New Atheism’s Cancer and Eventual Cause of Death: Monologue

by Max Andrews

The poet John Milton put it so well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.”  This is true whether this marketplace is in a verbal debate, a written debate, or peer-reviewed literature.  What serves as a decline in the value of ideas are when these ideas have no competition and/or no competition is invited or encouraged.

I’ve recently blogged on Richard Dawkins’ and PZ Myers’ excuses to not engage in dialogue with William Lane Craig.  Once Myers read my blog post he was quick on his draw and gave colorful responses such as:

You call an exposure of WL Craig’s blatant misrepresentation of science “tomfoolery”? OK, I see where you stand. In ignorance.

And when I said that there should be dialogue he responded with,

It’s what YOU want. Why shd we want a dialog with a fraud & moral monster? RT @maxeoa A dialogue is all we want.

You can see Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, for more on his thoughts.  Anyways, I’m not too concerned about this at all.  You can read Dawkins’ excuses in the Guardian (see my post linked above) and Myers’ on his blog.  Their responses have no substance.  All we have are ad hominem attacks and just weak excuses.  If this is the best of new atheism then Christian theism has very little academic rigor to compete with.  Like I said before, debating involves skill, that’s obvious, and not everyone can debate well.  Then why not a written debate or review of the other side’s literature?

I commend Dennett for engaging with Craig and Plantinga.  I appreciate Hitchens and Harris for debating Craig.  I’m thankful for Law and Millican in their choice to debate Craig despite Dawkins’ request that they not do so (though they aren’t new atheists). However, I honestly believe the new atheist trend is fading out. Richard Dawkins is, perhaps, the most famous atheist there is.  When he ostensibly refuses to engage in dialogue it says a lot.  It indicates that all he wants is a monologue, which is what’s going to kill new atheism.  I would love to say that Christian theism will be the cause of snuffing out new atheism in the popular culture and in the university but I think it’s the new atheist’s desire for monologue, philosophical and academic suicide.

Oh, how we should loathe the day when we actually put our worldviews, philosophical, and scientific beliefs before others for criticism and falsification.  I think we should all have our worldviews and beliefs be put to scrutiny and to be tested.  We should hold on to what is good and true and allow our beliefs to rest in empirical harms way and be open to criticism and correction.  This seems to be quite contrary to the direction new atheism is headed.  I really wish there was substantive dialogue; whether that is verbal debate, written debate, or peer-review, the leaders of new atheism need to strive for dialogue and substantive interaction.  Everyone can see through the name calling and poor excuses and see a lack of substance.  I hope atheists can pull themselves together and have a rich dialogue and exchange with Christians. Perhaps, that’s just too much to ask for.

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182 Responses to “New Atheism’s Cancer and Eventual Cause of Death: Monologue”

  1. One of the things these guys don’t seem to get is that I (and people like me) am a potential convert to their cause. All they seem to want to do is preach to the choir. If they are trying to appeal to people who are actively seeking the truth then they need to do more than point out potential flaws in religion. They need to construct a basis for their own worldview and promote it.
    In the battle of multiple competing worldviews they seem to be putting up a poor proposal.

  2. I remember when the New Atheism had a cover article in wired. I must’ve read the article two or three times, and I thought to myself, “there isn’t anything new here. Atheists said all this already a hundred years ago.”

    I never got involved in the debates, though I did listen to a few Hitchen’s debates on the radio, and I watched him debate Allistor McGrath.

    I can honestly say, that I was rather bored with the presentation. I feel that they succeed in only preaching to the choir.

  3. I will be glad when the clanging of the new atheists trolls dies away, only to be found in the deep recesses of cyber space, if not at all.

  4. It’s not really ad hominem to point out that you’re would-be debator is an apologist for murdering children, and therefore you don’t want to debate him.

    “When he ostensibly refuses to engage in dialogue it says a lot. It indicates that all he wants is a monologue”

    If he only wanted a monologue, then he would be refusing to debate anyone. He debates many people – Rabbis, Arch Bishops etc. Hardly a monologue.

    • I know your comment was brief and categorically broad, but you’ve got a strawman argument. It’s really a misunderstanding of divine command theory and is a question of inerrancy, not the existence of God. Additionally, ad hominem is moral monster, fraud, sorry excuse for a human, etc. not the reason. I’m not sure why you made that connection…

      • Max, you’re right – my comment was very brief, my point pretty concise. I couldn’t respond to your reply any better than by restating what I already said – if Dawkins only wanted a monologue then he wouldn’t be debating others. And he’s clearly stated that WLC strikes him as a moral monster by being an apologist for child murder, therefore he doesn’t want to debate him.

        The only thing I’d change in my previous post would be ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’.

      • People tend to use ‘ad hominem’ to flag up a logical fallacy, if you use insult as a substitute for an argument – “an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it”. I don’t see the logical fallacy in Dawkins or Myers calling WLC a moral monster. Even if you disagree with their reasoning, that doesn’t make it an ad hominem.

        “It’s really a misunderstanding of divine command theory and is a question of inerrancy, not the existence of God.”

        Sorry, whose misunderstanding are you talking about here? Mine or Dawkins? Either way, still not an hominem.

        It is not illegitimate to call someone “moral monster, fraud, sorry excuse for a human” etc, unless you are using these attacks as an argument in itself. People have certainly called Dawkins and Myers a few nasty names. You can say that it is rude to do so, but it doesn’t automatically make it a logical fallacy.

        Additionally, if your reason for not debating someone is that you view them as a moral monster, then calling them a moral monster is not an ad hominem – it IS your reason. Again, not a fallacy, even if a third party argues that they are mistaken in applying the ‘moral monster’ label.

      • Max Andrews: “Rhetorical and debate tactics as criticisms against Craig are hardly substantive though. Also, concessions in academic debate is when the opponent fails to address the issue. He may not actual concede but that’s what a concession is in academic debate.”

        From Stephen Law following a debate with Craig: “When pressed by Brierley, Craig actually admitted at the end of the debate in the Q&A that his repeated insistence during the debate that I had conceded there was a God by not going after the cosmological argument was just “debate tactics”. He didn’t actually believe it.”

        Sounds like a substantive criticism against Craig of disingenuous and dishonest debate tactics. Here’s Chris Hallquist expanding on the above:

        “In the debate, Stephen Law took the position that Craig’s cosmological argument was simply irrelevant, because it doesn’t even try to prove the existence of God as defined by both Law and Craig. Craig decided to take this and announce that Law had “conceded” the argument. Law called him out on this, and here’s how Craig defended himself:

        “Well, I would say in response to that that since we both agree that the cosmological argument, my first argument, doesn’t even attempt to establish the moral properties of the creator, that means the problem of evil is irrelevant with respect to it, it doesn’t offer any refutation of it, and that was what I meant when I said you tacitly concede that there is a creator of the universe, in a debate context, because you don’t refute it. I mean, in a debate context, to refuse to address and engage with an argument is to tacitly admit it.”

        This is all nonsense. Craig is trying to give the word “concede” a meaning it simply doesn’t have. Craig regularly dismisses arguments on the grounds of irrelevance (he even does so in the above quote!), but it would be dishonest for me to take statements like that and declare that Craig has conceded the God of the Old Testament is a moral monster, or that Craig has conceded the New Testament is historically unreliable.”

  5. From Professor Emeritus Edgar Andrews: I did debate Richard Dawkins once on creation and evolution but that was a long time ago in 1986 at the Huxley Memorial Debate at the Oxford Union (it can still be heard on the internet). It was after that that he vowed never to debate creationists again “because it only gives them a platform to present their views” … though he has broken his rule once or twice since. But the reluctance of New Atheists to engage in debate extends to books. My 2009 book “Who made God? Searching for a theory of everything” (which seeks to expose the scientific pretensions of the NAs and present a biblical worldview) has been reviewed 75 times by Amazon readers (UK and USA sites combined) but there has not been a single review from an atheist which even attempted to engage with my arguments (although there have been a few dismissive reviews from such folk). Atheist physicist Victor Stenger, whose own book “God, the failed hypothesis” I critique in “Who made God?”, did reply somewhat mutely to my criticisms on his website (and I responded on mine) but this is the only real engagement there has been by the atheistic community, new or old. I have concluded, like you, that their strategy is simply to promote their own worldview and ignore the opposition to it. It can be a simple and effective way to ‘evangelize’ and I think they know it.

  6. “When he ostensibly refuses to engage in dialogue it says a lot. ”

    I think there’s a difference between refusing to engage in a formal debate with a professional debater and refusing to engage in dialogue. Dialogue and debate are different animals.

    “If they are trying to appeal to people who are actively seeking the truth then they need to do more than point out potential flaws in religion. They need to construct a basis for their own worldview and promote it.”

    For you specifically, maybe. For me and many of us, the failure of religion to provide evidence for its claims (and someone to point that out) was all that was required to make us atheists.

  7. It doesn’t sound like Myers is offering excuses anyway. Seems quite honest in admitting that he’d get clobbered by WLC, and also seems open to responding to WLC’s ideas in writing:

    “Let’s be honest, debating is a skill, Craig is well-practiced in it, and I’m not. Craig would probably ‘win’, and that’s the great lie right there: debate is a terrible way to resolve a truth claim, and a great way to flaunt some rarefied rhetorical talent. He could clobber me six ways from Sunday, and what it would show is that I’m a lousy debater, and he’s good at it; but his fans would all say it’s evidence that he’s right.

    I much prefer the written argument, because he can’t run away from his own words. One of his skills in the oral debate is the slippery elide; if someone is hammering him on one point, he’ll just skip over it to a new point. I’d rather get his words down in writing, where I can pin him down, stick a knife in the B*******d, and twist it for a good long while. Longer and with more detail and rigor than is possible in a verbal tussle.”

    By the way, my last post didn’t appear. It hardly bolsters your above argument if you’re not allowing posts to appear.

  8. Andrew I was listening to Dr. Craig speak live at an event a couple weeks ago and someone raised exactly the objection you are raising – that Craig is an excellent debater and that his opponents aren’t comfortable with the format. His reply to this objection was that all of his material is published in his books, on his website, etc and that they have months or years to formulate arguments against his positions. To suggest that he can “run away from his own words” seems implausible – his arguments are clearly written down for anyone to pick up and defeat if they can.

    • There is another problem that I’ve several times* heard of people agreeing to debate WLC under a given debate title, and then on the day they’re told that a) The whole title of the debate has been changed and b) WLC has to go first – both on WLC’s insistence. This seems designed to undermine preparation and shift things in WLC’s favour – his first move is generally a “Gish Gallop” designed to move the burden of proof to the other side, so that when the other speaker starts they have to deal with that burden shifting before they get onto their own argument. Hence, I guess, why WLC insisting he goes first. Sometimes an argument riddled with fallacies can take a few sentences to say but several paragraphs to debunk.

      That said, I agree that debators should do more homework when debating WLC. I guess this is a problem when you’ve got a ‘professional debator’ who has nothing to do but prepare for his opponent, vs someone who has a different and time-consuming ‘main job’, such as Dawkins. One of Dawkins objections to WLC in the past mentioned that WLC is a ‘professional debator’.

      * Sam Harris: ” [WLC] presumed to narrow the topic of our debate (I later learned that he insisted upon speaking first and made many other demands). Those who expected me to follow the path Craig cut in his opening remarks don’t seem to understand the game he was playing. He knew that if he began, “Here are 5 (bogus) points that Sam Harris must answer if he has a shred of self-respect,” this would leave me with a choice between delivering my prepared remarks, which I believed to be crucial, or wasting my time putting out the small fires he had set. If I stuck to my argument, as I mostly did, he could return in the next round to say, “You will notice that Dr. Harris entirely failed to address points 2 and 5. It is no wonder, because they make a mockery of his entire philosophy.”
      As I observed once during the debate, but should have probably mentioned again, Craig employs other high school debating tricks to mislead the audience: He falsely summarizes what his opponent has said; he falsely claims that certain points have been conceded; and, in our debate, he falsely charged me with having wandered from the agreed upon topic. The fact that such tricks often work is a real weakness of the debate format, especially one in which the participants are unable to address one another directly. Nevertheless, I believe I was right not to waste much time rebutting irrelevancies, correcting Craig’s distortions of my published work, or taking his words out of my mouth. Instead, I simply argued for a scientific conception of moral truth and against one based on the biblical God. This was, after all, the argument that the organizer’s at Notre Dame had invited me to make.”

      • Craig goes first because he’s the affirmative position, just the format of an academic debate. If there’s a debate topic and he’s the negative then he goes second. He hasn’t always gone first either, recall his debate with Ayala, he went second there (and others). Craig is very clear that he believes both sides have the burden of proof (generally speaking). Certain nuances of arguments require burden of proof, but he’s quite clear that atheism and Christianity both have a burden of proof. Rhetorical and debate tactics as criticisms against Craig are hardly substantive though. Also, concessions in academic debate is when the opponent fails to address the issue. He may not actual concede but that’s what a concession is in academic debate. What published work do you have? Can you link me articles (at least sources) and/or Amazon. Thanks, Andrew, and I appreciate your comments and feedback.

    • William Lane Craig refused to debate John Loftus, why wasn’t this mentioned in your analysis? I want to hear how it’s the death knell for Christianity because Craig only wants a monologue. Does that claim seem a bit fallacious now?

      Craig thinking that taking a sword and slicing open a suckling infant is a perfectly good and glorious thing for God to have commanded is revolting enough, but to then add his sympathies for the poor Israelite soldiers and claim that they are the real victims was just putrid. People holding such beliefs need medication and supervision, not a podium and a microphone.

      And Craig’s “logic”? Yes, this might offend OUR moral sensibilities, but those moral sensibilities are from Judaeo-Christian[sic] values (*cough* *cough*) — um, if it’s a GOOD thing to do on Judeo-Christian theology why would it offend Judeo-Christian values? How about, perhaps we’re just not as ignorant as they were thousands of years ago??? No, that possibility is ignored by Craig in his analysis.

      And next Craig pulls out the old canard “But they were committing child sacrifice!!!!” – and clearly the punishment for child sacrifice should be to slice open the children who weren’t sacrificed with a sword. That WILL teach them alright…

      And you can plead your case for divine command with the likes of Andrea Yates.

      • Loftus doesn’t even have a Ph.D. You seriously believe he’s a leading proponent of atheism? There are MUCH better atheists than him. Tell Loftus to get his Ph.D first. Feel free to see my posts on DCT.

      • Wow, you convinced me, Loftus really sucks, he ONLY has three pathetic degrees and no Ph.D. what a loser! LOL, his teachers must have sucked to produce such a loser… you know, his former teachers like… um, William Lane Craig at Trinity Evangelical Divinity.

  9. @Dark Star

    1. What credibility do you have regarding making moral complaints against someone else? What is your imaginary moral code that you follow to aid your arbitrary flourishing? Are you even a moral realist?

    2. John Loftus is the Jimmy Swaggart of atheism, we don’t need clowns (who can’t even beat Dinesh D’Souza) getting involved in a serious debate. It’s pretty obvious that you can’t compare Richard Dawkins to John Loftus either. At least Rich Dawkins is top notch when it comes to emotional arguments and living it up in the limelight, so your analogy is not analogous. If you believe that John Loftus is the leading proponet of atheism then your knowledge of this topic is worse than a fan of Harold Camping and his “Bunkagesis Bible Belt Theology”

    Loftus is nothing but a joke to academia.

    Anyways in response to the 4 horseman wannabee PZ Myers I have this to say to him.

    Philosophy Students learn in their first year of taking philosophy that the question in regards of the existence of God is a *Philosphical question*. PZ You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Though I do forgive you PZ, for you are not a logician.

    • First: “Everyone can see through the name calling and poor excuses and see a lack of substance”
      Then: “John Loftus is the Jimmy Swaggart of atheism, we don’t need clowns (who can’t even beat Dinesh D’Souza) getting involved in a serious debate… Loftus is nothing but a joke to academia”

      Hmm…

      “Philosophy Students learn in their first year of taking philosophy that the question in regards of the existence of God is a *Philosphical question*. PZ You should be ashamed of yourself.”

      It’s not clear what claim by PZ you are actually addressing here, but you are quick to point the finger. Many claims people make for their God can be addressed scientifically. For just two examples, one can debunk claims for a young earth using empirical evidence, and Myers is particularly good at addressing the biological claims of creationists. I’d argue that Plantinga’s argument against naturalistic evolution is still a scientific one, and can be defeated using science too.

    • “What credibility do you have regarding making moral complaints against someone else?”

      I’d love to see how far this would get you as a Defence Lawyer trying to get a mass murderer freed. Dark Star has to offer you some kind of credentials before he can say that justifying genocide is, just perhaps, a little evil? Is there any crime so heinous that you WOULD allow others to say “That’s wrong”?

      This is doesn’t help your cause in setting yourself up as holding a superior moral philosophy.

  10. Another thing for Dawkins and PZ

    If Dr. Craig is such a bad guy, why doesn’t he have a criminal record? So let’s snap back to reality here and remember.

    Actions speak louder than words anyways right?

    Actions clearly show Dawkins only cares about money and knows a loss to Dr. Craig would cripple the relationship Dawkins has with his fans…..this hurts book sales, so Dawkins can’t back up his work.

    If Dawkins or Pz want to engage in a written debate then by all means go right ahead, I would be ok with that.

    • “If Dr. Craig is such a bad guy, why doesn’t he have a criminal record?”

      Non sequitur. Few philosophers have criminal records, but one can certainly make an argument that their ideas are evil or have a bad influence.

      “Actions clearly show Dawkins only cares about money”

      What, like his charity work? Likewise PZ Myers. I’d be more willing to accept that Dawkins is vain and cares more about his credibility.

  11. There’s a disappointing lack of consistency from WLC’s defenders. First we’re told the problem is Dawkins refusing to debate WLC means he only wants a monologue, and that calling WLC a moral monster is an Ad Hominem. This despite Dawkins debating plenty of other people, and clearly saying that he doesn’t want to debate WLC because he finds him morally reprehensible.

    Then, when it is pointed out that WLC also refuses to debate certain people, the response from WLC’s defenders is first to attack the man he doesn’t want to debate – Loftus is a “joke”, he doesn’t have the right qualifications – and second to ask for our own qualifications (“please give me an Amazon link”) to even point this out.

    So now it’s fine to judge the person rather than their argument?

    To sum up: it makes no difference whether you believe Loftus is unqualified or is a joke – if you accept WLC’s right to refuse to debate him, you should be willing to grant Dawkins the same.

    • But Andrew, Christianity is nothing if not a double standard by which to command others to live by.

      The vitriolic response that we should dare to question Craig is what I think Hitchens had in mind when he said his favorite virtue is “An appreciation for irony.” Dunning & Kruger would be proud.

  12. “I guess this is a problem when you’ve got a ‘professional debator’ who has nothing to do but prepare for his opponent, vs someone who has a different and time-consuming ‘main job’, such as Dawkins.”

    I think Craig might object to your idea that he has nothing to do but be a professional debater:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_william_lane_craig

    I’m not sure if you watched the whole debate with Sam Harris, but some other non-theist philosophy bloggers do not share your/Harris’ version of what happened (warning – strong language):
    http://www.philosophybro.com/2011/04/special-event-sam-harris-v-william-lane.html

    Dark Star I just don’t understand how attacking the OT in the Bible undermines anything in a debate of “does God exist?” Craig doesn’t use the Bible to make his case, so attacking the OT is off-topic. He could just dismiss the idea of Biblical inerrancy and say that the OT writers wrongly attributed those acts to God, and then make his exact same arguments.

    Andrew – neither Craig nor Dawkins has to debate everybody that has a blog and an opinion. Craig is probably the leading Christian apologist and Dawkins is probably the leading popular atheist. Wouldn’t you like to see a title fight?

    • Larry: “Dark Star I just don’t understand how attacking the OT in the Bible undermines anything in a debate of “does God exist?””

      Nor have you undermined anything in my argument that invisible pink unicorns fart universes into existence. It’s not a physical fart of course, invisible pink unicorns, being immaterial and timeless, create ex nihilo inflatio. This is clearly evidenced by the facts that: this place stinks (colloquially), the quantity of gaseous methane found in space, and the “inflationary” period of the Big Bang…

      But, non sequiturs aside, what do my comments have to do with a debate on “does [IPU] exist?” [I corrected your blasphemy]

      I could have sworn we were discussing Dawkins refusal to share the stage with Craig based on Craig’s position on Biblical genocide and infanticide, detailed in the article:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig
      “Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t”

      and despite Dawkins statement in the same article:

      “I have publicly engaged an archbishop of York, two archbishops of Canterbury, many bishops and the chief rabbi, and I’m looking forward to my imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury”

      Dawkins is clearly a filthy, greedy libturd who is afraid of debate and wants only a monologue, quod erat demonstrandum, proceed to insert fingers into ears & chant “la la la la la” (figuratively speaking).

      • Well said. Mostly. I guess we need to check the University credentials of all those bishops and archbishops… Who on earth would consider all of that lot to be representative of religion in any way? Why, most of them have the temerity to actually CONDEMN genocide – where on earth is their moral authority?

  13. I always thought that atheism lacked substance, because it is simply based on human potential and our ability to empirically “prove things”. But my thought is that we honestly consider the grandiosity of this universe and how minute we really are, how can we possible conclude that there is no deity simply because our limited minds cannot fully comprehend it? It is immature and ignorant to reach such bold conclusion. God is a concept worth serious consideration.

    • Oh please Noel, theists don’t often stop at “hey, there might be something unfathomable out there underlying the universe that we experience”. If you stopped there you would be a deist or a Spinozian and nobody would give you the time of day; unless you were Einstein, and then you would realize that there isn’t a time of day to be had.

      No, the Christian, the Jew, the Muslim (just to name a few Billion cases) don’t stop at the merely numinous, that’s not good enough for them. They proclaim to know the mind and will of this God (which thankfully nearly always just happens to agree with their own prejudices) as documented in their respective, handy-dandy Holy Books. That God will burn you in Hell Fire for all eternity if you masturbate or mix linen and wool clothing. That men who love men and women who love women are foul and evil and must be put to death as abominations in this “God’s” view. That women who menstruate are filthy and unclean and must be put away. That women are to blame for the temptation of men and must be hidden, least they lure a man into sin. And, obviously, Burning a women to death because your ignorant book proclaims “suffer not a witch to live” is clearly the mature path to be taken. They KNOW this is what god wants and they intent to carry out and enforce “his will” on the people of the Earth – and that is where the non-religious take issue with Religion (and one religion with another for that matter).

      I don’t think that all religious people are actually silly enough to buy into most of the nonsense in their Holy Books – they cherry pick and excuse and interpret the books in light of their own predilections. And when they cannot escape some fatal flaw they just turn a blind eye to it (God sure is mysterious, huck huck).

      Atheism is a very narrow position on a single question, you surely must know that most atheists look very deeply at moral/ethical questions beyond that. Most are secular humanists in some form or another.

      It’s our minds cannot “fully comprehend it” – it’s that there is absolutely no legitimate evidence for it. It’s all hokum, smoke and mirrors, arguments from ignorance, and mythological stories.

      And the problems run deep. Let’s assume that the Christian Bible is the actual word of the actual God. Great, now what? No two Christians can seem to agree on what that word is. Is there a Trinity? Well, the non-Trinity believing Christians were slaughtered and murdered and their writings burned by the Trinity Christians in the 5th century so you don’t hear much about it today but there are still many Christian sects that do NOT affirm a doctrine of the Trinity.

      Holy Crap (and I mean that literally), they can’t even agree on something this major. Was Jesus actually God or just a “prophet? Nope, they don’t all agree on that. And the Jewish Scholars will tell you that the OT passages the Christians use to “prove Jesus” don’t even speak of the messiah! Surely the Jewish Scholars know a bit about Hebrew and the meaning of their own texts – but no, the Christians claim to know better. Who should be believed?

      Well, if you grew up in a Christian culture the likelihood of you choosing Islam or Judaism over Christianity are very very very slim – so you’ll believe the Christians. Not because of any actual evidence, but because of inculcation. Or maybe you accidentally fell in love with someone of a different religion, your chances of switching suddenly go way up (who could have guessed, sexual desires + oxytocin > religion). You’ll excuse it because “well, all religions are One underneath” or some such equally vacuous excuse [it is a fact that there are mutually exclusive components between all the major religions, God of the OT goes to great length to run his representatives around the desert slaughtering those who picked the Canaanite gods or goddesses).

      So, no, the self-aggrandizing “I’m so much more mature and less ignorant than those heathens” speech doesn’t cut mustard.

    • To be fair, all it means is you don’t believe there’s a God. No perfect knowledge claim is made by being an atheist.

  14. Technically, belief in the non-existence of something does require perfect knowledge. To be an agnostic, on the other hand doesn’t. The positive way to state an atheist’s belief is, “I believe there is no God.” To state this requires not just perfect empircal knowledge, for instance, what exists behind a distant galaxy, but also all perfect metaphysical knowledge as well (for instance, that no one has ever truly experienced God). To believe in something, all I have to do is experience it. To say something does not exist, you have to experience everything and not find it.

    If you don’t want to make a “perfect knowledge” claim, then agnosticism is the way to go–not atheism.

    However, there is a God. He gave us the reason to understand this world, the moral sense to discern His nature, His Word to show us where we are going, and His Son to get us there. God exists; He loves you; and He proved it in Christ.

    • I disagree, belief in the non-existence does not require perfect knowledge. See http://sententias.org/2010/12/30/proving-a-universal-negative/

      • Belief requires no knowledge either way. Gnosticism may do. Atheism isn’t on a spectrum where it’s a more certain version of agnosticism. One can be a theist agnostic or an atheist agnostic, and similarly a gnostic theist or gnostic atheist.

      • Good blog entry there. I’ve answered it there, but here’s my response on this thread:

        A perfect being that creates can be seen as a contradiction. If it creates, it must desire to create. If it has desires then it must be lacking. If it is lacking then it is not perfect.

        WLC’s answer is that God didn’t create us for his own sake but for ours. Leaving aside that I don’t think this makes sense – he created something for the sake of the thing that didn’t actually exist yet? – this doesn’t actually solve the problem. If I go to the shop to buy milk, it’s because I want to buy the milk. If I’m buying the milk for my next-door neighbour then I’m still buying the milk because I want to buy it – regardless of whether I’m doing it on behalf of someone else. If God is doing something for our sake, then he’s still doing it because he wants to do it, and so the same problem applies.

    • rpviv – I think you are missing the point. First of all, most modern atheists only say that THEY do not believe in God. The OED defines atheism as: “disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god”, which is consistent with modern usage.

      So it very much depends on whether the Atheist is stating their OWN state of belief or if the Atheist is making an ontological claim.

      Do you believe in Santa? How safe is it to believe that Santa doesn’t actually exist? Not the Mall Santa, or Nicholas, or the Santa in our hearts – a REAL, ACTUAL Santa who lives at the North Pole and has elves make toys for the good boys and girls which he delivers magically overnight to children all over the world — THAT Santa – are you agnostic or is it reasonable to believe that this Santa doesn’t actually exist? Do we require perfect knowledge to infer from what we know of geography, physics, and history that this Santa is a myth?

      I certainly do not believe that this is a reasonable position to take. Are people that craven?

      What if I told you I had an entire 1092 foot long Aircraft Carrier literally in my pocket? Are you equally agnostic as to the truth value of that claim? Or, because it would violate the known laws of physics, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to conclude that this a false statement?

      Perfect knowledge is only required if I’m making a perfect claim, it’s not required for reasonable claims or reasonable beliefs. The idea that it must be perfect knowledge leads to absurd conclusions.

      So why demand PERFECT knowledge from me before I reject a “god” that impregnates what (by Jewish customs tied to the specific language used) would have been a 13 or 14 year old girl, who was betrothed to an old man? Who then bore a “son”, who was a man, but also a god, and this man-god then had to sacrifice himself to himself in order to provide a vicarious redemption for the sins of man, which he had created… A HUMAN, scapegoating sacrifice that we’re then asked to celebrate with the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood. A god who commanded men to slaughter infants, he may have stayed Abraham’s hand but he didn’t (according to the stories anyway) stay the hands of the soldiers commanded to genocide the seven nations and wipe out the Canaanites down to the suckling infants and oxen. And, despite the fact that it’s claimed “And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose” (Matthew 27:52) NOBODY ELSE IN HISTORY RECORDED THIS except for ONE guy, writing anonymously, some 40 years AFTER the supposed events took place? More than 2 million human beings this god murders and commands to be murdered, just by the count in the stories themselves (the actual estimates are much higher).

      These stories comprise specific claims (numbering in the tens of thousands) which violate the bounds of all credulity and the known laws of physics. They fail every test for reasonableness I can imagine.

      And if one admits the Biblical texts into the evidential body as 100% historically accurate documents, then we must also admit the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Pyramid texts, Gilgamesh, Zoroastrian Avesta, Homeric Hymns, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and hundreds of other texts of antiquity, as all holding equal weight. An absolutely absurd proposition and it’s an even more absurd proposition to suppose that we should pick one set of texts based on nothing more than our inculcated prejudices.

