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“Mark Regnerus’s Sound Social Science » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog”

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 by Tom Gilson

Three articles, all pointing toward:

“family instability is the characteristic experience of those whose parents have same-sex relationships.”

From Mark Regnerus’s Sound Social Science » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog
See also Mark Regnerus and the Storm Over the New Family Structures Study and Vindicating Mark Regnerus

53 Responses to “ “Mark Regnerus’s Sound Social Science » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog” ”

  1. ordinaryseeker says:

    A couple of comments:

    1) I’d like to see a study that compares LGBT families to similarly stressed and marginalized families; for example, biracial families, immigrant families, families struggling with disabilities.

    2) Even if the evidence shows that children do best in intact families with their two biological parents, does that mean we should continue to marginalize every other type of family? Shouldn’t we in fact give those other types of families MORE support?

  2. Andrew W says:

    Shouldn’t we in fact give those other types of families MORE support?

    I think there’s a bit of semantic sleight of hand here. Consider:

    “I support accident victims”
    “I support local sportspeople”

    Same word, same basic idea, two very different emphases.

  3. BillT says:

    OS,

    First, how do you equate same sex couples to “biracial families, immigrant families, (and) families struggling with disabilities”. And based on what facts do you believe that same sex couples are “stressed and marginalized”. Sounds like the standard plea of “victimhood” that is such a popular tactic of the left. I live in NYC and know many same sex couples both with and without children. Stressed and marginalized wouldn’t descibe a single couple I know.

  4. ordinaryseeker says:

    BillT:

    First, it’s certainly true that gay families (you say “gay couples” but I am speaking specifically about gay people raising children, as in the study) in some areas of the country (NYC!) may experience less stress and marginalization than gay families in other areas (Mississippi? Arkansas? North Dakota?).

    Second, I think that unless you are speaking from inside that experience–the experience of living in a gay family–you can’t speak to the level of stress and marginalization that is experienced.

  5. BillT says:

    So os, are you “speak(ing) to the level of stress and marginalization that is experienced.” based on your “experience of living in a gay family”. If not, how do you know any better than I do about their stress and marginalization.

    You set “living in a gay family” as the standard for commenting on that experience. Can you meet it or is this just a standard that other people have to meet?

  6. ordinaryseeker says:

    Given that I don’t think this is a safe forum for anyone who had experience living in a gay family to speak of it, I will amend my statement to, “unless you are speaking from a position of in-depth knowledge of the gay family experience, you can’t speak to the level of stress and marginalization that is experienced.” You could obtain that knowledge by extensively interviewing gay family members, or reading broadly in the field.

  7. BillT says:

    This isn’t a “safe forum for anyone who had experience living in a gay family to speak of it”. Please explain how so?

    Are you claiming that “you are speaking from a position of in-depth knowledge of the gay family experience”? Again, how so?

    And a nice bit of tapdanceing around actually answering my questions. Didn’t want you to think I didn’t notice.

  8. Alex Dawson says:

    I’m sceptical of how much you can really draw from this study. While indeed “family instability is the characteristic experience of those whose parents have same-sex relationships.” is evidenced by the study, is bears little relevance to the “no difference” hypothesis, and more pertinently to the question of whether a committed same-sex couple who jointly set out to raise a child out will do so better/worse than an opposite-sex couple.

    As mentioned in some of the writing there is indeed very little good quality research to address the actual question (of the quality of same-sex couples’ parenting), so I personally see it as an open question.

  9. ordinaryseeker says:

    BillT,

    By not safe I mean that I don’t think a commenter who “outed” him/herself here as someone who has experienced gay family life would be treated respectfully.

    Yes, I would say I have in-depth knowledge of gay family life. I have read extensively in the field and know a number of gay families well. And they live in a liberal area, and the GLBT families are stressed and do feel marginalized.

  10. BillT says:

    Well os, “I have read extensively in the field and know a number of gay families well”, also. Your description of them as “stressed and marginalized” is simply self serving victimhood with little if any basis in fact.

    As far as your belief that someone’s sexual orientation would lead to them not being treated respectfully here, I believe you are quite wrong. In fact, this pretty clearly demonstrates your own prejudices are far stronger than those who post here.

  11. ordinaryseeker says:

    Seriously?! Have you READ Holopopenku’s comments?!

  12. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ordinaryseeker:

    Seriously?! Have you READ Holopopenku’s comments?!

    Yes. Learned a lot from them. And?

