as if one must first have a theistic structure and then, after that, figure out what is moral. That is not how others use the term “derive from” in this kind of argument (about what first principles justify one’s beleifs). We find ourselves innately imbued with moral principles and statements that are in some cases self-evidently, absolutely true, and also imbued with the capacity to reason form those true statements conditional and general moral principles.

    Then, once we have accepted that this is the state we find ourselves in, we must ask: what worldview comports with this state? From what worldview can we logically derive the conditions of this state which we find ourselves in?

    You’ve reversed the order where our attempt at “deriving” comes from. In this case, theism is not used to generate our morality, it is used to rationally justify why we experience it the way we do.

    I have attempted so show that the Golden Rule, which is a moral principle, emerges from our need, as social animals, to live in a peaceful productive society. People have disagreed that such a principle emerges.

    Once again, the problem lies in your justification for saying the Golden Rule “is” a moral principle. For everyone, whether they believe it and accept it or not? If someone disagrees and believes otherwise, are they wrong about what morality “is”, or is their subjective view simply outvoted and ruled out by the consensus? Is the Golden Rule a self-evidently true moral statement that is valid whether there is consensus agreement or not, without any proof whatsoever?

    But, atheists have no worldview-justified right to self-evidently true moral statements. At best, they have a right to consensus, subjectively true moral statements, which allows any behavior to be called “moral”.

    So, to say that the Golden Rule “is” a moral principle is to apply a Clinton-esque obfuscation of what “is” means. If the Golden Rule “is” a moral principle, it is a moral principle whether you agree with it or not, which means that it absolutely true, and necessarily true even if the consensus disagrees. Only if a moral principle “is” true (in the objective sense) can one have an obligation to it; one does not have obligations to subjective views that depend on consensus.

    Or, perhaps you would argue that one has an obligation to agree with consensus morality? That means anyone disagreeing with the consensus is being immoral – which I doubt you would agree with.

  125. 125

    Andre and lpadron:

    I’m not the one claiming that there are easy answers to these questions.

    But at least we seem to have got to the stage of agreeing that “generic theism” doesn’t offer any advantages.

    We seem to have moved on to the idea that for atheists, the question shouldn’t even matter. I’m saying that there are perfectly good reasons why they should matter for an atheist, namely because we are a social species, and one person’s behaviour affects other members of the society of which we are a part.

  126. 126

    Yes, William, of course the Golden Rule is a moral principle. What else could it be, chopped liver?

    It’s a rule that tells us how we ought behave. Ergo it is a moral principle.

    You might not think it’s a good one, but that’s what it is, nonetheless.

    You can’t seem to decide on whether the problem with atheism is that we have no objective way of deciding which moral principles are good and which bad, or whether the problem is that we have no reason have any moral principles at all.

    If the first, I suggest that the same is true of theism.

    If the second, I suggest that there are many good reasons for having certain moral principles, including the Golden Rule, because certain moral principles, including the Golden Rule, tend to promote a society in which we all benefit. I also think that the idea that there are things we ought to do (i.e. the concept of morality) is a natural consequence of being able to foresee the the distal consequences of our actions, for both ourselves and others.

  127. 127
    jerry says:

    But that plays into my hand, rather than yours, because most natural law arguments are that morality can be derived from nature, and is evidence for God, not the other way round

    That is a stupid answer. It reveals more about the discussion than anything and the games played here. If it is evidence for a God, then I will not disagree with you but how that plays into your hand is beyond me.

    Natural law requires a creator who has made an ordered universe and there is tons of evidence beyond the natural law for that ordered universe. Natural law is just one of the way the creator has communicated with us. It takes on even more meaning when we can see just how the authorship actually took place through science. Why this way? There is a message in the way.

    Yes, it is not only another piece of the information for a creator but evidence of what that the creator wants to communicate to us. I think some of the people here would not be satisfied unless some booming voice came down once a week and told them what this weeks agenda is.

    I haven’t got time for any more of this nonsense so I am oft to work for the day. Have fun with your games.

  128. 128

    Andre:

    And that is the point our friends just don’t get, where does this sense of good and bad originate? From chemical reactions? Evo-devo?

    Well, William says it is “innate”. Yes, I think we have it because we evolved several essential capacities: to understand things from another’s point of view (Theory of Mind capacity); to form symbolic mental models, including language; to foresee the long-term consequences of our actions, and thus be able to plan; and to form cultural communities in which knowledge could be passed down through and within generations.

    if it is there is no good or evil there is just as Dawkins says pitiless indifference!

    I don’t think the idea that only good or evil can give rise to good or evil holds water. The universe may not mean anything but we do; the universe may not act either morally or immorally, but that does not mean we can’t.

    Come skeptics answer us how do you know that something is good or bad?

    At it’s simplest, I’d say that if causes harm it is bad.

  129. 129

    Jerry:

    Natural law requires a creator who has made an ordered universe and there is tons of evidence beyond the natural law for that ordered universe.

    I realise that you think this is a requirement. I don’t. I don’t think a universe with laws requires a law-maker.

    But we will have to agree to disagree on this.

  130. 130

    Indeed, one can use the moral state one finds themselves in and derive from that not only that theism is a necessary component of a justifying worldview, but can also derive from their experience of morality what kind of god must – and must not – exist.

    This is exactly what happens to many people as they abandon theism because they cannot reconcile their concept of God with the moral state they find themselves in, compared to what are supposed to be God’s moral decrees and laws. They know those decrees and laws (or at least their interpretation thereof) are wrong, and so to be true to their moral compass (which they apparently hold, ironically, as absolute even in the face of God’s supposed decrees otherwise), they deny God exists and (rightly, considering their interpretation) assert that such a god would be evil.

    The problem is that they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater; instead of throwing out their interpretation of God, they’ve thrown out the only justifiable basis they had for their devout commitment to moral principle in the first place. Without God and absolute morality, there is no sound reason to reject any view of god on moral grounds.

  131. 131

    So are you saying, William, that we should adopt “an interpretation of God” that is consistent with our own “moral compass”?

    And that this God must exist, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a moral compass in the first place?

    If not, what are you saying?

  132. 132
    Axel says:

    ‘It seems to me that the underlying issue that is finally being revealed here is not that theists have some hotline to objective moral standards denied to atheists who have no basis from which to derive them, but the idea that without belief in a God, there is no reason to derive moral standards in the first place.

    amirite?’

    Almost, Elizabeth. But, alas, a miss is as good as a mile.

    It’s not the idea that without belief in God, there’s no reason to derive moral standards in the first place. It’s that materialism renders anything but amorally selfish forces from influencing our behaviour; indeed, from actually directing it; humans qua robots.

  133. 133

    Yes, William, of course the Golden Rule is a moral principle. What else could it be, chopped liver?

    It’s a rule that tells us how we ought behave. Ergo it is a moral principle.

    You might not think it’s a good one, but that’s what it is, nonetheless.

    If the golden rule “is” a moral principle “because” it tells us how we ought behave, then “might makes right” is a moral principle, “harm everyone who doesn’t agree with us” is a moral principle, and “torture children for personal pleasure” is a moral principle, because they tell us how we ought behave.

    You can’t seem to decide on whether the problem with atheism is that we have no objective way of deciding which moral principles are good and which bad, or whether the problem is that we have no reason have any moral principles at all.

    No, I’ve been very clear. You have no grounds that justify your stated views. You’re stealing concepts and obligations that cannot be justified under atheism.

  134. 134
    Alan Fox says:

    William, it is apparent to me you are just making stuff up, where you are not stealing it.

  135. 135
    Alan Fox says:

    William, it is apparent to me you are just making stuff up, where you are not stealing it.

  136. 136
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    I don’t think a universe with laws requires a law-maker.

    Then all you have to do is demonstrate that those laws can arise all on their own.

    Good luck with that.

  137. 137
    lpadron says:

    EL,

    True enough; you’re not claiming easy answers. But you are having a difficult time not assuming a standard of some kind. After all, “easy” implies a value of some sort, no? Perhaps you meant “easy” and in “not easy to think through”.

