Ethics, philosophy, The Moral Argument

The Ontology of Morality: Some Problems for Humanists and their friends

 Louise Anthony did indeed present the case for secular metaethics. The problem is that this case is utterly vacuous. 

It will be my purpose in the following arguments to show that secular humanistic theories which try to ground moral ontology fail–and fail miserably.

Recently, I listened [again] to the debate between William Lane Craig and Louise Anthony. Some have lauded this debate as a stirring victory for secular ethics. (See, for example, the comments here–one comment even goes so far as to say “I swoon when someone evokes the Euthyphro Dilemma and frown at the impotent, goal-post-moving, ‘Divine nature’ appeal.”) In reality, I think Louise Anthony did indeed present the case for secular metaethics. The problem is that this case is utterly vacuous. 

I’ll break down why this is the case by focusing upon three areas of development in secular and theistic ethics: objective moral truths, suffering, and moral facts.

Objective Moral Truths

Louise Anthony and William Lane Craig agree that there are objective moral truths. Now, this is important because many theists take the existence of objective morality to demonstrate–or at least strongly suggest–the existence of God. Interestingly, other humanist/secular scholars have agreed with Anthony, claiming there are objective truths (another example is Sam Harris–see my analysis of his position contrasted with theism here). The question, of course, is “How?” Consider the following:

Louise Anthony seems to be just confused about the nature of objective morality. She says in response to a question from the audience, “The universe has no purpose, but I do… I have lots of purposes…. It makes a lot of difference to a lot of people and to me what I do. That gives my life significance… The only thing that would make it [sacrificing her own life] insignificant would be if my children’s lives were insignificant. And, boy you better not say that!”

Craig responded, “But Louise, on atheism, their lives are insignificant.” Anthony interjected, “Not to me!”

But then she goes on to make this confused statement, “It’s an objective fact that they [her children] are significant to me.”

Note how Anthony has confused the terms here. Yes, it is an objective fact that according to Louise Anthony, her children matter to her. We can’t question Anthony’s own beliefs–we must trust what she tells us unless we have reason to think otherwise. But that’s not enough. What Craig and other theists are trying to press is that that simple fact has nothing to do with whether her children are actually valuable. Sure, people may go around complaining that “Well, it matters to me, so it does matter!” But that doesn’t make it true. All kinds of things can matter to people, that doesn’t mean that they are ontologically objective facts.

It matters to me whether the Cubs [an American baseball team] win the World Series. That hasn’t happened in 104 years, so it looks like it doesn’t matter in the overall scheme of the universe after all. But suppose I were to, like Anthony, retort, “But the Cubs matter to me! It’s an objective fact that them winning the World Series is significant to me!” Fine! But all the Cardinals [a rival team] fans would just laugh at me and say “SO WHAT!?

Similarly, one can look at Anthony with incredulity and retort, “Who cares!?” Sure, if you can get enough people around Anthony who care about her children’s moral significance, you can develop a socially derived morality. But that’s not enough to ground objective morality. Why should we think that her values matter to the universe at large? On atheism, what reason is there for saying that her desires and purposes for her children are any better than my desires and purposes for the Cubs?

Another devastating objection can be found with a simple thought experiment. Let’s say Anthony didn’t exist. In such a world, there can be no one complaining that her children matter “to me!” Instead, her children just exist as brute facts. How then can we ground their significance? Well, it seems the answer for people like Anthony would be to point to the children’s other family say “Those children matter to them!” We could continue this process almost endlessly. As we eliminate the children’s family, friends, etc. and literally make them just exist on their own, we find Anthony’s answer about allegedly objective morality supervenes on fewer and fewer alleged moral facts. Suddenly “Those children matter to themselves!” is the answer. But then what if we eliminate them? Do humans still have value? The whole time, Anthony has grounded the significance of her children and other humans in the beliefs, goals, and purposes of humans. But without humans, suddenly there is no significance. That’s what is meant by objective morality. If those children matter even without humans, then objective morality is the case. But Anthony has done nothing to make this the case; she’s merely complained that her children matter to her.

Now, some atheists–Anthony and Sam Harris included–seem to think they have answers to these questions. They seem to think that they can ground objective morality. We’ll turn to those next.

Suffering

One of the linchpins of humanists’ claims (like Anthony and Sam Harris) is suffering. The claim is that we can know what causes suffering, and that this, in turn, can lead us to discover what is wrong. We should not cause suffering.

But why not?

Most often the response I’ve received to this question is simply that because we do not wish to suffer, we should not wish to have others suffer or cause suffering for others. But why should that be the case? Why should I care about others’ suffering, on atheism? That’s exactly the question humanism must answer in order to show that objective morality can exist in conjunction with secularism. But I have yet to see a satisfactory answer to this question.

Anthony was presented with a similar question in the Q&A segment of her debate with William Lane Craig. One person asked (paraphrased), “Why shouldn’t I base morality as ‘whatever benefits me the most’?” Anthony responded simply by simply arguing essentially that it’s not right to seek pleasure at the expense of others, because they may also want pleasure.

But of course this is exactly the point! Why in the world should we think that that isn’t right!?

The bottom line is that, other than simply asserting as a brute fact that certain things are right and wrong, atheism provides absolutely no answer to the question of moral objectivity. People like Anthony  try to smuggle it in by saying it’s objectively wrong to cause suffering [usually with some extra clauses], but then when asked why that is wrong, they either throw it back in the face of the one asking the question (i.e. “Well don’t you think it’s wrong?”) or just assert it as though it is obviously true.

And it is obviously true! But what is not so obvious is why it is obviously true, given atheism. We could have simply evolved herd morality which leads us to think it is obviously true, or perhaps we’re culturally conditioned by our close proximity to theists to think it is obviously true, etc. But there still is no reason that tells us why it is, in fact, true.

Moral Facts

Anthony (and Harris, and others with whom I’ve had personal interactions) centralize “moral facts” in their metaethical account. As a side note, what is meant by “moral fact” is a bit confusing but I don’t wish to argue against their position through semantics alone. They claim that we can figure out objective morals on the basis of moral facts. Sam Harris, for example, argues that there is a “continuum of such [moral] facts” and that “we know” we can “move along this continuum” and “We know, we know that there are right and wrong answers about how to move in this space [along the moral continuum]” (see video here).

Now it is all well and good to just talk about “facts” and make it sound all wonderful and carefully packaged, but Anthony and Harris specifically trip up when they get asked questions like, “How do we figure out what moral facts are?”

Anthony was asked “How do you determine what the objective moral facts are”, and responded by saying, “We do it by, um, testing our reactions to certain kinds of possibilities, um, thinking about the principles that those reactions might entail; testing those principles against new cases. Pretty much the way we find out about anything” (approximately 2 hours into the recorded debate).

One must just sit aghast when one hears a response like that. Really? That is the way we discover moral truths? And that is the way we “find out about anything”? Now I guess I can’t speak for Anthony herself, but when I’m trying to find out about something, I don’t test my reaction to possibilities and then try to figure out what my reaction “might entail.” That is radical subjectivism. Such a view is utterly devastating for not just morality but also science, history, and the like. If I were to try to conduct scientific inquiry in this manner, science would be some kind of hodgepodge of my “reactions” to various phenomenon. Unwittingly, perhaps, Anthony has grounded the ontology of her morality in the reactions of people. But this error isn’t restricted to Anthony. Harris also makes this confounding mistake. His basic argument in the talk linked above is simply, “Science can tell us what people think about things, so it can tell us about morality.” This is, of course patently absurd. Suppose I tried to test these humanists’ theories on groups of people by sticking them in a room and having them watch all kinds of things from murder to the rape of children to images of laughter and joy. Now suppose I randomly sifted my sample among the population of the world, but somehow, by pure chance, got a room full of child molesters. As I observe their reactions, I see they are quite joyful when they observe certain detestable images. Now, going by Anthony/Harris’ way to “find out about anything” and thinking about what these people’s reaction entails, I conclude that pedophilia is a great good. But then I get a room full of parents with young children, who react in horror at these same images. Then, as I reflect on their reactions, I discover that pedophilia is a great evil. And I repeat this process over and over. Eventually, I discover that the one group was an aberration, but it was a group nonetheless.

What does this mean?

Quite simply, it means that both Harris and Anthony haven’t made any groundbreaking theory of ethics. Rather, they’ve just made a pseudo-humanistic utilitarianism. They ground moral ontology in our “reactions” to various moral situations. The only way for them to say something is morally wrong if people have different reactions is either to go with the majority (utilitarianism) or choose one side or the other, which essentially turns into a kind of Euthyphro dilemma against atheists. Either things are wrong because enough people think they’re wrong (in which case morality is arbitrary) or things are wrong because they simply are wrong, period (in which case the humanist has yet to provide an answer for moral ontology).

Conclusion

Given the discussion herein, one can see that those atheists, humanists, and/or secularists who desire to ground objective morality still have a lot of work to do. Louise Anthony’s best attempt to ground morality boils down into radical subjectivism. Sam Harris’ account fares no better. Those who are trying to ground objective morality within an atheistic universe will just have to keep searching. The solutions Anthony and Harris have attempted to offer are vacuous.

Image Source:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SecularHumanismLogo3DGoldCropped.png

SDG.

——

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

163 thoughts on “The Ontology of Morality: Some Problems for Humanists and their friends

  1. W.T,, we don’t accept your begged definition of objective morality. Ours is that morality, like science, is publicly discerned and also debatable. Intersubjective morality ranks over that those miserable,meam-minded misanthropes just made up! They wanted people to stone all the time and prescribed compulsive actions. That means an egregious simple morality! Harldy objective!
    We ground ours in reality and humanity whilst you gullibily revel in stone age morality!

    Posted by Lord Griggs | February 27, 2012, 6:11 PM
    • If that is the case, then the morality for which you’re arguing is subject to a great deal of criticisms I leveled in this post. For example, if morality is ontologically grounded in humans, it is unclear how we should discern right and wrong.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 27, 2012, 6:16 PM
      • W.T, , consequences for sentient beings informs you and me about what is wrong and right as our evolved moral sense tells us, but we have to refine that very sense, as we have over the eons.Stoning is now out of the question and so are other immoral matters.
        The difference is that you add a vacous explanation whilst I go for only reality.As Paul Kurtz in ‘Forbidden Fruit,” notes harmful matters disturb us both.
        The immoral ones will not bow to mine nor to yours. Why,some Christians ,like Calvin, relish harming others.
        You discern that slavery is wrong as I do so why add Him as that enforcer who as noted cannot enforce matters [ in this life], and one would beg the question of the future state here.
        Aquinas begs the question of His nature in response to Plato, that atheist hater.
        http://carneades-georgia.hubpages.com has my latest version of humanism. Google covenant morality for humanity-the presumption of morality to see more.
        Thanks! I appreciate such thoughtfullness. I am recommending this blog on mine. Theo-sophical Ruminations is also good for all.
        Google the ignostic-Ockham for why God is vacuous, and for other arguments lamberth’s naturalistic arguments about God. I’m trying to get thoughtful,withsome hard hitting discussions betwixt naturalists and supernaturalists going so we don’t go past each other but instead meet point by point as much as possible.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | February 27, 2012, 6:58 PM
    • Griggs, your morality doesn’t exist. You are arrogant and act as though you are intelligent when your use of language suggests you’re just full of yourself. If morality is simply different belief system about what has value and thus what doesn’t have value, then it’s all relative because just because most of us agree that pain isn’t wanted, doesn’t make it so. A hundred years ago many people were racists. If it’s in our nature to be against pain, then it’s genetic. Either that, or nurture, or your own free will, but you’re a humanistic atheist so you probably don’t believe in that. So if it’s genetic, and there is no God, then those genes were selected randomly by natural selection. Just like any genes for psychopathy, for example. It was simply what helped us survive, nothing more. Once genetic engineering is advanced enough we could potentially change the genetic make-up of humanity. So thus we change human nature. If there is an aspect of conscience that is universal, then it has to be genetic. Unless you’re some sort of Platonist and think there are these ideals, these objective moral rules which have to somehow be perceived. I’m not sure where these ideals are to be found originating in a totally naturalistic/materialistic world. Perhaps they reside in the neural patterns of our brains. So who says one neural pattern is better than another? Is it the majority? So we’re back to that now?

      Maybe we do have stone age mentality, I don’t know, but at least we have a mind to use, unlike you.

      Posted by DD | February 29, 2012, 1:54 PM
      • It’s somewhat ironic that you’re telling someone else that their morality doesn’t exist when clearly (a) That’s the claim they’ve made against you – kind of a childish retort and (b) something that we call morality clearly exists … and not just for Christians but in the minds of almost every human being!

        A more important question is would be why are you so scared of the idea of relative morality. Why would you consider that things would be any different?

        Posted by theasymmetricalkid | July 6, 2012, 8:21 AM
    • Also, who says stoning is out of the question?

      If abortion and euthanasia are fine, why isn’t stoning fine?

      Other cultures still practice stoning, contrary to your Western values (which are still mostly based on Judeo-Christian values, though your atheism is leading you to nothing but hedonism really, what makes us “flourish”, or be “happy”, or “feel good” must be good, and that which harms us, or causes us pain, etc., is bad… that’s all you have). You literally have nothing to ground anything. With no God, there’s nothing good, or bad. Technically, you could have a God that is like that as well, totally neutral towards what happens to us, just created humanity for the fun of it. But it’s more likely a conscious being, a rational being would act with purpose in mind and not totally randomly and almost like a zombie. Because that’s what happens with naturalism. There is no intelligence, no consciousness behind the events that occur. They just happen randomly, for no reason. You do realize, that once the Big Bang was under way it was all just randomness, right? There’s nothing to say that even the process of natural selection for best genes is moral or immoral. It simply exists because ultimately, the laws of physics have led to this environment for life to live or die in, and these laws of physics are derived from the aftermath of the Big Bang, and neither the aftermath of that event nor the event itself, neither of them were actually “planned” in any meaningful way. They just randomly happened. Could have happened a different way just as easily, (in fact that’s what those who believe in a new religion, the multi-verse, tell us).

      So, all that we can go of off that is objective is perhaps our genetics, because any ideologies that are very relative from culture to culture and perhaps even from individual to individual are simply not practical. Whose ideology is better? So you have to rest on human nature, which is genetics. But you’re in the uncomfortable position of believing in “The Blind Watchmaker”, and thus those genes are there for no actual purpose other than because natural selection chose those genes.

      Posted by DD | February 29, 2012, 2:04 PM
      • Again you’re making unfounded claims. Stoning is nothing like abortion or euthanasia. Firstly, in the case of abortion you’d have to prove that the foetus is substantially like the ‘stonee’. Secondly, while I don’t know of anyone that willingly wants to be stoned to death for something as trivial as adultery, I am aware of many people who want to be euthanized to save them from an agonising death.

        You do realise that once the big bang occurred it’s all chaos and that’s not quite the same as randomness. Just because you are unaware of the causes of something doesn’t mean they don’t exist …

        Posted by theasymmetricalkid | July 6, 2012, 8:41 AM
      • THEASSYMMETRICALKID, thank you! I think that others here and elsewhere who object to my style object to my being firm in my comments as I don’t add in my opinion.I am Socratean, a fallibilist however.
        Mine notes sociological relativism but is against moral relativism as I see that as a barrier. We of the West influence others as to human rights; we can learn from others. So, we of this planet can share morality. And some differences are due to lack of facts and how we view consequences.
        Those who attack consequentialism- utilitarianism- use the notion of consequences to do that .They thereby affirm that consequentialism counts! That is the inter-subjective, public objectivity that makes humanism objective. But I find that wide-reflective subjectivism underpins objective morality in two ways- universal,applying to all and applying equity and equality. This is more than private thoughts. This is considered judgment over mere whims and tastes unlike simple subjectivism. Now, that of a Lord Russell or Michael Ruse can be honorable whilst that of the writers who made up Allah and Yahweh is a egregious simple subjectivism!
        Thus, that form has no merit and is hardly objective. Now, as Jason Dulle, rationalizes that no, one can have a theistic morality other than those of the Qur’an and the Tanakh and the Christian Testament.But, should he use reason and real facts, his then would appear to be humanistic, albeit nominally theistic. That is, we humanists don’t live of theism and in particular Christianity but instead theists follow ours when they use reason and facts! What an inversion of matters they project onto us!
        I arrived at wide-reflective subjectivism-my term- from reading what John Beversluis notes about subjectivism against that sophist Lewis in “C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion.”
        So, priests raping young boys is wrong! Whether or not polygamy is wrong is debatable. I tend not to like it as it seems to subjugate women,but in the Joseph family, the women seem to be strong women. Oh, I think that polygyny-more than one wife- for men should also mean polyandry-more than one husband as it was in Tibet and I think one other place- for women.
        My form of utilitarianism is in the making. I’m trying to encompass points from other ethics.
        THEASSYMETRICALKID, you might go to Theology Web to see how I post and whether or not my critics are overbearing towards me as that person here was. See in particular my thread arguments about God should you do go there. I’ve other threads there.
        Oh, why don’t people use dictionaries?

        Posted by Lord Griggs | July 10, 2012, 4:08 AM
  2. So for the sake of argument, let’s assume that a God has indeed created an absolute morality that exists regardless of how it is perceived by subjective people. We have a divine origin of things we ought to do. How is any subjective being able to interact with this objectivity at all? As an analogy, we have good reason to say that gravity is an objective law. But unless we have access to the physical nuts and bolts of gravity (which we’re still working on as far as I understand), we are only interacting with our subjective experience of gravity. What I mean is that we describe gravity as an attraction between massive objects, whereas the absolute reality of the situation may be related to the curvature of space-time etc etc. Coming back to morality, it seems that we will be interacting with and interpreting any absolute morality with our own subjective experience. I am making a significant assumption here that you do not think that you have access to an objective description of absolute morality, because I think it’s clear that one would need to be omniscient to have this understanding. For example, God tells us to kill people sometimes and to not kill people other times, and obedience to God is considered moral because God is the only one who really knows what we ought to do (morality). On the theistic view, human beings are given only subjective access to morality. Hence the Golden Rule – the most subjective statement of “ought” that I can possible imagine.

    So all that to say, I completely disagree that the hypothetical existence of absolute morality could possibly be interpreted objectively by any non-omniscient being and is for all practical purposes irrelevant to us. This morality-creating God cares deeply about absolute morality but on the theistic view has given us only a subjective understanding of it. So my question is this: Why is a subjective interpretation of objective morality any better/more useful/etc. for a human being than a subjective morality?

    Posted by Walt | February 28, 2012, 2:26 PM
    • I appreciate your comment, but I’m not sure as to how it applies to the post at hand. The post is making the claim that secular humanism fails. What of any of your comment has to do with that?

      But I think you raise several talking points about the theistic ontology of morality. I’ll dedicate some time later in the week when I can more fully respond, but for now I’d like to point out that absolutely none of this comment does anything to show that secular humanism is anything but vacuous nonsense.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 28, 2012, 5:25 PM
      • Your post as I read it is discussing the failure of secular humanism to account for the ontology of morality – I’m happy that you think I raised several talking points about the theistic ontology of morality, but I’m surprised that you don’t see the connection.

        OK, I think I understand your point though. You argue that secular humanism cannot account for objective morality, and I spent my whole comment arguing that no one is able to actually interact with objective morality, but I don’t answer the problem posed in your post. Fair enough. The connection I am attempting to make is this, and I hope you’ll grant me the benefit of the doubt that I am actually interested in the problem you pose and am doing my best to engage with it. How you would answer my original question is central to the problem that secular humanism seems to have with moral ontology. If you agree with me that no subjective non-omniscient person is actually able to interact with objective morality, then what is there to say about objective morality? Certainly an omniscient god would make all of its decisions based on this absolute morality, but 1) I don’t understand how we could make any claims, even a claim of existence, about this objective morality, and 2) I don’t see how any of the common arguments involving the “oughts” of everyday life (ought I to help the old lady cross the street?) are affected by this hypothetical absolute morality if indeed we are unable to interact with it as an omniscient being would.

        Because we are not omniscient and are inescapably subjective, making any claim that there is an objective morality is, to use Sam Harris’ interesting analogy, like making a claim of objective health. I could certainly imagine that a god would have an idea of objective health, but what else is there to say about it? Ought we to live forever? Ought a mother to bleed but feel no pain during childbirth? Ought our intestinal epithelium to die and shed regularly? Ought we to have fossilized viral insertions in our genomes? There’s no chance of us knowing what objective health is, but all the time and everyday we make subjective and perfectly reasonable claims on what is healthy and unhealthy.

        My argument is that the secular humanistic claim on objective morality is no less vacuous and nonsensical than that of anyone else, because no one aside from a god is capable of making any claim on objective morality, and I look forward to continued discussion with you on this topic. Thanks.

        Posted by Walt | February 28, 2012, 8:09 PM
      • Walt,

        Let me respond briefly to your points. First, there seems to be some confusion throughout what you’ve written between the ontological basis for ethics and epistemic access to that basis. For example, you write “the secular humanistic claim on objective morality is no less vacuous and nonsensical than that of anyone else.” That simply cannot be the case, for you also wrote, ” let’s assume that a God has indeed created an absolute morality…”

        Thus, we can see that ontologically–in regards to being–theism already has a leg up on secularism. For theism can hold that the ontology of morality is created by God. But of course most theists don’t argue this. Most theists argue that the ontology of ethics is found in the nature of God; not that it is created by God. But for now it is enough to say that theism clearly has the advantage here for the ontology of metaethics. To say, as you do, that secular humanism and theism are equally vacuous in their claims on objective morality is, seemingly, mistaken.

        And it seems the rest of your comments are indeed directed towards epistemic access to morality not the existence morality as such. What you’ve written argues about whether people can know about morality, not whether it exists.

        But this brings along my second point: theism is radically superior to secular humanism regarding epistemic access to morality. You wrote, “How is any subjective being able to interact with this objectivity at all?”

        You also wrote, “I am making a significant assumption here that you do not think that you have access to an objective description of absolute morality, because I think it’s clear that one would need to be omniscient to have this understanding.”

        and
        “Because we are not omniscient and are inescapably subjective, making any claim that there is an objective morality is, to use Sam Harris’ interesting analogy, like making a claim of objective health.”

        Now these three quotes indeed have a “significant assumption”–one that I deny. For, once one grants theism as an alternative to secular humanism, one cannot ignore the rich resources theism has to deal with problems like this. On theism, we do indeed have access to objective descriptions of absolute morality because God has made us in such a way that we can access reality. Theists hold that we are made in God’s image, and part of that image is the awareness of right and wrong. Certainly our conscience may be mistaken at times (and some seem to be without conscience), but that doesn’t mean that we have no access whatsoever to objective reality. Without personally tying myself to any of these views or a combination, I can think of three major ways theists fare much better than secular humanists regarding epistemic access to metaethical reality. To underscore what I said, I’m not saying these are correct, but if any or all of them are, then theism has beaten the objections here:

        1) God made us with a conscience and created a “Natural Law” which our conscience and moral sense has access to. This Natural Law is objective morality, and because God made us innately aware of it, we have access to it.
        2) God gives specific commands in His Word and therefore we have access to objective morality insofar as we have access to God’s commands.
        3) We are made in God’s image and therefore by utilizing our moral sense can access those parts of God’s nature which reflect objective morality.

        But it seems that you hold these might be inadequate. You wrote that “it’s clear that one would need to be omniscient to have this understanding.”

        I’m not sure at all why one would have to be omniscient in order to discern what’s right and wrong. I have two arguments I can think of off hand against this position. The first is technical, the second ontological. First, moral truths are not comprehensive reality, so they do not compose everything an omniscient being would have to know. Thus, one could be “morally omniscient” without being omniscient because they are not the same spectrum. Omniscience is a much broader knowledge. But of course your argument seems to be that we must be morally omniscient. Apart from asking “Why?” I give my second argument: on theism if any of 1-3 above are true, we have epistemic access to objective morality. Because of this, we can discern right from wrong. We may have arguments over what it means, or on the particulars, but ultimately we can indeed find out what is right and wrong.

        Finally, I’d like to press my point: I don’t see any reason why someone would have to be morally omniscient in order to have epistemic access to objective morality.

        So, to wrap up: secular humanism has no basis for the ontology of morality–it seems we agree on this. But you grant that theism does have a basis for its ontology. But secular humanism also has no basis for access to morality. Theism has at least 3 ways this can happen (and all of them would entail those who disagree also have access to morality! so theism allows all people to have access to objective morals). Thus, far from being “equally vacuous”; theism wins on both the ontology and epistemology of ethics.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 29, 2012, 10:04 AM
      • @JW – thanks for this response. Heregoes.