  13. ordinaryseeker says:

    And they are not respectful of gay people.

  14. Bill R. says:

    2) Even if the evidence shows that children do best in intact families with their two biological parents, does that mean we should continue to marginalize every other type of family? Shouldn’t we in fact give those other types of families MORE support?

    Andrew W. was probably getting at this, but it depends on what type of support you mean, and what we are supporting.

    We should support people living in unfavorable family structures (and encourage them to move to a better situation, if possible); we should not support unstable family structures themselves.

    What the legal status of (heterosexual) marriage does right now is incentivize the ideal relationship. We don’t legislate heterosexual marriage because it needs our help or support, but because it is good and should be encouraged. If anything, we need to disincentivize people from choosing to raise children in harmful family structures.

  15. Ordinaryseeker says:

    Bill R,
    That’s what we’re doing now, and it hurts the children. People are going to continue to raise children in non-traditional families (gay, single-parent, adoptive, multi-ethnic). The chilsren in these families face more stress, on a daily basis, because of their family differences. Do we really want to send the message that the only way to decrease that stress is for them to abandon the people they love for a “better” family sytructure? It won’t happen. We’d simply be dooming those children to live more stressful, more harmful (due to societal pressures) childhoods, which affects the adults they become.

  16. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ordinaryseeker:

    And they are not respectful of gay people.

    And how were they disrespectful? Care to give an example?

    My guess is that Holopupenko said something like homosexual acts are objectively disordered and sinful, probably strongly worded in his inimitable style. If this is what you are thinking, then he was not being disrespectful, but simply telling the truth. Now, you can object to the fact that he was saying the truth; for the matter at hand it is irrelevant, all it matter is that he was not lying, meaning, speaking contrary to his thoughts with the intention to deceive (but I do not think your are claiming this anyway).

    We’d simply be dooming those children to live more stressful, more harmful (due to societal pressures) childhoods, which affects the adults they become.

    This from the guy who defines the good as what society says it is. Right.

  17. ordinaryseeker says:

    It is possible to speak one’s truth without resorting to insulting and degrading those who disagree with you. And no, I wont provide examples: I don’t want to give his comments any more exposure, nor do I want to read them again.

    Society is in the process of changing its view of what is good in regard to gay relationships. It’s the effort to forestall that change that I’m arguing against.

  18. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ordinaryseeker:

    It’s the effort to forestall that change that I’m arguing against.

    Arguing?

    Sorry to be blunt and break it to you, but you cannot argue your way out of a paper bag.

  19. ordinaryseeker says:

    If by arguing you mean, if A then B, I can in fact do that. I just don’t find it particularly useful.

    I don’t believe that people come to their decisions through rational means; reason only comes into play to support decisions already made. Certainly, I haven’t seen anyone’s position here changed by Tom’s or any commenter’s logical argument.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    OS, paraphrased:
    Observation: “No one’s logical argument here has caused anyone’s position to change.”
    Observation: “People I’ve observed elsewhere don’t change their positions because of logical arguments.”
    Observation: “People employ reason.

    OS, paraphrased again:
    Premise: Logical argumentation is useless for changing persons’ opinions.
    Premise: People use logical argumentation anyway.
    Conclusion: People use reason strictly to support decisions already made.

    Analysis:
    OS has employed something suspiciiously similar to rational argumentation for some purpose, in fact, OS has employed something much like it repeatedly here. OS doesn’t find it particularly useful, even as OS argues rationally that it isn’t useful.

    OS is having trouble with coherency and consistency of argumentation. Either that or else OS is being entirely consistent and is demonstrating OS’s own point: only using reason to prop up an already held belief.

    Which is it, OS?

    Note, by the way, that one illustration of a point does not make it a generally valid inductive case. Although OS has illustrated a point, the point is not proven.

  21. Holopupenko says:

    @19 Oh brother! Truth for os is now reduced to utility… And then there’s this gem: “I don’t believe that people come to their decisions through rational means.” Substitute “atheists” for “people” and os is spot-on correct. Shhh! Listen… shhh! You hear that? That’s the sound of another atheist emotional need being met…

  22. ordinaryseeker says:

    Which is it? Probably some of both. No one is completely consistent (we are much too complex); and, yes, I am sure my beliefs are emotion-based–as are yours and everyone else’s. There’s a relatively new body of research that supports this (I don’t have time to find and link it now, but will do so later if you’re interested.)

