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Understanding Morality—It’s Really Not that Hard

Greg Koukl tries to hold atheists’ feet to the fire to show how they misuse moral thinking. His analysis provides good instruction in poor argumentation, but not quite in the way he hopes.

The podcast is “Making Sense of Morality.” Koukl starts by claiming that there are objective moral values. He didn’t define them, but I think he would accept William Lane Craig’s definition: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”1 That’s a big claim—these are moral values that are somehow grounded supernaturally or transcendentally. Never having seen evidence for supernatural or transcendent anything, I was eager to hear Koukl justify their existence. Here he goes:

Virtually no one believes the opposite.

And that’s it. Apparently, Koukl has no argument besides, “You believe that … right?” We’re not off to a good start.

From this flabby grounding, he proposes to dismantle what many Christian apologists have admitted is the most challenging problem they face, the Problem of Evil. There is no Problem of Evil, Koukl says, unless there are objective moral values.

Such a problem could only exist if morals were objective, not relative, because we can only complain about the existence of a good powerful god with regards to the existence of evil in the world if there is actually objectively, really evil in the world, not just “evil” in our own preferences.

Nope. The Problem of Evil simply points out a paradox: the Christian imagines (1) a good god who (2) tolerates a world with plenty of evil in it. How is this possible? Koukl wants to use a little misdirection to imagine that the problem is actually the standard for evil.

This is quite simple: you, Greg, would not be called good if (for example) you had the power to diffuse the tectonic energy that caused the 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed 300,000 people but didn’t. This is the Word Hygiene argument: the words “good” and “evil” are defined in the dictionary, and we don’t change the definitions when we talk about God. No objective anything is required—the Problem of Evil simply assumes that your god exists for the sake of the argument, takes this idea for a test drive, and runs it off the unavoidable logical cliff.

Koukl continues, noting that atheists often say that evolution can explain morality. But:

[Evolution] is not going to get you a genuine, bona fide objective moral obligation; it’s just going to get you maybe the feeling of morality when morality doesn’t actually exist.

To Koukl, morality is either objective or it’s nothing.

So let’s check the dictionary. “Moral” is defined as “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; ethical” or “conforming to a standard of right behavior.” And what are these principles and standards? I suggest that they’re the laws and customs of society. The dictionary mentions no objective, supernatural, or absolute anything. Evolution programs us with moral instincts, and Koukl’s concern vanishes.

Next, Koukl talked about listening to an interview with professor and author Steven Stuart Williams. Williams rejected objective morality and said that we should minimize suffering. But why does he say this?

Because that’s the way I like it.

(This is Koukl’s paraphrase of Williams’ answer.) This was apparently a bombshell to Koukl, though I don’t see why. That could be a clumsy paraphrase of my own thinking: that we strive to minimize suffering because our programming (our conscience) tells us to. This conscience punishes us with guilt when we resist it—when we didn’t stop to help someone or when we took an action that caused harm.

Why is this shocking? Greg, isn’t this the way it works for you?

The interviewer next asked Williams how he would respond to a Stalin or Pol Pot.

By what standard does [Williams] say that his preference is a better morally speaking preference than those other preferences that are opposite his? And for this he had no answer.

That’s okay—I have an answer. This is just the moral relativism fallacy. Koukl apparently imagines a dilemma: you must accept either

  • objective morality, with a supernatural or transcendental grounding for morality, or
  • relative morality, where I have my moral truths and you have yours, and I have no ability to criticize.

The problem is that this doesn’t define all the options. It’s a false dilemma. I see no evidence for objective morality (and Koukl doesn’t provide any), but I’m quite happy to criticize moral claims with which I don’t agree.

We have a shared (not objective) grounding, since we’re all the same species. We aren’t seeing God’s universal moral truth but rather universally held moral instincts. This explains the facts, and without the handwaving behind a claim of objective morality.

And now it’s time to get in a dig at the New Atheists. Koukl says that the “old time atheists” were much more intellectually honest. They followed their thinking to its logical conclusion and took their medicine, whatever that was. He cautioned his Christian listeners about slippery atheists playing games.

The old style guys would bite the bullet and they’d say, “Nope, no morality, no right and wrong, all personal preferences, just emotions … no meaning in life.”

If you want to debate the “old style guys,” Greg, go ahead, but this doesn’t describe me. I have plenty of morality and meaning in my life, but thanks for asking. It’s just not supernaturally grounded … but then there’s no reason to think yours is, either.

So what you’re saying is, there is no transcendent morality, it is just a matter of personal opinion, and when you are put up against Mao Tse-tung, you can’t give me a reason why one person would choose one rather than the other.

Can Koukl have never had an argument about a moral issue? Each person makes a case using the shared moral ideas of our species and culture—that’s how it’s done. Or look at a legislative debate for a more formal example.

Bizarrely, the interviewer then asks,

Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to have God ground [morality] on a purely pragmatic basis?

Do you hear what you’re saying? You’re wondering if reality is satisfying? As if we have a choice! It’s reality—we’re stuck with it! The focus should be on figuring out what reality is and working with it.

Williams argued that he could live a good life, but Koukl accuses him of playing word games:

What exactly do you mean by “good” here? I know what he meant by “good”; he meant by “good” the same thing his theistic interviewer meant by “good.” The problem is, he has no right to those terms because they aren’t at home in the worldview he was arguing for.

And we’re back to consulting the dictionary. Show me the objective part of the definition of “good” that would make it inappropriate if said by an atheist. We have a common definition for words; that’s how communication works. Where’s the problem?

When we say we can punish people for doing bad, [Williams means] that we could still punish people for doing things that are contrary to [his] personal preference.

Duh—doesn’t everyone want laws to be in accord with their own views of right and wrong? We make compromises as members of a society, but obviously we’d like the laws to be as in line with our personal morality as possible.

Koukl ends by encouraging his listeners to listen carefully to make sure the other guy is using moral language and concepts correctly.

Finally—something we can agree on.

Life at its very best is short and complicated and way too hard.
Already I regret far more the things I didn’t do that I wanted,
than doing the things I probably shouldn’t have.
— Jay Lake, “Special Dying Person Wisdom

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 12/19/11)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

1William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 17.

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Jason

    I’ve probably killed millions of bugs in my life (not including all the ant beds I lit on fire as a kid). To the bugs, I’m worse than a Stalin or a Hitler, but honestly, I don’t feel that bad about it. If there is objective morality, one of us should be right.

    • Ron

  • wtfwjtd

    I still don’t get where these folks that believe in objective moral values actually come up with them. At least the atheist can say their sense of morality comes from themselves, life experiences, or much more commonly, from the shared sense of moral values that mankind has derived over time through trial and error.
    Objective moral values? They come from god or God? HOW, exactly? Since God is unseen, and undetectable, how does this work? If the religious believe they are getting their morals from the Bible, they surely must realize, they certainly aren’t objective; they are all over the map. Once again, I find this whole concept that the only proper and correct morality is that which we imagine to emanate from an unseen, undetectable being to be both baffling and nonsensical.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      How do they come from God? I’m guessing that prayons are bidirectional. (You know, like bosons.)

      • wtfwjtd

        Well Bob, I don’t know if bosons are actually bidirectional, but according to this article, Bosons do interact with Fermions: http://nonlocal.com/hbar/bosonfermion.html

        I’m not sure how prayons fit in here, except maybe that in order to work they need that 1-800-call-god hotline that only a few privy mortals seem to have access to….

  • Jason

    Actually, morality isn’t even objective in the Bible. It’s wrong to murder according to the 10 commandments but then God endorses genocide so his favorite group of people get to live where they want?

    • Greg G.

      If killing is objectively immoral, then it is immoral for God to kill, whether he thinks it is or not.

      • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

        I guess they would say it’s objectively immoral where God forbids it, but not when He commands it.

        • Greg G.

          That’s Divine Command Theory in a nutshell. But if God can change it, it’s subjective to God and is not objective.

          Murder, theft, and dishonesty will undermine a social structure no matter what God says. Of course, if society was detrimental, then underminig it might just be the right to do.

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Agreed. It cannot be objective since it’s dependent on a mind and opinion-in this case God’s.

    • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

      Well according to them, it’s not murder if God orders it, and since He is by definition good. Not a sufficient answer, of course, but there we are.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        “Thou shalt not murder” isn’t particularly helpful given that murder = “killing that is forbidden.” To actually be useful, it would have to clarify which kinds of killing are forbidden.

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Quite true, and Jewish law goes into that at length. Basically it boils down to murder being “killing that is not commanded by God” i.e. carrying out the various death sentences and mass slaughters of neighboring people was just fine.

        • Greg G.

          Also beating someone to death who had the misfortune to be a person’s slave was OK as long as the slave suffered a day or two before he or she died. Exodus 21:20-21

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          That’s right. I’m not sure that “lingering for a day or more” bit made a difference, but apparently it did. Personally it makes me curious what the background to a lot of these rules is.

        • Kodie

          I’ll take a wild guess and say “technicality.” They could beat a slave nearly to death, but only if their actual death was far enough after the beating, so they could be in the clear for causing the death. I also think beating your slave was not a good thing to do if you consider them to be valuable property. If you can beat them just enough so they don’t die, then you still have your slave. If they die, you are a man short. It’s not good sense to beat your slave until they die.

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          That would make sense. From what I’ve learned, Jewish law seems to thrive on technicalities even more than most legal codes do. You’re right on killing slaves too, except in the case of setting an example, for instance quelling a slave revolt.

        • MNb

          That’s basically circular reasoning too. God’s commands are good, hence it’s objectively good, hence god.

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Indeed, classic example.

      • Spuddie

        Which means its not even a moral decision. Its simply self-interest to avoid a God who can order others to murder you for failing to obey.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The obvious resolution is that the genocides didn’t happen (or happened in a more attenuated form) and that these conquest stories simply grew with the retelling around the campfire.

      But then, of course, the Christian must accept a fallible Bible full of legends. Not the best compromise for the hard-liners.

  • lawrence090469

    Empathy based ethics is simple enough for children to learn long before they are introduced to theology. Theology then attempts to claim credit for these moral teachings, and later to pervert them into divine command theory. And objective morality is always about upholding the christian patriarchy, as it turns out to mean whatever is necessary in the moment to serve that end.

    • ZenDruid

      Empathy-based ethics is all anyone needs. It works best if it’s simple enough for a child to understand to begin with, and I’ve never had cause to look for a more complex ethical model. The religiot storytellers want everyone to believe there’s some arcane flapdoodle behind it all… those lying scoundrels.

      • Itarion

        Well, it is enough for most situations, however there are a variety of more specific situations – perhaps not situations you, or anyone else on this discussion board will be involved – that aren’t covered by empathic ethics because the “moral” decision is heavily influenced by individual personalities.
        Take, for an example, assisted suicide in the case of a terminal disease. In the case of an illness which causes severe pain and debilitation, a faster death would spare a great deal of pain, but not everyone would want the faster, assisted death, because they would rather spend more time with their loved ones.

        Not everyone would agree that both actions are moral, and yet, by different criteria, both are considered moral. However, it’s possible that there is a moral system out there which allows both to be considered moral actions, dependent upon request.

        • Kodie

          Nobody shoves a handful of pills down the throat of someone who they think would be better off dead. I mean, I don’t think anyone would do that while considering it to be the best course of action for their victim. Someone can be in a coma for a long time with no hope of recovery, and that has to be left up to a conscious person whether they should intervene. Autonomy is the key here – if someone can say what their final wishes are, they should say so, in writing. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t want to be unplugged. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t want to take a handful of sleeping pills. This is not really a fuzzy case. People who are conscious can decide what they want to do. People who are unconscious and who will always be unconscious are able to design their fate ahead of time. If they don’t, it’s the best judgment of the next of kin or whoever is named to make that decision on behalf of the patient.

          You know what else? Once you are dead, you can’t be mad. You can’t say, “no fair, that’s not what I would have done!” If someone is never going to be conscious again, it is sort of the same sentimental feeling whether you should sell Grandpa’s antique desk or keep it in the family. Pull the plug, it’s the right thing to do.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          However, it’s possible that there is a moral system out there which allows both to be considered moral actions, dependent upon request.

          So objective morality exists, but we can’t access it?

        • Itarion

          I would go with haven’t accessed it. I maintain that it is possible to, if one sets aside all presuppositions, personal beliefs, and evolved moral senses, experiment to discover a set of fundamental rules that allow a society to bring the least harm and the most benefit to its members.

          In the same manner as other “soft” sciences – economics, sociology, psychology, etc. I call this neglected branch “ethicology”.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          it is possible to, if one sets aside all presuppositions, personal beliefs, and evolved moral senses, experiment to discover a set of fundamental rules that allow a society to bring the least harm and the most benefit to its members.

          Lots of people say that. If all of you got together and compared notes, would you have deduced the same set of “objective moral truths”? I doubt it.

        • Itarion

          Lots of people say that, indeed. And most of them say that as an extension of their Good Book. Who’s left?

          I didn’t refer to morality as a science lightly. Throughout recent Western history, at least, studied sciences have slowly replaced religions as the font of knowledge. Astronomy, alchemy giving way to chemistry, geological history. Law as well has become secular. It seems to me to be a natural extension of this trend to form a science out of law – morality – and to replace the current religious model with it. I may be a sun-touched idealist, but whatever.

          The fact that not everyone agrees upon an objective truth does not preclude its existence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What does “objective truth” mean? Simply a universally agreed-to truth? Or a truth grounded in something outside humanity?

        • Itarion

          A truth grounded outside of humanity. Something that all aware creatures, without regard for city, state, country, continent, planet, solar system, galactic arm, galaxy, local group, or supercluster of origin, can discover through a thorough examination of societies that have both evolved naturally and been constructed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Would Klingons or Romulans come to the same set of objective moral truths? Since not all humans would, I’m guessing the answer is No.

        • Itarion

          Would versus could. I have no doubt that the highly logical Vulcans would, since they make a study out of everything.

          Two asides: first, Picard. Second, the Klingons killed their gods for being too troublesome. How awesome is that?

    • MNb

      “divine command theory”
      And here we have another snag – saying the subjective morals of some random divine entity is objective doesn’t help.

    • wtfwjtd

      Indeed, and emphathy isn’t restricted to humans, according to researchers:http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_evolution_of_empathy
      This is basic stuff to anyone who’s worked with animals or is an observant pet owner; humans aren’t the only creatures on earth capable of what we like to call feelings. Evolution explains this nicely, and you would think it would be fairly simple to comprehend.

      • smrnda

        True, just some people have to put on a pretense of being something *other than animals.*

  • Eliot Parulidae

    When all is said and done, the objective morality thing is so general that it’s useless. Islamic morality is stern enough to be credible, right? Confucian morality? The ascetic lifestyles advocated by vegans and intense environmentalists?

    I see apologetics as a mountain of arguments for God and a mountain of arguments for a particular brand of Christianity, separated by a huge chasm that is spanned by the most rickety of rope bridges.

    • Ron

      The existence of thousands of religions (and sects within those religions) is what betrays the entire argument. If a set of objective moral standards emanating from a moral lawgiver actually existed, then one would expect to find worldwide consensus on what those standards are and how they operate; yet the evidence reveals precisely the opposite.

      By way of parallel, consider traffic symbols, for instance. A red octagon is recognized as a stop sign by drivers the world over, regardless of what language the word itself is written in. There’s absolutely no “contextual” interpretation required — everyone agrees that that particular sign means “stop” even if some routinely choose to disobey it.

      If fallible men are capable of creating such unambiguous international symbols, one should expect nothing less from an infallible god.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        It is surprising how incompetent this infallible god is.

      • Greg G.

        I don’t recall octagonal stop signs in Vietnam. The driver slows down a bit, honks the horn and lets the oncoming traffic make room. It takes some getting used to. Perhaps red lights and green lights might make the analogy better.

        Other than that, I concur.

        • Ron

          Darn those astopsignist Vietnamese drivers for refusing to acknowledge objective traffic laws and ruining my analogy. Don’t they know that without an ISO standards committee there can be no objective road standards? Everyone would just make up there own driving rules & regulations and there’d be no objective basis for declaring anyone a good or bad driver.

          Or to paraphrase “Dr.” Craig:

          If God does not exist, then traffic laws are just a human convention, that is to say, driving standards are wholly subjective and non-binding. We might drive in precisely the same ways that we do in fact drive, but in the absence of God, such actions would no longer count as good (or evil) driving behavior, since if God does not exist, objective traffic laws do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good drivers without God. On the other hand, if we do believe that traffic laws are objective, that provides motorists with signs for believing in God.

        • Greg G.

          Excellent! Now that you have perfected the analogy, I’m stealing it.

  • King Dave

    Love your articles on morality Bob.

    There is no morality because there is no true right and wrong. It is not quantifiable, because we can’t know the outcome in advance.

    Our idea of morality would completely change if we were the last inhabitants on Easter Island. Preservation becomes priority one.

    Hunt animals or let them overpopulate and starve?

    • MNb

      “Our idea of morality would completely change ….”
      Something the objective moralists never account for.

      • Spuddie

        Of course those theistic “objective moralists” never come up with actually objective views of morality which go beyond an appeal to divine authority.
        What they call “objective” is actually somewhat capricious, inconsistent and lacks actual moral thinking. Simply assigning the duty of determining what is moral to an outside source is not making a moral decision. More like passing the buck to God.

    • smrnda

      We might not know the exact outcome, but I also don’t know *anything 100%*. Decent approximations are good enough.

  • MNb

    “Such a problem could only exist if morals were objective”

    “not just “evil” in our own preferences.”

    A perfect example of circular reasoning.

    “Because that’s the way I like it.”

    Indeed. I like being happy much more than being unhappy. Guess what? Most people do. Now before some tool argues that there is no “proof” or even an “argument” for this: there is no proof for Euclides’ axioms either. You have to
    start somewhere.