        Let me respond briefly to your points. First, there seems to be some confusion throughout what you’ve written between the ontological basis for ethics and epistemic access to that basis. For example, you write “the secular humanistic claim on objective morality is no less vacuous and nonsensical than that of anyone else.” That simply cannot be the case, for you also wrote, ” let’s assume that a God has indeed created an absolute morality…”

        —I don’t understand why that simply cannot be the case. It seems that I could just as easily say “let’s assume that absolute morality is an emergent property of the immutable physical constants of the universe.” This claim seems silly to me, and it would not negate any sort of argument as far as I’m concerned. Why does my assumption for the sake of argument that God created morality negate my argument?

        Thus, we can see that ontologically–in regards to being–theism already has a leg up on secularism. For theism can hold that the ontology of morality is created by God. But of course most theists don’t argue this. Most theists argue that the ontology of ethics is found in the nature of God; not that it is created by God. But for now it is enough to say that theism clearly has the advantage here for the ontology of metaethics. To say, as you do, that secular humanism and theism are equally vacuous in their claims on objective morality is, seemingly, mistaken.

        —As I mention later in the thread, I’d like to tackle this idea in a separate conversation. I don’t understand the difference between God creating morality and morality existing as a part of God’s nature.

        And it seems the rest of your comments are indeed directed towards epistemic access to morality not the existence morality as such. What you’ve written argues about whether people can know about morality, not whether it exists.

        —Agreed – an interesting discussion to be sure, but not the point of this blog post.

        But this brings along my second point: theism is radically superior to secular humanism regarding epistemic access to morality. You wrote, “How is any subjective being able to interact with this objectivity at all?”

        You also wrote, “I am making a significant assumption here that you do not think that you have access to an objective description of absolute morality, because I think it’s clear that one would need to be omniscient to have this understanding.”

        and
        “Because we are not omniscient and are inescapably subjective, making any claim that there is an objective morality is, to use Sam Harris’ interesting analogy, like making a claim of objective health.”

        Now these three quotes indeed have a “significant assumption”–one that I deny. For, once one grants theism as an alternative to secular humanism, one cannot ignore the rich resources theism has to deal with problems like this. On theism, we do indeed have access to objective descriptions of absolute morality because God has made us in such a way that we can access reality. Theists hold that we are made in God’s image, and part of that image is the awareness of right and wrong. Certainly our conscience may be mistaken at times (and some seem to be without conscience), but that doesn’t mean that we have no access whatsoever to objective reality. Without personally tying myself to any of these views or a combination, I can think of three major ways theists fare much better than secular humanists regarding epistemic access to metaethical reality. To underscore what I said, I’m not saying these are correct, but if any or all of them are, then theism has beaten the objections here:

        1) God made us with a conscience and created a “Natural Law” which our conscience and moral sense has access to. This Natural Law is objective morality, and because God made us innately aware of it, we have access to it.
        2) God gives specific commands in His Word and therefore we have access to objective morality insofar as we have access to God’s commands.
        3) We are made in God’s image and therefore by utilizing our moral sense can access those parts of God’s nature which reflect objective morality.

        —We need to take this slower I think. Suppose I had said previously, “Let’s assume that a deistic god created absolute morality.” Assuming this is possible, none of these three claims could be true. You must demonstrate that a personal intervening god exists before you can start using the resources available to a believer of this type of god.

        But it seems that you hold these might be inadequate. You wrote that “it’s clear that one would need to be omniscient to have this understanding.”

        I’m not sure at all why one would have to be omniscient in order to discern what’s right and wrong. I have two arguments I can think of off hand against this position. The first is technical, the second ontological. First, moral truths are not comprehensive reality, so they do not compose everything an omniscient being would have to know. Thus, one could be “morally omniscient” without being omniscient because they are not the same spectrum. Omniscience is a much broader knowledge. But of course your argument seems to be that we must be morally omniscient. Apart from asking “Why?” I give my second argument: on theism if any of 1-3 above are true, we have epistemic access to objective morality. Because of this, we can discern right from wrong. We may have arguments over what it means, or on the particulars, but ultimately we can indeed find out what is right and wrong.

        —I’m not sure one can be morally omniscient. There are many examples that you’re probably more familiar with than I am that illustrate this point. Let’s say that you’re able to stop a train from smashing into a group of people – everyone would agree that you’re obliged to do so. What if you are derailing the train into the path of one person who would otherwise be safe in order to save the crowd of people? This thought experiment goes on and on and gets extremely tough. We could discuss this further, but it seems sufficient to say that no one has the answers to these moral questions…or perhaps I should say applications of moral principles.

        Finally, I’d like to press my point: I don’t see any reason why someone would have to be morally omniscient in order to have epistemic access to objective morality.

        So, to wrap up: secular humanism has no basis for the ontology of morality–it seems we agree on this. But you grant that theism does have a basis for its ontology. But secular humanism also has no basis for access to morality. Theism has at least 3 ways this can happen (and all of them would entail those who disagree also have access to morality! so theism allows all people to have access to objective morals). Thus, far from being “equally vacuous”; theism wins on both the ontology and epistemology of ethics.

        —I look forward to our continued conversation – take care.

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 10:04 PM
      • Without overcoming its convoluted,ad hoc ontology for Him, theism has no objective morality but instead the egregious simple subjectivism of those mischievous, mean-minded misanthropes of yore.What is objective about stoning and the divine protection racket?
        No, humanist morality as I describe it has its ontology in reality.Again, God has no force as an explanation or grounding!
        Atheism offers freedom from your superstition. Humanism adds morality. Naturalism adds reality. Rationalism adds reason. And skepticism adds checking out claims . These make for that more abundant life! Many more or less use these matters whereas we rationalists prescribe using them regarding what Paul Kurtz calls “The Transcendental Temptation,” the twin superstitions the paranormal and -the supernatural.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 11:13 PM
      • @Walt

        The reason I said it “cannot be the case” is because you’ve granted the ontology of morality on theism for the sake of argument. As I drew out, your argument is based on epistemics, not ontology. So what follows may be more to the point.

        Now you wrote,

        ” You must demonstrate that a personal intervening god exists before you can start using the resources available to a believer of this type of god.”

        Here’s the problem. You asserted, “the secular humanistic claim on objective morality is no less vacuous and nonsensical than that of anyone else.”

        If you say that, then what you’ve said is that claims on objective morality are equally vacuous. But then I claim theism is not. In order to show that theism has a better claim on objective morality, I would not have to show the existence of God in order to show that it explains objective morality better.

        Suppose there is a glass of water sitting on a table. Someone comes along and claims “any explanation is equally vacuous for how it got there.” Now suppose I hold that Steve came along and put the glass of water on the table. Thus, I say “Someone coming along and putting the glass on the table seems like a better explanation.”

        The response could not be “Prove Steve exists!”

        Why not? Because we’re talking about comparing competing hypotheses. To turn around and say that an explanation must be proved before offered as a hypothesis is not how it works.

        So going back to morality. If you assert, as you did, that secular humanism is “no less vacuous” than any other claim, you’ve opened the door for competing hypotheses to prove you wrong. I argue theism provides a much better explanation. To then turn around and demand I prove theism is to play the game unfairly. You made an assertion which put all hypotheses on the playing field. I tried to show theism provides a better explanation. That’s how induction works, and that’s how inference to best explanation works. If this doesn’t make sense to you, I’d ask you to turn to some texts on induction and/or philosophy of science.

        To conclude that section: I think you’re simply misplacing your burdens of proof. You could fairly say that one would have to show theism is true in order for it to be a hypothesis; but you cannot fairly say all hypotheses are equally vacuous and then complain that, when one offers a hypothesis that works better, they must show it is true.

        Again, regarding moral omniscience; I was merely pointing out a technicality in your argument. The second part was my primary point-I don’t see any reason to assume someone must be morally omniscient in order to have “access to” objective morality (whatever that means).

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 2, 2012, 5:57 PM
      • @JW

        I’m not sure I stated my original argument very clearly – that “the secular humanistic claim on objective morality is no less vacuous and nonsensical than that of anyone else.” Indeed I did begin off topic…I was interested in the literal claim about objective morality rather than the existence of objective morality. I was not stating that moral ontology is equally vacuous, I was stating that our capacities to say anything about objective morality are equally vacuous – I agree that this is epistemology and is not the point of your post.

        I did indeed grant your ontology to begin discussing epistemology, but I did so unintentionally. I meant to offer a general “Let’s assume that …” as a springboard to talking about our problems with epistemology. Let’s go back to the ontology discussion, because it’s what we’re all here to talk about after all.

        Your glass of water analogy was well suited to the subject of epistemology, but I still don’t quite get it. In comparing our competing hypotheses, would we not at some point discuss whether Steve exists? If my alternative hypothesis were that a giant ant came along and put the glass there, would we not be right to then discuss whether Steve or a giant ant are more likely to exist and therefore provide a better explanation? I have no formal training in inductive reasoning, and I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to explain. I’m a trained scientist, and I’m fairly certain that I use both inductive and deductive reasoning…”I see these observations, so I infer this hypothesis. Now I test this hypothesis to deduce if it holds.” Is that about right?

        Epistemology still seems wrapped up in the ontology debate…you probably just rolled your eyes at me or let out a sigh. This is why: when we allow our ontological hypotheses to compete, we then make decisions on how likely it is that those hypotheses are true, given the evidence available to us. When you present a theistic origin of morality, I then present a deistic origin, and we then debate about which hypothesis is more valid. Doesn’t this hypothesis evaluation necessarily involve epistemology?

        JW: “You could fairly say that one would have to show theism is true in order for it to be a hypothesis; but you cannot fairly say all hypotheses are equally vacuous and then complain that, when one offers a hypothesis that works better, they must show it is true.”

        —–I just don’t understand how a hypothesis can work better unless we determine whether it is true. A theistic god cannot be a better explanation for moral ontology if a theistic god does not exist. The argument you make regarding ontology would in no way be illogical, but it would simply be wrong. What am I missing?

        Posted by Walt | March 2, 2012, 11:14 PM
    • Griggs: “Without overcoming its convoluted,ad hoc ontology for Him, theism has no objective morality but instead the egregious simple subjectivism of those mischievous, mean-minded misanthropes of yore.What is objective about stoning and the divine protection racket? No, humanist morality as I describe it has its ontology in reality.Again, God has no force as an explanation or grounding! Atheism offers freedom from your superstition. Humanism adds morality. Naturalism adds reality. Rationalism adds reason. And skepticism adds checking out claims . These make for that more abundant life! Many more or less use these matters whereas we rationalists prescribe using them regarding what Paul Kurtz calls “The Transcendental Temptation,” the twin superstitions the paranormal and -the supernatural.”
      ——-
      I already described what is objective about stoning. It would not have been used for such a long time in so many different cultures were it not useful. Doesn’t make it moral. Consequences, eh?

      I’m not going to bother refuting your statement that God has no force as an explanation. You didn’t give proof. You simply stated this. So what?

      Atheism offers nothing (neither freedom nor bondage — it can go either way). Humanism adds an opinion. Naturalism adds CERTAIN ASPECTS of reality. Rationalism adds LIMITED reason.

      Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 12:28 AM
      • I note at length why He doesn’t explain- the Razor and all that other I mention.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 10:16 AM
      • God is the designer. The universe is the machine. It’s fairly simple, of all the issues you could attack, I’m not sure why you’d pick this one, it’s a lot less complicated to understand than naturalistic explanations for reality, that requires some thought to really imagine how something of the sort could occur.

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 6:20 PM
      • Hardly, as we consequentialists find that stoning is objectively wrong- lo, how those stoned suffer greatly for no reason! Your egregious, simple subjectivism blasphemes morality and – reason!
        I explained in another post about that lack of explanation. His being one is no more than God did it of either the scientific god of the gaps or the one of the explanatory gap. No gaps exist for Him as any kind of explanation. Google Lamberth’s the ignostic-Ockham for a full explanation.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | July 10, 2012, 7:22 AM
    • Walt, and what we need is no absolute morality but instead a just one that adapts to new facts and new situations, not a hidebound one. Yest,even that egregious simple subjectivism has evolved so that now stoning and misogyny, people with a refined,moral sense find wrong. As Steven Pinker and Richard Carrier observe we now behave more morally than those of the ages of faith!
      We have to weigh moral points against each other. Should a murderer wants to know if so and so is in the house, our duty is to lie! That is, the value of the innocent person overrides the truth! Thus, morality must be situational.
      So, the term absolute is nonsense!
      My humanism is akin to Carrier’s goal theory in ” Sense and Goodness without God: a Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism.”

      Posted by Lord Griggs | July 10, 2012, 4:19 AM
  3. This Cardinals fan definitely says “so what?”

    Posted by Erik Manning | February 28, 2012, 7:57 PM
    • Brutal. I really don’t see how anyone can hate the Cubs. It’s like hating a small child who keeps trying to jump high enough to reach a cookie and fails. Forever.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 28, 2012, 11:23 PM
      • No,because God would have the same access to morality as we do- those consequences instead of his simple subjectivism. To argue with Aquinas that His very nature is good begs the question therefo. The ontology is that very consequences,because no other way exists to know how to go henceforth morally. Deontoloy depends on consequences also: to go with Kant, one has to discern how the consequences play out should one not do as he affirms. To do virtue ethics depends on how to confront those consequences.
        Plato, that atheist hater,ever wins this argument for the independence of morality from God. He’d depend on it just He’d depend non natural laws and causes to act as that secondary mover. Then again, per the teleonomic/atelic argument , no divine intent appears so that those laws and causes themselves are the primary causes and we the secondary ones just as we are the secondary ones on morality.
        We discern that slavery harms people. Was slavery justified,because Yahweh approved it in former times but no longer does. Does God speak with a forked tongue and thus makes for relativism,because He differs from religion o religion>
        In the end, we all as Pau lKurtz notes in ” Forbidden Fruit,” things perturb us all, whilst many give credence to Him for making rules against harm, we humanists note that we ourselves in the end find the harms and -the good as I interpret him.
        Thus, we don’t play God but instead work morality!

        Posted by Lord Griggs | February 29, 2012, 11:39 AM
      • A few points:

        First, Walt’s point about omniscience and morality would actually apply to God if morality were independent of God (which I don’t think it is–but that’s beside the point here). For because God is omniscient, He would have unlimited access to the truths of morality, for He would know all truths. Thus, it is a far cry from saying that He’d have the same access we do.

        Second, it really is not question begging to say God is the good. That’s a claim. And it’s a claim that theism backs up readily with perfect being theology. Those who wish to say that God cannot ground the good must somehow argue that goodness is not a perfection.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 29, 2012, 11:42 AM
      • No to all that.
        No perfections, and again Aquinas fails; His ontological argument for perfect being refiies the continuum betwixt qualities.
        No arrogance,just reasoning.
        Were you right about reason’s role, then your morality itself would fail.
        We don’t need an owner to find our own values and purposes.
        Why would a rational person care that the Cosmos doesn’t care! What babble. What arrogance.
        ” Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.’ Inquiring Lynn
        Flourishing is a basic fact unlike Plantinga’s silly argument.
        Amoralists would maintain that morality doesn’t matter just as others inveigh against or own meanings!
        Factual possibilities and probabilities work,not logical ones!
        Just as with any other argument for Him, this one takes as explanatory what ends up as so vacuous that who needs it? Carneades realized such against the Epicureans and the Stoics.
        Why would an advanced civilization do that? As advanced, they see us as the beings we are,not the sinners you call us.
        So, you’re using that old bogeyman relativism! Just as we now discern slavery is wrong, they would see that they could work with us for our betterment.
        Did Yahweh really murder by deluge? Morality-minded people now see that as evil! We owe no God anything!
        To bray that we naturalists offer no hope for justice against Pol Pot is ad misericordiam.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 12:32 AM
      • Genetics provide the basis for that moral sense,but we have to refine it. Aliens making our genetic make up different is an ignoratio elenchi. What we have is what counts.
        We judge from the consequences,which make for our values, that stoning harms peolpe for no reason. Humane methods exist for capital punishment or preferably for life without pardon. We admonsih children instead of stoning them, and people have the right to work any day of the week!
        We note that the those fetuses have no personalities without a working brain,so the consequence to them cannot gainsay the consequences to women – our values for them hold sway. You would argue against that by noting other consequences that make for your values.
        Again no arrogance, no more than Dawkins emits when he goes after silly stuff!Using facts and reasoning isn’t arrogance.
        Arrogance is holding to an out-dated morality!
        Another ignoratio elenchi is His putative omniscience to know morality as that is beside the point that we have to do that,
        and no God informs us about anything anyay!
        And were His nature good, then you have an immorality to defend as that sort of goodness blasphemes morality in the face of evils!
        Revelation and other religious experience are just people’s own mental stes at work, and to suggest supernatural input begs the question.
        Rationalizing just won’t cut the ice.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 12:53 AM
      • Goodness is in God’s nature, because even if there are certain consequences out there, who says they’re bad? Who? Hitler saw nothing wrong with what he did. Atheists see nothing wrong with abortion. Who decides which consequences are bad? You need to start off with some values first, and then you can see if the consequences of an action leads to those values or to different values. Values come first, consequences are simply the so-called “moral calculations” that we have to do based on those values. The science of morality claims that flourishing is good. Therefore, those actions that lead to flourishing are also good. But who says flourishing is good? We don’t like it if we don’t flourish? So? Who says we have to do what we want? Technically speaking, it could be possible that we have to do the opposite. It’s a LOGICAL possibility. So then the only way to distinguish is between which value is correct and not. Who says we have to follow our instincts, or do what we want? Who even says our opinion matters? If we came into contact with an advanced alien civilization and they deemed us a threat and wanted to enslave us as well, who says which one is right and which one is wrong? Is that not as a result of evolution and natural selection, since they are smarter and better than us to the point of dominating us? Nothing you’ve said indicates that morality is objective in an atheistic universe. Everything goes. The only thing that matters (in the sense that you’re still there to care after the event happened) is who wins out in the end. Hypothetically, if someone has access to a device that kills everyone on Earth and wants to do so, yet the same person has enough access to resources to live (feed themselves, etc.) for the rest of their lives, would that not be perfect flourishing for that person? They get to kill everyone and continue to live. Evolution says we have empathy and altruism because we are social animals and we need to co-operate in order to survive. But if we have enough knowledge on how to manipulate nature so as to acquire enough power and resources so we can survive all by ourselves, why should we continue to be altruistic? In fact, what does it matter if humanity dies? According to evolutionists, the vast vast majority of species have become extinct. True, untrue, doesn’t matter. That’s what is claimed. So if under this worldview, 99% of species have died, clearly life itself doesn’t matter. So nothing actually matter, other than to the being itself. But if another species came along and competed, which one wins? The strongest? Yet nature doesn’t even care about the strong. Today’s strong can become tomorrow’s weak in a hurry. Nature will continue to go on even if all life on Earth becomes extinct. So it’s just subjective feelings, because I doubt rationality can tell us what to value. Rationality might help us differentiate between different values and how to accomplish those values, but rationality can’t tell us killing is wrong. It can’t tell us life has value. We exist. We could be dead too. So what?

        Posted by DD | February 29, 2012, 2:15 PM
    • No to all that.
      No perfections, and again Aquinas fails; His ontological argument for perfect being refiies the continuum betwixt qualities.
      No arrogance,just reasoning.
      Were you right about reason’s role, then your morality itself would fail.
      We don’t need an owner to find our own values and purposes.
      Why would a rational person care that the Cosmos doesn’t care! What babble. What arrogance.
      ” Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.’ Inquiring Lynn
      Flourishing is a basic fact unlike Plantinga’s silly argument.
      Amoralists would maintain that morality doesn’t matter just as others inveigh against or own meanings!
      Factual possibilities and probabilities work,not logical ones!
      Just as with any other argument for Him, this one takes as explanatory what ends up as so vacuous that who needs it? Carneades realized such against the Epicureans and the Stoics.
      Why would an advanced civilization do that? As advanced, they see us as the beings we are,not the sinners you call us.
      So, you’re using that old bogeyman relativism! Just as we now discern slavery is wrong, they would see that they could work with us for our betterment.
      Did Yahweh really murder by deluge? Morality-minded people now see that as evil! We owe no God anything!
      To bray that we naturalists offer no hope for justice against Pol Pot is ad misericordiam.

      Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 12:32 AM

      Genetics provide the basis for that moral sense,but we have to refine it. Aliens making our genetic make up different is an ignoratio elenchi. What we have is what counts.
      We judge from the consequences,which make for our values, that stoning harms peolpe for no reason. Humane methods exist for capital punishment or preferably for life without pardon. We admonsih children instead of stoning them, and people have the right to work any day of the week!
      We note that the those fetuses have no personalities without a working brain,so the consequence to them cannot gainsay the consequences to women – our values for them hold sway. You would argue against that by noting other consequences that make for your values.
      Again no arrogance, no more than Dawkins emits when he goes after silly stuff!Using facts and reasoning isn’t arrogance.
      Arrogance is holding to an out-dated morality!
      Another ignoratio elenchi is His putative omniscience to know morality as that is beside the point that we have to do that,
      and no God informs us about anything anyay!
      And were His nature good, then you have an immorality to defend as that sort of goodness blasphemes morality in the face of evils!
      Revelation and other religious experience are just people’s own mental stes at work, and to suggest supernatural input begs the question.
      Rationalizing just won’t cut the ice.

      Ok. So… Perfection is a really hard thing to define but if there is one thing out there that has a high likelihood of being perfect, it would be a Creator who made everything there is.

      “We don’t need an owner to find our own values and purposes.
      Why would a rational person care that the Cosmos doesn’t care! What babble. What arrogance.”

      Your use of language again shows your own arrogance. We’re babbling simply because we’re pointing out the relativity of your argument? If the Cosmos doesn’t care, or God doesn’t care, THEN WHO DECIDES WHAT WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT??? Who? Is it you? The simple fact that I can disagree and say PAIN IS GOOD, TORTURE IS MORAL, ETC. MEANS THAT THERE IS A LOGICAL POSSIBILITY TO DO THE OPPOSITE. So who says it’s “bad”? So what if we suffer? Life is it’s own validation? What? What if life ends? What if one of us chooses (and has the ability to do so) to destroy all life on Earth? Then kill themselves? That’s all there it to it. There would be no one left to care. Why is Plantinga’s argument silly? You seem like some pseudo-philosophically minded atheist who’s read a few books (or probably just a main summary) from a few philosophers and now you think you can reference them and act as though you know what you’re talking about, then mock us for not agreeing with you.

      What we have is what counts? Really? But I thought we were a result of random, unconscious natural selection? What about the genes for psychopathy? Does this mean that there is a strict quota of psychopaths that Nature demands?

      Also, clearly you’re arrogant, since you act like you know it all yet don’t refute anything we say, you just dismiss it because you disagree personally, with no actual reasoning behind it. Aliens changing our genetic make-up is not a fallacy. We can soon change our genetic make-up. Why wouldn’t an advanced civilization? Which means our nature can be changed. So why shouldn’t we? Answer that.

      Also, stoning is actually quite effective. As a consequentialist, I find it intriguing you wouldn’t agree. Stoning is a public and painful method of execution. It’s not so much about the person who committed the crime. it’s about showing everyone the consequences of being evil. This deters people from committing future crimes as they know what to expect. Whereas if you just get a slap on the wrist, people wouldn’t really care.

      Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 9:34 AM
      • DD: “Also, stoning is actually quite effective. As a consequentialist, I find it intriguing you wouldn’t agree. Stoning is a public and painful method of execution. It’s not so much about the person who committed the crime. it’s about showing everyone the consequences of being evil. This deters people from committing future crimes as they know what to expect. Whereas if you just get a slap on the wrist, people wouldn’t really care.”

        -That you have this perspective concerns and scares me. It concerns me because this is an incredibly bold claim and demands evidence – If you are going to talk about deterrence then you must give studies, data, and statistically supported results. It scares me because you seem to think you understand what motivates people who commit crimes. But ok, let’s play that game. Let’s ask two questions about motivation 1) Would one be more or less inclined to be violent toward an authority figure who reserves the right to kill one? 2) Would one be more or less inclined to exercise violence in a position of authority after growing up in/coming up through the ranks of a system that exercises violence? If you claim anything about motivation for violence, you must consider these and many other scenarios.

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 11:12 AM
      • That one was actually meant to be more of a joke and sarcasm combined, but fine, I’ll bite. It really depends upon the person, and in how fear is used. If you get people too happy, they won’t fear you, so they won’t be as obedient to you. Whereas if you’re too much of an authoritarian, you’re likely to lose control. You need both if you are going to be an effective ruler over your populace. This has no moral judgement in it all. I am simply speaking historical facts about methods to control populations. Source? I lived in Communist Romania. I know what it’s like.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:22 AM
      • DD: Your statement about stoning actually terrifies me. Vlad the Impaler used similar tactics…maybe I don’t have the stomach for deterring crime.

