Judging God, Punishing Ourselves

Here is the great spiritual tragedy of our day: we’ve taken on the role of judging God; and for his “crimes,” we’re punishing ourselves. Jeremiah 2:5 (NKJV) reads,

Thus says the Lord:

“What injustice have your fathers found in Me,
That they have gone far from Me,
Have followed idols,
And have become idolaters?

A look in the Hebrew dictionary reveals that idols and idolaters could be translated futilities or vanities and futile or empty, which brings it into the 21st century without violating the text.

The secular West has found massive injustice in God, in the Church and in the Bible we follow. It has judged God and found him oppressive, genocidal, misogynistic, homophobic, pro-slavery, sexually repressed, politically backward, scientifically ignorant, and intolerant. Alternatively, in some places the West has pounded its gavel and declared God “Not Interesting. Not Relevant.”

But He is Good!

And oh, you must understand the deep cry of my heart, for I have studied the source, the Bible, I have examined the history of God’s people, and I know that God is none of these things. He is good! He gives life, and freedom, and justice, and abundance of joy. He does good in the world, especially through his people, the Church. While we are human and therefore prone to wrong-doing — and believe me, I probably know the embarrassments of our history at least as well as you do, if not better — on the whole the Church’s influence on the world has been very good.

Denying God’s Goodness

But the secular West has forgotten that. It has buried it under a mountain of manipulative rhetoric, or in some cases has accumulated so many years of lies, that it simply cannot see God and his people that way. This is not primarily about Christianity’s reputation; I wouldn’t want to put that in first place. It’s about the knowledge of the goodness and glory of God, of which the Church is an imperfect reflection.

Pronouncing Futility Upon Ourselves

And it is about human futility without God. It’s about the lives that won’t be lived to the full. It’s about the spiritual dimension that keeps getting squashed. It is about the emptiness.

“Emptiness?!” comes the objection. Yes. The numbers show it. Baby-boomers are committing suicide in record numbers. Drug and alcohol use mask our loss of meaning. Sex has become empty, stripped of the deep, trusting, bare intimacy of a lifelong committed relationship. Spirituality has faded to nothing: there is no knowledge of God, no communion with him in prayer, no love relationship with the Creator.

The more committed, naturalistic atheists among us have even emptied humanity of humanness. Scripture says “from dust you came and to dust you shall return;” naturalistic atheism says, “Dust you are right now.” The difference between us and dust is but a dream. Dust moves around the room, strictly by the laws of nature; so do humans, under precisely the same laws and limitations. There is nothing unique about us. In a naturalistic universe, everything that makes us truly human — free will, consciousness, identity — is strictly impossible, an illusion, a dusty dream.

So say those who have turned fully toward emptiness. Others of us have settled for a different material reality: consumeristic materialism, the hope in stuff. We have not noticed the futility, the failure of stuff to satisfy.

Others have sought a deeper, better life through power, prestige, and position, not recognizing that being admired is a poor substitute for being loved, and that freedom of spirit is better than the elusive freedom of being in control.

The Grievous Effect of Judging God

What fault, what injustice is there in God, that we should have abandoned him for this nothingness? This question has driven me deep into prayer over the past week or so. It impels me to share the truth about God in Scripture and his people in history

For I grieve over what we have done. We have judged God on trumped-up charges. We have convicted him on false evidence. We have pronounced the sentence. And in punishment we have thrown our own selves into a pit.

Comments

  1. Ben

    People always want to do what is right in their own eyes and then point the finger when the consequences set in.

  2. Michael

    It would be nice for humankind to take responsibility for what has been done to humankind. And pouring praise to the Father for putting up with our stupidity.