    “I’m saying that there are perfectly good reasons why they should matter for an atheist, namely because we are a social species, and one person’s behaviour affects other members of the society of which we are a part.”

    But why should it matter to an atheist how others are affected merely because they’re of the same species?

    I think that this is exactly where theism very clearly offers an advantage: obligation.

  138. 138

    Axel:

    It’s not the idea that without belief in God, there’s no reason to derive moral standards in the first place. It’s that materialism renders anything but amorally selfish forces from influencing our behaviour; indeed, from actually directing it; humans qua robots.

    I think you have made a category error, here, Axel. Of course amoral forces influence our behaviour – our behaviour couldn’t be moral otherwise; if we didn’t take into account data like time-of-day or likelihood-of-rain, we’d make different moral decisions from the ones we do.

    But because our behavior is influenced by “amoral forces”, and indeed is the direct result of many “amoral forces” working in our muscles and neurons, that doesn’t mean we are amoral, any more than the fact that the Mona Lisa is made of artless paint molecules means that the Mona Lisa is not great art.

    Wholes have properties not shared by their parts, and to ascribe to a whole the properties of its parts it to commit the fallacy of composition.

    We are moral because we have the capacity to choose between courses of behaviour, some of which may suit us better than others, and some of which may suit others better than us.

    Our neurons can’t do that, but we can.

  139. 139
    Alan Fox says:

    Joe, try and follow along. People invent morals like they invent gods.

  140. 140
    Andre says:

    Dr Liddle,

    a little harm can be a very good thing, think hot things burning…. there is nothing moral about doing or not doing harm.

    I’ll say it again… love….

  141. 141
    Axel says:

    Axel at 106: Not content with shouting, you repeat the same shout.

    Ah well.

    As for the rest of your post, I entirely agree that an important aspect of religion is emotional, rather than intellectual. I also agree entirely, that the essence of Christianity (at least the Christianity I held) is Love.

    Not sure how you missed that in my post. I’ve always held that God is Love. I just discovered eventually, that that means that Love is God.

    So the God part is essentially redundant.’

    Well, Elizabeth, God is also a bit more than Love for to an enquiring mind. You should have become a Christian Scientist of Mary Baker Eddy provenance.

    But you have confirmed that you have never, at least as an adult, and in any case, to the best of your recollection, nurtured an ongoing loving, bonding personal relationship with our personal God.

    And that is crucial to a meaningful Christian faith. No wonder you can dispense with God, in favour of allegiance to a vague Love, reducible to the so-called Golden Rule.

  142. 142

    lpadron (I really appreciate this dialogue, by the way!):

    But why should it matter to an atheist how others are affected merely because they’re of the same species?

    I think that this is exactly where theism very clearly offers an advantage: obligation.

    It seems to me that any conclusions that some things are right and some things are wrong necessarily entails the concept of obligation. If an atheist thinks something is right, then it makes no sense to add “but doesn’t think she has any obligation to do it”. Without obligation, what does “right” even mean?

    So I don’t think you can separate the two concepts, and I think this is where William is going wrong.

    If we are capable of deciding that some things are right and others wrong, then by definition we are capable conceiving that we are obliged to do some things and not do others.

    As for why we should think we are obliged to do somethings and not others – I think there are many reasons, ranging from more distal-self interest (if I do this unpleasant task for X, maybe X will do Y for me), to fellow-feeling (we tend to regard our kin as extensions of our selves, which probably evolved), to a rational appraisal of what makes the kind of society we want to live in, to sheer joy of seeing harm amelioriated and well-being promoted, to wanting to stay out of jail, to a generalised and idealised love of other people and indeed the world as a whole.

    Which some of us rationalise as “God”, and others just leave raw.

  143. 143

    So are you saying, William, that we should adopt “an interpretation of God” that is consistent with our own “moral compass”?

    I’d start with an interpretation of God that is consistent with fundamental, self-evidently true moral statements, and inferences that necessarily follow that have to do both with moral principles and our capacity to know and understand them as they relate to our existence in the universe.

    And that this God must exist, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a moral compass in the first place?

    We must assume such a God exists, otherwise we cannot rationally account for our moral experience. IF there are self-evidently true, absolute moral statements that do not depend on evidence, argument, culture, society, authority or consensus, THEN under what worldview is such a thing possible?

    IF we are capable of accessing such absolutely true statements about the nature of existence, THEN under what worldview is such a thing possible?

    IF we know that might makes right is necessarily immoral, AND we know God must exist in order to justify our moral experience, THEN how can God exist AND morality not be a case of “might makes right”, such as “by Divine decree or order”? How can morality not be arbitrary, but rather necessary? What kind of God must exist, and what must “good” be, for this to be the case?

    Etc. Now you know the general process by which I “invented” my interpretation of God. I personally rejected my interpretation of god on moral grounds. When I decided to become an atheist, I chose to believe in a god that comported with things I fundamentally knew to be true. One of those things was that “might makes right” cannot be, under any circumstances, a true moral statement. It is not right to bash children to death against rocks, or fly planes into buildings, regardless of whether or not “god says so”.

    Which is why I believe in a god that cannot arbitrarily change what is right and wrong because what is good is an intrinsic, unalterable characteristic of what god is and is necessarily sewn into the fabric of, and the purpose of, everything god creates.

  144. 144
    Andre says:

    Dr Liddle again morals can not evolve from non morals, major contradiction in the law of causality there. Effects can never be greater than their causes, being a scientist you know that.

  145. 145

    Axel

    But you have confirmed that you have never, at least as an adult, and in any case, to the best of your recollection, nurtured an ongoing loving, bonding personal relationship with our personal God.

    I never made it to True Scotsman status, eh?

    Well, I remain a True Scotswoman, nonetheless. Born in Edinburgh, raised in Kelso.

    How about you? Are you going to vote for Salmond?

  146. 146

    Dr Liddle again morals can not evolve from non morals, major contradiction in the law of causality there. Effects can never be greater than their causes, being a scientist you know that.

    No, I don’t know that, Andre. Indeed I don’t think it’s true.

    I think tiny causes can have vast effects.

  147. 147
    Andre says:

    Dr Liddle, in this cause and effect universe we live in effects cannot be greater than their causes, its impossible.

  148. 148

    Excellent post at 143, William, thank you.

    I have a lot of sympathy with it. Unfortunately, I think it has one huge flaw.

    What happens if someone uses exactly the same reasoning to conclude that the real God is the one that comports with their moral compass, and it differs from yours?

    Who has the right God?

    Or do you think all moral compasses are alike?

  149. 149

    If an atheist thinks something is right, then it makes no sense to add “but doesn’t think she has any obligation to do it”. Without obligation, what does “right” even mean?

    You are, once again, stealing the theistic concept of a moral right and using it here. Under atheism, “what is right” is a subjective proclivity – nothing more. One doesn’t have an obligation to indulge in a subjective proclivity.

    Under theism, “what is right” is not a subjective proclivity, it is an absolute obligation. Yes, under theism, “doing what is right” is an obligation, and it doesn’t make sense to think of “what is right” without “an obligation to do it”.

    You have no justification for using it that way under atheism.

  150. 150

    Sndre:

    Dr Liddle, in this cause and effect universe we live in effects cannot be greater than their causes, its impossible.

    A climber in the Alps takes a single step, and starts an avalanche that destroys a school, and kills a hundred children. Had he not done so, or done so half an hour earlier, which he would have done had he not stopped to admire the wildflowers, school would not have started, and no children would have died.

    Do you still think that effects cannot be greater than their causes?

  151. 151

    OK, that’s what I’ve been trying to get from you.

    Under atheism, “what is right” is a subjective proclivity – nothing more. One doesn’t have an obligation to indulge in a subjective proclivity.

    So atheists in your view, don’t have a “moral compass” at all, just “subjective proclivities”.

    Right?