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 11:28 AM
      • Perhaps you don’t have the stomach for it indeed. You seem to be an atheist so I’m surprised you’re not more consequential about the act. I don’t know what to think about stoning. If we are going to open up the issue of killing someone who has committed an unspeakable sin, I don’t find it that terrifying to go an extra step and discuss whether certain crimes are more repulsive than others and use methods of execution which will be more painful to them.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:50 AM
      • DD, it would be very interesting to read your thoughts on this topic. I admit that I definitely disagree. I’m not sure justice can allow for those who administer it to be explicitly seeking to inflict more pain for worse crimes, nor do I see what specific purpose it might serve.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 11:53 AM
      • Well I was under the impression that even in the afterlife, there are different rewards and punishments, different levels, according to many versions of Christian theology.

        The way I look at it, if we can have degrees of spending time in jail, fines, etc., perhaps it is up for discussion that there should be different degrees for execution.

        It’s simply a thought. I mention it because it seems like something that can be discussed. I don’t know if I’m for or against it. I’m not even entirely 100% sure we should use the death penalty. I don’t claim to have all the answers to these difficult questions as I haven’t actually made a thorough analysis of these issues.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:56 AM
      • Perhaps we can move this fascinating discussion to another thread? I’d love to continue it, but I also want to give the ontological stuff its due respect.

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 4:11 PM
      • Yes,people do argue in a circle about HIs nature, as the question is per the Euthyphro, is it good, because it is good or do people just say so, another dilemma to the Euthyphro.To maintain that it’s His nature must rely on evidence, which is ever lacking per the problem of evil! Oh, [ Google:] Fr. Meslier’s the problem of Heaven keel hauls all defenses and theodicies!

        Posted by Lord Griggs | July 10, 2012, 4:25 AM
  4. This argument seems bogus to me. This paragraph

    “Most often the response I’ve received to this question is simply that because we do not wish to suffer, we should not wish to have others suffer or cause suffering for others. But why should that be the case? Why should I care about others’ suffering, on atheism? That’s exactly the question humanism must answer in order to show that objective morality can exist in conjunction with secularism. But I have yet to see a satisfactory answer to this question.”

    reveals the weakness in your position. You say that this question must be answered, but of course it never can be. You can always ask “why” until no further answer can be given, for example why should one be moral if morality is dictated by God? Why should one be moral in any case?

    I think it is not disingenuous for an atheist to just state that suffering is evil by brute fact and move on. This is not my personal position (complete relativism/emotivism works exceedingly well philosophically, if you have the stomach for it) but I find it easier to defend than the position that morality is defined by a deity.

    Posted by AW | February 29, 2012, 7:49 PM
    • AW,otherwise one inanity after another arises. We’ve answered whilst he finds rationalizatons for begged questions.

      Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 1:13 AM
    • The problem with this is that theism can provide at least cursory answers to those questions. When asked “Why be good?” one can legitimately say because they owe it to the source of all being. When asked why the should owe anything to the source of being, they could be answered, because they radically depend upon it, etc. Secular humanism must just say “Because.” It is not grounded in ontology, but subjectivity.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 1:26 AM
      • Begged questions lead to nonsense. We’re not chattle.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 1:35 AM
      • What question was begged?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 1:36 AM
      • That Being Itself,because that assumes what what we naturalists are denying that He is exempted from being exonerated for evil. We don’t radically depend on HIm as we ourselves,again, the intelligence to find meanings and values.
        Then again, as a fallibilist,a skeptic, I can err in this. I’ll put forth this as my tentative response.

        What counts is trying not to talk pass each other. I’d welcome others to comment on both of our responses!

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 8:42 AM
      • The question was whether theism or secular humanism had a better basis. If you’re asking that question, you’re granting all of theism for the sake of argument. Thus, the question was not begged.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 10:15 AM
      • I’m guessing Griggs is referring to “why do we radically depend upon it.” It would actually be a really helpful exercise for us to follow that out until we reach its end. So, why do we radically depend upon it?

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 7:16 AM
      • Because from moment to moment, our existence is dependent upon God sustaining the universe. Again, when someone comes along and says that secular humanism and theism are on the same grounds on something, they are granting all the resources of either, for the sake of argument. Thus, to say I beg the question when I use those resources is to not play fair.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 10:17 AM
      • I would turn your last sentence on its head, actually. Theism relies on (extravagant) ontological claims to get of the ground, which is actually a weakness of the position. It really is using an ICBM to crack a walnut, there are easier ways to explain why one should be good. If something is grounded in subjectivity, it makes very few assumptions about the world and thus is not likely to be founded on falsehoods.

        Imagine tomorrow you wake up certain that there is no God. Will you suddenly get your rape and pillage on? Suddenly commit every wrongdoing you believe you can get away with? I hope not, I hope your morality has stronger foundations than likely-to-be-false theological assumptions.

        There is a large epistemological problem with objective morality, which I believe has already been raised in the replies to this article. How are we able to perceive objective morals? If you feel able to answer this question with an appeal to God-given consciences, you need to explain why people disagree on issues of morality.

        I believe this a common problem with theistic “explanations”. You get a cheap foundational explanation for everything (morality, origin of the universe), but a great many properties you would expect the world to have if such an explanation were true are just lacking. In this case, we would expect to see agreement on moral issues, at least between Christians.

        Posted by AW | March 1, 2012, 9:15 AM
      • AW:
        I actually agree with JW that ontology is different than epistemology. That we all understand morality is actually supporting evidence from the perspective of a theist who believes that God has written morality on our hearts.

        JW:
        Would you elaborate on the point that we’re “granting all the resources of either” ? – I’m not sure I understand what you mean.

        JW: Also – this may just be my browser, but I’m having trouble replying to sub-comments and following which subcomments other folks are replying to. Any way I can fix that?

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 10:54 AM
      • Walt,

        Regarding the second question–there is a limit in this format over how far the chain can go. Just reply to the latest part of it and it will come in underneath it.

        Regarding your asking for clarification: it may be easier to illustrate through an example.

        Person A thinks Hinduism explains reality. Person B thinks Islam explains reality.

        Now, Person A challenges person B to show that Islam can explain reality.

        Person A, on this example, is required to grant all the resources of Islam in order to explain reality. For example, if Person B says “God created the universe” and A responds by saying “But God didn’t explain the universe!” that would be disingenuous. If the debate were over whether Islam is true, that would be a fair example, but if one is merely asking one to offer an explanation so they can infer the best explanation, one should grant the resources of the other position.

        Thus, bringing it home. If one asks how theism can better explain y than secular humanism, one should grant the theist their view. To do otherwise is to be disingenuous.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 11:42 AM
      • JW:
        I don’t yet completely understand, but maybe it is like the difference between a valid and good argument? So a valid argument is analogous to the discussion we’re having about whether theism or atheism can better explain moral ontology assuming the resources of each are true, whereas a good argument would be analogous to if we were asking about the truth of these explanations? Let me know if my questions make any sense…

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 4:19 PM
    • We should be moral because God dictates morality simply because it makes it the truth. We have free will, so obviously we have the option of not being moral. It’s a choice. If God exists, it’s a real choice. If there’s no God, the choice between good and bad doesn’t exist. Neither do consequences for our actions.

      Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 9:21 AM
      • DD; this comment makes little sense. “Free will” is a concept that needs careful definition before you just casually chuck it in to a conversation. I doubt that I agree that people have “free will” in the sense you want. If God exists, I think the choice between being moral and not is less meaningful, in the sense that if you have all the facts then you would be a complete jackass to choose evil over good.

        In the atheist world, there is no God to serve as an absolute benchmark. As such, you really have to invent your own morality and do as best you can. You have an intuition for what your aims should be, but nothing more. However, in practice this turns out to be a much better guide than religious texts or religious authorities, who as we speak are propagating subjugation of women, AIDS in Africa and intractable wars.

        Maybe if your conscience isn’t up to it, religion is a necessary guide. In any case, telling an atheist that they don’t make any real choices when they do so much more thinking for themselves and so much less appealing to authority (texts/people) is risible. The (worldly) consequences of your actions also matter more to an atheist, since they don’t believe that the material world is some kind of test run before the real action goes down in the afterlife. If I ruin someone’s life, there is no way that can be compensated. However, since souls are more important than lives to theists (they’re eternal after all!), they can do all kinds of horrible stuff in the name of “morality”, as long as the net effect is saving souls.

        So… what did you have in mind of consequences exactly?

        Posted by AW | March 1, 2012, 10:45 AM
      • DD: Socrates demolished “We should be moral because God dictates morality simply because it makes it the truth” long ago. Theists get around this by saying that morality is God’s nature. I for one can’t figure out how this helps because it seems like a semantic change, but just wanted to get that straight.

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 10:50 AM
      • I disagree that Socrates demolished it. It simply exists. That’s it. God exists, this is the nature of the universe. God makes moral rules, we follow them. Or not. Still, that’s the nature of reality The option is there. In atheism, it is not clear whether the option exists, and where this morality comes from if there’s no Creator.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:09 AM
      • In an atheist world, nothing matters. You can choose to make your own morals, you can spend your whole life trying to stand on one foot, or you can kill yourself.

        And no one said religion gives you every single answer out there. There is plenty of things we have to use our intuition for as well. God never talks about medical ethics. We make Christian medical ethics by building upon our foundations of values. Just like any other belief system.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:11 AM
      • To continue with the Socrates comment: Thus, as a result of the fact that God exists, it is objectively true that you have an option to be moral or not, assuming free will (the whole discussion about ethics likely assumes some sort of free will, otherwise I fail to see why we should bother trying to be moral). It’s very similar between naturalism and theism. It depends very much upon the way reality works, but the difference is the way reality works has conscious purpose and intent under theism, whereas under naturalism everything just happens with no real meaning. Plus, to go a step further, I fail to see how indifferent Nature can give come up with morality and a purpose for life, if it’s unconscious. Meaning, purpose, design, etc., that comes from a conscious, rational being.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:15 AM
      • DD: “God makes moral rules, we follow them.”

        Just to be clear, you disagree that Euthyphro has a dilemna?

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 11:15 AM
      • I admit, following all of this is starting to get difficult for me time-wise (doing homework!) so I may just let the conversation continue around me. If someone wants to ask me something specific, could you just put “J.W.” or “JW” in the comment and I’ll try to take the time to respond.

        It seems to me that I think both sides are making some important points here, and I’m really enjoying the discussion. Thank you all!

        Regarding Euthyphro here, I think I can show how there is some divergence in theistic views on this. Some introduce a third possibility, others embrace one of the horns. It seems DD is embracing one of the horns of the dilemma and just granting it. Richard Swinburne does this too (he believes morals are indeed independent of God, but that bringing God into the equation makes them have the power to command). So in the interest of clarification, perhaps DD is just embracing one of the horns.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 11:46 AM
      • To put into perspective my argument about the similarity and differences between theism and naturalism. Imagine you have ten pieces of paper with ten different words. Now, if I were to take those pieces of paper to create a message, would you agree that it is more likely there there is an intelligent purpose behind it, compared to the situation where the wind blew the pieces of paper off the table and onto the floor and scrambled a bunch of words randomly together?

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:18 AM
      • Actually, the opposite is true. What happens in this world matters more for a theist, since they will have to live with the consequences of their actions. An atheist could easily harm everyone around them and not worry too much knowing that they won’t suffer consequences. And if they die, their grief dies with them. Whereas a theist needs to pay attention to their actions and be moral towards others (do unto others…). Theistic systems are traditional morals, and traditional morals tend to use deontological ethics quite a lot, whereas atheistic, “rational” systems make much more use of utilitarianism and consequentialism.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:27 AM
      • AW you seem to be a new atheist and don’t know what you’re talking about when you discuss religion.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:29 AM
      • I would like to ask that we refrain from statements like this, DD. Please stick to the arguments themselves rather than discussing possible motivations for people.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 1, 2012, 11:38 AM
      • Yes. What’s morally “good” in an objective sense is that which exists outside of all the moral agents in this universe and what goes back to the Creator. Technically, there could be a creator for that creator, and so on. But what’s true for this particular universe is what our conscious, Creator (not indifferent nature) chose. We can disagree. But the fact of the matter is, we can disagree with there being a law of gravity (in the sense of saying it shouldn’t exist, not that it doesn’t exist), but it still exists objectively regardless of our opinion. If God is the first cause, then what is good is good because God says so, and for this universe, since God makes the rules, that is also what is objectively “good”. If there is something beyond God that God has to follow, then what is good is good because God follows it. We don’t have to agree with it. It makes no difference. It simply means it objectively exists. A moral law, yes, it’s not measurable in a scientific manner, at least not beyond any behavioral genetics or other empirical studies of most people’s reactions to moral issues (based on their conscience), but it is a moral law, just like a law of physics, etc.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:44 AM
      • To JW:

        I’m sorry but I had to respond to:

        “If I ruin someone’s life, there is no way that can be compensated. However, since souls are more important than lives to theists (they’re eternal after all!), they can do all kinds of horrible stuff in the name of “morality”, as long as the net effect is saving souls.”

        That sounds like something that came straight from Dawkins and is very ignorant as theists are not all like that neither are all theistic systems like that.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:46 AM
      • Looks like I’ve been called ignorant. How am I allowed to defend myself? I have a GCSE and an A-level in religious studies and a first class masters degree from Oxford in philosophy (Mathematics and Philosophy to be precise). I went to Church most mornings between the ages of 11 and 18 as I went to a religious school. I have read a fair chunk of the bible, but memorised no part of it.

        I feel qualified to partake in this conversation.

        “In an atheist world, nothing matters.”

        This is not something you can just state, and that you do indicates your lack of understanding of the alternatives to religion. Don’t confuse a dearth of imagination with a dearth of possibilities, although confusion between conceivability and possibility has been driving religious arguments since Anselm.

        Back to our argument about consequences. To an atheist, all that matters is the material consequences of an action in this world. Theists have other considerations. I find that if you focus on the simple, easy to manage human aspect in cases of morality things are often tractable. It’s when you introduce ideologies and try to second guess God that things get complicated. For example the abortion debate. It’s so simple if you don’t bring God and souls into it, to the point that there isn’t even a conversation to be had.

        So, because of an anachronistic doctrine about ensoulment, balls of cells with no capacity to feel or perceive are being put on an equal footing with actual human beings. This was what I was referring to with my comment which you believe displayed “ignorance”. As ignorant as a fellow of New College no less! I don’t know if the “New Atheist” label applies to me, I find such tags completely without use, but I am a big fan of Dan Dennett and I have a copy of Origin of Species on my bookshelf.

        Posted by AW | March 1, 2012, 12:23 PM
      • I made a mistake here:

        “If there is something beyond God that God has to follow, then what is good is good because God follows it.”

        I meant to say it is good there has to be something beyond God that came up with that value in the first place. It always made me think because it looks to me as if that could suggest there are aspects of reality that are somehow independent of God. Thus something beyond God exists of itself. Which definitely means we’re talking about a different theistic system than Christianity, or any system where God is where everything else originates.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 12:33 PM
      • Looks like I’ve been called ignorant. How am I allowed to defend myself? I have a GCSE and an A-level in religious studies and a first class masters degree from Oxford in philosophy (Mathematics and Philosophy to be precise). I went to Church most mornings between the ages of 11 and 18 as I went to a religious school. I have read a fair chunk of the bible, but memorised no part of it.

        I feel qualified to partake in this conversation.

        “In an atheist world, nothing matters.”

        This is not something you can just state, and that you do indicates your lack of understanding of the alternatives to religion. Don’t confuse a dearth of imagination with a dearth of possibilities, although confusion between conceivability and possibility has been driving religious arguments since Anselm.

        Back to our argument about consequences. To an atheist, all that matters is the material consequences of an action in this world. Theists have other considerations. I find that if you focus on the simple, easy to manage human aspect in cases of morality things are often tractable. It’s when you introduce ideologies and try to second guess God that things get complicated. For example the abortion debate. It’s so simple if you don’t bring God and souls into it, to the point that there isn’t even a conversation to be had.

        So, because of an anachronistic doctrine about ensoulment, balls of cells with no capacity to feel or perceive are being put on an equal footing with actual human beings. This was what I was referring to with my comment which you believe displayed “ignorance”. As ignorant as a fellow of New College no less! I don’t know if the “New Atheist” label applies to me, I find such tags completely without use, but I am a big fan of Dan Dennett and I have a copy of Origin of Species on my bookshelf.
        ————————
        Spare me where you’ve been educated. It means nothing to me. I don’t care what you did in your past either. There’s no way to prove your assertions anyway over the Internet and even so, there’s lots of people with master’s degrees these days. Going to university these days doesn’t automatically make you a genius, ok?

        Ok, so on to your paragraph about what I can and can’t state. So where does objective meaning come from in an atheist world. This is what the age-old discussion is about.

        A ball of cells is human due to its nature (genetics), not its morphology. That’s like saying someone who has lost one of their legs is less human than the average human. It is by genetics that we identify the differences between species. It is a human. A human “fetus”. Just like you’re a human adult. As am I. My grandfather is a human elder. It’s different degrees of development for the same thing. Unlike you, I don’t value life just because of the abilities of this life. I find that too, self-centered, too centered upon our consciousness. What “abilities” we have in this world. That, again, means value comes from humans, and how humans value various modes of existence and such. I view objective value for humanity as being in our nature. We are human, therefore we are valuable. No nonsense about the size or how we look like, or whether we can defend ourselves. Also, you use the “capacity to feel” as being very important. Do you also think we should become total vegetarians and not eat any animal that has the capacity to “feel”? Why is “feeling” so important? Pain can be useful, and bad. Same with pleasure. Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes it’s good to feel pain, like when you lose someone close to you. It’s the right thing to go through. Feelings are not the sole way to measure good and bad. Violence can be used in self-defense, to stop someone evil from killing someone innocent, or it can be used to harm others who are innocent. As for perceiving, well, we don’t always perceive. Just like the “ball of cells” we can have the future capacity to do so when we’re knocked out and totally unconscious. But we don’t have it at that very moment. You base value of life based solely on abilities, which is no different than what the Nazis did when they said handicapped people had lives not worth living. While health is important, I fail to see how one’s value as a human is dependent upon abilities. But then again, that’s all you can argue for under atheism. Value wasn’t planned into humanity by a God. We simply, most of us, anyway, like being able to do more things than other species, so that’s why we’re worth more. So this value comes from us. It’s the same thing where Peter Singer says that we can kill an infant that’s disabled but not an adult, healthy chimp. There’s no humanity in this. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Your empirical studies on people’s reactions will reveal strong disgust to such implications. Yet you will continue to show it off as being “objective” even though it’s simply the result of a philosophy based on the value of “ability”, which is subjective of course. It’s what happens when abilities come first. Ability comes first from Nature. Then we choose to value abilities over other possible things to value. Especially those species with many abilities like ourselves. Yet, in theism, assuming creation isn’t done randomly, and that something is made with a purpose in mind, the value of humanity comes first, then come the abilities which further cement our value in the physical world. At least, that becomes a possibility. Again, it reduces to whether things are done randomly or whether things come with a purpose.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 12:57 PM
      • DD:
        I didn’t claim to be a genius, just that I am not ignorant. Ad hominem attacks are not very nice, and lots of friendly institutions have seen fit to print shiny pieces of paper to say that I’m not a total goon, so don’t treat me like one please.

        I didn’t claim that moral worth is derived from abilities other than ability to experience. This is why I think people and animals should be considered in moral decisions (to varying degrees) and plants and rocks shouldn’t be. I don’t believe that athletes and professors can roam the earth killing as they please because of their abilities.

        I am a vegetarian, partly for the reason you described.

        I misspoke in my post, by “human” I meant person. Being human or not is also not necessarily a question of DNA or species (eg people with aneuploidy like Turners Syndrome are still human, but vary more from a normal human than a normal human varies from an ape), but that is neither here nor there. However, personhood is the correct concept to be discussed here. I think Singer probably had it mostly right, in particular I like his argument against potential. He also never said it would be okay to kill children, and in fact said young children are roughly equivalent to apes in terms of intrinsic values. I think he meant this more as a compliment to apes than as justification for his baby eating habit.

        Pro-tip: don’t compare your opponent to the Nazi’s unless you want to look like a clown. Further, your comparison is BS; the reason you have given is not the one that motivated the Nazis to exterminate disabled people, they were applying “social Darwinism”, which is effectively eugenics through extermination. I’m sure they used your argument as propaganda, but you don’t get from caring about people and wanting them not to suffer to exterminating the defenceless very easily.

        If you want objective meaning in ethics without God, you can basically just say people are ends in and of themselves and then proceed to do Kantian ethics. You can say that there is an objective fact of “what it is like to be someone” (c.f. Thomas Nagel) and then base your ethics on some kind of consciousness metaphysics. You can say that suffering is objectively bad, and base your ethics on that. You can say that there is some kind of objective form of what a human should be like and then do virtue ethics. These are the ones that spring to my mind right now, I would bet that there are other routes.

        The question “how do you know about the existence of these morals?” is an epistemological sticky wicket, but I’ve been told that we don’t mind about epistemology in this discussion.

        Posted by AW | March 1, 2012, 3:52 PM
      • JW: I’d like to discuss the age old Euthyphro dilemna perhaps on another thread – I didn’t know that there were several ways that theists deal with it (I’m new to this philosophy thing).

        Posted by Walt | March 1, 2012, 4:23 PM
      • Theists word play with the Euthyphro,because they cannot gainsay it as with attempts to rebut that Aquinas begs the question of God’s nature being good. Defining the term God without evidence cannot instantiate His attributes nor His referents. The term violates the Ockham as the [Google:] the ignostic-Ockham notes, with convoluted ad hoc assumptions whilst we have naturalism with no such nonsense.
        As atheologian Keith Parsons notes: ” Occult power wielded by a transcendent being in an inscrutable manner for unfathomable purposes does not seem to be any sort of a good answer.” God is a mystery,surrounded by other ones,ostensibly to be the Ultimate nswer,but in the end is vacuous- no more meaningful than a square circle. He adds nothing as an explanation than do gremlins or demons or Thor.
        No connection exists betwixt Him and the Cosmos. Alexander Smoltczyk babbles that He is neither a principle nor an entity nor a personal being,but that Ultimate Explanation; but without being an entity nor a being, how could He instantiate Himself as that explanation?
        Thus, theology is the subject without a subject!
        Walt, ” Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.” Inquiring Lynn
        Why bray at the Cosmos instead of accepting that it has no purpose and no purpose for us,but instead as Jean-Paul Sartre maintains that we have to make our own projects -meanings,purposes-. Despite him, however, life hardly becomes absurd, because as Victor Stenger,physicist-atheologian maintains that we live in ” The Comprehensible Universe.” where he discusses the whence of natural laws. His books slay theism, the update to Carneades and Hume.
        One should try to comprehend AW’s and my points instead of regurgitating what we’ve rebutted.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 10:29 PM
      • @Walt- There are a great number of ways theists approach it. I already mentioned Swinburne, but you could look at the work of Linda Zagzebski; Jerry Walls/David Baggett; Robert Merrihew Adams; Mark C. Murphy; etc. They all offer various ways of either embracing the dilemma (see esp. Swinburne and to some extent Walls) while maintaining theistic ethics or a third approach around it (Sort of Walls again, and the others).

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 2, 2012, 5:59 PM
      • DD:
        I didn’t claim to be a genius, just that I am not ignorant. Ad hominem attacks are not very nice, and lots of friendly institutions have seen fit to print shiny pieces of paper to say that I’m not a total goon, so don’t treat me like one please.

        I didn’t claim that moral worth is derived from abilities other than ability to experience. This is why I think people and animals should be considered in moral decisions (to varying degrees) and plants and rocks shouldn’t be. I don’t believe that athletes and professors can roam the earth killing as they please because of their abilities.

        I am a vegetarian, partly for the reason you described.

        I misspoke in my post, by “human” I meant person. Being human or not is also not necessarily a question of DNA or species (eg people with aneuploidy like Turners Syndrome are still human, but vary more from a normal human than a normal human varies from an ape), but that is neither here nor there. However, personhood is the correct concept to be discussed here. I think Singer probably had it mostly right, in particular I like his argument against potential. He also never said it would be okay to kill children, and in fact said young children are roughly equivalent to apes in terms of intrinsic values. I think he meant this more as a compliment to apes than as justification for his baby eating habit.

        Pro-tip: don’t compare your opponent to the Nazi’s unless you want to look like a clown. Further, your comparison is BS; the reason you have given is not the one that motivated the Nazis to exterminate disabled people, they were applying “social Darwinism”, which is effectively eugenics through extermination. I’m sure they used your argument as propaganda, but you don’t get from caring about people and wanting them not to suffer to exterminating the defenceless very easily.