      That doesn’t mean that I have absolute proof they are ALL false – it’s virtually impossible to do such a thing under the best of circumstances. This epidemic difficulty, which applies nearly universally, poses no serious concern because positive claims carry the greatest burden of proof under any reasonable epistemological system. And the level of absolutely insane, ranting, absurdity in all of these texts is more than sufficient grounds for me to reject them.

      I’m (more or less) equally Agnostic towards the Christian deity as I am the Homeric deities, and the THOUSANDS of other gods that man has invented throughout history. Which is to say that I don’t give them much credence and I find holding a belief in them to be absurd.

      Sure, there might be some categorically abstract first cause, or there might not be – but I certainly don’t BELIEVE that there is one in the absence of evidence.

      I’m not agnostic about “God” – I’m agnostic about how the universe came into being – we honestly do not know and that’s ALL that can be validly said about it at this time. To propose “God” is to beg the question.

  15. Thanks for all of the replies. Max, I see my error in word choice. Belief or unbelief only requires reasons–not perfect knowledge. Yet to demonstrate God does not exist would require perfect knowledge. Logic applies to propositions. The proposition “God exists,” and “God does not exist,” for that matter, are not in themselves internally illogical (although taken together there is the “excluded middle” problem). If someone is going to make the statement “God does not exist,” then he/she does bear a burden of proof–and no small one. If that person cannot bear that burden, and respond that it is simply what they “believe,” then atheism involves some level of faith. In this case, the appeal to exclusive use of reason, which is pretty typical from new atheists, should be dropped. Otherwise, we must (as Dark Star does) deal in propositions about God and His nature. The point is that the demonstrating the universal non-existence of God is a daunting and difficult (impossible?) task.

    Dark Star…As a matter of faith, I would have trouble believing in the God you propose as well. But you leave out a lot. You focus only on the judgment and not the love and justice. You apply a moral standard that has no objective basis apart from God (I’m sure this argument is not new to you). There is more to the Christian God than what you reject above. There is more to Christ than what you dismiss above. There is a reasonable basis for belief in God, you just have to focus on the full nature of God, not just a few deeds out of context. There are reasonable bases for unbelief as well, but I believe the case for God to be more reasonable.

    There goes my entire morning… Thanks for the dialogue. God loves you, and he proved it in Christ.

    • I’d still disagree to believe in the non existence of God, atheism, one must show that the very concept I contradictory. What makes the requirements for the non existence of God different, namely perfect knowledge, from other negated existentially or universally quantified beliefs.

      • I agree that proving the non-existence of God is different than say, proving the non-existence of Santa or proving that Dark Star doesn’t have an Aircraft Carrier in his pocket. But, are you saying that the only way to prove God’s non-existence is by demonstrating it is logically inconsistent and that universal knowledge doesn’t apply?

        (I agree that atheists are entitled to ‘believe’ anything they can provide a reason for, just like theists need only to provide a reason for God’s existence to support theism.)

  16. I have no interest in trying to disprove some generic-brand deity that nobody believes in and has no consequences in the real world. There are two religions that I have much concern about and that is Christianity (foremost because it negatively affects my life Every Single Day), and Islam (because it is running rampant elsewhere). I’m sure there are other harmful religions beyond that but my time is finite and my concerns are real and immediate. Beyond that I only care about SPECIFIC claims that are made. And I care mostly about what people think God wants them to do in the world.

    The Resurrection story of Jesus is even more certainly false than my having an Aircraft Carrier in my pocket. So I think that you have a serious prejudice in your epistemology.

    I don’t know what you’re talking about, my moral standard is objective and based on the commands of the Invisible Pink Unicorn – duh. And my assertion at having such an objective standard is just as valid (ie., NOT AT ALL) as when Christians ASSERT that they have an objective moral standard when all they have is a bunch of utter nonsense written by Iron age goat herders who exhibit absolutely no knowledge beyond what existed at the time and is written in words that nobody can even agree as to the fact of the matter of what those words actually mean, and it contains clearly abhorrent and disgusting passages and practices (commands to sacrifice a child, commands to genocide after genocide, commands to slaughter infant children, infant genital mutilation, etc).

    People used to think it morally justifiable to kill witches, based on the clear command in the Bible that we should not suffer a witch to live. Now most don’t. Do you honestly believe that it’s moral to kill ‘witches’? If not, then you cannot rely on the Bible as an objective moral standard. And if you aren’t getting it from the Bible then you are making it up just like everyone else. It’s one of the myriad things we negotiate in the implicit social contract. And societies that had ZERO contact with Judaism or Christianity had extremely similar sets of basic laws against murder and theft (some of those societies had no need for theft laws as they had absolutely no need for them). And this is the same “Objective Moral Standard” that produced the Inquisitions, Witch Burnings, the Requiremento, and Manifest Destiny.

    The fact is that you only have YOUR subjective interpretation of those words, and on just about every single point of morality I can point to Christian Scholars who will disagree with you in earnest. There are 30,000 sects of Christianity, all with varying interpretations of the scripture and there are tens of thousands of other religious sects that are all making mutually exclusive moral claims.

    So your method of determining your presupposed “objective moral standards” (be it revelation or gnosis) is a demonstrated failure and your choice of one set of beliefs over another is purely cultural and subjective, with absolutely no evidence that it is actually objective. The difference is that I’m willing to hear what others have to say on the question and adjust my ethics based on logical argumentation while Christians are left following a book filled with absolutely disgusting tales of horrific behavior and pretending that it sets a moral standard. Some glaring examples, the bible says not a word against having sex with underaged children, it has laws about how to sell your daughter into slavery, and no prohibitions against the institution of slavery.

    It’s an assault on human intelligence to call the bible a source for an objective moral standard.

    The difference is that I don’t pretend to be in possession of something I am not (unless I’m speaking ironically, as I did in my opening paragraph). I do not resort to a fallacious appeal to authority in discussions about what is moral/ethical, I don’t know exactly how humans determine their morality and neither do you (and it’s likely to vary somewhat from person to person). But we know with certainty that our morality is subjective and subject to the condition of the person at the time; it can be affected by physical damage to the brain, chemical alteration (low-blood sugar, drug effects, poison), is largely based on some combination of learning and predilection, it can change over time, and it relies heavily on our sense of empathy and our ability to understand the consequences of our actions.

    We know that human beings that exhibit abhorrent moralities frequently show difference in brain structure and functioning in the areas of the brain strongly correlated with empathy, if someone cannot feel empathy then they would be lacking on the of key Human social building emotions. If someone is clearly suffering from brain damage/dementia and they act in violation of common morality – we understand that there is a problem – we don’t let them run around free but we try to get them help and we isolate them from society and we don’t hold them equally culpable for their actions.

    Young children also simply CANNOT understand the consequences of pulling the trigger on a gun, we don’t hold them responsible for doing so – we blame the responsible adult who left the gun out. Similarly with someone who is profoundly mentally retarded, or fully senile. We understand that our culpability is a complex function that we don’t fully understand (we can find specific major cases where we mostly all agree, and then as we get into finer points that are less grounded in solid fact, we disagree more and more).

    • Dark Star:
      “There are two religions that I have much concern about and that is Christianity (foremost because it negatively affects my life Every Single Day)…”

      Would you please expound on what you mean by negatively affecting your life every day? By the way, I enjoy reading your posts (even if I don’t agree). I have atheist & agnostic friends and if we were sitting across from each other having coffee or a beer or whatever I think we’d get along.

      • My family is now all heavily Christian and their insistence on trying to force it on me has harmed and is harming our relationship and their relationship with their grandson.

        I have received death threats and harassment for speaking out on the topic (pretty much only from Christians so far, but only because my Islamic readership is zero I suspect). I have had my livelihood threatened, and my family.

        My friends who are gay are impacted by the denial of their Rights, which in turn, impacts me (in terms of their ability to marry, donate blood, serve in the military, provide for care for their children and each other, etc). Some people have had their lives ruined because of the prejudicial policies, laws, and people. Which also affects gay teens who have a much higher suicide rate (~2.5x) and it’s not because there is anything inherently wrong with being gay – it’s because they are attacked, harassed, threatened and ostracized in their community.

        Study: The impact of victimization on the mental health and suicidality of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth: http://www.hhdev.psu.edu/HDFS/faculty/pubs/95vict.pdf

        Verses hostile environments: http://www.livescience.com/13755-homosexual-lgb-teen-suicide-rates-environments.html
        “The results of this study are pretty compelling,” Hatzenbuehler said in a statement. “When communities support their gay young people, and schools adopt anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies that specifically protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempted suicide by all young people drops, especially for LGB youth.”

        And transgender people face even greater difficulties.

        One elderly relative fell for a certain TV evangelist (which I will assert is a massive fraud) and gave away large sums of money, now her granddaughter’s husband has cancer, they can’t work, have no insurance, and have 4 adopted and 4 foster children that they cannot support. You could argue that’s just a fraud and yes, I agree – but I think Christianity sets up the expectation to believe in miracles and provides a rich fleecing ground for the unscrupulous.

        Prohibition, abortion, women’s rights, stem cell research, vaccinations, public health education/sex education, contraceptive use, blue laws – are all policy areas I see negatively impacted by Christians here in the US (on the basis of their Christianity).

        To be honest, cataloging it is fairly depressing 🙂 [don’t worry, I have no intention of committing suicide over it]

        BTW, I might argue against religious beliefs (and even practices in a few very extreme cases – genital mutilation being one of them) but I am, in general, a very strong a proponent of the free exercise thereof, PROVIDED Jefferson’s wall of separation between Church and State remains in place – put too many holes in that wall and the gloves will come off 🙂

        Outlawing religion would be an unmitigated disaster in the same ways that outlawing abortion would be a disaster (and is a disaster in my locations around the world), and outlawing alcohol was a disaster, and how drug prohibition is also an unmitigated disaster (whole ‘nother conversation). Prohibitions just don’t work without a vast majority of support as exists for murder, theft, fraud, etc. But we shouldn’t need to outlaw religion because I think the vast majority of people who follow a religion just honestly want to be better people, and that’s a good goal.

        I’m not a Marxist (I’m not much for ideologies in general), but I would like to share a Marx quote that you have probably misheard a few times so please re-read it carefully (you might already know this, but perhaps others are unaware of the full context):

        “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions”. ~ Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

        So I don’t fight to end religion directly, I fight to end the conditions that engender religion. And unfortunately, some of those conditions are created by the religious themselves, so it is truly a dragon, entwined on itself.

      • Dark Star – I’m sure it is very frustrating to have “Christian” family members (who probably have zero rational arguments against any of your objections) try to force their belief system on you. Death threats? Pure craziness.

        I also sympathize with your assessment of the way gays are treated. One of my neighbors is a social worker (agnostic) and complains to me about “Christians” who block her from placing orphaned kids in gay homes. Christians should take the kids into their homes or get out of the way, plain and simple.

        The televangelist thing – eh – people fall for the Nigerian email scam too – I don’t think that one carries much weight. People are going to try to dupe you out of your money using any method available.

        BUT

        What I think you are being unfair about is not considering the amount of good Christianity has done. I won’t bother to list them all here but we both know the list would be extremely long. The judeo-christian ethic this country was founded on has resulted in arguably the greatest country of all time.

        I’ve a friend who is a college professor and quite a fan of Marx so I get to discuss him frequently. “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.” Please consider reading The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Pulitzer prize winner 1974). I think that quote will be quickly shown to be false. Becker was a non-theist.

        Dark Star – I’m with you. A lot of Christians suck. I’ve got some in my life now, had many in my life in the past but I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to let them speak for God.

      • Hi Larry, I totally missed this reply. My apologies.

        “The televangelist thing – eh – people fall for the Nigerian email scam” — the difference is nobody defends the scammer in the later case but the televangelist is given honors and invited to dinner.

        Please don’t read ANYTHING into my reply that is saying that ONLY Christianity is bad, or ONLY religion. You asked specifically about the impacts on my life (and I include my loved ones in that) so I focused on that.

        Nor that Christianity is ONLY bad, Nor that Hamas is ONLY bad, Nor that Islam is ONLY bad.

        Are you aware of the good works Hamas does? Humanitarian work, food, shelter, helping the injured, etc… Does that make Hamas’ supernatural claims about Allah any more true? Or does it justify Hamas’ continued existence?

        Couldn’t we get rid of Hamas and replace it with something that ONLY does the humanitarian work and doesn’t recruit suicide bombers?

        Similarly I seek a way to rid ourselves of the bad aspects of religion (the superstition and supernatural woo, the faith HARMING, the dishonest suppression of scientific progress (stem cell, evolution, education in public schools), the appeal to false authority.

        I want to replace it with secular community building, the charity work continues (nothing changes except an empty belief), all the loving & caring people would still be EXACTLY the same loving & caring people.

        But gone would be the televangelist – freeing up millions, perhaps billions of dollars to go to the truly needy. The homeopathy, the tarot reader, all the detritus of the religious movement.

        The US was NOT founded on the judeo-christian ethic. What of the millions of ethnic Chinese people who immigrated and built half the country? What of the African SLAVES who built a good portion of the other half in blood? Is that the judeo-christian work ethic you had in mind? Enslave someone else and make them work? It was a melting pot, of beliefs, backgrounds, and people, who did work hard. The “elite” didn’t work so hard, they exploited.

        The founders were certainly many religious, of many different kinds of belief – but many found much to dislike in Christianity and the practice of religion and CERTAINLY religious involvement in politics.

        “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”-letter to Wm. Bradford, April 1, 1774

        “Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.”

        “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” -1803 letter objecting use of gov. land for churches

        “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” -letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

        “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved– the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!” -letter to Thomas Jefferson

        “The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.”

        “God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there will never be any liberal science in the world.”

        “Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years?”

        “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot … they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose.” – to Horatio Spafford, March 17, 1814

        “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law.” -letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, 1814

        And once again, the time period leading up to this era was one in which the Catholic church was an absolute power and you either followed them or they murdered, tortured, or otherwise intimidated you into line. You don’t get credit for followers gained in such a manner as the Church did for 1500 years! The Nazi’s were able to get a LOT of people to join their organizations also, that isn’t evidence of superior values and human rights record. The Nazi’s also did MANY good things for the german people. Again, a demonstration of the fallacy of your argument towards Christianities good works – you have to demonstrate that such good works could not be done without Christianity and nobody has done such a thing.

        I already KNOW that you don’t need Christianity – any kind of putrefying ideology will suffice (Islam, authoritarianism tribalism, etc). Something that divides us from them and demonizes them. Christianity is filled with commandments to murder, so is Islam. That marks it off the acceptable list in my book. You can pretend it isn’t there or it’s “that old stuff” and ignore it, but that doesn’t cut it for me. Christians demonized Jewish people for centuries which was, in no small part, responsible for the Holocaust of the Jews:

        “The Holocaust—the murders of six million Jews by a purportedly “Christian” people—posed a direct challenge to Christians throughout the world. They were confronted with the consequences of the anti-Semitism that had been supported by Christian churches for centuries, and which made the Holocaust possible. More crucially, Christians had to acknowledge the churches’ failure (and, in most cases, the lack of any attempt) to stop the Nazi persecution of the Jews.” — Barnett, Victoria, “For the soul of the people: Protestant protest against Hitler”, pg. 290

        And the bible is just flat out wrong about scientific matters like the Earth being flat, the center of the universe, the origin of the Cosmos, the flood – it’s probably lyling about Exodus and other matters as well.

        I’m no fan of Marx personally. I have The Denial of Death – changes nothing. Marx’s quote on religion is actually that we must remove the conditions that drive people to religion. I will agree that Marx is partially wrong – we now understand many of the neurobiological underpinnings of the religious experience. So there are more than just the negative social pressures. There are also drives for community, etc. All good stuff, all have nothing to do with the religion itself — as evidence by the thousands and thousands of VASTLY different religions and “spiritual” practices that have existed in different times and places.

        ” A lot of Christians suck” — a lot of non-Christians suck also. There are many things to fix. Religion is just one of them.

        And I don’t blame Christianity when some random Christian does something bad. I blame Christianity when Christians do bad things because Christianity COMMANDS it. Christianity has nothing to do with priests raping children. But when the very leaders of the religion are the ones covering it up then it needs to go.

        To me they don’t speak for God because there is no God to speak for. They speak for the beliefs they hold that drive them to do those things. Some are due to religion, some are not.

      • Dark Star – please read the below knowing that my tone is respectful. It’s hard to communicate tone sometimes.

        You are positing things that I honestly believe you know not to be true or at least you know them to be seriously flawed.

        You brought up the Marx quote but you knew already it was probably false because you’ve read Denial of Death and you understand psychology. You are doing the same thing with your other arguments. You are bringing up slavery, Hamas, Islam, even Nazism (like Hitler didn’t think he was Ubermensch – Side note – currently rereading Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but I digress) – but you know Jesus wasn’t about any of those things. Christians are supposed to be about Jesus. Many of them are NOT – A lot of Christians suck – that was my previous post and I meant that any horrible atrocity committed in name of Jesus doesn’t mean that’s what Christianity is about. So when “Christians” do something completely against what Christ taught, don’t blame Jesus or His teaching.

        Christianity is not about dividing but making everyone EQUAL at the foot of the cross. No one is righteous not one person.

        “I blame Christianity when Christians do bad things because Christianity COMMANDS it. “

        You don’t really believe that Jesus commanded “bad” things. Practically all of His criticism was against the religious establishment. You are trying to posit that a Christian must believe that the OT Biblical passages carry equal weight for believers today but you know that isn’t true. You also know that you must judge a text based on the time it was written, not judged against current day morality. You also know that any Christian could just deny inerrancy and still not commit apostasy.

        Where are you by the way (what state or country)?

      • Larry:

        >> You are positing things that I honestly believe you know not to be true or at least you know them to be seriously flawed.

        Believe me, I am often tempted to believe the same thing about many theists. “If humans evolved from chimps, how come there are still chimps?” Is that really honest debate? Yet, I see it all the time.

        If I am in error about something factual, please bring it to my attention. If I make an error in logic somewhere I can only apologize and correct it — these are informal postings, I’m sure it’s bound to happen. I also make typo’s and my grammar is probably terrible in places.

        But I have been as honest, detailed, forthcoming, and earnest here as I possibly can be.

        >> You brought up the Marx quote but you knew already it was probably false

        I wonder if you have actually bothered to read what I wrote.

        First and foremost I quoted Marx as prose SPECIFICALLY saying that I believed it was often misunderstood and I urged a more careful reading. I didn’t claim it was a comprehensive scientific treatise on the cause of religion that covers every facet of biology and psychology. NOR do I believe it is “false” simply on a lack of being comprehensive.

        You seemingly ignore the part about “Religion is… the heart of a heartless world”, which I think is about the most generous thing that could be said about Religion [not to be confused with those who happen to be Religious] and it is beautifully expressed.

        As for the fragment “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness”, I disagree that Denial has shown this to be false. Can you support your position with some argumentation so we can discuss it in a more meaningful way than just calling me a liar?

        >>You are doing the same thing with your other arguments. You are bringing up slavery, Hamas, Islam, even Nazism (like Hitler didn’t think he was Ubermensch – Side note – currently rereading Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but I digress) – but you know Jesus wasn’t about any of those things. Christians are supposed to be about Jesus. Many of them are NOT – A lot of Christians suck – that was my previous post and I meant that any horrible atrocity committed in name of Jesus doesn’t mean that’s what Christianity is about. So when “Christians” do something completely against what Christ taught, don’t blame Jesus or His teaching.

        Sure, you can Cherry Pick – I’ve made that clear. What does that have to do with religions who are pushing anti-gay rights agenda based on the prejudices pushed in Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:8–11?

        What about the Christians who are against condoms (which has resulted in millions of deaths in Africa that were preventable)? Sex education? Those are NOT against Jesus’ teachings.

        Do you want a medal for not stoning children to death any more (despite Jesus admonishment)? Well, here in the US anyway – in other countries it still happens.

        There is much to find distasteful in the NT.

        And honestly, this is one of the most annoying things about debating with a Christian – no two of you believe the same things. But I’m not discussing what random things you happen to believe, I’m discussing the Religion of Christianity. Arguing that you just make it up and believe whatever you want doesn’t really help your case.

        5 And the Pharisees and scribes asked him: Why do not thy disciples walk according to the tradition of the ancients, but they eat bread with common hands?

        6 But he answering, said to them: Well did Isaias prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

        7 And in vain to they worship me, teaching doctrines and precepts of men.

        8 For leaving the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, the washing of pots and of cups: and many other things you do like to these.

        9 And he said to them: Well do you make void the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.

        10 For Moses said: Honor thy father and thy mother; and He that shall curse father or mother, dying let him die.

        11 But you say: If a man shall say to his father or mother, Corban, (which is a gift,) whatsoever is from me, shall profit thee.

        12 And further you suffer him not to do any thing for his father or mother,

        13 Making void the word of God by your own tradition, which you have given forth. And many other such like things you do.

        Jesus here dismisses the laws of MAN about washing your hands and what to eat – but he AFFIRMS the OT commandments of putting children to death and rebukes the Pharisees “make void the commandment of God”.

        He doesn’t “set aside the ceremonial law” of God, he says those are not from God, “doctrines and precepts of men” & “hold the tradition of men”

        And slavery is supported by the NT as well as the OT. It certainly doesn’t call for an end to the practice but for slaves to obey as we obey the kings that rule in Gods name and it rebukes rebellion against the rulers (so much for the US rebelling against England).

        >>Christianity is not about dividing but making everyone EQUAL at the foot of the cross. No one is righteous not one person.

        Except for gay people, equal would mean they have rights, they could marry under civil authority, they would be treated as equals among equals.

        But to get there you have to Cherry Pick again.

        “I blame Christianity when Christians do bad things because Christianity COMMANDS it. “

        >> >You don’t really believe that Jesus commanded “bad” things. Practically all of His criticism was against the religious establishment. You are trying to posit that a Christian must believe that the OT Biblical passages carry equal weight for believers today but you know that isn’t true. You also know that you must judge a text based on the time it was written, not judged against current day morality.

        No, my arguments go to the nature of the God posited BY the Bible that Christians profess to believe in. I can’t tell you how many Christians will argue that NO THE BIBLE DOESN’T COMMAND ISRAEL TO MURDER INFANTS. Or that it doesn’t command Genocide Well, yes it most absolutely and unquestionably does. They are deeply ignorant of their own religion,history, and Bible. And once I convince them of this fact with passage after passage after passage you know what I usually get? “God can take life if he wants to”, or “it was a different time, harsher people” (right back to a relative morality which they argued against 5 minutes ago when they demanded a full accounting for the basis of secular morality verse their superior objective morality based on Gods nature).

        Are you arguing for relative morality?

        Once you admit the bible can be wrong (or is wrong) then you have to account for how you know which passages are true, which are modified, which are inserted, what has been redacted, what has been hidden, which books were suppressed, acknowledge the falsified authorship, etc. The average Christian doesn’t do a bit of that – they Cherry Pick what they want to hear and ignore the rest based on whim and walk around self-righteously superior to everyone else.

        Some examples from the NT:

        I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

        I have come to cast fire upon the Earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!

        If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple [and yes, I know it doesn’t mean hate – the point is that families are to be broken apart; accept Jesus or reject your family]

        Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division

        whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one

        Jesus said to him, If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me ((excusable if the eschaton had actually been imminent – but it wasn’t, now almost 2000 years have passed – IMHO this marks it as an immoral statement — Give no thought to the morrow is a harmful belief))

        Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city [who turn’s away an apostle]

        And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death

        Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand [23,000 killed for fornication]

        He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant

        And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day

        For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men; because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers

        [Ananias & Sapphira for keeping some of the money from Peter, too long to quote]

        The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree [blaming the Jews for Jesus’ death; and it does this is several places which resulted in Hundreds of years of discrimination against the entire Jewish race]

        Quote from Vexen Crabtree >>>>>Examining the writings of St Paul, the Biblical books of Ephesians, Romans, 2 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians and Revelations, we see that God’s plan overrides our free will; those that do good do the specific good that God predestined them to do, and all others are ruled by Satan because God sends “powerful delusions” to them. The Christian Bible frequently states that God creates our future and decides our fates, no matter what our own will is.”

        No Free Will, no personal volition, no morality. And yes, I’m well aware that you’re going to interpret it to mean exactly the opposite. Gotta love a text that can mean whatever you want it to mean. Why would god sent powerful delusions?

        And surely you are aware that Luther (author of “On the Jews and Their Lies”) Protested this very question? Luther arguing against Free Will of course…. Are you Protestant? Where are you on the Free Will issue?

        >>You also know that any Christian could just deny inerrancy and still not commit apostasy.

        So? If someone wants to worm their way around and not have an honest discussion there isn’t much I can do about it. I can only argue and discuss based on the facts we have in hand. But they undermine their own position by doing so. I can’t stop people from making poor arguments.

        >>Where are you by the way (what state or country)?

        Southern United States – home to many “Christian Identity” movements

        And Larry, if you want me to argue against YOUR beliefs, as opposed to Christianity as it is practiced, you’ll have to state your arguments. Not every argument against every flavor of Christianity is going to apply to you.

        It’s hard to argue against the Jains or the Quakers on similar ‘moral’ grounds – they are pretty good groups. They still believe in nonsense and superstition but it’s a less harmful mutation. But I can’t make every argument on every position of every belief all at once. I’ve presented arguments that were relevant to the points argued.

      • Hey Dark Star,

        I thought you might be from the south (call it intuition – ha). I lived in Atlanta for about 15 years but now live in SC. I’m a traveling sales rep and travel to pretty much every city in the southeast throughout the year. If you give me permission, I’ll ask the owner of this blog for your email address or I’m fine if he releases mine to you. Next time I’m in your town I’ll come have a beer or lunch or coffee or whatever with you. I’m no evangelist – I just enjoy intelligent company and seek truth wherever I can find it (the internet, Marx, Nietzsche, Bible, Augustine, Rand – whoever). I rarely partake in internet discussions because I feel like every word has to be perfect or you get blasted. Like I said earlier, I have agnostic and atheist friends that I spend time with regularly and we all get along great.

        I’m going to checkout of this online discussion now but I’d love to hang out sometime. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving too!

      • I’m @ColdDImSum on twitter, that’s the best way to reach me. I’m in Austin. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  17. Dark Star…After all that, you still have no objective moral basis by which to judge moral beliefs or the activities of God. Try as you may to pull the moral foundation from Christianity, it is not possible from a position of moral relativism, because any argument against another moral system is self-refuting (and you end up expressing what you disdain–moral superiority).

    I’m truly sorry for the pain that Christianity (or Christians) causes you. I must confess my hypocrisy. Although I have an objective basis for my morality, I cannot keep it. My vain and wayward heart continually falls short of what I believe is good and right. I don’t judge you by my moral standard because I cannot keep it either, and I am not the judge. I know you disdain Christianity–there have been a lot of atrocities commited in the name of God, but there have been atrocities commited in “the name” of atheism as well. We all fall short of the objective moral code we all have in common. Hence Christ.

    Or stated elsewhere, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

    God loves you, and He proved it in Christ.

    • “Dark Star…After all that, you still have no objective moral basis by which to judge moral beliefs or the activities of God.”

      Positing a God gives you no objective moral basis either. If the morality is subject to the existence of a God, then by definition it is subjective. Declaring a God to be the moral arbiter is no less relativistic. By whose judgment is he the moral arbiter: YOUR judgment? That’s just more ‘relativism’. His OWN judgment? That’s a circular argument – anyone can be moral by their OWN judgment, whether a God or a postman.

      • “If the morality is subject to the existence of a God, then by definition it is subjective.”

        It is directive from God and not dependent on the mind of man–objective.

      • “It is directive from God and not dependent on the mind of man–objective.”

        Non sequitur. You’re still trying to get an ‘aught’ from an ‘is’. What makes your God’s directives ‘objectively right’? On whose judgment or on what basis are they so?

      • And there are tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of God claims out there, rpviv has picked on at random as “the right one”. Oh wait, not at random, the one his culture inculcated into him as filtered through his own preconceptions.

    • You haven’t actually addressed the points I made,

      I didn’t argue for moral relativism – because I don’t believe anything goes. I’m arguing for an empirical consensualism (the proposition that, I and others have a say in the nonsense you try to pull on us) and realizing that we have been and will be wrong in some cases, in the sense that our actions will cause harm and suffering that could have been prevented. And the first step towards doing better, is trashing this disgusting idea that a human sacrifice alleviates you of any responsibility for your actions.

      I do believe that, given normative human brain functioning in possession of the faculty of reason informed by undamaged empathy and in full possession of facts (not having perfect knowledge, but all sharing the same factual basis), we can all agree on the vast majority of what comprises moral, ethical, and legal behavior. There will always be both practical and even Gödelian limits to any moral system, with both contradictions and unresolved dilemma.

      And what I believe has been demonstrated is that the proposed morality in the Bible is patently disgusting to any educated, non-brainwashed human being. The only way to have actually read it in full with any amount of comprehension and still believe in it is to timorously bury your head in the sand.