    “It’s a false dilemma.”
    Not entirely. In the end you can’t argue about the bascic assumptions of your ethics, just you can’t argue about Euclides’ axioms. But it’s Koukl who suffers from the dilemma, not us atheist utilitarians. The way Koukl (and other apologists) presents it is: either objective morals hence god or human happiness (or minimizing suffering, whatever you prefer). In Koukl’s logic this means his god rules out happiness – better to please god than to be happy.
    But that’s something not too many apologists like to admit.
    Still this is what the talking about objective morals is about: which are the basic assumptions, not how Homo Sapiens developed them (the two are connected, I know).

    “old style guys,”A sure sign Koukl never has read say Why I’m not a Christian.

    “Koukl accuses him of playing word games:”
    Indeed, Mao can say he was living a good life too. His basic assumptions just were not mine (and much more similar to those of the author who wrote about the Kanaanite genocide).
    Damn, I must beware. It looks like I’m becoming a better apologist than the average believer.

    • smrnda

      Yeah, I would like life not to suck. Most people do. On the basis of this preference alone, subjective as it is, I think a pretty good society could be built. Far better than most theocracies would be :-)

  • Charles Chambers

    THANK YOU for posting this. I have some Christian friends who like to debate me, and this argument verbatim is the only one they use. It drives me insane.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks! I hope it helps.

  • Carol

    Hmmm, Christians debating the morality of non-Christians would be more convincing if the moral track record for professing Christians were better:

    http://www.politicususa.com/2013/02/17/religious-red-states-consume-antidepressants.html

  • deadweasel

    What is the problem apologists have in understanding the reducio ad absurdum argument?

    The argument from evil is just such an argument. it concedes, for the sake of argument, the following:
    1) A perfectly good God exists, and such a God will never allow evil;
    2) Evil is allowed to exist;
    3) Therefore, a perfectly good God is an absurdity, and does not exist.
    Then apologists tell us that God has hidden reasons, that you can’t have objective evil without objective good coming from God, God is “fine tuning” our free will and moral evils, and on and on.
    Every one of these arguments is irrelevant special pleading, because they don’t address the reducio ad absurdum. Unless you show where the reducio ad absurdum is wrong, the apologetics are all irrelevant.

    • Greg G.

      Apologists “know” God exists so they reject all reductio ad absurdum arguments that disprove their god by reductio ad absurdum .

      • Cafeeine

        Your comment works also is you remove the “reductio ad absurdum” specification

  • wladyslaw

    There is nothing absolutely true or false.
    And that, my friends, is absolutely true.

    • Itarion

      Please tell me you see the logical break in what was written.

      • Greg G.

        It’s a paradox. Do you see the humor in it? It’s like Titus 1:12-13a:

        12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This saying is true.

        It’s Epimenides’ paradox, from the Cretan philosopher Epimenides.

        • Itarion

          Not paradox. Contradiction.

          Interestingly, both parts of Epimenides’ paradox can be true, because a liar can speak truth, but rarely does. A slight change makes it a contradiction, “One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans always lie, and are always evil brutes and lazy gluttons.” and “this saying is true.” Alternatively, the prophet might not be a native Cretan, thus allowing him to not be a constant liar, brute, and glutton.

          The statement “nothing is absolutely true or false” prevents itself from being absolutely true, because it is something. Therefor, the second statement, “‘nothing is absolutely true of false’ is absolutely true” is false. The truth value of the first statement, however, is still unknown.

        • Greg G.

          par·a·doxˈparəˌdäks/noun 1.a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

          Epiminides was born in Gnossus in Crete.

          Your apologetics robs the Titus passage of any meaning at all. Considering the context of the time, it was written to be an amusing paradox. Plutarch and others used the phrase “to lie like a Cretan”. Ovid called it “mendax Creta” for lying Crete.

          If the first sentence of the OP happens to be true, then the second sentence need not be absolutely true.

          When you edit a post with a major revision, please note it in the post. This was not the notice I got in email.

        • Itarion

          This is why we don’t argue from ignorance.

          You mean apologetics destroys meaning?

          Where’d you get that definition? Because I used “1.
          a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.”
          Which is different from an outright contradiction. My point is that epimenides’ paradox falls into a different class, because there is an explanation for how both premises can be true. There is no way to reconcile the premises given by OP.

    • wladyslaw

      The comment above was written before I made the Henry Ford gas tank analogy. It was not meant to be a follow up to my post. I did say it to show how those who claim that there is no absolute truth, make that claim absolutely, thus contradicting themselves.

  • wladyslaw

    Moral laws, what are they, and are they absolute.

    Let’s say for example, Mr. Ford creates the car with the gas combustion engine. In his operating instructions to his buyer he notes “Do not put sugar in the gas tank.”

    The new car owner is free to follow or not follow the instructions of the creator, but he will be absolutely happier if he follows the creator’s instructions. And as long as he owns that car, that will be absolutely true.

    God created us. He know what works best for us, and his moral laws are a loving explanation of how we can be the best, the happiest, most loving, most fulfilled people possible.

    And as long as we are people, it is absolutely true that following these explanations of how we can be the happiest is absolutely true. We need to “never put the sugar in the gas tank.”

    By using our reason alone humans can come to a knowledge of a lot of what makes our life good, happy, and loving, as the many moral values common throughout the world through history testify. All humans, atheists and theists, know this.

    But, as a loving God who created us and knows “how we work,” He also revealed Himself to us, explained why He created us, for us to love Him and to receive His love. His revealed moral laws allow us to be the happiest, most loving, most fulfilled

    humans possible.

    • Pofarmer

      Whadda buncha gibberish.

      “” He also revealed Himself to us, explained why He created us, for us to love Him and to receive His love”

      He loves us, but he has to kill us sometimes. Yeah, O.K.

      • wladyslaw

        When does he have to kill us?

        • Pofarmer

          There was the whole flood thing. And he had moses kill a bunch of Israelites for not worshiping correctly. Once in a while the Catholics decide to torture or kill some of us because they love us so much.

    • Ron

      Just out of curiosity, which god are we talking about here? And how exactly does this god reveal itself to us? Because thus far, I haven;t been privy to any such revelations.

      • wladyslaw narowski

        His most complete revelation of Himself to us is His becoming man, and teaching us about Himself. That revelation has become known to us in the New Testament. And it has been most faithfully safeguarded and expounded through the Catholic Church.

        Any person on earth, who lives fully the Catholic life in all its fullness,
        would absolutely live out the best human life possible for him or her.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s one opinion. I suspect that believers in a thousand incompatible faiths would disagree with you. Why should I listen to you over them?

        • wladyslaw narowski

          Bob,

          If you sincerely decided that it was possible that there was a revelation from God that was knowable and able to be found, I suppose you could search through the major religions of the world first and see if they could possibly qualify be the “truth.”

          I was a cradle Catholic and left my faith after college and became an agnostic. A whole series of events made me open to the possibility of the truth of God, and then consequently, a religion that explains Him.

          There are a lot of religions. My criteria became that if I found ONE teaching in a religion that I was examining, that violated my sense of reason and morality, I would rule it out. A true religion could not have one false teaching.

          Islam was easy to rule out. So was Hinduism.

          When I examined Catholicism again, I was very surprised that it met my criteria. There is nothing in Catholic teaching in dogma or morals that I find contrary to reason or sense of morality.

          I would ask you to sincerely consider such a search.

        • Ron

          My criteria became that if I found ONE teaching in a religion that I was examining, that violated my sense of reason and morality, I would rule it out. A true religion could not have one false teaching.

          That violated your sense of reason and morality? But members of competing faiths make similar “best fit” claims for ultimately choosing their brand of religion.

          With over 30,000 Christian sects and thousands of non-Christian religions, there simply isn’t enough time to examine each one in any minute detail. How do you know that you’ve picked the right one? I mean, what are the odds that the correct faith just so happens to be the one you were born into?

          And once again, your initial comment stated that God revealed himself to us. Revelation means direct communication, not second-hand reports. Have you actually had such an experience? Because I haven’t.

        • wladyslaw

          Of course a lot, not all, religions claim to be the best.

          Even a cursory examination of some the world’s great religions could easily rule them out by the “not one false teaching” rule. My sense of reason easily rules out the polytheism of Hinduism–a separate god for everything. My sense of reason easily rules out Buddhism–I am a human now, but after I die I might become an ant, or maybe once I was an ant, or a very bad person, and now I am not. My sense of morality is offended by Islam–could I ever in my heart accept their teachings, practiced even now–executions for apostasy, cutting off of hands for robbery, etc?
          Not ONE of the 30,000 protestant denominations claim that they are “infallible.” They all allow that they might not get everything right. So examining them would be useless by my “not one false teaching” rule. None of the denominations claim that they absolutely have the whole truth.

          Only one christian church claims that–the Catholic Church.I examined that claim, and found nothing contrary to my reason or sense of morality. Not only that, I examined the situation of the world today, and found that only the

          catholic church has the answers to its problems.

        • wladyslaw

          Ron,
          Revelation of God’s truth ended with the New

          testament. There are and there will be no new revelations of a different morality or different god (like Islam).
          I am a Catholic not because I follow Catholic rules. I am a Catholic because I am in a relationship with a Person who has revealed Himself to humanity.

        • Ron

          How can you be in a personal relationship with someone whose existence has never been directly revealed to you in person? It’s like saying that I’m in a relationship with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.

        • Itarion

          But… you can’t be. I am.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Even a cursory examination of some the world’s great religions could easily rule them out by the “not one false teaching” rule.

          Do contradictions in the Bible count as “false teachings”? Would an immoral act by God count? ’Cause I think it’s a rich source of both.

          My sense of reason easily rules out the polytheism of Hinduism

          Do you listen to yourself? I imagine that the Hindu doesn’t fancy the polytheism of the Trinity.

          You and I are probably on the same page when we chuckle at the silly beliefs of the other religions. I mean, seriously, Joseph Smith translated the golden plates with magic rocks in a hat? Hinduism has two bazillion different incarnations of gods? The Salish creation myth has the raven stealing the sun from heaven?

          I applaud that skepticism. Now apply it to your own religion.

          My sense of morality is offended by Islam

          Dude—read the Old Testament. It’ll curl your toes.

          Not ONE of the 30,000 protestant denominations claim that they are “infallible.”

          “And mine does. Bazinga!”

          I got news for you, Chester. I just invented a religion. It’s infallible. You lose.

        • Ron

          Again, how do you know any of these things?

          If you accept the proposition:

          - for the existence of one god, then why not many?

          - of an afterlife, how can you be certain of what form that afterlife may take?

          - of the Church’s infallibility, then how do you reconcile that with its several policy reversals on given issues? (scroll down to “The Church Never Changes”)

          If not one claim offends your sense of reason, then what scientific evidence can you provide to confirm that the substance of the bread and the wine used in the sacrament is literally changed into the substance of the body and the blood of Jesus?

          If not one moral claim offends your sense of morality, then why are you aghast when the same punishments prescribed by the Bible are put into practice by Muslims?

        • Itarion

          “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” …Stephen F Roberts

          Alternatively, you could find the institution which continually culls those teachings which have been shown to be false. In this manner, you would get up to the minute correctness. Also, when you felt something was false, you could say so, and have people ready to explain to you why it isn’t, or strike it from their books if it is false.

        • smrnda

          I’m not a polytheist, but I think polytheism makes more sense. A bunch of gods with conflicting agendas would explain things much better than One Great and Perfect God, which leaves us with all kinds of problems.

        • Rain

          I examined that claim, and found nothing contrary to my reason or sense of morality. Not only that, I examined the situation of the world today, and found that only the
          catholic church has the answers to its problems.

          Ergo Jesus. QED.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Reminds me of the story of the professor who wrote an equation on the board as he was saying, “It’s intuitively obvious that this is the case.” Then he stopped and stared at the equation and said, “Wait a minute ….” And then he took out some paper and scribbled on it. The class was getting restless minutes later when he finally jumped up and said, “Yes! I was right–it is intuitively obvious!”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Does nothing in the Bible violate your sense of morals? God demanding genocide or condoning slavery? Or drowning everyone in the flood? You’re OK with all that?

        • wladyslaw narowski

          I am a Roman Catholic. There is nothing in the entire Cathechism of the Catholic Church–which lays out the foundational teachings of Catholicism– that I find contrary to reason or morality. There is no genocide, condoning slavery, stoning, etc.

        • Kodie

          The thing you don’t recognize is your own fallibility. What seems reasonable to you is not universally reasonable. Your sense of reason is not the same as an objective sense of reason. And you have taken your favorite interpretation because it mixes well with your own ideals. Choosing which version of god aligns with your own sense of reason or morality is nothing but creating a god in your image. It doesn’t say anything to the topic of “objective” morality. That is an illusion fooling many theists, not just Catholics. It doesn’t say anything to whether god is real and your morals are the correct set of morals as per a supposed deity, just your sense of them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “We don’t care about the Bible. Bam! Gotcha!!”

          Yeah, well your religion is kinda built on the Bible. Your predecessors didn’t reject the Old Testament, so you are saddled with its Iron Age barbarity. Sorry.

        • Ron

          But what you’ve described is not a direct revelation; at best, the New Testament only provides us with an accounting of those who claim to have had such a revelation. How can we be certain their testimonies are any more credible than those passed down by competing religions?

        • wladyslaw narowski

          Ron.
          See my answer to Bob below.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Car instruction manual is to Henry Ford as Bible is to God? Show us.

      • wladyslaw narowski

        Bob,
        No. Car instruction manual is to Henry
        Ford as the Catholic Church is to God. The Catholic Church explains “how the car best works.” It is the manual God left us–not just a book that has a thousand interpretations, but a living church that continues to teach through history.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The Roman Catholic Church? The Eastern Orthodox Church? Why this particular flavor?

          You do realize how bad this argument sounds right? You’re giving your best defense of your flavor of your religion, but they all look pretty much the same to me.

        • wladyslaw narowski

          The Roman Catholic Church, because of the apostolic succession of St. Peter to Pope Francis. See what happened to the Protestants when they rejected the Pope–40,000 denominations.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m looking for a reason that someone besides you finds compelling. Yes, I understand that your church imagines that Francis is the most recent in a line that goes back to Peter, and that he was assigned by Jesus, the son of God. The rest of us need evidence of the supernatural claims.

        • trj

          A living church? Please. The Catholic Church is a bastion of antiquated dogma, which is a century behind the rest of society when it comes to basic civil rights; a stagnant relic which hypocritically claims moral superiority, while actively working to oppose positive societal changes. It’s run by bishops from their theological ivory towers, who do their best to deny justice to the victims of the church’s crimes, in the interest of self-preservation.

          If I were God I’d be fucking embarassed to be represented by such a church.

        • wladyslaw

          trj,
          But you are not God.
          And it is a living church, over 2000 years old, and its explanation of how best humans can live out their life does not change with whatever society happens to think at any moment. It is not a social club that puts up its finger to see which way the wind is blowing. It is normative for all ages.

          No Catholic–lay person, priest, bishop, the pope–is impeccable (free from sin). And when a Catholic sins, he does so because he disregards the teachings of his faith.

          I am certainly embarrassed by my sins and the sins of my fellow Catholics, but very happy with the truth of the Catholic
          Church.

        • Kodie

          How can it be living if it is stagnant? Nothing you have said so far is a point in favor of the Catholic Church, or whether its morals are right for everyone except in your opinion, or whether there is actually a god. You have found a system to order your life, but it is hardly universally applicable, good, or normative. It does change when the wind blows hard enough and it will be left behind as the archaic insular institution it really is. So what if you’re happy? What does that have to do with everyone else?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ah, but it’s living and stagnant! That’s the miracle of the divine hand of God.

          Hey, if God can be three unique persons … and yet not be, the church can be living and stagnant.

        • Ron

          ’tis a riddle, wrapped in a fable, inside the Vatican.

        • wladyslaw

          Kodie,
          You said “It (the Catholic Church) does change when the wind blows hard enough, and it will be left behind.”

          Most people who say that the Church will be left in the dust say so because they are angry because it won”t change with the times. The churches that do change with the times–as in abortion, women’s ordination, same sex marriage–most notably like the Anglican and Episcopal churches, are facing catastrophic declines. The conservative ones are holding their own or growing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The conservative ones are holding their own or growing.

          The Southern Baptist Convention had no truck with newfangled, liberal fads. They stuck with slavery. Says so right there in the Bible.

          But they’ve come around and joined the herd. Being a maverick doesn’t always work, and thumbing your nose at a better way of seeing the world isn’t always sustainable.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yet more words, and still no evidence. You’ve summarized your theology, so now get to the evidence. Tell us why anyone else should follow your beliefs. Show your work.

        • Itarion

          so…. Selling your daughter into slavery. Moral, or no?

        • wladyslaw narowski

          Itharion,

          No. The Catholic Cathechism understanding of what it is to be human would clearly say it is immoral.

        • Itarion

          but, but, butbutbut… Rules for doing such are outlined in the Bible, the underlying foundation for your religious philosophy…

          “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” A Lincoln, paraphrasing Jesus

        • Ron

          Hate to break it to you, but…

          lincoln is a myth

        • Itarion

          Oh gods. Everything I have ever learned is a lie.

          KHAN!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Selling your daughter into slavery. Moral, or no?

          Well, now, I wouldn’t want to go against the Good Book.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          As a human institution, it makes sense that the church is conservative, dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. You don’t want to jump on each fad, but you want to wait until a new idea is clearly entrenched before you adopt it.

          But what would a godly institution look like? Maybe it would be immutable. Morality doesn’t change, so it would be set up a certain way (polygamy OK, slavery OK, genocide OK, etc.) and then never change.