    I’ve worked for many years in a field in which the goal is to enable people to change, and I can assure you that no one has ever changed solely because of a good argument.

  23. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ordinaryseeker:

    If by arguing you mean, if A then B, I can in fact do that.

    Who am I to disagree?

    I just don’t find it particularly useful.

    So when you said before that you were “arguing”, how should I interpret it in light of this confession? That you were engaging in an exercise that you find useless? That you do not find it particularly useful, I readily believe you. Why? Because if there is one thing you do *not* do is engaging in any sort of rational argumentation. Rather, you like to posture from the illusion of a morally superior position. Proof?

    1. When asked for an example of Holopupenko’s alleged disrespectful comments you chickened out with a lame excuse so as to relieve yourself of the burden of proof for your accusation and continue to hold yourself in the moral higher ground. My guess is that either you do not have such an example or it falls under what I described.

    2. When a glaring contradiction is pointed out you do not even recognize it. Such lack of self-awareness is really astounding, but when you say,

    I don’t believe that people come to their decisions through rational means; reason only comes into play to support decisions already made.

    then my only question is what the heck are you doing here? You have already come to your decisions so why should anybody waste their time reasoning with you if, by your own words, reason can only support what one already believes in, and thus of necessity no rational argument can possibly convince you otherwise?

    If you have not noticed, the first word in the blog title is “Thinking”. Thinking is also a collective, social activity, when say, the people commenting in this blog lay out their arguments and through dialogue (sometimes, outright verbal war, but that is ok as long as certain lines are not crossed) they sharpen their positions. Dialectics is first and foremost not for the purposes of “converting”, but to clarify the issues and respective positions.

    By your own admission you do not find arguing “very useful”. You are, blissfully so it seems, unaware of even the most obvious inconsistencies and glaring contradictions in what you say. So please, do us all a favor and stop the pretense that you are “arguing” anything; you are just fooling yourself. At best, you are engaging in a useless (your words) exercise. At worst, in cheap sophistry whose only content is the emotional appeal to a certain set of irrational prejudices, irrational because you cannot rationally justify them.

  24. ordinaryseeker says:

    GR,
    I came to this site originally in a quest to understand the conservative, right-wing perspective.

    No time for more now.

  25. Holopupenko says:

    So, when the going gets tough and real thinking (instead of emotionalizing) is required, the atheists (1) impose labels pejoratively, and (2) run away (knowing they can’t argue themselves out of a McDonald’s Happy Meal bag). It’s amazing (but not surprising) to see atheists operationally equivocate between reason and emotion. (Where’s a Vulcan when you need one?) In other words, for atheists when it’s profitable (that, after all, is the true motivation: power and profit), emotion and opinion are on the same level as reason. And they call themselves “brights”?

  26. Fendrel says:

    Holo,

    Let me start by commenting on the term “Brights”, as an atheist I absolutely detest the term. It smacks of being arrogant and elitist and in no way serves or benefits dialogue between atheists and those who hold religious beliefs.

    I am curious to know when you think atheists, as a group, run for cover in a harbor of emotion…are you referring to a specific individual or atheists in general?

  27. Holopupenko says:

    Frendel:

    Based on the six or so years of observing how atheists behave when confronted with reason on this blog (not to mention other experiences), I stand by my group characterization. Not all to the same level, of course… but emotional needs and deeply pessimistic accounts of human reason nonetheless are their bailiwick.

    For example: you (likely) as an atheist have no objective account upon which to base your assessment of “arrogant” and “elitist”. With no objective account, sooner or later it will reduce to emotion and power. Sooner or later. If you reference physical (brain) processes, or if you reference Darwinian survival or if you reference [atheist naturalist account de jure] for moral accounts, your position is objectively empty (not to mention misplaced)… and, sooner or later, will reduce to emotion and power.

    Sooner or later. It’s as predictable (hear that, DL?) as the night is dark on the far side of the moon.

  28. Fendrel says:

    Holo,

    Of course, atheists have and indulge emotional needs as do non-atheists. I don’t think anyone would deny that statement.

    If you are saying that atheists as a group have nothing but an emotional basis for every argument they proffer, regardless of topic, then I would disagree.

    On the topic of morality, my own thinking is that the focus of discussion is often misplaced. The work “morality” begs the wrong question, it implies a property that does not necessarily exist in an action at least not as a permanent trait.

    Morals are simply tools to achieve a goal, the creation of a particular type of society, and they can be measured on their effectiveness of getting us to that goal.