        If you want objective meaning in ethics without God, you can basically just say people are ends in and of themselves and then proceed to do Kantian ethics. You can say that there is an objective fact of “what it is like to be someone” (c.f. Thomas Nagel) and then base your ethics on some kind of consciousness metaphysics. You can say that suffering is objectively bad, and base your ethics on that. You can say that there is some kind of objective form of what a human should be like and then do virtue ethics. These are the ones that spring to my mind right now, I would bet that there are other routes.

        The question “how do you know about the existence of these morals?” is an epistemological sticky wicket, but I’ve been told that we don’t mind about epistemology in this discussion.
        —————————
        I disagree that what matters is being a “person”. Who decides what a “person” is anyway. What is a “person”? Why do we have to use “personhood” as the most important thing?

        I only give “rights” to species that I think have morally relevant free will, in other words, humans. I don’t know all about aneuploidy, all I know is the average human varies 0.1% on average from one another, or something of the sort. What I mean by genetics/nature is our “essence”. I think it’s wrong to willfully torture animals more because of what it shows is going on the person’s head.

        Singer said parents can choose to euthanize children up to at least 28 days if I remember correctly. I don’t know what you’re talking about

        The comparison is not BS at all. What is the ultimate goal of eugenics? What is the goal of selecting the best genes? To have the “better-abled” go on and the less abled be eliminated. What do you think eugenics is about? It’s the same with those who want to abort children with genetic disorders, so as to eliminate the lesser abled. Apparently suffering is the greatest evil to atheists, because most of their ideas rest on hedonism anyway, suffering is bad, pleasure is good (utilitarianism). To a theist, what’s evil is to go against what is right as determined by their belief system.

        I don’t think suffering is always objectively bad. I’ve suffered in many ways throughout my life and I’ve gained a lot from it. To me, life is an eternal struggle. Not all suffering is bad, not all pleasure is good. I embrace both the rewards and the struggles as part of existence itself, regardless of my theism.

        I simply don’t value the same things you do. I see value in suffering. Life is not meant to be fun and games in my view.

        Your paragraph on ethics without God, it still has assumptions. Who says people are ends in and of themselves? What if someone disagrees? Why would one person be right over the other over this value statement? It doesn’t matter if humans go on surviving or if we go extinct. It only matters to some, namely, us.

        I’m not denying it’s impossible to have some sort of ethical system to have order in society without theism. I’m simply saying you won’t be able to truly justify it, the only thing you can say is the majority agreed to something of the sort.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 4:34 PM
      • A few final thoughts.

        I don’t know what to make of the whole aneuploidy thing still, but regardless of the “differences”, our physical make up is definitely due to our genes. It’s certainly not due to nurture that the average human has two arms and two legs. I’ll definitely look into what is meant by the differences between someone who suffers from such a genetic disorder and a normal human, because clearly, even though those genes are different, what comes out is still very much human.

        I also find it disgusting that Singer thinks children are no more valuable than an ape. To me, there is a purpose for the existence of our species. It is clear to me, that if there is a purpose to life, then the likelihood is just as strong that there is a purpose we were made so special, whether through some form of evolution or creationism or a mix of the two, or whatever, I don’t care.

        I don’t care if some animals feel pain or if they have some minor amount of reasoning capacity (which is always applied within the limited goal(s) of what helps that individual organism and other members of its society — assuming it’s a social animal — it is never for the purpose of wondering what meaning of life to adopt, whether to be moral or not, etc.). I know I assume free will when I say this (I honestly don’t have the energy to have a debate about that, however), but to me morally relevant creatures are the ones who have free will. Therefore, humans. To me it isn’t an issue whether or not a fetus “feels”, etc. The nature of the organism is obvious. It is a human. It can be an embryo, indeed, but it is a human embryo. It’s not about abilities in there here and now, not only. Not to me. It’s also about a value that gets tagged on us for the simple part of being part of the human race. Why? Simple. Like I said, I believe there is a purpose for our existence here. Just like I believe all the rest of the animals serve their own purpose to preserve the biosphere and planet Earth, etc. Totally different worldview from yours.

        However, I don’t blame you, as an atheist, that you went to the idea that it’s all about what happens in the physical world. Most do go that route. It’s certainly not a requirement. At this point it’s simply best if we agree to disagree. A lot of the differences in our values are due to the fact that you are an atheist and I am a theist. It is what it is.

        That’s all I had to say. I also want to point out that I didn’t really think you were “a bad person” or something of the sort, but I have had enough of people hiding behind their degree when it comes to a debate or just make up their educational background completely. Both on the Internet and in real life. I am always wary when someone comes out to say that to me. I focus on the issue at hand and if someone can make a good point it doesn’t matter to me whether an educational institution gave them the proper confirmation of their intellectual capacity.

        Thank you.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 8:24 PM
      • Even simple subjectivism in the hands of Lord Russell is fine whilst in the hands of those men of yore mean-spirited. men harms people. People who love stoning have a bad moral sense.
        I favor the wide reflective subjectivism of Hobbes and Hume, with its object elements that it is universal,applying to all and equality and equity. We override our mere whims and tastes with our considered judgment, reflecting objective consequences – all can see them. Interpretations do come forth as with any ethical system.
        I find it paradoxical that this underpins objective morality! Thus, covenant morality for humanity-the presumption of humanism reflects facts and reason instead of mere whims and tastes.
        Things matter in this atheistic Cosmos! We matter. Those who prattle otherwise reveal their own psychology, and that’s no ad hominem.
        Billy Lane brayes at the Cosmos with his defense of the divine purpose or else poor us!
        For my different takes,especially at Amzon Religions Discussions, Google covenant morality for humanity- the presumption of humanism..
        I’ve already noted other parts about it.
        Anyway, theists when they do morality with facts and reason, partake of our ethic whils we obviously do not act whatsoever on theirs!
        Choose life!
        Im recommending this blog!

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 1, 2012, 10:47 PM
      • Griggs: Theists word play with the Euthyphro,because they cannot gainsay it as with attempts to rebut that Aquinas begs the question of God’s nature being good. Defining the term God without evidence cannot instantiate His attributes nor His referents. The term violates the Ockham as the [Google:] the ignostic-Ockham notes, with convoluted ad hoc assumptions whilst we have naturalism with no such nonsense. As atheologian Keith Parsons notes: ” Occult power wielded by a transcendent being in an inscrutable manner for unfathomable purposes does not seem to be any sort of a good answer.” God is a mystery,surrounded by other ones,ostensibly to be the Ultimate nswer,but in the end is vacuous- no more meaningful than a square circle. He adds nothing as an explanation than do gremlins or demons or Thor. No connection exists betwixt Him and the Cosmos. Alexander Smoltczyk babbles that He is neither a principle nor an entity nor a personal being,but that Ultimate Explanation; but without being an entity nor a being, how could He instantiate Himself as that explanation? Thus, theology is the subject without a subject! Walt, ” Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.” Inquiring Lynn Why bray at the Cosmos instead of accepting that it has no purpose and no purpose for us,but instead as Jean-Paul Sartre maintains that we have to make our own projects -meanings,purposes-. Despite him, however, life hardly becomes absurd, because as Victor Stenger,physicist-atheologian maintains that we live in ” The Comprehensible Universe.” where he discusses the whence of natural laws. His books slay theism, the update to Carneades and Hume. One should try to comprehend AW’s and my points instead of regurgitating what we’ve rebutted.
        ————–
        One should try to what? Yeah, right, because you sure do lead by example by repeating your same attacks on Aquinas, etc. We should all bow down and listen to you indeed. I fail to see how God is “vacuous”. If God exists, then the Universe (possibly) exists for a reason, there’s meaning behind what we see, what exists, etc. If naturalism is correct, then everything just going on with no conscious input. You’ve never said anything about that to refute this assertion. From the Big Bang to the present, no rational, no conscious, no purposeful behavior can be attributed to Nature. It’s all just random. Just like those who push the multi-verse theory say as they try to hide evidence of fine-tuning and design in the universe, Nature could have taken a different course (for no reason, mind you!) and it wouldn’t make a difference in the end. I’ll try to define to you what God is. Assuming God exists, of course. At least, in a monotheistic system like Christianity. God is the origin of everything that exists, Nature included. Without God, nothing exists. I don’t know if God is a principle or an entity or whatever. That’s too much to expect to know about something of this nature. All you can know about God, if He exists, is what traces of Himself and His thoughts are left in our universe, through design, and so on. Use science, philosophy, and so on, to gain knowledge not just of the universe we live in, but also the One who originated this universe. It’s no different than looking at a building’s design to see hints at what the architect planned.

        Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 10:47 PM
      • When a putative being has convoluted, ad hoc assumptions that conflict with the Razor, it is incoherent and thus cannot exist! It’s random as to the needs of organisms. So what? We’re here against all those improbable caculations, which ignore the actual situation anyway. No being decided before hand what randomness would do and what natural selection, the non-planning, anti-chance agency of Nature would do. No being decided that the meteors would cause the demise of the dinosaurs, the subsequent flouring of our ancestral primates, the cooling off period, the flowering plants flourishng and mutations. Selection works on what it comes upon. Differential reproduction happens.
        Thus, all teleological arguments ever fail as Naure itself rules1
        Why then bray at the Cosmos as that person does in that famous poem?
        I need no divine validation. I live in harmony with others. ineed no divine ontology to find out what is moral but instead consult others,read ethics books and so forth.
        Does He speak with a forked tongue- a relativistic one then as other religions have just as much claim as yours. Take John Loftus’s outsiders test : approach your as for the first time without your biases of salvation and such.
        Show that He has no such assumptions. Show that He has agency in the Cosmos without begging the question as science reveals none. It would b ejust another argument from ignorance to suggest that He hides Himself and that agenc The take a look around you ignores that science itslef explains all that beauy and-ugliness.
        Ti’s forced,lively and momentous to become a rationalist and skeptic and naturalist!

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 1:11 AM
      • Unfortunately the outsider test fails on its own criterion. See here. Not only that, but to argue that whatever conflicts with Occam’s Razor “cannot exist” is simply false. Parsimony doesn’t exclude the possibility of more complex answers; it only prefers simpler ones if there is a simpler answer to be had. The way you argued here shows a major misunderstanding of parsimony.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 2, 2012, 7:49 AM
      • Grigg: Even simple subjectivism in the hands of Lord Russell is fine whilst in the hands of those men of yore mean-spirited. men harms people. People who love stoning have a bad moral sense.
        I favor the wide reflective subjectivism of Hobbes and Hume, with its object elements that it is universal,applying to all and equality and equity. We override our mere whims and tastes with our considered judgment, reflecting objective consequences – all can see them. Interpretations do come forth as with any ethical system.
        I find it paradoxical that this underpins objective morality! Thus, covenant morality for humanity-the presumption of humanism reflects facts and reason instead of mere whims and tastes.
        Things matter in this atheistic Cosmos! We matter. Those who prattle otherwise reveal their own psychology, and that’s no ad hominem.
        Billy Lane brayes at the Cosmos with his defense of the divine purpose or else poor us!
        For my different takes,especially at Amzon Religions Discussions, Google covenant morality for humanity- the presumption of humanism..
        I’ve already noted other parts about it.
        Anyway, theists when they do morality with facts and reason, partake of our ethic whils we obviously do not act whatsoever on theirs!
        Choose life!
        Im recommending this blog!
        —-
        Sorry, but all of that literally amounts to nothing. You are so arrogant as you always use certain emotionally charged words like “brays”, “prattle”, or “babbles”, when it comes to theists, to signify how obviously ridiculous their views are BEFORE you even attempt to show why that is so. Very nice. Very mature, and very philosophical. Then you claim your ethics are based on “facts and “reason”. Right. Facts…

        Here’s some facts. No, we don’t matter in an atheistic universe. SOME of us would say we matter. A nihilist would not say so. A radical greenie who wants to reduce our numbers drastically for Mother Gaia, doesn’t think we matter. Neither would a misanthrope. Humans think they matter. Ants don’t care about us. Neither do wolves, or plants, or rocks. No one cares. They look out for their own. As do we. Some don’t do that. In fact, some don’t even look after themselves. It’s hard to care about others when you can’t care about yourself.

        I remain unconvinced. You’re talking to someone who used to be a total nihilist, ok? I’ve been there and everywhere. I’ve looked at all these issues in the most cold, detached manner possible. No emotional distortions. Just looked at everything as it is, in an atheistic world. No, I did not become a Christian to get out of that hell. I have other reasons for that. And yes, I would’ve continued to go on the same way if I felt like it was the truth. And under atheism, I simply can’t see anything other than nihilism. But here’s a cool thing about it. Under nihilism, nothing, and I mean, NOTHING matters.So technically, there’s nothing that says we have to follow the truth, or be honest about reality. We could still pretend morality exists. So what if it’s not true? Who says truth is of value?

        What you need to do is detach yourself from your emotions completely and truly see life for what it is in an atheistic universe. An accident, really. Only then can you see what I am talking about. Have you ever had trouble falling asleep at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering if you’ll find enough motivation the next day to get up out of bed? I’ve been through that (and more). All these values, your most treasured values, when you figure out that they’re no better than a pedophile’s outlook, you start to see that life’s spark starts to go missing. There’s not much there. And if you are totally alone, it’ll be worse. Until we die. And our beliefs, and opinions, decay away as our neurons decompose. And once the universe reaches its death, there will be no consciousness within it to try and come up with meaning. Even subjective meaning.

        Let’s get something clear here. I agree that even though morality is subjective in atheism, it is POSSIBLE to come up with a moral system that the majority will agree to, simply for convenience and to avoid societal chaos. But that means nothing. For one, who says the majority has to go on rather than a lone, psychopathic individual who’d like to take out the masses in any way possible?

        Don’t make comments where you mock us. Be mature enough to respect the people you debate. You don’t have to agree, but we’re treating you with respect. I’ve had enough of your condescending tone. You’re not that special, my atheist friend, stop acting as though you atheists have all the answers due to “facts and reason” while we just “bray, babble, and prattle”.

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 12:21 AM
      • We matter to ourselves period. I point that extensively out.Definitely, no more talk about prattling!
        Why do theists need God to find themselves with purpose when we ourselves make our own that self-validates?
        I don’t worry that ten years from now what I am now writng others won’t read.I was nothng before my birth and will be nothng after my death- in the mean time others can appreciate me and I them.
        ” Life ist its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.” Inquiring Lynn
        Moral realism exists. David Brink shows that humanistic moral realism exists. TOo maintain that humanist morality cannot be objective in the senses I note cannot gainsay them. Show that yours is objectiv,e considering what the Tanakh commands.
        Yours, otherwise is contingen,t on modern ideas, not those of those men of yore!

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 9:59 AM
      • DD: Yeah I guess at this stage it’s clear there is no way we can get any closer to each other, given our starting points. Just for interest’s sake I’ll state what I believe without supporting arguments.

        There is no (Abrahamic) God
        Free will is an illusion, indeed it is an incoherent notion when closely examined.
        There is no end purpose to life.
        Humans and animals differ by a matter of degree not categorically.
        Being conscious is a matter of degree, not a binary.
        Continuous self through time is an illusion.
        Division between self and rest of universe is misguided.

        My metaphysics is driven by science, really. My understanding of the world comes from Minkowski’s/Einstein’s spacetime, thermodynamics and neuroscience. Modulo quantum scale events, I believe the world is deterministic.

        My personal morality is one of virtue ethics, but I do not believe it has an objective basis. There is a somewhat vague notion of a “good person” that I have in my head and try to act as they would act, in an effort to become like them. When a moral dilemma seems intractable by the methods of virtue ethics, I apply economics and try to roughly calculate what would happen if my behaviour was widespread or universal.

        I like this system, it works well for me. It is completely free from contradiction and every part of it was reached by looking closely at the foundational issues and deciding what I thought was true, rather than assuming what I wanted to be true.

        Posted by AW | March 2, 2012, 4:59 AM
      • I will comment on those specifically directed back at me when I get the chance, but wanted to give a quick response to this comment @AW.

        The system of belief you advocate there is fairly common, but I can’t help but be shocked every time I see someone who claims those beliefs. Essentially, you’re saying you are determined to believe as you do. You don’t believe in free will, so your beliefs are determined. But because those beliefs are determined, there’s no reason to say they are rational; after all, you must believe them. In fact, you’re also determined to think that they are rationally justified, so you must think they are rationally justified, and will almost certainly argue that they are in response to this comment. But whether you do or not, you’re just doing what you must do. Your beliefs are required; your responses required; your belief that you are rationally justified and that your beliefs are free from contradiction are required.

        And really, on your view, I can’t blame you for holding your beliefs. After all, I must believe you’re wrong. But if free will is illusory–our freedom to believe in and seek truth is also illusory.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 2, 2012, 7:54 AM
      • DD:
        My brother said something fairly profound to me back when I was trying to convert him to Christianity. He told me that I was obviously assuming he had not thought about matters of religion, ethics, metaphysics, etc as much as i had myself. Regardless of who’s right about philosophical issues, it is indeed a bad move to question how deeply or sincerely your opponent has though about an issue.

        Posted by Walt | March 2, 2012, 8:28 AM
      • AW: “DD: Yeah I guess at this stage it’s clear there is no way we can get any closer to each other, given our starting points. Just for interest’s sake I’ll state what I believe without supporting arguments.

        There is no (Abrahamic) God
        Free will is an illusion, indeed it is an incoherent notion when closely examined.
        There is no end purpose to life.
        Humans and animals differ by a matter of degree not categorically.
        Being conscious is a matter of degree, not a binary.
        Continuous self through time is an illusion.
        Division between self and rest of universe is misguided.

        My metaphysics is driven by science, really. My understanding of the world comes from Minkowski’s/Einstein’s spacetime, thermodynamics and neuroscience. Modulo quantum scale events, I believe the world is deterministic.

        My personal morality is one of virtue ethics, but I do not believe it has an objective basis. There is a somewhat vague notion of a “good person” that I have in my head and try to act as they would act, in an effort to become like them. When a moral dilemma seems intractable by the methods of virtue ethics, I apply economics and try to roughly calculate what would happen if my behaviour was widespread or universal.

        I like this system, it works well for me. It is completely free from contradiction and every part of it was reached by looking closely at the foundational issues and deciding what I thought was true, rather than assuming what I wanted to be true.”
        ——————-
        I don’t believe free will is an illusion. In fact, if there’s no free will and we’re machines and not free at all, then how can you trust your own mind’s conclusions when it comes to reasoning? It’s not just your will that isn’t free, it’s where and how your mind operates. It could be that all of our thoughts are wrong and random, driven by unconscious atoms. If there’s no free will, there’s no reason for anyone to trust their thoughts since they have no control over them. Free will is a result of consciousness, rationality, and objectivity. Thus, you can analyze your own behavior to other behaviors, or abstract moral systems, and see how you fit in there. And if you have free will, you have the ability to choose freely between different options.

        If there is a God, there’s a purpose to life.

        To me, humans and animals differ by both a matter of degree and categorically. Biologically, it’s a matter of degree. But in terms of the ability to perceive morals, and other important issues which deal with the meaning of life, we’re in a different category altogether. Why? Because our mental abilities differ by such a large degree, that we are given access to things animals could never perceive, not in a way that’s relevant to moral free will.
        Being conscious is also a binary. There’s a clear difference between a plant, and a human. But, it is true that it is a matter of degree between an ant and a wolf and a human, in a biological sense, in terms of abilities, etc.

        I don’t believe continuous self through time is an illusion. As long as the same information patterns are there, it’s fine. And it’s the same biological life. Now you might come up with one of Parfit’s arguments about fusing brains. I believe in a form of dualism, but the “soul” itself doesn’t actually guide the actions, it’s more of this thing that allows our brains to be truly conscious. For example, if we have the thought experiment with the teleportation thing from Star Trek, the same personality up to that point is copied, but it’s not the same biological life. So, what of this? Along with organ transplants? Well, again, since I see design, and believe there’s a Creator, I look beyond just the physical. I don’t consider a human body with no brain to be alive even if the body could be kept alive. Not in the sense of what it truly means to be alive, perhaps in a metaphysical sense. The brain is life, at least once it develops (I guess life sort of transfers from the whole, of the embryo, to the one organ when the brain is around). So what if we continue to fuse brains together? I’m not entirely sure. If we can fuse brains, perhaps we can re-write our DNA. I’m not sure what effect that would have upon personal identity, in a certain sense. However, to me, it’s about the same neural patterns and same biological life. I suppose I could use those two ideas and build upon them for any theoretical issue that might arise. I take into consideration that organs that are slowly transplanted, for example, are in a way “assimilated” by the original body so they become one with the new body. Although, I find that more appropriate for the new technique of growing organs using your own DNA. I feel like different DNA would mean a different biological life, technically. So if someone had the ability to re-write our DNA, at least to a certain extent, I’m not sure, perhaps we wouldn’t technically be the same self as before. It would be the same personality, memories, etc. But I take DNA into consideration. Yes, I know there are plenty of mutations that occur with DNA, which is why I think there’s probably a range for the changing of DNA where the same identity is still there, then probably once you cross a certain point, it’s no longer you. I’m not entirely sure. But then again, there’s much we still have to learn about genetics, neuroscience, and such.

        I’m not even going to answer that last one. You’re a pantheist. So if you’re a pantheist, and the universe is in everything, that means the universe is in both me, and Hitler, and yourself, and someone else. So the universe is speaking through all of us, and contradicting itself. Nice. Not to mention how atheistic pantheists always talk about science, etc., but then there’s nothing scientific about saying “division between self and rest of universe is misguided”. There’s a difference between me and a rock

        So you’re into scientism. There’s knowledge that isn’t scientific. Like history. Or subjective experience. Science can’t prove logic, because it presupposes it when it declares that the universe is rational, observable, and understandable. That would be circular reasoning. Your understanding of the world, just like our understanding of science, is incomplete. That’s why I don’t use science to make bold assertions.

        I never assumed what I want to be true. I simply trust my intuition. We trust our intuition when we work in the physical world, that it’s not all just an illusion, and that our brains can decode reality correctly. I also trust my intuition when I feel like it’s impossible for Nature alone to have created everything we see.

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 10:35 AM
      • Griggs: “When a putative being has convoluted, ad hoc assumptions that conflict with the Razor, it is incoherent and thus cannot exist! It’s random as to the needs of organisms. So what? We’re here against all those improbable caculations, which ignore the actual situation anyway. No being decided before hand what randomness would do and what natural selection, the non-planning, anti-chance agency of Nature would do. No being decided that the meteors would cause the demise of the dinosaurs, the subsequent flouring of our ancestral primates, the cooling off period, the flowering plants flourishng and mutations. Selection works on what it comes upon. Differential reproduction happens.
        Thus, all teleological arguments ever fail as Naure itself rules1
        Why then bray at the Cosmos as that person does in that famous poem?
        I need no divine validation. I live in harmony with others. ineed no divine ontology to find out what is moral but instead consult others,read ethics books and so forth.
        Does He speak with a forked tongue- a relativistic one then as other religions have just as much claim as yours. Take John Loftus’s outsiders test : approach your as for the first time without your biases of salvation and such.
        Show that He has no such assumptions. Show that He has agency in the Cosmos without begging the question as science reveals none. It would b ejust another argument from ignorance to suggest that He hides Himself and that agenc The take a look around you ignores that science itslef explains all that beauy and-ugliness.
        Ti’s forced,lively and momentous to become a rationalist and skeptic and naturalist!”
        —————
        The Razor isn’t this thing that binds everyone like it’s the ultimate thing one must follow. Naturalistic explanations for the universe in fact require much more faith I find, than believing in design. Is it more likely a car built itself, or that someone built it?

        Your rant on the randomness of natural selection (why can’t there be a mix of both teleology and chance?) ignores all the evidence of fine tuning, design in DNA, and so on.

        It’s amazing though, you simply don’t listen. You don’t get it. THERE IS NO MORALITY IF THERE’S NO GOD. We can “pretend to agree”, and such, but it makes no difference. If a psychopath came around and said he disagrees, all we have is the majority.

        You believe in scientism. You believe science has ALL the answers when methodological naturalism itself has certain assumptions about the way the universe works. There’s other sources of knowledge beyond empiricism. To you, science is now a religion.

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 10:47 AM
      • To continue with my thoughts on a unique individual identity, like I said, you need two things, in my opinion.

        You need the same biological life, which comes under a challenge when faced with organ transplantation (which I say, as long as the organ is assimilated, and done one organ at a time, it’s the same biological life, since it’s not like you take 60% of one body and fuse it with 40% of another — correct me if I am wrong, but I view this as a fairly correct way to see the differences between one vs the other, in terms of percentages, I mean) and when faced with your DNA being changed. I would assume that we’re fairly far away from having small nanobots going through our bloodstream re-writing DNA, but again, since DNA is important in personal identity, and since the atoms that make us up are special mainly because of the way they are arranged (atoms are hardware, the design in DNA is software), I guess once you deviate from the original up to a certain point, I’m not sure what is statistically relevant (we’d need a much better understanding of genetics, and especially the role of certain genes), but I’m sure a certain deviation will count.