          Or maybe it would be the opposite. If God is waiting for us to mature as a society so that we can accept things, the church would be at the cutting edge of social change–the pope would declare slavery immoral a little before everyone’s ready for it, and the same for universal suffrage, civil rights for all races and genders, and so on.

          Either way, I don’t see the hand of God in the Catholic church today.

        • Itarion

          Or possibly, the church would have been declaring things that we have now realized to be immoral as immoral from its inception, and would STILL be declaring things immoral that we currently view as moral but sketchy. Like, for example, so-called “necessary wars”, and instead be calling for talks and peaceful resolutions. and such

        • wladyslaw

          Itarion,

          See what Pope Francis has called for in a solution to the
          Syria problem.

          http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/holy-see-urges-u.s.-to-seek-peaceful-resolution-to-syria-crisis

          It is always moral to defend oneself. One could, though, morally choose to not defend oneself–Gandhi, King. You might choose Gandhi’s way. I think I would protect myself if attacked.

        • Itarion

          Huh, what do ya know? I can agree with the Vatican on something. That said, very few organizations besides the US government, allies, and associated private military organizations actually agree with the US policy of warmongering.

          Further, the Vatican still proclaims as immoral a variety of actions that have been shown to inflict little harm, and unharm, on people.

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,

          If you do not believe in a God, you certainly would not notice the hand of God in the Catholic Church.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If you do not believe in a God, you certainly would not notice the hand of God in the Catholic Church.

          If I didn’t believe in the sun, I would certainly notice its effect. Why is God so hard to figure out? It’s almost like he’s not even there.

        • wladyslaw

          “If I did not believe in the sun, I would certainly notice its effect.”
          But if you spent your life in the shade, you would not notice its effect.

        • Itarion

          Until someone came along and showed it to him? But what if he’s spent his entire life searching for the sun and the effects of the sun, and spent time looking at how sun believers appear and behave differently from not sun believers?

          If something exists, it will be undeniable in its existence. If it does not…

        • Kodie

          The problem is you don’t know how stupid you sound to thinking people.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But the shade is caused by …

          Never mind. (Why do I bother?)

        • Itarion

          On the other hand, the church consists of all of its members throughout the ages, who are, for the most part, dead. So, i guess that it just so happens that your church here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.

        • wladyslaw

          All people–you, me, those who have died in the past, those who will live in the future, will continue to live in eternity.

        • Itarion

          I hope not. Immortality is boring.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Quoth Miracle Max:

    • Kodie

      The bible is written by humans centuries upon centuries ago, and it is a view inside the opinions that people held at the time. It is by no means an instruction manual of how we ought to work. We figured it out up to that point, but there is no reason to stick with it if it can be done better. In case you hadn’t noticed, there used to be no cars and now we have sent one to Mars. Humans are really pretty good, as a species, at moving forward. Your rules of the bible are more analogous to the idea that we should use donkeys to cart us around, like the Amish, instead of progress, not just in technology but of social understanding.

      • wladyslaw

        Kodie,
        I used to think Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan were incredibly immoral, and those periods of history as incredibly evil. The history of the twentieth century–Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot shows man’s capacity for evil has not abated.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think you know what you’re even talking about. If something is inherently evil and people know it is, they would not be so easily convinced otherwise. You have been similarly convinced of something, easily, by people who just want your money. They can’t promise you your reward in heaven, they can only talk pretty until you give them your money. If you are going to make a list of how the capacity for evil has not abated, I wonder why the Catholic Church is not on your list. You have a blind spot, so all your arguments fall apart. There is no objective morality if you think there is in the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church is full of human beings who fail as far as morality goes, the empathetic kind. They rape little boys and they pretend that it’s ok. They will allow a woman to die because she’s in the midst of having a miscarriage and they won’t intervene to save her life. I think the Catholic Church are killers with a handy excuse. I don’t think they are good for humanity. I think the church is a human stain.

    • smrnda

      Not all creators really know their creations so well. I’ve spent a lot of my life debugging code written by other people who clearly made lots of errors, or in some cases, had *no idea what they were doing.* Sometimes things worked, but just barely, and creators can be incompetent.

      There’s also the deal that I’m *not living life according to the god that later comments indicate you are* and I definitely think I’m happier, better adjusted and having more fun that most religious people I know. What *works* is subjective for anyone, and is going to be conditioned by upbringing.

      • wladyslaw

        I submit that God knows His creation better than Mr. Ford knew his car.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Who?

          You need to first show us that the “God” person exists. Then you can use that fact in an argument.

        • smrnda

          That’s ‘argument by assertion’ – I submit that Mr Edison knew his light bulb better than Mr Ford knew his car, but that’s just me talking out my ass without any evidence.

          I’m not sure if you’re an engineer, but even very competent engineers don’t necessarily understand everything about their creations, often since they can’t anticipate all the possible uses and abuses their creations would be put through.

        • Itarion

          On the other hand, it makes sense that Edison knew a greater percentage of what is to be known about the mechanism of the light bulb than did Ford about his car, because a light bulb is a simpler invention. Thus, assuming each knew the same quantitative amount about their respective inventions, Edison knows more percentage wise because there is less to know about the light bulb.

          In the same manner, the creator of a universe would know but a tiny fraction of what can be known about said universe, because said universe encompasses so very much, and there is so very much to know about it. Thus, even a god that surpasses humans by orders upon orders of magnitude would be dwarfed by the sheer immensity of what it is that (s)he has created, and so is actually rather unlikely to know the specific facts that one is looking for, in this case the optimal human morality for success as a species.

    • Jason

      That’s actually a very clear and effective analogy. I get your point. Unfortunately, analogies simply illustrate points. They don’t provide evidence or make anything true on it’s on. Without the awesome analogy, here’s what I get from what you say: A priori, I already believe in God and I believe that my church’s collection of ancient texts is his instruction booklet for life, which even if we don’t understand all the time, is for our own good and provides for the best possible life.

      This just seems like a set of subjective assumptions to me. You explained your point well but there’s no evidence or substantive argumentation.

      • wladyslaw

        Jason,

        I was just trying to show that God’s moral laws are not arbitrary rules God sets to test us. Moral laws have objective validity. Mr. Ford, and now we, know not to put sugar in the gas tank, ever.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Moral laws have objective validity.

          Evidence, please. (Didn’t you read the post? That objective morality was simply assumed was a key point.)

        • Jason

          Again, you illustrated that you believe God’s moral laws are not arbitrary, but you did not offer argumentation of any kind, just assertion. Do you see the difference? If you believe you offered substantive evidence/argument of any kind, let’s discuss that in detail so we can actually make some headway in discussion (and not just throw assertions at each other).

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Wlad provided an illustration of his theology, not a compelling argument or evidence to help convince someone else that his position is correct.

        I’m not sure if he even understands the difference, but I’d like him to move from the theology to the evidence.

    • wladyslaw

      Good People,
      I am surprised by the many replies to my comments, and I feel a bit overwhelmed. A proper response to all your points is impossible. If I can respond to one of your points in a timely manner, I will try.

      • wladyslaw narowski

        Bob, and others,

        I realized that some of my comments were snarky, and I ask your forgiveness.

  • Rick

    As I mentioned in July, your beef is with Koukl. Contact him.

    I don’t know why you brilliant thinkers are messing around in the sandbox with us amateurs. Take your complaints to Koukl and see how he responds. Debating him in absentia is cowardly. He has a live call in show on Tuesdays.

    Tuesdays 4-7 p.m. PT

    On the STR App Or online at http://www.str.org.

    Call to ask Greg a question: (855) 243-9975

    There’s your homework. Report back with your research findings.

    Stop wasting time with mental pipsqueaks.

    The opportunity is still there. You responded and here are my responses to your comments, which I didn’t have time to make then:

    Not a crazy idea, though Greg has the upper hand when he can say, “It’s clear that we’re not making any progress here, but I appreciate your call” and then hang up.

    Similarly you have the upper hand in your book where you get the last word, and here where you have more time to follow up than the rest of us.

    I’d rather do it through text. I was notified a week ago or so that I’ve been banned at their site because promotional links in comments are forbidden. (My comment encouraged anyone, especially Greg, to read this post and comment, and that was considered such a link.)

    His site, his rules. Abide by them. You want to use text—summarize your ideas and don’t plug your site. Otherwise, call in and defend your position.

    I would indeed rather discuss this with Greg than with you–not because I don’t want to discuss things with you but because it was his argument. Got any ideas for how to engage him? If you have any friends there, give them a nudge.

    I don’t have personal friends nor influence there. As said above, do it on his terms if you want to discuss with him. It will be more effective than airing your views here in response to him.

    • Kodie

      I never heard of this guy. Why wouldn’t he come over to Bob’s blog and answer these questions on Bob’s turf? Is he that important to the Christian community?

      Stop wasting time with mental pipsqueaks.

      Noted, Rick.

      • Guest

        I hardly think EVERYONE talking here is a mental pipsqueak.

        • Kodie

          Was I talking to you, Itarion?

        • Itarion

          Yeah, I realized that sounded like a bad thing to say, but only after I wrote it.

      • Rick

        I clearly only refer to those who, like me, have the audacity to disagree with Bob’s arguments as mental pipsqueaks.

      • Rick

        I would say Koukl has a more prominent media presence, a more robust outreach with thousands of subscribers to his print and podcast output. I suspect Bob is under his radar, though Bob has called in to the show of one of the others on Koukl’s staff, J. Warner Wallace. He also has a podcast under the same organization that Koukl leads. Very worth checking out at the links I provided. You can evaluate after visiting the site http://www.str.org. Bob doesn’t mind us sharing links, fortunately.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Koukl has been an LA-based Christian broadcaster for over 20 years. With all that practice, he speaks well, and he’s a popular speaker on the Christian lecture circuit. Curiously, he doesn’t enjoy debates and does them reluctantly. Fair enough—he knows where his strengths are and sticks to that.

          Rick is right that I’m small potatoes from Koukl’s standpoint and that I don’t mind people posting links here, even self-promotional ones.

          I think very little of Koukl’s arguments. I feel a little weird saying this—it sounds like bragging—but I listen to Koukl’s podcast opening monologue most weeks, and it’s like sparring with someone two weight classes beneath me. It’s a great confidence builder, but it isn’t much exercise. I’m sure other moderately experienced atheists would say the same thing, so I’m hardly making a bold statement that his arguments are weak.

          If Koukl ever considered mixing it up with me or someone like me, even though I’m no PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins, I think he’d see no point to the exercise. I think he’d see a significant chance that he’d get bloodied as a downside, and beating a nobody like me would carry little upside.

        • Rick

          Curiously, he doesn’t enjoy debates and does them reluctantly.

          Do you know this to be true or is it a deduction? Sounds like a put-down, but Koukl is a skillful debater, as shown by his interaction with Dr. Deepak Chopra.

          Perhaps he chooses to spend more time teaching those interested in learning than he does trying to change the minds of those deeply invested in an opposing view (debating). This characterization is different than suggesting he doesn’t enjoy them (though he likely doesn’t—who would?)

          The accusation that he does them reluctantly sounds a bit like a self-serving cheap shot, especially since you don’t do them yourself as far as I know. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I’m sure you will.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Do you know this to be true or is it a deduction?

          I’m a loyal listener—haven’t I mentioned that already? That’s what Koukl said (as best as I can recall and express it).

          Sounds like a put-down

          I don’t know why. It may shock you to know that I’m not great at everything. I imagine Koukl similarly has strengths and weaknesses and knows them.

          Perhaps he chooses to spend more time teaching those interested in learning than he does trying to change the minds of those deeply invested in an opposing view (debating).

          A live debate isn’t the only way to spread the word, and that’s obviously not Koukl’s focus. Contrast how he divides his time with how Wm. Craig does—debate for him is central to his work.

          As for what Koukl focuses on, he spends vast amounts of time talking about spreading the word. Perhaps you’ve heard of his book, Tactics: A game plan for discussing your Christian convictions. Sure sounds to me like that book is aimed at people (like himself) who want to speak to closed-minded boneheads like me.

          The accusation that he does them reluctantly sounds a bit like a self-serving cheap shot, especially since you don’t do them yourself as far as I know. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I’m sure you will.

          Yes, I will. I say, “I think very little of Koukl’s arguments” and you ignore that, but you bristle when I simply pass on that Koukl has said himself that he has strengths and weaknesses and that he doesn’t seek out debates?? No, not self-serving cheap shot—statement of fact.

          No, I don’t do debates, though I’d like to. I’m listed in a speakers bureau that has had very few nibbles.

          This is an odd fight to pick.

        • Rick

          Not intending to pick a fight, Dude. Just trying to clarify, which you did. I thought you characterized Koukl unfairly. You clarified. Fair enough.

          I didn’t comment on your statement, I think very little of Koukl’s arguments. I consider your sentiment fairly obvious. Not sure what comment you expect. Seems like an odd fight to pick.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Seems like an odd fight to pick.

          I discuss Christian apologetics here and, when it’s found wanting, I point that out. It’s what I do. If you think that turning the focus on apologists’ arguments is odd, then I think you misunderstand what goes on here at this blog.

        • wtfwjtd

          I discuss Christian apologetics here and, when it’s found wanting, I point that out. It’s what I do.

          Critical distinction here; I see you attacking Mr. Koukl’s arguments, not the man himself(I’m sure he’s a nice guy). Some folks have difficulty in making that distinction–a personal attack is far different than attacking the arguments that one makes in support of a cause. From my viewpoint Bob, you’ve done quite nicely at making the distinction in your blog. I’ve read dozens of your posts, and found no personal attacks in any of them– just good, solid cases for your viewpoints.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Much appreciated! Thanks for the feedback.

        • Rick

          Overall, this is a fair assessment. Too bad the other contributors don’t follow your lead toward those with whom they disagree. I know you don’t view your role as a moderator, but an occasional call for civility on your part might be a nice enhancement of your otherwise genial tone usually found in your own remarks.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Some commenters are always polite and gentle; others are occasionally blunt and caustic. I’d prefer if commenters avoided personal attacks.

          This being part of the internet(s), people will bring the freedom that comes with anonymity from other Wild West parts to this blog. I let a thousand flowers bloom even if a few are weeds.

          If I can just make a tangential, slightly relevant soapbox comment, I get pretty infuriated at moderated blogs that swallow up comments that are inconvenient. It’s almost like they have a hard time with the truth.

        • Itarion

          They can’t handle the truth!!

        • Rick

          A fair point. I guess I haven’t experienced any of those.

        • Rick

          You called me on the carpet for not commenting on what was fairly obvious from your blog—you disagree with Koukl. Not sure what comment you expected. We all know that you disagree with him.

          I’m confused at what you are miffed about here.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You long analysis of my comment that Koukl doesn’t like to debate. I’m surprised that that wasn’t clear.

        • Rick

          Thanks. I guess we just continue to surprise each other.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      your beef is with Koukl.

      Just with Koukl? You and I are on the same page then?

      Debating him in absentia is cowardly.

      That’s what I said! Every time I respond to anything of his, I do my best to pass the word along to his organization. Guess the response I get.

      Cowardly.

      Similarly you have the upper hand in your book where you get the last word

      How about blogging? He has a blog and I have one. Greg Koukl, I publicly challenge you to take any of the several blog posts of mine that have responded to one of your podcasts, videos, or blog posts. Respond to it in whatever way is most convenient for you—blog post, personal email, or invitation to appear on your show.

      His site, his rules. Abide by them.

      Do his rules include a suggestion box? If so, I missed it. Show me.

      And why pass off this obligation to Koukl? Since my errors must be obvious to you (I can’t imagine you’re pointing to Koukl because this post has stymied you), point them out.

      It almost sounds like, “Well, my big brother can beat you up!” Beat me up yourself.

      It will be more effective than airing your views here in response to him.

      Here, I can thoroughly respond to his entire statement. I don’t take a single point, make him look like a fool, and then open myself up to the challenge that I focused on one tiny issue out of the context of the entire piece. With a phone call, I couldn’t begin to survey the topic.

  • wladyslaw

    I made this argument in a much earlier comment on this post on morality and have asked atheists about this argument in other situations and have never gotten a satisfactory answer.

    Mostly non-theists say:

    There is no absolute truth.

    And then they say (or believe) with confidence:
    That is absolutely true.

    So is “there is no absolute truth” absolutely true, or can it possibly be mistaken?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I think we get it. The atheist says “There is no absolute truth” and then the theist pauses for dramatic effect and says, “Interesting … and is that absolutely true?”

      Problem is, this in-yo-face slam dunk only happens in theists’ minds. I don’t hear it in real life. Speaking for myself, I don’t say “there is no absolute truth.” The closest I come is, “Objective moral truth? Seriously? Let’s see some evidence for that.”

      • Itarion

        Bob,
        What about specific absolute truths?

        Ex., the Earth is mostly spherical, or the sun is bigger than it looks from earth.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Or 1 + 1 = 2. Sure, we can accept claims like that. It’s the objective moral truth claim that needs backup.

        • Itarion

          So, you’re a moral relativist. What are you measuring these moral things relative to?

          Each other, perhaps? Or measured from doing nothing, from taking no action?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So, you’re a moral relativist.

          Nope, at least not as most Christian apologists like to define it. I prefer to say: I see no evidence for objective moral truths.

          Let’s assume there are no such things. What problems does this cause? For starters, the dictionary looks good, because it has no objective or God-grounded or absolute qualifiers in the word “morality.” When you look at the knuckleheads in government, they argue back and forth and compromise and do a decent job just as you’d expect with no objective moral truth. If you and I argued about a small issue or a big one, we’d argue back and forth in the obvious way. Maybe one of us would convince the other; maybe not.

          What’s left unexplained? And note that “universally shared” rather than “objective” avoids the immense problem of figuring out who/how/what grounds these objective moral truths.

        • Itarion

          By the formal definition of moral relativism. Are you a relativist, in that you hold to the philosophical view that what is right or wrong and good or bad is not absolute but variable and relative, depending on the person, place, circumstances or social situation?