  3. Luis

    What about all the verses where God does command genocide, where he creates evil, where he admits that he causes blindness and deafness? How is that good? What about evolution? If one believes that evolution is started by God then he is responsible for all the pain and suffering in nature. What about natural disaters and how much damage they cause. Whay does he help people find their car keys but doesn’t end world hunger? the standard answers for this is:

    1) You’re not God, so you don’t know the future or his intentions
    2) God turns evil to our good
    3) Nature is not moral so it doesn’t know right from wrong
    4) He’s God so trust and obey
    5) Without God, you can’t know evil because there is no evil

    This is avoiding the question, in my opinion. I just want to know why all this crap in the owrld if God is all-powerful. BTW, I don’t believe in a young earth or creation so don’t give me the standard “the fall” answers either. There was no Adam or Eve.

  4. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I think you’ve told me my answer is wrong before you even got done answering the question. So I’m not sure whether this is a question on your part or if it’s venting.

  5. Luis

    This is asking the questions, predicting the answers and then rebutting them in one post. Efficient.

  6. Kyle S.

    I’ve asked many of the same questions and share Luis’ dissatisfaction with the answers given in books like Is God A Moral Monster and God Behaving Badly. I’d sooner live in a pit than worship the God described in the Bible.

    I’ve found some explanations offered by open theists to be a bit more palatable, but it’s my understanding that such views are considered heretical by much of the church, so I’m hesitant to put much stock in such theology.

  7. Post
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  8. Ed Yang

    If you accept the possibility of a God, you must also accept that his ways are not your ways. Does an infant or toddler know why you do the things you do? Or why you do the things to them that you do? Is a shot of vaccine to a 6 year old inflicting senseless pain on them or immunizing them for protection? Will they understand it if you try to explain it?

    Now try and explain chemistry and physics to an ant. Will the ant understand?

    The point is, an infinite God is far beyond our comprehension. If you accept the possibility of that type of God, you must also accept the possibility that we will never understand everything about him.

    A good book on this is “He is God and We Are Not” by Ray Pritchard: http://www.amazon.com/Hes-God-Were-Not-Spiritual/dp/0805426949

    Yes, we will always have questions. But no, that is not an excuse, nor will it be accepted when we are all judged. For every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is lord. He has given plenty of evidence of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of Christ for us that even while we were lost in sin, he still loved us enough to die.

  9. Post
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  10. JB Chappell

    Ed (re: 10),

    I think most people do accept this, with respect to an “infinite” God. But what’s at issue here is not whether or not God is infinite, but whether or not He is GOOD.

    Thus, if one accepts “His ways are not our ways”, fair enough. But then on what basis are declaring God to be “good”? His own? What meaning does that have for me, if I do not understand His ways? The word has lost its meaning. But if God is considered “good” according to our own ways, one might well object that we are simply making God in our own image.

    Either concept is problematic.

  11. JAD

    JB Chappell:

    I think most people do accept this, with respect to an “infinite” God. But what’s at issue here is not whether or not God is infinite, but whether or not He is GOOD.

    Where does your idea of “good” come from?

  12. JAD

    Oxford Professor John Lennox made these remarks recently at the 2013 annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Houses of Parliament in the U.K.
    http://johnlennox.org/jresources/national-prayer-breakfast-2013-god-society-in-21st-century-britain/

    “If we jettison God,” Lennox asked, “what is the authority behind morality?

    For example:

    Why should I be unselfish?

    Answer: Because it’s good for society.

    Why should I care what is good for society?

    Answer: Because you ought to be unselfish.

    Do you see the vicious circularity? Where does the ought come from?

  13. Ray Ingles

    JAD – I’ve got four kids, every one’s been a five-year-old at some point. When they ask the equivalent of, “Why should I be unselfish?”, I’ve found by that age they are able to understand the response, “What if everyone was selfish?”

  14. JAD

    Ravi Zacharias quoted this in one of his recent lectures. It seemed relevant to the discussion we’re having here.
    http://www.veritas.org/Talks.aspx#!/v/1312

    Creed

    We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
    We believe everything is OK
    as long as you don’t hurt anyone,
    to the best of your definition of hurt,
    and to the best of your knowledge.