      “Hence Christ” – any other non sequitur conclusions you wish to draw from questionable premises?

      I don’t blame Christianity for every sin a Christian commits – only for the ones it COMMANDS of them. The only “sin” Atheism commands is the one originally* committed by Christians when they denied the “obviously” real Roman gods and were labeled ἀσεβής by the Hellenists (of course, they returned the favor). So, welcome to the atheistic club.

      I have no beef with people doing everything they can to try to be better people, but you don’t require Christianity for that either and the only way to hold Christian ideals up as something to model is to flatly ignore most of them.

      Let’s put it this way, and don’t pull that God wouldn’t do that NONSENSE on me, God commands it and executes it THOUSANDS of times in the BIble AND God promises to do it again (to the point of making parents EAT their own children) — if you honestly believed that God was commanding you to sacrifice your own child, to take their life, Would You Do It? Or would you call for help and get treatment?

      Keep in mind, God commands Abraham to do this – only God stays his hand. But God doesn’t stay the hands of the solders that (allegedly) murdered thousands upon thousands of Canaanite infants and God promises this and worse in the future. And the question isn’t would God stay your hand, the question is what would YOU do if you believed God was commanding it.

      I can tell you honestly and proudly what I would do, without question, I would seek professional mental health help if at all possible for me to do so.

      But if you accept Christianity then you have to believe that carrying this out (or at least attempting to) would be the greatest honor and glory to God. How sick is that?

      *originally – figuratively speaking, as nothing about Christianity is really original

  18. The laws of physics and the rules of logic both come from the mind and will of God. Moral law is determined by God’s nature. All things were created by Him, and are sustained by Him. When I say objective, that is what I mean…He is the source of morality, because it is his essence, not an arbitrary decision. This is the only way that I’m aware of, to avoid an is/ought distinction propblem. Are you aware of the moral “is/ought” distinction problems inherent in atheism? The requisite materialist suppositions are not capable of creating an ought; they can only account for what is.

    As to responding only to my cultural milieu, that is a genetic fallacy and is not evidence that my views are false. You are also a product of your cultural milieu and presume that your system of morality is better because it is “empirical consensualism.” (I understand the consensualism aspect, but I don’t understand how the empircal fits in). Question: would you have particpated in the horrific science experiments in early 1940’s Germany? How would consensus have work out for you then? (And no I wouldn’t sacrifice my son–I am a sinner and lack the faith of Abraham). As to the genocide, “empirical consensualism” is no protection from commiting the same sin.

    I have considered my worldview and it is solid. I don’t intend to impugn your worldview, because I don’t believe you are immoral. All I intend to do is show you how your belief system is vulnerable to the same attacks you hurl at others, and remind you that…

    God loves you and he proved it in Christ.

    • Every religious group before you has claimed that THEY knew the mind and will of ‘the real god’ also, yet they committed atrocities, as have the Christians and their claims are mutually exclusive with yours so you can’t both be right. You have nothing unique to offer and you have said nothing that demonstrates that your claims are any more substantial than theirs.

      I did not commit the genetic fallacy because my point is not that it proves your claim is false, but that it goes to the vastly disparate conclusions drawn from this method of selection, and thus renders the methodology entirely and completely unreliable. You might have well as put beliefs up on a dart board and thrown a few darts. Sure, you might hit a correct one, but you have no way to know which is which.

      Empirical means “Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic”. It means that just because you make up some claim and get a vast majority to agree with you, that isn’t good enough. If you are going to go from belief to law (moral or otherwise) then we demand empirical support for your position.

      I also didn’t say that this is a perfect solution, or the only solution, but that it plays a role in our ever improving ability to make social/behavioral choices.

      I think the behavior of the Germans FAILS this test (the treatment of the Jews and others was neither with their consent, nor empirically defensible nor would the vast majority agree that, as dissenters to their treatment, they were acting in bad faith). What you have in Germany is an overpowered minority exploiting the racism that was fostered BY Christians for centuries. You seem to have ignored that aspect of the problem.

      “would you have particpated in the horrific science experiments in early 1940′s Germany?” – If I was the same person I am right now, absolutely not, although I don’t know what difference I would be able to make.

      But if I was born in Germany, and had suffered tremendously as they had, and I saw a promise at a better life for myself and my family I would not be the same person I am now – so, statistically speaking, just about every single one of us probably would have fallen for their rhetoric and propaganda to some level.

      I’m glad to hear you wouldn’t sacrifice your child. Although it’s pretty sad that you’ve allowed them to make you feel ‘guilty’ (or less a good person) about such a thing.

      Trying to use is/ought as an argument that something is false (or true) is a fallacious argument from ignorance.

      I propose that any person who does not understand this process should try the following thought experiment.

      1) Obtain a small screwdriver
      2) Now press the screwdriver underneath one of your fingernails about 1/8 of an inch into the skin

      Now answer this question: Do you think that you OUGHT to carry out this experiment?

      Because it would be excruciating painful, you probably couldn’t even do it if you tried – you most probably cannot force your brain to overcome that fear/pain anticipation (unless you are one of the unlucky few born completely without pain perception).

      We determine oughts all the time from the facts of our sensory experience. How EXACTLY do we do it? I don’t know and NEITHER DO YOU. You pretend to know, but your assertions are not facts of the matter. Thus, it is an argument from ignorance. It has not been demonstrated that a God is required, nor has it been demonstrated that there is such a thing as an ontological ought. It’s more of a difficulty/limitation of purely logical reasoning. What we absolutely know is that there are physical areas of the brain related to empathy and pain and without those regions of the brain functioning humans present VASTLY different behavioral patterns. Someone without pain perception would have no problem shiving their own fingernail just to watch other people grimace. Someone without empathy would kill another without giving it much of a thought. And we know it’s not that their “soul” is evil, because perfectly nice people have suffered physical brain damage and been completely changed in ways that are utterly out of their control.

      I am a computer programmer, I know a lot about how programs work from both a software and a hardware viewpoint. I know how very basic, deterministic physics results in all the elements required to form decision making processes: storage of state representing external facts, conditional processing (if/then), and in turn, how those basic operations can form processes that are very good predictors of future states based on patterns detected in past states.

      I’m also a student of the natural sciences, so I understand fairly well how chemical evolutionary processes can take simple molecules and turn them into very complex structures capable of all the features of universal computation.

      It is entirely within the realm of normal physical processes that such systems can, based on the evolved patterns that necessitate survival, form subjective oughts for itself naturally based on those evolved patterns. But it is not until such processes reach a sufficient level of complexity and expressive power that we can describe them as culpable to others in their actions, as Ought also implies can. Can the system make the decisions that would avoid the consequences that I/you assert are undesirable, could IT have known, etc.

      This scenario seems more plausible than asserting a god exists (but not really, only immaterially and timelessly – but only pervy gods who watch us masturbate can exist this way) before anything exists creates a universe out of nothing (nothing can come from nothing, but we’ll make a special pleading for God) so that he can eternally torture anyone who masturbates too much. Call me crazy – I’m sure you will.

  19. There’s no end in sight. Please don’t think my need for sleep is in any way admitting your arguments aren’t rebutt-able, but I lack you’re time and energy. Although, I would like to point out two areas where we agree. I am ignorant, and I think you are crazy 😉

    If you are in the KC area, look me up… I’ll buy you a beer and we can continue the discussion.

    Though you despise him…God still loves you…

    • RPVIV, you’re saying that we OUGHT to act this way because that IS his essence. I don’t see how you’re avoiding the is/ought problem.

      If God’s essence was that torture, incest, child abuse etc was moral, would that make it moral?

      I’m not trying to impugn your worldview either – I’m just saying I don’t accept the apologist argument that theism is the only way to morality. Whether ‘objective morality’ exists or not, positing a God doesn’t make it any easier to get there.

      Cute pic by the way rpviv!

  20. “RPVIV, you’re saying that we OUGHT to act this way because that IS his essence.” There is purpose in my ought. I can make prescriptive statements about the behavior of men based on HIS purpose for creating us. The problem in the is/ought distinction isn’t that you cannot come up with an ought from an is. It is that you must explain it. Dark star doesn’t want to put a screwdriver under his fingernail because it will hurt. Then is pain the basis of ought? There are a lot of “oughts” that need explaining. And if your method is purely empirical, and if your model is Darwinian evolution you will find difficulty explaining why I ought to behave in a certain manner. (Side note: Isn’t it curious to you that most societies agree on moral issues without ever sitting to discuss them and come to a “consensus”).

    Andrew/Dark Star…while I like you guys, and would love to continue the conversation…I got stuff I need to do. I used to share a cubicle with an atheist and this type of conversation would happen routinely. I miss that guy. Again, the beer is on me if you’re ever in the KC area.

    The pic is of my middle son when he was an infant. He now 3 and still keeps his hands in his mouth…what would Freud say?

    God loves you, you OUGHT to love him back…

    • “Isn’t it curious to you that most societies agree on moral issues without ever sitting to discuss them and come to a “consensus””

      Not really – societies that saw nothing wrong in murder and rape would fall apart and wouldn’t survive to stand out from the societies that abhor such activities. It’s simple survivorship bias. Look at Cameroon if you want to see what happens when a society can’t even go so far as to respect property law.

      “It is that you must explain it.”

      Well you’ve got two questions here: the phenomenon of why we see general consensus on these issues, and the question for why any individual should act morally. They are not the same question.

      The former is answered perfectly through evolution. The latter you haven’t answered yourself. You’ve told us that God has an essence and a purpose for us. Why does a deity having a purpose for me translate into a prescriptive behaviour? You’re begging the question that the purpose is a moral one.

  21. So is property law a moral imperative?

    “Why does having a purpose translate into prescriptive behavior?” You ought to do the things for which you are designed.

    • “You ought to do the things for which you are designed”
      Who came up with that rule? If it’s you, then that’s arbitrary. If it’s God, then that’s circular – he came up with the rule that says his rules are moral. To put it another way, either God came up with that rule, or you are admitting that some rules transcend even God.

      As a side note, if I was able to design a baby that was to be used for spare parts for me when I get older, would the resultant child have a moral imperative to sacrifice their organs to me when I needed them? I’d say not, and I’m guessing you’d agree. If it’s one rule for God, one for us, then it’s pointless you trying to explain the rules in phrases such as “You ought to do the things for which you are designed”.

      “So is property law a moral imperative?”
      It doesn’t matter either way to my point – the general moral consensus you notice in societies are the rules that are needed for the functioning of successful societies. So it doesn’t make sense to wonder why you don’t have neighbouring societies where murder is seen as moral – such societies would never grow in the first place. In the case of Cameroon, because there’s no way of enforcing a contract, no-one bothers to build anything, hence the nation’s infrastructure is falling apart.

      • Andrew-

        you stated:
        “I’ve said elsewhere, say we allow an eternal creator God – why from that would it follow that Objective Morality must exist and that this God is causing it?”

        That is the converse of what I am arguing. I’m not arguing that God exists, therefore, objective morality exists. I wouldn’t argue that. It would have been quite conceivable for God to create an amoral world, perhaps a world of only animals and no humans. The argument from objective morality goes the other way around – if objective morals exists, then God exists. That is premise 1. Did you agree or dispute that? Are we just dealing with premise 2?

      • I’ve already answered that. But here again – I’ve seen no evidence of Objective Morality, and don’t really think the concept makes sense. Values are by definition valued by something. Therefore there is no phenomena here that requires a supernatural explanation.

        For the record, if you think I’m looking at the problem backward, I’m only addressing the argument everyone else has put forward. They’ve been saying that a creator God would necessarily lead to an objective morality. Kudos to you for accepting that it doesn’t necessarily follow, and allowing for a God creating an ammoral universe.

    • I’ll try to make my argument simpler still via an analogy.

      Imagine that God being a moral arbiter is like a big locked cupboard full of useful tools. You’re trying to get the door open because once you’re in you’ve got access to all sorts of arguments to use against atheists – God is saying this is right, therefore it is, If you create something then it has to do what you say etc.

      The problem is, you can’t use any of those tools to get INTO the cupboard. They’re the tools you get ONCE you’re in. So any tool you use to GET in, has to be outside the cupboard and therefore available to atheists too.

      In other words, you can’t use an argument for God’s moral authority that only works once you’ve already granted it to him. To do that would be begging the question, offering a circular argument.

      • Andew… For the record, I appreciate your civil tone. It makes this a much more edifying effort.

        You say, “…you can’t use an argument for God’s moral authority that only works once you’ve already granted it to him. To do that would be begging the question, offering a circular argument.” God’s morality is not something I give and then he has. I mentioned earlier that morality is based on the nature of God. He is not subject to a higher moral law, he is only subject to his nature. To say that he can act other than his nature is similar to the typical athiest non-sequitor “Is god powerful enough to creata a rock so big he can’t lift it.” God and His nature are the starting point for not my issuance of moral authority, so the argument is not circular–the cupboard is open the tools are all around us, but you lack the means to use them. There are no logical restrictions (locks on the cupboard) that prevent utilizing the implications of a theistic worldview. I can’t help but think this is an effort to limit the theist, because the theist’s case is better than the atheist’s.

        Again, I appreciate your civil tone. God loves you…

      • Likewise to you regarding the tone – it’s a relief/change from the standard rhetoric/rudeness I generally see from the likes of Cornell.

        “God’s morality is not something I give and then he has.”

        I don’t mean that you ‘give’ it to him, merely that you’ve logically or otherwise established it.

        I’m not trying to ‘limit’ your argument. My analogy was to show that once you’ve established/demonstrated/shown God to be the moral arbiter, then one can use certain arguments. However, you cannot use those same arguments to ESTABLISH him to be the moral arbiter without putting the cart before the horse. That would be to ASSUME him to be the M.A. in order to demonstrate that he IS the moral arbiter. Do you understand?

        Back to your point: “God and His nature are the starting point for not my issuance of moral authority”

        So we grant that there is a God, and that he has a nature. For sake of argument we will call these ‘facts’. How do you get from these ‘is’ facts to ‘oughts’ or how we should behave. Even if we allow that there is a deity, he created us, and he has expectations of us, how does that translate into moral imperatives?

      • “So we grant that there is a God, and that he has a nature. For sake of argument we will call these ‘facts’. How do you get from these ‘is’ facts to ‘oughts’ or how we should behave. Even if we allow that there is a deity, he created us, and he has expectations of us, how does that translate into moral imperatives?”

        It is more than simply, “he has a nature.” The moral imperatives are a part of his nature. To simply say that he has a nature stops short. That nature is love, justice, kindness etc. And us, having been created in his image, with a free will OUGHT to act in accordance with our maker’s nature. “Be Holy as I am Holy,” Leviticus 11:45. The nature of God has been made known to us, we are without excuse (Romans 1:18ff).

        When David Hume originally brought up this whole is/ought business, his point was that you need to recognize it and ask why. What is the reason for going from what, is to what ought to be? Theists, particularly Christians, have a reason for determining how we ought to behave–in accordance with the nature of our God. Athiests, while they like to charge God and Christians with moral travesties (I won’t deny that Christians are capable–I am guilty), atheists have no reason for claiming how they believe God ought to behave. That is where the circularity lies. They have believe “God ought…”, but they have no reason for saying “ought” apart from God. (BTW…this God and genocide business is a red herring. God executes justice. He did the exact same thing to the Israelites a few hundred years later).

        I have taken your position seriously and struggled to find circularity in my beliefs, but I cannot. My only thought is are you asking how I KNOW moral imperatives, epistemologically? If so, it doesn’t matter if I read it on a bubble gum wrapper, or heard the very voice of God from the sky, it doesn’t matter. The source of the knowledge is independent of its veracity.

        Standing by…

        (God really does love YOU…and you probably already live like it, all you need to do is believe it.)

    • “And us, having been created in his image, with a free will OUGHT to act in accordance with our maker’s nature”

      OK, I’ll call that explanation ‘x’. Sorry, why does that follow? So there’s a deity, he makes some other beings in his image… why does it follow that they are obligated to act in a certain way because of that?

      If there was NO God, and I had some children, loved them, brought them up well, could I similarly have certain expectations of my kids’ obligations, or is ‘x’ a ‘rule’ that only works for God, or perhaps only works IF there’s a God?

      OK, I’ll try to explain again what I mean by ‘circularity. This is what I understand to be hearing:

      1) There are a bunch of rules/moral imperatives that come about due to a creator God’s existence. We’ll call these ‘y’.
      2) The reason that ‘y’ has force is because of explanation ‘x’, whatever x may be.
      3) Explanation ‘x’ is a subset of ‘y’. It is one of the rules for which a moral arbiter is needed to justify.

      To expand on that, ‘y’ may include Objective Morality and the “love, justice, kindness” that you talked about, and the accompanying moral imperatives, whatever Christians might argue amongst themselves them to be (“Slavery is wrong/no it’s great/gays are perverted/no they’re just part of God’s plan, murder is wrong/let’s execute people!” etc).

      Explanation ‘x’ is what you’re trying to explain to me now – why it all follows. But either ‘x’ is appeals to arguments that should work with or without ‘y’, or ‘x’ is actually part of the baggage that COMES with ‘y’.

      For an example of ‘x’, I’ve had Christians say to me “Well of course you should try to keep to God’s rules. He made you, he loves you – don’t you owe him?”. One apologist, Neil Mammen, appealed to ‘property law’. I accept these might be good reasons. But either:
      a) These are transcendently good reasons to help people who look after and love you REGARDLESS OF GOD’S EXISTENCE, in which case atheists can appeal to it as a reason to be moral too. Or,
      b) These reasons are themselves one of the OUTCOMES of a creator God (ie x is a subset of y), and therefore can’t really be used to explain ‘y”s veracity. In this case, ‘owing people who create and love you’ is one of the same ‘moral rules’ that you claim only exist due to the creator God. Likewise property laws. That’s why I’m saying it’s circular.

      The Christian gets frustrated trying to explain this to me, because it all seems like common sense. After all, surely we can all understand the obligations we feel to our parents? Now, I’m all for common sense – there’s not enough of it in this world, RPVIV! The problem is that the apologist forgets that their argument starts with saying that without a God, the atheist cannot appeal to this common sense, that very ideas like ‘don’t torture children’ cease to be common sense unless there’s a God to ground it in. So, sure – let’s go into an arena when we’re not allowed to explain things by simply appealing to common sense… but it swings both ways.

      “My only thought is are you asking how I KNOW moral imperatives”

      Know – I accept that as a red herring, together with any questions of whether Christians individually or as a whole are living up to any kind of moral standard. Here, at least, I’m interested only in the question of how one gets from “There is a creator God” to “There is therefore an objective moral standard, which can only exist as a result of that creator God’s existence”

      • “The problem is that the apologist forgets that their argument starts with saying that without a God, the atheist cannot appeal to this common sense, that very ideas like ‘don’t torture children’ cease to be common sense unless there’s a God to ground it in. So, sure – let’s go into an arena when we’re not allowed to explain things by simply appealing to common sense… but it swings both ways.”

        I don’t think that’s the argument. The argument would be that IF there are objective moral values and duties, then God must exist. Christians and many atheists (not all obviously) agree that there are objective moral values and duties. How we come to know them (intuition, common sense, whatever) is not necessarily part of the argument. If God does not exist, then our “common sense” moral obligations are really illusory – that is the argument as I understand it.

      • Larry: “If God does not exist, then our “common sense” moral obligations are really illusory – that is the argument as I understand it.”

        Quite – so we agree that apologist cannot use ‘common sense’ moral obligations to explain why God is the moral arbiter – because then they are using a circular argument – attempting to lift themselves off the ground by pulling on their boot straps. The ‘common sense’ moral obligations would only be a RESULT of the God being moral arbiter, and therefore cannot be used to explain why he IS the moral arbiter.

      • I would certainly not use common sense to explain why God is the moral arbiter. So if I’m understanding your direct question – it could be phrased as “What makes God the moral arbiter?” If that is truly your question, then we need to define what God is, or at least what I’m talking about when I refer to God. I’m going to define God as a maximally excellent being – a being in which nothing greater can be conceived. If you have a different definition of God, please let me know what your definition is. Included in being maximally excellent would have to be one who is the paradigm of goodness, not just exemplifying goodness. This gives me a place to ground the objective moral values and duties that seem “common sense” to all of us. Without this ground, I see no reason to obligate myself to any moral duty.

      • “Included in being maximally excellent would have to be one who is the paradigm of goodness”

        Larry, I thought someone might say this. Someone else might equally say that to be maximally excellent a God would have to be a paradigm of merciless cruelty.

        Unfortunately, you are having to assume that being a paradigm of goodness is a ‘maximally excellent’ trait. I’m guessing you’ll reply that it is BY DEFINITION, but then I can equally as an atheist say that murder is wrong ‘by definition’, since its moral wrongness is included in its definition. We could similarly come up with a moral system without need of a deity simply by appealing to definitions. If we’re starting from a position where we all agree that paradigms of goodness are better than paradigms of merciless cruelty, then we don’t need to appeal to a God in the first place. If such a position can only be reached AFTER you’ve established His ‘moral arbiter’ position then you’re back to square one.

        In short, you are begging the question – defining into existence an objective morality.

      • Dismissing “objective morals” as “common sense” doesn’t address the issue. It leaves you with basically the same question. Instead of asking what makes some morals objective we are left asking what makes some knowledge common. If you are using “common sense” to simply mean knowledge common to all people (or rational people) then it is no different than saying objective morals are morals that are known to all people (or rational people).

        So, how could any morals be objective. They can’t have their foundation in humanity because it would all be subjective. Therefore, it must be something that transcends (i.e. is greater than) humanity. This foundation cannot be something that is contingent on something else or it would be subjective. The foundation must be necessary – contingent on nothing else for it’s existence. God, by definition is the only possible necessary being. If, what we believe to be God, is contingent on something else then that something else is really God. Only if this necessary God exists can we have a truly objective foundation for morality…or common sense. If no necessary foundation exists then objective morals do not exist.

      • Larry: “Any type of evil would be a defect – and therefore not maximally excellent.”

        Larry, you’re positing a max exc being, and ascribing to it whatever attributes YOU value. Then you say these are the attributes any max exc being MUST have. This is subjective.

        BillClute, it’s not enough just to throw words like ‘necessary’ at a deity to solve the problem. WHY is it necessary?

        And I wasn’t saying dismissing Objective Morality as common sense, or saying one should use ‘common sense’ – I was saying other people’s appeal to common sense didn’t work.

      • “Someone else might equally say that to be maximally excellent a God would have to be a paradigm of merciless cruelty.”

        Any type of evil would be a defect – and therefore not maximally excellent. I think you’d have a hard time defending how merciless cruelty is maximally excellent but I am certainly willing to hear it out.

        “We could similarly come up with a moral system without need of a deity simply by appealing to definitions. “

        Maybe so…but what would be objective about it? We could just redefine what is right or wrong based on what works now (being pragmatic). I’d say Hitler did exactly this and redefined what a Jew actually is.

      • If “objective moral values and duties exist” then the question of god is irrelevant because, being objective, they cannot depend upon god. They would have to exist as facts of the matter, independent from any god, or else they are not objective. You cannot prove something from a bare assertion, much less one that explicitly excludes that thing.

        Your argument here is EXACTLY the same as saying ‘if matter objectively exists, then god”. It is a non sequitur.

        I don’t really believe in or argue for ‘objective morals’ in the sense you use it (neither am I a relativist, as I’ve explained previously). I think that GIVEN THE HUMAN CONDITION (which by definition means we’re not talking about the objective – and I’ve pointed out that a human who, for example, lacks a sense of empathy would not likely share our values) that there are moral imperatives that we can discern through observation. I believe there are good, empirical arguments to be made for such imperatives but ultimately they depend on shared values. If we cannot agree on a value position then we will not agree on the conclusions regarding ethics or morality. Nor does a morality existing necessarily imply that there is some arbiter of them. They are JUST principles of behavior. Some behaviors we don’t always like, but we tolerate in others (belief in religion, free speech, non-belief in religion, blasphemy). Other behaviors we find so contrary to human existence that we’re willing to enforce them upon others, even when we’re not directly affected (murder, theft, assault, rape, fraud, child abuse, slavery, etc).

        Slavery is one of the best arguments against the Bible as a source of moral authority. I will let Marvin Wheat make that point for me: “emancipationism [or] abolitionism is atheism” http://bit.ly/unNVrD ‘The progress and intelligence of Americans’, Marvin T. Wheat. Bravo Mr. Wheat, I couldn’t have said it better. The rejection of slavery is the rejection of the Judeo-Christian values that underlie it (neither group invented slavery, they merely codified as if it was the will of god). It is the claim that we have grown beyond the narrow-minded claims of iron age theocratic despots asserting their power and exploiting the ignorant/uneducated/undereducated masses of the time. Yes, I Very Well understand the draw – for a finite payment today, and draw from infinite perfection tomorrow – you know, after you’re dead so we don’t have to actually prove anything. And the bad people will get punished (since we failed to hold them responsible) and the “good people” (defined invariably by EVERYONE as those on YOUR side, it’s always the other guys who are evil) will be rewarded. Oh, and it’s conveniently undetectable and unprovable (despite 1 Kings 18), so you’ll just have to take their word for it. I mean, nobody would Die for a false belief would they? (*cough* 9/11 *cough*, Opps, deploy the Special Pleading police to clean that one up). And let’s ignore the fact that it’s not REALLY the bad people who are punished, they merely have to confess their sins and accept Jesus and get a Free Pass. It’s those evil atheists who want to take responsibility for their OWN sins and not scapegoat them through a Human Sacrifice that will receive infinite punishment for their finite transgressions against the make-believe. What god really hates is someone who thinks for themselves, not the murderer, or the rapist, or the child abuser.

        Your bare (unsupported) assertion that your moral claims are otherwise grounded is EMPTY and none here have provided a single argument demonstrating that their assertions are anything but. On the other hand, I have amply argued that the religious methodology (be it revelation, gnosis, or otherwise) is wholly unreliable and demonstrably leads to mutually exclusive conclusions. If you cannot demonstrate why YOUR claims are superior to all others then you have no argument worth listening to. I might as well be a Scientologist or follower of Jim Jones or Sai Baba – or any of tens of thousands of belief systems picked at random.

        Commanding someone to murder their own child is immoral. Commanding soldiers to kill suckling infants is immoral, indeed commanding ANY genocide is immoral. Therefore the morality proposed by the Bible is SICK and immoral and I wholly reject it as utterly unsound – aside from the fact that it shows every evidence of being plagiarized from older mythologies and events from history (e.g., Gilgamesh, Judas the Galilean, Ra and other Egyptian sources, etc).

        The utter lack of contemporaneous corroborating historical accounts is also devastating to the claims. Nobody else thought to mention the graves opening up and the dead walking among the living? Josephus was far too late (and either plagiarized or dishonestly modified), Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were TOO late, written anonymously, and we have every reason to suspect them (ask any Jewish scholar for their opinion of Christian re-interpretation of their own works). The Church’s violent suppression of dissenting voices (just ask the Arian’s) and destruction of contradictory evidence likewise condemns them. And then the Church, as further evidence of their systemic (commanded by the authority of the Church) immorality, for the next 1700 some-odd-years rules via murder, torture, and intimidation and destroys innumerable cultures around the globe under the pretense that it is God’s Will (Manifest Destiny, Requerimiento, etc).

        And please do not try to pretend like Protestants escape any of this, read Luther’s ‘On the Jews and their Lies’ and ‘In Bondage Of The Will’ for starters. Then we can move to the Thomas More / William Tyndale screeds against each others respective religion. Calvin’s vicious theocracy is likewise well documented (cf. Michael Servetus).

        I think this is the about the best summary of my position I can give. I’ve yet to see a good argument as to why I should excuse any of these things and I have searched. What I’m really not interested in are the documented bad arguments and mere assertions to the contrary.

      • Andrew,

        I stated why it (i.e. God) is necessary for objective morals – because if it (i.e. God) was contingent then objective morals would not be objective but subjective.

        So, if objective morals exist then a foundation which has a non-contingent (i.e. necessary) existence must exist. By most definitions this necessary foundation would be called God. I’m open to hearing other ideas on what this necessary foundation might be called if you have them.

        I think the only other argument to make would be that objective morals do not exist.

      • BillClute: “I think the only other argument to make would be that objective morals do not exist.”

        Well no-one’s shown that they DO exist. Your argument seems to be that IF they do then it would be necessary for God to be their source in order to explain them.

        So by ‘necessary’ you just mean necessary for your argument to work. That’s not what people normally mean when they talk about something being ‘necessary’.

        That’s not actually an argument Bill.

      • Andrew-

        you stated:
        “So by ‘necessary’ you just mean necessary for your argument to work. That’s not what people normally mean when they talk about something being ‘necessary’.”

        That is not what I mean by necessary. The argument would be:

        1. If objective morals exist then they must have a non-contingent (i.e. necessary foundation) [simply meaning it’s existence cannot depend on something else.
        2. Objective morals exist.
        3. Therefore, a non-contingent foundation for morals exist.