        Then you need the same personality, to have the exact same individual identity. Same memories, as well. True, I view biological life as more important, in a sense. Because life will continue even if personality changes or if you forget memories due to a bump on the head. But if it were possible to re-wire our neuronal patterns, the personality would eventually be gone. It would be a matter of degree, in a certain sense, as are all differences between human personalities (most of us are really the same, but we have minor differences which make us unique).

        I view individual identity in a different manner from most people. It’s much more complicated than just the body or just the personality/mind. It’s a mix of both. Both the material and the immaterial. Rather than claim that it’s all just an illusion, I’m the type of guy that likes to dive right in and attempt to make some sense of this mess.

        True, the above issues mostly deal with difference of degrees, rather than kind, so it is hard to figure out the grey area, but with enough knowledge, I’m fairly confident we could at least come to a rudimentary understanding.

        [NOTE: With regards to organ transplantation, I suppose you really need to state that there will be a difference between normal organ transplantation and growing organs using your own DNA in the future. If it's the same DNA as you have, then I guess you could keep changing organs continuously as long as it's not a lot of organs at a time.]

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 11:02 AM
      • Just one thing. When I said consciousness is in a certain sense a binary. I mean to compare ROCKS and humans, not plants. Plants might have some very small level of consciousness, who knows. Within consciousness, there’s degrees of consciousness. But between consciousness and non consciounsess, it’s a matter of a different category, so it’s a binary.

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 11:13 AM
      • Sorry Griggs, but I find science without philosophy to be incomplete, and I find it unfathomable that Nature is this “Blind Watchmaker”. I think someone designed that watch.

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 11:19 AM
      • AW: I forgot to mention. Technically, your system does have contradictions, for a reason I already stated, but didn’t make the connection to your claim. Whether you are a pantheist or some sort of naturalist who believes all is one (since you said division between self and rest of universe is misguided). You’re a monist, sort of like a Buddhist almost. What I never understood about these systems where everything is a result of this same… entity? Or thing? Whatever you call it, Cosmos, Nature, etc., it’s the same thing manifesting when I disagree with you and it’s also manifesting in you. So then the Cosmos is playing a few tricks here since two logically inconsistent belief systems are held to be true at the same time, both by the Cosmos, ultimately. So I guess you view thought as initiating purely on an atomic, or sub-atomic level, there being no emergence, and definitely no immaterial substance, and all thought and mental activity is a result of particles just moving around out there blindly. It’s a miracle, I have to say, that we can get anything right when our minds work so randomly!

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 3:24 PM
      • DD, yes as to quality of thought for many. Some atheists have no adequate knowledge of atheism,but as they don’t believe in God, they are atheists, and no true Scotsman fallacy need enter either former theists or atheists.
        DD and AW, at least poetically speaking I’m a Quentin Smith naturalist pantheist- in awe of the Cosmos!
        DD,no,about naturalism as that account is a straw man! Analyse the pains-taking points instead.
        I must ponder better! Blinders don’t help me.
        Let’s not talk pass each other.

        I heartily invite y’all to my blogs to point out point by point where I or those whose articles I reblog err.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 9:42 PM
      • AW: You can think as deeply and as sincerely as you’d like, but if I disagree I’ll let you know and I’ll back up my claims and you have the right to do so as well. If you don’t wish to debate, why bother commenting in the first place?

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 5:59 PM
      • Griggs: “We matter to ourselves period. I point that extensively out.Definitely, no more talk about prattling!
        Why do theists need God to find themselves with purpose when we ourselves make our own that self-validates?
        I don’t worry that ten years from now what I am now writng others won’t read.I was nothng before my birth and will be nothng after my death- in the mean time others can appreciate me and I them.
        ” Life ist its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.” Inquiring Lynn
        Moral realism exists. David Brink shows that humanistic moral realism exists. TOo maintain that humanist morality cannot be objective in the senses I note cannot gainsay them. Show that yours is objectiv,e considering what the Tanakh commands.
        Yours, otherwise is contingen,t on modern ideas, not those of those men of yore!”
        —————
        No. Some don’t care about themselves. See nihilists, people who are suicidal, and so on. Why do we need God? Because otherwise my purpose is literally no better than a pedophile’s purpose for life. Whose values are better, who decides?

        Who is David Brink? How did he show moral realism exists? All you can provide as proof is the fact that the vast majority might agree that murder is wrong. But that doesn’t mean anything. A hundred years ago, a lot more people were racist.

        A few centuries ago, being an atheist wasn’t looked at as being too great of a thing. So who says that our attitudes today are any better than attitudes from before? And why? Because our knowledge increased? Who says knowledge is good? Someone who wishes to keep his populace enslaved will seek to limit knowledge (since knowledge is power). Who says the vast majority have to go on and not the lone individual?

        It is objectively true that most people BELIEVE in morality, but why? Since it’s a universal feature to humanity, it must mean that it’s at least slightly genetic, to have certain moral defaults, in terms of your conscience.

        But again, who says the vast majority are the ones who have to be “happy” and such? Why? Who says any of us has to be happy, or prosper? Who says humanity, or life matter? Sure, you can say, it matters to us. BUT NOT EVERYONE. A nihilist, I keep telling you, would simply disagree. And if that nihilist made up the majority… Well… So all you have is human nature to go off of, since that’s the only universal that doesn’t change from culture to culture (though it can be skewed in certain ways, or even inhibited in a certain sense — you can be dehumanized). And those genes were chosen by INDIFFERENT natural selection. No teleology. So why can’t we change those genes once genetic engineering comes around?

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 6:09 PM
      • Thanks, JW – I’ll check these out.

        Posted by Walt | March 2, 2012, 11:16 PM
      • Vacuous. No, Anthony is right,because God as noted adds just might makes right-that no play.
        Just asserting that for evermore means nothng. Such vacuity.
        ” Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future life can further validate.”
        I find my life need no Sky Pappy or Being Itself to make it worthwhile. Again, why worry over the lack of divine purpose when that means nothnng if you yourself cannot make your own life worthwhile.
        Why would I need any one else to give me self-acceptance?
        Check out that website for why skepticism works and supernaturalism is just feel good pabulum,exep tfor those with a sick sense of sin, induced to get them to become born again.
        No Adam, n o need for that egregious blood sacrifice!
        I find that you morality would induce me to be mean,so I escape it for one that makes me moral. That stuff about getting away from God to be immoral is another straw man!
        I’ll see what other naturalists have to say here.
        So Bily Craif cannot get satisfaction without his placebo is his own fault. I prefer settng my own goals as that is the moral thng to do instead of what some men of yore just made up.

        Posted by mlg.lamberth@gmail.com | March 3, 2012, 2:19 AM
      • DD, yes as to quality of thought for many. Some atheists have no adequate knowledge of atheism,but as they don’t believe in God, they are atheists, and no true Scotsman fallacy need enter either former theists or atheists.
        DD and AW, at least poetically speaking I’m a Quentin Smith naturalist pantheist- in awe of the Cosmos!
        DD,no,about naturalism as that account is a straw man! Analyse the pains-taking points instead.
        I must ponder better! Blinders don’t help me.
        Let’s not talk pass each other.

        I heartily invite y’all to my blogs to point out point by point where I or those whose articles I reblog err.
        ————
        I’m not sure what you’re talking about when you say I committed a straw man fallacy. I don’t care too much about what AW thinks he believes in, I’m saying I think he doesn’t interpret his beliefs correctly with regards to pantheism. I’ve talked to pantheists before and none have had an answer to the problem of logic in pantheism. If God is in you, and in me, and we both say two different things, what’s God up to exactly? Either both are false, in which case God is either being stupid, or God is being deliberately deceptive… to himself? Or, one is true and the other is false. Regardless, I’m not interested in that discussion at this point in time.

        With all due respect, you won’t be finding me on your blog any time soon. If this is how you treat people of different philosophical leanings here, on someone else’s blog (i.e., saying we “babble”, “prattle”, “bray”, call our views stupid, say we have a “stone age mentality”), then I don’t really want to think about how you’d abuse people on your own blog where you set the rules.

        Posted by DD | March 3, 2012, 1:09 AM
      • @DD
        I’m not a pantheist, or panpsychist for that matter. Like you said before it’s more of a Buddhist thing. Based on the approach of evolutionary psychology, I find it likely that our sense of self importance is greatly inflated. I expect the way we feel as though we are special and distinct from the rest of the world is a trick played upon us for survival reasons.

        Of course tricks like this still feel very real, and their vividness almost lends them a (phenomonolgical) realness of their own. as such, I’m a bit stuck with what to do with this belief, as it is pretty hard to feel it to be true or get any consequences out of it. But hey, metaphysics is metaphysics.

        Your style is a little bellicose, by the way. I don’t mind too much, but every post reads as though my very presence here offends you somehow. Please consider this a style point rather than an accusation, as I’m aware that I can be a little concise/curt myself and don’t mean any condescension/aggression by it.

        @JW
        I firmly agree with your dismissal of Occam’s Razor, it’s basically a rule of thumb for playing detective and has no place in this discussion. For the life of me, I wouldn’t be able to say whether Secular Humanism with Objective Morals is more ontologically conservative than Theism or not.

        Secondly, my dismissal of free will does not suffer from that problem. You have begged the question by including free will in your definition of rationality. I would simply say that if I came to my conclusions rationally, I had no “choice” in being rational, that is I could not have irrationally decided. However, I need your definition of free will before I can tell you whether I think people have it, everyone has a different one.

        My denial of free will (slightly informally) is this:
        If you “rewinded” time to my birth and let it “play” from there, this sentence would turn out the same. And it would turn out the same in as many cases as you repeated the above procedure.

        The above is somewhat incorrect, since there is “randomness” in the world from quantum effects and isotope decay, but hopefully you understand what I mean? In words I guess it would be “human decision making is not a source of (in principle) unpredictability in the world”.

        @Lord Griggs
        I think atheists who consider morality for any length of time largely agree on how applied morality would work. This is strange really, as atheism is a priori not a very unifying doctrine being a negative. I think it is the case that IF you have weird beliefs about morality, THEN you need some kind of codified, exploitable system like organised religion to justify it. (PLEASE, notice the logical structure of my sentence, I have in no way implied that lots of religious people have done this!). By which I am referring to written texts being “open to interpretation” while at the same time bearing great moral weight for believers.

        I think you have more room to manoeuvre (psychologically speaking) within the confines of organised, and can justify more to yourself if you believe things like “everyone is a sinner”. It helps set the bar higher while simultaneously making the failure to be moral a binary, so it’s easier to live with complete moral collapse.

        *disclaimer* none of the above is intended to generalise to all religious people *disclaimer*.

        Posted by AW | March 3, 2012, 8:35 AM
      • A.W., contingency affects our determinants as we might have gotten other ones from nature and nurture. How together they determine our actions is a key matter to discuss as to the stronger determinants which themselves are at odds with each other.
        The Razor applies to the God-term.
        My form of humanist involves whatever works from any ethical theory. The query reflects how we find ourselves to act morally when some matter comes before us. Do we need Father to say yes, that’s right or do we rely on our conservation of knowledge to apply to what our refined moral sense dictates from what our considered judgment -wide reflective subjectivism applied and what objectively are the consequences and thus rules derive from them as what to do and what virtues to apply in summation.
        Actually, the objectivism-subjectivism is not the point,but instead what should our considered judgments ought to be?
        I see the injustice of that fool Limbaugh’s words making the consequences that harm that young lady and to apply the Platinum Rule to be nice that I ,as a rational being to be consisten,t must in turn be nice to others. The virtue is tell him to desist such opprobrium. He apologized but like the scorpion in the fable,he’ll do such wrong again! That’s what his determinants determined his nature to be.
        I got this considered judgment and other matters from John L.Beversluis in his ” C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion.” Oh, he is one of the athologians who have given up giving evidence against God.
        Theo-sophical Ruminations and Prosblogion would accept your and J.W’s posts.

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 3, 2012, 9:19 PM
      • AW:
        “@DD
        I’m not a pantheist, or panpsychist for that matter. Like you said before it’s more of a Buddhist thing. Based on the approach of evolutionary psychology, I find it likely that our sense of self importance is greatly inflated. I expect the way we feel as though we are special and distinct from the rest of the world is a trick played upon us for survival reasons.

        Of course tricks like this still feel very real, and their vividness almost lends them a (phenomonolgical) realness of their own. as such, I’m a bit stuck with what to do with this belief, as it is pretty hard to feel it to be true or get any consequences out of it. But hey, metaphysics is metaphysics.

        Your style is a little bellicose, by the way. I don’t mind too much, but every post reads as though my very presence here offends you somehow. Please consider this a style point rather than an accusation, as I’m aware that I can be a little concise/curt myself and don’t mean any condescension/aggression by it.

        @JW
        I firmly agree with your dismissal of Occam’s Razor, it’s basically a rule of thumb for playing detective and has no place in this discussion. For the life of me, I wouldn’t be able to say whether Secular Humanism with Objective Morals is more ontologically conservative than Theism or not.

        Secondly, my dismissal of free will does not suffer from that problem. You have begged the question by including free will in your definition of rationality. I would simply say that if I came to my conclusions rationally, I had no “choice” in being rational, that is I could not have irrationally decided. However, I need your definition of free will before I can tell you whether I think people have it, everyone has a different one.

        My denial of free will (slightly informally) is this:
        If you “rewinded” time to my birth and let it “play” from there, this sentence would turn out the same. And it would turn out the same in as many cases as you repeated the above procedure.

        The above is somewhat incorrect, since there is “randomness” in the world from quantum effects and isotope decay, but hopefully you understand what I mean? In words I guess it would be “human decision making is not a source of (in principle) unpredictability in the world”.

        @Lord Griggs
        I think atheists who consider morality for any length of time largely agree on how applied morality would work. This is strange really, as atheism is a priori not a very unifying doctrine being a negative. I think it is the case that IF you have weird beliefs about morality, THEN you need some kind of codified, exploitable system like organised religion to justify it. (PLEASE, notice the logical structure of my sentence, I have in no way implied that lots of religious people have done this!). By which I am referring to written texts being “open to interpretation” while at the same time bearing great moral weight for believers.

        I think you have more room to manoeuvre (psychologically speaking) within the confines of organised, and can justify more to yourself if you believe things like “everyone is a sinner”. It helps set the bar higher while simultaneously making the failure to be moral a binary, so it’s easier to live with complete moral collapse.

        *disclaimer* none of the above is intended to generalise to all religious people *disclaimer*.”
        ————
        Yes, that is my style indeed. I make no apologies for it, I have no qualms about this. I’ve always been very aggressive towards anyone who’s willing to put up a fight or an argument. It’s about testing myself and my abilities against anyone out there. I don’t play on the defensive. I get things done. I don’t believe all aggression is bad. At least, the underlying mentality behind aggression. There’s a difference between taking this to an extreme where you start to physically hurt someone innocent (or even verbally abuse them), as opposed to using aspects of this to stand up for yourself, for your beliefs, and so on. However, I’m certainly not offended. I just want to take you on, can’t wait for it in fact. It might be innate for me. It has its ups and downs. Moderation is best, in my opinion.

        I take free will to be the combined aspects of our minds that are creative, rational + aware, and objective. Creative because new information has to be created, from within, not innately or conditioned into you, but from within your mind, and applied to your behavior in terms of a different ideology, and such. Rational and aware because you have to fully comprehend the issues at hand, analyze appropriate responses, and have the ability to choose between different responses. Objective because you must simply take the information as it is, no bias. You analyze a situation, you see all the different ways to react to it, and you choose, one way or the other, based on what is right or not. You could choose the wrong solution just as easily, even being conscious that it’s the wrong choice. Ignore emotions (though they are useful, of course), they can drive you in certain ways which make you biased. Be aware that simply because you feel something doesn’t make it true. So you eventually look at that information and see all the various ways to respond. (I assume objective morality.) So there’s many different ways of responding. Logically speaking, when there’s different answers and they all contradict in some small way, they can’t all be true. They can all be wrong. They can’t all be true. The glass can’t both have water inside of it and not have any water whatsoever inside of it. Again, you can choose the wrong response, or solution, even if you know it’s wrong. The choice to be evil. Now, you might say, why bother choosing one over the other? It will reduce in the end to whether you want to follow truth, or not. In this case, whether you want to follow something objective, thus outside of yourself, or follow your own subjective values which happen to contradict the objective. Truth or not. It’s a choice. Ignore emotional urges. If you can rationally comprehend, it’s a simple choice. Either you go your way, or you follow something or someone else, in this particular example. Once you detach yourself and stop caring all about yourself, or about other interests, it’s not that hard to see what you’re up against. I either go my way which is obvious is false, or I go the way that is true, which is not my own, but exists outside of us. Especially when you figure out all the possible consequences to your decision, it’ll be a simple decision. A or B. Ignore innate emotions, ignore your conditioning by your culture, ignore the consequences too. (You can choose the harder choice. It will be more inconvenient, but we all do things we don’t like. I do things I don’t necessarily like on a daily basis. It’s called my job.) I don’t think it can really reduce any further.

        Also, if you had no choice in deciding something rationally, then how can you truly say you are rational? To be rational you have to freely decide something, not be forced to go one way or another by outside forces and have no say in the matter. If I were to live in your world, I’d be no better than an automata. It’s no better than your computer, really (ignore the issue of whether AI can be conscious, at this point, our computers I think are clearly not truly conscious). Say I program a computer to analyze information in a certain way. The computer simply does what it is told. It takes the inputted information, analyzes it, and outputs the answer. Yet, it all depend on the programming I gave to the computer in terms of how to analyze the information. If that programming is incorrect, the computer won’t know, and will still go along analyzing information in the same way, regardless if it is false or not. There’s no choice. It was forced to do so by forces outside of its control (me). The same applies to your argument. You’re basically saying you have no choice in how your respond to inputted information and how you output your answers, no choice in your way of analyzing things. It just randomly happened. I don’t know the perfect definition of rationality, but there’s no way you’ll ever get me to believe that’s what rationality means. I also disagree with your artificial divorce between will and reason. If what you want is controlled by outside forces, why wouldn’t how you reason be controlled just as easily? They’re both aspects of the same mind. Now… Will drives how you apply your reason. It can happen the other way, as well (people can change their beliefs — which drives what they want — when they can admit to themselves that they are wrong). Belief can drive behavior, but behavior can drive belief (e.g., I don’t feel like doing something because it takes too much work, so I’d rather rationalize some answer justifying why I don’t have to do such a thing, because it’s inconvenient to change my current behavior, too much work). Both are possible. Whatever the case may be, if one aspect (will) of your mind is determined by forces outside of your control, why would not another aspect (reason) be subject to the same control? I believe we need both determinism and indeterminism. Determinism in the sense of SELF determinism. Indeterminism in the sense of not determined by outside forces. Your own mind decides. Your view of the world views everything at the smallest subatomic level and such. There is no emergence. Under this worldview, there’s no difference between a human and a rock. Atoms themselves are not alive, nor conscious. There’s the microcosm, then there’s the emergent macrocosm. I don’t know how, and I would argue that if anyone tells you they know how, they’re either lying or deceived, but something emerges. Or you’re right. Yet your way goes totally against intuition. Just like the brain in a vat argument goes against intuition. At the end of the day, I trust my intuition above some incomplete interpretation of the natural world. We have no idea how to make sense of all the data coming from particle physics. That’s why there’s so many interpretations of quantum mechanics, and still so much to find out. I just want to know, if you believe the self and free will is an illusion, why bother with ethics? Surely whatever was determined into your brain isn’t any better than what was determined into someone else’s brain. Who decides? That decision itself is determined by these mysterious forces acting upon our minds. I can’t see why bother.

        Posted by DD | March 3, 2012, 7:35 PM
      • Griggs: A.W., contingency affects our determinants as we might have gotten other ones from nature and nurture. How together they determine our actions is a key matter to discuss as to the stronger determinants which themselves are at odds with each other.
        The Razor applies to the God-term.
        My form of humanist involves whatever works from any ethical theory. The query reflects how we find ourselves to act morally when some matter comes before us. Do we need Father to say yes, that’s right or do we rely on our conservation of knowledge to apply to what our refined moral sense dictates from what our considered judgment -wide reflective subjectivism applied and what objectively are the consequences and thus rules derive from them as what to do and what virtues to apply in summation.
        Actually, the objectivism-subjectivism is not the point,but instead what should our considered judgments ought to be?
        I see the injustice of that fool Limbaugh’s words making the consequences that harm that young lady and to apply the Platinum Rule to be nice that I ,as a rational being to be consisten,t must in turn be nice to others. The virtue is tell him to desist such opprobrium. He apologized but like the scorpion in the fable,he’ll do such wrong again! That’s what his determinants determined his nature to be.
        I got this considered judgment and other matters from John L.Beversluis in his ” C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion.” Oh, he is one of the athologians who have given up giving evidence against God.
        Theo-sophical Ruminations and Prosblogion would accept your and J.W’s posts.
        ————–
        “God-term”?

        Here’s the Razor applied to your version of reality. Which is simpler? That there was a Designer (God) for the Machine (Universe), or that the Machine miraculously assembled with no one there to do it? It goes back to what I said about there being pieces of paper on a table with words on them. What’s more likely to lead to an intelligent message? If someone takes those pieces of paper and re-arranges them to form a coherent message? Or that the wind blew the pieces of paper off of the table and suddenly, randomly led to an intelligent message?

        Posted by DD | March 4, 2012, 12:01 PM
      • Lamberth: Vacuous. No, Anthony is right,because God as noted adds just might makes right-that no play.
        Just asserting that for evermore means nothng. Such vacuity.
        ” Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future life can further validate.”
        I find my life need no Sky Pappy or Being Itself to make it worthwhile. Again, why worry over the lack of divine purpose when that means nothnng if you yourself cannot make your own life worthwhile.
        Why would I need any one else to give me self-acceptance?
        Check out that website for why skepticism works and supernaturalism is just feel good pabulum,exep tfor those with a sick sense of sin, induced to get them to become born again.
        No Adam, n o need for that egregious blood sacrifice!
        I find that you morality would induce me to be mean,so I escape it for one that makes me moral. That stuff about getting away from God to be immoral is another straw man!
        I’ll see what other naturalists have to say here.
        So Bily Craif cannot get satisfaction without his placebo is his own fault. I prefer settng my own goals as that is the moral thng to do instead of what some men of yore just made up.

        Posted by mlg.lamberth@gmail.com | March 3, 2012, 2:19 AM
        ——————————–
        So what if “might makes right”? God designed the universe. He makes the rules. That’s like questioning why there has to be gravity, or why life has to rely on oxygen. For one, we’d never outsmart God, so don’t even bother trying to figure out the reasons for why God would do something. If God is rational, there are reasons for all of that. It’s not “might makes right”. It’s DESIGNER MAKES RIGHT (in something that is designed). I fail to see the controversy regarding this. It’s OBJECTIVELY TRUE that something is moral or not if God says so. That cannot be denied then. Why? Because it’s objectively true that such a moral rule exists in our universe. You can disagree with why there’s a need for God to have made gravity. You’d never come up with a better answer than God because we have finite minds. However, gravity would continue to exist. Same with morality. You don’t have to agree. But it still exists. Simple as that. It’s God’s universe, God can do as He pleases. Other than that, what foundation would you use for objective morality (i.e., existing outside of ourselves?). You can say you hate the color green, and thus it’s objectively true for you that green should be hated. But outside of you, it’s not true.

        Secular ethics relies on “might makes right” as well. Why? Because you’d rely on the majority, and the majority would then enforce their values upon those minorities who disagree. Mob rule. Power in numbers. Might makes right. That’s all the justification you have. Most of us agree with this… Nothing more.

        Why worry over no divine purpose? For the reasons I just described above. All you’d have to rely on is what the majority agree to, which ultimately reduces to whether or not there is a sort of universal human nature out there, which is based upon genetics, which were chosen by irrational, indifferent, and random natural selection. If the mind is a blank slate, then who decides really what is right? We dislike pain, suffering, because it’s in the nature of all life to seek to survive, to keep on living.

        Also, skepticism taken to its logical conclusion would lead to the brain-in-a-vat argument. In fact, total skepticism would lead me to believe that perhaps even our reason is illusory, that logic is an illusion, along with the rest of reality. Perhaps I’m not even conscious, but part of a dream, and nothing more. Perhaps our thinking is completely flawed yet we can’t tell, not just because external reality is an illusion, but also internal reality is an illusion.

        You just let everyone know right at the end what your system is based on. “I prefer settng my own goals”. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Your own goals. And if a psychopath’s goals go against yours? Oh, well the majority disagree. So power in numbers. MIGHT MAKES RIGHT.

        Posted by DD | March 4, 2012, 12:28 PM
      • If something is universal, it’s probably not cultural, as I doubt that one cultural idea would spread to every single group of people out there.