    We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
    We believe in the therapy of sin.
    We believe that adultery is fun.
    We believe that sodomy is OK.
    We believe that taboos are taboo.

    We believe that everything is getting better
    despite evidence to the contrary.
    The evidence must be investigated
    And you can prove anything with evidence.
    We believe that after death comes the Nothing
    Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
    If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
    then it’s compulsory heaven for all
    excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.

    We believe in Masters and Johnson.
    What’s selected is average.
    What’s average is normal.
    What’s normal is good.

    We believe in total disarmament.
    We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
    Americans should beat their guns into tractors
    and the Russians would be sure to follow.
    We believe that man is essentially good.
    It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
    This is the fault of society.
    Society is the fault of conditions.
    Conditions are the fault of society.

    We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
    Reality will adapt accordingly.
    The universe will readjust.
    History will alter.
    We believe that there is no absolute truth
    excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

    We believe in the rejection of creeds,
    and the flowering of individual thought.

    “Chance” a post-script

    If chance be the Father of all flesh,
    disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
    and when you hear

    State of Emergency!
    Sniper Kills Ten!
    Troops on Rampage!
    Whites go Looting!
    Bomb Blasts School!

    It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.

    It sounds like the author, Steve Turner, was being satirical and sarcastic. I certainly hope so. It’s humorous, but sadly, it’s not far from the truth either.

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12836.Steve_Turner

  15. JAD

    I think the whole poem is funny. For example, I found this part to be hilarious:

    We believe in total disarmament.
    We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
    Americans should beat their guns into tractors
    and the Russians would be sure to follow.

    (However, there is always some truth behind good humor.)

    But I think there are a lot of people who really think this way:

    We believe that man is essentially good.
    It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
    This is the fault of society.
    Society is the fault of conditions.
    Conditions are the fault of society.

    We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
    Reality will adapt accordingly.
    The universe will readjust.
    History will alter.
    We believe that there is no absolute truth
    excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

    This is especially true when it come to moral beliefs and values.

  16. Ray Ingles

    JAD – I could come up with a similar parody of many a believer’s worldview. That wouldn’t make it representative or characteristic, nor make any insightful points about religion in general. Would you rather I come up with version of that ‘poem’ I could get behind? At least it’d be a lot shorter…

  17. JAD

    Ray:

    I could come up with a similar parody of many a believer’s worldview. That wouldn’t make it representative or characteristic, nor make any insightful points about religion in general.

    In that case it wouldn’t be a very good parody.

  18. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    For every parody there are questions. Who or what is being lampooned? How important, how widely influential is that person/idea? How many liberties does the parody take?

    This poem takes aim at the heart of philosophical naturalism of the physicalist variety, a widely held view among academics, and virtually equivalent to the atheism espoused by Dawkins, Harris, Coyne, etc. And I’m not sure it really is a parody, because it’s not taking many liberties with their ideas. What it’s stating is mainstream physicalism/naturalism. It’s not inventing anything about it, it’s just holding it up to the light. Ask yourself: is there anything in there that doesn’t belong, from the naturalists’ own perspective?

    You could undoubtedly write a parody of many Christians’ worldview. It’s been done: the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Santa Claus in the sky, the imaginary friend who grants wishes. The problem is that you would either be taking enormous liberties, as these three examples do, for they all represent a kind of fake theism that has no correspondence to Christian theism; or else you would likely be taking aim at some fringe group of believers. It’s easy to parody Joel Osteen and Fred Phelps. (Yes, Osteen is on the fringe: his teachings take a flying tangential leap off historic Christian belief.)

    If on the other hand you think you can succeed in lampooning true Christian doctrine, I invite you to go for it. I think I might enjoy reading it.

    Meanwhile your response to Turner’s poem relies on the rather obvious fallacy of tu quoque. Or rather, your “I could tu quoque if I really tried!”relies on your bare assertion that you believe you could deliver us a fallacious answer. I hope you don’t consider that a powerful argument.