          The dictionary indeed does not define morality by a godfigure or absolute qualities.

          However, my initial question still stands. Because there is no assumed, true, absolute measure of morality, what determines that any one act is any more good that another?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Are you a relativist, in that you hold to the philosophical view that what is right or wrong and good or bad is not absolute but variable and relative, depending on the person, place, circumstances or social situation?

          Can you still be unclear about my position? “Good” and “bad” come from (are grounded by) the person (or group). They’re opinions.

          Because there is no assumed, true, absolute measure of morality, what determines that any one act is any more good that another?

          Can you still be unclear about my position? One’s programming as a human and one’s experience from society are the tools we use to judge good and bad.

          You’ve seen people debate. Indeed, I bet you’ve even tried to argue yourself once or twice. Can you not know how it works? It works pretty much the same way for me.

        • Itarion

          Yes, apparently I could. Thanks.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (In rereading my last comment, I think I came across harshly. Allow me to dial that back retroactively! It’s hard to keep personalities straight through this ongoing cacophony.)

        • Itarion

          I’m just glad you answered. Don’t always get that on the internet.

        • Itarion

          I would like to thank you first for this blog, which – although I’m not really a regular visitor – has piqued my interest on several topics. I think that I will start coming here more often, and reading any new posts.

          I’d like to thank you also for being an active member in the discussions that you start. Not all bloggers do so, and it certainly engages me more, and makes your actual position clearer than the blog post, which shows more what your position is not.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you find it interesting.

          One additional thing that I take some pride in is that I don’t moderate comments. Having been to some blogs where my comment goes into a black hole, where it’ll see the light of day depending on how much it supports the agenda of the host, annoys me.

          Luckily, I’ve had to come down on commenters very rarely.

        • wladyslaw

          OK,
          A woman is suckling her one year old child in her home. A man rushes in, grabs the child, throws the infant into the air, and spears it on a bayonet as it comes down, instantly killing it. She faints. He smiles.

          What the man does is evil, objectively evil. It is evil independent of what any society, culture, or philosophy may say.

          Nothing can EVER justify this action, not today, not tomorrow, not in the future.
          It does not depend upon whether most people agree it is evil or not. Or whether it would be evolutionary unwise to do so. Or because “I would rather live in a society where those things didn’t happen.”

          No, it’s objectively evil for everyone for all time. It will never be morally right.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A man rushes in, grabs the child, throws the infant into the air, and spears it on a bayonet as it comes down, instantly killing it. She faints. He smiles.

          For more of the same, read the Old Testament accounts of God-sanctioned genocide. (I think your deity needs a talking to.)

          What the man does is evil, objectively evil. It is evil independent of what any society, culture, or philosophy may say.

          Why? Where does the objective, time-independent part come in? Why not just say that everyone agrees that it’s evil and leave it at that? Or say that, to you, it’s really, really, incredibly evil?

          Because if you persist in demanding that it’s objectively evil rather than universally agreed to be evil, you’ve got a big challenge to show what this grounding is. And “God dun it!” won’t do, I’m afraid. We’re looking for actual, y’know, evidence.

        • wladyslaw

          Killing that infant is not wrong BECAUSE everyone agrees it is evil. Agreements change over time. Abortion was once considered evil by people. Then it became tolerated. Then it became a right. Now a growing number of feminists are proclaiming it to be a good. Obama asked God to bless Planned Parenthood. And just a few days ago I read where pro-abortionists prayed for God to bless abortion!

          Agreements do not make things moral or immoral.

          After World War 2 the Allies had a problem. They arrested many of the German officers responsible for the holocaust.
          But there was no United Nations, no international court.
          The Germans told them the Allies had no right try them just because the Germans lost the war. Dresden? And anyway, they were just following orders, and German laws allowed what they did.

          The Allies turned to “natural law” as their justification (the same natural law that the Catholic Church accepts). There is in every human an understanding of his nature that would ALWAYS prohibit acts of genocide, despite any “positive (man-made) law.” Not agreed upon agreed upon law, but morality based on the nature of man.

          I personally think that we Americans could have been tried for the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima, and others. I was born seven miles from Wurzberg ,Germany, a city totally destroyed by allied bombing 4 months before I was born.

          Agreements do not make things moral or immoral. Genocide is not immoral because most of us agree on it.

        • Kodie

          We have already done over 1000 posts with you on the subject.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Maybe 1001 is the charm … ?

        • Kodie

          He cannot argue that the Catholic Church is not wrong about anything and suggest that abortion is immoral. The example of a man breaking into a home and killing an infant is bizarre and has nothing to do with anything. Abortions are a woman’s right to choose, not some intruder’s right to take a born child away from its mother. That is abduction. I don’t want to have conversations with this moron. He’s bringing the holocaust in again, it’s just an exercise in futility.

          Refusal to understand what the adults are talking about is immoral! Objectively!

        • w

          At least someone agrees with me that morality is objective.

        • Kodie

          Sarcasm is for other people.

        • wladyslaw

          Are you saying that you never use sarcasm? I couldn’t resist quoting you.

          Couldn’t resist my own sarcasm.

        • Kodie

          You couldn’t accomplish your own sarcasm under threat of hell.

        • wladyslaw

          I guess I’ll just quit sarcasm. BTW, you haven’t answered my question about genocide a few comments earlier.

        • Kodie

          I sure did!

        • wladyslaw

          OK. You say genocide is wrong because people happen to agree it’s wrong. People could agree otherwise. And NOT because it is intrinsically wrong to kill thousands, perhaps millions of defenseless people, no matter who agrees or not agrees.

          Just wanted to be sure.

        • Itarion

          I would love for you to find thousands or millions of people who agree that they should be killed.

        • Kodie

          Religious people say the most damaged things out loud, because god backs them up. They cry ‘persecution’ if you shudder at what they say out loud. That’s fucked up.

        • wladyslaw

          Am I correct in my reading of your position?

        • Itarion

          Potentially, you are. I don’t know, I’m not Kodie. However, I would like to point out something you appear to have missed: for genocide to be “good,” a majority of people would have to agree that it is such. The vast majority of people can and do get riled up over a single murder. Do you honestly expect them to – out of the blue – decide that individual murders are evil, but murders bought in bulk are good? If not, then your situation has been brought up by you just for a reaction, which you got. YAAY, good for you. If so, then I do not wish to live in your mind, and you have my pity.

        • Kodie

          Wladyslaw’s entire mission entails entrapping you into a statement in which you agree abortion is the same as genocide, during which you will go hundreds of posts with him as he squirms around the game board and failing to respond to anything you say unless it is in the benefit of his argument to acknowledge it. Best not.

        • Itarion

          This is when I trap him by making him THINK agreeing is in his benefit, then turn it around later.

        • Kodie

          Good luck. He has a hard head. Bring provisions.

        • Itarion

          it would be easier in person. can force a response, then.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Killing that infant is not wrong BECAUSE everyone agrees it is evil.

          Then why??

          Wlad, seriously: you can’t say, “Just cuz!” or “Cuz we all know!” or some other nonsense. You’ve got no argument here, bro. Show me why the obvious explanation—the feeling of right or wrong is grounded in that person (or group or whatever) and that’s it—is wrong and give the evidence for the better alternative.

          The Allies turned to “natural law” as their justification

          The Allies were trying the Germans and not the other way around because—and I hope you’re sitting down for this one—the Allies won.

          If there is some sort of objective moral something-or-other “out there,” you gotta give the evidence.

          There is in every human an understanding of his nature that would ALWAYS prohibit acts of genocide, despite any “positive (man-made) law.”

          So you reject God’s Old Testament demand for genocide as barbaric then?

        • wladyslaw

          Killing that infant is not wrong because everyone AGREES it is evil.

          People agree that it IS evil because they see it as intrinsically (wrong in itself), inherently wrong, objectively wrong, forever. They KNOW it’s wrong. They just don’t look and see if everybody else agrees with them.

        • wladyslaw

          Just to be clear. Are you saying that genocide is NOT inherently evil, wrong only because of people’s agreement?

        • Kodie

          It’s because people agree.

        • wladyslaw

          I see. Genocide is not wrong because it purposely kills defenseless thousands, perhaps millions of people . It’s wrong because people agree. Otherwise, it could be OK.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s wrong because people agree. Otherwise, it could be OK.

          You really need to think this stuff through before you hang out with the big kids, OK?

          You imagine that there’s some objective something-or-other. This claim fails since you’ve provided no evidence.

          Without that claim, what explains what we see around us? We don’t point to God’s Big Book of Morals; we point to our own conscience or feelings or experiences. Your “it could be OK” means “it would be OK in an objective sense.” No, none of the atheists here are saying that.

        • Jason

          Okay to whom? Without people to have subjective judgments, “Okay” doesn’t make any sense. Okay to the universe? Nothing is either okay or not okay without people. It all comes from us. Imagine a universe without people. No more evil, no more morality. Just stuff.

        • Jason

          Remember that evil is in itself a dangerous assumption. I don’t think most atheists really believe in evil, at least as you use the term to refer to a an actual force in the universe (e.g. Satan). When I use the word evil, I do it as simply a convenient way to refer to the existence of suffering and other stuff most of us don’t like (e.g. genocide). I think the atheists here would be well advised to avoid the term. Sorry to butt in here, but to me, yes, genocide is terrible since it seems to be against all of our long-term self-interests; however, genocide is NOT evil because evil is as elusive as a creator god.

        • Itarion

          By all means, butt in. The more the merrier.

          And yes, evil does have some religious undertones to it, but what will you call a moral wrongness besides evil? I think that work just needs to be done to clean up the term a little bit. “Morally reprehensible” is exactly the meaning that is desired to describe some of the acts, and we can’t just let that term go.

        • Jason

          I really think atheists should drop the word ‘morality’ too. Ethics, suffering, etc are sufficient to address relevant topics and much less confusing. “morality” and “evil” both suggest objective right and wrong.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          To some extent I agree. For example, I avoid “beg the question” because when I use the expression correctly, I’m sure most people will be confused. You seem to be saying that “morality” is in this bin.

          But if you look at the dictionary definition, there is no objective grounding mentioned. Maybe you’re right and it would be less confusing, but let’s at least be clear that any confusion on this point isn’t in our heads.

        • wladyslaw

          Jason,
          Tell the relatives of the six million Jews killed in the holocaust that what happened was not evil, but terrible never-the-less because it seems to be against all of our long-term SELF interest. Not evil for them, just not in our long term self-interest.

        • Itarion

          That would be quite easy, assuming you could address 30 million people. You just say that it was morally reprehensible, but not evil, because evil requires a supernatural force, which doesn’t exist.

        • wladyslaw

          What?

          You are addressing 30 million people.

          “Dear relatives of all the Jews, Poles, Christians, homosexuals etc. that the Germans killed during the war.
          What the Germans did to you was not evil; it was morally reprehensible because it was against our long term self-interest.

        • Kodie

          You are making an emotional argument. Try being rational sometime.

        • Itarion

          You missed the: “Evil requires a supernatural entity.” But generally, yeah.

          The fact that humans do this without any sort of spooky evil spirit thing actually makes it that much worse. BUT, it means that if everyone – some 7 odd billion people – actually tried, “evil” – actions that cause a sum of harm – would be a thing of the past.

        • Jason

          I have no desire to say something mean to people who have suffered. But if I did, it wouldn’t make me evil or change the fact that evil doesn’t exist.

          The truth hurts, but yes, creating metaphysical forces to explain suffering does make some people feel better.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Are you saying that genocide is NOT inherently evil, wrong only because of people’s agreement?

          I’m saying that neither you nor any other apologist has shown where any beyond-human morality would come from. There’s no evidence, so I don’t accept it. I’m not making the claim; I’m observing that you haven’t made a claim—or at least any substantial sort of claim.

          Show me compelling evidence, and I change my mind. See how that works?

        • Itarion

          To date, I have not yet seen that work, no. At least, not for an apologist…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Theology, not evidence. I asked for evidence.

        • Itarion

          The woman is a witch, and the child is the incarnation of the AntiChrist. By killing this child, the man spared the people of earth millenia of torment and suffering. Evil, or no?

          (For the purpose of this demonstration, one of the Christian denominations – Catholicism for wladyslaw, I suppose – is assumed to be accurate, and God, Jesus and Satan are all real figures.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Let me propose a more realistic hypothetical: we’re given this example of barbarism and are eager to evaluate the evidence most accurately. Sane or no?

        • Itarion

          Well… yeah. I just think it’s a little bit fun to explore the deep end, and what is off it. I’m grounded in something closely resembling sanity, honest.

        • Itarion

          What I think that Mr. Seidensticker has a problem with – and please, correct me if I’m wrong – is that moral objectivists never offer a REASON for the objectivity. “There is an absolute law because there is an absolute law,” or “There is an absolute law because God.” And so, what I have understood his question to be is this (again, my words, my interpretation, Bob Seidensticker, please correct me if I’m wrong): “WHY is there objective morality? What is the underlying root of morality if there is no god?”

          So please, wladyslaw, or any objectivist reading this: “What causes morality to be objective?”

        • wladyslaw

          First of all, no matter what anyone SAYS they believe about relative morality–your morality may not be my morality–there is no absolute morality– I have yet to find one person who lives by relative morality. A man was recently acquitted of rape of a 14 year old in the United Kingdom. because according “to his culture, he didn’t realize it was wrong.” If that man raped your daughter, you would not say, “according to my morality rape is wrong, but since your morality says it’s OK, I honor that.”
          You would absolutely demand that rape is wrong for ANYBODY contemplating it for your daughter, for any reason, forever. Not just illegal, but horrendously wrong. You would think, I am sure, that it would be absolutely morally wrong. Is rape the only thing wrong for everybody for all time. No, of course not. We all live by many absolutes.

          If there are moral absolutes, and we live our lives as if there are at least some, where do they come from?

          Two places:
          Natural law. All men and women, by use of their reason, and studying the nature of their humanity, can come to a fundamental understanding of how they should relate to one another–not completely, but fundamentally.
          Revealed law–God, the greatest good, our Creator, gives us laws that He knows will make our lives the best they can possibly be, laws that we might not be able to know by reason alone.

          You LIVE by absolutes. Why?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Huh? Rape is really, really, ridiculously wrong. That’s it. And that’s enough.

          It’s not absolute morality; it’s shared morality.

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,
          “It (rape being wrong) is not absolute morality.”

          If rape is wrong for all people, always, in every circumstance, whether one believes it or not, is NOT an example of absolute morality, PLEASE give me an example of absolute morality.

          It seems to me that for something to be absolutely immoral, it would be immoral for all people, always, in every circumstance, whether one believes it or not.

        • Itarion

          Morality is a soft science, if a science it is. There are no absolutes.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If rape is wrong for all people, always, in every circumstance, whether one believes it or not

          This doesn’t characterize my position.

          You’re determined to remain stagnant, aren’t you?

          PLEASE give me an example of absolute morality.

          I know of none. And before you give another one, be sure you’ve got evidence to show that it being universally accepted isn’t explanation enough.

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,
          I’ve never heard your position on rape then. I’d like to hear it.

          Abortion (or rape) may be wrong for you, but not necessarily for me. An example of moral relativism.

          Abortion (or rape) is always wrong for all people in all circumstances for all time, and does no depend on the views of any particular person. An example of a moral absolute. Not necessarily universally accepted. Yet an example of a morally absolute statement.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve never heard your position on rape then. I’d like to hear it.

          I say that rape is wrong. (Why? What did you expect me to say?)

          Abortion (or rape) may be wrong for you, but not necessarily for me. An example of moral relativism.

          You may well differ from me on moral issues. So be it. But I’ll be delighted to tell you how I think you’re wrong (as I do here) and impose my will on you where possible and necessary (in the imagined example where you think rape is OK but I disagree).

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,

          “I say rape is wrong.”
          I assume you mean always. Sounds like an absolute moral statement to me.
          Unless you did not mean always. Then when is it not wrong?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Wow–when you get an idea in your head, you just stick to it like a pit bull and a bone.

          If you think that’s an absolute moral truth statement, I don’t think much of your thinking process. Where’s the absoluteness?? It’s grounded in just me. How would my statement ever be binding on you, for example?

          Yes, I meant always. No, that’s not absolute. You might have another view of rape. And the next guy another still. Where’s the absoluteness?

          I mean, sure, some knucklehead might declare that his statement is an absolute truth statement. You do, for example. But you give no reason for it, so no one takes that claim seriously.

        • Itarion

          I’m actually a little bit concerned about this constant return to rape. Wladyslaw, do you think that people without God’s Good Book just go around raping indiscriminately?

        • wladyslaw

          No Itharion,

          It’s just that everyone believes that rape is always wrong for everybody in all circumstances, the very definition of a moral absolute, and REFUSE to say it is an absolute moral wrong.
          I was just first trying to establish that there are moral absolutes.

        • Cafeeine

          Actually that isn’t true. Rapists clearly don’t believe that rape is always wrong for everybody in all circumstances, or we wouldn’t have rape.

        • Kodie

          For starters, not everyone agrees rape is wrong for everybody in all circumstances.

        • wladyslaw

          Kodie,
          That’s exactly my point.
          Rape is not wrong because people agree that it is.
          Even if a lot of people believed rape was OK, you, Jodie, and I think ALL the commenters here believe that rape is always wrong for everybody in all circumstances.
          They just absolutely REFUSE to acknowledge it to be an absolute moral truth, even when it fits their own definition of an absolute moral truth.

        • Kodie

          That still doesn’t support your argument.

