Atheistic Moral Realism – Part 10

When I argue against the resurrection of Jesus, I generally take a two-pronged approach. First, I argue that there are various good reasons to doubt the claim that Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday. Second, I make a concession for the sake of argument; I grant the supposition that Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday. Then I point out that this assumption, an assumption that Christian apologists work very hard to try to prove, actually provides a powerful reason to doubt that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, and thus the concession hurts the case for the resurrection.

In general, this is a strong way to argue for a skeptical position. First, lay out skeptical arguments that cast doubt on your opponent’s basic assumptions. Second, grant for the sake of argument some of the key assumptions of your opponent, and show that even if those assumptions are true, your opponent’s conclusion does not follow (or better: your opponent’s conclusion is cast into doubt by his own assumptions).

In thinking about Craig’s third objection to AMR, it occurs to me that he is probably using this same strategy in making his case against AMR. His first two objections are arguing that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible ideas. One can be an atheist but this rules out moral realism, or one can be a moral realist, but this rules out atheism. Craig is arguing that we cannot have our cake and eat it too.

But the third objection that Craig makes against AMR is NOT an argument for the view that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible. Rather, it is an argument that moral realism makes atheism unlikely or improbable. The idea is that moral realism provides the basis for a version of the teleological argument or argument from design.

Namely, it is unlikely that random natural processes would produce creatures who have natures that fit well with objective moral values, if there were such a thing as objective moral values. However, if there were a morally perfect person who created the universe, then this creator would have a good reason to bring about the existence of creatures with natures that fit well with objective moral values. Thus, the existence of such creatures provides inductive evidence for the existence of a perfectly good creator, whose existence would make it somewhat likely or probable that creatures with natures that fit well with objective moral values would come to exist.

Craig is in effect saying, “Suppose for the sake of argument that I’m wrong, and that moral realism and atheism are logically compatible ideas. Nevertheless, moral realism provides a strong inductive reason for rejecting atheism, so moral realism comes with a serious cost for atheists who wish to claim that their atheism is a rationally justified belief.”

This sort of teleological argument for the existence of God is at the heart of the case for God made by Richard Swinburne. Swinburne believes that there are objective moral values, but that the basic principles of morality are necessary truths, and thus that their truth is independent of the existence of God.

So, Craig could have said this:

“Look at Swinburne, he believes that there are objective moral values, and that these values don’t depend on God. Nevertheless, Swinburne argues that human creatures have just the sort of characteristics that make it possible for humans to have morally significant lives: free will, the ability to grasp moral truths, desires that bring temptation to act contrary to morality, desires to be good and loving towards others, and lots of opportunities to be good and helpful towards other people and creatures or to be bad and harmful towards other people and creatures.

If the universe in general, and humans in particular are merely the product of random natural processes, then all of these facts about the universe and human beings would be a very improbable coincidence. But if the universe and human beings are the product of a perfectly good creator, then these characteristics of reality and human beings are to be expected, or are at least somewhat probable.”

To be continued…

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