    What you really need to do is to look this poem square in the face and ask whether it tells the truth about your kind of atheism. If it does, then you might want to think about what that means to you.

  19. JAD

    I shared Turner’s poem because I thought it was edgy but light hearted.
    For some reason it seems to have really bothered Ray… Just sayin’

  20. Ray Ingles

    It doesn’t speak to my kind of atheism. It goes off the rails on the very first line. I don’t “believe in Marxfreudanddarwin”. At most, I believe Darwin had some pretty good ideas that have been developed a lot since. Marx and Freud were wrong from scratch, like the phlogiston chemists.

    I would be fascinated if you could come with quotes from “Dawkins, Harris, [or] Coyne” endorsing Marx or Freud. Or the idea that “everything is getting better”. (Note: ‘many things’ getting better is not the same as ‘everything’.) Or “total disarmament”. Or that “What’s selected is average. What’s average is normal. What’s normal is good.” Or that “man is essentially good.” Or that “Reality will adapt accordingly. The universe will readjust. History will alter.”

    Like I said, the list of things I (or any atheist I’m aware of) would agree on in that poem is very short, and I don’t see a one that wouldn’t require some serious qualifications.

    Whereas there’s the old “Christianity: The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.”

    While phrased in the least flattering manner, each element does in fact reflect real doctrines of mainstream Christianity. (The main quibble is with “make you live forever”, in that most strains of Christianity believe that souls are by nature immortal; believing in Jesus doesn’t make you immortal so much as add spiritual life.)

  21. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Okay, you disagree with marxfreuddarwin.

    Anything else?

    Your parody of Christianity is fine, as long as you recognize that the word “Zombie” is completely misplaced and false, that Jesus was not ever described as his own father, that eating his flesh symbolically was never thought to be what allowed us to live forever, that telepathy with God isn’t as outrageous as you think, and … oh, I’ve got a 9:30 phone call and I’ll come back later to finish.

  22. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson –

    Anything else?

    You didn’t read the second paragraph? Just from a quick skim, I can add to those “no absolute truth”, “Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing”, and “Society is the fault of conditions. Conditions are the fault of society.”

  23. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Ray, apparently this poem doesn’t reflect your version of atheism. It is, however, a very fair picture of the physicalist naturalism that many hold.

    And it is in fact a very fair picture of what physicalist naturalists should believe, if they’re to be consistent with what’s at the base of their worldview. Not everyone is that consistent, however.

  24. Ray Ingles

    How does “no absolute truth” and “everything is getting better” follow from “physicalist naturalism”, to take two examples?

    And you kinda glossed over my questions about whether you could show that “Dawkins, Harris, [or] Coyne” actually believe any of what you claimed they believe. (Well, I guess you just claimed that it was “virtually identical” to what they believe. Except for the majority of it, I guess?) I’d still like some quotes of them espousing any of that…

  25. JAD

    Let me make several quick points:

    First, while Freud and Marx are no longer have the preeminence that they once enjoyed they did have a significant influence that has profoundly shaped thought and culture, and they continue to have a lingering influence today. For example, terms like “homophobic” and “repressive” and “projection” have Freudian roots. Of course, they are now being used ideologically rather than therapeutically. And, while Marxism as a political system may now be passe’, the peculiar kind of Utopian thinking spawned by the Marxists has been co-opted by secular progressives. The thinking goes like this: “we have an Utopian vision of what society should be like, which we’re going to push on you, because we know what’s good for you whether you like it or not”. Basically that’s the thinking behind the gay rights/ SSM movement.

    Second, Darwin’s thinking on morality was fundamentally relativisitic. For example, he wrote in, The Descent of Man, that “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.”