        Therefore it’s either genetic (human nature), or somehow perceivable like logic, sort of like some Platonic form or something.

        If it’s genetic, then it reduces to natural selection which is random. Natural selection itself reduces to the way the Universe works in terms of physics and such. That reduces to the direction the development of the universe took after the Big Bang. That itself was technically speaking, random, as no God, no intelligent, conscious mind directed it. It could have gone many different ways instead of just this one (see multi-verse). And even if this was the only way, who says you have to follow something that was brought about randomly and with no conscious intent. The same laws of the universe are at work in my mind as they are at work in a pedophile’s mind. The universe is indifferent to life. Life just happened to evolve. It could just easily not have evolved. The universe won’t care if all life goes extinct.

        So, if it’s somehow “perceivable”, I have to ask, how? I mean, technically speaking, I find it somewhat hard to believe that logic itself would exist in a materialistic and naturalistic universe with no design. Logic itself would be a random by-product of the workings of the Big Bang, of matter, energy, and such. When I think of logic, I also think of design, in the sense of a certain grammar of thought, as you can’t have two contradictory beliefs be true at the same time, for example. It’s a certain way that reality can exist, and can’t exist, and such. It’s beyond matter and energy. Yet, this would have arisen randomly from the Big Bang. Or would they have existed even then? Since logic is immaterial, and imply some sort of intelligence in the way that things in the Universe can or cannot happen, you’re almost saying that there’s a sort of intelligence behind how the Universe works. You’re dangerously close to accepting a Designer.

        Regardless of logic, it’s even more difficult to prove that “values” exist when clearly the universe is so indifferent. Where are these immaterial values? Where did they originate from?

        If you can somehow prove this, then you might have a shot at objective morality. I might even be somewhat convinced by the plausibility of your argument. But I don’t see how values, morals, and such could somehow arise from the workings of atoms.

        Posted by DD | March 4, 2012, 12:46 PM
      • D.D., ah, that’s where Lewis errs: he uses the composition fantacy. What is true of the whole isn’t true of the parts The mind as a whole can discern things whilst the atoms aren’t hylozoistic or panpshycishit.It takes little intelligence but a good moral sense to note that grievous evils are just that: I would receive no greater good were someone to cut off my legs but give me a billion dollars. Sure, others would be overjoyed were that to happen to them!
        So atoms and death actually become an ignoratio elenchi as our lives themselves are valuable to us during our lifetimes. The future state could not further validate our lives but instead add to them. What the Founders did was important at the time and since, but at that time itself, their actions for the Constituion validated its worth. Time can add value but not further validate things.
        Yes, cultural relativism illustrates what you delineate. That means that we have to discuss how to arrive at some consensus across cultures instead of warring.
        What are the sociological facts about polygamy that would warrnat societies permitting it or not? What consequences would it make for women- polygyny or for men-polyandry? I suppose it just might vary from one family to another.

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 4, 2012, 5:06 PM
      • Griggs: “D.D., ah, that’s where Lewis errs: he uses the composition fantacy. What is true of the whole isn’t true of the parts The mind as a whole can discern things whilst the atoms aren’t hylozoistic or panpshycishit.It takes little intelligence but a good moral sense to note that grievous evils are just that: I would receive no greater good were someone to cut off my legs but give me a billion dollars. Sure, others would be overjoyed were that to happen to them!
        So atoms and death actually become an ignoratio elenchi as our lives themselves are valuable to us during our lifetimes. The future state could not further validate our lives but instead add to them. What the Founders did was important at the time and since, but at that time itself, their actions for the Constituion validated its worth. Time can add value but not further validate things.
        Yes, cultural relativism illustrates what you delineate. That means that we have to discuss how to arrive at some consensus across cultures instead of warring.
        What are the sociological facts about polygamy that would warrnat societies permitting it or not? What consequences would it make for women- polygyny or for men-polyandry? I suppose it just might vary from one family to another.”
        ————
        The fallacy of composition applies sometimes, other times, it does not. If the brain is made up of 100 billion neurons, it is the sum of its parts. 2+2=4, not 5. All those neurons added up together lead to just that. I think there’s probably a lot of immaterial things out there that science has not yet figured out or maybe never will. Who says science is the ultimate tool? Sure it’s brought some nice things here and there but I’m not too impressed, personally. Big deal. I think there’s dualism involved, for sure. Especially with regards to the mind. I think there’s some immaterial process going on for all living things. Again, if all atoms are not alive, yet together added up they lead to live, where does life come from? Non-life + non-life + non-life = life? No, we’re missing something, clearly. It’s involved in the process of emergence, but I fail to see how if none of the atoms are “alive”, how them added up together can lead to life. 2+2=4, not 5. There’s strong arguments for dualism.

        I already said it’s possible to have some sort of morality where most can agree for societal order. Beyond that, you’ve provided no argument whatsoever for objective morality.

        Posted by DD | March 4, 2012, 7:59 PM
      • So we come to an impasse. I gave my definition of objectivity. I’ll make my rebuttal at my blog.
        Yes, we can go that road to consensus. That is what does count in the end! Thanks
        .Others here might differ from both of us. What do others say then?

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 4, 2012, 11:38 PM
      • DD, glad you took my observation as it was intended and I’m happy that the anger is stylistic rather than directed at me!

        I’ve identified yet another key point of disagreement between us. You take human nature to be something to be trusted, as it was designed by God. I take human nature to be a product of evolution, as such it is well suited to survival but not to detect objective truths. As such, I baulked at your appeal to intuition, which as a practising mathematician I know to be treacherously misleading (I have lost count of the number of times my intuition has been overturned by careful proof).

        I doubt the value of debating with each other; we have forsworn each others tools and hold almost inverse assumptions, but I am interested in how we differ and what you think. You certainly seem to have thought about your position, yet it is so alien to my mind as to appear ridiculous.

        How do you deal with evolution? Whether or not you buy natural selection, there was a time when there were organisms but no people and many, many species went extinct before Homo Sapiens began its current rampage. If there is a designer, why would it design such a convoluted, indirect and wasteful process? A steady state universe would be less wasteful and allow more precision, as creating directly would open up opportunities that may not come from a process.

        How do you deal with the existence of people like me? I have the intellectual capacity to understand the bible and what people say about God, and have spent some time thinking about the whole thing. I am not evil in any obvious way, and I am to some degree considerate of the consequences of my actions. So why is the truth hidden from me, that is, why am I still without faith? By your analysis is this some failing of mine or have I been corrupted by society?

        I actually find the idea of a God repellent, give the state of the world (and it’s likely that it’s better now than it ever has been). The choice of a world AIDS, infertile land, unpredictable weather and allowing the strong to tyrannize the weak throughout history when it could have been otherwise, is a monstrous crime. If you think this is the best possible world then you lack imagination. I feel that if a creator God was not somehow compelled to make the world this way, it has committed the most monstrous crime possible and I cannot accept any argument to justify its decisions. To be clear, I am personally very happy with my life, but I am not willing(/do not feel in a position) to forgive the wrongs against those who have avoidably lived short, miserable lives.

        I guess I’m way off topic by now, so telling me to shut the hell up would probably be fair.

        Posted by AW | March 5, 2012, 12:45 PM
      • AW: “DD, glad you took my observation as it was intended and I’m happy that the anger is stylistic rather than directed at me!

        I’ve identified yet another key point of disagreement between us. You take human nature to be something to be trusted, as it was designed by God. I take human nature to be a product of evolution, as such it is well suited to survival but not to detect objective truths. As such, I baulked at your appeal to intuition, which as a practising mathematician I know to be treacherously misleading (I have lost count of the number of times my intuition has been overturned by careful proof).

        I doubt the value of debating with each other; we have forsworn each others tools and hold almost inverse assumptions, but I am interested in how we differ and what you think. You certainly seem to have thought about your position, yet it is so alien to my mind as to appear ridiculous.

        How do you deal with evolution? Whether or not you buy natural selection, there was a time when there were organisms but no people and many, many species went extinct before Homo Sapiens began its current rampage. If there is a designer, why would it design such a convoluted, indirect and wasteful process? A steady state universe would be less wasteful and allow more precision, as creating directly would open up opportunities that may not come from a process.

        How do you deal with the existence of people like me? I have the intellectual capacity to understand the bible and what people say about God, and have spent some time thinking about the whole thing. I am not evil in any obvious way, and I am to some degree considerate of the consequences of my actions. So why is the truth hidden from me, that is, why am I still without faith? By your analysis is this some failing of mine or have I been corrupted by society?

        I actually find the idea of a God repellent, give the state of the world (and it’s likely that it’s better now than it ever has been). The choice of a world AIDS, infertile land, unpredictable weather and allowing the strong to tyrannize the weak throughout history when it could have been otherwise, is a monstrous crime. If you think this is the best possible world then you lack imagination. I feel that if a creator God was not somehow compelled to make the world this way, it has committed the most monstrous crime possible and I cannot accept any argument to justify its decisions. To be clear, I am personally very happy with my life, but I am not willing(/do not feel in a position) to forgive the wrongs against those who have avoidably lived short, miserable lives.

        I guess I’m way off topic by now, so telling me to shut the hell up would probably be fair.”
        ————
        Well there’s more to “human nature” than just behavioral traits. If you can’t trust our nature, then how can your trust our reason? It’s in our nature, our essence, so to speak, to have, at the very least, the ability to reason, even if we don’t always use it. It is because of the way we are that we decode reality in this way. If it’s unreliable, again, why would you trust science, since human nature and everything about us is unreliable. I don’t care about complicated mathematics. I’m talking about basic things. What we see, feel, etc. People trust their intuition when they do science. It’s our intuition that we can trust our senses, otherwise we couldn’t operate. I never said intuition is almighty and can never ever be wrong. But intuition’s most basic hints, like the idea that I am conscious, etc., I will not deny in favor of some incomplete understanding of science. We all go off of certain assumptions. Science relies on certain premises, certain assumptions that are assumed mainly because they were built upon more basic instincts, intuitions, namely, that we can trust our senses, at least enough to figure out basic truths.

        So if we were designed by random evolution, why do you even trust your own reasoning at the moment? Again, what if what helped us survive actually makes us not see reality as it truly is? What then?

        I can assure you I find your views just as ridiculous as you find mine.

        I don’t see a problem with evolution. I see progress as occurring gradually. I don’t believe in totally random evolution, I believe in a mix of teleology and natural selection. Why did God take His time? Who knows? Perhaps it was because the whole plan of the Universe was to progress in a gradual way yet it tends to speed up with time. The bias towards assuming all creation had to occur all at once is no more than an influence of past theology of Christianity, or interpretations, etc. I view animals as preparing the field for us, in a sense. Bringing the conditions on Earth, in terms of maintaining the biosphere for us.

        Yeah that’s probably how I’d view your existence. You didn’t get it right or were corrupted by society, maybe both.

        I don’t agree with anything of what you said. Your issue is the “problem of evil”. “Allowing the strong to tyrannize the weak”. That’s due to human free will. I’d rather have a world where evil permitted but we’re allowed to make a choice between good and evil rather than be automata. That way we make our own decisions.

        I view all life as a blessing. Just like intellect, strength, etc. Some have more, some have less. Lesser blessings. It happens. For every possible thing that can go right, it can also go wrong. The one who died young or died without seeing the light of day received, a “lesser blessing”, so to speak. It’s one more test that we have to face. This isn’t a challenge for the individual in terms of moral testing, but a challenge for humanity as a whole. Again, the opposites. The individual and the group. Both get their own testing in this life. Certain challenges such as medical challenges, etc., are overcome as a group. See how we choose to undertake the conquering of the universe. In a moral way, or not. I’d argue that using nuclear weapons on one another is a wrong way to conquer nature, whereas using modern medicine is a good way.

        Death is a part of life. Without death, the Earth would become rapidly over-populated. The new comes by, then becomes the old, then gives rise to more of that which becomes the new, then the old pass away.

        For all the possible things that have gone wrong, think of all the good things that have occurred. For one, we’re still around. We were given an intellect and a moral intuition (again, this is the only reason most of us follow morality, it’s intuitive for us, another useful, basic intuition) to use. Outside reality is there to perfect. It’s neural, currently. Outside reality, the forces of nature, can both help us, and they can destroy us. It’s up to us to conquer these neutral forces (again, the neutrality idea is important, just like with free will — if it’s too biased towards one or the other, it might make our choice easier). Our ability to build technology and such is an inevitable consequence of our intellect. Therefore, the playing field is there. What we make of it is our choice. We can choose to use the forces of nature for good, or for bad. Our choice.

        This might just be the best possible world. It’s very much possible that life could not be maintained without the way that the laws of the universe currently function. This [http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/natural_evil_theodicity.html] makes an argument for that line of reasoning.

        You act as though your belief system is superior. First of all, you can’t even have a foundation for objective morality. If you can’t have objective morality, you can’t even begin to call what happens as a result of nature to be “evil”. To assume the existence of evil is to assume the existence of objective morality, for which you need a God.

        It’s good to know though that it’s up to you to forgive God for the problems in this world. I might have to do some confessing of my sins this week, can I come see you?

        Posted by DD | March 5, 2012, 4:50 PM
      • Basically with no free will, nothing in life means anything, as we’d be nothing more than puppets of God. Our consciousness would simply be there to narrate God’s plan from a subjective perspective. But with free will, we have some degree of freedom, the ability to choose between different possible paths to take. It’s also up to us to save ourselves. Isn’t this one of the great features of “empowerment” that atheism offers? For you to make your own choices, not being forced by any deity? Well, technically, you’re not really forced, there’s simply consequences if you go one way or another. But you’re certainly not forced.

        The other form of evil I talked about is “natural evil”, but as you can tell, I view it as being a sort of “natural neutrality” that both benefits us and harms us, and it’s up to us to master nature in either a positive or negative way from its current neutral state. Nature outside of us, of course. I know you’d disagree since you tend not to see duality between self and non-self, but in my belief system the justification for the existence of self comes fist then comes this test of perfecting “natural neutrality”. I see our reason as being given to us for a reason. We have enough intellect, and especially morality and compassion that we can use your knowledge to help one another go past natural selection through all the wonders that medical technology gives us, etc., improving our standard of living using knowledge. But it’s up to us where we take this world. I even leave room for the colonization of space, and such.

        This will not be enough to you. I know that. You view harm as being too evil. Fine. But I don’t view it like that. I see reality as having both of the opposites. Even in terms of evil, the simple fact that we have the choice of choosing between good and evil, and that it’s logically and physically allowed to choose evil, shows how the Universe equally allows us to be good or evil, it’s our choice how we react to problems, how we change things, etc. Those are my values, those are my justifications. You can disagree, but don’t say something like “it’s totally illogical, irrational, etc.” If the values that I have are true, then having such a Universe is a great way to bring about those values in some way. If your values are true, then obviously your version of the Universe is the best way to bring about those values. I do not disagree with that.

        Again, I want to go back to intuition. I use it for morality, for the idea that reality is real and we can trust our senses, for the idea that I feel like an individual so I trust that selves exist, at least in a certain sense (it’s entirely possible you are right in at least some way, I would not argue against that), that I can trust I am conscious. I never said intuition is good for everything. For example, in a way, intuition is right about the world in the sense that yes, indeed, the way we perceive the universe is reliable, solids do exist, as emerging on the macro-level. Yet, in a sense, they are not exactly solid on an atomic and sub-atomic level. It’s not really the way we perceive it, yet it can’t be denied that certain aspects of our intuition are correct. Most moral decisions are done using intuition. Even using complex moral calculations like in consequentialism needs those initial intuitions about what is good, what values are good. Then those values are the consequences you seek.

        Going back to death, whatever has a beginning, also has an end. Now, most versions of Christianity have a certain end of time scenario where we are granted immortality, so technically, that problem can be avoided.

        These are my values. You can disagree with my values, you can even disagree with some of the ways that I’ve used these values to justify the way I view reality, metaphysics, etc., but don’t call me completely irrational or something. I never said that you would or will, just saying, I’ve done my own thinking.

        As I’ve said before, it’s due to our beliefs. Just as you said you’ve clearly thought out your belief system, well guess what, so have I. It’s our differences in terms of values that separate us the most.

        Thank you.

        Posted by DD | March 5, 2012, 5:19 PM
      • Note, when I say, save ourselves, I don’t mean to deny Christian theology where we need Christ to have eternal life. I mean save ourselves in terms of our choices whether to be good and follow Christ or not.

        Also, please don’t be too offended by me poking fun at you for claiming not to forgive God. I understand you didn’t mean it in a malicious way, or arrogant way. Surely, however, you see some of the humor involved in having a mere mortal such as ourselves be in a position to judge a Creator-God, assuming this God exists.

        Posted by DD | March 5, 2012, 5:37 PM
      • Sure we can judge God as we have enough sense to see that unrequited evil trumps omnibenevolent God; the unknown reason defense argument relies on the one from ignorance.
        Morality binds every being at our level of consciousness and higher ones. Morality tracks the objective conditions- that any with a moral sense can discern.
        Might cannot make right. Higher levels of consciousness would perforce see the same conditions in the same manner as our refined moral sense, instead of clinging to their whims but override them with their considered judgment.
        Circular reasoning abounds it seem, because supernaturalists claim Him as the author of objective morality yet how can that be as the dilemma notes? They argue in a circle about His nature being good. And that presents more circular reasoning itself. Many argue that Yahweh as God can command evil like the genocide and perform the Deluge, then He could not be the grounding of morality!
        And on this point, I am through. Otherwise, it’d be like your mother wears combat boots! Ah, women not only wear them but in a few years engage will in combat! Again, that considered judgment based on objective facts wins out against egregious simple subjectivism.
        AW, gee, what say you?

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 6, 2012, 12:20 AM
      • To clarify what I mean by lesser blessing, I view what you would call a life that has to deal with negative situations such as an early death, etc., as being the lowest common denominator, so to speak (therefore, from then on, you can only build upon it and get “higher” blessings). It’s not just a test for the individual. Though there’s plenty of tests for the individual. That’s how I view behavioral genetics. Each person’s personality leaves them at risk for certain weaknesses, but also certain strengths. EP talks at length about mental modules. So each module can be slightly weaker or stronger, genetically speaking. It’s like a personalized test from God. You can face many issues in your life, but these issues (for example, a short temper) are more likely for your path. But in terms of tests for humanity, “natural neutrality” is something we deal with both as individuals, and as a group. Especially as a group. Science and knowledge is based down over generations, and built upon.

        I sincerely do not wish to get into a discussion over what lives are worth living because this is the same as the euthanasia debate and you already have your answer, it’s because I truly believe we have to deal both with (moral) tests, and with blessings.

        This is my worldview, this is how I make sense of it all, and it all ultimately reduces to how my values manifest.

        Like I said, I don’t wish to have a discussion because I don’t have the energy to get so off topic into every area of life. Do you realize how many different issues we’ve debated over the past week or so? I don’t know about you but I’m tired when I come home, I really have to use what’s left of my mental energy for this. After I’m done a debate, I usually go straight to sleep, I need to recharge. More than that, again, it will reduce to what our values are. We know what each other’s values are. I don’t wish to go on a crusade in the world to convince everyone to agree with me. I’ll explain my views, but that’s it. I understand your values. I don’t agree with them, but I don’t think they’re totally irrational or anything. Obviously I disagree with some minor things, but your route of handling morality in a secular world is not irrational, in the sense of there being no right and wrong anyway in terms of what value to hold, so the only way to test the validity of your moral system is how you attempt to bring about your world, your morals.

        I’m willing to keep debating, but no more about our basic values because let’s face it, we’re heading nowhere.

        Thank you.

        Posted by DD | March 5, 2012, 5:53 PM
      • JW, with your permission, I’d like to quote the following for AW as a possible reason why God might choose a more slow, progressive style of creation, whether theistic evolution, or progressive creation, or a mix of both, etc.

        From [http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/millions_years.html]:

        “The third reason for billions of years of life before the creation of mankind was to prepare the earth for human civilization. The lives and deaths of plants, animals, and bacteria, buried through the actions of plate tectonics, and converted through high temperatures and pressure, has left the earth with an immense supply of biodeposits. Most people think only of petroleum products—oil, natural gas, and coal—which power modern civilization. The Bible even mentions use of these products before the flood40 (contradicting the young earth assertion that oil deposits are the result of the flood). However, in addition to high energy biodeposits, living organisms are responsible for the vast stores of limestone and marble (formed from the shells of countless mollusks, corals, etc.). Bacteria are responsible for indirectly forming many of the concentrated metal ores found in the earth. Without all these biodeposits, modern civilization would not be possible.”

        This is one possible reason. It’s not meant to be a definitive answer. Simply, it’s a possible, and at least somewhat plausible answer.

        Posted by DD | March 5, 2012, 9:01 PM
      • Griggs: “Sure we can judge God as we have enough sense to see that unrequited evil trumps omnibenevolent God; the unknown reason defense argument relies on the one from ignorance.
        Morality binds every being at our level of consciousness and higher ones. Morality tracks the objective conditions- that any with a moral sense can discern.
        Might cannot make right. Higher levels of consciousness would perforce see the same conditions in the same manner as our refined moral sense, instead of clinging to their whims but override them with their considered judgment.
        Circular reasoning abounds it seem, because supernaturalists claim Him as the author of objective morality yet how can that be as the dilemma notes? They argue in a circle about His nature being good. And that presents more circular reasoning itself. Many argue that Yahweh as God can command evil like the genocide and perform the Deluge, then He could not be the grounding of morality!
        And on this point, I am through. Otherwise, it’d be like your mother wears combat boots! Ah, women not only wear them but in a few years engage will in combat! Again, that considered judgment based on objective facts wins out against egregious simple subjectivism.
        AW, gee, what say you?

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 6, 2012, 12:20 AM”
        ———–
        You have no basis for any of your statements as they are mere opinions, your opinions, as you have failed to prove that objective morality can exist in an atheistic universe. Also, it doesn’t matter what your opinion, or my opinion, or anyone else’s opinion is. That’s like saying the law of gravity shouldn’t be the way it is. You can disagree with it, but it still exists nevertheless. The same goes with any moral rules humanity is expected to follow. Technically speaking, you’re wrong, as evil would be punished in the afterlife under most systems of Christian theology. But even so, it doesn’t preclude the existence of one possible theistic system where a certain God makes these rules for humans, for this life in particular. He need not enforce it. It is a choice. If we don’t, it is what it is. We make what we want of the world, but it doesn’t mean the laws themselves don’t exist. You can choose to ignore the law of gravity and jump off a cliff, sure, but it still exists there. Rules can exist, they need not always be enforced, even if they might seem weakened. Nevertheless, the rules exist.

        Might does make right. Even your atheistic moral system relies on the MAJORITY TO ENFORCE THEIR MORAL VIEWS UPON THE MINORITY WHO DISAGREE. Same goes with God. You believe somehow that your moral views, or moral views that impact life-forms are some how objective and exist outside of us. That’s just what benefits us. Technically speaking, we could have a Creator that is malevolent towards us, and therefore whatever destroys us is moral. That might bring up the question of why bother creating us in the first place, but nevertheless it is a possibility. The Creator created the Universe for a specific reason, and whatever is good or of value will be intimately connected to that reason, in one way or another.

        Why would higher levels of consciousness care about us? They could, but they just as easily could not. Maybe God created us as entertainment. Perhaps the whole universe is a stage, and we’re all actors in it, for God’s entertainment. Whatever God’s purpose is for this universe, is objectively true as it is part of the very purpose/design for the universe, just as much as the laws of physics are objective.

        How is it circular reasoning if God’s nature is good? It’s good because God defines goodness. Goodness is simply what someone values. Don’t get too confused by the wording of it all and just look at it impartially for once, not merely from the way it might affect you and the people you care about. The values of this universe are very much tied in to the whole PURPOSE of existence for the universe. There could be many purposes. It’s even possible God just made us just for the sake of making us then what we do afterwards is our choice.