  152. 152
    Axel says:

    No, Elizabeth. Your belief in Naturalism, a priori, disqualifies you from entertaining any moral sensitivity at all. You are constantly at the whim of the blind forces of Nature. And Mother Nature can be a bitch of the first water.

  153. 153

    What happens if someone uses exactly the same reasoning to conclude that the real God is the one that comports with their moral compass, and it differs from yours?

    What happens is that you end up with different views. So?

    That doesn’t change the fact that only theism can justify the moral experience I described (self-evidently true moral statements, absolutely true moral statements, capacity to understand them, moral obligations, etc.), and that all we can do is use our reason to the best of our ability to come to rational conclusions about what God must be like in order to justify what we experience.

    BTW, I think that all people would come to the same conclusions about god and morality, except that they are employing free will to deceive themselves otherwise.

  154. 154

    So atheists in your view, don’t have a “moral compass” at all, just “subjective proclivities”.

    You are once again apparently conflating “someone that calls themselves an atheist” with “someone living in a universe that has no god”.

    In an atheistic universe, all that exists as morality are subjective proclivities – likes and dislikes, empathetic (to whatever degree) feelings, discomforts and pleasures, the personal desire to live peacefully or in drama or violence, the personal desire to help or harm others.

    However, if atheists live, arguendo, in a theistic universe, then of course they have a moral compass that is something far more than personal proclivities, even though they call themselves atheists.

  155. 155
    Andre says:

    Dr Liddle, the man does not actually cause the avalanche, Avalanches are caused by; weather, snowfall, temperature, wind direction, snow pack conditions, slope angle, slope orientation, terrain, and vegetation.

    nice try

  156. 156
    Alan Fox says:

    And what is this god, that everyone would embrace, were they not deceiving themselves? You have said you are not a Christian. So which one did you settle on? Your own invention or a stolen concept?

  157. 157
    Axel says:

    Salmond. Not a chance. He makes other politicians seem like idealists.

  158. 158

    And what is this god, that everyone would embrace, were they not deceiving themselves? You have said you are not a Christian. So which one did you settle on? Your own invention or a stolen concept?

    God as the existential, necessary grounding of good, existence, rationality, morality, will; creator of the universe; omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent inasmuch as those qualities are possible without self-contradiction.

    You are using the term “stolen concept” incorrectly. If I use another person’s concept, it’s not “stolen” unless it cannot be justified under my premises.

  159. 159
    lpadron says:

    EL,

    We agree that one feels obligated to one’s own moral views.
    What I had in mind was distinctly human feeling that others are obligated to behave according to those same views.

    Generally speaking, theism seems able to provide a platform that makes sense of that feeling. I don’t see where atheism can do the same.

    When you use terms like “good”, “terrible” or “easy” it *appears* (I may be wrong) you rely on a standard(s) others should also observe, I think.

    For the record, I appreciate this dialogue as well. I may not grasp everything you’re saying; in those instances I beg forgiveness. Consider it the effect of cholesterol build up in my arteries due to years of indulging in eclairs.

  160. 160

    In #143 I said:

    When I decided to become an atheist, I chose to believe in a god that comported with things I fundamentally knew to be true.

    What I meant was that when I decided to become a theist again after I had been an atheist for a time, I chose to believe in a god that comported with things I fundamentally knew to be true.

  161. 161
    Phinehas says:

    Liz:

    Phin: You have no warrant for telling the Aztecs or anyone else that their approach to life is somehow wrong. Or, if you do, you seem incapable of elucidating what it is.

    Liz: I’m not claiming one. What I would do, if faced with a society of Aztecs, is to try to demonstrate to them that the sun will still rise even if they don’t sacrifice a human being; that the crops don’t depend on rituals, but on good agricultural practice; that superstition is useless. In other words, I’d substitute empirical science for religious superstition, and hope they got the message.

    The question isn’t about what you would do, but whether you would have any justification for your choices outside of personal preference.

    Now, can you explain what your warrant is? How do you persuade an Aztec that s/he’s got the wrong God?

    The issue isn’t persuasion. The point is that if there is no objective truth about right or wrong, then trying to persuade others (or demonstrate to others) that they ought to change their way of life has no more substance or weight than trying to persuade them to eat chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla. On naturalism and its necessarily subjective opinions on ice cream and right and wrong, it is perfectly valid for the Aztecs to retort, “But I prefer vanilla and killing babies.”

  162. 162
    Mark Frank says:

    The point is that if there is no objective truth about right or wrong, then trying to persuade others (or demonstrate to others) that they ought to change their way of life has no more substance or weight than trying to persuade them to eat chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla.

    This is utter rubbish that gets repeated again and again on this forum. There are any amount of issues which are not objective and yet have great substance and weight. You are creating a false dichotomy between the objective and the trivial. It is a subjective decision whether to allow a new road, which would make life easier, to be built over beautiful countryside (let us imagine that everyone involved is genuinely striving to take into account everyone’s wishes to take the moral element out of it). It has great weight and can involve evidence and reasoning but in the end the decision is subjective.

  163. 163

    And how is “Our says killing babies is wrong” any better?

    Will the Aztecs not simply retort “But our God likes us to kill babies”.

  164. 164

    Andre:

    Dr Liddle, the man does not actually cause the avalanche, Avalanches are caused by; weather, snowfall, temperature, wind direction, snow pack conditions, slope angle, slope orientation, terrain, and vegetation.

    OK, if you want to include both proximal and distal causes, then feel free to include the forces that raised the mountains, the events that led to the formation of a rocky planet round the sun, the events that led to the sun, and so back to Big Bang, and beyond, if you like.

    But in that case, what does this mean: “in this cause and effect universe we live in effects cannot be greater than their causes, its impossible”?

    How are you measuring the relative sizes of causes and effects?

  165. 165
    Chris Doyle says:

    Pop goes the weasel!

    There are any amount of issues which are not objective and yet have great substance and weight.

    And so it is, whenever Internet Atheists are forced to confront the fact that reason is not on their side, they simply ditch reason. Madness.

    Lizzie already admitted that atheists have no reason to be moral towards people whose welfare they do not value. That is effectively an admission that atheistic morality fails. No rational, honest theist would make such a damning admission. So, the debate is over.

    And there is absolutely no point in discussing theistic morality with atheists: Internet Atheists have a pathological hatred of theistic morality. That is often the true reason why they embraced atheism in the first place! So, there is no light to be shed here, only the sort of tabloid-level comments that we see in 163.

  166. 166
    Mark Frank says:

    #165 Chris

    And so it is, whenever Internet Atheists are forced to confront the fact that reason is not on their side, they simply ditch reason. Madness.

    I notice you didn’t address my example.Do you deny that is both subjective and has substance and weight?

  167. 167
    Chris Doyle says:

    Here we go round the mulberry bush!

    I didn’t address your example, Mark, because it was rubbish. Your entire post was completely irrational, in fact. You, once again, abandoned reason itself rather than admit you are wrong. Truth is exclusively objective. If a subjective notion happens to be objectively true, that is thanks only to objectivity.

    For every subjective claim, there is an equally valid subjective denial of that claim. And no-one can judge between the two without appealing to the objective truth of the matter.

    Where there are no objective truths – as is the case with atheistic morality – then subjective notions and claims can offer no effective substitute. But, of course, you can never ever admit that here, let alone to yourself because then you would have to choose between atheism and morality.

    Let’s be honest, you’d ditch atheism if you had to make that choice. And you do, Mark, you really do.

  168. 168
    Phinehas says:

    Liz:

    And how is “Our [God] says killing babies is wrong” any better?

    Will the Aztecs not simply retort “But our God likes us to kill babies”.

    Sometimes, it seems as though you cannot help but miss the point. It is as though atheism and its subjectivity are such entrenched presuppositions that you are incapable of comprehending anything outside of that particular box.

