To Make the Charge Stick (Reading Paul Copan Together)

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This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Reading Paul Copan


Series: Reading Paul Copan

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The first chapter of Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster raised very little reaction. It won’t always be that way in this Reading Paul Copan series.

I thought it might be helpful to do some advance work on what it would take to make the charge of God’s immorality stick. This flowchart presents a graphical view of what’s required to get there.

This should be useful in two ways. First, it helps us to name in advance some of the more likely fallacies to come up in this study, while also showing what’s required to reach a valid conclusion. I’ll be honest with you: I expect to see these fallacies showing up repeatedly, and I’m hoping this will make it less work to respond to them each time.

Second, if this chart is correct, it shows that there are only two possible ways to make a successful charge against God’s morality. One is to show that there is an internal contradiction in the Bible, where God’s actions at some point contradict his revealed character, and the contradiction is unresolvable. The other is to show that there is some robust, objective, extra-biblical ethical standard that God violates at some point in the Bible. The second one is unlikely, however, as it holds God accountable to standards imported from outside a biblical worldview.

Let’s take a closer look at all that. (Click the image for a larger view.)

CopanStudyLogicAnalysisB

The chart begins at the top with an alleged moral fault in God as depicted in an account in the Bible, alongside God’s character as also revealed in the Bible. The first two stages are for making sure the fault is being described accurately. I made a separate step for anachronistic views because they arise so often.

This sets the stage for the first two named fallacies: Anachronism and Factual Inaccuracy.

Note that there’s no point in trying to draw conclusions until the facts are settled and everyone is talking about  the same view of God. The chart depicts a loop at both of those points, and there’s no legitimate way to exit that cycle until the facts have been straightened out.

Assuming all that’s in order, there are three possible outcomes (four, if you count “What’s the problem?”), and it’s important to understand what paths can reach them. On the lower left is the outcome then accuser is looking for: “The charge succeeds: there is an unresolvable logical contradiction/and or ethical problem in the account.”

Making the Charge Stick: Route 1

There are only two ways to get there, and one of them is unlikely from the get-go. The first is by finding a contradiction between God’s revealed character in the Bible, and his actions recorded there. Moving down the left side of the chart we come to a juncture for ensuring we’re dealing with a correct conception of God’s revealed character, where for these purposes “correct” means in accordance with historic, creedal Christian doctrinal interpretations. (Skeptics may find some joy in disproving other conceptions of God; I’ll be happy to disprove the same thing right along with them.)

That leads to the next in our vocabulary of fallacies, the Wrong God Fallacy, previously encountered here.

Following that on the left side comes a juncture for a straightforward logical analysis of proposed contradictions. This could involve either valid logic or any number of fallacies, so I won’t pre-define any special vocabulary for use here. If the alleged contradiction sticks, then the charge succeeds, and God is found to be a contradictory concept.

Making the Charge Stick: Route 2

The second route to making the charge stick is on the right side of the chart, and it’s the unlikely one. It won’t do to find some contradiction between God’s actions and some standard derived from a non-theistic source. If we’re to take the word “God” at all seriously, we have to conceive of him as conforming (by logical necessity) to his own character, not to 21st century Western liberal standards.

The next named fallacy for this study, then, is Irrelevant Imported Standards.

Still I’m willing to leave room for the accuser to press the possibility of some genuinely valid external standard, against which God is found guilty. It’s not unusual to see people attempting this ploy. “If there were a God, he would never allow capital punishment.” Why? “Because in today’s society we know it’s inhumane and unethical.”

That argument succeeds in showing that the God of the Bible is not one who abides by contemporary human standards. Christians already agree with that! (It’s actually another version of the Wrong God Fallacy.) Still, if by some unlikely chance that kind of objection were to be found to be valid and robustly so, then that, too could lead to a successful charge against God.

There is no other route to reach a successful moral charge against God. If any successful resolution is found to the charge on either of these paths, then the charge fails. “Successful,” for purposes of this chart, is not defined by whether any person involved is satisfied with the resolution being offered, but whether a reasonable person considering the matter objectively could be and probably should be satisfied with the resolution. It means roughly the same meaning that “sound” has in the context of deductive arguments.

Satisfactory Resolution?