    As we learn more about the human psyche and how it is affected by the environment, we should be at liberty to adjust those behaviors that we consider acceptable.

    In addition, I think this view also is more flexible in that it allows for a wide variety of behaviors, in the same way that a variety of foods can lead to a healthy lifestyle. It is not a the case that there is only one best food and everything else is summarily declared bad.

  29. SteveK says:

    Morals are simply tools to achieve a goal, the creation of a particular type of society, and they can be measured on their effectiveness of getting us to that goal.

    Objectively empty morality – check
    Emotion and power – check

    I think Holo scored 100%. :)

  30. Holopupenko says:

    I think this view also is more flexible in that it allows for a wide variety of behaviors, in the same way that a variety of foods can lead to a healthy lifestyle. It is not a the case that there is only one best food and everything else is summarily declared bad.

    Equivocation and question begging at its finest: moral choices are the same kind of thing as gastric choices? (For long-time readers: recall DL’s gastric moral nonsense?)

    Really? Would you mind providing sound argumentation to back up that assumption? Regarding goals, what is your objective account of the existence of the telos of moral acts? Which assumes, of course, you can first explain WHAT a moral act is (including an account of human free will), and whether any naturalist/materialist account is even able to provide and objective one.

    You’re doing EXACTLY what my characterization portrayed: you conflate and confuse moral appetitive accounts with emotional and bodily appetites. Moreover, you have provided no account for how one is to address morally the consequences of conflicting and clashing “goals.” And, as most atheists do, you provide an implied “rain check” based squarely in naturalism that somehow things will work out: “As we learn more about the human psyche and how it is affected by the environment, we should be at liberty to adjust those behaviors that we consider acceptable,” using loose and easy-to-bandy-about terms like “acceptable.”

    You provide nothing new here, and, no, I’m not interested in wasting my time. Move on…

  31. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fendrel:

    Morals are simply tools to achieve a goal, the creation of a particular type of society, and they can be measured on their effectiveness of getting us to that goal.

    Do not take my suggestion the wrong way, but you really should read what Holopupenko wrote again, because you have just conceded *every* single point he made.

  32. BillT says:

    “Morals are simply tools to achieve a goal, the creation of a particular type of society,…”

    So (here we go again) Hitler’s tools to create a particular type of society were moral?

  33. Fendrel says:

    Unfortunately simply declaring a victory, doesn’t make it so and SteveK neither does putting “Objectively empty morality – check
    Emotion and power – check”, contribute to a dialogue.

    The comment about nutrition was simply an analogy, a reinforcement of the idea that there can be multiple, equally valid ways, to achieve a particular goal.

    Do I really need to make a case by case point that, for instance, there is more than a single way in which to move a society in the direction of mutual respect, I would have thought that it was self evident.

  34. Holopupenko says:

    WHAT is “mutual respect,” and do you have any clue of what a rigorous understanding of the term “analogy” entails? “Goal”? Just WHAT is that?

  35. SteveK says:

    Fendrel,
    Your goal, or THE objective goal?

  36. Fendrel says:

    Holo, SteveK

    You require a working definition of “mutual respect” and “goal” in order to have a discussion on whether morality is absolute or can be relative?

  37. BillT says:

    So Fendrel. You seem to be saying the goal of morality is to “…move a society in the direction of mutual respect,…” Why is mutual respect a goal or any better than mutual disrespect?

  38. Fendrel says:

    BillT – It isn’t necessarily better or worse, I was using it simply as one possible example of what a society might want for itself.

    The point was that the bevy of possible actions that a person can take are not absolutely good or bad, in and of themselves, but can only be measured in terms of how well the help you move toward whatever goal you have set for yourself (or society).

  39. Andrew W says:

    Fendrel,

    I suspect Bill and Steve’s point is that if the “goal [is] set for yourself (or society)”, then we’re not really talking “good” or “bad”, but “preferred” or “disliked”. There’s no moral referent beyond the preferences of those with power.

    Strictly speaking, the same is true of Christian moral thinking, although in this case the “preferences of the one with power” are those of an omniscient deity who claims to be creator and lord of all.

    Getting way off the original topic, let me contrast two metaphysical (meta-moral?) arguments, one rational, one profoundly foolish:

    (1) “The evidence I see around me does not lead me to believe that such a God exists”. This might be right, it might be wrong, but at least it’s interacting with the evidence

    (2) “I could never believe in a God who is like that”. This tells us a lot about the speaker’s moral prejudices and failings, and very little about God, except that the speaker thinks that any omniscient deity is morally answerable to the speaker’s own preferences (rather than the other way around).