        Typically, the thing that doesn’t depend on anything else for it’s existence is defined as God.

        you stated:
        “Well no-one’s shown that they DO exist. Your argument seems to be that IF they do then it would be necessary for God to be their source in order to explain them.”

        Yes, that is premise 1 of the argument. I thought you were arguing against that. Most people argue against premise 2.

      • Bill: “Yes, that is premise 1 of the argument. I thought you were arguing against that. Most people argue against premise 2.”

        I’ve seen no evidence for either premise, but if anyone had any I’d be delighted to see it. As I’ve said elsewhere, say we allow an eternal creator God – why from that would it follow that Objective Morality must exist and that this God is causing it?

      • But yes, I’ve seen no impiricle evidence of an Objective Morality, such that can only be explained by the supernatural. All I’ve seen offered as evidence is observed human behaviour. I find it no more compelling than observations of how any other primates act socially. Why should it demonstrate the supernatural?

      • Andrew – do you think it’s possible that a maximally excellent being exists (even if we don’t agree on exactly what that means)? Do you even grant the possibility or will you claim it’s impossible that one exists?

        Dark Star –You said you were not a moral relativist but that entire paragraph seems to say exactly that moral duties are only relative to the people who feel like embracing those particular behaviors.

        “If we cannot agree on a value position then we will not agree on the conclusions regarding ethics or morality.”

        Then I guess we take a vote and if enough of us find certain actions egregious enough (say rape), then we force our beliefs on others for no objective reason. If later down the line, the human race is in trouble and might need to be populated quickly, we could remove “rape” from the list of egregious items and consider it morally necessary.

        The rest of your post was regarding the Bible but no one is using that for any purpose in this discussion.

        Thanks both of you for irenic and intellectually engaging conversation!

      • Larry: “(even if we don’t agree on exactly what that means)?”

        How can I answer if we don’t agree what the question even means?

        As soon as you talk about a max exc being, you’re taking qualities YOU value and declaring them to be necessary attributes of such a being. An OBJECTIVELY max exc being strikes me as a nonsensical concept.

        Excellent denotes a standard, which must be subjective. What would a dog of maximum excellency be? Well, what standard are we talking about? My perfect dog might be small and cute, yours might be big and strong.

      • Most variations of moral relativism posit a private morality (very roughly, if you believe it’s ok, then it’s ok). I’m only arguing for what there is evidence of – which is that we base our morality on the totality of our sensorium (innate behaviors, ‘feelings’ like empathy, rational thought, learned behaviors, history, collective validation, observation, consequences, etc). [and there is massive amounts of evidence that much of our ‘morality’ is a product of evolution]

        A rock falling from space and killing a person is not an immoral action, a person with a profound lack of empathy is little different from a rock. They are not culpable for their actions in the same way a ‘normal’ person would be. That doesn’t mean we let them run around free killing people either – it means that we know that they do not have the requisite brain function to fit the category of ‘human condition’. Nor does their falling short of our rather arbitrary ideal mean that they are not deserving of our sympathy and care. I’m not out to categorize people as sub-human and then turn around and demonize them in an attempt to justify their horrific treatment, exactly the opposite. I see no such justification in the mere fact that they lack human compassion and empathy, there but for a small stroke go I, so to speak. The Church has, in the past, labelled such people ‘demon possessed’ and subjected them to torturous treatments. Fortunately, many of us have learned enough about how the brain functions and fails to function that we no longer hold such barbaric superstitions [and even more unfortunately, there are still far too many who still hold such superstitions].

        In other words, we’re a mess and only beginning to crawl our way out of the morass. And we’ve only done because we have carefully observed our methodologies and worked diligently to improve them. The result is roughly known as the ‘scientific method’. But there is no singular ‘scientific method’ per se, it is a vast collection of wisdom from different areas of inquiry about how to remove sources of error from our data and bias from our conclusions. It’s not perfect, science can make errors. But it tends to be a self-correcting process because it rewards the identification and removal of errors – it also is the system that maximizes openness, and, in fact, demands independent replication of results.

        Can you imagine this applied to religion? I demand Jesus die AGAIN, and come back again, this time with an independent body such as JREF observing. Nope? can’t swing it, well too bad then, I call shenanigans!

        So when I say I don’t believe in moral relativism I mean that I DO NOT think it’s ‘fine’ for an African tribesperson to mutilate the genitals of a young woman, any more than it’s ok for a mohel to remove the foreskin of an infant boy. There are FACTS of the matter that we can bring to bear in both situations that demonstrate that harm is not minimized in either case. Then the question becomes, do you believe in harm minimization or not. I clearly do. If you don’t, well then we have to argue and discuss and possibly eventually bring force to bear on the situation to resolve it.

        In the case of the foreskin you MIGHT make a case that in the complete ignorance of a germ theory of disease foreskin removal MIGHT have been a prudent action. Let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt for the sake of argument.

        But once the veil of ignorance has been removed (and what of this ‘supreme being’ who couldn’t have just mentioned soap and germs but instead condemned generations of boys to being mutilated shortly after birth?) and we know that we need to and HOW to properly care for our genitals it is absurd to continue to allow people to do such a barbaric act on an innocent child.

        So no, I’m not a moral relativist by any definition I’m familiar with. Just because YOU believe it’s ok, doesn’t make it ok. Just because a majority believe it’s ok, doesn’t make it ok. Nor does this require some external seal of approval.

        If the ‘morals’ displayed in the Bible weren’t so violently revolting I might concede the argument but I mean you have to be either delusional (and not actually understand it) or a psychopath (understand what it’s saying but believe that infanticide and slavery are next to godliness) to actually READ what the Bible says and accept it as the gold standard. Your average christian is probably on the self-delusional side of that, they don’t really read the whole Bible or REALLY try to understand it. But the William Lane Craig’s who read the Bible and DO understand it and try to argue that it was the poor Israeli soldiers who had to slaughter all those infants were the ones who were really wronged – well that just cooks my goose.

        If I were a moral relativist I couldn’t say any of these things. So I don’t understand how you can confuse me with a moral relativist.

        If you want a look at a group of Christian’s who really do read the Bible and try to follow it more closely, look at the Westboro Baptist Church.

        You can’t just take the nice touchy-feely parts that you just happen to like and call it proof that Christianity is all goodness and kittens and light. All that is evidence for is that people are largely ignorant of their own religion. They join because it’s the cultural thing to do, and they really just follow their own inner morality anyway.

        Best I can tell, all belief systems verge on being harmful. They ask people to set aside the hard business of thinking and go with some canned belief in right and wrong. This goes for political ideologies as well. And any that are prejudicial seem to be much worse for it (for example, Nationalism is a prejudice that people of your nation are better than people of other nations). Authoritarianism and similar ideologies strip the individuals of their necessary voice – with informed consent being an extremely important component.

        In Christianity I see the worst of many of these properties, it is prejudiced (believing that it is “the way and the truth”), discourages free inquiry, and authoritarian. And left to itself it doesn’t tend to be very tolerant, it has had to be forced into tolerance from the outside.

        I think I should be careful here to distinguish between the Christianity expressed in the Bible and individuals who claim to be Christians – as those are two different things. Any individual should be judged on their own merits and not for some label. I know Christians who are good people, tolerant where reasonable, unprejudiced, accepting, loving, non-authoritarian, and who love inquiry. They just aren’t very good Christians 🙂 They are liberals, they accept gay and lesbian people openly even in the church, and allow women to lead (female Pope anyone? Over a LOT of dead bodies I think). But you can (and many other Christians do) make a good argument that these people are bad Christians who are going against what the Bible explicitly says. Seems to be the only thing holding them to being a Christian is the prejudice of others who say that if you aren’t a Christian you are “going to hell”. A product of our cultural pressures.

        Why can’t we just strive for a better world and to be better people without all the nonsense and superstition?

      • Andrew-

        I replied to the wrong post. You may have seen my response above but I’ll repost it here. I’m new to this blog – just learning how it operates.

        you stated:
        “I’ve said elsewhere, say we allow an eternal creator God – why from that would it follow that Objective Morality must exist and that this God is causing it?”

        That is the converse of what I am arguing. I’m not arguing that God exists, therefore, objective morality exists. I wouldn’t argue that. It would have been quite conceivable for God to create an amoral world, perhaps a world of only animals and no humans. The argument from objective morality goes the other way around – if objective morals exists, then God exists. That is premise 1. Did you agree or dispute that? Are we just dealing with premise 2?

      • Andrew-

        you stated:
        “I’ve already answered that. But here again – I’ve seen no evidence of Objective Morality”

        You haven’t answered the other question – do you agree with premise 1 of the argument, that for objective morals to exist there must be a foundation that is not contingent on anything else for it’s existence?

        I know you have been responding to other people’s arguments and mine comes from another direction. I don’t disagree with their argument. I think a context in their argument is that man is made in the image of God and the rest of the argument flows from that. My argument just works in the other direction. If premise 1 is correct and objective morals exist (premise 2) then this non-contingent foundation must exist…and by most definitions that is God. I understand that you don’t believe there is evidence for objective morals. I’ll deal with that later. First I need to know if you accept premise 1. If you don’t then in the context of my argument there’s no reason to go after premise 2. So, let me know if you accept premise 1 and if you don’t explain why you see it lacking.

      • OK Bill, Premise 1 – “Objective Morals exist”.

        I think I find the concept of OM incoherent. Morals are about values. Values require a ‘valuer’. Our morals reflect our values. OM seems to require ‘valuer-less values’. That’s what I mean by incoherent. But then people say “They are God’s values”. That seems to stop them being objective, regardless that they are now the values of something infinitely powerful. To me, the latter quality – or non-contingency – doesn’t make them any more objective. Values that are evil to me will be so no matter how powerful the being holding them. You can give a name to the values of this non-contingent being, but morality, or at least OBJECTIVE morality, doesn’t strike me as a helpful term.

        Further, ‘objective’ generally means true whether we believe in them or not. Normally when we talk about objective facts, we believe them to be testable in some way. How on earth does one test for objective morals, empirically or otherwise, when it comes down to values? I’m not saying that I demand one tests of OM before I believe in it; rather that for me to believe something is possible, I would expect that it could at least IN THEORY be testable, even if not in practice.

      • “do you agree with premise 1 of the argument, that for objective morals to exist there must be a foundation that is not contingent on anything else for it’s existence?”

        I would disagree with this premise. it begs the question because it’s only true if you define it to be true. You need to provide a sound, compelling argument (independent of it’s own conclusion) before I would accept this.

        Try this, change “objective” to “god-given” in your argument and see what you end up with.

        It’s worded all nice so the subterfuge is subtle, but that only allows you to slip it past the unwary. And there is no doubt that Aquinas throws hundreds of pages of sophisticated obfuscation at the issue. But at the end of the day it’s just word games to try to force a conclusion ON the absence of evidence.

        I don’t even accept that Black Holes exist because we lack direct confirmation (and no, it’s not impossible, just very difficult) and we KNOW the equations are incomplete. I don’t mind studying them because there is unknown physics there – but it’s absurd to pretend that they we understand something when we know for a fact that we don’t.

        This is only tangentially related but read this: http://iconoclasm2000.blogspot.com/2011/11/illogical-cosmology.html

        The same TYPES of issues apply to the trick you are trying to pull here.

      • Andrew…I think I’ve finally figured out what you’re trying to get at–there is no logical reason to accept the moral authority of God. He may be our Creator, and we are bearers of His image, but His moral authority does not follow logically from those facts. You kept tripping me up with the “circularity” argument. While I still can’t find any circularity in the argument, I agree–obligation does not logically follow. But it doesn’t need to.

        I tell my 5 year old, “stop hitting your brother.” Is he obliged to obey me because my authority over him is “logical” or because he respects me as his father? Obviously, the latter. Yet he still may ask “Why?” What is my answer (and likely yours also, if you have kids)? “Because I said so!” You cannot come up with a logical reason. It is the very essence of our God-given free will. In your syllogism above the “x” is free will–I choose to let it have force. You do not HAVE to choose to obey. But this is a temporary state, because God is a just.

        Ultimately, you are requiring a logical connection where none can be made. It’s like asking why do you obey the speed limit.

        You don’t have to attribute moral authority to God. But if you don’t, where you do place your moral authority will be subjective decision, and a subject to the whim of that authority. The moral authority of God is not whimsical–it is based on his nature.

        I hope that makes sense. God Loves You…you don’t have to love Him back…but you ought to.

      • Fantastic RPIV, I think you’ve got it. You’ve beaten William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, and dozens of other apologists, who haven’t been able to grasp this simple but crucial point.

        Let’s look at your parent analogy. Yes, I may tell my daughter ‘Just because’, but what does it come down to? It’s an assumption that her safety is important to both me and herself, and that I have superior knowledge about how to preserve that safety. Is that subjective? I guess it is if we view ‘valuing your daughters/your own safety’ as a subjective value, but it’s a fairly basic assumption to make. I mean, we generally accept it as read – it’s virtually axiomatic. And if it’s subjective, then it’s subjective when it comes from God too.

        So if a God exists, do I accept his judgement in the same PRAGMATIC way my girl accepts mine – because he’s knows more than me and has my interests at heart? Well perhaps. But we have the same ‘so-called subjective’ assumption at the root of it, just on a larger scale.

        If it’s subjective on a small scale then it remains so on a larger one. I don’t have a problem with this. But what you appear to be conceding is that the whole point of the apologist argument fails – that without a God the whole idea of morality collapses.

        You have this final objection:

        “But if you don’t, where you do place your moral authority will be subjective decision”

        Well my own values may be subjective, but they’re not on a whim – as already discussed, they’re based on such things as valuing my child’s life and my own. I’m hardly going to value life one day, then figure I might try torturing animals the next.

        More problematic still for the apologist is this: you had to appeal to those very values to justify why God’ moral authority is a good one to plump for. In other words, one has to use one’s own values to choose God’s in the first place. If your own values are subjective, then your decision to choose God’s morality is subjective too.

        Which kind of brings you back to square one.

      • When a son asks ‘Why?’, there is someone to answer the why. And if one acts and experiences consequences, one can logically conclude that if you don’t want to suffer those consequences you should not perform that act. Eventually we’re able to predict consequences well enough that we don’t have do the trial and error thing.

        If one speeds, you may get a ticket. You probably don’t get a ticket every time, but through justifiable inferences getting a ticket is reasonably knowable as a possible consequence (you can see others getting tickets and so forth). As an adult you should be advanced enough you can predict this, if not you shouldn’t be driving.

        In both of these cases there are GOOD REASONS to infer the existence of the respective authorities (Father or Police). For some actions it is only social pressures that hold us (mostly) at bay. It’s not illegal to run around in a Jester’s hat but people don’t generally do it because there is a social norm, the reasoned consequence would be being held up to ridicule. There is nothing in the Bible about wearing a Jester’s hat, in different times and places it would be perfectly FINE to do so. We don’t need a law giver to figure this out. If we can reason out the complex variable appropriateness of when to wear and when not to wear a Jester’s hat don’t you think we can manage to tuss out the murder thing without someone having to have set that as some abstract thing that is pretty sucky to do to one another?

        You don’t have a problem when I murder some bacteria that happens to be living on my food, do you? I think even the Jain’s have to give that one a pass (even if they probably don’t like it). What about chimps? dolphins? Where is the line? I think Chimps and Dolphins should just about the SAME rights as a human child and the only way you could justify denying those rights would be to call upon your Bible and say that all animals belong to humans. And if you do that I think it makes you a moral monster.

        BTW: I never once used “Because I said so!” with my son. It was a personal goal.

        But when it comes to God we can ask Why and there is no answer I have found satisfactory.

        Sure, you can succumb to known psychological (self)trickery and believe you are getting an answer but such effects have been accounted for. Answered prayer? Probably just Confirmation Bias unless you instantly regrew a severed limb. “felt presence of God”: this one is complicated but consider the following demonstrated functions of different areas of the brain: proprioception (sense of where the body is, see Olaf Blanke’s work on disrupting proprioception with just a camera and video goggles; also documented as being disturbed by illness or psychoactive drugs or altered states of consciousness; our sense of time, our sense of significance of events (the brain must constantly sort out the noise, this sense when altered can give a sense of immense significance to events such as watching a leaf fall, or seeing a loved one); our sense of love, being-in-love, pleasure responses, sense of self, sense of “other”, addiction, sexual desire and drives, orgasm, dreaming. DREAMING! Are you unaware of the power of the brain to create immensely detailed virtual worlds from mere dreaming?

        Every one of these things is alterable by changes in the brain, and most have been shown to be initiated by direct stimulation of the brain, chemical alteration (psychoactive drugs), or altered states of consciousness (drumming, dancing, trance, meditation, flickering lights, music, chant, prayer, stroke, oxygen deprivation, sensory deprivation, head injury, concussion, sensory overload, etc).

        And isn’t it at least curious that every single one of those ways that we KNOW affect normal mental functioning are ways that people just happen to “feel the presence of God”. They chant, they pray, they invite god into their life… and sure enough, I have NO doubt that some of them feel it. I used to “feel” it. I’ve also experienced LSD. And I have had lucid dreams. And out-of-body experiences (disruption of proprioception). And experienced the noetic through meditation. True astonishment, sense of oneness of all things (loss of function in the sense of self and other), presence of the “other” (overactive sense of otherness).

        You can eat a mushroom and experience God, that doesn’t make it any more real than a dream. We distinguish between illusory mental phenomena and reality because we can measure reality. It doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it or when that mind goes away. How many FIRMLY held (and mutually exclusive) conceptualizations of God have ceased to exist in any mind? Thousands, at least? Millions perhaps?

        My concept of Santa went away when I stopped believing in Santa, but I didn’t stop giving to others.

        My concept of God went away when I stopped believing in God, but I didn’t cease to be a moral person or cease caring about other people. Absolutely Nothing changed except my belief. There is nothing else to measure about God.

        A book I highly recommend reading is Supernatural, by Graham Hancock. He ties together the experiences of modern & ancient shaman, Celtic faires, elves, drug experiences, alien abductions, and contact with the supernatural… And a good 15% of people have these experiences spontaneously (myself included). Sure, it’s difficult to have BEEN there and felt it and say, all in the brain but there it is. It IS all in the brain. If there is some tiny residue of the truly inexplicable in there it is lost under a pile of noise, brain farts, presumptions, self-delusions, and biases.

        And this next point is the critical bit…

        “The moral authority of God is not whimsical–it is based on his nature” – again, this is pure assertion on your part. And let’s assume you are correct. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS MORAL? You base it on the same subjective experience as everyone else, just like the Jester’s hat. The EXACT same methodology you are using to decide that you like Christianity causes another to pick Islam, and another Jainism, and another Mormonism, and another, and another, and another, and another… THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of possible outcomes and we can predict your choice with EXTREMELY high probability based on your genetics, family, culture, and who you marry (and if some religion screws up big time that can throw a curve ball, eg., Catholics have been hit hard – but Catholics still don’t often become Jains either, they pick some church based on a friend or loved one). There is MOUNTAINS of evidence to support the conclusion that your methodology is completely and totally unreliable. But, oh boy, once they pick, there is no shortage of evidence that they picked the RIGHT one. I wonder what the page counts are for each major denomination – millions of pages showing how “they” have it right for each one maybe? So yeah, Methodology… that’s a big issue for me. How Do You Know?

        You claim moral superiority but then cannot demonstrate it. That guy claims the same thing, but his morals are different. Same Methodology, different results every single time. I could ask you a thousand questions on Christianity and never once get the same set of answers from another Christian. I did it once as a joke with a very basic set of questions: http://iconoclasm2000.blogspot.com/2011/01/christianatheist-pre-discussion.html People often scoff and say it’s absurd, but that’s my point. That reflects just how much variation there is aside from the obvious bits of snark.

        Just because our morality is ultimately subjective doesn’t mean we can’t define what is right and wrong just like we did with pencil and non-pencil. Things that harm others without their consent (or without their first having broken this rule) are wrong. Also known as initiation of force. It doesn’t address punishment but it’s a good guideline.

      • Dark Star… I don’t intend to be pejorative; I type the following very carefully and with as much grace as possible. I am not a saint, and am not trying to condemn you. I merely offer the following as advice (for what it’s worth), and as reasons why I haven’t been engaging you with responses:

        You do not listen. You read with rebuttal in mind, not with a desire to understand (at least that is what your responses indicate).
        You are verbose–which doesn’t help your cause. If you want to be heard and engaged, be concise.
        You are offensive. It does nothing to advance the discussion.
        You repeat the same argument, even after it has been addressed (the truth of a belief is independent of how one comes to know it…you can chalk up my Christian worldview to me growing up in the West as many times as you want–it does nothing to defeat my claims).

        There are meaningful discussions that can be had, and I would be more than willing to have one with you. But I can’t engage you meaningfully because I don’t know where to start and don’t think you’ll listen anyway.

        You said earlier that you want to know the truth and that is why you impugn others’ world views. Impugn others’ world views is no way to find truth…it only makes you feel better about what you already believe.

        God loves you.

      • @rpviv

        I think your motivation is clear when you misrepresent my words, what I said was “trying to impugn worldviews” and I made it explicitly clear that my own was included. You can save your false concern, you aren’t the intended audience.

      • Andrew-

        There’s numerous items to deal with in your last reply to me.

        You stated:
        “To me, the latter quality – or non-contingency – doesn’t make them any more objective. Values that are evil to me will be so no matter how powerful the being holding them. You can give a name to the values of this non-contingent being, but morality, or at least OBJECTIVE morality, doesn’t strike me as a helpful term.”

        I am not positing the idea of a non-contingent foundation to show any sort of power of this being. I’m positing it as an explanation of how the foundation could exist. If it was contingent on something else for it’s existence then that something else could change and therefore, morals could change and not be objective. This being could be powerful but that is not important for the simple argument I am making at the moment.

        You’re issue, as someone else pointed out, seems to be the idea that we must be morally subjected to this creator – that we must do what He says is moral. I really don’t think that is an issue for Christianity. This God is a loving God and therefore has given us the freedom to choose to love Him or not love Him. If we love Him we will keep His commandments. If we don’t then we are free to do otherwise. It is all our choice. This could lead into a discussion of what Heaven and Hell is. That’s a different subject that may become necessary but I’ll defer for now.

        you stated:
        “Morals are about values. Values require a ‘valuer’. Our morals reflect our values. OM seems to require ‘valuer-less values’.”

        I don’t see how that follows. In fact, I think my argument and the others being used, when carried out to their end show just the opposite. Consider the Mona Lisa. Famous painting. Nothing really special about that painting, though. There’s some mystery about the person in it but nothing to give it any special value. Where does it get it’s value? It’s value does not come from the painting itself but it is valuable because of who made it. Likewise, we have no inherit value on our own. On our own we are no more valuable than animals, plants, rocks, nothingness. We have value because of who created us. That is the valuer for our values. The non-contingent foundation for objective morals. Human life has special value because of our creator. That is why murder is objectively wrong. If we have no creator then our value is only in our mind and there is no reason to expect anyone else to share our values. We would have no basis to object to murder.

        you stated:
        “I’m not saying that I demand one tests of OM before I believe in it; rather that for me to believe something is possible, I would expect that it could at least IN THEORY be testable, even if not in practice.”

        This would have to be a philosophical test and not a scientific test. Can you imagine a possible world of humans where murder – the unjustified killing of an innocent human – is morally neutral or even morally right? Is that even logically possible? The animal kingdom is an amoral world. They kill all the time but they aren’t morally wrong. They don’t know morals. The difference between animals and humans, though, is that we do know some things to be right and some to be wrong, therefore, I don’t think it is logically possible for an amoral human world to exist.

      • I’m in a rush, so my replies are terse. Still supplied with respect though.

        “We have value because of who created us.”
        I believe my daughter has value because I value her. No God required there.

        “It’s value does not come from the painting itself but it is valuable because of who made it.”
        Yes, again it’s valuable because we value it.

        “We would have no basis to object to murder.”
        No – we object to it because WE value life. No God is required here, and with respect, it strikes me as pernicious and dangerous to insist otherwise.

        “we do know some things to be right and some to be wrong”
        I’d say we BELIEVE or HOLD them to be right etc.

        “You’re issue, as someone else pointed out, seems to be the idea that we must be morally subjected to this creator – that we must do what He says is moral.”
        Not my issue – I’m talking purely philosophically.

        “If we don’t then we are free to do otherwise.”
        Hmm, a Mafia boss says you are free to choose door A or door B, but he’ll kill your family if you choose door A… are you really being given a free choice? At any rate, I’m not talking about whether we have freedom or not – as above, I’m purely talking about whether the notion of Objective Morality is coherent, regardless of how any of this plays out in practical terms.

        “If it was contingent on something else for it’s existence then that something else could change and therefore, morals could change and not be objective.”
        I think you place too much store in ‘not changing your mind’. Leaving aside that the God of the bible DOES change His mind on occasion, I don’t see that ‘not changing your mind’ makes your values any more objective. If they were wrong to start with, refusing to change them doesn’t make them any better!

      • Andrew-

        You said:
        “I believe my daughter has value because I value her. No God required there.”

        You value her but on what basis should any others value her? If someone says, “she’s a human, that’s why we should value her” then that just takes us back to why should we value humans?

        If it is as you say, that she has value simply because you value her, then you have nothing to distinguish the value between your daughter and the value my daughter may have for her baby doll.

        Furthermore, if someone doesn’t value your daughter and murders her then they haven’t done anything wrong. They just didn’t share you values.

        You said [regarding the Mona Lisa]:
        “Yes, again it’s valuable because we value it.”

        Why do we value it? We only value it because of it’s creator. There’s nothing special about that painting except the person that made it.

        You said [regarding murder]:
        “No – we object to it because WE value life.”

        Yes, but on your view why do we value life and on what basis do we expect and enforce others to share those values?

        You said [regarding what we know to be right and wrong]:
        “I’d say we BELIEVE or HOLD them to be right etc.”

        So, it’s just an arbitrary decision, which we could have chosen to be totally opposite of what it is?

        You said:
        “Hmm, a Mafia boss says you are free to choose door A or door B, but he’ll kill your family if you choose door A… are you really being given a free choice?”

        I don’t think that is a correct or even fair analogy of the situation. As I said before, though, that would lead us into a discussion of what heaven and hell are.

        You said:
        “I think you place too much store in ‘not changing your mind’. Leaving aside that the God of the bible DOES change His mind on occasion”

        I’m not talking about changing mind. I’m talking about changing nature/properties.

      • “If it is as you say, that she has value simply because you value her, then you have nothing to distinguish the value between your daughter and the value my daughter may have for her baby doll.”
        An odd thing to say – you think there is no difference in degree of valuation? I promise you my daughter values her dolls less than I value her.

        “I don’t think that is a correct or even fair analogy of the situation”
        It’s very fair – you can’t say you’re offering a free choice if you impose penalties and rewards on the choice.

        “I’m not talking about changing mind. I’m talking about changing nature/properties”
        I think the point remains the same.

        “So, it’s just an arbitrary decision, which we could have chosen to be totally opposite of what it is?”
        You think it’s arbitrary to be against torture? Empathy plays no part? And one cannot will oneself to will something else.

        “There’s nothing special about that painting except the person that made it.”
        It is valued because we value it, regardless of our reasons for so doing.

        ““she’s a human, that’s why we should value her” then that just takes us back to why should we value humans?”
        Define ‘should’ – the word implies a given or assumption – “You SHOULD do this GIVEN that”. Often the givens are unspoken but seeing as you’re questioning this, I’ll have to ask for specifics.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        “An odd thing to say – you think there is no difference in degree of valuation? I promise you my daughter values her dolls less than I value her.”

        I’m sure we do value our daughters more than they value their dolls – even more than the family pet. That is not the point. The point is why?? Why do we value humans more than these other things? It’s really more than “we just choose to” isn’t it?

        you stated:
        “It’s very fair – you can’t say you’re offering a free choice if you impose penalties and rewards on the choice.”

        As I said, this would be a discussion of heaven and hell. I’m not opposed to discussing that but lets do one topic at a time.

        you said:
        “I think the point remains the same.”

        I don’t think it is. Times when God changed His mind He didn’t also change His nature. His moral foundations were still the same. People can change their mind without changing their essential properties.

        You said:
        “You think it’s arbitrary to be against torture?”

        If you don’t have a foundation for the value of life, then yes, it is arbitrary.

        You then said:
        “Empathy plays no part?”

        Yes it does. We feel emotions for those suffering. Why?

        You said:
        “It is valued because we value it, regardless of our reasons for so doing.”

        So it is arbitrary and subjective…but you seemed to be arguing against that just a moment ago.

        you said:
        “Define ‘should’ – the word implies a given or assumption – “You SHOULD do this GIVEN that”. Often the givens are unspoken but seeing as you’re questioning this, I’ll have to ask for specifics.”

        Should, ought, whatever. There’s an idea that there is a way life ought to be. You’re demonstrating that. We ought not to murder. Why? On your view it’s because we value life but you can provide no reason for holding that others should share the same values. Empathy can be shared by many but it too, fails to give a reason why we ought to act a certain way. The only ought you would seem to be left with is the ought that people should act on their own value systems and hope that most people share the same ones.