That leaves open the real possibility that the parties involved will disagree over whether a resolution is successful. If all agree, then the charge is satisfactorily resolved. If the accuser is unsatisfied, whether for logical reasons or because, “It still just seems wrong or feels wrong to me!”—even though the resolution is successful, as defined here—then the resolution succeeds regardless. Sometimes discussions come out that way. Though I didn’t put it on the chart, it’s also logically possible for theists to be unsatisfied with an outcome where the charge sticks.

Summary

So in summary, we need to be cautious to describe the alleged fault accurately and non-anachronistically. We need to make sure it’s not based on irrelevant external standards or a wrong conception of who God is. We should strive to reach an agreement that satisfies all, but recognize that a sound or successful argument isn’t always going to be satisfactory to everyone.

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537 Responses to “ To Make the Charge Stick (Reading Paul Copan Together) ”

  1. Oh dear – I’ve not got the book (why didn’t I buy it when it was cheap?) and already you are on to chapter 2.

  2. Tom,

    I love your logical flow chart. More about it later.

    Meanwhile, I want to point out one typo. In the right hand column under “Extra-biblical values” in the second box, about the middle of the page, it reads “Is there thought be be… The sentence doesn’t quite make sense, possibly because of the repeated “be be” but it also may need some rewording to get your meaning across.

    Thanks. JB

  3. Being a physicist/software designer, I liked the flow chart presentation.
    I see Jenna already mentioned the typo – I interpolated it as “thought to be”, but Jenna is right – the sentence is a bit convoluted.

    Looking forward to participating in this series, Tom.

  4. It occurs to me that there might be an additional test to put into the algorithm, explicitly (even though it may be implied by an existing test).

    Way back when Fleegman was still commenting, I remember we were having a discussion about polygamy, and I pointed out that it got a start with Lamech, one of Cain’s descendants, and being one of Cain’s, illustrates the effects of the Fall on human nature. It occured to me afterwards that there are actually two intertwined threads in that account – humans fashioned in God’s image, yet with a nature that has been damaged and distorted by sin. That narrative in Genesis 4 actually illustrates both: we see the image of God in the creativity, adaptability and scientific/technological innovations that some of Cain’s descendants introduced, along with the effects of the Fall – Cain’s murder of his brother, Lamech’s killing of a young man, his arrogance and of course, the first recorded polygamous marriage.

    Those intertwined threads continue through the entire tapestry of the Bible; almost every person we encounter in Scripture (with the exception of Jesus of Nazereth and Enoch, Melchizedek, Ruth and Boaz) exhibits characteristics of both, and the Bible does not hesitate to point that out.

    This brings me to my point 🙂 In a particular narrative involving human beings and their actions, we have to be careful to recognize those two threads – to recognize that it is people behaving badly, not God.
    Thus we have Samson, Jephthah, David and Solomon, even Elijha and Elisha, to name but a few. David recognized his problem in Psalm 51, when he asked God to give him a clean heart, and Jeremiah zeros in on that very same problem.

    Just a thought for your flowchart. I’m sure that we’ll have occasion to use this idea as the series progresses anyway – having an explicit check in the algorithm might be helpful.

  5. It seems that your flowchart & discussion define away the major objection instead of dealing with it. Specifically, the “Irrelevant Imported Standards” fallacy you refer to is exactly the point of many atheists… not that the God of the Bible isn’t internally consistent in some way (although some argue that as well) but that God doesn’t pass muster against human moral standards. I don’t understand why we should be required to only judge God’s actions by the standards God puts forward. If the concensus of most humans is that some action is morally objectionaly and God does just that thing… then can’t we still conclude God is immoral? (Note: I’ll maybe still agree that God’s behavior isn’t contradictory to his own law.)

    This argument can work if you go with moral relativism (which you seem to accept by saying “western liberal standards”) or if you believe in an objective morality (which some atheists do accept, they just don’t think that it stems from a god), although I suspect the form of the argument is different in those two cases (since a definition of objective morality would have to be agreed upon, which is probably a major sticking point).

    Waving away these objections by simply declaring them irrelevant cuts off the discussion…. and dismissing someone’s argument seems like a hollow victory.

  6. Internal consistency:

    It isn’t the deal maker / breaker for Atheism nor Theism. All that can be said is that if that is NOT present then no deal.

    Non-arbitrary Ought is such a deal breaker inside of physicalism / naturalism as final causes are non-existent.

    But if PRESENT then that is merely a pass into some other arena of contention for both theism and naturalism.