    John West makes the point that ” Although this startling passage references the behavior of bees, it is making a point about human morality and how it is ultimately a function of the conditions of survival. Whenever those conditions change, Darwin seems to say, so too will the maxims of human morality. Hence, Darwinism is a recipe for moral relativism, not moral universals.”
    http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1451&theme=home&page=3&loc=b&type=ctbf

    IMO the effects of relativism on society is the main theme of Turner’s poem.

    Finally, why are atheists so hung-up over the talking snake? Some Christians, like C.S. Lewis, have interpreted the early passages of Genesis allegorically (non-literally). Personally, I take a very minimalist view of original sin. Basically, the important thing to believe is that man made a moral choice very early in his history that is the root cause to mankind’s present problems… far fetched? Was there someone who originally discovered fire? Was there someone who originally invented the wheel? Maybe it happened more than once. Okay, but someone was first, weren’t they? It sounds to me like this hang-up about the talking snake is just an excuse not to believe.

  26. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Ray, thank you for your comments and challenges.

    I’m not interested in taking the time to chase down the quotes you have demanded from me. It’s just too hard to look through all the books again, and I don’t see anyone else here who seems to need them. You can feel free to disbelieve me if you wish.

  27. JAD

    Here is an article about an influential synthesis of Freudian and Marxist thinking that was popularized in the 1960’s. It’s been with us ever since.

    Freud argued that all civilisation is necessarily built on repression of sexual instincts. In Eros and Civilisation Marcuse coined a distinction between a basic repression or modification or the instincts which is indeed necessary for any civilisation, and surplus repression enforced by a society of exploitation and class domination… Marcuse wrote Eros and Civilisation, [as] an attempt to construct a revolutionary perspective of sexual liberation on a Freudian basis…

    In [his essay] Repressive Tolerance Marcuse denounced bourgeois objectivity: “…if a newscaster reports the torture and murder of civil rights workers in the same unemotional tone he uses to describe the stockmarket or the weather, or with the same great emotion with which he says his commercials, then such objectivity is spurious…” He defended the violence of the oppressed: “…the violence emanating from the rebellion of the oppressed classes broke the historic continuum of injustice, cruelty, and silence for a brief moment, brief but explosive enough to achieve progress in civilisation.” He drew vague and thus politically dangerous conclusions about “intolerance” against the Right being necessary as an “emergency measure”
    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2010/12/29/herbert-marcuse-1898%E2%80%931979

    Marcuse is the father of what is now called “political correctness.” You only tolerate people you agree with, so you are justified in shouting down ideas you deem to be intolerant.

  28. Ray Ingles

    JAD – Serious question: Do bees behave immorally when they “kill their brothers”?

    Ask Edward Feser about “natural law theory” of ethics and morals. As he puts it, “objectively true moral conclusions can be derived from premises that in no way presuppose any purported divine revelation, any body of scriptural writings, or any particular religious tradition. Rather, they can in principle be known via purely philosophical arguments.”

    The basic idea is that things have natures, and that has strong implications for the ends they should pursue. Bees have a different nature from humans. What’s appropriate for bees is not necessarily appropriate for humans, and vice versa. Why? Because bees and humans are different – they have different natures. As Feser puts it, “since morality is grounded in human nature, we can draw a number of moral conclusions from human nature itself without citing God as the ultimate source of human nature”.

    What Darwin was saying was that if humans were different – biologically different, with different reproductive systems and so forth – that would have implications for human morality. This is rather different from relativism, but it doesn’t seem that you or West picked up on it.

    Finally, why are atheists so hung-up over the talking snake?

    Because a not-inconsiderable number of Christians want it taught as science in public schools? Because a not-inconsiderable number of politicians think it’s real and has policy implications?

  29. G. Rodrigues

    @Ray Ingles:

    Marx and Freud were wrong from scratch, like the phlogiston chemists.

    I would be fascinated if you could come with quotes from “Dawkins, Harris, [or] Coyne” endorsing Marx or Freud.