      • “Should, ought, whatever”

        No, you’ll need to define what you mean before I can answer your question. All the above words imply a given. Should do this GIVEN that. What’s your given? If you can’t answer then your question is not coherent.

      • Andrew-

        Should do this (moral actions) given that we are created beings with inherent value. If we are not created beings then value is totally subjective as well as what we should do.

      • So your question is “Why should we do x, given that given that we are created beings with inherent value?”

        Well I don’t believe we are created beings, so your question doesn’t apply to me.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        “So your question is “Why should we do x, given that given that we are created beings with inherent value?””

        I never asked or implied that question.

        I will ask you, though, why should we do anything or abstain from doing anything of a moral realm and why should we expect others to do the same?

      • Then we’ve lost each other somewhere. I’m too busy to go back over it all, but as I understood it, you asked me a question, I asked you ‘given what’, you replied with the given, and I then put that given into the question.

        Will look again later but am in the middle of something right now.

      • Andrew-

        You took one of my previous statements (about two replies back) to be a question but it was not a question but a statement.

      • Bill, correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to be saying this: without a God, people loving and caring for each other makes no sense. Consider your own loved ones, all the things you hold dear about them. Are you saying that if you stopped believing in God, that would all go with your faith? If so, why? They’re still the same loved ones, with whatever qualities you loved before. But suddenly your feelings for them change, despite them being the same. That would suggest to me you never really loved them in the first place.

        And in the other direction, take my daughter – if I started believing in God, I don’t see how that should change or enhance how I see or feel about her. She’s still the same person.

      • Andrew, your question “Are you saying that if you stopped believing in God, that would all go with your faith? If so, why? ” inspired me to write a bit on my personal experience, so I’m sharing it here.

        I care MORE about all of humanity now than when I was a Christian.

        Before there were the Christians, and everyone else. They were going to Hell. They were unclean. They were to be converted but not associated with. Feared almost because they were tainted by Satan and without careful vigilance they would corrupt you. Satan was an existent being, present in everything the Church said was not “Holy”. Sure, you were supposed to love them, and hate the sin. But it’s a sick kind of love, full of self-righteousness. Aren’t we FEW lucky to have the true beliefs, the true version of Christ. Most other denominations of Christians had been sadly lost to Satan. Oh, yes, praise Jesus.

        It’s actually embarrassing to think back on it.

        Now I just see a big pile of extremely confused, undereducated, and sometimes indoctrinated individuals – most of whom are trying to do their best; some of whom are broken beyond our present ability to help them but I have hopes we can do better in the future. Disease is not caused by demons and sin, but viruses, bacteria, prions, chemical imbalance, physical or genetic defect, …

        People are not evil, they are delusional, damaged, mistreated, and indoctrinated with false beliefs. They act poorly out of primal emotional disruptions caused by their genetics and their history. And it is ideology that subverts human empathy and compassion that is the root of many of our problems. Christianity, Islam, Authoritarianism, and Tribalism all ask us to treat others with prejudice, and they take away from our humanity at great cost.

        Yes, people who harm others are still responsible – they can’t be allowed to cause harm; but I no longer support the Death penalty as I did as a Christian (one of many ironies). There is no life beyond, THIS IS IT. We get one shot. I am curious. I thirst for knowledge. I read every day, I study, I research, I learn. I watch programs on physics, cosmology, psychology, mathematics, biology, abiogenesis, … Anything I can get my hands on. I read ancient texts and books. I question the translations, I look up the individual words for a deeper understanding of the more subtle interpretations the text could have. I look at the stars in amazement, not just at the pretty lights, but understanding what I’m seeing on so many deeper levels. I also value the interpersonal experience, wonder, friendship, love, anger, loss, all of it. And I want everyone else to have the same opportunities I have had to experience these things. That is my drive. That is why murder is not acceptable to me, it would deny someone these experiences.

        Our empathy and compassion drive my desire to do what I can to improve the human condition for future generations.

        This is the True self-sacrifice I think Christians tried (but failed) to symbolize in Jesus. The value of Jesus’ supposed sacrifice is spoiled by the context – the vicarious redemption of past sin through a scapegoat (pretty it up all you want, that is what Christianity delivers). It’s all the ancients knew. And their life was pain, misery, struggle, illness, fear, and daily violence – a coming Eschaton was their vision of a better future (it’s too broke to fix, surely a merciful god will wipe it out and make it right). They couldn’t yet conceive of a willfully given self-sacrifice for others, not in the payment of past sin (which makes sense only if you are irrationally superstitious) but as freely given collateral for an uncertain future.

        But no eschaton appeared, instead we struggled our way out of the religious stranglehold on “truth” and science emerged and began to push beyond the boundaries allowed by the religious authorities (only really in the late-18th century). Oh sure, they LOVED science so long as it exactly agreed with their preconceived Biblical notions. That’s not free inquiry and it held science back. Just to give a few prominent examples…

        Copernicus suppressed his research due to the church, Campanella was tortured by the church repeatedly for supporting Galileo, Rene Descartes suppressed his research due to Galileo’s treatment, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Edmond Halley, Isaac Newton, Georges Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon, William Buckland, Charles Lyell, Louis Agassiz, Adam Sedgewick, Robert Chambers, Charles Darwin… all scientists whose work was negatively affected by the influence of the Roman Catholic Church against the progress of science.

        [And yes, the budding “scientists” of those ages were Christians – if they didn’t accept Christianity they would have been put to death, I find arguing that this point shows in favor of Christianity to be rather vile because of that – just in case you were so inclined to mention it; also Newton wasn’t the kind of Christian you might think, he denied the Trinity and followed Arian so he was a heretic and would have been put to death if exposed, he was also an Alchemist and Astrologist – shall we credit Alchemy and Astrology for his scientific accomplishments? — so yes, thanks to the Church for what support they did give and I’m thankful they didn’t burn all the scientists to death]

        I have true compassion for every human life, however miserable it might be and regardless of the harm that person has caused. I don’t think people should be raped or mistreated in prison. They should be educated, treated, helped into becoming more enlightened people – even if they cannot be allowed back out into society.

        And another aside, a FOR-PROFIT prison-industrial complex is NOT the way to a brighter tomorrow. It is corrupting of our system of justice. Judges make profits from sending prisoners to profit-centers where they hold positions and interest! Absolutely horrific, but this exists in the US today.

        I’ll even give the old biblical authors a bit of credit here in Matthew 25:41-46 we see this sentiment expressed. Do for the LEAST, the sick and those in prison (the homeless, the needy). Those are the people who need the most.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        “Bill, correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to be saying this: without a God, people loving and caring for each other makes no sense.”

        That is not what I am saying. If we want to look at my argument from the aspect of love then my argument would be saying that, without God, there is no basis to categorize love as good and hate as bad.

        you said:
        “In the same way, the historical and financial value of a painting may change, but the painting itself is the same – its aesthetic value is the same.

        And our interactions with each other as a species is what it is, regardless of whether we’re evolved from bacteria over billions of years, or created last month by a trickster God.

        I’m not trying to preach some dogmatic position here, just letting you know how your analogy made me think.”

        Analogies have limits – none are all encompassing. You make some good observations, though. But I believe that we hold things that have been purposely created to have more value than things that come about by chance. That’s not to say things that come about by chance natural processes do not have value, though. Something like the Grand Canyon has value even though it is the result of natural processes. As you recognized, some works of art have increased value, not because of what they are but because of who created them. With people, your daughter can have a certain value to you and mine to me but others may not value our daughters at all. Just like with the Mona Lisa. My only interest in the Mona Lisa would be it’s resale value. It’s not something I look at and think that I’d like to have hanging in my house. I’d rather have the much less valued painting of dogs playing poker. With humans, though, if we are created by God, for a purpose as Christians believe, then we have inherent value and always will. There will always be, at least one person that values us.

        Without God, there is no foundation to value a human over an animal. Many people in the world today actually believe that a dog is just as valuable than a human. I don’t. I don’t know where you stand on this but I would suspect that you actually believe that your daughter has more inherent value than a pet dog – not simply because you choose to value her more but because she actually is more valuable.

        You’re in London? London, England I am assuming and not London, Ohio.

      • “Something like the Grand Canyon has value even though it is the result of natural processes.”
        Quite. If I found that, rather than coming together through natural processes over millions of years, the Grand Canyon was actually purposely built a hundred years ago, I think if anything that would lower my awe and appreciation of it.

        “Without God, there is no foundation to value a human over an animal.”
        Well Bill, it makes me sad to see you say that. To grab just a single difference out of hundreds, you place no value on human’s superior ability to feel love or emotional pain? Either you’ve had some great relationships with animals or I’ve simply been very lucky in the relationships I’ve had with my friends and family. Because I’ve never felt a lacking in those relationships, such that I need to appeal to the supernatural to elevate them over, say, my relationship with a pet goldfish.

        “With humans, though, if we are created by God, for a purpose as Christians believe, then we have inherent value and always will.”
        Why? More value to that God, perhaps, but why INHERENT value? A dog that I bred deliberately and trained as a guide dog might have more value to me than a dingo born in the wild, but INHERENTLY more valuable? No, it’s just more valuable to the people who bred, trained and use it. Take two people – one conceived by accident, the other bred specifically by scientists to use for body parts when he reached the age of 20. Should the latter feel more valuable because he was created for a purpose? Is he obligated to give up his organs because he was created for that purpose? I’d focus more on those scientists obligations to HIM rather than the other way round.

        “…not simply because you choose to value her more but because she actually is more valuable.”
        She IS more valuable BECAUSE I value her more (and not out of choice). That’s what valuable means – that people value it. And she’s more valuable to us all as a species, and even if she was a hermit she’d be more valuable to herself.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        “If I found that, rather than coming together through natural processes over millions of years, the Grand Canyon was actually purposely built a hundred years ago, I think if anything that would lower my awe and appreciation of it.”

        I would be in awe of it’s creator.

        you said:
        “Well Bill, it makes me sad to see you say that. To grab just a single difference out of hundreds, you place no value on human’s superior ability to feel love or emotional pain? Either you’ve had some great relationships with animals or I’ve simply been very lucky in the relationships I’ve had with my friends and family. Because I’ve never felt a lacking in those relationships, such that I need to appeal to the supernatural to elevate them over, say, my relationship with a pet goldfish.”

        Set your relationships aside. Consider a person you’ve never met before. Maybe someone like the drunk bum in the alley. Now consider a dog. A good dog that protects the house and the kids. Which has more value? In my Christian view, the drunk bum has more value. On your view I think you would have to think the dog has more value. If not, why? Is it because of the human’s “superior ability to feel love or emotional pain?” How does that give this drunk bum more value than the loyal, protector dog?

        you said”
        “Take two people – one conceived by accident, the other bred specifically by scientists to use for body parts when he reached the age of 20. Should the latter feel more valuable because he was created for a purpose?”

        You would have to consider the purpose for which they were created. That is why people have more value than animals. In my view, the two people in your scenario would have equal value because they are both created for the same purpose by God, regardless of what purpose scientist may have bred them for.

        you said:
        “She IS more valuable BECAUSE I value her more (and not out of choice). That’s what valuable means – that people value it. And she’s more valuable to us all as a species”

        Why is she more valuable? As I showed above, animals can sometimes be better contributors to society than humans so why does she simply have greater value? If it is not by choice then what is it? I would say that she has inherent value but that requires an explanation…a source.

      • “Is it because of the human’s “superior ability to feel love or emotional pain?” How does that give this drunk bum more value than the loyal, protector dog?”

        Boy, if you think a human being’s superior ability to feel love and emotional pain, to interact with other humans, to create, to live, to experience the full gamut of the human experience… if you think none of that amounts to anything… then Bill I really don’t know what to say to you. Again, I can only conclude that you haven’t lived much. Or, if I’m charitable, that you’ve known some extraordinary dogs.

        “I would say that she has inherent value but that requires an explanation…a source.”
        And I say that if you have to check someone’s ‘source’ before you value them then you don’t actually care about them in the first place. That reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic – a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

        If you were hypothetically able to show that everyone in the world was created by God except for one person, then I wouldn’t see that person as being worth any less than the rest.

        “In my view, the two people in your scenario would have equal value because they are both created for the same purpose by God, regardless of what purpose scientist may have bred them for.”
        You’re dodging the question in the analogy.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        “Boy, if you think a human being’s superior ability to feel love and emotional pain, to interact with other humans, to create, to live, to experience the full gamut of the human experience… if you think none of that amounts to anything”

        So, you’re saying that we have value over other things on earth simply because we experience emotions. Sorry, but I just don’t see where that gives us superior value. Emotions are important things to humans and not to be discounted but we also know that emotions unchecked are also misleading and often dangerous.

        you said:
        “And I say that if you have to check someone’s ‘source’ before you value them then you don’t actually care about them in the first place.”

        I never said anything about having to check someone’s source. I would say that I know the source so checking is not necessary. On your view though, you are left with saying the value is from your emotions for someone, which may mean something to you, but could be totally opposite for someone else. You’re left with no reason to expect anyone to respect you or your daughter. If they disrespect you or her, then they are just exercising their own emotion based value system.

        you said:
        “You’re dodging the question in the analogy.”

        No, the analogy is flawed because people cannot create people. To assume that there is no creator in the analogy is to beg the question.

      • “On your view though, you are left with saying the value is from your emotions for someone”

        No, I said “superior ability to feel love and emotional pain, to interact with other humans, to create, to live, to experience the full gamut of the human experience…” and the dot dot dot suggested that I could have gone on a lot further, though ‘the full gamut of the human experience’ would take a whole library to fully describe.

        You’ve reduced that ‘we experience emotions’, which is taking reductiveness to quite an extreme.

        “I never said anything about having to check someone’s source. I would say that I know the source so checking is not necessary”
        The point remains the same either way.

        “You’re left with no reason to expect anyone to respect you or your daughter.”
        What do you mean by ‘expect’ here? You can say that me disliking the smell of excrement just comes down to my personal taste, but I would still be pretty confident in ‘expecting’ most people to share my dislike. Likewise, everyone bar sociopaths and psychopaths have an inbuilt respect for other humans. This respect gives us an evolutionary advantage.

        “No, the analogy is flawed because people cannot create people”
        It’s hypothetical. At any rate, why not? If you mean practically, we can clone animals, there’s not much reason we can’t also clone/create humans. If you mean philosophically, then all analogies here come to nothing as at the end of the day you’re saying it all comes down to God, and any effort you make to describe it in terms of anything else will be meaningless too. And if you’re saying that I didn’t create my daughter, then you’re pretty much taking away the notion of free will – that it was God’s plan for me to meet my wife and have the child we did, and therefore had nothing to do with our own choices.

        Sorry, but all this to comes down to saying that you don’t actually see humans as inherently valuable for their own sake, only because of their providence. Again this is like saying you only see a painting as valuable if came from a certain artist, and any other value it has – aesthetic or otherwise – is completely meaningless.

      • Andrew-

        Let’s cut to the chase.

        Suppose, hypothetically, that I don’t feel that you or your daughter or any other humans have any more value than a dog or a plant and, as a result, don’t treat you with any respect.

        Would I be morally wrong? If yes, then why?

      • Bill wrote:

        >> Suppose, hypothetically, that I don’t feel that you or your daughter or any other humans have any more value than a dog or a plant and, as a result, don’t treat you with any respect. Would I be morally wrong? If yes, then why?

        That is not insufficient information AND it depends greatly on how you define morality. I haven’t seen a sufficient definition of morality yet. And because not answering the question is no fun, I will try to explore it – although you seem to be ignoring things I have already written on the subject.

        Merely not valuing someone would be a thought crime. Under some definitions of morality that could be considered ‘immoral’ ,not under other definitions.

        But you also proposed consequential action so let’s look at that.

        What if you were a wonderfully nice person for 45 years and then you suffered a stroke, and only after the stroke did you start mistreating others. Combined with the many scientific studies on this and brain scans of your stroke showing damage to critical regions of your brain – I would NOT hold you ‘morally’ culpable under ANY definition of morality that I would accept.

        What if you were just ‘always’ that way? Well, what if you were damaged emotionally as a child, or suffering from chemical or physical damage from birth that was less apparent. Essentially the same scenario as the previous one, but with less evidence for the cause? I don’t know how I would feel in that case. I would probably hold you morally culpable under my Free Will Compatibilist view ASSUMING you seemed to be in full possession of the faculties science has identified as necessary (and if you started murdering people you would be subjected to a more detailed evaluation). But I would tend to think it was because of underlying causes rather than your possession of a black and evil soul.

        Morality implies volition. If you CANNOT help but act as you do, then I don’t think our concept of morality holds. I think that the computational nature of the Cosmos reflected in our brains means that under normal circumstances you are culpable, in that sense.

        That doesn’t mean such people must be allowed to run around freely – we know that those who would cause harm must be prevented from doing so because it sucks to be harmed. Like the Jester hat, we don’t want to wear the consequences of letting murderers run around free.

        Morality is a rather arbitrary category of human behavior. Hurricanes don’t kill people out of malice, we don’t hold them morally responsible – but we still feel that it’s WRONG to allow hurricanes to kill people if we can help it. We do what we can to prevent it. Sticking the ‘moral’ label on behavior changes absolutely nothing about it. We just use that label when we’re talking about things that we FEEL have a right or wrong component.

        Is there anything morally ‘wrong’ about wearing a Jester hat? What if you wore it in a society that found Jester hats to be a hostile sign of black magic? Would it suddenly become immoral to wear it knowing the consequences?

        There is a contextual difference there that seems to make the difference – you might even excuse it as not being a moral question because it’s not the wearing of the hat that is right or wrong, but the consequential harm to others (and possibly oneself). I think this is because we cannot imagine many scenarios where others WANT to be harmed but we can imagine situations where others are fine with us wearing the hat.

        What if you had never experienced a society where wearing the hat would be ok? I think you might be inclined to consider the ACTUAL wearing of the hat to be the offense and consider such an action immoral.

        This is NOT moral relativism because I’m not saying that our morals are justified merely from social convention. In fact, I would argue very much the opposite, social convention enforces many immoral positions. For me, morality (well for me really it secular ethics) has to be viewed in the greatest possible worldview, with every assumption questioned, and positive demands supported by scientific reasoning with the values and goals clearly on the table.

        But also with a realization that what humans actually DO is very messy, fuzzy, variable over time, inconsistent, and often they justify horrible mistreatment of others anyway.

        In my other post I linked to several resources on evolution and morality.

      • Darkstar-

        I appreciate the thought and time you put into your post but it misses the point. Your post actually assumes the point. You talk about the culpability of people and how their culpability may be effected if they suffer damage. But culpable for what? You are deciding whether or not they should be culpable for adhering to a standard of the way things ought to be. But where does that standard come from? Evolution does not provide that standard. Evolution could show that if we want to survive as a species we need to do X or not do X but that doesn’t establish that it ought to be that way. It doesn’t give us a reason why we should not be selfish by thinking of our own survival instead of our species. It says nothing towards the idea that the survival of our species is the way things ought to be.

        If there is no standard then debating about anyone being culpable for their actions is meaningless.

      • “Evolution could show that if we want to survive as a species we need to do X or not do X but that doesn’t establish that it ought to be that way.”

        Neither does positing a God, regardless of whatever nature you think He has. Evolution does explain the phenomena though.

        I’ve had apologists say to me: “Without Objective Morality, you can’t stop someone attacking your wife”. I ask them if they think a boulder rolling towards their wife is ‘objectively immoral’. They say no. I point out that by their logic that means they’ve got no ‘right’ to push their wife out the way of the rock. The point is that protecting yourself loved ones, or even strangers from danger is done without reference to labelling of morality. It’s a red herring to say that arguments about what morality is makes a practical difference to our actions. Thus the apologist trumping argument falls flat.

        And what of our hypothetical sociopath who doesn’t care about anyone? So you tell him about God… Why should this make any difference to whether he cares about others or not? He either cares or he doesn’t. So now you get to declare him objectively immoral. So what? Perhaps he’ll just say he subscribes to a different God, one that says he IS moral, then you’re back to square one.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        “I’ve had apologists say to me…”

        It’s irrelevant to this discussion what apologists have said to you. I don’t know who they are and I am not them. Furthermore, the argument you say they have presented is not the one I have presented.

        My argument says nothing about how people might react if they learn objective morals exist.

        My argument is purely about if objective morals exist and if they do, how it might be so.

        You have been very unclear as to where values come from. In one instance you say they are not arbitrary and in the next instance you say you value you someone because you choose to value them. You declined to address my question about if it would be wrong for me to not value you and your daughter and to treat you disrespectfully and if it is wrong then why?

        Darkstar has presented a case of people who have been damaged to the point where we might not hold them culpable but at the same time he is trying to avoid a standard. If there is no standard then there is no meaning to holding anyone culpable. There is nothing to be culpable of.

        So, that is what you are up against. Either nothing is really right and wrong or there exists some objective standard of morals. If there really is no right and wrong then we have no basis to object to any persons behavior. The most we would have authority to do is say we desire that they would act differently but desires are not the basis for setting morals. That would be hedonism and that does not seem to be the way the world operates.

        The world seems to operate on the notion that there is some standard as to how we ought to behave.

      • “you say you value you someone because you choose to value them.”

        Actually I specifically said I didn’t choose. I don’t think you’re reading what I say very carefully.

      • “You declined to address my question about if it would be wrong for me to not value you and your daughter and to treat you disrespectfully and if it is wrong then why?”

        Your question was vague – what do you by disrespectfully? – and I figured you didn’t really deserve the long thought-out response the question requires. This for several reasons: I’ve answered plenty of your questions already, you’ve dodged my own hypothetical questions several times, you’ve misunderstood or misquoted many of my own answers, such that I fear a case of fractal wrongness. I’ve given up trying to re-explain every point you missed, or flag up every false dichotomy – eg, “It’s either objective x or it’s completely meaningless!”.

        Plus, your worldview strikes me as monumentally depressing for reasons I already explained – you seem to view humans as little more than robotic slaves. Anything I explain to you is going to be viewed through that reductive prism. And most other posters have gone, so I can’t even figure it’s worth it for other readers.

      • @Bill

        >>>I appreciate the thought and time you put into your post but it misses the point. Your post actually assumes the point.

        No it doesn’t. These are completely different dimensions of the discussion and we can speak of the standard entirely independently of the agency and the will. This should be blatantly clear on even cursory examination because we hold people culpable for actions that have nothing to do with morality.

        All you are doing here is blowing it off so you don’t have to respond in any reasoned way. Your response is the intellectual version of “Nuh Uh”.

        The question of culpability are arguments about agency and free will of action. It is fairly well established that the ability TO act in some fashion is at least necessary to establish culpability (although not sufficient it is the only component I believe that I addressed).

        You offer nothing to argue for any position relative to my actual arguments. For example:

        Do you believe someone with massive brain damage is culpable under YOUR standard? And on what basis?

        And the entire culpability thing is a red herring on your part because that doesn’t have any bearing on the rest of the discussion, which you also ignored and failed to address.

        >>>If there is no standard then debating about anyone being culpable for their actions is meaningless.

        That’s an assertion — try supporting it with argument and facts.

        Evolution is the best accounting of the facts in Nature. We’ve gone into great detail in other posts and there are volumes of information available in books and online that discuss it.

        >>>”If there really is no right and wrong then we have no basis to object to any persons behavior”

        That is a non sequitur and I have given you our accounting of the known facts for the basis for both our consideration of what is right and wrong and why and on what basis we hold others responsible (and how, as we have learned more about evolutionary biology, it changes our view of both).

        For things to be Right and Wrong for us do not require an external and arbitrary standard – evolution, observation, memory, communication, and decision making processes have adapted us to be as we are.

        It is unfortunate that you continue to assert ‘but you have no basis’ when we have given you that basis. Evolution, biology, and cognition and the reams of data that support those theories. So you need to argue those points.

        Nor have you supplied any argument for a necessary ‘objective morality’ – if anything even a cursory examination of human history should disavow anyone of this notion. Our morality is only Objective in the sense and to the extent that we can make a rational & objective argument for it. Not in the sense of an external standard giver.

        But ALL human experience is subjective, so it’s really just an approximation of objective (but I think humans are pretty good at being able to build up a reflection of objective reality mentally IF we carefully account for known sources of error and bias — aka, apply the appropriate scientific methodology). If we aren’t then it’s all moot as we know absolutely nothing about anything at all, which is pretty boring.

      • “I would be in awe of it’s creator.”
        Fine, but that’s irrelevant to the point – which was how you feel about the Grand Canyon ITSELF, which here is being used as an analogy for humans.

      • @BillClute – “I would be in awe of it’s creator.”

        Then why do you deny the evidence that points to our creation entirely from the natural laws of physics? Why do you feel the need to make fallacious appeals to an imagined creator in order to feel awe?

        The almost trivial equation Z -> Z^2 + C (iterated over the complex plane) yields the infinitely complex Mandelbrot set:

        And we know that there is a direct relationship between fractals and complex dynamic processes that we observe in nature. The point is that such complexity emerges quite naturally from these types of dynamic, feedback processes. Just as the dynamical laws of physics are the progenitor of organic chemistry, which is in turn the progenitor of biology and evolution.

        And Natural Selection is the process that accounts for the anomalous probability that many religious people object to. There is a VAST difference between proposing that a bunch of atoms just magically came together to create a man (nearly infinitely improbable) and a process that ran for 3.8 billion years, slowly and randomly increasing complexity but then SELECTED for based on survivability. It is the SELECTION that is the diode that makes all the difference. Any single mutation is EXTREMELY probable (100’s of them in the average persons DNA) – if we were unaware of the selectivity component then the evolution of a human being would seem a miracle indeed.

        But directional SELECTION is the difference between shuffling a deck of cards and dealing out four Royal Flushes and LOOKING AT (selecting) the cards and dealing out four Royal Flushes. If you let me SELECT the cards somehow then the outcome of 4 perfect hands is utterly mundane. I just have to toss each random card into a pile based on the selectivity criteria. Natural Selection is Nature looking at the cards (random mutations) it is dealt.

        If you are a biblical/science compatibilist then that may not apply to you – but what you do in that case is just push the knowledge gap, one level deeper. God is, at the bottom, an appeal to our ignorance combined with a special pleading that posting a magical God does away with the gaps in our knowledge.

        The ancients filled their gaps with gods. Volcanic activity, eclipses, and earthquakes were mysterious acts of god, no man could lift the Earth itself, what other possible conclusion could there be? What other power than a god could move the wanderer’s through the very Heavens in such unfathomably complex patterns? What possibly could account for the laws of the Cosmos itself?

        What could do all these things AND personally value me as a person, be on my side in war, punish the evils I cannot punish, undo the injustices against the innocent, and grant ME an eternally happy life… and all you have to do to join is send $50 a month to a guy on TV. What a bargain!

      • I appreciate your posts even if no-one else does!

      • “no basis to categorize love as”

        Except for the neurobiological and evolutionary basis that we know exists

        The neurobiology of love
        http://cmb.duke.edu/files/Module6D-3.pdf

        There are 100’s of studies now on the role of oxytocin and vasopressin (and many others) in normal and dysfunctional expression; including with love and boding and specifically tied to regions of the brain that when damaged cause the person to be unable to feel or express love. The inability to secrete oxytocin and feel empathy is linked to sociopathy, psychopathy, narcissism in many studies.

        For these people love is NOT ‘good’. They simply cannot feel it. You only ‘feel’ love is ‘good’ because of your neurology and you judge their behavior ‘bad’ because of it as well. Without the right brain structures, chemicals and experiences you would be a psychopathic murderer who sees nothing wrong with it (or perhaps I should say with the wrong ones as it is a narrow subset).

        Studies on the Evolutionary side are also vast, you can start here for an overview: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-biology/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_morality

        And how much evidence is there behind the ‘it’s good because God’ hypothesis? We don’t know some fact X about neurobiology, therefore God? Ignorance is no basis for a conclusion – with neurology the supporting evidence is immense and growing rapidly.

      • I’m thinking about your Da Vinci analogy – very current to me, because a very rare Da Vinci exhibition has just opened in Central London near where I work. Every morning I pass enormous queues. He’s big box office. If a painting is suddenly discovered to be by him, its value would rocket. But as you say, it’s due to its historical value – it is still the same painting, no more beautiful than before. Sometimes men find the child they’ve raised is not actually their own. Hearteningly, they often find it doesn’t change their feelings for the child – they still think of it as theirs and still love them. And why not – nothing about them had really changed.

        In the same way, the historical and financial value of a painting may change, but the painting itself is the same – its aesthetic value is the same.

        And our interactions with each other as a species is what it is, regardless of whether we’re evolved from bacteria over billions of years, or created last month by a trickster God.

        I’m not trying to preach some dogmatic position here, just letting you know how your analogy made me think.