  40. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Andrew W:

    Strictly speaking, the same is true of Christian moral thinking, although in this case the “preferences of the one with power” are those of an omniscient deity who claims to be creator and lord of all.

    Methinks, there is an obvious difference in kind between the preferences of human beings and the “preferences” of an omniscient Deity.

    But that is not really the important point. The point is that morality under the Christian view (more precisely, under the classical view dominated by the Fathers and the Scholastics) is *not* a matter of “preferences”, of more or less arbitrary and capricious dictats of the Deity. Because human beings have such and such a nature as freely willed by God, such and such moral oughts follow as a matter of objective fact. So much so, that many of them can be discovered by the light of reason, as even St. Pauls attests, quite independently of any divine revelation.

  41. Fendrel says:

    Andrew & G,

    Yes and I would agree with them…the concept of good/bad are really misnomers and preferred/not preferred are more accurate.

    Since the concept of the supernatural, to me, does seem to be speculation beyond what any evidence can reasonably support, then we are left to our own devices as it were.

    My point was that the idea of assigning values of good/evil in the absence of some absolute, omniscient moral authority, is meaningless, but that does not imply that what we decide as a society is invalid.

    If we decide that hurting people’s feelings is to be avoided at all costs and is more important the being able to rely on what others say, then telling the truth, if it causes someone pain, becomes immoral, on the other hand if we decide that reliable, trustworthy communication is a requisite for our society, then fibbing to your wife when she asks if her new dress looks good is an immoral act.

    So the act itself, telling a lie, in this instance, is neither good nor evil, we can only measure it by how to helps us achieve the goals we have set.

  42. SteveK says:

    Andrew,
    You are missing the very important distinction that God, by his very nature, cannot prefer anything but good. Add to that, the necessity of God’s being and you get this: the reality of necessary moral goodness that could not be otherwise.

    So, your comment “the same is true of Christian moral thinking” is not really accurate at all – unless you mean “same” in the most superficial sense of the word.

  43. SteveK says:

    Fendrel,

    …the concept of good/bad are really misnomers and preferred/not preferred are more accurate.

    Again you have confirmed what Holo predicted you would do – you’ve embraced an objectively empty morality. How is it empty? It’s empty because morality without imperatives isn’t morality – it’s preference. And when it comes to making changes in the world or arguing for what is good/bad – emotion and power are the only tools you have.

  44. Andrew W says:

    I disagree, Steve. Morality is derived from power, and it is God’s absolute power that allows him to define, reckon and enforce morality (over us), according to what pleases him. In Christian theism, the idea of “good” apart from God is a nonsense.

    Now, you may wish to insist that God could not have preferred something other than what he is and thus moral goodness is “necessarily” what it is. But that’s completely orthogonal to my point. If God is God, he gets enforce his view of “good”. A “necessity” argument would only be a counter argument if we could show that God was somehow subject to a concept of “good” and “evil” that was greater than he – which raises the question of who or what enforced that upon God?

    G. Rodrigues points out that God is not capricious. And I agree – God is consistent and – to some extent – discoverable, and so are the moral principles that derive from him. But even if God were capricious, or appeared capricious, (and he’s not) this would not give us moral claim upon him. Look at Job. When Job finally demands an explanation from God, God essentially responds with “Are you God?”.

    Note that God can at least envision being something that he is not. For example, “I the LORD do not change” (Mal 3:6). In order to describe himself as being “not fickle”, God needs to comprehend what fickleness is, even if he would never act in such a way and finds mankind’s fickleness offensive.

    But back to the start. Might makes right. If we are not answerable to a (consistent) omnipotent deity, then we are answerable only to whoever has sufficient power to rule, and they are answerable to no-one other than those who would overthrow them.
    * Does the history of the world really lead to confidence that power leads to being “nice” to each other?
    * If you are to insist “that’s wrong”, what authority do you appeal to other than your own preferences?
    * Why should others favour your preferences over theirs?

    Without such an authority, human claims to morality are but tyranny.

  45. Fendrel says:

    Good points all, once you accept the premise of a divine, wholly good, omniscient deity. I do not, and there my point was to show that God is not necessary to the formation of morals.

    For a moment, let’s imagine that the Christians are wrong and there is no God. How would that change your behavior or morality, would you really become different overnight?