        • Cafeeine

          “Cafeeine believes that X is always morally wrong for everybody in all circumstances” does not equal “everyone believes, everyone has always believed and everyone will always believe that X is always wrong for everybody in all circumstances”
          The former is a personal moral stance, the latter is the requirement for an objective moral stance.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And a particular kind of objective moral stance. Add “… and this would be true whether there were people to believe it or not,” which I think is typical (Wm. Lane Craig believes it, for one) then you’ve got a quite different kind of “objective moral stance.”

        • Cafeeine

          Well, as I say in another comment, there are the two kinds of definitions for “objective morality” used. It is curious, since under one definition, you need to have unanimous consent on a moral for it to be objective, and under the other, you don’t really need to have a single person believing it, which makes it completely irrelevant.

          This is why, I think the religious try to mix the two, so that their morality claims both an independent validity and a consensus appeal, only they can’t make either claim stick, not completely. So they claim their god issues a divine command they can’t demonstrate, but, hey! Isn’t a prohibition on killing something we all like? Except of course for those who don’t, but they don’t count because they reject god in their hearts anyways, and this proves that god exists! (Woah… too much spin…. dizzy.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Great observations, thanks.

        • Ron

          Tell me, is it an absolute moral wrong when:

          - the female praying mantis kills and eats her mate after copulating?

          - a lion kills the pride of a lone lioness and then rapes her?

          Yes or no.

        • wladyslaw

          NO,

          Morality can only be possible in humans who have reason and can know right from wrong and have the free will to decide one or the other.
          Animals have no reason and do not have free will. They act from instinct.

        • Kodie

          Humans are animals, you ignoramus.

        • Cafeeine

          And depending on your definition, we don’t have free will either.

        • wladyslaw

          Cafeeine,
          If you and I have no free will, but just respond to chemical reactions in our brains, then there is no morality, and this discussion would be totally worthless. I suppose we could admire each other’s comments, but since your chemical reactions have no more validity than my chemical reactions I’m not sure why I would want to continue. Because I have free will I am here because I choose to debate you.
          You, however, because you do not have free will, have to be here and have to debate me.
          And whenever you get off this post, you have to.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If you and I have no free will, but just respond to chemical reactions in our brains, then there is no morality

          There is no absolute morality. But of course there is morality. Look it up in the dictionary and tell me where the absoluteness is mandatory to the definition.

        • wladyslaw

          A robot with no free will cannot be moral–he can only do what he is programmed to do.

          Free choice is necessary to morality. You cannot do bad or good, be moral or immoral, if you have no choice in the matter.

        • Cafeeine

          My comment wasn’t that big, so I’m disappointed you failed to address the first half of it, namely, what it is we’re calling “free will”.
          If you mean the subjective sensation of selection between several options, that we do have. Those selections are bound by our surroundings, our education, our biology, but they are there. I can choose to converse with you online, just as you choose to converse with me.
          If, by free will you mean the capability to make choices independent of these constricting factors, that your selection ability is unconstrained by the physical reality of the world and your body, that, you don’t have.

          Your final sentences are indicative of a certain way of thinking: You believe you have free will, therefore you must have it. I don’t therefore I must not. In reality, depending on which of us is right, either we both have free will or neither of us do. Reality isn’t malleable according to your desires.

        • wladyslaw

          Cafeeine,
          My final sentences were meant sarcastically, and I sorry I still slip into sarcasm. We both have free will.

          Who we are is affected by our genes, our environment, our education, our health etc. What we do with who we are is under our free will. Otherwise our life is like a movie, scripted by someone else besides us. In reality, I’m not just subjectively sensing selection in debating with you. I am debating with you. Why would you want to debate me if it was only a subjective sensation? It would be a pure waste of time.
          Why try to convince me, if I’m purely a result of all my total environment? Your arguments could only work NOT on their merits, but on my history.

        • Cafeeine

          Well, for one, by debating you, I become part of your history and part of the factors that shape your decisions, the same way countless people have done so before, for you and me both, with personal interactions, books, movies etc.
          When you say “n reality, I’m not just subjectively sensing selection in debating with you. I am debating with you.” you fail to realize that these are one and the same.

          You say “Otherwise our life is like a movie, scripted by someone else besides us.” But your life is largely scripted by other people, from your parents to your teachers, your pastors, your spouse, your children. Your path to work in the morning is designed by the state through the highway system, other drivers through traffic, the weather. Everything you do is responding to stimuli. If this is what you want to call ‘free will’, then fine, but then you differ from other social animals you only quantitatively, not qualitatively.

        • wladyslaw

          True.
          But not all animals are human.

        • Itarion

          So, do tell. Is this multiple personality disorder, or just a loose nut on the keyboard?

        • Cake

          Pathetic and wrong.
          You don’t know much about animals do you?

        • wladyslaw

          Cake, I do know that there are no bad or evil animals.
          They are what they are.
          If some animals are good, and others are bad, please give me an example of either.

        • Cake

          Why should I defend a position I didn’t take?

          Your reading comprehension sucks.

        • wladyslaw

          Cake, OK, sorry, you are right about my presupposition.
          What did I say about animals that was pathetic and wrong?

        • Ron

          I submit that free will may be an illusion. Humans might rest slightly higher up the evolutionary tree, but we’re still animals whose actions are more often driven by primal instincts than by reason. And at least some animals exhibit greater intellectual capacity than we’ve previously given them credit for.

          That aside, however, if you contend that we’re autonomous moral agents with the capacity to reason and decide right from wrong of our own accord, why would we need to look for an outside source to inform our decisions?

          Moreover, if you posit a supernatural lawgiver, why would he instill animals with an instinct to commit such atrocious behavior? What purpose does it serve to design such creatures?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Even if a lot of people believed rape was OK, you, Jodie, and I think ALL the commenters here believe that rape is always wrong for everybody in all circumstances. They just absolutely REFUSE to acknowledge it to be an absolute moral truth, even when it fits their own definition of an absolute moral truth.

          Wrong again.

          What’s the grounding? If we all just share the same morality (not hard to imagine—we’re the same species, right?), then this is universally agreed to, not absolute.

        • Cafeeine

          Indeed, this is the kind of problem that makes claims like objective morality an absurd proposition:

          If objective morals are those that are always agreed upon by everyone, even sociopaths and psychopaths (and by the nature of the claim, we must include all people who held moral beliefs that are now dead) I don’t think you can find any single point of consensus on anything.

          If objective morals are those that are true despite what someone may believe about them, we are left in an epistemological black hole. E.g. I believe killing people for fun is wrong, but under the definition given, it is possible that it is moral to kill people for fun, even if I, or no one accepts it to be so. It makes morality a futile and irrelevant endeavor, and divinely ordained morals fall into this category.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I think that Wlad’s approach is to pick some terrible action that is universally decried. Today it’ll be rape and yesterday bayonetted babies and tomorrow the Holocaust. Then he ignores the obvious explanation (this is just something that we, because we’re the same species, all see in a similar way) and injects his preferred explanation (objective morality; therefore God).

        • Cafeeine

          More accurately, he picks subjects he expects no one will be vocal in defending, for fear of social outcry and uses that silence as assent. But I don’t have to e.g. accept an action I approve of to point out there are people who do approve of it (rape), or who have approved of it historically (Holocaust), and that is enough for his position to crumble.

        • Ron

          What grates even more is that the Church he defends not only cowered to the Nazi regime, but also became a complicit supporter of the Serbian genocides in Yugoslavia which siphoned millions of Swiss Francs into the Vatican Bank.

        • Ron

          It’s not like the “good book” explicitly condemns rape, anyways. In Numbers 13, Moses commands the Israelites to loot, burn, pillage, plunder and kill everyone “but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

          And in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 we read:

          “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”

          So if Lord Genocide is the absolute standard for objective morality we’re definitely doing it wrong.

        • Kodie

          There are still no absolutes. As a parent, you may have protective instincts for your child, but your child may have entered into the situation willingly as they could. Our society determines that a 14-year-old does not have the authority to consent, but that doesn’t mean the adult forced the child. Why do you make an exception for a daughter? Would you make the same exception for a son? Maybe he liked it. It seems to be the going concern that teenaged boys and men cannot be raped because they welcome sexual encounters. This is not true! But boys and men have a hard time coming forward as victims in similar situations because they are males. Women and girls also have a hard time coming forward because they are being judged. In private situations, if a woman says she was raped, the public condemns her for supposedly consenting and then reneging on the consent to cause the downfall of her perpetrator.

          Use another example, you fool.

        • wladyslaw

          No Kodie,
          Rape of any child, mine yours, anybody’s, boy or girl, is always wrong, in all circumstances, forever.

        • Kodie

          That’s just your opinion.

        • wladyslaw

          OK,
          When would it be morally good to rape a child?

        • Kodie

          That is a loaded and invalid question.

        • wladyslaw

          Kodie,
          OK. I disagree that it is invalid.

          But then, if the always wrongness of rape is only my OPINION according to you, then according to you, if it’s only an opinion, then I could be wrong, and then rape could be sometimes right. Because my opinion could be wrong

          Under what circumstances would it not always be wrong?

        • Itarion

          Come to think of it, we went over this elsewhere on this discussion. Relativism and arbitrary morality are different.

          Under what was he acquitted? An insanity plea?

        • wladyslaw

          He was acquitted because in his culture it was not rape to have sex with a fourteen year old. He was not acquitted arbitrarily. He was freed because in UK culture, and most of the western world) it was immoral and illegal , but not moral and illegal in his home country. What’s moral for you may be not moral for me–relativism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Are we talking about the case of the 48-year-old who raped the 14-year-old girl who later killed herself (story here)?

          If this is the guy, show us how he was judged in the UK by some non-UK standard of justice.

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,

          No, it was this guy, and the rape victim was actually 13 years old.

          http://frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/muslim-who-raped-13-year-old-uk-girl-spared-jail-because-he-didnt-know-it-was-wrong/

          I asked you somewhere to please give me an example of a moral absolute–because you said that:

          Rape is wrong for all people, for all time, in any circumstance, is NOT a moral absolute.
          If that is true I have no idea what you mean by moral absolutes.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We’ve been over this. I know of no examples of absolute moral truths.

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,
          How can you say there are no EXAMPLES of absolute moral truths.
          You certainly can say there are no absolute moral truths.
          You certainly can say that morals are relative.

          You can only say either statement if you know what an absolute moral truth is, or what relative morals are.

          You cannot say there is no concept of an absolute moral truth.

          OK, please define what is the concept of an absolute moral truth, as you or most people understand it, when discussing
          morality. The concept of the validity of absolute moral truths always comes up. You don’t have to accept the validity. Just tell me the concept.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How can you say there are no EXAMPLES of absolute moral truths.

          Can you not read? This isn’t what I said. I said that I know of no such examples.

          You certainly can say there are no absolute moral truths.

          Though I don’t. I invite you—no, I beg you—to provide evidence for to accompany your claims. Never happens. My conclusion: you have none.

          An admission of this would be helpful. Just tell us that this is all a faith statement on your part, OK?

          You cannot say there is no concept of an absolute moral truth.

          I have a concept of Klingons. Doesn’t mean that they exist.

          define what is the concept of an absolute moral truth

          This is tedious. In the post I already gave Wm. Lane Craig’s definition of objective moral truth: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” I suggest we use that one.

    • Itarion

      Non theist is not inherently nihilist. I believe there is truth, including absolutes. I do not believe that truth is contained wholly and precisely in any religion.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    “To Koukl, morality is either objective or it’s nothing.”

    Exactly. The false dichotomy here is astounding. It’s as if people think that “relative” means “arbitrary,” where it actually means no such thing.

    • wladyslaw

      What does “relative” then mean?

      • Itarion

        Defined by its position in relationship to something else.

        Arbitrary means either undefined, or defined entirely at random.

        • w

          OK, so how is morality relative, in relationship to…?

        • Itarion

          Each action is either more or less moral than another action. Actions are compared to each other, and the morality of each is determined relative to each other action.

        • wladyslaw

          “Each action is either more or less moral than another action.”

          What exactly do you mean? This is better than that, but that is less good than this? By what standard?

          “Actions are compared to each other, and the morality of each is determined relative to each other action.”

          So each action is compared to another, which is compared to another, which is compared to another, which is compared to another, forever? Nothing can be good, or bad. It can only be better, or worse than something else, but not bad or good in itself. You can never say “this is good.” All you can say is, that is is better than this, or not as bad as this.

        • Itarion

          That’s why I’m not a moral relativist. I have a personal code that measures harm inflicted to self aware creatures. No action inflicts no harm. Would the sum total of harm increase or decrease by an action? That is my measure of goodness.

        • w

          By your measure of goodness, consider the following.
          A man is contemplating divorce. He knows his action is going to cause immense suffering to his wife and children. None want him to go, even if he is not the best father or husband. But he can balance that off because of the personal harm that he feels he is experiencing by staying. And so every man that
          divorces could only do so if had decided that the harm he is suffering by staying in the marriage trumps all the sufferings of his wife and kids.

          Total harm, right?

        • Itarion

          Umm. No. In the case where no one wants him to go: Clearly, he has been a good father/husband. Why would he be contemplating divorce? Where does the harm he is receiving come from? If he loves and is loved, he should have no reason to contemplate divorce.

          In an instance where he is taking some form of abuse because he is married, AND has exhausted all other options: the critical point is to reduce harm. Abusers rarely abuse one person, so he would leave to escape, and, being a parent in better position to take proper care of the children, could sue for custody, saving them as well.

          Yes, there are instances in which a separation would cause more harm than it would solve. (You’ll see this a lot in Hollywood, really.) Husband leaves a wife for a mistress, say. It happens. A lot. And it causes harm to everyone around him. That is an evil act.

          However, very few actions are always evil because of their very nature.

        • wladyslaw

          “However, very few actions are always evil because of their very nature.”

          If only ONE action is evil because of its very nature, you have at least one moral absolute. Where does it’s absoluteness come from?

        • Itarion

          The fact that there is no scenario in which said action will cause less harm than good.

        • wladyslaw

          OK,
          I’m finally realizing that you do agree that there are objective moral values.

        • Itarion

          In potentia, but without any example of one, I cannot agree that there is such a thing as a moral absolute, and until such a time as I am shown one, I will contend that there are none.
          Furthermore, I definitely do not believe in a moral absolute which has been given from a god, because I do not believe in any god.

        • wladyslaw

          Itharion,
          I’ve used this example in my other comments.
          Rape is always wrong, in all circumstances, for all people, for all time.

        • Itarion

          First, get my damn name right.

          Onward. More correctly, YOU CONTEND that it is always wrong, in all circumstances, for all people, for all time.

          Now. PROVE to me that it is always wrong, in all circumstances, for all people, for all time.

        • wladyslaw

          Itarion,
          Forgive me for not getting your name right.
          You said in an earlier comment a little above that you couldn’t agree that there are moral absolutes unless you were shown one.
          I did not call upon God to provide proof of a moral absolute.

          I just gave an example of a moral absolute.

          Rape is always wrong, in all circumstances, for all time. We can know this by using our reason– studying the nature of what it means to be a human being.

          Please show me where this is not absolute moral–show me where rape can be possibly moral–Not OK here, but OK here.
          Not OK for me, but possibly OK for you.

        • Itarion

          BDSM. It has many of the hallmarks of rape and rapelike behavior. This example is on the edge, but there are groups of people who consider it far enough from the norm of sexual relationships to be considered rape. Thus, it is considered rape. However, the BDSM lifestyle is enjoyable to those who partake of it, and so is of benefit to them, and is therefore good in that particular instance.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Just a point of order: Wlad, you have the burden of proof. You need to make a claim (which you do) and then defend it with evidence (which you don’t). No evidence? Then you lose.

          You don’t say, “Here is my evidence-less claim. Prove me wrong.” Well, you can, and your antagonist has the opportunity to slap down your argument. But if that antagonist has nothing, you still lose since you didn’t support the burden of proof.

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,
          The FIRST order of business is to establish whether there is such a thing as an absolute moral truth or not.

          The NEXT step is then to say if there is an absolute moral truth, where does its validity come from.

          I’m still on the first step. Is there at least one absolute moral truth?

          I thought I found one we can agree on. Rape is always wrong.
          An absolute moral truth. We are NOT arguing why yet.

          You Bob, said “Rape is wrong.” I assume you meant always.
          If you didn’t, please show me when it is not always wrong.

          Kodie is the only one who said it was “my opinion.”

          No other commenter as far as I remember has said that rape is not always wrong.

          So most of you agree to at least one absolute moral truth.

          Itarion does bring up BDSN. BDSN is not rape because rape by definition is non-consensual. BDSN may be wrong for other reasons–disrespect for the dignity of the human person,or hurting one another, but it is not rape.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Is there at least one absolute moral truth?
          I thought I found one we can agree on. Rape is always wrong.

          Damn—how often must we go over this?

          I know of no absolute truths. I think that rape is always wrong. It’s good to hear that you do, too. From that we don’t conclude that this is an absolute truth. If it means anything at all, that’s a step, and an important one. You don’t take it by simply asserting it. You gotta have evidence.

          What “rape is always wrong” is, is a universally accepted truth. If it’s absolute, with some sort of grounding that comes from outside humanity (that is, it’d be true whether we were here to believe it or not), show the evidence.

          You Bob, said “Rape is wrong.” I assume you meant always.

          Yes, for the second time.

          Kodie is the only one who said it was “my opinion.”

          Kodie is pretty smart. Let me ditto her caveat.

          Itarion does bring up BDSN

          (I suspect he brought up something else, but whatever …)

        • wladyslaw

          Bob,
          “I think that rape is always wrong.”
          I assume you don’t mean– I think that “rape is always wrong for me, but not necessarily wrong for anyone else, if he or she thinks differently.”
          I assume you mean I think” rape is always wrong for everybody, whether they believe it or not.” –Craig’s definition of an absolute truth, and the working definition of absolute truth of this post.