      • Andrew – the argument that Craig puts forth (and most apologists) is – IF objective moral values and duties exist – then God must exist. There is an “IF” in that premise. The argument then goes on to posit that they DO indeed exist. I personally think it’s pretty easy to get out of this argument if you are an atheist, all you have to do is deny that objective moral values and duties exist. Claim relativism and move on. The theist claim is that they are objectively there and we all (theists and non-theists) see and know them. I cannot prove that they are there, but I also cannot prove there is an outside world, or that there are other minds.

        I don’t know of any apologist that has a logically following argument for how we come to KNOW what those are. Theists might infer that the image of God conveys this or revelation or whatever – but the moral argument put forth by Craig in Reasonable Faith doesn’t make any epistemological claim. He’s actually pretty clear in saying that his argument is ontological not epistemological.

        Dark Star – I find you very intelligent and I appreciate the thought you’ve put into your moral claims but in the end I see your case as basically “I’m better educated than most so my morality should be used over the African tribe that mutilates genitals”. I actually tend to somewhat agree with you because I believe that moral values and duties might be DISCOVERED like any other objective fact – but your case is still a case of relativism to me. Call it something different if you want.

        If you want to discuss the Bible on a different post or on your website or simply via email with me – I’d be happy to. You have several straw men arguments (such as the OT law being the gold standard – who believes that? Or that Christianity is all goodness and kittens, etc) and I’m not sure you and I agree on what a Christian actually is.

      • “IF objective moral values and duties exist – then God must exist.”
        Yes, and I don’t see that they’ve demonstrated that in any way – regardless of whether OMV exist or not (and I don’t see it as an incoherent concept), there’s no logical progression between ‘OMV exists’ and ‘God exists’ in EITHER DIRECTION.

        “I cannot prove that they are there, but I also cannot prove there is an outside world, or that there are other minds.”
        I think we can all agree to leave solipsism aside for the sake of argument. And it shouldn’t be a case of ‘I can’t disprove solipsism so why bother producing evidence for anything at all’.

        Larry: “Claim relativism and move on”
        I don’t see the options as either “Torturing babies or not is a matter of personal taste” or “God must exist”. WLC pretty much claims these are the only options. To me that makes HIM the relativist – he’s the one making baby torture a subjective thing to disagree on, as he’s saying that a God must exist before he’ll object to it.

        “He’s actually pretty clear in saying that his argument is ontological not epistemological.”
        Right, that’s why I don’t bother arguing about whether the God of the bible strikes us as moral or not. I accept that it is irrelevant to the argument. That said, WLC also ties himself up in knots elsewhere trying to explain why there’s nothing immoral about biblical genocide and murder of babies and small children (“It’s the child-murderers who we need to feel sorry for!”).

      • Darkstar-

        You said:
        “Then why do you deny the evidence that points to our creation entirely from the natural laws of physics?”

        Really? Natural laws of physics explains our existence? What theory are you subscribing to that explains our existence entirely from natural laws of physics? You go on to talk about evolution but that is biology and does not explain our existence. Are you subscribing to one of the many forms of string theory or M-theory? Many prominent scientists don’t even accept them as scientific theories (e.g. Roger Penrose, Lawrence Krauss). So, tell us what theory you are talking about.

      • Darkstar-

        you posted:
        ““no basis to categorize love as”

        Except for the neurobiological and evolutionary basis that we know exists”

        Thanks for posting that along with the additional information. That proves my point. If we are just the result of unguided natural processes there is no basis for deeming love as good and hate as bad. It is just illusory – just chemical reactions.

      • Bill “there is no basis for deeming love as good and hate as bad. It is just illusory – just chemical reactions”

        You really need to study emergence. “JUST” because love is the actions of neurons doesn’t mean you don’t experience love. Love is emergent. It exists in the patterns in your brain. Consciousness is illusory but that doesn’t mean you don’t experience Consciousness. But that’s a more subtle use of ‘illusory’. It does not mean delusion.

        Good & bad are categories that we have in our brains, the vast majority of humanity shares the bulk of this categorization. It is a valid category of emergent phenomena (behaviors in this case), which doesn’t imply that these are Platonic realities.

        As Dr. Susan Blackmore wrote:

        >>> First we must be clear what is meant by the term “illusion”. To say that consciousness is an illusion is not to say that it doesn’t exist, but that it is not what it seems to be―more like a mirage or a visual illusion.

      • Darkstar-

        “JUST” because love is the actions of neurons doesn’t mean you don’t experience love. Love is emergent. It exists in the patterns in your brain.”

        The actions of our neurons cannot explain first person experience. Just because actions in the brain can be detected during certain emotions it does not follow that the brain defines those emotions. Proposition of the sort, A is a necessary condition for B are entirely different from propositions of the sort, A is B, or B is within the set of A

      • @Bill

        >>>The actions of our neurons cannot explain first person experience.

        Cannot? Do tell. Or do you mean you don’t understand how it could?

        >>>Just because actions in the brain can be detected during certain emotions it does not follow that the brain defines those emotions. Proposition of the sort, A is a necessary condition for B are entirely different from propositions of the sort, A is B, or B is within the set of A

        Provide me one single shred of credible evidence that mind arises from anything except for brain processes.

        The mountain of evidence that mind arises from the brain is vast and every shred of evidence we have supports the hypothesis. The only objections seem to be on purely philosophical grounds of the type: “we don’t like it”.

        The variables are of the nature that it might not be neurons as we understand them. Glial cells could play an unexpected role (certainly as with astroglia). Quantum processes could play a role as they do in photosynthesis. Neurons could be more complex internally than expected (almost certainly actually). But there is no cause to hypothesise God or Soul because there is nothing requiring a Soul to explain. We don’t reject hypotheses just because we cannot produce evidence to disprove something for which there is no evidence for. Thus:

        Christopher Hitchens: ‘That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.’

        Please explain to me your philosophy of causation and then we can discuss it further. I mean I can’t prove we’re not in a simulation making EVERYTHING we “know” utterly moot – but that’s not a parsimonious conundrum.

        And what specifically is your objection based on? Qualia? The most common objection I know is the knowledge argument but I believe it is defeated by problems/limits of computational irreducibility.

        I recommend at least reading Dennett’s Consciousness Explained

        We have demonstrated conclusively is that the PURELY mechanical laws of nature (by this I mean the emergent laws that give us fully deterministic behaviors) produce memory, conditional execution, fully generalized mathematical and computational abstractions, and has reproduced the vast majority of the simple faculties of the brain – there is every evidence that when scaled up every function of a human brain could be duplicated, however difficult that task might be (at least until we get nanoscale manufacturing).

        And we know that these principles of computation have also been demonstrated to be Universal (computationally)

        We have also demonstrated that your brain is already working well ahead of when you “make a conscious decision”. E.g., when asked to decide at a certain moment to push a button or not, the brain has already activated the motor neurons (or not) BEFORE “you” have “consciously” decided. The entire idea of “consciousness” is on extremely thin ice these days. This sharply questions the idea that ‘you’ are your soul and it provides consciousness. If it’s already decided things without your felt-consciousness being involved then it’s NOT the consciousness which is what you are trying to explain with it.

        And we learn more about the faculties of the brain (sadly) from brain injury patients who end up with bizarre and extremely specialized dysfunctions. We learn about edge detection, face detection, memory, association, recall, a myriad bits. Read & listen to Vilayanur S. Ramachandran for some more details on this.

        The gradation of intelligence, awareness, and behavior that scales across the spectrum of life, from the simplest bacterium, to complex eukaryotes is further evidence. Complex behaviors from simple cells: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnlULOjUhSQ

        So there are many converging lines of evidence, I’ve not even scratched the surface. These all support the accepted scientific paradigm.

        The parallel is drawn between physics -> computation, repeatedly and at many different scales of phenomena (from the quantum, photonic, electrical, chemical, phononic (excitations in condensed matter), etc) and brain -> mind. We know enough about the brain to say that it is computational in nature (Google for “neuronal computation”):

        http://williamcalvin.com/1970s/1979StylesNeurocomputation.pdf

        We have also taken out bits of mice brains and replaced them with computer chips, enabling us to turn on and off their ability to learn or recall memories:

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128315.700-rat-cyborg-gets-digital-cerebellum.html?full=true&print=true

        and another,

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20590-rat-memory-restored-by-installing-replay-electronics.html

        That is an astonishing result that provides promise to millions of humans who could benefit from this in the future.

        How do you propose to account for all of this with a “soul” hypothesis? By what mechanisms does it function? Where are the studies supporting this? Where is there ANY evidence that a soul is required to be conscious?

        Demonstrate to me that you aren’t just making a plea to ignorance here.

        How do you account for the extremely deep parallels between the computation that takes place in Tinker Toys when they are setup to perform as a computer (it’s simple but all elements required for universal computation are established) and the things a brain must do (edge detection, pattern recognition, memory, association, recall,…)?

      • DarkStar-
        you said:
        “Provide me one single shred of credible evidence that mind arises from anything except for brain processes.”

        I’ll provide you with these two excerpts from The Soul Hypothesis – Investigation into the existence of the soul, which I will recommend that you read.

        I believe both excerpts are by Robin Collins:

        The consciously experienced psychological and conceptual content of an experience cannot be a physical cause. And because this is so, the mental content is irrelevant to behavior; it is not the explanation for anything a person says or does. But when applied to the process of reasoning this has a startling result, namely that we never accept the conclusion of an argument because we see that it is supported by sound reasons. The chain of physical cause and effect, which alone determines what our response shall be, is completely unaffected by the psychological content of an experience – such as, in this case, the fact that the experience involves the affirming of certain propositions we believe to be true. Rather, we accept the conclusions of argument, when we do so, because and only because that acceptance is the result of the “dance of the molecules” in our brains, interaction with one another according to the laws of physics. But this is wholly inadequate as an account of the way reasoning actually occurs” when we are reasoning correctly, we accept the conclusion of an argument because, and only because, we see that it is supported by good reasons. If materialism is incompatible with this truth about the way we reason, then materialism is in serious trouble. – pg. 206

        To understand the problem that qualia present for reductive materialism, consider a person I will call Abaz. Suppose you simultaneously peered into his brain and his mind using both a “brain scope” and a “soul scope,” the former completely mapping the pattern of physical interactions in the brain and the latter allowing one to map all of Abaz’s experiences and thoughts. Further suppose Abaz looks at a green backdrop and you notice a certain pattern of the firing of neurons that always take place when Abaz sees green. One puzzle is why this pattern of firing causes the particular phenomenal quale it does (which I will call the “green quale”) instead of any of other quale – such as that corresponding to the color red, the taste of chocolate, and the like – or no experience at all. No matter how much you physically analyze the brain, you will only detect material fields and particles causally interacting with one another, not the corresponding green quale. Of course, by asking Abaz and other subjects what they experience when a certain set of neurons are activated, you could draw a correlation between the experienced qualia and the pattern of neuronal firings, but this is not the same thing as being able to describe the qualia in purely physical terms…a purely physical description of his brain will not include what it is like for him to have a particular experience, such as tasting chocolate…even after such a complete map of Abaz’s and someone elses’s brain, it would make sense to wonder if the subjective quality of Abaz’s experience is the same as the other person’s…these problems with reductive materialism will not go away with further developments in cognitive science and neurology. This problem…remains even after all physical abilities, functions, and structures have been explained, and therefore is beyond the explanatory scope of cognitive science and neurology. – pg. 223-224

        I don’t know why you keep trying to argue for the mind being just an effect of the brain. If it is all just from the natural processes of the brain then it is not objective and we have no standard. But you tried to make a point by asking if people who have suffered various types of damage are culpable. That’s assuming a standard that they must have deviated from. As C.S. Lewis pointed out in Mere Christianity, we can’t judge a line to be crooked if we have no straight edge to compare it to. You have no reference point.

        If evolution is a random process (i.e. triggered by random mutations), as is typically asserted, then there is no reason to think things had to evolve the way the did. Evolution could have taken a different path and then the things we think are right and wrong could have been reversed. Therefore, it wouldn’t be objective.

      • “That’s assuming a standard that they must have deviated from. As C.S. Lewis pointed out in Mere Christianity, we can’t judge a line to be crooked if we have no straight edge to compare it to.”

        Well actually we DON’T have any straight edges. Even the light waves in a laser aren’t completely straight. What we can do is CONCEPTUALISE a straight line, just as we can conceptualise a perfect circle, even if one doesn’t exist in nature. The ability to do this is advantageous to us as a species. And likewise, of course we can conceptualise a standard – one that embodies traits we would wish others to have in their dealings with us. This can be a wholly emerging property of our brains, our culture and our social interactions with each other. And equally likewise, this would also be advantageous to us a species.

        “we accept the conclusion of an argument because, and only because, we see that it is supported by good reasons. If materialism is incompatible with this truth about the way we reason, then materialism is in serious trouble”

        Why is materialism incompatible with reasoning? ‘Dancing neurons’ enable us to think or love – why does that mean our thoughts or feelings of love are any less than from an alternative theory (and the only alternative mechanism posited is a thing that no-one can define, which basically amounts to magic.)

        The second excerpt merely seems to be pointing out that brain scans can’t tell us everything about brains and their workings. I’m not aware of anyone claiming they can. There are plenty of good books on consciousness, plenty of good scientists and philosophers who discuss ‘the hard problem’. There is certainly no consensus that a supernatural is required. I’m sure if you showed a computer to your average person 500 years ago (or even now) they wouldn’t be able to fathom how circuits and plastic could carry out complex math problems, but this is just a comment on insufficient knowledge. We’ve no knowledge ever of a mind existing without a brain. And all the evidence we have is that the mind is an emerging property of our physical brains. When something goes physically wrong with the brain, the functions of our brain are compromised or destroyed completely.

        Fascinatingly, we can even look at a group of new mothers and accurately predict how long each of them will cuddle their new borns for relative to each other, judged only on previous measurements of the mothers’ levels of serotonin.

      • Andrew:

        you state:
        “We’ve no knowledge ever of a mind existing without a brain . And all the evidence we have is that the mind is an emerging property of our physical brains. When something goes physically wrong with the brain, the functions of our brain are compromised or destroyed completely. ”

        I’m going to paste a few more excerpts from “The Soul Hypothesis – Investigation into the existence of the soul”. I see no reason for me to re-invent the wheel so I’ll just post some of what experts on the issue have said:

        Among the most striking departures from textbook accounts of structure-function relations are those studied over a course of years by the pediatric neurologist, John Lorber. Taking CAT scans of hundreds of persons who had survived hydrocephaly at birth, Lorber showed that normal cognitive function is present in some persons with negligible brain mass. So surprising were the findings from Lorber’s studies as to raise in a serious way the question, “Is your brain really necessary?” – pg. 53

        If we assume for the sake of discussion that neurons do sometimes fire randomly, is it possible to distinguish sharply between those firings that occur randomly and those that occur as the result of being causally determined by a mental event of a soul? After all, the two kinds of firings are alike to the extent that neither has a physically deterministic cause. I believe that it is possible to make this sharp distinction between the two kinds of firings. The way to make the distinction is in terms of contexts that are known, in the case of ourselves, through first-person experience and, in the case of others, through third-person observation. All one need do is ask how plausible it is to maintain that every time a person purposefully chooses to do something such as move his fingers to type, an initial neuron just happens to fire at random (as a result of quantum fluctuations, etc.) with the result that finger movements occur that perfectly mesh with or map onto those that are intended by that person. Because such repeated coincidences would literally be, dare I say, miraculous, the only plausible view is that the neuron must not be firing randomly but because of the causal input from a soul choosing to act for a purpose. – pg. 107-108

        In light of the points made in the previous two paragraphs about the general ignorance of what goes on in people’s brains, it is simply false to claim, as some do, that we have overwhelming scientific (empirical) evidence that every event in our brains (physical bodies) can be completely explained in terms of deterministic or sufficient physical causes. At most, what we have is the metaphysical principle that every event has an explanation, where this principle motivates and informs the experimental work of scientists like Penfield who discover that an instance of a certain type of physical cause produces (explains) an instance of a certain type of physical effect. But as I have already argued in response to the causal closure argument, such a discovery in no way supports the position that every instance of that kind of physical effect can only be produced by instances of that kind (or some other kind) of physical cause. To arrive at that position, one needs the support of an additional metaphysical principle like naturalism and its commitment to universal causal closure. Without naturalism and universal causal closure, it is perfectly reasonable to hold that a particular physical event has a causal explanation in the form of an exercising of a mental causal power that is ultimately and irreducibly made for a purpose. – pg. 113-114

      • @Bill

        >>>The consciously experienced psychological and conceptual content of an experience cannot be a physical cause.

        Assertion, let’s see what supports this claim.

        >>> And because this is so, the mental content is irrelevant to behavior; it is not the explanation for anything a person says or does. But when applied to the process of reasoning this has a startling result, namely that we never accept the conclusion of an argument because we see that it is supported by sound reasons. The chain of physical cause and effect, which alone determines what our response shall be, is completely unaffected by the psychological content of an experience

        I already posted the answer to this. His claim here is unequivocally, categorically false. His failure is that he does not understand computation in the slightest. Memory + computational conditionals means that our behavior IS a product of our psychological content even as it is the product of ‘adequately’ (quantum) deterministic processes.

        I’ve already posted how important computation is because of exactly this faulty reasoning.

        A glaring error of fact on his part and I must say that I’m wondering why you would post this without adding some commentary give that I just discussed this. How much do you actually understand about computation (I’ve 35 years of experience working at every level from hardware on supercomputers through massively networked applications).

        >>> – such as, in this case, the fact that the experience involves the affirming of certain propositions we believe to be true. Rather, we accept the conclusions of argument, when we do so, because and only because that acceptance is the result of the “dance of the molecules” in our brains, interaction with one another according to the laws of physics. But this is wholly inadequate as an account of the way reasoning actually occurs”

        This conclusion makes perfect sense if you are ignorant of computation, which is clearly is.

        >>>when we are reasoning correctly, we accept the conclusion of an argument because, and only because, we see that it is supported by good reasons. If materialism is incompatible with this truth about the way we reason, then materialism is in serious trouble. – pg. 206

        Indeed it would be if not for his error of fact.

        >>>To understand the problem that qualia present for reductive materialism, consider a person I will call Abaz. [proceeds to make the knowledge argument I already addressed]

        I already posted on this, this is the knowledge argument and the problem is that this argument ignores computational irreducibility. You either aren’t reading or you aren’t understanding what I’m saying. You certainly aren’t engaging on the points.

        There are problems with this at every level.

        Let’s say A has experience (a). To transfer that experience to be we have to encode (a) into L(a) (‘language’). B then experiences L(a) – but can NEVER experience (a) via any known method of transmission [even assuming that we knew the exact equations of the Cosmos we run into quantum complementarity limitations – thus we cannot decode L(a) into (a) as it is necessarily incomplete].

        So it fails right there, but when we look at L(a) we find even deeper issues. A is unaware of her own P(A) (A’s physical state, which is a product of her entire history – where we again meet our friends computational irreducibility and quantum computational problems). A has no way to replicate P(A) to B which would be required. Because the experience is actually P(A+a).

        If you could perform a total quantum teleportation of A’s entire state P(A) AND (a) onto B (this would obliterate B) – then we have every reason to believe that B would have the identical experience (based on quantum state teleportation experiments).

        And because quantumly entangled computation is exponential over classical (8 qbit = 256 bit; 100 qbit = 2^100 bit (and already starts hitting age of universe limits); and the universe might be on the order of a 2^(2^400) qbit computer you run into theoretical limitations when you try to consider any classical reductions.

        >>>I don’t know why you keep trying to argue for the mind being just an effect of the brain. If it is all just from the natural processes of the brain then it is not objective and we have no standard.

        Because I have knowledge that you do not have and I can see the flaws in your understanding. I have tried to illuminate them and expand your base of knowledge. I quite possibly lack sufficient skill to properly communicate to you what is necessary but I have tried – it’s also possible that you need a deeper knowledge in some of the areas we’re discussing.

        One misunderstanding you have here is what subjective means. First of all, your subjective is illusory – not that it doesn’t exist but that it is not what it seems to be. I am going to take some gross simplification liberties here to attempt to explain…

        A Mind is a computer(brain) + data (experiences and memories, both real and internally imagined) + programming (not in the von Neumann sense, but in the abstract). No two minds have identical hardware, or data, or programming and since all minds are operating ENTIRELY on profoundly partial knowledge they can come to vastly different ‘conclusions'(and experiences) given what to our gross human senses appear to be nearly identical situations.

        HOWEVER

        This does not mean that minds cannot TEND to acquire functional processing capabilities that closely approximates that which we call rational. And in fact, most minds appear to be mostly rational with a mix of more primal emotional behaviors. Some minds UTTERLY lack critical faculties such as empathy — we don’t like the consequences of such malfunctions but we can readily observe them.

        So the the subjective is simply a computation based on partial knowledge. But the subjective exists in the very operation of the objective. This is the illusory part, the subjective is the emergent property in a brain of objective reality. So what we really have between objective/subjective is the fallacy of different levels of description.

        Finally, your conclusion ‘and we have no standard’ does not follow from the premise as Andrew has pointed out and I have given extensive commentary on this issue as well.

        See also, Sam Harris: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/moral-confusion-in-the-name-of-science/

        >>>> But you tried to make a point by asking if people who have suffered various types of damage are culpable. That’s assuming a standard that they must have deviated from.

        This is completely unintelligible – it’s like saying “blue isn’t a color because you don’t have a radio”. You are using words that you don’t seem to actually comprehend. And I’ve already explained why your statement is absurd (culpability is a question of CAN and agency).

        >>> As C.S. Lewis pointed out in Mere Christianity, we can’t judge a line to be crooked if we have no straight edge to compare it to. You have no reference point.

        Flawed analogy AND it begs the question that such a standard must necessarily exist in the case of morality.

        Again, not engaging my actual arguments

        >>> If evolution is a random process (i.e. triggered by random mutations), as is typically asserted, then there is no reason to think things had to evolve the way the did. Evolution could have taken a different path and then the things we think are right and wrong could have been reversed. Therefore, it wouldn’t be objective.

        LOL, you disproved your own argument. We, in fact, have millions of examples of organisms that HAVE taken different evolutionary paths and we DON’T hold them morally culpable BECAUSE they lack the faculties we deem necessary for making moral choices, such as their inability to act with reason.

        One of those organisms are our own children. Human infants CANNOT act with reason and we don’t hold them morally culpable. And as they slowly gain in reasoning ability we put graduated burden on them for their own behavior. And some of the higher animals (Chimps, Dolphins, some octopuses, some birds) exhibit moral behaviors as well – about on par with young human children in some cases.

        And you have still REFUSED to engage on how YOU address culpability if we presume your magically objective morality.

        And you have failed to give an account of a reliable methodology by which an objective morality could be known.

      • Darkstar-

        I too work in the IT field. I have been a programmer for for over 22 years in areas such as large city, real-time traffic control, cable-tv and aviation, so I do have some understanding of computation.

        How we hold culpability is the same. We are only culpable for the things we know. I know you don’t believe the Bible but if it is any guide to how God operates then we can see that it makes clear that God is a fair judge. He will not hold us accountable for things we could not know.

        That being said, though, how can you hold anyone culpable for anything? It seems on your view no one could be culpable for being irrational. It is no fault of theirs. They had no choice in the matter of how their brains developed. You also must work on the assumption that your brain and one’s similar to it are the ones that are properly interpreting reality and the others are faulty. This is a dilemma because your only tool for judging if you are processing reality correctly is the tool you are testing. The irrational person would have the same basis for concluding that they are the one that is processing reality correctly.

      • @Bill

        >>>How we hold culpability is the same. We are only culpable for the things we know. I know you don’t believe the Bible but if it is any guide to how God operates then we can see that it makes clear that God is a fair judge.

        The Bible makes it clear that THAT god is a monster, to call that god ‘fair’ requires either a sickness of mind polluted by inculcation or a refusal to actually read it (ignorance). That god is also a hypocrite, having a double standard and arbitrarily changing view of morality. I think I have well established this and yet you offer it up here by assertion without addressing any of the issues I have raised with this view.

        >>>That being said, though, how can you hold anyone culpable for anything?

        How many times do I have to answer this and explain it? I don’t hold them culpable in the same way you do, my basis for culpability is founded in observable reality and not a fallacious appeal to authority.

        It is explained by evolution and crystallized by our ability to apply reason.

        Even (higher) animals instinctively protect others, like this Hippo trying to protect the baby impala: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2CLT0_QdbE

        When we put down a lion that has attacked human’s we don’t do it because the lion is morally culpable, we do it because it will likely do more harm.

        >>> It seems on your view no one could be culpable for being irrational. It is no fault of theirs. They had no choice in the matter of how their brains developed

        Correct – if you do not then please justify how you hold someone culpable when they CANNOT.

        >>>You also must work on the assumption that your brain and one’s similar to it are the ones that are properly interpreting reality and the others are faulty. This is a dilemma because your only tool for judging if you are processing reality correctly is the tool you are testing.

        It’s not an assumption, it’s an inference – and yes, it could be wrong. I could be absolutely raving insane and not know it.

        But it is a strong inference that also underlies a rejection of solipsism.

        >>>The irrational person would have the same basis for concluding that they are the one that is processing reality correctly.

        Kind of like how the religious people believe in the certainty of their god. This argument doesn’t differentiate your position from mine and, if anything, argues against yours because any rational person can discern that the religious methodology is unreliable.

      • “When we put down a lion that has attacked humans we don’t do it because the lion is morally culpable, we do it because it will likely do more harm”

        Yes, this is the point I was making in my post of November 22, 2011 at 16:56, when I said that whether we can call something objectively evil or not has no bearing on whether we protect ourself from them, either directly or through punitive prison sentences. Bill rebuked me for going off on detours that he couldn’t keep up with; the truth is that I knew this point would come up soon, and I was addressing it in advance. Quite correctly as it turned out.

        Even if one is an arch determinist with no belief in free will, prison sentences still make sense as both a deterrent and a means of rehabilitation. The most one can say is that it makes revenge somewhat irrational. But I think many people who believe in free will would call revenge irrational too.

      • Bill: “It doesn’t give us a reason why we should not be selfish by thinking of our own survival instead of our species”

        Even if we were all just being completely selfish as individuals, the system of culpability we currently work under as a society is to our individual advantage. Even if I wanted to go round raping people, I’d still prefer to live in a society where everyone including myself was prevented from doing so, just so that my wife, daughter, mother and sister were all protected from sick men like myself. This can be explained with reference to simple game theory.

        At any rate, evolution selects for a desire to protect one’s own species. A tribe where individuals sacrifice their desires or even their lives for the rest of the tribe will have an advantage over an ‘every-man-for-himself tribe’, and therefore altruistic genes will be passed on. Even if my ‘altruistic genes’ die with me if I sacrifice myself to protect my tribe, my fellow tribesmen, who come from the same gene pool, will have a better chance of survival, and therefore those altruistic genes will persist. In this way, genes for altruism are actually looking after themselves, even if the carriers of those genes act selflessly. Hence Dawkins much-misunderstood term ‘Selfish gene’.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        “Even if we were all just being completely selfish as individuals, the system of culpability we currently work under as a society is to our individual advantage. ”

        If there is no God then, yes, our system of morals (ethics if you prefer) are simply social conventions based on a goal that we survive and our chances of survival are best when we look out for all of society. This is what I have been stating – if there is no God. On the naturalist view, there is nothing ethically “wrong” with murder. It is just not advanatageous to society – typically it is deterimental to society. So, to protect society we must put away people that murder and perform other acts detrimental to the survival of the society.

        We could find though, on this survivalist view of ethics, situations where murder becomes the ethically “right” thing to do. It can become the advantageous act for the survival of the society. Consider a situation where resources (food,water) are limited. Many third world countries could fit this description. To survive as a society it would be advantageous for them to eliminate those people that are no longer contributors to the society (elderly, crippled, etc.) freeing up the valuable resources for those that are still contributors and those that are potential contributors.
        This isn’t how we view the world, though, is it? We would be appalled to hear of such an action taking place. In our society we go out of our way to help those who can’t help themselves and we encourage others to do the same. We find murder to really be wrong. Not just relatively wrong. Not just detrimental to society.

        Let’s use Darkstar’s posts as an example. I believe you and he are on the same side of things in believing that objective morals (in the sense we have been discussing) do not exist. He has condemned God though, as someone who he says is [Nov. 18] immoral – a murderer, genocidal, a [Nov. 24] hypocrite. Those aren’t descriptions of someone that is just detrimental to society that must be put away. Those are words to describe actions that we believe are really wrong.

        Darkstar-

        You have judged God to be an immoral monster. You say our “morals” come through evolution. God is not a product of human evolution, though. You recognize that we don’t judge animals for moral behavior because they have not evolved as humans have. Why does God not get the same treatment? Is that fair? Why are you holding God to a human standard?

      • @Bill

        >> If there is no God then, yes, our system of morals (ethics if you prefer) are simply social conventions based on a goal that we survive and our chances of survival are best when we look out for all of society. This is what I have been stating – if there is no God.