    Appearance isn’t everything.

    Man outside of God has very limited options – like Law. Futility IS the end of ALL vectors in the OT. That’s what the OT says of itself. That’s what God says of Law and Law’s Ceiling/Floor. That landscape is the Outside in final metaphysical terms.

    Definitions thus radically change now.

    “You mean God dislikes A and B and C there in the OT?”

    Well, of course. He is Love after all. He is seeking Man’s final Good (love’s filiation) after all. …..Christ actualizes…..

    Such meta-narrative contours eliminate 99% of the skeptics straw-men. Which is why skeptics avoid the work needed to employ such. The 1% left now comes to that point of modernity’s current Normative semantics of Culture X or Culture Y. As all lines begin and end in the lap of the afore-mentioned meta-narrative the discussions at that 1% location begin to appear more desperate on the skeptic’s end. Intact, but grasping. And “intact but grasping” begins to fail to pass muster…. to fail the sniff test – even among Culture Y’s attendees. The skeptic must take care to trace all lines to their final definitions – and the Christian must steward the work to see that that happens. The OT ain’t in Kansas anymore Toto. According to God. Immutable Love’s ceaseless reciprocity (in Trinity’s topography) begins and ends every sentence in Scripture. Because God.

  7. I hope you’ll recognize, ebaur, that I really didn’t cut that off as you say I did. I included a box for, “Does the person still think (in spite of that) a logically valid conflict with relevant, extra-biblical, ethical values can be identified?”

    It looks like that’s what you think. The next stage in the flow is, “Does the apparent conflict with extra-biblical values or personal feelings have robust, objective merit?”

    That’s what needs answering at this point. I think you’ve asked a great question. I started to answer it here and then realized it deserves a blog post of its own. I probably won’t get it posted for a few hours. There’s a lot to think about in your question.

  8. “Not quite there yet, actually. This was an interlude on the way there.”

    Good stuff. I’ve not had time in the past wee to get beyond the headings.

  9. The more I think about your question, ebaur, the more important I think it is. It gets exactly to the heart of two completely different ways of understanding reality. It’s a very broad issue, which means it’s hard to know just where to begin. I’m starting work on my blog post answering your question, but now I don’t know if I’ll finish it in the next day or two, or not. It might appear on another forum, BreakPoint, next week instead. (I owe them an article and this might be it.)

    The answer centers around what it means, on a Christian view of reality, that God is God and we are not. This is something that we have either not explained well enough or that most Westerners, especially skeptics and atheists, have not understood enough.

    I’m going to strongly encourage other commenters here to take your question seriously. We have work to do, to communicate this clearly.

  10. I agree that this needs some exploration. I think it’s a valuable discussion, but ebaur’s question needs a more work to have real weight. What “human moral standards” are acceptable to judge God by? You don’t have to look too far in history to find times and places where “the consensus of most humans” allowed all kinds of practices that we consider reprehensible today. If we (whichever “we” you happen to choose) today were to say that our current standard is the right one and all other cultures are wrong, we have to prove that. Otherwise we are simply being arrogant, the very thing some accuse God of. If we acknowledge that the “concensus of most humans” is a moving target, then haven’t we just admitted that we don’t really have a standard by which to assess God’s actions other than teh one He gave?

  11. Tom and ebaur,

    I am finding the discussion to be very interesting and thought provoking. In addressing ebaur’s objections to the flow chart, I think that it is crucial to examine the question of what it means for God to act, since only actions can be judged as moral or immoral. The Bible contains the accounts of the ancient Hebrews about how God acted in their lives and how they responded to God’s actions through the way they lived their lives and shaped their society. Paul Copan points out was to shape their society as a theocracy. (See pages 57-59 and p. 73-75.)

    Perhaps these are two separate concepts that are important to view and evaluate separately: God’s actions versus God’s agency in the moral actions of human beings. When as ebaur suggests, God doesn’t meet humans’ moral standards, is this a judgment by human beings based clearly and solely on God’s actions or is it based on what we think humans should do or refrain from doing in response to God’s agency in our moral lives. The latter is clearly a judgement about human failings, not God’s “failings.”

    In #7, ebuar says this: “I don’t understand why we should be required to only judge God’s actions by the standards God puts forward. If the concensus of most humans is that some action is morally objectionaly and God does just that thing… then can’t we still conclude God is immoral?