    From that atheistic, subjective perspective, me saying, “Our God says killing babies is wrong,” carries no weight whatsoever. It is meaningless. It is the warmed over vibration of particles arising from the firing of neurons at a particular location in spacetime that happens to correspond with a cranium that other firing neurons have arbitrarily chosen to label “mine.” As such, additional neurons firing in other craniums resulting in particle vibrations that communicate, “But our God likes us to kill babies,” carry exactly the same weight. On naturalism, how could it be otherwise? How could one firing neuron carry more weight than another?

    Other than might makes right, the only thing that could possibly give one the right to even judge another’s behavior is the existence of some truth about right and wrong that is objective and transcendent. At the very least, theism allows for the possibility that the way we all act as though there is something objective and transcendent about truth is a reflection of a deeper reality and not merely a shared subjective illusion that may or may not continue to fool the masses.

  169. 169

    Chris:

    Lizzie already admitted that atheists have no reason to be moral towards people whose welfare they do not value. That is effectively an admission that atheistic morality fails.

    No, it is not, Chris, and you know it, because you have to put that “effectively” in there to imply that it is, really.

    And I think I said (at least I meant, it’s possible that I used those words) that atheists have no reason care about people whose welfare they do not value. Exactly the same is true of theists.

  170. 170

    Phinehas, it seems to me that you have missed my point!

    But I guess that’s the way with these conversations. Nothing connects.

  171. 171
    Chris Doyle says:

    Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
    Once again, Lizzie needs the blindingly obvious spelling out to her. How many more times?

    If the atheistic system of morality depends on how much you value the welfare of others… in fact, even if just once in Lizzie’s saintful (thanks to all that theistic morality she is irrationally holding on to) existence she comes across someone in moral need whose welfare she does not value (or even value enough) and so, in accordance with rationality, does not act morally towards this needy, but unvalued soul, then that is a failure of atheistic morality.

    Sure, act immorally or refrain from acting morally when you are stupid and irrational. But if rationality ever promotes immorality or relegates morality then morality fails. Morality must always be the most rational thing to do if it is to succeed: even if you don’t care one jot for the person you are acting morally towards.

    So, when Lizzie admitted that atheists have no reason to be moral towards people whose welfare they don’t value (and, let’s be completely honest here, that is at least 99.9999% of people), she effectively admitted that atheistic morality fails.

    So clear, so obvious, but I’m sure Lizzie will prefer to lead us down the garden path than admit it.

    And it doesn’t matter that atheists act morally: that’s just as irrational as theists that act immorally. We’re all irrational from time to time, some – Mark “Subjective is the new Objective” Frank, I’m looking at you here – more than others. But we don’t learn a thing about theism and atheism from their irrational proponents. We only learn about them by applying the objectivity and logic of reason. And, as Lizzie effectively admitted, atheistic morality simply cannot withstand the slightest rational scrutiny.

  172. 172

    Chris

    If the atheistic system of morality depends on how much you value the welfare of others… in fact, even if just once in Lizzie’s saintful (thanks to all that theistic morality she is irrationally holding on to) existence she comes across someone in moral need whose welfare she does not value (or even value enough) and so, in accordance with rationality, does not act morally towards this needy, but unvalued soul, then that is a failure of atheistic morality.

    And exactly the same is true of theistic morality.

    So if one fails, so does the other.

  173. 173
    Chris Doyle says:

    See-saw Marjory Daw!

    Theistic morality does not depend upon anything: it is unconditional, absolute, universal, objective, rational and good, truly good. That is why it can never fail.
    Only mankind fails.

    Atheistic morality is totally dependent on emotions: it is conditional, relative, fashionable, subjective, irrational and… well, there’s no such thing as good in a Godless universe. That is why it fails.
    Only theistic morality can make an atheist act morally.

  174. 174
    Alan Fox says:

    William Murray:

    God as the existential, necessary grounding of good, existence, rationality, morality, will; creator of the universe; omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent inasmuch as those qualities are possible without self-contradiction.

    Frankly, William, this sounds like a shopping list. You seem to have cherry-picked concepts and reassembled them to suit yourself. Now, I don’t happen to be concerned about that as you are free to do as you wish within the obvious legal constraints of the society you live in. But where is the objectivity. You just took this stance. This is just what you, the subject, decided.

    You are using the term “stolen concept” incorrectly. If I use another person’s concept, it’s not “stolen” unless it cannot be justified under my premises.

    Borrowing without asking is stealing (unless you actually return the goods!).

  175. 175
    Alan Fox says:

    Doyle, you are a pillock!

  176. 176
    Chris Doyle says:

    Atheistic morality at its best.

  177. 177
    Phinehas says:

    Liz:

    Phinehas, it seems to me that you have missed my point!

    That’s entirely possible! I kind of took it this way:

    1. Assume nothing is truly objective.
    2. See? Theism struggles just as much with subjectivity!

    So, what was your real point? And can you make it without assuming subjectivity as a starting point?

  178. 178
    Phinehas says:

    Sorry, I should have said:

    1. Assume nothing about God or right or wrong is truly objective.

  179. 179
    LarTanner says:

    A howler in a thread of theistic howlers:

    Theistic morality does not depend upon anything

    Except perhaps the Theos. Oops.

    it is unconditional, absolute, universal, objective, rational and good, truly good. That is why it can never fail.

    Only mankind fails.

    Translation: I can do anything I want and still feel like I have a path to feeling morally superior to others.

    Do you ever disagree with Allah on morality, or do you two coincidentally happen to share the same values?

  180. 180
    Chris Doyle says:

    Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear!

    Theos is taken care of by the “theistic” bit of “theistic morality”, LT. It’s a given. Without God, you cannot have theistic morality. Only atheistic morality, the kind that was so ably demonstrated by an Internet Atheist in post 175.

    Did I really have to spell that out?

  181. 181
    Mark Frank says:

    In #162 above I offered an example of a decision that was subjective, non-trivial and open to rational (but not conclusive) debate. No one has even attempted to refute it. Chris has hurled a certain amount of abuse in response (presumably his theist moral code permits this?) and declared it to be rubbish . But no one has attempted to explain why it is not a valid example.

    I think this is key because the repeated tone of the theist camp is that the only alternative to an objective morality is caprice and whim with no foundation (never mind that in the end all theist morality involves a subjective decision that you ought to conform to it)

  182. 182
    Phinehas says:

    Mark:

    Sorry, I missed you post.

    It is a subjective decision whether to allow a new road, which would make life easier, to be built over beautiful countryside (let us imagine that everyone involved is genuinely striving to take into account everyone’s wishes to take the moral element out of it). It has great weight and can involve evidence and reasoning but in the end the decision is subjective.

    I don’t think you are using the word “weight” the same way, but let’s go with what you’ve got for the moment. If the pros cannot objectively outweigh the cons or the cons cannot objectively outweigh the pros and there cannot be an objectively right or wrong answer, exactly what evidence and reasoning are available beyond stating personal preferences?

    But I guarantee that even if the entire countryside were populated by atheists who denied the very possibility of objective truth, you’d still hear arguments as if it were objectively true that expedience is more important than preservation, or that access for emergency vehicles is more important than aesthetics, or that long-term planning is better than short-term gain, or that the needs of the many are more important than the needs of the few. And none of the participants in those arguments would stop to consider that, on pure subjectivity, the opposite of each argument is just as valid.

  183. 183
    Querius says:

    Alan,

    Indeed! Can Christians be truly altruistic? They are motivated by the belief if they are very, very good, they will get to Heaven. Altruistic? Really?

    That exactly the opposite of what the Christianity of the Bible teaches! Good works cannot save a person.

    Well, you could ask him. Here is his website. I am sure you’ll be able to find a contact email there.

    Yikes! I wouldn’t expect an answer, but I’m willing to try.

  184. 184
    Barb says:

    Alan writes,

    Indeed! Can Christians be truly altruistic? They are motivated by the belief if they are very, very good, they will get to Heaven. Altruistic? Really?

    My motivation for altruism has nothing to do with getting to heaven. You really need to learn a little more about world religions, Christianity in particular.

  185. 185
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    So atheists in your view, don’t have a “moral compass” at all, just “subjective proclivities”.