          You and I may think the second is true for different reasons.
          Maybe not. I think that the second is true, and the reason it is true is because all humans, using their reason, can analyze human nature–both social and personal–and deduce binding rules of moral behavior for all.

          BTW the Catholic Church accepts natural law as a foundational principal of its moral law.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I assume you don’t mean– I think that “rape is always wrong for me, but not necessarily wrong for anyone else, if he or she thinks differently.”

          (1) If someone loves the idea of rape, then obviously they say that rape is great.

          (2) With an important moral issue like this one, I will do my best to impose my will on those who disagree with me.

          Again, obvious, right?

          all humans, using their reason, can analyze human nature–both social and personal–and deduce binding rules of moral behavior for all.

          If there are (1) objective moral truths that are (2) accessible to everyone, why do we not have a consensus on important issues like euthanasia and abortion?

        • R Vogel

          Bob, I agree with you on the burden of proof, but just to play along, Ayn Rand in her novel The Fountainhead has her character Dominique Francon revel in the fact that her fist sexual experience was being raped by Howard Roark. I personally think Ayn Rand was cuckoo, but clearly she does not believe, and I suspect many of her devoted fans agree, that rape is always wrong. They can’t be all sociopaths (although I strongly suspect that Ayn was). Gone with the Wind, one of the most beloved books and movie in history, also has a rather famous scene that is clearly a rape.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Just to play along, I can grant that some people might be raped and think that it was overall a positive experience, though that doesn’t mean that you or I need to come to the same conclusion.

          Many women forced to wear a burqa, and we might concluded that it would be better if none were, but there are women who honestly think that their situation is the preferred one.

        • R Vogel

          But these aren’t people, who may try to rationalize something positive out of something terrible, but characters in fiction, written for people’s enjoyment. And since there is not universal rejection of these books based on their positive depiction of rape, I think it is hard to make the case that rape is viewed as an absolute evil. In at least these two contexts, they are viewed as best amoral or, in the case of Rand, positive or even morally uplifting. We can agree that rape is always evil, even in these contexts, but these authors and their million of fans do not agree. Alas, I am still not the standard of absolute morality, no matter how hard I try.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I see no example of an absolute right or wrong, just ones that pretty much everyone agrees are so.

        • R Vogel

          Nor do I. I was replying to wlady who seemed to want to use rape as an absolute, but see that my wording was confusing and seemed to be directed at you. My point is that it is not clear that everyone agrees that rape is always wrong. Pardons.

        • R Vogel

          It seems to me that you are making a leap here by saying that because you and I believe that rape is always wrong that somehow that satisfies the criteria for an absolute moral truth. I’m not sure anyone else would take my personal moral beliefs as moral absolutes….although they really should ;)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I have a personal code that measures harm inflicted to self aware creatures.

          Most of us do. I don’t see how this makes you not a moral relativist (or makes you a moral objectivist) … unless you’re simply appealing to a commonly understood standard rather than an “out there” grounding for morality.

        • wladyslaw

          As an example, YOU, by your definition, cannot say it is absolutely morally good to love your mother. And please, don’t ask what love “is.” I think you and I could come up with a common working definition. If I asked you if you love your mother, you would probably have the same definition as me. So, is it absolutely morally good to love your mother? In all circumstances? For all time? Or is it relative to…?

        • Itarion

          Did I say I was an absolutist? I did not. I am neither. I technically compare to actions to nonaction in deciding whether an action is good or not.
          So. Let’s apply my algorithm (see below, those following along). Does loving one’s mother inflict harm, as a standalone action. No. Not evil, at least. Does it cause pleasure. Often. Yes, in typical circumstances, loving one’s mother is a good action.

        • Kodie

          It depends on who one’s mother is. If you love your mother, should I love your mother also? That makes no sense to me. I might love her if I know her. She could be my sister and I would love your mother, or she could be a very good friend of mine, so that I might love your mother. Should I love my mother? You say, what harm could there be in loving one’s own mother? Wladyslaw has already decided to cut off discussion of what love is and that your definition would be the same as his.

          That’s bullshit.

          I do happen to love my mother with conditions. Some mothers are smothering. To love them is to agree to be abused by them. I would cut my mother off in a heartbeat and cease to love her. Some mothers abuse their powers and control their children, both minor and adult. To love them is to agree to do what they want and not what you want. I would cut my mother off in a heartbeat and cease to love her. You cannot say it is not harmful to love your mother if it harms yourself to do so. It might harm her to cease loving her, but that is not my problem. To be fair, my mother has expressed conditions also and would cut me off and cease to love me if it came to those conditions.

        • Itarion

          To love: to have a positive emotional connection to.

          I was concerned merely with the loving concept in a void. Yes, it is true to loving someone can bring harm, but that happens indirectly, and not as a matter of the love.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think so. Loving someone harmful allows them in your life to do harm. I guess you can still love someone but bar them from your life, but that is difficult. Having a strained relationship, rather than the support of a parent for a child or a child for their parent, is that love? Love at arm’s length, to keep from being harmed?

          I think most people have positive connotations of love, but love is not contained in a positive light. Parental love, as already decided by Wladyslaw is a certain kind of bond that doesn’t have an equal. It hurts to lose the approval of a parent, moreso than it hurts to lose the approval of anyone else in life. Parents have a power to manipulate one’s emotions, and it can cause damage, while you try to love them enough that they love you back how you need it. No matter how old you are, it is difficult to see whether or not your parent, your particular mother or mine, deserves your or my love. This is a bullshit scenario, in fact. Most people tend to love their family even with all the flaws and dysfunction. Most people think, aside from everyone else in life, you have to love your family in a way you can choose to love or not love anyone else. No matter what they do, they’re your family – that’s sentimental. Like I said, this is a bullshit scenario. There are a lot of reasons not to love your own mother, but people tend to try harder to love their mother than anyone else and not break that particular tie over petty garbage. Rationalizing one’s mother’s worth of one’s love is a fertile ground for another discussion on some psychology forum.

        • Itarion

          You’re right. There are a few minor points of that I want to argue, but I’m not going to, because you are so very much right.

        • wladyslaw

          It is always a moral good to love your mother. Loving an alcoholic or drug addicted mother might mean a very unwanted intervention by the children. Loving an abusive mother could even mean calling appropriate authorities for separation, or leaving to stop enabling behavior. But it is always good to love your mother.
          Kodie, perhaps I can use a better example.

          Rape is always evil. Rape is evil for all people, now and forever. It will never be good to rape. It is evil because it is evil in itself, by its nature. It is the most egregious attack and violation of the dignity of the human person. No circumstance will EVER make it a moral good. It is objectively evil, and nothing can ever justify it.

        • Kodie

          I wasn’t talking to you. You are full of shit and all over the map.

        • Itarion

          Great. Now, what are the underlying reasons for your assertions? What is it that makes Love of Mothers always good, and Rape always evil?

        • Kodie

          Why should I love my own mother but nobody else has to?

        • R Vogel

          I totally agree. I am not sure why loving your mother, or anyone else’s for that matter, has any moral value at all.

        • wladyslaw

          Please give me non-typical circumstances where loving one’s mother is not a good action.

        • Itarion

          In a case of adoption where the adoptive and birth mothers do not like each other. The child, regardless of age, will love both, and cause mental anguish to him- or herself over the mother’s poor relationship. If the emotional strain is greater than the positive love, then it is not a good action for this child to love love his/her mother(s).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Let’s apply my algorithm

          Sounds like a good algorithm. In fact, it sounds like a familiar algorithm. In fact, I’m guessing it’s pretty much everyone’s algorithm.

          I’m not sure the tie-in with objective morality. We still can’t agree on abortion, euthanasia, and lots of other issues. Accessible objective morality seems to be a chimera

        • Itarion

          So, yeah, i just formalized it.

          And then actually applied it in a specific manner. It’s more the method of application that is new. Ish. Every scenario involving self aware creatures.

          And clearly, not everyone uses it, just people who bother to take a moment to think.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m sure that few explicitly use this algorithm, but I would think that this analysis as a visceral process is pretty universal. No?

        • Itarion

          Possibly, but I would bet that self defense comes first and foremost in most situations. In a heated moment, few people would be able to think straight enough to do anything besides self defense or defense of tribe (friends/family). This being by evolutionary psychology. People who take the time to think end up dead, and a faster neocortex is harder than a self defense mechanism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Self defense sounds like a pretty good idea. Are you saying that it’s often not the best moral response?

        • Itarion

          Indeed I am. In a direct, physical confrontation, as knee jerk self defense would be, someone is likely to get killed, unless self defense training focused on nonlethal methods, but that is relatively rare. Instead, the proper moral response would be focused on avoiding a physical confrontation, and escaping the dangerous situation altogether. Force in general, and lethal force specifically, should ALWAYS be a last resort. Part of the reason that Gandhi and Dr. King Jr. were so effective and are now so revered is because of the restraint that they showed. That’s not to say you should submit so completely in smaller confrontations, necessarily. They were rather unique, both in scope of and dedication to their efforts.

          Basically, preventing injury to self is your first goal. But preventing injury to others is a close second from a moral standpoint, and the vast majority of physical self defense methods fail spectacularly in that regard.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’ve lost me. I’m missing where the instinctive or natural response (running away or defending oneself against an attacker) wouldn’t be appropriate. You seem to imagine that in the majority of situations, the instinctive response is the less moral response.

        • Itarion

          Negotiations. Talk them down, rather than take them down. In most situations where someone is being threatened physically, the point is not to cause pain, it is to get something. The moral response would be to – if possible – give them it, or escape causing minimal injury, as opposed to attacking in self defense as a first response.

        • Kodie

          I think each circumstance dictates whether some other action may be taken. It is often not enough time to decide, so if you wait too long, you could be killed. If you act rashly, you may kill someone who didn’t strictly have to die. We are, by law, often let off the hook for behaving in these circumstances.

          Now, going on about 20 years ago, I had an intruder while I was sleeping, half-sleeping. He woke me up. He didn’t get all the way inside the window before I screamed and he fled. I was traumatized by the experience for a while. I had lingering fantasies where I had leapt out of bed with my baseball bat and clobbered that motherfucker’s skull to a pulp against the wall of my studio apartment. If that is what had happened, I don’t think I would be blamed. I also had less palatable haunting fantasies where he got in before I was aware and what he would have done. But he got away and I wasn’t physically harmed. You could say it worked out ok in the end.

          I am sure there are cases where self-defense of an injurious or fatal nature is warranted, accepted, and even applauded but not strictly necessary. How would I feel if I had killed a person, especially since I found out rather easily that I didn’t have to?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Itarion seems to say that there is one correct answer and that it’s accessible by most humans. Since, with careful deliberation, we haven’t come to an overwhelming consensus on abortion, euthanasia, or other issues, I don’t see it.

          Further, I can’t see how any of your several reasonable options for dealing with the intruder could, in hindsight, be declared objectively morally wrong.

        • Kodie

          Discussions about morality tend to work with things that are really obviously bad to us in the modern world, or things that also on the face of it belong in that category to a subset of people, usually theists, but which can be examined without the religious baggage to be ok and in no way obviously bad.

          We never talk about the opposite behaviors of these things either. Doing them is “bad” and not doing them is to be “not bad”.

          Where is this discussion ever going to go? We all agree that genocide is bad, but when the religious equate abortion with genocide, we have a problem. Humans generally don’t have a problem with genocide as long as we’re talking about fleas, and we generally don’t feel morally reprehensible about all the people who die of malnutrition or lack of clean water. I am more likely to hear they are themselves to blame.

          I think misogyny is bad. The god of many theists disagrees with me. People bind up what differences there may be between men and women, as they’ve traditionally been trained to behave and extrapolate it to a moral system entrenched in nature and pleasing god.

          I think cutting people off in traffic is bad. It’s a form of stealing in my opinion. I was there and you took my space, you inflicted panic on me so I would not hit your car, and do you ever pay? It would work out more evenly if running into you would be a normal thing to let happen, but that would inconvenience me. Morality is just taking a situation and weighing the consequences. I can take little pieces from everyone else’s day, not enough to be called a criminal, and cut through the traffic without getting hit. To some people, that’s the game. Life is just not thrilling enough unless they are in a micro-war with other people and win.

          Could you say it’s objectively immoral or too petty to count? I say it’s wrong – I don’t do it because it bothers me when other people do it. Is it a major harm? It could be. It raises my blood pressure, and it could cause an accident – death, injury, insurance red tape, and not arriving on time where I was headed. And I will be punished for hitting you. Why do people do this anyway, and how is it justified behavior? It is more because of the kind of animal we are that we do these things. I am sure there are things I do that wouldn’t bother me if someone else did them. Are they immoral to someone else? How am I supposed to know? Couldn’t it just be a case they are too sensitive and I am not doing anything wrong? If people think it’s immoral for a woman to wear pants instead of a skirt, then I will wear pants and piss them off – they have an issue that doesn’t rate my obedience.

          I don’t know how we can even begin to suggest there is anything like an objective standard of morality outside of human regard. There are always exceptions. A father might consider his young daughter “raped” while she had consensual teenage sex with her boyfriend. If someone believes that abortion is wrong, can they be convinced that abortion is ok if it saves the mother’s life? Or is it always 100% wrong?

          What is wrong is making blanket statements with no acknowledgement of the concept of consent. And I can’t even say that 100%. If a woman wants an abortion, she can have one, that’s my opinion. There is nothing sacred there to uphold. But it could be considered wrong to abort a woman’s fetus without her consent. If she wants a baby and chooses to carry it to term, it is not someone else’s choice to terminate her pregnancy. But what if she was injured in an accident and a decision had to be made while she was unconscious to save her life by aborting her fetus? We just have to take the situations we’re given and decide what we’re going to do.

          And basically we are not eternally punished for any choice we make in life. We may be shunned, jailed, or unforgiven in life, but then we die like everyone else, and not sorted into “good” and “bad” for the rest of ever. That is just absurd.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (I’m making a mental note to never cut you off in traffic.)

        • Kodie

          Matthew 25:40

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “And Jesus spake, saying, ‘Thou shalt not cut off one’s brother in traffic but must practice proper etiquette while driving. Don’t makest me curse thou like I did to that fig tree!’”

        • Itarion

          Oh, and then there are the people with psychological “defects” that render them literally incapable of empathy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It is best if you reply to someone besides yourself so that it’s clear who you’re talking to.

        • Ron

          Examples of relativism:

          Unnecessary harm (UH): randomly hacking off children’s limbs at a school playground.

          Necessary harm (NH): amputating limbs to rescue children pinned under a burning vehicle.

          UH: shooting at people in a crowded mall
          NH: shooting the person who is shooting at people in a crowded mall.

          UH: knocking out someone’s teeth
          NH: surgically removing an impacted tooth

          UH: stabbing someone in the throat
          NH: performing a tracheotomy to bypass an obstruction in the airway.

        • Itarion

          While technically accurate, those examples are all selected specifically as gross misrepresentations and oversimplifications of the philosophy and thought involved in moral relativism.

  • SaraiEnRose

    Infinity is uncertainty… with oh so much to explore! So, it needed to forget a lot of stuff so that it could experience certain perspectives. It gave itself a guidance system so that it could find its way to the specific perspective it wanted after it forgot…when it follows that guidance system, the effect is what would appear to be morals to an observer…but they are just an effect. Morals cannot be a cause, or the effect will not be morals! That is, it is not a moral thing to use morals as an excuse to think of yourself better than another because you do not think of yourself as good to begin with.

  • Joseph

    Hi Bob,

    When I said Koukl’s version may have holes and it doesn’t mean the argument fails you replied that it does. Again, it just means that his version in your eyes does, right? You seem to reject the possibly that someone can give a sub-par representation of an argument and yet the argument stands. But this evidently is often the case wouldn’t you agree? Perhaps a student is arguing with a friend over something, the student fails to persuade his friend but then the student’s professor comes along and provides a better explanation of the argument and convinces the students friend. You are saying that either this isn’t possible or it isn’t analogous to the situation. But I would say it is analogous as there are plenty of scholars who defend koukls position. In order to refute the argument you would have to refute not just Koukls version of the argument but all the other scholars versions, am I not correct?

    I said – “Here is some evidence that there are objective moral standards – it is bad to kill people

    you replied – “Yes, it’s bad to kill people. Now show me that that’s objective and not simply shared.”

    My point here was to show that killing people is not bad because everyone agrees it is bad, it is bad because it has tangible negative repercussions right? This allows us to know we are right when saying the murderer is wrong, even if the murderer wholeheartedly believes he is right! On your view it seems we can only say it is wrong because the rest of society agrees, kind of like appeal to masses! The murderer could reply “I don’t share your societies collective values, they are meaningless to me, I will go to the grave knowing I am right!”
    How could you show this man he is wrong when he at base doesn’t share your values?

    This is the case for all of morality, it is not arbitrary, it matches up to how the universe operates would you not agree?
    Clearly morality has an objective purpose. Theism is consistent with this. So whats wrong with that?

    I think there is plenty of evidence that there is objective morality and thus the burden of proof is on you to provide the source of this moral code that for some reason most humans all seem to think is reasonable!

    I think that is a pretty good case for a few paragraphs!

    Looking forward to your terse response

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You seem to reject the possibly that someone can give a sub-par representation of an argument and yet the argument stands.

      Sure—a strong argument can be presented poorly.

      You are saying that either this isn’t possible or it isn’t analogous to the situation.

      If Koukl was an uninteresting knucklehead with no credibility, then knocking him over wouldn’t be interesting to read. But he does have much credibility and quite a following. That makes his argument worthy of a reply.

      Of course, there still could be far better arguments than the ones he offered. If you have them, please share.

      there are plenty of scholars who defend koukls position

      With better arguments? Show us.

      In order to refute the arg ument you would have to refute not just Koukls version of the argument but all the other scholars versions, am I not correct?

      Are we talking past each other?