        This is an oversimplification, but yes – I’ve proposed that while each individual has their own set of goals/values, experiences, knowledge, and so forth that, what we might more properly call ‘morals’, are a product of the COLLECTIVE rather than the individual. And I believe this is necessary because ‘moral’ typically has to take into account the OTHER party (even in the case of things like suicide other parties are involved).

        And I proposed that culpability requires that we can have done or avoided some offending action. And I’ve also stated clearly that even if you aren’t culpable you can’t be allowed to cause harm – but how we view the action and what we think best to do about it vary. I honestly don’t KNOW if anyone is truly culpable, but that only softens my response to wanting to help everyone even as we prevent them from spreading harm. My best understanding of compatibilism is that the ability to decide evidenced in normal human brains and being in possession of sufficient facts, is sufficient to consider someone culpable. I could be wrong so I moderate my response.

        What is immoral when done against the will of another can be perfectly fine if done with consent (a simple example being having sex).

        >> On the naturalist view, there is nothing ethically “wrong” with murder

        absurdly false – you are presuming your definition is true to reach this conclusion

        Are you perfectly OK with being murdered? Why not? Your fear and distaste for the very idea of BEING murdered is the basis on which we all agree that murder = wrong. And that revulsion IS a product of evolution and it combines perfectly well and is supposed by rational reasoning.

        Your view that it can only be wrong if some arbitrary magical being says it’s wrong (a being which you only assert exists in absence of any evidence and contrary to most) is illogical and rather a sickening concept. But it’s based pure assertion. You have absolutely no proof of this claim and even if you did this assertion demonstrates nothing about morality. Your morality would be even MORE arbitrary if it depends on a magical being rather than things being Right or Wrong based on the facts of existence and rational thought towards the consequences.

        Is slaughtering infants wrong because ‘god says so’, or is it Independently wrong?

        Suggest you read on Euthyphro dilemma. As Russell writes:

        “The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good.”

        >> We could find though, on this survivalist view of ethics, situations where murder becomes the ethically “right” thing to do.

        Kind of like when the bible says to stone naughty children to death? Or for the ancient Israeli army to genocide nation after nation?

        >> It can become the advantageous act for the survival of the society. Consider a situation where resources (food,water) are limited. Many third world countries could fit this description. To survive as a society it would be advantageous for them to eliminate those people that are no longer contributors to the society (elderly, crippled, etc.) freeing up the valuable resources for those that are still contributors and those that are potential contributors.

        How can you appalled, maybe their God is commanding it, thus making it ethical, moral and in fact imperative for them to do so. You can’t argue god wouldn’t do such things because he does that and more in the Bible.

        You just arbitrarily picked your ‘god’ as the right one (not even arbitrarily really – predicable by your cultural and social circumstances).

        >>This isn’t how we view the world, though, is it? We would be appalled to hear of such an action taking place

        As I am appalled when I read the Bible. You are ALMOST catching on now.

        >>In our society we go out of our way to help those who can’t help themselves and we encourage others to do the same. We find murder to really be wrong. Not just relatively wrong. Not just detrimental to society.

        Please explain the Republican religious right to me.

        >>Let’s use Darkstar’s posts as an example. I believe you and he are on the same side of things in believing that objective morals (in the sense we have been discussing) do not exist. He has condemned God though, as someone who he says is [Nov. 18] immoral – a murderer, genocidal, a [Nov. 24] hypocrite. Those aren’t descriptions of someone that is just detrimental to society that must be put away. Those are words to describe actions that we believe are really wrong.

        I don’t know that Andrew and I exactly agree. Human behavior is extremely complex, so we are necessarily ignorant of many details and constrained to speak in generalities as the details would require hundreds of thousands of pages. But I think we agree that it originates from natural processes of biology and is further fueled by the process(es) of learned behaviors. These are things for which an extensive body of facts and scientific study strongly support.

        Meanwhile, your ‘god’ hypothesis lacks supporting evidence, is contradicted by many facts of behavior, and is excluded by a parsimonious accounting of the facts. Other than your assertion you’ve given no reason we must insert ‘god’ into the equation of how we determine right and wrong.

        I don’t ‘condemn God’ as I don’t believe God exists – I’m only talking about the stories from the Bible. If that being existed, it would be best described as jealous, capricious, evil, harmful, and detestable monster. You then propose that I should follow this monster, no thank you.

        Yes, I believe that any unbiased, rational person would find the actions alleged in the Bible to be detestable. It requires indoctrination, ignorance, and a refusal to think unbiased to excuse them.

        If you want to oppose my view then I suggest you begin by providing for an accounting of the facts of the Bible I’ve called out. Please, justify for me taking a sword and slaughtering infant children still suckling at the breast as a good and moral action in a way that doesn’t make you appear an extremely sick and deranged human being.

        I’ve not seen it done and I’ve seen many try. William Craig talks about the poor Israeli soldiers as the “true victims” and how they must have suffered at being required to slaughter infants. That’s just disgusting and vile (more below).

        >>You have judged God to be an immoral monster. You say our “morals” come through evolution. God is not a product of human evolution, though. You recognize that we don’t judge animals for moral behavior because they have not evolved as humans have. Why does God not get the same treatment? Is that fair? Why are you holding God to a human standard?

        Correct: evolution + our rational brain (which is a product of computation which provides for actual decision making).

        My point is that God IS a product of human evolution. God is a concept created by generations of changes in what humans think. Religion is, in some senses, humans early attempts to explain our world. This is where the study of the evolution of religion is applicable – I’ve already posted on this subject. [I sometimes wonder what it is like to feel like you can just ignore all facts and points made and continue to make bare assertions]

        You also misrepresent my position re: the biblical God. What I’m saying is that those people were simply IGNORANT. They continued the evolution of an imaginary God we see through history. But their imagined God existed more to justify their war and mistreatment of others than anything else.

        So I don’t propose that ‘god is immoral’ – there is no GOD to be immoral. I’m saying the conceptualization of God from the BIble (OT and NT) is a sick and twisted concept. If you believe I’m wrong then your burden here is to somehow justify the brutal and sick slaughter of infants supposedly commanded by god.

        And the nonsense apologetic tripe does NOT cut it. I don’t care if their PARENTS were committing child sacrifices – the punishment for performing child sacrifice is NOT TO MURDER ALL THE CHILDREN. That is just obscenely offensive to suggest. Excusing that in turn as all those children would be without parents is equally offensive, if that is the WORSE outcome then don’t slaughter their parents. And if your ‘god’ is so pathetic that these are the best solutions it could propose then I’m not interested in your snake oil. Some 130 million embryos and fetuses fail to be carried to term every year. God could simply have make sure there were no infants at the time of the war.

        But no, that’s not good enough for the ‘god’ of the bible. And when someone grows a conscience and spares some of the women and children, then what happens?

        Another excuse I’ve seen used is that it’s ok because those children will go straight to heaven – Really? Do people just not think about the things they say at all? It’s ok (no, not just ok – morally justified) to murder children? Or only the children of evil people? And I don’t believe in a Heaven SO IT ISN’T OK WITH ME. Would you speed your own child to Heaven? I mean what a bargain that would be, no risk there, they don’t get the Free Will choice to reject God. What good parent wouldn’t want to ensure their child getting into Heaven? Where have you heard these arguments before — the Inquisition of course.

      • We don’t judge a lion that eats its young because we accept that it doesn’t understand what it is doing. We can judge the God of the bible for condoning slavery because He is supposed to be at least as smart as us.

        ” To survive as a society it would be advantageous for them to eliminate those people that are no longer contributors to the society (elderly, crippled, etc.)”

        You think that Ethiopa has a great state support system for the handicapped, or good state pension? Sorry, but the world you say you’d expect to see is pretty much how it is. If you’re saying that the state doesn’t waste resources actually killing off the elderly, then surely that’s not a huge surprise.

        ” We would be appalled to hear of such an action taking place”

        Most Christian apologists are pretty right wing – I’m appalled by most of their views on how the state should treat the weaker members of society.

        “Those are words to describe actions that we believe are really wrong.”

        Well, murderer, hypocrite and genocidal are all simple factual adjectives.

        “situations where murder becomes the ethically “right” thing to do”

        Right, like administering the death penalty…

      • Darkstar-

        You incorrectly assert:
        “Your view that it can only be wrong if some arbitrary magical being says it’s wrong (a being which you only assert exists in absence of any evidence and contrary to most) is illogical and rather a sickening concept.”

        That’s not an argument I make. I have not stated that what is right and wrong is right and wrong because God says it is right and wrong.

        You suggest:
        “Is slaughtering infants wrong because ‘god says so’, or is it Independently wrong?
        Suggest you read on Euthyphro dilemma.”

        Euthyphro is no dilemma at all for the Christian. In fact, it proposes a false dilemma. It falsely assumes that (1) things that are good are good simply because God wills it to be good, making it arbitrary or (2) God wills something because it is good indepeendent of God, making God subject to some external “law”, and thus not a god at all. But there is no reason to conclude that there are just two options and, in fact, what the Christian believes is not 1 or 2 but (3) goodness is rooted in God’s nature and His commands are expressions of His nature.

        You say:
        “How can you appalled, maybe their God is commanding it, thus making it ethical, moral and in fact imperative for them to do so. You can’t argue god wouldn’t do such things because he does that and more in the Bible.”

        I can be appalled because the scenario I presented said nothing about God commanding it. The scenario was that this was done to promote the society, to take steps for survival. A divine command was not part of the scenario.

        You assert:
        “You just arbitrarily picked your ‘god’ as the right one (not even arbitrarily really – predicable by your cultural and social circumstances).”

        You don’t know my culture and social circumstance. The assertion is totally baseless.

        You request:
        “Please explain the Republican religious right to me.”

        Why? I’m not a Republican. I am an Independent. Let’s not take these detours. Let’s stay focussed.

        You state:
        “I don’t ‘condemn God’ as I don’t believe God exists – I’m only talking about the stories from the Bible. If that being existed, it would be best described as jealous, capricious, evil, harmful, and detestable monster.”

        Whoa! You can’t sidestep the question that easily. You say, “If that being existed, it would be…” but you can’t play both sides here. If that being existed, it would also be non-human, not a product of human evolution, so I state the question once again. Why do you judge God by this human standard?

        You challenge:
        “If you want to oppose my view then I suggest you begin by providing for an accounting of the facts of the Bible I’ve called out. Please, justify for me taking a sword and slaughtering infant children still suckling at the breast as a good and moral action in a way that doesn’t make you appear an extremely sick and deranged human being.”

        The argument I have presented based on objective morals does not rely or even reference the Bible so I see no relevance of it in this discussion. If you want to discuss it separately I would have no problem with that but let’s stay focussed on the discussion on hand.

        You say:
        “You also misrepresent my position re: the biblical God. What I’m saying is that those people were simply IGNORANT..”

        What people were ignorant? Who are you talking about?

      • >>goodness is rooted in God’s nature and His commands are expressions of His nature.

        Your emperor has no clothes, that is an empty and meaningless statement.

        >>I can be appalled because the scenario I presented said nothing about God commanding it. The scenario was that this was done to promote the society, to take steps for survival. A divine command was not part of the scenario.

        So you admit that IF God was commanding it, then it would be ok – right? Is there ANY atrocity that you cannot condone if God is commanding it?

        Murdering your own child – would that be ok… if God commanded it?

        >>You don’t know my culture and social circumstance. The assertion is totally baseless.

        It’s not baseless, it is demonstrated by studies to be true in the vast majority of cases.

        >>Why? I’m not a Republican. I am an Independent. Let’s not take these detours. Let’s stay focussed.

        It was a rhetorical counterpoint to your assertion “In our society we go out of our way to help those who can’t help themselves”.

        >> Whoa! You can’t sidestep the question that easily. You say, “If that being existed, it would be…” but you can’t play both sides here. If that being existed, it would also be non-human, not a product of human evolution, so I state the question once again. Why do you judge God by this human standard?
        Which was:
        >>>>> Why does God not get the same treatment? Is that fair? Why are you holding God to a human standard?

        I repeat my former objection to your choice of words, I don’t believe a God exists so I’m not judging anything but the story. I could also say Harry Potter is rather incompetent.

        Andrew said it better but I don’t know if you’ll get it: “murderer, hypocrite and genocidal are all simple factual adjectives”

        However, from the expanded context of the question here I’ll take a shot by analogy.

        Let’s posit a neutral entity like some aliens – would it be fair to judge their actions here on Earth based on our human standard? I think we must look at (at least) two prongs: jurisdiction and culpability

        As I stated previously, morality is, in some sense, a contract between entities (not just individuals but the society) – both sides must have a say. So I think that the general human desire not to be eaten or commanded to slice open babies would be relevant.

        And it would certainly be fair to judge them based on our Laws, many of which are arbitrary but still fair game for enforcement. Likewise, many are based on ethical principles, but still fair game. ‘Alien’ visitors to the US are held to these standards.

        So yes, it would fair to judge ‘others’ based on our standards, I think we have jurisdiction over things that affect us. Maybe we’re wrong in some cases – maybe unlimited trading on unbalanced derivatives is more ‘ethical’; so we should listen to rational objections and consider them as we have considered all arguments for and against the law over the past many thousands of years.

        And even if rationality failed then Nature would take over when the aliens attacked you or your loved ones. I’m not saying this makes it ‘right.

        Secondly, we must consider culpability. I’ve already explained my view on this. The same principles would apply here. If you want to argue that the God of the Bible is insufficiently possessed of rationality to be culpable then I’m all ears. With possibly some 25 million documented murders under his belt I would tend to agree with you.

        But I didn’t render a penalty for ‘his’ crimes, just a characterization of ‘his’ character. And as I have previously said, lack of culpability does not condone behavior. We still remove violent people from society so they don’t harm others or themselves even if we don’t hold them culpable for crimes.

        >>The argument I have presented based on objective morals does not rely or even reference the Bible so I see no relevance of it in this discussion. If you want to discuss it separately I would have no problem with that but let’s stay focussed on the discussion on hand.

        I spoke at length about the biblical god – why do you side-step this question? Because it IS the point.

        What exactly are your beliefs about the Bible? If you say the Bible isn’t true then I’ll drop it – otherwise it would be dishonest for you not to address the question. Because this is extremely relevant to the discussion.

        The only argument you’ve really presented is ‘objective morals require god’ – I’ve rejected that as a non sequitur. I moved on from that as you haven’t presented a good argument of why that must necessarily follow, nor that ‘objective morals’ exist as you seem to define them.

        >>You say:
        >>“You also misrepresent my position re: the biblical God. What I’m saying is that those people were simply IGNORANT..”
        >>
        >>What people were ignorant? Who are you talking about?

        The authors of the Bible.

      • Darkstar-

        You say:
        “Your emperor has no clothes, that is an empty and meaningless statement.”

        No, it is very meaningful. If such a being (God) exists then it does not follow that morals are one of only two options (arbitrary commands or some “law” that He is subordinate to). The third option is valid and logically coherent.

        You say:
        “It’s not baseless, it is demonstrated by studies to be true in the vast majority of cases.”

        Well, then. The same must be true for you. I should conclude that “You just arbitrarily picked your world view as the right one (not even arbitrarily really – predicable by your cultural and social circumstances).”

        You say:
        “It was a rhetorical counterpoint to your assertion “In our society we go out of our way to help those who can’t help themselves”.

        Speaking as a conservative, which the Republicans have not been for quite a while, we see the responsibility of helping others to be the responsibility of the people. In the U.S. we have a limited form of government and with that freedom and responsibility falls on the people, not the government. The left wants to help others, through the mandate of the government. The right wants to help others, through the free charitable choice of individuals.

        You say:
        “I repeat my former objection to your choice of words, I don’t believe a God exists so I’m not judging anything but the story. I could also say Harry Potter is rather incompetent.”…
        “Let’s posit a neutral entity like some aliens – would it be fair to judge their actions here on Earth based on our human standard? I think we must look at (at least) two prongs: jurisdiction and culpability”…
        “And it would certainly be fair to judge them based on our Laws, many of which are arbitrary but still fair game for enforcement. Likewise, many are based on ethical principles, but still fair game. ‘Alien’ visitors to the US are held to these standards.”…
        “So yes, it would fair to judge ‘others’ based on our standards, I think we have jurisdiction over things that affect us. Maybe we’re wrong in some cases – maybe unlimited trading on unbalanced derivatives is more ‘ethical’ so we should listen to rational objections and consider them as we have considered all arguments for and against the law over the past many thousands of years.”

        Ok, so you’re saying that if anyone wants to play in our playground they should play by our rules. If God exists, though, who’s playground is it? It would be His. If Christianity is true, God created this playground and everything in it. If Chrisitianity is true then God is the only one that could create it, destroy it and/or create it again. So, using your logic, we should be playing by God’s rules, if Christianity is true. We’re in His playground.

        then you say:
        “Secondly, we must consider culpability. I’ve already explained my view on this. The same principles would apply here. If you want to argue that the God of the Bible is insufficiently possessed of rationality to be culpable then I’m all ears. With possibly some 25 million documented murders under his belt I would tend to agree with you.”

        But wait. You have said that our morals are evolved and that they evolved in part for our desire to survive. This rationality isn’t available to all beings. You recognize this with animals. But you expect that God, if He exists, should have this rationality. If He did not evolve, though, then you are expecting Him to have this rationality from somewhere else – somewhere that would be common to all beings capable of rationalizing. Hmm, sound familiar?

        You say:
        “I spoke at length about the biblical god – why do you side-step this question? Because it IS the point.”

        Yes, you have thrown many assertions out there about the Biblical God. They aren’t relevant to the argument, though. The argument does not rely on the Bible. It simply says that if objective morals exist then there must be a transcendent moral standard. I have argued that this moral standard must not be contingent on anything else for it’s existence. By most definitions that would leave us with God but it does not say which god. We would have to go further to determine if we are talking about the Judeo/Christian God or the god of Islam. It would be a separate discussion, which I am open to, but lets finish this one first.

        You say:
        “The only argument you’ve really presented is ‘objective morals require god’ – I’ve rejected that as a non sequitur. I moved on from that as you haven’t presented a good argument of why that must necessarily follow, nor that ‘objective morals’ exist as you seem to define them.”

        You haven’t shown that it is a non-sequitir. I don’t think you have even argued against premise 1, have you? If you have I believe it may have been by using a different understanding of “objective”. Most of your argument has been against premise 2 but either way, you have not shown how the conclusion does not follow from the premises, i.e. that it is a non sequitur.

      • ” If He did not evolve, though, then you are expecting Him to have this rationality…”

        Well is your God rational or isn’t he? Can he understand suffering, can he understand the consequences if his actions? If so then he is culpable.

      • Andrew-

        you posted this refute of the 3rd option for Ethyphro:
        “The claim that God would not command evil because it goes against God’s nature does not actually change the problem, but only reorganizes it. The question might then be reasonably asked, “Where does God’s nature come from?” Did God create it himself? If so then God’s whims are still behind what he considers right and wrong, and the dilemma still applies. If, on the other hand, God did not create his own nature, then either someone else created it (in which case the dilemma applies to the creator of God’s nature) or the morality contained in God’s nature is inherent in some way (in which case God is not truly the author of right and wron g).”

        This refute makes the mistake of thinking that something can exist apart from it’s nature and still be itself. For example, there are certain properties that distinguish humans as humans and if we did not have those properties we would not be humans – we could be something else but not humans. God’s nature is part of Him, and as an uncreated being, His nature is also uncreated. It would be impossible for God to exist absent His nature. God absent His nature is not God, so it is nonsensical to ask where God got His nature.

        Darkstar-
        You request:
        “Basically: please provide evidence for what “God’s Nature” is, describe how you know it, and justify your position as to why positing “God’s Nature” is necessary;”

        That is not necessary to refute your allegation that my refute of the Euthyphro argument is a non-sequitir. If that was required then I would first require that you provide evidence for God and good since that is what the two points of Euthyphro deal with.

        What your non-sequitir allegation is dealing with is not the existence of God, good, or a good nature, but the logical coherence of the argument. You have not shown that the 3rd option is incoherent and a non-sequitir.

        Andrew-

        You say:
        “Well is your God rational or isn’t he? Can he understand suffering, can he understand the consequences if his actions? If so then he is culpable.”

        The point is that the assertion has been made that our ability to be rational, and thus have “morals” are a result of our human evolution. But God is not human. God did not evolve as humans have. So, this judging of God is assuming that He should have attained the same rationality that humans have but from somewhere else. It is saying that this rationality exists separate from humans and that evolution is not the explanation of how morals come into existence but instead an explanation of how humans come to understand morals. The assertion in this judgement of God is that He must have some other route to come to understand these morals that we have. Thus, there is an appeal for a moral standard that is not simply a part of our world but transcends our world.

      • “…it is nonsensical to ask where God got His nature.”

        Great, then as already said, the following kicks in: “Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character?” The structure of this modified dilemma is exactly the same as before, and it appears to be if anything harder to escape. If we identify the ultimate standard for goodness with God’s nature, then it seems we are identifying it with certain of God’s properties (e.g., being loving, being just). If so, then the dilemma resurfaces: is God good because he has those properties, or are those properties good because God has them?”

        “Evolution is not the explanation of how morals come into existence but instead an explanation of how humans come to understand morals”

        If morality is an emerging property of having a rational mind, regardless of how one obtained this rational mind, then this is not a problem and we can still judge a God who, say, deliberately causes suffering despite understanding what He is doing and understanding the suffering He is causing.

      • Andrew-

        you said:
        ““Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character?” The structure of this modified dilemma is exactly the same as before, and it appears to be if anything harder to escape. If we identify the ultimate standard for goodness with God’s nature, then it seems we are identifying it with certain of God’s properties (e.g., being loving, being just). If so, then the dilemma resurfaces: is God good because he has those properties, or are those properties good because God has them?”

        It’s like asking if liquid is liqud because it is wet or is wet wet because it is liquid. They go together. In a sense, they are inseperable. One is defined by the other. God is good. God’s nature is that of goodness. Goodness without God cannot be defined….and that is what we’ve seen in this discussion. The attempt to define good (ethical good) separate from God has only come up with things that are advantageous or desired or declared rational…not ethically good, though. Good and bad seem to be terms that become illusory absent God.

        You said:
        “If morality is an emerging property of having a rational mind, regardless of how one obtained this rational mind, then this is not a problem and we can still judge a God who, say, deliberately causes suffering despite understanding what He is doing and understanding the suffering He is causing.”

        You’re missing my point. You’re holding God to a standard of morality that you say is a product of evolution, which means you are appealing to a moral standard that transcends human evolution. You would hold God to be really wrong if He “deliberately causes suffering despite understanding what He is doing and understanding the suffering He is causing.”
        You are affirming point 2 of my argument for objective morals.

      • “God is good.”

        Then the phrase ‘God is good’ is meaningless tautology.

        “You’re missing my point. You’re holding God to a standard of morality that you say is a product of evolution”

        I already answered this, so I guess you’re missing MY point. I said that rationality is a product of evolution – that doesn’t mean that rationality can only be reached through evolution. The bible posits a being that didn’t evolve. I believe such a non-evolved being to be impossible, but if I’m presented with it as a fait a complit, a fictional character in a book, then I can still observe that this being supposedly has a rational mind. If it has a rational mind then it understands suffering and what it means to cause it. It is therefore irrelevant whether it got this rational mind through evolution or otherwise.

        It’s like if you say to me “If my rooster lays an egg in your garden, then who does the egg belong to?”. Despite the fact the roosters don’t lay eggs, you are presenting me with a hyperthetical question – the egg is a fait a complit, it has happened despite how impossible I imagine its existence to be.

        So either this God has a rational mind and understands what it does or it doesn’t. If yes, it is culpable, if not, then it is like the lion, and questions of its morality are meaningless.

      • Andrew-

        You say:
        “If it has a rational mind then it understands suffering and what it means to cause it. It is therefore irrelevant whether it got this rational mind through evolution or otherwise.”…
        “So either this God has a rational mind and understands what it does or it doesn’t. If yes, it is culpable, if not, then it is like the lion, and questions of its morality are meaningless.”

        Then we must be talking past each other because this is what I have been saying. There are actions that you really believe are right and wrong, actions for which a being is either culpable or not culpable based on their ability to be rational. You believe that God, if He acts in certain ways you describe, is really wrong and culpable for His actions. You don’t care that He wasn’t exposed to human evolution. If He has the ability to be rational then He knows what is right and wrong and should be judged accordingly. I agree. We have now demonstrated the objective moral standard.

      • @Bill

        >>It’s like asking if liquid is liqud because it is wet or is wet wet because it is liquid. They go together.

        You couldn’t be more wrong here. Not all liquids are wet and all wetness is liquid simply by definition; wet MEANS “Covered or saturated with water or another liquid”.

        Again, this is just a game of obfuscation so you can define your God into existence. Doesn’t work.

        >> In a sense, they are inseperable. One is defined by the other

        Nope, one depends on the other; ‘wetness’ is not a property of liquid. It is a description of an emergent phenomena when something has a liquid in/on it. ‘Liquid’ is likewise emergent, there is no inherent property of ‘liquidness’ either.

        The only inherent properties we can discern are those of the Standard Model of Physics. The Standard Model is useful because it predicts the behavior of matter-energy over the entire range accessible to humans at this time – but it is invalid to extrapolate BEYOND the model and assume those conclusions are true where they are not tested. Those are TESTS of the model, not valid conclusions.

        It used to be reasonable to look for some external mode of consciousness because we didn’t understand our universe, that position is simply no longer tenable nor are any of the superstitions that go along with it. People 2000 years ago at least have the excuse that they were vastly more ignorant than we are today – they weren’t aware of the immense amount of cognitive biases going into their superstitious beliefs: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

        And they lacked a sound methodology to properly account for their observations.

        It therefore seemed self-evident to them that a god must be moving the planets through the Heavens. And 2000 years later we’re still suffering under these hideously false delusions and extremely sketchy and flawed ‘logical’ arguments and people support their bizarre and superstitious beliefs on the SAME sketchy biases.

        “I prayed to Jesus for a good parking spot and sure enough, I got one. Proof that prayer works AND Jesus is the savoir” – it’s just childishly poor reasoning and no amount of evidence that this is nonsense can seem to dissuade them.

        I recommend reading on two of these: Confirmation Bias and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

        >>God is good. God’s nature is that of goodness. Goodness without God cannot be defined…

        sure it can: Good: To be desired or approved of

        Likewise, we can DEFINE morals to be right and wrong behaviors; and we can DEFINE right and wrong behaviors based on the criteria I’ve set out before. You’ve not substantiated this claim that we must necessarily invoke a God to find behaviors ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. And then we’ve further pointed out that MERELY invoking said god STILL does nothing for your argument, all it does it push it down a level into the Euthyphro dilemma arena. Which I think you have only superficially brushed off.

        Just like we DEFINED liquid to be certain observed, emergent properties from the laws of chemistry (and more properly, the laws of physics that underlie them). I don’t need God to have the property of liquidity to define this.

        And I don’t need a God to have the property of goodness to define good behaviors which are emergent and dependent on rationality (such as we happen to find in most human brains, maybe or maybe not other animals, possibly in computers of the future, maybe in aliens, etc – but it’s the same basis in all cases).

        >> and that is what we’ve seen in this discussion. The attempt to define good (ethical good) separate from God has only come up with things that are advantageous or desired or declared rational…not ethically good, though. Good and bad seem to be terms that become illusory absent God.

        No more or less so than anything else.

        And I must demand here that you actually address the points re: Hume, Searle and Gödel before I continue any further. Unless you can do that further discussion remains uninteresting – Hume makes the entire approach of your argument irrelevant (and I’ve attempted to show you why at various levels), Searle argues the descriptive/evaluative, and Gödel argues that your conclusion is illogical as you end up with a God that has an incomplete, illogical, or arbitrary system of morality (depending on how you try to resolve it).

        Or you can just admit Hume and concede that you cannot semantically argue being into existence.

        >> You’re missing my point. You’re holding God to a standard of morality that you say is a product of evolution, which means you are appealing to a moral standard that transcends human evolution. You would hold God to be really wrong if He “deliberately causes suffering despite understanding what He is doing and understanding the suffering He is causing.”

        More correctly, “not dependent upon human evolution”, not transcendent of. We’ve never argued that rationality is uniquely human. It is exactly the fact that rationality, learning, and logic does NOT appear to depend on the specifics of being human that makes it objective. They are properties that can be observed to be emergent in systems implemented using mechanical Tinker Toys, silicon-based electronics, and organic electro-chemistry – because all of those things exhibit the power of computation.

        >>You are affirming point 2 of my argument for objective morals.

        Please clarify that logic, I don’t see it.

      • …And as DimSum pointed out – if you’re excusing your God from any kind of culpability and saying he’s completely divorced from an understanding of suffering or consequences, then you must also relinquish any kind of claim to him being ‘good’ at the same time. In the same way that, say, a lion is neither evil nor virtuous. If he’s incapable of being judged bad then he must equally be incapable of being judged good.

      • “No, it is very meaningful. If such a being (God) exists then it does not follow that morals are one of only two options (arbitrary commands or some “law” that He is subordinate to). The third option is valid and logically coherent.”