    Atheists don’t have any compass whatsoever, period. Moral or otherwise.

    Another way to put it is that Atheists have no pole, no magnetic north, so even if they had a “compass” it would not function as intended, and thus would be no compass at all.

  186. 186
    Brent says:

    One can believe it is important to tell the truth and be an atheist/naturalist; the question is that given atheism/naturalism, why should they?

    I don’t think that is really the question, is it?

    I think it is, given atheism/naturalism, how could one tell the truth even if they thought they should?

    On naturalism, everything is true, every thought a fact. Pretty boring. Everything is nothing. Nothing but gray.

  187. 187
    Brent says:

    Hi Liz,

    Long time no see, but just prior to your UD vacation I had posted to you concerning morality the following, but was not able, for obvious reasons, to get a response from you.

    I now copy and paste from a blog post I made elsewhere concerning it. I’d like you to consider it.

    I apologize if the formatting doesn’t work out very well; I’ll try.

    Concerning the source of a binding morality, Liz said:

    I’d say there are three related sources:

    1.The fact that we are social animals and therefore interdependent.

    2.The fact that we have “theory of mind” capacity, and can understand how the world is perceived from another person’s point of view (both literally – it probably starts with “shared gaze” capacity – and metaphorically).

    3.Our language capacity, and with it, our capacity for “mental time travel” and thus the capacity to reify distant goals as they affect both others and ourselves, and thus make choices that are not solely determined by immediate personal reward.

    In short, it evolved. But whether you agree with me that it evolved, or argue that it was implanted in us as a gift from God, it is undeniable that we have it, because every language has a word for “ought” AFAIK, and I know of no culture in which “duty” is an unknown concept.

    – Emphasis mine, B.

    But this is very problematic. First, Liz’s 1, 2, and 3 are not descriptions of source in the sense of where they came from ultimately, but only how we may realize their existence. It is simply giving an account of how we may come to realize them, or probably more accurately, how we can conceive that altruism (something that Liz said she thinks is another, perhaps better, term for morality) may be beneficial. But that seems in a roundabout way to imply one knows they are not “from above” and may potentially not actually be binding.

    But, I don’t think we need to argue about that, for Liz also said, “in short, [morality] evolved”, and it seems that her three points are meant to be taken as a description of parts of that process, then.

    But, if morality evolved, then it isn’t from a higher source. Even if Nature, somehow, evolved these rules apart from man, it still isn’t permissible to say that they are binding, for man is a part of Nature as much as (really, more than, being the only rational beings) anything else. So just as a man can tell Liz that she isn’t an authority over him, she being a mere co-human, a man can also say that Nature is no authority over him because he is co-Nature with Nature herself. In other words, I have the valid option of telling Nature to go take a flying leap.

    But of course, Liz doesn’t believe in a teleological Nature anyway, so she would have further trouble in arguing that Nature “knows what’s best” for us. At any rate, her three points above make it sound like she is saying that these binding morals evolved from man (again, which is really the same as saying from Nature, man being part of that Nature).

    So, she hasn’t shown a coherent way for these morals to be binding, for:

    If man is the source of the moral law, then man governs the moral laws, and the moral laws do not govern man.

    Now, the problem is what I emphasized above in quoting Liz, “it is undeniable that we have [a binding morality]”. Well, yes, it is. She has it, you have it, and both she and you know it’s binding. That isn’t the problem in itself. The problem is that when I say, “You have no grounding for your morals, to make them actually binding upon us rather than arbitrary.”, your inner “moral indignation” rises up and says, almost rightly, “Hey! I have binding morals just like you, you creep!”

    But it’s only almost right. The reason isn’t that you don’t have the morals claimed, but that it is answering what wasn’t asked, or defending against what was never blamed.

    Analogy:

    Three Men Walking

    One normal guy walks up. I ask him to jump. He does.

    Another guy walks up. He is as normal as the first guy, with one exception. He is walking in the air. I ask him to jump. He tries, but cannot. He is not grounded.

    A third guy walks up. He is as normal as the other two, with a different exception. He is walking on the ground, but says that he doesn’t believe in the ground. I ask him to jump. He does.

    Now, when I and others say you (an atheist) have no grounding for a binding morality, you think we are claiming that you are the second “guy”. “But”, you say, “Look! I can jump just as well as you!”, and you can.

    But I am not claiming you are the second guy at all. I’m claiming that you’re the third guy. You are grounded, and can jump as well as anyone. It’s not your grounding that’s the problem in the physical and practical sense, it’s your thinking about the ground that is wrong. Your thinking is irrational and incoherent on this point. You are denying the ground from which you can, still, jump.

    You can jump from now until the cows come home, but until your thinking about the ground changes, you’ll never have correct understanding of an obvious fact.

    You can, and do, have correct and binding morals, just as the third man can jump, but your thinking, also just like the third man, is simply incorrect.

  188. 188
    Chris Doyle says:

    Mark, for the record, your attempt to pass subjectivity off as the new objectivity was refuted in post 167. Please don’t pretend otherwise. And please don’t complain about abuse where none was given. I attacked the argument, not the person.

    See post 175 for abuse. Just when you and Lizzie had almost convinced me that atheists were such nice people and always valued the welfare of others 😉

  189. 189
    Mark Frank says:

    Phineas #182
    Thanks for responding.

    I don’t think you are using the word “weight” the same way, but let’s go with what you’ve got for the moment. If the pros cannot objectively outweigh the cons or the cons cannot objectively outweigh the pros and there cannot be an objectively right or wrong answer, exactly what evidence and reasoning are available beyond stating personal preferences?

    Quite a lot.

    I can point out consequences that the other side have not thought of. “Do you realise that this road will create a parking problem as well.”

    I can compare the situation to others. “This is a smaller road than the one in village X and the residents accepted that”

    I can point out inconsistencies in their argument. “You don’t want a road but you are quite happy to have a small airport which would be even more unsightly”

    I can make emotional appeals “Do you really want this beautiful countryside covered in a sea of concrete for generations to come”

    But I guarantee that even if the entire countryside were populated by atheists who denied the very possibility of objective truth, you’d still hear arguments as if it were objectively true that expedience is more important than preservation, or that access for emergency vehicles is more important than aesthetics, or that long-term planning is better than short-term gain, or that the needs of the many are more important than the needs of the few. And none of the participants in those arguments would stop to consider that, on pure subjectivity, the opposite of each argument is just as valid.

    That might be true but that is my point. In many issues, including morals, there is no ultimate objective criterion, but we are still able to conduct rational conversation as though there were. And it makes surprisingly little difference in most cases because there is sufficient agreement (although occasionally we hit an impasse where all the arguments have been exhausted and now we vote or fight or whatever)

  190. 190
    Brent says:

    Mark, I cannot comprehend in the least why you expect others (or why you do yourself) to take “substance and weight” to be equivalents of right or wrong. Right and wrong things may have a great substance and weight, indeed the most substance and weight, but that doesn’t mean that everything, especially when the terms are arbitrarily applied, said to have substance and weight rises to a level of right or wrong. And I think the examples being discussed (though I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to) show this lack of right and wrong clearly.

  191. 191
    Chris Doyle says:

    Mark said:

    In many issues, including morals, there is no ultimate objective criterion, but we are still able to conduct rational conversation as though there were. And it makes surprisingly little difference in most cases because there is sufficient agreement (although occasionally we hit an impasse where all the arguments have been exhausted and now we vote or fight or whatever)

    This is simply not what it is like in the real world. The conversation is not rational. It is more like this:

    For: “We want to lay a road that goes right through those nice, unspoiled fields”
    Against: “We don’t want you to lay a road that goes right through those nice, unspoiled fields”

    (BLAH BLAH BLACH: a few floaters might change their mind, most don’t, most become more entrenched in fact)

    Result: might is right and the road-builders have might on their side and go ahead and build the road anyway.

    Where is the rational component of this discourse? Nowhere. Where is the objectivity (indeed, for Mark’s example to apply, there can be no objectivity whatsoever)? There is no true right or wrong. The only right is might.