    I have not read much about Marx, but Freud had true genius. Current modern-day atheists may disown him (while at the same time, being utterly blind to the marks of his omnipresent influence), but then who cares? Dawkins, Harris or Coyne are nothing compared to Freud. Nothing. If you think the former are better — better in the sense of intellectually stronger — representatives of atheism than Freud is, well, what can I say? There is no accounting for tastes, even if it is one for intellectual mediocrity.

    While phrased in the least flattering manner, each element does in fact reflect real doctrines of mainstream Christianity.

    Ah I see. So the quoted poem does not “speak to my kind of atheism”, but the inane idiocy you wrote was just phrased “in the least flattering manner” but it does ” in fact reflect real doctrines of mainstream Christianity”. Nothing to see here, time to move on.

    @Tom Gilson:

    If on the other hand you think you can succeed in lampooning true Christian doctrine, I invite you to go for it. I think I might enjoy reading it.

    It has been done. Numerous times throughout history. In many ways. The best examples of this genre of literature were written by Christian writers. Dante has no qualms putting a Pope that the Catholic Church has subsequently canonized in the Hell, while at the same subverts the entire Divine Hierarchy by putting his beloved Beatrice in the uppermost echelons, something that can only be described as blasphemy. Swift viciously (and hilariously) lampooned the quibbles within Christianity (“Tale of a Tub”). Religious excesses are wonderfully anatomized in Burton’s “Anatomy of Melancholy”, an hilarious book, whose language is that of invective and abuse. Dostoevsky presented the most rhetorically powerful version of the Argument from Evil (“Brothers Karamazov”). Milton parades before the most frighteningly persuasive example of defiance of God (Satan in “Paradise Lost”). Christian polemicists regularly treated each other in very very harsh terms, employing the full gamut of irony, sarcasm and wit, and just plain insult. On and on and on.

  30. G. Rodrigues

    @Ray Ingles:

    Bees are not moral agents, so what is the point of bringing them up?

  31. Ray Ingles

    I have not read much about Marx, but Freud had true genius.

    So – like I said and you quoted – did the phlogiston theorists. They correctly recognized that combustion, metabolism, and oxidation of metals were all related phenomena. But they also made fundamental errors about the processes. Similarly, Freud recognized and brought to light some real phenomena, like subconscious influences on behavior – but also got a whole lot wrong.

    inane idiocy you wrote

    Quoted, actually. Tom Gilson seems to have retired from the discussion – do you feel like pointing out where it’s wrong?

    Bees are not moral agents, so what is the point of bringing them up?

    Why are you asking me instead of JAD?

  32. G. Rodrigues

    @Ray Ingles:

    Quoted, actually. Tom Gilson seems to have retired from the discussion – do you feel like pointing out where it’s wrong?

    You missed the point — or I did not articulate it very well. Whatever. In any case, the answer to your question is no, because my point was not about whether your description was wrong or not.

    Why are you asking me instead of JAD?

    Point taken; my bad then.

    So let me change my previous post to:

    What Darwin was saying was that if humans were different – biologically different, with different reproductive systems and so forth – that would have implications for human morality. This is rather different from relativism, but it doesn’t seem that you or West picked up on it.

    And neither have you, nor Darwin, nor the miriad of moral theorists, who, if they actually think biology has any saying in morality, have not made their case because they have not bridged the is-ought gap, but are actually being inconsistent with their other positions — e.g. anti-Aristotelian conventionalism about natures.

  33. JAD

    Ray:

    Do bees behave immorally when they “kill their brothers”?

    No. Bees are amoral creatures. But that’s not what Darwin was saying. Read the quote again: “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees… (emphasis added).

    Darwin is talking here about nurture not nature.

  34. Ray Ingles

    JAD – The line immediately before the one you quoted is: “It may be well first to premise that I do not wish to maintain that any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours. In the same manner as various animals have some sense of beauty, though they admire widely-different objects, so they might have a sense of right and wrong, though led by it to follow widely different lines of conduct.”