      This post is simply what it appears to be. Koukl makes points, I find them silly, and I share my analysis with others. I believe that I’ve represented Koukl fairly. On the other hand, I make no claims that I’ve done an exhaustive search of the literature to ensure that I’m addressing the best argument(s). Perhaps you can take us one step closer to that goal by providing improvements on Koukl.

      This allows us to know we are right when saying the murderer is wrong, even if the murderer wholeheartedly believes he is right!

      Forget the murder situation. That’s too easy because we already agree on the answer.

      You do something that I say is wrong. You disagree—you say that it wasn’t wrong. Who wins? What algorithm do you use?

      Maybe more to the point: when I say, “You’re wrong,” what grounds that? I didn’t look in God’s Big Book of Morals. I looked at my conscience—my moral programming. It tells me that you’re wrong. That’s it. I make no claims for objective morality.

      On your view it seems we can only say it is wrong because the rest of society agrees, kind of like appeal to masses!

      No, this isn’t my point.

      The murderer could reply “I don’t share your societies collective values, they are meaningless to me, I will go to the grave knowing I am right!”

      Right. And what objective, transcendental, true-whether-people-are-here-or-not argument will you make to overturn that?

      How could you show this man he is wrong when he at base doesn’t share your values?

      And how could you?

      • Joseph

        Hi Bob

        First off I don’t think you represent Koukl fairly at all. For starters the link to the interview is not working.

        Plenty of scholars who defend objective morality – Paul Boghossian, Simon Blackburn, WLC and Plantinga, Gregory Boyd, Peter Kreeft, John Lennox….

        You tell me to forget the murder situation … but telling me to forget my argument is not an argument against the topic Bob. According to Sam Harris America has 3 million psychopaths – people who in no way empathize with others – do they all agree murder is wrong? What about Aztecs and human sacrifice? Or have we evolved beyond them? But i thought you don’t appeal to evolution you said to me earlier. – yet you say “Evolution programs us with moral instincts”.

        you say “I suggest that they’re the laws and customs of society” – So you are a moral relativist as we do not yet live in a global new world order.

        “We have a shared (not objective) grounding, since we’re all the same species” – we do now do we ? I wasn’t aware of this in the slightest. Many people have many different views on many issues – the trolley problem for instance – yet you think that a sweeping generalisation is evidence?

        You claim that morality does not claim to be objective. It simply is principles and standards – they are synonymous terms. Principle, foundation, basis, fundamental, law, standard…they all refer to the same thing stop playing with semantics.

        Good has distinct meanings – “this ice cream tastes good” is not a moral statement. Without a supreme standard what is morally good and bad just becomes good and bad in a functional sense, they become inert morally. Obviously an atheist can lead a morally good life whether they believe in an objective standard or not, but without this standard they can not meaningfully talk about morality.

        you say “I didn’t look in God’s Big Book of Morals. I looked at my conscience—my moral programming” yes of course, Christians presuppose this. Scripture tells us the law is written on our mind – so we would understand it, and on our heart – so we would desire to follow it (our conscience). So again no one is claiming you have to look in the good book to do a morally good deed. This computer i am typing on is programmed by an intelligent agent. Your mind is programmed by a mindless, pitiless, undirected process of random mutation, natural selection and other means. How can trust that without invoking some justification from this mind of yours that has arisen randomly without specific design for truth seeking. in fact seeking the truth is often a negative evolutionary trait.

        You say : “The focus should be on figuring out what reality is and working with it.” Given that science will never tell us of the origin of life, the universe, the phenomenon of consciousness, the origin of laws (moral and physical) and it will never justify itself by the scientific method, it seems that we are never going to understand reality so how should something so unlikely be “the focus”?

        You also say: “I have plenty of morality and meaning in my life, but thanks for asking” – sure you do, but isn’t this all morality and meaning that you yourself have created? Isn’t that just as bad as claiming God provides meaning? Whats the difference? Are you a hypocrite Bob?

        So as you just discarded my psychopathic murderer allegory I will provide you with a different one. In my society it is good to be as promiscuous as possible. Hugh Heffner is the man in my society. So I want to be moral like this. Whats more this has evolutionary advantages – I’m spreading my seed far and wide doing a great job of fulfilling the criteria which you provide as a basis for your “moral instincts”. This is objectively bad though – evidence is that I get gonorrhea. Wait but now I could just wear rubbers all the time problem solved! But this is also bad – evidence is that I end up on the Jeremy Kyle show with a bunch of angry women. But hey, no maybe this isn’t bad because I was just maximizing pleasure! Yes, it is good to be promiscous! Whats more, even if you say it is not, there has been many societies who have been polygamous, have we evolved out of that behaviour in a few short years though Bob?

        Sorry for the disjointed paragraph above, I’m sure you can glean some meaning from it though.

        How could I show the murderer he is wrong ? I couldn’t, God could, and he would ultimately know it – as it says in scripture. But this is just me creating meaning and justice right????? Whereas you can create your meaning, your morality and still have the nerve to ridicule others?

        Thus Bob, I believe your article is an absolute farce and your arguments are too! Doesn’t mean i don’t think you can’t be a great father, husband, son friend etc

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          the link to the interview is not working.

          My bad. STR put their web site in a blender and the old links don’t work. I’ve fixed it. Thanks for pointing that out.

          Plenty of scholars who defend objective morality – Paul Boghossian, Simon Blackburn, WLC and Plantinga, Gregory Boyd, Peter Kreeft, John Lennox….

          And that answers my plea for strong evidence of objective morality how?

          Admittedly, I’ve not done a thorough search. If you have the evidence, show us.

          You tell me to forget the murder situation …

          …and then tell you why.

          No, the murder situation doesn’t show us anything. Isn’t my position clear? If I haven’t explained this clearly, let me know.

          do they all agree murder is wrong?

          ?? Yes, we disagree with sociopaths about whether murder is wrong or not. Heck, I probably disagree with you over whether abortion is wrong or not. We needn’t point to sociopaths to see the difficulty of morality in society; we can find thoughtful members of our own society.

          you are a moral relativist

          I reject Koukl’s definition, and I might reject yours. Let’s keep it simple: I see no evidence for objective moral truth and proceed from there.

          yet you think that a sweeping generalisation is evidence?

          So if I don’t dot all the i’s, you’re determined to complain?

          No, I’m not saying that everyone thinks alike.

          Without a supreme standard what is morally good and bad just becomes good and bad in a functional sense, they become inert morally.

          A supreme standard? Are you referring to the dictionary? Let’s use the definition of morality there. The word “objective” isn’t necessary.

          yes of course, Christians presuppose this

          Better still, we don’t need to handwave the supernatural into existence. The natural explanation for morality is sufficient.

          no one is claiming you have to look in the good book to do a morally good deed.

          Obviously. Now let’s look at the challenges we actually have. Is abortion allowable? Euthanasia? Capital punishment? What is the correct answer on the tough moral problems that society actually has? I see no whiff of the supernatural as society tries, in the best way we know how, to discuss our way to moral progress just like we’ve always done.

          How can trust that without invoking some justification from this mind of yours that has arisen randomly without specific design for truth seeking.

          I address Plantinga’s EAAN here.

          science will never tell us of the origin of life, the universe, the phenomenon of consciousness, the origin of laws (moral and physical)

          News to me. How did you conclude this?

          isn’t this all morality and meaning that you yourself have created?

          Obviously.

          Isn’t that just as bad as claiming God provides meaning? Whats the difference? Are you a hypocrite Bob?

          Nope, but I appreciate your concern.

          Actually, it’s pretty simple. I have evidence that I exist. I have negligible evidence that God exists. When I weighted these two authorities, you can imagine which one I go to for meaning.

          In my society it is good to be as promiscuous as possible. Hugh Heffner is the man in my society.

          I see your point, though I’m not sure that Hugh Heffner is the paragon of debauchery that you seem to imagine he is. But I realize that this is a tangent.

          Whats more, even if you say i t is not, there has been many societies who have been polygamous, have we evolved out of that behaviour in a few short years though Bob?

          Biological evolution doesn’t work that fast, though morality does evolve. If you contrast Old Testament morality (genocide, slavery, polygamy) with our own you see this evolution.

          How could I show the murderer he is wrong ? I couldn’t, God could

          I don’t think we’ve established that God exists yet.

          Whereas you can create your meaning, your morality and still have the nerve to ridicule others?

          I’m the source for my meaning and the authority for my morality. And that’s how it works for you, too. You’ve given me outrage but no evidence that this is wrong.

        • joseph

          Bob

          You seem to continue to make sweeping assertions which you believe to be common sense. While I can agree that most “sensible” people will agree on many moral issues I do not think appealing to this is evidence, there are many discrepancies.

          Among evolutionary biologists the search for morality is far more messy and problematic than you concede – it is far from a resolved issue.

          I can accept that you create your meaning and that you are the authority for your morality – based on the fact that you are a lucid and clearly sane human being – however I choose to be a skeptic and have reason to doubt your virtue as you could I or anyone else even someone we know very very well. I don’t think that this amounts to evidence, moreover I don’t think an individual claiming “authority” is safe, just look at all the seemingly trustworthy people who rise to power and exploit this authority.

          I don’t think the extraordinary requires extraordinary evidence. It is quite plausible that a moral code given by a supernatural being has revealed this code in a natural way.

          I do not see the difference between your skepticism of God and creating your own meaning, and my acceptance of God giving this meaning to my life. Moreover I think for you to claim accepting God as giving one meaning and sustenance is wrong is immoral – you would be denying the value of 12 step programs the world over that keep peoples heads above the water. You would be denying people who are materially less well off than you and I the right to hope and meaning.

          As for all the philosophers and apologists whose names I have provided I would beseech you to read their work yourself – given that my point was that it is best for a person to represent an argument themselves given that others can squander the meaning in their own paraphrasing etc

          Even the most ardent atheist philosophers aver an objective moral code.

          As for what I said about science and what it will never understand… several of those are patently obvious, some are contentious, but something coming from nothing, information arising from disorder and naturalism applied to immaterial consciousness are all philosophically inconsistent – there are good cases for this.

          I presuppose God, who will provide justice. You presuppose atheism. Faith is intellectually defendable – a position first held since William James and still maintained to this day. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – my hypothesis stands.

          I can accept that you base your morality on “common sense” however this is not satisfying for me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          While I can agree that most “sensible” people will agree on many moral issues I do not think appealing to this is evidence

          ?? It’s evidence that many people agree on many moral issues. That’s my point.

          Among evolutionary biologists the search for morality is far more messy and problematic than you concede – it is far from a resolved issue.

          My claims are modest. I doubt that my simple model of morality is undercut by unanswered scientific questions.

          I can accept that you create your meaning and that you are the authority for your morality – based on the fact that you are a lucid and clearly sane human being

          But the insane person who says “X is right!” is, just like you or me, making a moral statement with himself as the authority. Not much of an authority, but then we’re not absolute authorities either. I say that Y is right and you say that it’s wrong. We’re two peers and neither can trump the other. We have to argue back and forth and, sometimes, one side will concede that the other position is superior.

          I don’t think an individual claiming “authority” is safe, just look at all the seemingly trustworthy people who rise to power and exploit this authority.

          This is orthogonal to what I’m saying. I’m simply pointing to the grounding of moral statements. If you say that Z is right, we start with the modest grounding of just you. If you’re an army general, and Z is the kind of thing that a general could send his troops out to address, then that’s a more impressive grounding. If you’re the president, more impressive still. A social leader (Martin Luther King, for example) would be another example of someone who has more clout than either of us.

          I don’t think the extraordinary requires extraordinary evidence.

          If you don’t provide extraordinary evidence for “God exists,” I’m afraid I’ll find your argument insufficient.

          It is quite plausible that a moral code given by a supernatural being has revealed this code in a natural way.

          If it looks like a natural source, that’s the best hypothesis. Don’t handwave a supernatural source into existence without the evidence.

          I do not see the difference between your skepticism of God and creating your own meaning, and my acceptance of God giving this meaning to my life.

          I’m following the evidence and you’re not. I think an objective third party would agree.

          Moreover I think for you to claim accepting God as giving one meaning and sustenance is wrong is immoral

          I don’t understand.

          - you would be denying the value of 12 step programs the world over that keep peoples heads above the water

          I’ll happily grant that delusional thinking can be beneficial (that’s not to say that correct thinking wouldn’t be better still, for let’s forget that for now). Are you then saying that Christianity is useful? I thought you were arguing that it’s true.

          I would beseech you to read their work yourself – given that my point was that it is best for a person to represent an argument themselves given that others can squander the meaning in their own paraphrasing etc

          Won’t happen anytime soon. I have a teeteringly tall pile of blog posts and books and articles that I really should be reading. The handful of apologists who’ve argued for objective morality have, to a man, done an embarrassingly poor job of it. As you can imagine, I’m not motivated to wade through more drivel to get more of the same. Am I missing some good stuff? Possibly. If you know of any gems out there, please summarize.

          Search “objective morality” in this blog for more flabby Christian support for it, if you’d like.

          Even the most ardent atheist philosophers aver an objective moral code.

          Even if I’m the only one (and I’m not), so what? I’m still waiting for the evidence.

          something coming from nothing

          Who says this? As a hypothesis, sure. As the scientific consensus, nope.

          all philosophically inconsistent

          Uh … the topic here is science. Of what use is philosophy?

          Philosophy’s common sense (something can’t come from nothing, all things must have a cause, and so on) is shredded into confetti by quantum physics.

          I presuppose God

          And I follow the evidence.

          You presuppose atheism

          Nope.

          Faith is intellectually defendable

          Seems indefensible to me. That William James likes the idea doesn’t make it any more convincing, I’m afraid.

          Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

          And that’s where you’re wrong. If you’ve looked for your keys in the drawer that they’re usually in, that absence is evidence.

          (But why toss out this platitude? Doesn’t seem on topic.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (yet another “terse” response)

        • Joseph

          Bob

          Your point that many people can come to a consensus is evidence that many people can come to a consenus – to extrapolate from there and then say ..We have a grounding for morality is a bloated conclusion.

          I think you should look at all the very interesting research on how morality evolves, I think you will find it is far from complete and flawless and very much undercutting your claims.

          “This is orthogonal to what I’m saying” – It clearly is not, my point remains a problem to your argument. You may not see it because you assume your moral theory of consensus is a solid grounding for morality.

          Why is a natural source for morality binding?

          Anthony Kenny ““A proponent of the big
          bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the . . .universe came from nothing and by nothing.”

          This view is widely by many other eminent scientists and philosophers. A quantum vacuum is not nothing.

          “I’m following the evidence and you’re not” – Clearly we have researched differently. All the evidence points clearly in one direction – however, given we have free will, being able to maintain an atheist position must be a viable option to be coherent with free will – this is where you are.

          “Uh … the topic here is science. Of what use is philosophy?” – Science is an extension of philosophy based on philosophical assumptions…i.e the uniformity of nature and the intelligibility of the universe.

          Your analogy proves that absence of evidence is evidence of absence … in your drawer… not absolute absence.

          Yes, you do indeed presuppose atheism, stop trying to look intellectually honest, its not endearing Bob. I clearly believe in God and Christianity, based on this as a hypothesis it stands up to all the evidence, in fact it even looks more plausible and coherent with reality than any other worldview I’ve come across – including being an agnostic atheist for the better part of my life.

          Because James likes the idea is not my argument – the argument speaks for itself- do you want me to think that whoever you cite as evidence is just merely liking the idea?

          “Philosophy’s common sense (something can’t come from nothing, all things must have a cause, and so on) is shredded into confetti by quantum physics.” – it is not at all, this is naive hype.

          Clearly Bob you are not up to date on evolutionary morality and the problems therein, nor are you aware of the implications of quantum physics – they are not nearly as devastating as you claim.

          Your entire argument is circular Bob, you claim that We all know what is right and wrong so therefore WE have a grounding for morality – It is that WE ALL KNOW WHAT IS RIGHT AND WRONG!

          ??? It beggars belief

          I claim that there is an objective moral code – morality is not arbitrary and serves purposes outside of the explanatory scope of evolution – we have the capacity to understand this moral law – it is binding on us because it is above us – there is no other way it would be binding. You say that if it is natural then the evidence points toward a natural basis – yet you are not consistent with this when you claim that physical something can come from immaterial nothing – the laws of naturalistic deterministic cause and effect only apply to the physical – the evidence then points to something greater than “natural” as a cause.

          Your thinking is inconsistent and your claims are not backed up at all, your current scientific understanding is behind the pack.

          Whats going wrong Bob, why are you so blindly prejudiced? When Koukl mentioned the old atheists, he made a good point, perhaps he was thinking of Nietzsche who knew full well the implications of humans creating morality and the problems that surface.

          Perhaps if you lessened the burden of your blog you could avail yourself of the time to get up to date with current knowledge and arguments for and against.

          If you don’t have any convincing arguments it will remain that theism is the most consistent with reality

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Your point that many people can come to a consensus is evidence that many people can come to a consenus – to extrapolate from there and then say ..We have a grounding for morality is a bloated conclusion.

          Can you still not understand my point? There is no objective/absolute/transcendental grounding. The grounding for a moral statement is the person who says it.

          But this isn’t chaos. Because we’re all the same species, there’s much common thinking. From this comes a common moral foundation within society. Viola—no supernatural required.

          I think you should look at all the very interesting research on how morality evolves, I think you will find it is far from complete and flawless and very much undercutting your claims.

          You could be right. Show me.

          Why is a natural source for morality binding?

          It’s not. When I say “X is right,” that’s not binding on you (unless I have some special authority, like I’m a judge or general).

          “A proponent of the big

          bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the . . .universe came from nothing and by nothing.”

          This view is widely by many other eminent scientists and philosophers.

          That’s nice. It’s not believed by me, and it’s not the scientific consensus of physicists.