    And this is more true than ever of moral debate.

  192. 192
    Querius says:

    Reading through all the posts, I could help but wonder whether torturing and killing babies is morally justified, if the life of the mother is at stake, the baby will be born severely handicapped, or in cases of rape.

    What do you think, Elizabeth?

  193. 193
    Alan Fox says:

    Apologies to Chris Doyle.

    I shouldn’t have allowed my irritation at your run of inane, supercilious comments to provoke me into calling you a pillock.

  194. 194

    I don’t think torturing babies is ever justified, Querius. I think allowing babies to die, with palliative care only, occasionally is.

  195. 195
    Alan Fox says:

    Barb:

    My motivation for altruism has nothing to do with getting to heaven.

    What is your motive for altruism, then, Barb? I find that the opportunity to help someone arises and I do what I can. I don’t analyse it too much until perhaps I get the feeling of being taken advantage of, though I can’t recall it being an issue.

    You really need to learn a little more about world religions, Christianity in particular.

    I am repelled by dogma and proselytism. It is obvious to me that social order is linked with religion as a controlling influence. What religion is a personal choice. I happen to go for “none of the above” though Buddhism does interest me (or rather some of what the Dalai Lama has written – “The World in a Single Atom”, for instance – gells with me).

    As to Jesus, the man, no problem, his ideas as filtered by the new testament, no problem. The supernatural hocus-pocus detracts from the concepts of sharing, fellow-feeling and co-operation. I remain unconvinced that there is any society that lives genuinely by the philosophy that Jesus (as filtered) espoused.

  196. 196
    Andre says:

    Alan

    “I remain unconvinced that there is any society that lives genuinely by the philosophy that Jesus (as filtered) espoused.”

    Yes and that is why He died for us, a ransom no human can ever pay we all fall short. Thus saved by grace and not by works.

  197. 197
    Chris Doyle says:

    Apology accepted, Alan. A better way to channel the frustration is to actually address the arguments I made. If they were so flawed, it should be easy enough for you to demonstrate that. As it is, I can only assume that you were so frustrated because my arguments are irrefutable.

    It brings to mind this great quote that I came across yesterday:

    “…it can be actively dispiriting to engage in debate with people who just don’t know how to argue, and lack the logical skills and generosity to rebut or accept a point of argument. Generally they become personally unpleasant at some point or other. I imagine it is much the same for a chess grandmaster, playing against unskilled opponents who angrily turn the board over when they lose, rather than trying to work out why and how they lost.” (Peter Hitchens)

  198. 198
    lpadron says:

    EL @ 194,

    In a parallel universe exists your twin, Alice. On this earth you don’t believe torturing babies is ever justified. On that earth however, Alice finds great pleasure in torturing babies.

    Which one of you is the evil twin and why?

  199. 199
    Mark Frank says:

    Brent #190

    Mark, I cannot comprehend in the least why you expect others (or why you do yourself) to take “substance and weight” to be equivalents of right or wrong.

    I don’t. I offered my example as a refutation of Phineas comment:

    if there is no objective truth about right or wrong, then trying to persuade others (or demonstrate to others) that they ought to change their way of life has no more substance or weight than trying to persuade them to eat chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla

    i.e. Phineas is arguing that lack of objectivity implies triviality. I am offering an example which is both subjective and non-trivial. It is deliberately not in the moral domain.

  200. 200
    Mark Frank says:

    Chris #191

    You may inhabit a barren world where no one goes beyond repeating their preferences (this would explain a lot of your comments). However, I have found that people will in practice actually make serious rational points about issues like this – combined with less rational arguments. More to the point it is theoretically possible for them to make such arguments on a rational basis even though the final decision is subjective. Subjectivity does not preclude serious decisions based on rational debate – even if in your experience it rarely happens.

  201. 201
    LarTanner says:

    Chris @ 180,

    True or false: morality depends on God.

  202. 202
    Chris Doyle says:

    No Mark, I live in the real world where objectivity counts and anyone who attempts to substitute it for subjectivity will soon be found out. As you have been.

    After all, anything you assert that is truly subjective can be completely dismissed for being subjective. And no-one wil ever know who is truly right or wrong. Only might is right.

    If you reduce morality to that, it fails.

    All you are basically saying is that even the most subjective matter often depends upon objective facts. The only thing that makes the decision “serious” is that it is actually concerned with objective truth.

  203. 203
    Chris Doyle says:

    LT: true. In a Godless universe, there is no morality.

    Or good, or evil, or free-will, or meaning.

  204. 204
    steveO says:

    Speaking of stolen obligations, this one gave me a smile when I came across it recently on Amazon:

    Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct

    Psychologist Michael McCullough argues that the key to a more forgiving, less vengeful world is to understand the evolutionary forces that gave rise to these intimately human instincts and the social forces that activate them in human minds today.

    Drawing on exciting breakthroughs from the social and biological sciences, McCullough dispenses surprising and practical advice for making the world a more forgiving place.

  205. 205
    bornagain77 says:

    Hijacking forgiveness? But if there is no objective moral standard, who is to say that an act was/is morally wrong? The atheist simply does not have an objective moral standard to appeal to, whereas the Theist, especially the Christian Theist, is acutely aware of the fact that God’s perfect moral standard is the mark that all have fallen short of.

    Colossians 3:13
    Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

    Matthew 18:21-22 & 32-33
    Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
    Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

  206. 206
    Joe says:

    True or false: morality depends on God.

    I say “false” because the law-giver doesn’t need to be God. So in a materialist universe there wouldn’t be any overriding morality.

  207. 207
    Brent says:

    Mark @199,

    It is deliberately not in the moral domain.

    From what I gather you are discussing, it is falsely “not in the moral domain”, and implies that it really is in the moral domain because the “weight” only comes in when, or if, the discussion ends and people start knocking heads. Until then, there is no weight, just discussion. Heated perhaps, but discussion doesn’t seem to have any particular weight to it, unless you would like to say that it is morally imperative that people with differences of opinion and desire that conflict with one another’s ought to discuss things civilly. I doubt you want to say that though.

  208. 208
    Mark Frank says:

    Brent

    I struggle to understand you but I will try to address your point. By “weight” I simply mean that the outcome matters to everyone concerned. It is not just a matter of personal whim like ice-cream. I don’t see it as being a moral matter in this case because I am assuming that everyone has the whole community’s interest at heart (unrealistic but this a theoretical possibility to illustrate a point – not a natural history). This still leaves it as a subjective matter as to what is the community’s interest.

    The other, equally important, point is that is quite possible to have rational discussions with complex valid reasoning over this subjective issue.

    To repeat – the main point is that subjective does not necessarily mean trivial debate. (And indeed objective issues can easily lead to trivial debate)

  209. 209
    LarTanner says:

    Chris @ 203,

    Terrific. Therefore, when I say theistic morality depends on the Theos, I am saying something you should agree with.

    You cannot just assert, as you do in 173, that “Theistic morality does not depend upon anything.” Theistic morality depends at least on (a) the existence of the Theos, (b) the specific identity of the Theos, and ( c) the unambiguous authority of the Theos.

    Also, when you say “theistic morality” do you mean morality as derived from the law-giving God whose instructions appear in the Torah? Do you mean also or exclusively the Pharisaic-type morality sketched in the Greek Testament? Do you mean the precepts offered in the Qu’ran?

    Mainly, I want to know whether the important point for you is that morality have a Theos at its source or whether your point is that morality comes from a specific Theos (yours, of course — there’s no way you would worship the wrong go in the wrong manner!).

    Finally, I cannot let go this laffer: “In a Godless universe, there is no morality. Or good, or evil, or free-will, or meaning.” As written, what you say here is too vague and emotionally charged to be helpful. What you really mean is that in our universe, morality is a human invention, as are good, evil, free-will, and meaning. This revision is still vague — after all, philosophically minded people have been arguing about and defining the metaphysical status of the these concepts for centuries upon centuries. The point is that you don’t mean “no morality whatsoever” so much as “no morality of the type you ardently desire.”