        “Morality tracks the objective conditions- that any with a moral sense can discern.” That’s a subjective value judgement. It’s possible that what is moral, or good, or of value, objectively speaking in this universe, is that which makes God laugh at our misery. You need to detach yourself and question your own beliefs, and then you’ll see that it’s all relative in your world, really, at least in terms of value. Let’s put it this way. I create a computer game. You and a few of your friends play in it. I make the rules. The computer game reality is just like our own reality. Instead of God making the rules, I make the rules, as I designed the world. I am the source that keeps it in existence and its laws and its purpose come from me. I could tell you that whoever co-operates and helps one another survive will win, and those who play “dirty” lose. I could also make the rules in such a way that you have no way of winning, because the point wasn’t for you to win, the purpose of the game, and the way it was designed, was to provide entertainment to me. Those are therefore values in those games. Just as the rules which keep you from winning would be an objective fact, so too would my values for that universe, as otherwise, I wouldn’t have created that universe in such a way if I didn’t have that purpose in mind. I would have made it a different way. Therefore, what was the purpose of the game? What is the purpose of the universe? This determines what is “good” (simply that which falls in line with the values of our reality which in turn derive from the purpose of our reality)

        It’s really simple, regardless of my preferences or your preferences. God could have made a law where everyone (everyone capable of performing the task, that is) has to stand on one foot for an hour a day, and that’s the only “good” or “value” out there. You confuse good with that which benefits you, and since you have empathy, you extend this “good” to others that you care about. No no no, our deepest instincts could have been put inside of us to deceive us, and since God would make the rules, it would be “good”. Just like if I created a Universe right now I would be the law-maker for that universe… Unless there is a higher force above me who could override my judgements. Does it sound ridiculous that such values are valid? Welcome to atheism, where any value is valid. Or not. It need not matter, in fact, these concepts don’t exist except in our minds. Nevertheless, it is very much possible that if God exists, these values are “true” in the sense that they exist outside of our minds, and even if humanity and the rest of conscious beings in the Universe were to go extinct, these values would continue to exist in very much the same way that the law of gravity would continue to exist. Do I believe this? Like I said before, I trust in my intuition for very basic facts, so no, I believe in a morality that is much more similar to yours than to what I just described, but I justify morality as existing independent of any species out there in the universe, regardless of our opinions. Whereas your morality is simply what the majority can somewhat agree to, and if the majority die off, the views of the minority become the new “normal”.

        Posted by DD | March 6, 2012, 4:33 PM
      • That straw man cannot do the job! Theists depend on what mere misanthropes just made up.
        Thanks for the other comments. D.D. I would think that both of us would do the right thing most of the time,albeit I’m not so sure of me. I’m no hypocrite.
        I tell others that when I suggest someone do something, i’m talking to myself whether it’s about the same subject or otherwise!

        http;//kantofga.blogspot.com

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 6, 2012, 11:38 PM
      • Griggs:

        I’m not sure what the point was of your comment about women entering combat, but the fact that more women will in the future be in combat doesn’t make it right, nor wrong. It doesn’t make it right that they haven’t been in combat up until now simply because that was the way things were. You’re going to need much more to justify values in our world rather than just how our “opinions” change.

        You failed to objectively prove that suicidal nihilists and psychopaths are wrong, other than saying that the majority disagree with them because of our their (nihilists and psychos) behavior will affect the majority of people, and most people would not like to be affected in such a way.

        Like I said, what matters is simply the objective existence of something. Logic isn’t something physical, it’s not something material or anything. It’s immaterial, yet it exists. Same goes with morality. It’s not something physical, but it exists out there simply because God says so. He could have 50 different Universes and 50 different moralities for each of those universes, what matters is simply what is true for our universe in this reality in particular.

        You’re going to reply and say “most would be able to see the consequences of that, they wouldn’t like it”, or something of the sort, which again relies on the premise, the assumption that the majority’s opinion somehow matters, without proving so.

        Posted by DD | March 6, 2012, 4:45 PM
      • Griggs: You are the one who relies on circular reasoning as I am merely describing an objective fact, I make no value judgements as to whether I would follow such a God that wants me to stand on one foot for an hour, as I described. I merely describe reality. Assuming the God exists, for the purposes of our argument. But your way of dismissing my arguments doesn’t rely on a proven fact, it is a personal assumption by you that what is moral falls in line with the majority of people’s beliefs.

        Posted by DD | March 6, 2012, 4:51 PM
      • Griggs: “That straw man cannot do the job! Theists depend on what mere misanthropes just made up.
        Thanks for the other comments. D.D. I would think that both of us would do the right thing most of the time,albeit I’m not so sure of me. I’m no hypocrite.
        I tell others that when I suggest someone do something, i’m talking to myself whether it’s about the same subject or otherwise!

        http;//kantofga.blogspot.com

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 6, 2012, 11:38 PM ”
        ———–
        What straw man fallacy did I commit? Regardless, I’m done arguing until you prove objective morality in atheism. Then we can actually argue about what is good and evil. Until then I will no longer discuss anything with you as your world cannot account for any value, objectively speaking.

        We’re all hypocrites at one point or another. None of us are perfect. All we can do is try our hardest to avoid such behavior.

        Posted by DD | March 7, 2012, 4:23 PM
      • Thanks for your response, DD.

        I’d like to address an old point you made, actually:

        “So you’re into scientism. There’s knowledge that isn’t scientific. Like history. Or subjective experience. Science can’t prove logic, because it presupposes it when it declares that the universe is rational, observable, and understandable. That would be circular reasoning. Your understanding of the world, just like our understanding of science, is incomplete. That’s why I don’t use science to make bold assertions.”

        This is a slightly strange paragraph. I am actually not a scientist, but rather a mathematician. I have a very strong understanding of logic, and it would perhaps be more accurate to say that I am a logician rather than a mathematician. Science certainly can’t “prove” logic, and I don’t know what you mean by “prove” logic. However, if first order logic is flawed, then we have way bigger problems than just science having an unsound base, pretty much everything we think would be contaminated.

        However, our scientific knowledge is massively more impressive than the understanding we have reached in any other field. Judged by it’s ability to predict future behaviour of the systems it seeks to understand, it is the only field of human knowledge that we have made any progress in. The accuracy of physics is truly astonishing, and is so close to being complete (although perhaps it never will be). I think it is appropriate to respect science while acknowledging its limitations. Its certainly better than our intuitions at describing the world around us.

        All that said, casting me as a naive practitioner of scientism (I’m guessing what this means, tbh) seems unfair when I attain knowledge without using the scientific method most days. I am in possession of a priori, synthetic knowledge and thus am unlikely to fall victim to things like naive verificationism or positivism in general. I know that the scientific method is not the be all and end all of human understanding, but I am very underwhelmed by people who can’t do science trying to undermine it’s achievements, as it looks a lot like sour grapes.

        Also, science definitely doesn’t assume that the universe is rational (how can an unthinking thing be rational?) or understandable (I assume you mean understandable to human beings? In which case, most information theorists would say that the brain is not capable of understanding itself, depending on your definition of understanding). What do you mean by observable, because the Uncertainty Principle says that certain properties of things in the world are *in principle* unobservable?

        Posted by AW | March 8, 2012, 5:21 PM
      • AW:
        Thanks for your response, DD.

        I’d like to address an old point you made, actually:

        “So you’re into scientism. There’s knowledge that isn’t scientific. Like history. Or subjective experience. Science can’t prove logic, because it presupposes it when it declares that the universe is rational, observable, and understandable. That would be circular reasoning. Your understanding of the world, just like our understanding of science, is incomplete. That’s why I don’t use science to make bold assertions.”

        This is a slightly strange paragraph. I am actually not a scientist, but rather a mathematician. I have a very strong understanding of logic, and it would perhaps be more accurate to say that I am a logician rather than a mathematician. Science certainly can’t “prove” logic, and I don’t know what you mean by “prove” logic. However, if first order logic is flawed, then we have way bigger problems than just science having an unsound base, pretty much everything we think would be contaminated.

        However, our scientific knowledge is massively more impressive than the understanding we have reached in any other field. Judged by it’s ability to predict future behaviour of the systems it seeks to understand, it is the only field of human knowledge that we have made any progress in. The accuracy of physics is truly astonishing, and is so close to being complete (although perhaps it never will be). I think it is appropriate to respect science while acknowledging its limitations. Its certainly better than our intuitions at describing the world around us.

        All that said, casting me as a naive practitioner of scientism (I’m guessing what this means, tbh) seems unfair when I attain knowledge without using the scientific method most days. I am in possession of a priori, synthetic knowledge and thus am unlikely to fall victim to things like naive verificationism or positivism in general. I know that the scientific method is not the be all and end all of human understanding, but I am very underwhelmed by people who can’t do science trying to undermine it’s achievements, as it looks a lot like sour grapes.

        Also, science definitely doesn’t assume that the universe is rational (how can an unthinking thing be rational?) or understandable (I assume you mean understandable to human beings? In which case, most information theorists would say that the brain is not capable of understanding itself, depending on your definition of understanding). What do you mean by observable, because the Uncertainty Principle says that certain properties of things in the world are *in principle* unobservable?

        Posted by AW | March 8, 2012, 5:21 PM ”

        —————
        I meant prove the existence of logic using the scientific method, empirically. What’s wrong with that statement? It’s the same argument about using the scientific method to prove scientism itself. Or using the scientific method to prove historical facts. You can’t recreate history, even if you have computer technology that can make sophisticated simulated realities, you’ll never have enough data to recreate the past totally.

        If logic is flawed, indeed, everything is wrong almost. That’s why I think it’s intuitive to us reject obvious contradictions.

        You have a point about scientific progress, but mathematics and logic, and so on, have all made progress. So too has philosophy. Especially in the past century or so. Before science came a certain philosophy of how to gain such knowledge by the name of empiricism, which relies on methodological naturalism. Before that advancement, we didn’t have modern science. And that might be as important as a stepping stone as the invention of fire.

        Science’s basic assumptions are also intuitive, like I said, such as the belief that our senses decode reality for us in a correct manner, that we can trust what our minds, and so on. If we couldn’t do that, we cannot have science. So like I said, there’s certain intuitions that are needed before we can proceed with science and other disciplines, even mathematics. Logic is intuitive to us. Mathematics needs logic, obviously. I never said intuition can give you ALL the knowledge in the world, but that it is needed as intuition’s basic assumptions of the way reality works are needed before we can proceed further.

        You were the one who said your metaphysics is firmly based on science, so I assumed science was the main thing you believed in that can give us knowledge. I also make use of science in my metaphysics, but it’s not purely scientifically driven, though science plays a big part (it goes back to my statement about gaining knowledge of God’s mind from what he designed).

        By rational, I meant that it works in a rational manner. If the universe allowed for two contradictions to be true at the same time, would you call reality as operating in a random (irrational, by our standards) manner, or in a manner that seems to be rational? I view the universe as being almost like, one huge machine, so to speak, so I think the human mind can comprehend its operations using reason, otherwise, if the universe’s laws were totally chaotic and didn’t even work according to some logic, then we shouldn’t expect to be able to comprehend or understand the universe. I guess it’s the language of my belief system showing. I think this designed system works in a rational manner because design implies some purpose, and intelligence as well. But in atheism that may not apply. I suppose it’s likely logic is an illusion under atheism, just as the appearance of design is just that, an appearance. You can’t use reason to understand something that doesn’t function according to a manner that is rational. How could you? You can’t use reason as a tool if the Law of Non-Contradiction is false.

        Are you seriously trying to make the argument that at the macro-level of reality, things are not observable and predictable? You can’t predict the behavior of something if you don’t take observations first then notice patterns. Science makes observations of physical events, observations that describe reality, and then you have to attempt to disprove those observations, etc. Besides, I find it unlikely that quantum mechanics has it all figured out. It’s very much possible we don’t understand a vital part of physics which could mean the “uncertainty principle” isn’t entirely correct. Lots of things are possible. But if we couldn’t make observations, *in principle* even, then science would be a waste of time, as a posteriori knowledge relies on such observations.

        I don’t know what information theorists have to say on the brain, I admit, but clearly we understand a fair bit right now, and I see no reason why science cannot make advancements in the future until a mature neuroscience can account for all the workings of the physical brain. That doesn’t mean everything will be cleared up about the mind, as philosophy of mind still has to use that data from neuroscience and put it in an appropriate philosophical paradigm for how the mind operates. Whether that happens in our lifetime or not is difficult to tell. Perhaps in certain ways, one we can never understand the brain fully if those information theorists are right, but in certain ways, clearly we do. I may not agree with everything in neuroscience, but I wouldn’t throw out all of the information that comes from that field, either.

        Posted by DD | March 8, 2012, 6:27 PM
    • I would turn your last sentence on its head, actually. Theism relies on (extravagant) ontological claims to get of the ground, which is actually a weakness of the position. It really is using an ICBM to crack a walnut, there are easier ways to explain why one should be good. If something is grounded in subjectivity, it makes very few assumptions about the world and thus is not likely to be founded on falsehoods.

      Imagine tomorrow you wake up certain that there is no God. Will you suddenly get your rape and pillage on? Suddenly commit every wrongdoing you believe you can get away with? I hope not, I hope your morality has stronger foundations than likely-to-be-false theological assumptions.

      There is a large epistemological problem with objective morality, which I believe has already been raised in the replies to this article. How are we able to perceive objective morals? If you feel able to answer this question with an appeal to God-given consciences, you need to explain why people disagree on issues of morality.

      I believe this a common problem with theistic “explanations”. You get a cheap foundational explanation for everything (morality, origin of the universe), but a great many properties you would expect the world to have if such an explanation were true are just lacking. In this case, we would expect to see agreement on moral issues, at least between Christians.

      Not at all. Christians have the Bible and the word of God. Even so, if you simply are a theist in general not belonging to any particular belief system (so it’s your own technically), one could say consciences act as sort of a default guide yet it is easy to deviate. Thus that accounts for the differences in morality. Most people agree on big issues, like murder, rape, etc. There are issues which are more complicated and there we need more careful analysis of what’s going on. But every belief system has some sort of foundation, some sort of lowest-common denominator of morality, and we build upon that. Utilitarianism says what brings the most happiness to the most people is the most moral thing. Christians say following Christ’s teachings is what is the most moral thing. Humanists believe in man and his reasoning skills to conquer any obstacles. Then, as we encounter difficult moral situations, we all try to use our basic moral rules that our belief system gives us. You might say this means our belief systems in turn are relative. Only somewhat. However, almost all people, perhaps it is genetic, but all people have this urge to have some sort of values. Or at least act like it. So we know that much. A lot of people are religious, and have been religious throughout history. So there is also this instinct that there’s something more to life than what we see, again, whether true or false. This in turn brings in a deity, or deities, and then come the values. Now, not all the answers come easily, and there is a lot of debating going around in such a system, but it’s no different, technically speaking, if the deity exists, to perceive “the Good”, or natural law, than it is for scientists to find the laws of nature. This could possibly entail a little bit of progression of morality, so it makes it relativistic with regards to the time period that you live in, but when you make a comparison between different people with the same level of this kind of “moral knowledge” gained, a judgement made upon their actions that can be judged morally, will be objective. So it’s not total relativism. Just like science. And unlike science, we have some genetic hints. Now, both atheism and this theistic system would have to explain the genes which might push someone towards immoral behavior. I’m not sure how atheism would answer this in a convincing way, since your very foundation for morality is suspect. I find it plausible that the theistic system described above could account for those genes, in some way.

      So, as you can see, you made too many assumptions. Just because a God exists and objective morals exist, DOESN’T mean that we have to have everything given to us. It could be that it’s up to us to figure out the more complicated issues using our genetic “hints”.

      Still, I am a Christian so I have no need for that. Your atheism, has even less to offer than the theism described above. At least they can say certain things are obvious, therefore there’s probably some purpose behind it’s existence, etc., (unless God is being manipulative on purpose, which is technically a possibility, but that’s no different than the brain in a vat argument, not really), whereas in atheism, everything just happened with no conscious input from any rational being. Irrational, impersonal (thus, indifferent), nature makes no purpose for anything.

      Posted by DD | March 1, 2012, 11:02 AM
  5. AW , eh? Do we differ much? I find that we don’t. Thanks.

    Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 1:12 AM
  6. A.W., fine. My Virtue ethics derives from my covenant morality for humanity- consequences for sentient beings that translate into rules -deontology and into virtues.
    Misogyny harms women. The rule is don’t harm others. The virtue is help women achieve their full rights.This is inter-subjective- all can see the consequences and by applying their moral sense can come to see why the rule applies to women. Wide reflective subjectivism has two objective components- universal, applying to all and equal treatment and equity Our considered judgments override our mere hims and tastes. Some have a whim for segregation,but the judgment that all count overrides that.. John Beversluis in “C.S.Lewis and the Search for a Rational Religion” voices wide reflective sujbectivism without naming it.
    And,however, Hobbe’s egoism goes by the wayside!
    Thus, in a naturalistic worldview, humanity counts.
    Our ontology counts,because reality counts.

    Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 10:13 AM
    • Griggs: “A.W., fine. My Virtue ethics derives from my covenant morality for humanity- consequences for sentient beings that translate into rules -deontology and into virtues.
      Misogyny harms women. The rule is don’t harm others. The virtue is help women achieve their full rights.This is inter-subjective- all can see the consequences and by applying their moral sense can come to see why the rule applies to women. Wide reflective subjectivism has two objective components- universal, applying to all and equal treatment and equity Our considered judgments override our mere hims and tastes. Some have a whim for segregation,but the judgment that all count overrides that.. John Beversluis in “C.S.Lewis and the Search for a Rational Religion” voices wide reflective sujbectivism without naming it.
      And,however, Hobbe’s egoism goes by the wayside!
      Thus, in a naturalistic worldview, humanity counts.
      Our ontology counts,because reality counts.”

      —————

      No, you’re wrong again. Who says all count? Here, I’ll say I’m the only one that counts. Therefore only what helps me and benefits me matter. If you suffer while I benefit, that’s good. In fact, I hope you do suffer and are harmed, because thus you are weakened and are no longer a threat to me.

      Reality counts? No, it doesn’t. Reality is simply what exists. Reality counts, to who exactly? To itself? So existence is suddenly the same thing as consciousness? Because something can count only to a conscious being, capable of caring. Something can’t count, or matter, unless you have someone else who cares about that something.

      The rule isn’t don’t harm others. The rule is do as you please and whoever wins, wins. That’s all there is in naturalism, and even that isn’t a rule

      Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 5:57 PM
      • Reality doesn’t HAVE to count. Who says you can’t live your whole life under hallucinations? Even if you die because you can’t function, so what? The simple fact that you can be suicidal shows the relativity of opinion.

        Posted by DD | March 2, 2012, 6:17 PM
    • Again, I find it very interesting that your argument is essentially a string of assumptions here. What ontological basis is there for saying “humanity counts”? What about reality? I’m asking for an actual grounding for these claims.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 2, 2012, 6:00 PM
    • Parsimony is not as Swnburne states! No, ti’s which arguments has the least ad hoc assumptions and as noted, God entertains so many convoluted, ad hoc assumptions. What are the facts for His being omni-max? How do theists tie their arguments together that He is the Sustainer,the Grand Miracle Monger and so forth?
      Swinburne alleges that He is simple whilst naturalism is complex, a red herring by the way as supernaturalism adds another .Dawkins argues that no. He is complex and receives noe for that. Is He right? Ti’s not the complexity of alleged facts but of the add hocness!

      Posted by Lord Griggs | July 10, 2012, 4:43 AM
      • Sorry for the typos, but I had a computer problem. no, He is complex noes [ brandishment] whilst supernaturalism adds the layer of God for more complexity.
        I’m reblogging all this to some of my WordPress blogs and to one of my tumbler ones.Oh, Google Lamberth’s naturalists arguments about God to find my blogs and skeptic griggsy to find my threads and posts at other sites. Yes, to retirement! This self-promotion is to get others to see how we rationalists can dispense with the supernatural and need no relationship with Him.
        My blogspot.blogs are gone for now,but I’m trying to get them back. I also have ones at Posterous and other portals.

        Posted by Lord Griggs | July 10, 2012, 4:52 AM
  7. DD, such people won’t accept any morality, and thus, both sides lose.
    What divine morality do you accept as that of the Tankh would lead to many evils. One shouldn’t say thus saith God about such! Everyon,e other than those amoralists, depend on people refining morality throughout the centuries.To come to a consensus, we can dispense the supernatural. We’ve to rise above sociological relativism for the common decencies of which Paul Kurtz and Quentin Smith speak.
    To that extent I agree with Lewis instead of with Beversluis for now.

    Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 9:52 PM
    • So what if both sides lose? Who says one has to win? Who says we have to even exist? We just happened to have evolved, just like all other life on Earth.

      The Tanakh is evil… by whose standards? Yours and the atheists? Wonderful! Why don’t we have an atheistic moral dictatorship where you experts, you enlightened ones can help us lowly beings see through our mistakes?

      What makes more sense to me in a secular world is to leave everyone the heck alone as long as they leave me alone. That’s it. I don’t need any more “consensus” other than that. Stay out of other people’s lives. I’m a classical liberal. I want people to have the freedom to make the wrong choice, morally speaking.

      Posted by DD | March 3, 2012, 1:00 AM
  8. J.W., that overriding of mere whims with our considered judgments, universalist ethic, equality and equity, how we can come to a consensus about the consequences, how our intersubjectivity counts as it does in science and so forth.
    Why do y’all accept that simple subjectivism of those men of yore as God-inspired when they just made it up as,again , revelations manifest people’s own mental states at work. The burden rests with y’all about that. Ours depend just as others’ on those consequences. W ehave to debate our discernment about them to come to consensus, ever refining morality.
    The defeater is reality itself – the facts of the situations and so forth. Psychotics cannot accept reality,but why hold our moral sense in bondage to them?
    Thanks then for gettng me to be clearer!
    On to other matters.
    Too bad that I’ve right-side cortical defects that affect my style and otherwise.

    Posted by Lord Griggs | March 2, 2012, 10:04 PM
    • I don’t think this should become a discussion as to why we believe in Christianity. This is a separate issue.

      Posted by DD | March 3, 2012, 1:20 AM
      • Oh, do have that discussion some time,please!
        Well, my point now is how can yours be any better than ours when yours has appaently such elements without questioning why people are Christian. Why would it be objective then but not now to stone children for cheeking their parents?
        Thanks. I appreciate this blog as a contributor to better dialogue.

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 3, 2012, 3:26 PM
    • It’s fairly simple, actually. I don’t actually know whether or not stoning is still acceptable in Christian theology, but let’s say it isn’t. Well, it’s in a certain sense similar to how science progresses. A certain sense…

      If God back then said it’s fine (for whatever reason) and now it’s not (for whatever reason), it’s objectively true that in that period of time, stoning was fine, just like it’s objectively true that now it’s not fine. There’s relativity with regards to time but I think no moral system makes no use of some relativism. Relativism with regards to how you expect a child to be responsible vs. an adult. Relativism with regards to how evil your transgression of moral rules is, as stealing is handled in a different way compared to murder.

      You could have, technically speaking, total relativism between each time period, and even from person to person. Literally. It need not extend to other people so it’s “universal”. It’s simply OBJECTIVE. For example, God says person A will have values A, person B will have values B, and so on. Sure, there’s relativity between different people, but it’s objectively true that person A has values A. I’m not saying this is the case. Nevertheless, it’s possible.

      Posted by DD | March 4, 2012, 12:06 PM
      • I find that mere men just made stuff up,so, they provided no objectivity. So, how can God then be that ontological basis. That’s my forked tongue point: other religions say He says other things
        .Here enters Lofus’s OTS: looking as an outsider without finding Yeshua and salvaton needed, how do you see your religion as better than the others. Their adherents can use similar arguments to yours.
        This, however,doesn’t dispute His ontological status as it disputes Yahweh as God. That is why I speak of those horrid hard parts. Plato does the objection to His role.
        Thanks.
        It takes time for points to seek in for us both.

        Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 5, 2012, 1:29 AM
      • Griggs: “I find that mere men just made stuff up,so, they provided no objectivity. So, how can God then be that ontological basis. That’s my forked tongue point: other religions say He says other things
        .Here enters Lofus’s OTS: looking as an outsider without finding Yeshua and salvaton needed, how do you see your religion as better than the others. Their adherents can use similar arguments to yours.
        This, however,doesn’t dispute His ontological status as it disputes Yahweh as God. That is why I speak of those horrid hard parts. Plato does the objection to His role.
        Thanks.
        It takes time for points to seek in for us both.”
        ——————
        All valid points. Although I’d like to point out a mere technicality, that not all religions are theistic (Buddhism… from what I can tell, Jainism and Taoism fall into that as well, at least to some extent). However, I’m not sure we should go this far off topic here.

        If you want justifications/proofs for the validity of Christianity, as best as we can give, perhaps seek some Christian apologetic website or blog?

        For me it’s fairly simple. Even if Christianity is false, I still follow Christ’s moral teachings of loving others, self-sacrifice, and so on. I don’t go around stoning people, if that’s what you are so worried about. So even if atheism is indeed true and I follow a false belief system, I still behave in such a way that the rest of society isn’t in the least bit harmed. Maybe some people won’t like my beliefs, but I usually keep them private unless people want to debate. That’s partly why I’m here.

        So you don’t have to worry about how I’ll impact the rest of society. Even if everyone else decides to go your route and follow Harris’ “science of morality”, I just mind my own business as long as people don’t interfere. If people do acts which I consider to be wrong morally I find that is their choice to make. I’m fine with people making the wrong choice (in my view), so long as their wrong choice doesn’t interfere with others’ lives. That’s all.