          A quantum vacuum is not nothing.

          Uh huh.

          All the evidence points clearly in one direction

          I agree, though we may not agree on that direction.

          Science is an extension of philosophy based on philosophical assumptions…i.e the uniformity of nature and the intelligibility of the universe.

          Philosophical platitudes (“You can’t get something from nothing, y’know!”) are unhelpful at the frontier of science.

          Your analogy proves that absence of evidence is evidence of absence … in your drawer… not absolute absence.

          Yes. You weren’t talking about absolute absence.

          Yes, you do indeed presuppose atheism, stop trying to look intellectually honest, its not endearing Bob.

          And a very merry Christmas to you, too.

          I clearly believe in God and Christianity, based on this as a hypothesis it stands up to all the evidence

          “God dun it” explains everything. It’s also unfalsifiable, so not a very useful hypothesis.

          do you want me to think that whoever you cite as evidence is just merely liking the idea?

          I haven’t cited people as evidence.

          Clearly Bob you are not up to date on evolutionary morality and the problems therein

          How lucky we have you here. I’ve outlined a natural explanation for morality that I think does a decent job of explaining the morality that we see around us. If you see any holes, I’d like you to point that out.

          you claim that We all know what is right and wrong so therefore WE have a grounding for morality – It is that WE ALL KNOW WHAT IS RIGHT AND WRONG!

          I claim that morality is explainable without need of an appeal to objectivity.

          It beggars belief

          I marvel at your stoicism and patience for hanging around to educate me.

          I claim that there is an objective moral code

          Then give me evidence of this. Show me that the natural explanation is insufficient. Or take a moral conundrum (abortion, say) and show the objectively correct response and show us that this is accessible (not just locked up in your head).

          morality is not arbitrary and serves purposes outside of the explanatory scope of evolution – we have the capacity to understand this moral law – it is binding on us because it is above us – there is no other way it would be binding.

          Lots of claims, but I gotta have the evidence. I’m funny that way.

          you are not consistent with this when you claim that physical something can come from immaterial nothing

          Where do I say this?

          your current scientific understanding is behind the pack.

          The bright side is that, when you’re having a rough day, you can always remember that you’re a lot smarter than I am.

          Perhaps if you lessened the burden of your blog you could avail yourself of the time to get up to date with current knowledge and arguments for and against.

          Got any good arguments? I welcome them.

        • Joseph

          Bob

          Perhaps you could type in “morality” and “evolution” into the regular journal database that you use. Scopus is a good one.

          While you are at it have a look at articles on the various types of “nothing” … you may well find a pleasant surprise given that you consider a quantum vacuum “nothing”. Indeed in terms of lacking matter sure – but as something still affected by time and physical laws – No, not “nothing”.

          It is quite strange that you appeal to “common sense” to outline your argument, yet without getting pedantic I feel it is safe to do the same with showing that morality is not capricious – rather it serves a purpose that is congruent with nature and our human condition. It seems quite obvious to me! Much like you believe your bold claim of common sense consensus is!

          When you say: “Or take a moral conundrum (abortion, say) and show the objectively correct response and show us that this is accessible (not just locked up in your head).” It is clear your understanding of objective morality falls short – it is not an “I have the right answer in my head” phenomena. It is an ontic referent which when broken or adhered to naturally disseminates consequences, either negative or positive respectively.

          Given that we as a species do not understand our condition with absolute comprehension, because of our perspective as beings located inside the natural world as opposed to being in what Nagel (atheist) calls the “God’s eye view”, it is understandable that this objective, normative, principle is what we are reaching for – our intuitions clearly guide us in the right direction – but it is premature to say that it can either simply be known just like that! All locked up in someones head! Or that because of this there is no objective right and wrong.

          You say:”I claim that morality is explainable without need of an appeal to objectivity.” – What you are doing, from what you have shared, is describing morality – not explaining it.

          Perhaps you would be interested in Paul Boghossian’s defense of objective morality in his book – Fear of Knowledge – at a mere 160 pages whats stopping you!?

          Heck I don’t even think he’s a Christian so maybe you’ll read it without prejudice (when you fit it into your busy schedule of course).

          After you’ve shredded his argument to confetti be sure to make an article out of it representing him as an ignoramus!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Perhaps you could type in “morality” and “evolution” into the regular journal database that you use.

          Is Scopus a fee-based site?

          I’ve not used that one, so thanks for the tip. But you imagine me a lot more confused than I actually am. I’m not particularly motivated to patch holes that I don’t see existing in my hypothesis. That’s where you come in: if I’ve left something important unexplained, show me.

          given that you consider a quantum vacuum “nothing”.

          Again, I admire your patience putting up with me. But no, I don’t make this error. I understand about virtual particles and vacuum energy.

          I imagine that you as well realize that some physicists speculate that the child’s idea of nothing may never have existed. Quantum physics apparently feels no need to satisfy our common sense, darn it.

          I’ve outlined my view of a natural morality. Is anything left unexplained?

          It seems quite obvious to me!

          My morality explains everything without a supernatural presupposition. That makes it better.

          your understanding of objective morality falls short – it is not an “I have the right answer in my head” phenomena. It is an ontic referent which when broken or adhered to naturally disseminates consequences, either negative or positive respectively.

          No, I fear that it’s you who’s missing the boat. I defined objective moral values for the purposes of this post in the second paragraph. I used Wm. Lane Craig’s definition: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

          Back to abortion: is “abortion is wrong” true (or false) regardless of whether anyone accepts this fact or not? And is this fact accessible to we mortals? If not (and also not for other moral statements), the idea of objective morality is useless.

          Perhaps you would be interested in Paul Boghossian’s defense of objective morality in his book – Fear of Knowledge – at a mere 160 pages whats stopping you!?

          The fear that it’ll be an afternoon wasted. We have you: you can show us that there’s a there there.

          Have you given any reason to accept objective moral truth (as defined here)? If so, I’ve missed it.

        • joseph

          It’s free if you are affiliated with a university or other research/education organisation. Otherwise its only a few bucks a month.

          I understand your simple take on morality – it motivates this question: Is the good good because people agree on it or do people agree on it because its good?

          It would appear that if its the first then you are left with relativism and all its inglorious pitfalls (two pro-lifers are bith right and two pro-choicers are also both right) and if it is the second it appears there would be an objective moral code.

          As for the “nothing” and the universe – We both know the scientific consensus is that the universe is 13.7 billion yo. If there was never a nothing – just a continual expand and collapse this could not go on forever – for both mathetical reasons and philosophical reasons. 1. if the universe has an infinite past we would never reach the present moment, but there is a present moment so there is no infinite past. The possibility of an actual infinite regress is merely potential never actual – without a non-contingent cause there is no solid grounding for a beginning. Then there are mathematical problems with infinities – the contradictions involved when dividing adding and subtracting infinities have led prominent mathematicians to aver infinities only exist as a concept in our head.

          What’s more, your thinking is inconsistent – you assume a natural explanation as universally the best one, which places you as a proponent of an infinite past – contradicting scientific consensus. You remind me of atheists who rejected Hubble’s discovery of red shifted stars.

          I fear you are the coyote still running in the air over the cliff. To assert that objective morality is a matter of simple yes/no’s is childish. I am not an absolutist, rather more of a consequentialist. To consider that objective morality does not take into account context would imply that objective morality is arbitrary – a misguided notion indeed. Boghossian writes on this in his book.

          Your arrogance and bias is most disheartening. In another blog you attacked Lennox by saying he had wasted a brilliant mind – quite an ungrounded claim taking into account his dozens and dozens of published scholarly articles and books. Boghossian also, I’m sure, has far more claim to being an authority on ethics than you do. Yet with a supernatural magic handwave their work is dismissed.

          Doing a skim of various article abstracts was very interesting indeed – there are arguments for objective morality grounded in God and in evolutionary theory. There are also arguments against! One key issue was a lack of explanation for why humans have empathy! I also am not aware of any evolutionary arguments for truth seeking(which you consider more important than hope) as beneficial trait! It remains a mystery why we are not hermaphrodites, given that it would double human procreation opportunities.

          I understand where you are coming from but I have only been offered “common sense” as an argument. I also appear to have this inexplicable desire to discover truth – and my intuitions tell me to be skeptical of your claims.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          it motivates this question

          Ah, thank you for not saying “it begs the question.”

          Is the good good because people agree on it or do people agree on it because its good?

          It’s good because their moral programming says it’s good. As for why their moral programming says it’s good, who cares? It’s a given.

          If there was never a nothing …

          Philosophy and common sense (which appear to be the tools you’re bringing to this) aren’t especially helpful. The appropriate tools are cosmology and quantum physics. When they are at odds with philosophy and common sense, philosophy and common sense lose.

          which places you as a proponent of an infinite past – contradicting scientific consensus

          I don’t know that there’s a consensus at all about the origin of the universe, but I am no proponent of an infinite past. I don’t know how you think what I’ve said demands that.

          I fear you are the coyote still running in the air over the cliff. To assert that objective morality is a matter of simple yes/no’s is childish.

          “Objective morality,” for this discussion, is the one I’ve already given by Wm. Lane Craig: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” Is this objective morality both true and accessible? If so, then why are you unable to demonstrate it?

          Y’know, it’s almost like (dare I say it?) it’s not even there at all. Almost like the natural explanation is the best one.

          If you reject WLC’s definition, then make that plain. High fives all around.

          Your arrogance and bias is most disheartening.

          And this is your opportunity to burst that conceited bubble.

          In another blog you attacked Lennox by saying he had wasted a brilliant mind – quite an ungrounded claim taking into account his dozens and dozens of published scholarly articles and books.

          If I recall, I was happy to acknowledge his brilliance in his first field—mathematics. Anything on theology would be in quite a different kind of bin.

          Boghossian also, I’m sure, has far more claim to being an authority on ethics than you do.

          I’m at a loss as to what more to do. I’ve made my natural explanation plain, and I’ve invited you to show us that objective moral truth both exists and is accessible.

          Yet with a supernatural magic handwave their work is dismissed.

          Uh, y’know, some scholars work actually is crap. Brilliant minds worked on alchemy (Isaac Newton perhaps being the preeminent) and that was all nonsense. Sure there were spinoffs in chemistry, but they were looking for something that didn’t exist.

          Do you consider Hindu scholarly writings of equal importance and significance to Christian scholarly writing?

          One key issue was a lack of explanation for why humans have empathy!

          Because the Golden Rule is part of our programming, which is because natural selection selected for humans with these qualities, which is because these qualities gave them a survival edge.

          What’s missing?

          It remains a mystery why we are not hermaphrodites, given that it would double human procreation opportunities.

          And biologists are also baffled why humans aren’t born with jet packs, because that would be so cool. And the ability to breathe in outer space. And bionic limbs.

          You sound like Ray Comfort, who is also baffled why there is no croco-duck.

        • Joseph

          Y’know Bob your spiteful remark on Lennox was quite indicative of your opinion, given that it was in your concluding sentences placing itself as a summary of your view – which as a laymans opinion is also liable to being erroneous ( and just because some scholars are off the mark doesn’t mean all are! Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!) I am not even sure what Boghossian’s views are on religion…like I said before there are loads of much more qualified thinkers than you who are atheists and who support objective morals.

          Objective morality can take into account context – which is my view – as opposed to a strict absolutist view in which killing is ALWAYS wrong. My view is that ‘do not kill’ is a general rule but there are still times (self-defense for instance) when it is justified. This is congruent with an objective moral code that takes places importance on situational context. That should clear that up!

          It is also curious that you said earlier you didn’t appeal to evolution to make your case – yet that is the only partially substantiated point you make – the rest is your opinion. Your little take on morality being naturally selected is just not much more problematic than you make it out to be. There are big issues surrounding the value and purpose of empathy in evolutionary – and there are many other issues you would be aware of – that is if you ever cared to check on what articles are being published. I scrolled through various scholarly articles and found an abundance of problems in evolutionary morality. It is too premature to say our morality has been adequately explained by evolution.

          “It’s good because their moral programming says it’s good. As for why their moral programming says it’s good, who cares? It’s a given.” – There is at least two big problems with what you say here – first of all ordinary people like to think about matters of good and bad, and we don’t like to be told it doesn’t matter- who cares? Moral philosophers, evolutionary biologists, psychologists etc etc all care very much. Now as many people apparently have different views on morality it makes sense to care about what is right – it is not helpful to say well its just our programming! When people have competing views your statement is useless. What’s more as our capability to modify our genetic code and potentially alter our programming increases it is becoming more important than ever to apprehend some sort of grounding for morality. here’s a thought experiment for you – in a thousand years a mad scientist alters an entire nations moral programming to believe that rape and incest are good – in your view the grounding for their morality is the programming which has led them astray. You could say ah well other unaltered nations will know correctly what is right – and you are appealing to an objective standard – say that the entire human species has our moral programming interfered with to make us believe rape and incest are morally good – then who is able to stand back, from an OBJECTIVE view, and say no that is wrong! All you say is “It’s good because their moral programming says it’s good” –

          You like to trump science over philosophy but you seem to be ignorant of the underlying assumptions which prop up the scientific endeavour – the scientific method cannot validate the scientific method – one can only say the universe appears to be uniform and intelligible so we must assume it will stay this way in order to continue with scientific investigation. <- and that is a statement of philosophy not science.

          Your little "why don't we have jetpacks" spiel is not even relevant. The effort required to become hermaphrodites would be minimal (other species have done this while I'm not aware of any who have achieved the far-fetched traits you mentioned) considering its payoffs of doubling reproductive chances – it is far less onerous for our species than what it would take to grow jetpack organs and being anaerobic, and much more relevant.

          You appeal to evolution to say where our moral instincts come from. Well given that our instincts should be much sharper than they are now in a million years that makes you a relativist. That is unless you want to talk about morality in a meaningless way and just describe what you see, nothing more. Evolution has not even adequately explained every feature of our complex morality yet – but you can appeal to future science if you want, Bob.

          I maintain that our moral instincts are God given. There is an objective moral code, our moral instincts are guided toward this, it is apprehend-able. Morality is tied to consciousness – without consciousness good and bad lose their moral component and merely describe prospering or lack thereof. Just like the statement 'my computer is good' is morally dead, as is the statement 'our species is flourishing' can also be morally dead. Lower animals can flourish yet morality is not attributed – as consciousness is not even necessary for human existence (see Chalmers Zombies) we could all be living in the same deterministic world without consciousness, and matters of well-being would be morally inert. Yet we have consciousness (a phenomenon science has little to say about), morality is not arbitrary and is tied with matters of justice – all three necessary features of morality are more coherently understood from a theistic POV.

          I think I've made my case pretty clear – its grounded in thinking from atheist and theist philosophers alike. There are many problems and discrepancies within evolutionary theory of morality so it is premature to cite this as grounding your position. You have offered me common sense and your all too visible bias. I don't have time for prejudice – I read all sides. If you have anything significant to say then do so, but spare me your opinions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          your spiteful remark on Lennox

          Remind me.

          like I said before there are loads of much more qualified thinkers than you who are atheists and who support objective morals.

          Like I said before, “There are other guys whose arguments could shred you!” doesn’t help. There’s just too much stuff out there (some good, I’m happy to admit, in a sea of been-there or crap). I welcome your making a relevant case.

          Objective morality can take into account context

          Fine. Take into account context and show us the answer to abortion that’s (1) objectively correct (that is, we all know it’s true) and accessible (this isn’t “through a glass darkly”).

          My view is that ‘do not kill’ is a general rule but there are still times (self-defense for instance) when it is justified. This is congruent with an objective moral code that takes places importance on situational context. That should clear that up!

          I don’t know why you’d think that. This isn’t objective morality (see WLC’s definition, above), which is what we’re looking for.

          the rest is your opinion

          I claim to have provided plausible explanations for the major aspects of human morality that we all know and love. Show me what I’ve missed.

          ordinary people like to think about matters of good and bad, and we don’t like to be told it doesn’t matter

          Of course it matters.

          Moral philosophers, evolutionary biologists, psychologists etc etc all care very much

          And that’s off topic. Evolution programmed us with moral instincts. You can’t imagine why helpful traits are evolutionarily useful?

          When people have competing views your statement is useless

          Evolution is sloppy. Environment is a factor. No, there’s no problem here.

          Uh, is this just an interrogation of me? Or are you going to provide evidence of your remarkable claim of objective morality?

          You could say ah well other unaltered nations will know correctly what is right

          Nope. I don’t know why this is still confusing.

          One set of people have been brainwashed to think that rape is good. Another set disagrees. OK, so what’s the problem? That there’s no one correct answer?

          Bingo!

          you are appealing to an objective standard

          Wrong.

          who is able to stand back, from an OBJECTIVE view, and say no that is wrong!

          I have no idea. Who?

          All you say is “It’s good because their moral programming says it’s good”

          Yeah. So why all the blather about objective moral values? I’m the one who rejects them, remember?

          You like to trump science over philosophy

          I like to say, “Philosophy? Where’s the beef?!” When you’ve found some, let me know.

          that is a statement of philosophy not science.

          What has philosophy done for me lately? I know what science has done. Nothing much comes to mind for philosophy, though.

          Your little “why don’t we have jetpacks” spiel is not even relevant.

          It was as relevant as you scratching your head wondering why we’re not hermaphrodites.

          The effort required to become hermaphrodites would be minimal

          You seriously think that you’ve got a stop-the-presses puzzle that will stump the biologists?

          that makes you a relativist

          More precisely: I’m a person who rejects the claim of objective moral truths (and am losing any interest in a conversation where the other guy claims them but provides no evidence).

          How about if you just admit that you have no evidence?

          Evolution has not even adequately explained every feature of our complex morality yet

          The natural explanation does a better job than your appeal to objective moral truths.

          I think I’ve made my case pretty clear

          You’ve sketched your theology. I need evidence.


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