  210. 210
    bornagain77 says:

    LT, I don’t think the molecules of your brain are comprehending the severity of the problem.

  211. 211
    Brent says:

    Mark, it seems like you do understand me, basically. The point is, I don’t see any weight at all if there is no objective moral issue involved. You say there is weight, but you are just hiding the door where the weight is sneaking in from, namely that people are concerned for their community.

    I notice, though, you didn’t say the communities “best” interest at heart. That leaves us with a giant hole as to what kind of interest.

  212. 212
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hi LT, if the theistic worldview is true, then there is in fact only one universal Moral Law that we are all aware of, internally and externally (every people had their Prophets sent to teach us lessons about the Moral Law and to warn those who choose to break it). Jews, Christians, Muslims: the Truth is in their scriptures.

    This notion that there are different Gods to choose from is false. There is only One God, but He has many names. Likewise there is only One Moral Law: the one at the heart of theistic morality. The only question is, how can you learn and follow it? But that’s a question which is meaningless if you’re an atheist so let’s move on.

    You got the wrong end of the stick when I mentioned a Godless universe. What I had in mind was the (atheistically irrefutable) words of the Atheistic Messiah, Richard Dawkins.

    In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

  213. 213
    LarTanner says:

    Chris,

    You mis-speak:

    if the theistic worldview is true, then there is in fact only one universal Moral Law that we are all aware of

    No, if a theistic worldview is true, and a rather specific worldview at that.

    Also, it does not necessarily follow that if morality comes from a god that this morality would either be universal or one that we were all aware of, internally and externally.

    This notion that there are different Gods to choose from is false. There is only One God, but He has many names.

    ORLY? Is this the religion of Doyle-ism?

    I love that Dawkins quote. It’s mainly consistent with what I have said, but yeah I disagree with “the Atheistic Messiah,” as you call Dawkins.

    Tell me, O prophet of Doyle-ism, on what do you disagree with your messiah? I disagree with Dawkins and I admit it, so perhaps he’s not the messiah you say he is.

    But do you disagree with your Jesus or Mohammed or whomever you think is supposed to be the bees’ knees? Do you at times think your One True God really screwed the pooch, so to speak, on this or that decision?

  214. 214
    LarTanner says:

    And Prophet-Chris,

    For someone who berated the logical skills of people back in comment 197, your last two responses have been very disappointing. You have been vague and illogical, using imprecise language and jumping to unwarranted conclusions.

    Please show up in your next response or let’s just forget it.

  215. 215
    Andre says:

    Lartanner

    No free will you say? How do you know that? Perhaps you believe that, based on your opinion, thus you choose to believe there is no free will….

    But how did you choose that if there is in fact no free will? What did you choose to wear today? What did you choose from the menu at lunch time? Did you choose to help that old lady stuck in trying to cross the street or not? I mean all of these menial things are your choices….

  216. 216
    Chris Doyle says:

    I’m sorry to disappoint you, LT. If you’re looking for a full and detailed theological discussion, you’re not going to get one from me, not here anyway.

    If we’re discussing theistic morality, you simply have to take the truth of theism as a given, even if you cannot fully appreciate or even understand the theological knowledge that is brought to bear on this discussion. And rest assured, I am not remotely interested in attempting to persuade you to accept theological truth.

    This is exactly how I treat atheistic morality – by assuming the truth of atheism without quibbling about irrelevant details – it is the only way to keep the conversation focused. And, unlike many online discussions, actually achieves results and reaches a conclusion!

    Lizzie once again affirmed the effective failure of atheistic morality (see 171 and 172) and Mark once again had to resort to substituting subjectivity for objectivity: you couldn’t make a more fatal and self-defeating substitution if you tried (see 189 and 191).

    I am solely motivated by a good argument. I want to test my position and my arguments to make sure they withstand scrutiny. Though sometimes I intervene solely to set the record straight. Well, I am now more than happy with the record. And I don’t see any good arguments, no challenge to rise to. So, if that’s everything, let’s agree to “just forget it”.

    In the meantime, keep searching with an open mind. There are more things in heaven and earth, LT, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

  217. 217
    LarTanner says:

    Chris @ 216,

    Then let me have the last word because you were asked some decent questions that you could have answered without reading too far into theology.

    For instance, you didn’t need theology to admit the distinction between one theistic worldview that you hold, and the very many different theistic worldviews that are available. You also don’t need theology to recognize that some of the differences between these view are great enough to lead to incompatible or even conflicting conclusions about reality and morality.

    Neither do you need to discuss theology to admit that existence of a god — even the god of the classical Christian theist tradition — has no necessary connection to universal morality or any morality at all. This is a matter of logic and your challenge is to make an argument that actually uses logic instead of nonsensical, pablum assertions like “There is only One God, but He has many names. Likewise there is only One Moral Law: the one at the heart of theistic morality.” You are not arguing but simply flatulating new agey junk.

    If you are interested in a good argument, you need first to learn to make one yourself. Your comment at 216 is strike three for you, however. There’s no argument there, only retreat and silly lies about Lizzie and Mark’s arguments. Unfortunately, creationists/IDists/theists have lying down to an art form — it’s a matter of emotional preservation I guess.

    So, look, I really don’t want to have a discussion with you. In three comments, in addition to the logical flailing, you’ve provided no insight, knowledge, or approaches of any value whatsoever. You’ve offered no challenge, so I shall relent and move on. You’re welcome.

    But, please, do answer this one request. Just this: Please tell me about specific points of morality on which you disagree with your One True God. There must be something – anything – you find hard to take.

    If you feel healthier, maybe you could explain why you think theism is the only source of morality. Or, more properly, why do you think non-theist consequentialist, deontological, and virtue-type ethical theories are inadequate. But I don’t expect you to answer this question (or any of my questions, really; it’s an understandable habit of creationists/IDists/theists to ask questions and demand answers but not to answer questions themselves).

    You also should keep searching, and might I suggest that yours is the mind that needs opening. Really…think hard about this. Your allusion to Hamlet is noted, but I think Shakespeare would probably facepalm to see his words used in the context for which you highjack them.

  218. 218
    Chris Doyle says:

    I’m perfectly happy to let you have the last word, LT. And I think you’ve had it. But then you asked a question which you seem to want an answer to… not sure you can do that if you want to have the last word.

    But, please, do answer this one request. Just this: Please tell me about specific points of morality on which you disagree with your One True God. There must be something – anything – you find hard to take.

    Anyway, I’ll answer: I do not disagree with the Creator about anything. And there is nothing I find hard to take.

    All the best, LT.

  219. 219
    LarTanner says:

    I do not disagree with the Creator about anything. And there is nothing I find hard to take.

    If unsurprising, this statement is sad and terrifying. A complete abdication of reason, humanity, and morality.

    Please do consider opening your mind. Make the effort. To start, you might look first at the textual scholarship of the holy books. Once you see that the texts are clearly man-made and derivative, you’ll realize that you new age jazz has been mere self-indulgence.

  220. 220
    Andre says:

    Ain’t free will a b@#$h, your are free to choose whatever you want to believe Lartanner, Just a question for you? If everything is predetermined and there is no free will how can one open his mind? Are you suggesting that the shackles of predetermination can be broken with a mind? I don’t get how you can open your mind if there is no free will, you are suggesting with that statement that you are obviously more powerful than all the rules of the universe, maybe you should think about the fact that you can have an open mind and what that means, take your time.

  221. 221
    Phinehas says:

    Phin: If the pros cannot objectively outweigh the cons or the cons cannot objectively outweigh the pros and there cannot be an objectively right or wrong answer, exactly what evidence and reasoning are available beyond stating personal preferences?

    Mark: Quite a lot.

    I can point out consequences that the other side have not thought of. “Do you realise that this road will create a parking problem as well.”