    Would you begin to murder everyone you disagreed with, or who cut in front of you at the grocery store line tomorrow morning?

    More importantly, if you did not do those things, would the basis for the morals that you hold suddenly become invalid?

  46. Melissa says:

    Fendrel,

    I do not, and there my point was to show that God is not necessary to the formation of morals.

    God may not be necessary for the formation of moral feelings which is what you are arguing but our contention is that there are real moral facts and these amount to more than just personal preference.

    Judging or praising people on the basis of whether they act inaccordance with what you believe are just personal preferences really amounts to nothing more than a manipulative power play.

    As Holo said emotion and power.

  47. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Andrew W:

    G. Rodrigues points out that God is not capricious. And I agree – God is consistent and – to some extent – discoverable, and so are the moral principles that derive from him. But even if God were capricious, or appeared capricious, (and he’s not) this would not give us moral claim upon him. Look at Job. When Job finally demands an explanation from God, God essentially responds with “Are you God?”.

    I am not 100% sure I am reading you correctly, but I agree with you. Completely. The book of Job dismisses all theodicies as inconsequential; God does not have to justify His ways before man (not that we would understand Him). God is not *a* being, another member of a moral community subject to shoulds and oughts like we are, rather He is that which enables the conditions for the existence of such a moral community in the first place.

    I think you may be misunderstanding on what exactly I was claiming — or I did not explained myself correctly. To borrow from Melissa, my claim is that there are real, objective moral facts, discoverable (at least in part) by reason and that these derive from our essential nature as human beings. Of course, since God freely willed human nature into being, at least in this sense it can be rightly said that He is the fountain and source of all morality. There are other senses in which this is true, but for many moral discussions there is no need to drag God into the mess, although we can, and most likely should, but this is due to other type of concerns, typically Christian ones.

    God acts according to reason; given that our natures are what He freely willed they are, and given that say, torturing babies for fun is objectively bad given what we are, He would never command us to torture babies for fun. God acts according to love (God *is* Love); to love is to will the good. Given that torturing babies for fun is objectively bad for human beings and that God wills the good for all His created order, He would never order us to torture babies for fun.

    Without such an authority, human claims to morality are but tyranny.

    Although I would add some important qualifications, I do not really disagree with you, but here you are raising a *different* issue. There is the issue of the *content* of moral commandments which is what I was addressing, and then the different issue of what gives them their binding force. At the end of the day, even if we can convince a psycopath that it is rational to amend his ways, he could always retort “why should I be rational in the first place?” The points you raise do make a plausible case that without a transcendent source for morality, whatever morals we can conjure have no binding force; no (serious) disagreement here.

  48. BillT says:

    So Fendrel. You didn’t answer my other question.

    Were Hitler’s tools to create a particular type of society moral?

  49. Fendrel says:

    BillT – Going out for a bagel and coffee…will answer when I return.

  50. JAD says:

    How long does it take to get a bagel and coffee?

  51. Andrew W says:

    G. Rodrigues: yes.

    I believe in morality from “natural law”, which I understand to be the idea that an echo of the nature creator can be seen in creation – and particularly people – and that as such there’s an innate (if flawed) moral intuition even among those who do not recognise God.

    As a consequence, there is something of a shared morality among people. But as a consequence, people feel that they can ground “good” and “evil” without God. For the atheist, this ends up very much like the child standing flapping his arms and declaring “I’m flying”, expecting his parent to ignore the table on which he stands.

    Alternatively, one could argue that “moral sense” is a combination of social and evolutionary factors. This works if everyone shares the same moral sensibilities, but once disagreement occurs you cannot appeal to any deeper principle than power. Making a moral claim on another is nothing more than “I don’t like that and am going to force you to act my way”.

    Speculative and possibly inflammatory thought: perhaps this is why liberal authorities seem to be much more ready to denounce moral conservatives than (say) Islamic countries? They feel kinship and manageable power towards conservatives, but have no categories to call to task radically opposed cultures over whom they have limited influence? In contrast, a moral conservative believes right and wrong are universal categories – and a heck of a lot bigger than the themselves – and thus the authority of moral claims is much bigger than those making them.

  52. JAD says:

    Fendrel wrote:

    …the concept of good/bad are really misnomers and preferred/not preferred are more accurate.

    If (a) morality is based on personal preferences then they cannot be objective moral values or absolutes. Therefore, (b) I shouldn’t impose my personal preferences on anyone else, right?

    But isn’t (b) an objective moral value?

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