    So yeah, I’m pretty sure he was talking about nature. (Other people have noted a regular lack of context around that quote, too.)

  35. Ray Ingles

    G. Rodrigues –

    …my point was not about whether your description was wrong or not.

    My own point was that good parody is rather hard to do – to present an opponent’s position in such a way that they can both recognize their position and see the objections to it. I don’t think either Turner nor the “zombie” quote do all that well. (Though I confess the latter seems, to me, to come closer.)

    And neither have you, nor Darwin, nor the miriad of moral theorists, who, if they actually think biology has any saying in morality, have not made their case because they have not bridged the is-ought gap, but are actually being inconsistent with their other positions — e.g. anti-Aristotelian conventionalism about natures.

    That is… a remarkably tortuous sentence. Is there any chance you could break it down a little? We’ve already established that your usual communication style isn’t working so hot for me in this discussion, so a little more explication might be helpful. Grammatically, it would seem that you’re saying neither I nor Darwin nor (etc.) have picked up on the fact that “This is rather different from relativism”. Since I just said that very thing, I hope you can understand why I’d be perplexed.

  36. JAD

    “It may be well first to premise that I do not wish to maintain that any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours.

    Which also to argue that morality is relative. So?

  37. Ray Ingles

    JAD – Relative to what, though? There’s no ‘fixed center of the universe’ or ‘privileged reference frame’ in General Relativity, but that doesn’t mean there’s no absolutes. In GR, things are relative to the speed of light.

    In this model, morality is relative to the nature of the agent. This is hardly a new principle – consider the different moral behaviors that men and women are called to in Christianity.

    Or, here’s another. Let’s say you’re walking down the street, and you happen to glance in a window and see someone abusing a child. Would it be moral for you to just sit and watch? Or would you be obligated to interfere? To call for help, to interrupt the abuse, quite possibly up to risking your life to rescue the child? (WWJD?)

    Now, we don’t see too many cases of passing angels interrupting child abuse. Perhaps they don’t see it, or don’t have the power to interfere. God, of course, would be perfectly aware of such abuse, and have the power to stop it. But generally people argue that God is not obligated to intervene in such cases. God’s nature differs from ours, and that affects Its moral obligations.

    So, just saying that if humans were different, human morality would be different is not automatically the kind of ‘moral relativism’ you seem to be complaining about.

    Perhaps it’s time you defined what you mean by ‘moral relativism’?

  38. JAD

    Let’s stick with Darwin’s example here… In the passage I cited he is arguing that if humans adopted the a similar social structure as hive bees, then sisters killing their brothers would be seen as morally acceptable. Think of something like the legendary Amazon culture dominated by women who keep a few young virile men around for purposes of procreation.

    In purely practical terms individual women are limited as to the number of young they can bear, however a virile human male can impregnate hundreds to thousands of women… A hypothetical female based society, then, would not need a lot of men to survive and thrive. Darwin is arguing that such of a society would not think it immoral to dispose of men once they had out lived their usefulness.

    Clearly Darwin is arguing that moral values are culturally relativity… Kind of a herd instinct to use Nietzchean terms.

  39. Ray Ingles

    JAD –

    In the passage I cited he is arguing that if humans adopted the a similar social structure as hive bees, then sisters killing their brothers would be seen as morally acceptable.

    I still disagree, as I explained in #41. It sure looks to me like he was talking about ‘if humans reproduced differently’. (Like naked mole rats?)

    The Amazons are “legendary” for a reason. The human reproductive scheme doesn’t lend itself to that sort of society.

  40. JAD

    Ray,

    You’re misinterpreting the passage. Again, Darwin wrote, “If…men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees…” “Reared… same conditions,” that’s describing nurture. Look up the word “rear” in the dictionary.

  41. Brandon

    We have also seen the realm of living things flip on its head. Animals treat each other better than we treat each other. Therefore, they are morally superior. How’s that for a turn-around?

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