    I can compare the situation to others. “This is a smaller road than the one in village X and the residents accepted that”

    I can point out inconsistencies in their argument. “You don’t want a road but you are quite happy to have a small airport which would be even more unsightly”

    I can make emotional appeals “Do you really want this beautiful countryside covered in a sea of concrete for generations to come”

    Either you are presenting evidence toward a conclusion that one choice is objectively better than the other, or you are stretching the word “evidence” beyond its breaking point such that we could speak of “evidence” that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream. You can’t have it both ways. Either you are reasoning toward an objective conclusion or you’ve mangled the meaning of “reason” such that we can “reason” our way to whether vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate ice cream or not. Again, you can’t have it both ways.

    Mark: In many issues, including morals, there is no ultimate objective criterion, but we are still able to conduct rational conversation as though there were. And it makes surprisingly little difference in most cases because there is sufficient agreement (although occasionally we hit an impasse where all the arguments have been exhausted and now we vote or fight or whatever)

    It is irrational to argue as though an illusion were true. You confirm my point in saying that it makes surprisingly little difference in practice. Why is it so surprising? Precisely because it is irrational to argue as though an illusion were true. The lengths to which you will go to redefine the meaning of words demonstrates how much you really want the illusion to be an illusion instead of the objective reality you need it to be in order to make an argument in the first place. Yes, this is surprisingly irrational.

  222. 222
    Mark Frank says:

    Phineas

    Either you are presenting evidence toward a conclusion that one choice is objectively better than the other, or you are stretching the word “evidence” beyond its breaking point such that we could speak of “evidence” that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream. You can’t have it both ways.

    There are very few real decisions that are settled on purely objective grounds.   Any decision that has to take into account people’s preferences is subjective. Are you saying that none of these can involve evidence? What if you are not sure whether it is an objective decision or not? You might be under the illusion that you are providing evidence only to find that it was not evidence at all because there was a subjective element.

    It is irrational to argue as though an illusion were true. You confirm my point in saying that it makes surprisingly little difference in practice. Why is it so surprising?

    I did not mean to imply that we are under the illusion it is objective. I just mean we use the same types of arguments.  When I used the word “surprising” I meant that you might find it surprising. I don’t find it surprising and most people don’t care about the difference.

  223. 223
    Mark Frank says:

    Andre #220

    What makes you think predetermination is a shackle. If all it means that your needs and wishes determine your decisions that is hardly a loss of freedom.

  224. 224
    Phinehas says:

    Phin: It is irrational to argue as though an illusion were true.

    Mark: I did not mean to imply that we are under the illusion it is objective.

    Of course not. Did my statement imply otherwise? You said this:

    Mark: In many issues, including morals, there is no ultimate objective criterion, but we are still able to conduct rational conversation as though there were.

    Your meaning seems pretty clear to me. You assert that a particular thing is not the case and then call it “rational” to have a conversation as though it were the case. That you are under no illusions regarding this disconnect between belief and behavior does nothing to demonstrate rationality. Quite the contrary.

  225. 225
    Barb says:

    Alan Fox @ 195:

    What is your motive for altruism, then, Barb?

    I think I may have answered this question already on another thread. Anyway, for me, altruism is the result of love for God and neighbor.

    I find that the opportunity to help someone arises and I do what I can. I don’t analyse it too much until perhaps I get the feeling of being taken advantage of, though I can’t recall it being an issue.

    My concept of altruism is best described as “unselfish giving.” I don’t usually consider whether or not I’m being taken advantage of, like you, but I just feel that helping others whenever and wherever I can is what I should be doing.

    I am repelled by dogma and proselytism.

    I think a lot of nonreligious people feel this way, but some who are religious, Christians included, view proselytism as altruistic giving.

    It is obvious to me that social order is linked with religion as a controlling influence.

    Well, if you’re talking about the influence religion has in the US, you may have a point. But there are plenty of secular societies where religion’s role has greatly diminished. France is an example.

    What religion is a personal choice. I happen to go for “none of the above” though Buddhism does interest me (or rather some of what the Dalai Lama has written – “The World in a Single Atom”, for instance – gells with me).

    I’ve heard Buddhism humorously described as religion for atheists, because belief in a personal God is not necessary. Interestingly, for Buddhists no act is sin. The idea of sin is unknown. It is simply the case of a bad act’s producing a bad result. Thus if one were a Buddhist it would be difficult for him to realize the results produced by sin, or, in fact, to recognize himself as a sinner.
    In terms of the discussion here, morality is subjective, not objective for Buddhists. For Buddhists, what is practical is important, not ritual (or dogma). The Buddha taught that enlightenment and salvation—the perfection of Nirvana—come, not from any God or external force, but from within a person by his own effort in good deeds and right thoughts. But can the perfection of Nirvana truly come from something (or someone) imperfect?

    As to Jesus, the man, no problem, his ideas as filtered by the new testament, no problem.

    So you agree that Jesus was a historical person.

    The supernatural hocus-pocus detracts from the concepts of sharing, fellow-feeling and co-operation.

    Actually, I think it emphasizes the concepts of sharing. Remember Jesus feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and fishes?

    I remain unconvinced that there is any society that lives genuinely by the philosophy that Jesus (as filtered) espoused.

    I don’t think there is truly a society that does either, but that does not mean that his teachings aren’t valuable.

  226. 226
    Querius says:

    Elizabeth,

    I don’t think torturing babies is ever justified, Querius. I think allowing babies to die, with palliative care only, occasionally is.

    Yes, I agree. Of course, late-term abortion comes to mind (we don’t hear their screams as they die).

    I had a professor once who advocated legalizing postnatal abortions of up to 24 months on the theory that babies do not become human until then (redefinition), and that having an unwanted baby is a form of child abuse (irrational because presumably a “child” is a human). I suppose in his enlightened scheme, the toddlers would be sedated first.

  227. 227
    Mark Frank says:

    Phineas

    Mark: In many issues, including morals, there is no ultimate objective criterion, but we are still able to conduct rational conversation as though there were.

    p: Your meaning seems pretty clear to me. You assert that a particular thing is not the case and then call it “rational” to have a conversation as though it were the case. That you are under no illusions regarding this disconnect between belief and behavior does nothing to demonstrate rationality. Quite the contrary.

    Fair enough. I didn’t phrase that correctly. I should have written:

    In many issues, including morals, there is no ultimate objective criterion, but we are still able to conduct rational conversation using the many of the same arguments and evidence as we would if there an objective criterion.

    Do you seriously doubt that we can produce arguments and evidence for the vast range of subjective assessments and decisions we make every day? Let’s take an example from today’s news. Are the Zimbabwe elections free and fair? Surely you must admit this is to some extent a matter of opinion – even if everyone knew and agreed every detail about what is happening there would be some people who would think that they are free and fair and others who would not. Do you conclude therefore it is not possible to argue or present evidence for one view or the other?

  228. 228
    Breckmin says:

    “Do you conclude therefore it is not possible to argue or present evidence for one view or the other?”

    Clearly not in an open system with no agreed values or moral assumptions/conclusions. You can not even justify the concept of “fair” in any meaningful objective way because true equality exists no where in the universe (with respect to capabilities and exact circumstances).

    Without an appeal to moral absolutes your temporary benevolence is an illusion which will eternally fade long after you are gone…

    There seems to be quite a bit of confusion in this thread regarding the alleged “subjectivity” of theism and whether it differs from atheism in regards to individual assumption.
    First, the objective existence of a Creator is not dependent on individual assumption…such Creator either Is or Is not “objectively.” Your disbelief in such Creator does not validate or invalidate the Creator’s objective self-existence or being.
    Second, what seems completely missing from uncommon descent (which I have been noticing) is how we funnel truth from a foundational basis through cumulative case argument. This is essential in establishing/allowing theistic implications from scientific observation(s). Without a cumulative case argument you are not funneling truth up through a solid foundation and have therefore failed to make a valid connection between agnostic theism and monotheistic conclusions.

    Perhaps before the atheists can even see the difference between objective moral appeals (to a Creator) and subjective moral appeals (which fail miserably) they need to first see how theistic conclusion is funneled through a cumulative case argument.

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