        Like I said, I do agree with you that a form of morality where the majority agrees to some values is possible, in order to maintain social order. It’s obviously possible. I never said (along with most other Christians) that all atheists are completely evil and spineless beings. It’s not the case at all. This is simply a debate as to how we truly justify morality. So that’s all this is about.

        Thanks.

        P.S. I appreciate the fact that you toned down on your slight tendency to mock us with certain words (“babble”, “bray”, etc.). I feel more comfortable debating this way. It’s not the tone or anything like that. If you believe in something greatly you’re going to show emotion and you’ll get a bit more heated up, which is fine with me.

        Posted by DD | March 5, 2012, 7:48 AM
      • What sense is that? When science advances, we don’t believe the old version used to be true. It’s not the case that the universe used to be Newtonian until Einstein “invented” relativity! You could define science to be the search for the unchanging objective truths of the material world.

        Some moral systems use no relativism at all. Expectations of adults and children is not an example of relativism, you apply the same moral standards but expect the adult to be better at fulfilling them, neither is different transgressions having different severity.

        Then again, I also wouldn’t say that morality changing in time was an example of what is usually meant by relativism. I would say that it was weird. If objective morality changing over time is a consequence of your beliefs, I would take that to be an undesirable aspect of your beliefs. You actually believe that stoning a woman for adultery used to be acceptable/good? Could God make anything at all acceptable? How do we know things like God isn’t cool with the current Syrian massacre? Maybe he loves it; maybe he ordered it?

        Side point, if God can revise morality any time, and has in the past, why on Earth do you think the two thousand year old bible is relevant at all?

        Posted by AW | March 5, 2012, 1:05 PM
      • AW: “What sense is that? When science advances, we don’t believe the old version used to be true. It’s not the case that the universe used to be Newtonian until Einstein “invented” relativity! You could define science to be the search for the unchanging objective truths of the material world.

        Some moral systems use no relativism at all. Expectations of adults and children is not an example of relativism, you apply the same moral standards but expect the adult to be better at fulfilling them, neither is different transgressions having different severity.

        Then again, I also wouldn’t say that morality changing in time was an example of what is usually meant by relativism. I would say that it was weird. If objective morality changing over time is a consequence of your beliefs, I would take that to be an undesirable aspect of your beliefs. You actually believe that stoning a woman for adultery used to be acceptable/good? Could God make anything at all acceptable? How do we know things like God isn’t cool with the current Syrian massacre? Maybe he loves it; maybe he ordered it?

        Side point, if God can revise morality any time, and has in the past, why on Earth do you think the two thousand year old bible is relevant at all?”
        ——-
        I actually noticed that I mixed in two different ideas that went through my head around the same time in this statement. When I compared it to science, I was thinking of a form of moral progression. Moral truths exist objectively, but our understanding of it ever gets refined. I’m not sure why I was thinking about this. It must have been Griggs’ comment on how morality ever gets refined. I confused myself, and you as well. Sorry.

        I sort of dropped the ball on this comment. The idea of comparing the MORAL EXPECTATIONS (relativism between what you expect of one vs. another) is again going back to moral progression (if someone can only perceive so much at a time, it’s not their fault, it’s objectively true this is the best they can do with given knowledge). Sorry again.

        Relativism could occur between culture to culture, time period to time period, and person to person. Why not? It’s a logical possibility

        Yeah God could make anything at all acceptable. Again, we don’t have to AGREE. It’s simply an argument over whether the moral law exists objectively. If God makes it so, it does exist objectively. I see no controversy over that statement.

        I don’t believe God revises morality at any time.

        The idea of the differences of moral rules between the Old and New Testaments falls into theology more. I don’t know about all that. I’ve read some justifications for it, I’m sure you can find arguments for this. This is apologetics, not so much a general philosophy of theism.

        Same goes for why the Bible would still be relevant. I’d assume a simple answer is that no new prophets have appeared since then and thus the Old and the New Testaments complete God’s teachings. I’m not good at apologetics. I would continue to believe in God even if Christianity is false. I’d resort to philosophical theism. I have certain reasons for believing in Christianity, but those I’d rather keep them personal and I do not wish to share them.

        Overall I made a mess of the comment that you replied to in this case. Either I was really absent minded or I was very tired. Sorry.

        Posted by DD | March 5, 2012, 5:03 PM
  9. All fair enough, it is demanding to juggle all the ideas currently in this thread and simultaneously write coherently.

    Christianity is a much softer target than theism in general, and I really have no big objection to assuming the existence of a god if it helps you build your moral system. You can do a quite good job of being a good person by just tricking yourself into believing that all of your actions are observed, however personally I view this as a training-wheels system. I am observed at all times by myself, and so a third person construct isn’t necessary at all.

    Strictly speaking, I am agnostic. I am not so arrogant that I believe that I have a disproof of a deity’s existence, and if one existed and didn’t want me to know about it, then you can be sure that I wouldn’t.

    However, I find the isolated assumption of the existence of a god to be without prescriptive content. It seems obvious that is impossible to second guess the intentions of a being remote enough to have been in a position to create the universe. It is likely to be operating with a moral system which would seem quite inexplicable to me, and is unlikely to care at all about what I believe morality to be about.

    So I proceed under the assumption that there is no god, while admitting that this is merely an assumption. For all we know, Christianity is the one true faith, however it is just as likely that Christians really make god very angry and they are in for some real punishment after death. Maybe he likes those who conform too the obviously natural, maybe he likes those who seem to defy it (e.g. transgender individuals). Maybe he likes those who are responsible and hard working, maybe he likes those who just don’t care about anything. Maybe Humans aren’t the point at all and I’m just being an egotistical little monkey.

    Seems safer to operate under the atheist assumption and deal with god if we have to meet that maniac at some point. I would love to hear his views on some things, I hope he knows English.

    Posted by AW | March 8, 2012, 4:49 PM
    • AW: “All fair enough, it is demanding to juggle all the ideas currently in this thread and simultaneously write coherently.

      Christianity is a much softer target than theism in general, and I really have no big objection to assuming the existence of a god if it helps you build your moral system. You can do a quite good job of being a good person by just tricking yourself into believing that all of your actions are observed, however personally I view this as a training-wheels system. I am observed at all times by myself, and so a third person construct isn’t necessary at all.

      Strictly speaking, I am agnostic. I am not so arrogant that I believe that I have a disproof of a deity’s existence, and if one existed and didn’t want me to know about it, then you can be sure that I wouldn’t.

      However, I find the isolated assumption of the existence of a god to be without prescriptive content. It seems obvious that is impossible to second guess the intentions of a being remote enough to have been in a position to create the universe. It is likely to be operating with a moral system which would seem quite inexplicable to me, and is unlikely to care at all about what I believe morality to be about.

      So I proceed under the assumption that there is no god, while admitting that this is merely an assumption. For all we know, Christianity is the one true faith, however it is just as likely that Christians really make god very angry and they are in for some real punishment after death. Maybe he likes those who conform too the obviously natural, maybe he likes those who seem to defy it (e.g. transgender individuals). Maybe he likes those who are responsible and hard working, maybe he likes those who just don’t care about anything. Maybe Humans aren’t the point at all and I’m just being an egotistical little monkey.

      Seems safer to operate under the atheist assumption and deal with god if we have to meet that maniac at some point. I would love to hear his views on some things, I hope he knows English.

      Posted by AW | March 8, 2012, 4:49 PM ”
      ———————————————————–
      Ok, first of all, I want to mention that fear of an afterlife’s punishments or wishes of rewards are not what motivate me to believe in a God, not at all. I simply need this to justify anything. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother with a philosophy of morality. Just like I wouldn’t bother with a scientific theory, for example, if I were to know it’s not descriptive of anything that exists in reality.I first of all started with the idea that I find it unlikely the Universe can exist without a Creator, the argument from design, etc., and I build up from there until it leads to issues that concern living beings, such as values, purpose of life, morality, etc. It makes no difference if there is punishment or reward for our actions. All that matters to me is that this truth is perceivable by the human mind, and objectively exists out there. That’s all.

      Everything you described is indeed possible. That’s the main point of what I was saying. However, as far as I personally can tell, I trust certain assumptions that we think are true, such as the existence of morality, that life does have some value (even if you rationally come to the opposite conclusion, our human nature, our inner consciene tells us to value it regardless, so there’s definitely a conflict), and so on.

      You’re talking to someone who used to be a complete atheistic nihilist. If I were to be an atheist again I would assume moral nihilism and would view ethics and philosophical discussions of ethics to be a waste of time. I’d simply do my best to bring about a world and aligh my actions with the values that make sense to me, even though I can’t justify it anymore than a murderer can. I lived back then through this, though I wasn’t particularly happy and found it hard to truly care, especially about those I didn’t personally deal with (it’s easier to have empathy for someone across the world even if I never see them so long as I know it’s not in vain, at least it is for me). If I were to go the same route, I’d still survive and mind my own business, though any arguments against those who do interfere in other people’s lives in ways that those people don’t like would seem pointless to me. The only rational attempt at trying to get people to stop be evil is an appeal to feelings (they are pretty strong, even if they mean nothing objectively speaking), or that it is in your best interest to be nice to others. That’s what I’d do if I operated under the atheist assumption. I’d be very apathetic to everything except for my preferences, values, because, if nothing actually matters objectively, I see no reason to trust someone else’s subjective values over my own.

      To me, God’s intentions for humanity do tie in with our own moral conscience, as there are certain values that we probably should have. I find it unlikely that God doesn’t share some of these values, at least some, as for example the instinct to value life would definitely make sense given the fact that if God didn’t have some value for life, it’s likely he wouldn’t have created life in the first place. If God took the time to create things in a certain way, I think (just think, I obviously can’t prove it 100%, this is merely what makes most sense or is most likely — technically, the brain-in-a-vat argument could be true, but I just don’t find it the most likely) he probably did so for a reason, as I find it hard to believe a rational being, especially a Creator-God, would randomly create the universe and life in it for no other reason that “for the heck of it”. Is it a possibility? Yes, of course. I just don’t find it likely. When humans create technology, or use their skills to create something, anything, it’s usually done for a reason. We didn’t make cars because we had nothing better to do. Of course, it’s all just an assumption. But at least it allows me to build upon something and have some semblance of objectivity. Otherwise I’d find the task to not be worth my time. I like deciphering reality, making a system of how reality works, to see as best as I can how everything works. It’s a hobby. If I were to turn nihilist again, I might still do it but not because I feel like there’s some objective value in trying to understand the truth about the world, but simply because it brings me happiness on a subjective level, and it doesn’t contradict any of my other subjective values of not bringing harm to others, simply because I have empathy. I view what has been designed, or created by God, to provide insight into his thoughts, his values, what he intends, his purpose for this universe. I think I can use knowledge, from various disciplines, such as science, philosophy (ethics plays a big role), logic, and so on, to gain a little bit more truth about life’s purpose. Otherwise, God created us in such a way, and made reality in such a way, that we are totally misled about his intentions, and we’re just fooled, perhaps for his amusement. It’s possible, but I find it unlikely.

      If I were to return to being a philosophical theist (atheistic nihilist —> philosophical theist —> Christian), I’d still be debating with myself, even if I can prove God gave us some objective moral values, how do I know he also follows these values because he actually says they are good, or whether they were just given for us specifically, and his personal values (I am assuming a personal God, so he has his own value, and isn’t impersonal and indifferent, with no values, and thus I find it likely such a God made reality for no real reason as he/she/or it would have no purpose, no values of their own, it would be random). I admit that. I’ll do some thinking. I like to create belief systems based on possible ways of justifying those beliefs, just to see the different possible logical combinations. Again, a hobby. So while I certainly know I will never comprehend God fully, I still believe, assuming God’s existence and the ability to trust my basic senses, that at least a little bit of his agenda can be known. That’s all under the philosophical theist system. Christianity would significantly clear things up, obviously, but that’s a separate issue and I wanted to discuss God in general rather than justifications for Christianity.

      With that being said, I don’t know what else we can discuss that we haven’t discussed here yet, at least with regards to objective morality, how it ties in with God, and so on.

      Thank you.

      Posted by DD | March 8, 2012, 5:53 PM
      • I didn’t finish the sentence:

        “If I were to return to being a philosophical theist (atheistic nihilist —> philosophical theist —> Christian), I’d still be debating with myself, even if I can prove God gave us some objective moral values, how do I know he also follows these values because he actually says they are good, or whether they were just given for us specifically, and his personal values (I am assuming a personal God, so he has his own value, and isn’t impersonal and indifferent, with no values, and thus I find it likely such a God made reality for no real reason as he/she/or it would have no purpose, no values of their own, it would be random).”

        What I wanted to say was, “How do I know if he also has the same values as us, or if they were simply given for us while his personal values have nothing to do with the values he gave us?”

        Posted by DD | March 8, 2012, 6:41 PM
    • We ignostics find that God with His contradictory,incoherent attributes and without any referents as Grand Miracle Monger, Grand Designer and so forth, why, He lacks existence as a square circle or married bachelor. Thus by analysis,not dogma,and without traversing the Cosmos nor having omniscience ourselves, we naturalists not only in our hears but from the rooftops can flatly declare God lacks existence!
      That requires much to relate about incompatibility statements, and how each argument for His referents fail. Lamberth’s the atelic/teleonomic argument tells against any referent and thus He cannot exist.
      Hide-bound agnostics who so arrogantly revel in maintaining that no one can say yea or nay about His v ery existence just ignore our many tomes finding Him nowhere- no there there.
      As all that requires more space, and whilst I give some argumentation here, people who Google the ignostic-Ockham and lamberth’s naturalistic arguments about God receive enough information to doubt His existence.
      Nevertheless, these arguments are defefable. We fallibilists go with our conservation of knowledge, noting that new facts change matters.
      This is both the beginning and end of our naturalist arguments.Our evangel leads to that more abundant life!
      As theistic philosophers and theologians dispute all this, we ever have to take apart their arguments.
      Ah, why accept theism or atheism, when pantheism and Buddhism and Jainism exist? Why the narrow concentration other than this is what the West wants without ever considering what the East proclaims as its evangel?
      That, is the above commentary about Him hardly covers the water front!
      As I stress Christian morality stems from the egregious simple subjectivism of misanthropes, not objective morality at all, and thus, no relativistic account that they were justifiable for those ancient people can possible be true! No one here can gainsay that,but instead would just use the straw man that atheism leads to nihilism. No, it takes point by point rebuttal, not lazy,facile statements!
      The more the real facts come forth, the benighted just dig the more in. That stems from faith, what John Haught calls overweening of our entire being, and what Alister Earl McGrath calls certitude after people have the evidence for theism: both decry then the scientific heuristic that we have provisional knowledge, not irrefragable knowledge. Evolution itself is true,but its various theories do change and how strong natural selection is in relation to genetic drift and such changes.
      Fellow skeptic John L. Schellenberg decries our naturalism relying on ever-changing science, but that is its glory and naturalism’s!
      I asked pertinent questions as to why one would fine our humanism defective but received no serious answer,just that straw man that ours is nihilistic in the end.That rejects without warrant our humanism,just being dogmatic and just another straw man about us.
      Would that some thinker here would examine the points point by point instead of that!
      I shan’t answer straw men but instead would rebut any point by point examination.

      Posted by Lord Griggs [Also, Fr.Griggs & Rabbi Griggs] | March 8, 2012, 9:33 PM
  10. @JW – there are a few conversations from this thread that I’d love to discuss elsewhere…the morality of stoning and my questions on epistemology/ontology. Let me know if we ever get the chance.

    Posted by Walt | March 9, 2012, 11:25 PM
  11. How is the Christian grounding morality apart from saying ‘The Christian God is by definition the grounding of morality, according to the way Christians define the Christian God’?

    I think this has already been pointed out above by others though.

    “When asked “Why be good?” one can legitimately say because they owe it to the source of all being”

    You appear to be using the concept of ‘owing’ to ground or justify the morality. This pre-supposes the idea of ‘owing’. If the idea exists outside of God, then one doesn’t need a God to justify it. If, on the other hand, one needs a God’s morality to justify the concept of ‘owing’ then it’s circular to use the concept of owing to ground the morality.

    Posted by Andy Ryan | June 26, 2012, 5:34 AM
    • I don’t know of any Christian ontology of morality which has its basis for morality as “owing.”

      Furthermore, this is essentially a “tu quoque.” My point here is that humanism/secularism has no way to grand objective morality. If the response is “well neither do you!” then my point has carried.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 26, 2012, 6:46 AM
      • My response isn’t so much ‘neither do you’ as it is to question the meaning of ‘Without God, you cannot…’, in that it infers that adding a God means you can. If your own response is merely to claim ‘tu quoque’, then my own point is also carried. If you’re going to claim that removing God also removes an ‘objective morality’, then I’d like to know exactly how the God grounds this morality, in terms that don’t beg the question, or ‘argue by definition’ a la WLC. If there’s no coherent explanation for that, then it becomes meaningless to talk about what is lost if one discounts a God. If you’re going to allow certain concepts to explain the God’s moral authority, then the same concepts can be allowed to explain an objective morality without the God (another reason why I’m not simply saying ‘neither do you’).

        For example, if you’re going to argue for God’s authority due to some kind of ‘property law’ (cf Neil Mammen), then you must allow atheists to also argue for a morality based on property laws.

        “I don’t know of any Christian ontology of morality which has its basis for morality as “owing.”

        I was responding directly to the words I quoted from you: “When asked “Why be good?” one can legitimately say because they owe it to the source of all being”, and my point in my previous post stands on that.

        Posted by Andy Ryan | June 26, 2012, 7:01 AM
      • You’ve therefore confused the ontic base of morality with the motivation for being moral. I was not grounding morality in that; rather, I was referring to the motivation for being moral. Notice that in the rest of the quote I contrast it with secular morality wherein there is no reason to be good due to its vacuous base. The “owing” is part of the “motivating” as opposed to the base. You’ve misread my argument.

        Now again, this is a bit off topic as far as the post is concerned. I’m not here concerned with the grounds for theistic morality. My argument is that secular humanism has absolutely nothing to ground it other than radical subjectivism.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 27, 2012, 9:15 AM
  12. “My argument is that secular humanism has absolutely nothing to ground it other than radical subjectivism.”

    You’re welcome to that opinion, but I don’t see how your own base is any less vacuous or subjective. You have to start with a subjective opinion before you can argue your way to an ‘objective morality’. If it’s vacuous and subjective for a humanist to determine that torturing children is a bad idea due to the harm it causes, why is it not vacuous and subjective to conclude that you have a duty to a deity who created you?

    Either way when you’re discussion morality you need to start off with some kind of axioms upon which it is all based, and this applies whether you take into account a God or not.

    “Now suppose I randomly sifted my sample among the population of the world, but somehow, by pure chance, got a room full of child molesters.”

    This isn’t particularly likely. You might as well say that instead one should come up with a religious basis for morality, but you happen to be a radical religious nut (or consult religious nuts), and therefore conclude that God wants you to murder and torture everyone.

    Posted by Andy Ryan | June 27, 2012, 9:28 AM
    • Again, Andy, you’re confusing what I said. I’m not basing morality on owing to a deity. I’m not even basing the reason for being moral on that. That’s just one reason to motivate being good. It’s wrong whether you owe it to deity or not. But again, all you’ve done here is offer the tu quoque fallacy. I’ll not let you shift the burden of proof. Your position, if it is secular humanism, has its ontic base on a vacuous assertion. Show me how it isn’t.

      Furthermore, you’ve misunderstood entirely what I’m saying. The fact that you maintain “If it’s vacuous and subjective for a humanist to determine that torturing children is a bad idea due to the harm it causes, why is it not vacuous and subjective to conclude that you have a duty to a deity who created you?” shows that you have not understood moral ontology on a theistic reading at all.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 27, 2012, 9:33 AM
  13. If you’re positing that a God makes any difference to moral arguments, then yes the burden of proof IS on your side.

    “I’m not basing morality on owing to a deity. I’m not even basing the reason for being moral on that. ”

    I didn’t say you were basing it on that.

    “That’s just one reason to motivate being good.”

    Right, and I’m saying it that as a reason it escapes none of the accusations you level at secular humanism.

    You can cry ‘tu quoque’, but all you’ve done is identify that moral discussions ultimately rest on axioms that somebody can call subjective, and my reply is that this applies with or without a God.

    The following seems a decent, non vacuous basing of secular moral ontology:

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/moral-ontology.html

    Posted by Andy Ryan | June 27, 2012, 9:48 AM
    • Andy,

      I want to see your argument. So far what I’ve seen is a number of assertions and a link. My argument is presented in the post. I will not allow you to move past that until you’ve either somehow established that you have an ontic base for morality or you have admitted that the point carries. The burden of proof is upon you, the secular humanist, to show me how you have an ontic base. Just crying foul and saying “If you’re positing that a God makes any difference to moral arguments, then yes the burden of proof IS on your side.”

      What you’ve done here is take something from a comment and tried to turn it into the point of my entire post. Stay on topic. How do you ground moral ontology? Let’s evaluate that rather than see you pointing fingers at theism. If your case is as strong as you seem to think it is, then why do you keep trying to throw off the burden of proof.

      Let’s see the ontology of humanistic morality.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 27, 2012, 9:53 AM
  14. I thought I’d clearly already given you my opinion – that ALL attempts to ground the ontology of morality will rest on axioms that are vulnerable to being called subjective. I include secular humanism in that. I don’t see that this in itself makes any particular argument ‘vacuous’.

    On your argument you could equally call virtually any comparative human discussion ‘vacuous’. Any discussion of the relative merits of films, music, (or any art), wine, food, country walks etc. All can be said to rest on axiomatic ideas that might ultimately be called subjective. Conjecturing that you might find one person who insists that the number of nude scenes in a film is the only true measure of its quality doesn’t mean a discussion between Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert on the value of CItizen Kane is vacuous.

    “Let’s see the ontology of humanistic morality.”

    The link I just supplied gives what seems like a good argument to me. Do you want me to copy and paste it?

    Posted by Andy Ryan | June 27, 2012, 10:07 AM
    • I have a policy in which I do not war with links. The only time I use them is for off-topic discussions. I want to see individuals’ arguments about their own positions, not what someone else has written.

      Anyway, it seems that you’re arguing, therefore, that all moral views are subjective. Are you therefore saying there is no objective morality?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 27, 2012, 10:10 AM
      • Yes, the notion of ‘objective morality’ is incoherent, like arguing for ‘inherent value’. Why, do you have an a solution to the is/ought dilemma? If so, I’d love to hear it, if it’s not too off topic.

        If you want to my own argument for basing morality, it would – put very simply – come down to rough utilitarianism, and would rest on a notion that suffering is axiomatically best avoided. Obviously you can present me with special cases and unusual situations where some suffering must be endured or caused to prevent a greater disaster…

        Posted by Andy Ryan | June 27, 2012, 10:29 AM
      • So in a sense what you are arguing is that no morality is objective, and that any system which claims such is incorrect?

        I have some serious issues with utilitarianism as well, but I do think as far as secular morality goes it is probably the best system.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 28, 2012, 11:09 AM
      • “I have a policy in which I do not war with links.”
        I appreciate that. I recent got frustrated at the truthbomb site when every couple of comments I’d be referred to a WLC link in lieu of an actual argument…

        Posted by Andy Ryan | June 27, 2012, 10:47 AM
  15. “So in a sense what you are arguing is that no morality is objective, and that any system which claims such is incorrect?”

    God or not, they all seem to rest on an ‘is’ to create their ‘ought’ – there will always be some ‘starting principle’ – though I’m open to hearing arguments round it. .

    “I have some serious issues with utilitarianism as well”

    I find that if you ask a Christian to explain why x is immoral, they will (perhaps unconsciously) tend to attempt to explain it in utilitarian terms.

    Posted by Andrew Ryan | June 28, 2012, 1:54 PM
  16. I recently came across “Does Ethical Objectivity Require God” in ‘Whatever Happened to Good and Evil?’ by Russ Shafer-Landau OUP, 2004.

    After reading that I think the question has been answered satisfactorily.

    Posted by theasymmetricalkid | July 6, 2012, 9:25 AM
    • @theasymmetricalkid
      I think this book is definitely worth reading, but most people would say that Shafer-Landau’s morality is a dress up of utilitarianism which a theist would call subjective morality. I would also recommend An Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics by Scott James – it’s an attempt to ground objective morality in the nature of human beings, which I think is parallel to the way a theist claims to ground objective morality in the nature of God. Anyway, I’m no expert but I like these two works!

      Posted by Walt | July 10, 2012, 6:46 AM
      • I find David O.Brink on morality making a good case for atheistic moral realism In ” Moral Realism and the Foundation for Ethics.”,albeit he doesn’t mention atheism. Russ Shafer-Landau’s ” Moral Realism ” runs tough for me!

        Posted by Lord Griggs | July 10, 2012, 7:56 AM

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