        How do you get from a) Your God has a nature to b) His nature is good and carries imperatives?

        Do you think God created the laws of logic, or are they transcendent? In my view, they could be no other way, God or no God.

        Does your view of God require Him to be perfect?

      • Bill, on the ‘third’ option offered for the Euth Dilemma, and why most counter apologetics don’t accept it as a solution, I’m going to post an entry from the Iron Chariots Wiki. I’ll assume you have no problem with me doing this by way of reply:

        “The claim that God would not command evil because it goes against God’s nature does not actually change the problem, but only reorganizes it. The question might then be reasonably asked, “Where does God’s nature come from?” Did God create it himself? If so then God’s whims are still behind what he considers right and wrong, and the dilemma still applies. If, on the other hand, God did not create his own nature, then either someone else created it (in which case the dilemma applies to the creator of God’s nature) or the morality contained in God’s nature is inherent in some way (in which case God is not truly the author of right and wrong).
        Michael Martin has argued that theistic objections to the dilemma solve nothing, because it can easily be reformulated in terms of God’s character: “Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character?” The structure of this modified dilemma is exactly the same as before, and it appears to be if anything harder to escape.

        If we identify the ultimate standard for goodness with God’s nature, then it seems we are identifying it with certain of God’s properties (e.g., being loving, being just). If so, then the dilemma resurfaces: is God good because he has those properties, or are those properties good because God has them?”

      • @Bill

        >>No, it is very meaningful. If such a being (God) exists then it does not follow that morals are one of only two options (arbitrary commands or some “law” that He is subordinate to). The third option is valid and logically coherent.

        I think Andrew covered this one pretty well. Basically: please provide evidence for what “God’s Nature” is, describe how you know it, and justify your position as to why positing “God’s Nature” is necessary; without resorting to distortions and semantic games that beg the question.

        >> Well, then. The same must be true for you. I should conclude that “You just arbitrarily picked your world view as the right one (not even arbitrarily really – predicable by your cultural and social circumstances).”

        Yes and No, I’ve argued that the computational nature of the universe (which we CAN observe in action) provides the basis for learning and decision making (which we CAN observe in action) which, in turn, is the basis for pretty much everything we animals do (including discern right from wrong actions). I don’t claim that it is an error free process – merely that, at least for one question there is very probably at least one right or wrong answer. For example: should we every slaughter infants with a sword, I would say “NO” – but on Christian morality you cannot say that. Since I *can* say that I believe very strongly that I win right there.

        Sure, there are aspects of Christianity we can keep. I think that the concept of loving others as oneself is a good concept which I interpret to mean that we must overcome our tribalistic, us-verses-them, drives through the process of learned behaviors (which fortunately we appear to be capable of doing, and unfortunately it seems to be taking possibly hundreds of thousands of years of unnecessary suffering).

        And you have introduced no fact of the matter that contradicts this view and no necessity to introduce “God’s Nature” to explain anything.

        >> Speaking as a conservative, which the Republicans have not been for quite a while, we see the responsibility of helping others to be the responsibility of the people. In the U.S. we have a limited form of government and with that freedom and responsibility falls on the people, not the government. The left wants to help others, through the mandate of the government. The right wants to help others, through the free charitable choice of individuals.

        I am thrilled to know that we share the VALUE of lifting up others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves. From there we can disagree on the METHOD to achieve those goals and Science can be brought to bear to resolve the question (acknowledging that some questions are very difficult to understand, but we’ve shown nothing but progress in understanding ever more complex phenomena).

        But suffice to say that I haven’t seen Christianity as being AT ALL successful in resolving these issues, nor was the earlier period of the United States IN ANY WAY WHAT-SO-EVER demonstrative of the exemplary behavior which you allude would be desirable. Christianity has been a philosophy of division, and even today the tiny kernel of unity it contains is lost in the noise of the hateful ranting against gay marriage, women’s rights, reproductive rights, sex education, and so forth.

        You cannot deny the FACT that Christianity has splintered and divided millions of people – that is one pseudo-prophecy (prophecies of things that would be entirely expected outcomes hardly count as prophecy) of the Bible that HAS come true: They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

        >> Ok, so you’re saying that if anyone wants to play in our playground they should play by our rules.

        No, you are misrepresenting my words – I said that if something affects you then you have jurisdiction – you have a say and not just you as an individual but all the voices. I didn’t appeal to “playgrounds” or ownership.

        If we ever manage to create an intelligent life it should have those rights as well. It should NOT be subject to our absolute rule, that would be evil. And we CERTAINLY should not ‘test’ it by asking it to murder its own child. Can you honestly not see how vile these actions are? And I would love a straight answer on that one for a change.

        >> If God exists, though, who’s playground is it? It would be His. If Christianity is true, God created this playground and everything in it. If Chrisitianity is true then God is the only one that could create it, destroy it and/or create it again. So, using your logic, we should be playing by God’s rules, if Christianity is true. We’re in His playground.

        Which of the 30,000+ variations of Christianity are you positing here? According to Luther’s and Calvin’s Christianity I have NO CHOICE, NO FREE WILL. So your point is rather moot.

        Arian Christianity (you know, the ones those other early Christians hunted down, slaughtered, and destroyed their works) might be more palatable, would be nice to know more about it.

        Various flavors of Gnostic Christianity make a lot more sense than Nicene – EXPERIENCE the Mystery directly. I’ve been there, done that.

        Aside from that I would completely reject any offer of a vicarious redemption via human sacrifice for the sins of others, much less my own.

        Going forward I’m going to refused to answer your ‘what if’ questions because doing so is an absurd game that demonstrates nothing. You need to support and demonstrate your own claims.

        >> But wait. You have said that our morals are evolved and that they evolved in part for our desire to survive. This rationality isn’t available to all beings. You recognize this with animals. But you expect that God, if He exists, should have this rationality. If He did not evolve, though, then you are expecting Him to have this rationality from somewhere else – somewhere that would be common to all beings capable of rationalizing. Hmm, sound familiar?

        You asked a “what if” question, I answered it based some necessary assumptions (I’m not going to give the 30000 possible variations of answers – if you want to specify YOUR assumptions then do so). And in my initial answer I didn’t bring up or address culpability – you added that so I addressed it based upon an assumption that God would be rational but not necessarily so. If you want to argue that God is irrational then do so. I’ve already given BOTH answers from my position.

        God is rational = culpable / God is irrational = not culpable, but insane — either answer does NOTHING in respect to the original question – you are wasting time

        >>>You say:
        >>>“I spoke at length about the biblical god – why do you side-step this question? Because it IS the point.”
        >> Yes, you have thrown many assertions out there about the Biblical God. They aren’t relevant to the argument, though. The argument does not rely on the Bible. It simply says that if objective morals exist then there must be a transcendent moral standard. I have argued that this moral standard must not be contingent on anything else for it’s existence. By most definitions that would leave us with God but it does not say which god.

        And you refused to answer the question again. You’re just running in circles.

        If it “must not be contingent on anything else” then it cannot be contingent on God either — want to try that again?

        >> We would have to go further to determine if we are talking about the Judeo/Christian God or the god of Islam. It would be a separate discussion, which I am open to, but lets finish this one first.

        We already finished it, you didn’t demonstrate your claim or address the issues raised. All you have so far is the tautology: God-given morals would depend on God.

        You then proposed that they equal “God’s Nature” but have given no basis for this assertion (see issues raised above) or how we might come to objectively know this.

        >> You haven’t shown that it is a non-sequitir. I don’t think you have even argued against premise 1, have you? If you have I believe it may have been by using a different understanding of “objective”. Most of your argument has been against premise 2 but either way, you have not shown how the conclusion does not follow from the premises, i.e. that it is a non sequitur.

        Andrew already gave you more details on this.

        Your game here is to obscure the language sufficiently that you can pretend to define something into existence. It just doesn’t work that way.

        Reviewing (things I’ve posted before on your arguments that you haven’t addressed):

        Bill once wrote>>>>”I stated why it (i.e. God) is necessary for objective morals – because if it (i.e. God) was contingent then objective morals would not be objective but subjective. So, if objective morals exist then a foundation which has a non-contingent (i.e. necessary) existence must exist”

        You are mixing levels, objective / subjective are not two-sides of a coin but utterly different layers of phenomena. EVERYTHING we know and experience is necessarily subjective. The question is, from this cacophony of subjective experience, can we discern any objective (existing outside our mind) phenomena or not. We must both accept a few premises before we can escape our heads – these have been addressed at great length through the ages. Solipsism being the first thing we must reject. We have to agree that subjectivity is subject to all manner of biases and sources of error and we must agree on some methodology for weeding out those biases and sources of error (we now call that the scientific method).

        Once we agree we’re not a mind in a vat and that there IS some kind of external reality, we can being to talk about our DESCRIPTION of that external reality.

        There is no necessity that this description presume that our categorization of right/wrong come from some transcendental being any more than any other categorization. This is a Special Pleading.

        The only thing you’ve demonstrated so far (which I also raised already) is a possible equivocation about what ‘objective’ means – and I think you need to give a very specific definition as yours appears to be unique.

        Objective: based on facts; independent of thought or observer

        I’ve simply argued that I believe that at least one objective fact regarding moral/ethical behavior can exist without appealing to “God’s Nature”. If I’m wrong then NO Objective facts exist, my being wrong doesn’t prove your position. You must provide some argument that demonstrates why this is necessary first.

        I’ve also argued that some decisions about right and wrong are impossible to reach (dilemma’s) – and additionally, that per-Gödel, any system of morality that is Consistent is Necessarily incomplete. If you insist on injecting “God’s Nature”, then you will have to accept that “God’s Nature” is incomplete as well if it encompasses a Consistent moral philosophy (and that is a contradiction so Poof goes God’s Nature). And if you reject that then you are rejecting extremely sound logic, so you can’t beg of logic to define your “God’s Nature” into existence. So you have a bit of a logical mess there to justify.

        Hume further writes:

        [T]here is an evident absurdity in pretending to demonstrate a matter of fact, or to prove it by any arguments a priori. Nothing is demonstrable, unless the contrary implies a contradiction. Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is no being, whose existence is demonstrable.

        That holds for arguing any version of morality into existence as well. Please enlighten me to any defeaters of that because it seems extremely clear and straight forward.

        And finally, in addition to Searle’s treatment of the gulf between the descriptive and the evaluative, any real gulf here presents as least as much of an issue for you as for myself (if not greater). All this necessarily means is that our evaluative weights are tilted (based on evolutionary consequences in my view and so we’re somewhat arbitrary in our judgements – and we lack no evidence for that conclusion). I think we can do slightly better and I think computation -> logic -> reason provide that basis and it is justified on the basis that non-rational beings are not morally culpable so this is clearly integral to the question of morals.

        So what necessitates the injection of God’s Nature into this picture? Is there a MORAL action we can only contemplate if we presume a God? And I don’t grant that dropping coin into the collection plate is a moral action, I can (and do) give to Charitable needs — and I do this WITHOUT someone promising me anything in return.

  22. For the record, I am trying to impugn worldviews – I don’t care which one either, I just want to know what is true and what isn’t.

    The problem as I see it, is that the religious have not applied a reliable methodology to their inquiry. It is a fact that billions of people, using exactly their same methodology have arrived at tens of thousands of different answers. It is also a fact that people very easily fool themselves into beliefs that are based on biases and errors (a big one is confirmation bias). I consider these facts (and numerous other related facts) to be absolutely devastating to religious claims. I’ve seen no facts or evidences or arguments that substantiate their claims beyond their preference for them.

    “Isn’t it curious to you that most societies agree on moral issues without ever sitting to discuss them and come to a “consensus””

    There is extensive evidence to the contrary. Just one example, there is a long documented history of extensive, multi-generational discussions in the Jewish communities on just about every such topic.

    Killing? Is all killing immoral? How long has the debate on self-defense raged? People still argue it today. Ask a gun toting Texan about self-defense and a Jain and see how different the answers you get are. What about unintentional killing? We’ve debated that extensively, not all societies have agreed. What about the death penalty, you ever see any discussions on that?

    How can you say that there is agreement without discussion when we haven’t really even reached agreement and the discussions rage on for centuries?

    And how can you know that no society along the way discussed murder and theft – did you know that some amazonian native cultures don’t (or didn’t) even have the concept of theft? They had no private ownership, everything was for the tribe, there simple was no theft. Now imagine that changing after exposure to ‘western’ cultures? Someone starts taking more than they need in ways that harm the tribe as a whole. Do you seriously not think that the elders or leaders of the tribe wouldn’t meet to discuss what to do and their approach might be moderate at first, and that they would very likely have to discuss the concept of what was going on? They wouldn’t immediately call it theft, they would ask why is this person harming the tribe.. .the concept would have to evolve over time.

    I agree with Andrew, I think that evolutionary explanations provide the best arguments for the basis of human behavior. An ability to predict the behavior of others (friend or foe) is an obvious survival advantage and an obvious basis for the eventual emergence of things like empathy. And I believe that these emotions for the fundamental basis of what humans find ‘good’ or ‘bad’. there are extensive studies on the subject, and I think it’s still a very young field. One problem with it is because people feel that it speaks to them they take the studies a little too literally and personally. Once brains got involved, behaviors got vastly more complex – things acting against their best interests based on some drive that gave their ancestor a competitive advantage. Evolution doesn’t promise short-term perfection – merely long term tendencies. We have to study what ACTUALLY happened in addition to what COULD have happened.

    Analogy, even if you could model the entire universe at the quantum level, it wouldn’t be able to tell you what your favorite beverage is.

  23. Andrew “To sum up: it makes no difference whether you believe Loftus is unqualified or is a joke – if you accept WLC’s right to refuse to debate him, you should be willing to grant Dawkins the same.”

    You need to give me some reasons why Richard Dawkins and John Loftus are analogus. Right now all you’ve shown me is emotion. I also never said I accepted WLC’s right to refuse Loftus, so right there you show your dishonesty.

    I would love for William Lane Craig to embarass the Jimmy Swaggart of atheism. So try to look at exactly what I’m saying next time. Now I see you like to play games so next time you switch around my words, just remember I’m onto you.

    Now Andrew I just want to ask you one question are you a Nihilist?

    • You’ve got a rude manner, but to answer your question, no I’m not a nihilist. Are you?

      “You need to give me some reasons why Jimmy Swaggart and John Loftus are analogus. Right now all you’ve shown me is emotion”

      See what I did there?

      And your atheism = moral nihilism assertion is old. Just as easy to say theism = moral nihilism. You’ve still got to assign a moral authority to your God before you can start, which is begging the question.

    • Cornell, you ignore the fact that WLC has absolutely ZERO credentials in biology – while Dawkins has MA DPhil DSc Oxf, FRS, FRSL

      Now let’s compare Loftus with WLC…

      Loftus has a bachelor from Great Lakes Christian College, two master’s degrees from Lincoln Christian University, a Master’s of Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Loftus has taught apologetics for Lincoln Christian University, Great Lakes Christian College, and philosophy, ethics and critical thinking classes for the College of Lake County, Kellogg Community College, and Trine University. Was in the ministry for 14 years in Christian Churches in Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana as an Associate Minister, Minister and Senior minister.

      So he at least as SOME educational background in religious studies.

      WLC’s degrees are also all in theology/philosophy.

      So WLC has FAR LESS standing with Dawkins than Loftus has with WLC.

      So please tell WLC to *at least* get a double masters in biology and try again when he has a real education.

      Until then you are just making excuses.

  24. Darkstar says “Killing? Is all killing immoral? How long has the debate on self-defense raged? People still argue it today. Ask a gun toting Texan about self-defense and a Jain and see how different the answers you get are. What about unintentional killing? We’ve debated that extensively, not all societies have agreed. What about the death penalty, you ever see any discussions on that?”

    To say something is immoral, morality must exist in the first place. So what pretend ethic system do you follow here on this small speck of dust called Earth? Perhaps an atheist can show me why Nihilism IS NOT philosophically consistent with a world with No God. Right now all I see is a Universe that doesn’t care if humans exist or not. Remember I’m not talking about “cognitive meaning” either.

    Back to Andrew “This despite Dawkins debating plenty of other people, and clearly saying that he doesn’t want to debate WLC because he finds him morally reprehensible.”

    Wow and you really bought that???? So what was Rich Dawkins excuses all those other years? Why did Rich Dawkins go on stage with him out in Mexico for that 3-way debate? You are only digging yourself a deeper hole.

    Here is some advice for you Andrew and I mean this with the upmost sincerity:

    You don’t have to defend EVERY atheist.

    • “Wow and you really bought that???? So what was Rich Dawkins excuses all those other years?”
      What, you mean before he read WLC’s apologetics for slaughtering babies?

      “Why did Rich Dawkins go on stage with him out in Mexico for that 3-way debate?”
      Because he hadn’t yet read WLC’s apologetics for slaughtering babies?

      “Perhaps an atheist can show me why Nihilism IS NOT philosophically consistent with a world with No God”
      You’re confusing ‘being consistent with’ and ‘is a necessary consequence of’. Not the same thing.

      “To say something is immoral, morality must exist in the first place. ”
      So… to say God is moral, morality must exist already? I think there are implications to your argument.

      “You need to give me some reasons why Richard Dawkins and John Loftus are analogus.”
      I don’t think you read my posts very carefully. It’s not necessary for my point for them to be analogous – only the following: Richard Dawkins is to WLC as WLC is to John Loftus. Ironic, given your accusation to me: “So try to look at exactly what I’m saying next time. Now I see you like to play games so next time you switch around my words, just remember I’m onto you.” Yes, likewise. All participants in a discussion should attempt to understand the people they engage with, to avoid dealing with strawmen. If there is confusion, it is best to simplify clarify rather than accuse others of dishonesty. You advise that I don’t have to defend EVERY atheist. Equally, I don’t have to defend myself against avery theist either, especially the rude ones.

      You throw out a lot of questions. Hope you note and appreciate that I’ve worked through an awful lot of them.

      I’m happy to answer questions and correct people’s misconceptions. But I won’t respond again to snide, snarky rude comments, so keep polite if you want any more answers or the silence you’ll get in return will be due to that and that alone.

    • Unless and Until you can prove/demonstrate YOUR God exists your banal assertions are irrelevant. Your claims of YOUR ontological morality are as vapid as the Islamic claims, or the Zoroastrians, or the Hellenists. Actually it’s worse than that, the morality you propose is blatantly evil and disgusting to any sane human sensibility – it’s only by your indoctrination that you can excuse a ‘god’ that would command a man to murder his own child, grant vicarious redemption via human sacrifice, dole out infinite punishment for finite transgressions, create beings doomed to fail and then punish them for his own failings, or command men to slice open infants with a sword, or send bears to gut insult-hurling youths, etc.

      Want to prove to me your God exists? Read 1 Kings 18 and take it up with JREF, put up or go home.

      I don’t care if the ‘Universe’ cares if I exist or not. I care. I have evidence that others care. The Universe is an absolutely amazing and marvelous wonder without posting a disgusting tyrant running it, thank you very much. It seems that the religious don’t want to bring Heaven to Earth but want to make Heaven look like the very worst Earth has to offer.

  25. This is a special video for Andrew, I want to see his take on the obvious.

    Here is a video with the obvious, notice the screenshots that show the evidence for the obvious. This way Andrew can’t sneak around the obvious, because right now he seems to go with the “Dawkins can do no wrong” attitude.

    So here is a video on the obvious:

  26. Andrew-

    you stated:
    “Actually I specifically said I didn’t choose. I don’t think you’re reading what I say very carefully.”
    Yes you have said that you didn’t choose. I acknowledged in my post that you said your values are not arbitrary but then I pointed out how you seem to be unclear – how are you unclear? By also making statements such as “It is valued because we value it, regardless of our reasons for so doing.” That statement seems to be inferring some sort of choice in the matter. In fact, most of your explanations of why we value something is circular – you say we value something because we value it.

    you stated:
    “you seem to view humans as little more than robotic slaves”

    It is surprising you would say that. In fact, it is my view that believes humans are more than just the result of natural processes. It is the naturalist view that is a slave to reductionism.

    You accuse me of dodging questions and keep saying that you have answered my question…or try to say that it is vague. It is not vague. If “disrespect” is vague then just replace it with murder…if I was to murder you and your daughter would that be wrong and why? Can you give a foundation as to why anyone besides you and your daughter should think that action is wrong? Evolution doesn’t provide it. Evolution may be able to give some explanation as to how we come to know something as right and wrong but it is silent on the matter of things ontologically being right or wrong.

    If you’re tired of seeing that question and don’t want to answer it and don’t want to continue this conversation that is fine. I really think you do see the point I have been making.

    • “By also making statements such as “It is valued because we value it, regardless of our reasons for so doing.” That statement seems to be inferring some sort of choice in the matter.”

      No it doesn’t. I value my hat because it keeps my head warm; I value my umbrella because it keeps my head dry; I value my glasses because they help me see. So: different reasons for valuing each item, and no choice involved.

      “In fact, most of your explanations of why we value something is circular – you say we value something because we value it.”

      Please quote me ONCE presenting that argument. Saying “it is valuable because I value it” is NOT saying “I value it because I value it”, and it isn’t a circular argument either. Rather, it is stating what is meant by the term ‘valuable’. Why it is valuable and why you value it are two different questions. Valuable is a word like ‘attractive’. Someone being attractive simply means that other people are attracted to them. WHY they find that person attractive is a different question.

      “It is surprising you would say that.”
      What’s more like a robot – something that occurs naturally, or something someone else has designed and created? What’s more like slaves – a group that gets sent to eternal torture if they break rules set by a more powerful third-party, a self-confessed ‘jealous’ being that demands worship, or a group that is free to form its own set of rules based on utilitarian principles?
      What’s being more appreciated for its own sake – something you only care about because of its creator, or something you love regardless of its origin?

      “If I was to murder you and your daughter would that be wrong and why? Can you give a foundation as to why anyone besides you and your daughter should think that action is wrong?”

      I’m frankly astonished that you need to ask such a basic question. Is your faith the only thing that stops you going around killing people? For a start, if you killed me and my daughter then my wife would be upset, and so would my mother, brother and sister, 20 aunts and uncles and 30 or so cousins. All of them value me and my daughter. And even if no-one knew us, it’s not hard to extrapolate outwards from valuing your own life and those of your friends, to appreciating that other people value their own too, and then moving onto reasoning that there’s no reason for their lives to be more valuable than yours. We can also figure that if we wish others to treat us a certain way, we should do the same for them. As a society we all have a stake in each others’ well-being, and all benefit from respecting each others’ lives. That’s several reasons right off the bat. But it doesn’t end there Bill…

      …there are hundreds of years of normative ethical theories discussing the justification and grounding of our ethical systems – has all of it passed you by? John Locke, John Rawls, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham – nothing? You still can’t think of a single good non-supernatural reason not to murder your fellow man in cold blood?

      • Andrew-

        you ask:
        “What’s more like a robot – something that occurs naturally, or something someone else has designed and created?”

        A robot is like a computer. It is reactive. Every action is a reaction. It can only do what it is programmed to do. It only reacts to the input it receives. It cannot make interpretations of what the inputs mean. It can only react as programmed. If naturalism is true then we are just like robots reacting to the inputs as programmed in our DNA by random evolution.

        Humans, created with a free-will, have the ability to interpret the inputs and react as desired, not a slave to some programming.

        you say:
        “For a start, if you killed me and my daughter then my wife would be upset, and so would my mother, brother and sister, 20 aunts and uncles and 30 or so cousins.”

        It’s wrong because people would be upset? Am I to assume then that in your view there is nothing wrong with murdering someone that has no friends, family or loved ones?

        you say:
        “We can also figure that if we wish others to treat us a certain way, we should do the same for them.”

        Yes, that is a good rule of life. It is something we should all desire…but it doesn’t establish any actions as being right and wrong. It only shows them to be desired or undesired.

        you say:
        “…there are hundreds of years of normative ethical theories discussing the justification and grounding of our ethical systems ”

        True, and it is also true that if they don’t have a transcendent, non-contingent foundation they are simply subjective to individual opinion.

      • “It doesn’t establish any actions as being right and wrong. It only shows them to be desired or undesired”
        No, I’d say it logically follows. I’d say that if someone rejects it as a notion then they are being irrational. Such a person could equally look at your Objective Morality and say that reject that too. At least the former is based on sound reasoning. Telling someone they should live by a certain morality simply because you declare it to be ‘objective’ doesn’t actually explain anything. What does it actually mean?

        “It’s wrong because people would be upset? Am I to assume then that in your view there is nothing wrong with murdering someone that has no friends, family or loved ones?”

        Bill, YOU asked “Can you give a foundation as to why anyone besides you and your daughter”, so I was FIRST addressing the idea that our deaths would affect only us. And then I went STRAIGHT on to reject a view that you then question if I hold. Obviously I don’t, as I clearly rejected it in the following sentence. Can you just tell me if you’re just skim-reading my posts?

        “True, and it is also true that if they don’t have a transcendent, non-contingent foundation they are simply subjective to individual opinion.”

        If you say that, I suspect your reading of the great ethical philosophers has been even more cursory than your reading of my own posts. At least I’m in good company! The whole point of the normative ethical theories that I referenced is that they argue for ethical system NOT reliant just on individual opinion. This seems to have passed you by. I might as well say that your opinion that we should get our morals from a transcendent non-contingent being is also an individual opinion, and therefore – by your own logic – is also subjective.

      • Andrew:

        you say in response to “It doesn’t establish any actions as being right and wrong. It only shows them to be desired or undesired”:
        “No, I’d say it logically follows. I’d say that if someone rejects it as a notion then they are being irrational.”

        It logically follows that if someone’s desires are not inline with a majority they are irrational? The murderer isn’t wrong, he’s irrational? Is irrational=wrong? If so, is irrational by default defined as deviating from the majority?

        “Telling someone they should live by a certain morality simply because you declare it to be ‘objective’ doesn’t actually explain anything.”

        Once again, as I’ve stated numerous times already, my argument is dealing with whether or not an objective morality exists and what it’s foundation is. It is not about how people will behave based on the existence of this objective morality.

      • “It logically follows that if someone’s desires are not inline with a majority they are irrational?”
        Nope, not what I said. I made NO appeal to majority morality. Again, you’re not reading my posts properly.

        “It is not about how people will behave based on the existence of this objective morality.”
        I didn’t say it was. I said that there’s nothing explanatory about the concept of ‘objective morality’.

        “my argument is dealing with whether or not an objective morality exists”
        Then what’s the relevance of what term I’d use to label a murderer?

      • Andrew-
        you said:
        “Nope, not what I said. I made NO appeal to majority morality. Again, you’re not reading my posts properly.”

        Then what are you using to determine that someone is irrational?

        you said:
        “I didn’t say it was. I said that there’s nothing explanatory about the concept of ‘objective morality’.”

        Actually, what you said was, “Telling someone they should live by a certain morality simply because you declare it to be ‘objective’ doesn’t actually explain anything.”

        to which I correctly pointed out this assertion has nothing to do with my argument. I am not “declaring” it to be objective to explain anything. I would say that reality affirms that it is objective.

        you said in response to “my argument is dealing with whether or not an objective morality exists”:
        “Then what’s the relevance of what term I’d use to label a murderer?”

        It is directly relevant. Is the murderer objectively wrong or irriational or subjectively wrong or simply the doer of the undesired? How would you classify the murderer?

      • “I am not “declaring” it to be objective to explain anything. I would say that reality affirms that it is objective.”
        Sure, If it makes you happy: “Telling someone they should live by a certain morality simply because you declare that reality affirms that it is objective”. Better?

        “Then what are you using to determine that someone is irrational?”
        If someone denies what logically follows, then they are irrational, no? Nothing to do with an appeal to majority. What definition of irrational are you using?

        “Is the murderer objectively wrong?”
        Regardless of what term either of us use to classify the murderer, a third person could say that either is just our personal opinion. I guess you’re saying that if he was ‘objectively wrong’ then he would be say regardless of what you, me, the murderer, or the third party thinks. But the phrase ‘objectively wrong’ has no coherent meaning to me. ‘Wrong’ denotes a standard. We can come up with a standard, and it could be ‘wrong’ by that standard. But then someone else can always say that the standard itself is arbitrary, even if it comes from a non-contingent being.

        Are we done? I seem to spend most of these posts correcting your mis-reading of my previous posts.

      • Andrew-

        you say:
        “If someone denies what logically follows, then they are irrational, no?”

        You are saying that if someone denies the notion “that if we wish others to treat us a certain way, we should do the same for them.” then it logically follows that they are irrational. Can you put that into an argument form to show how it logically follows?

        Although I think the notion would work well towards peace in society, I think it is based on faulty motivation. We should treat others with respect because they have value deserving of respect – not to get something in return. Consequentialism is selfish.

        you asked:
        “Are we done?”

        If you wish. You do seem quite flustered.

        you vented:
        “I seem to spend most of these posts correcting your mis-reading of my previous posts.”

        Well you seem to spend a lot of time going in directions away from the argument. I apologize for not being able to keep up with the many different detours you take.

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