    IMO, Copan gives us a very well-articulated summary of what Christians believe God’s actions to be toward and with humankind. See his section titled “The Humble, Self-Giving God” on p. 31-33. God is not just like us and therefore subject to having His actions judged just like ours. Our relationship with God is not a peer relationship. When we attempt to judge God’s actions, we cannot do so with a full and complete understanding of God’s purpose and intent. As Victoria points out, we return to the essential question: Is a God who acts as He does worthy or not worthy of worship?

  12. Well, to introduce a provocation, the answer to the question “What “human moral standards” are acceptable to judge God by?” the answer is, quite obviously, none. For the simple reason that God is not a moral agent, but rather the pre-condition for there to be *any* morality at all. Now ,of course, as any other Christian, I do want to say that it is not only meaningful, but objectively true, that God is Good, Just, Loving, etc. What I would also say, is that when we say that God is Good, Just, Loving, etc. we are not saying the same thing as when we say that for example, Tom Gilson, is good, just, loving, etc.

    This is the main reason why these type of discussions tends to leave me somewhat cold — although I understand their necessity — as its presuppositions are all wrong. God is not *a* being along others, another moral agent in a community of moral agents, but rather (and to repeat myself), the very ground that makes a moral community possible in the first place. And lest there is some misunderstanding (and I can already hear the howls of outrage of the faux skeptics), it is not that I think that this attributes too much to God and that God is somehow “lacking”, as if He is not the sort of being that could be good, just, loving, etc. but rather that it attributes *too little*, as witnessed by the uncapitalization.

  13. Jenna Black –

    When we attempt to judge God’s actions, we cannot do so with a full and complete understanding of God’s purpose and intent.

    How is a child to judge whether their parents are abusing them or not?

  14. How is the question relevant, and do you see the ways in which it isn’t?

    (You’ve been commenting here long enough that we can expect you to do some of your own work.)

  15. David #12 –

    I agree that there is an elephant in the room about what morals are we talking about. I didn’t state it outright, but that’s kind of what I was getting at. Before we can determine is God is a “moral monster” we have to decide what actions are morally reprehensible. The discussion can’t fully start until we agree on the base definitions.

    However, I think you overstate the problem by claiming that we have to prove that the “current standard is the right one” since we don’t have to be sure that we have exactly the right answer… only that our answer is better than the previous one. For example, in discussions of slavery on this site recently there was implicit use of this by discussing how the slavery in the bible is better than the type of slavery that existed in America. However, I would argue that not owning people at all (despite how they are treated) is a better moral standard than allowing ownership with good treatment. I’m not claiming that even my standard is perfect… only that it’s better.

    Using the “consensus” standard is not perfect, certainly… but I think it’s a more honest treatment of the claim to use that over biblical laws. There are atheists that argue that there is an objective moral standard, not dependent on specific human consensus… but then we have to agree (consensus!) to use that. You can’t escape using a consensus at some point.

  16. ebaur,

    Moral Excellence within Mankind is non-entity in and by Law or any other line outside of the New Creation. Better – not Perfect – is all that CAN exist outside of that New Creation.

    If you fail to agree with God on that arena of definitions and assert that the Morally Excellent exists in this world outside of the New Creation then good luck demonstrating that. Otherwise you’re just agreeing with Scripture’s broader definitions in its wider meta-narrative and trying to claim you’ve stumbled upon a moral discovery. But God beat us all to that particular punch. God doesn’t do magic. Israel gave life long physical safety to any inhabitants of Israel (loosing so much as a tooth…..).

  17. We can escape consensus.

    That escaping of consensus is why and how slavery ended.

    Think about that before wedding mankind to consensus.

    The Christian needs to put forth those seamless contours of immutable love there in God and continue forward. The critic is free to disagree – like he did with slavery…..and loosing so much as a tooth. There comes a point of the skeptic’s appearing to grasp…. and where “immutable love” out-reaches his available ends and means the sniff test will be on the Theist’s side even without consensus.

  18. scblhrm – I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at.

    You *seem* to be saying that humans can’t be morally perfect (is this what you mean by “Moral Excellence”?), which I guess I agree with: humans are not morally perfect.

    However, this discussion isn’t about the morality of human actions, its about the morality of God’s actions (as judged by God or by humans… which is a big part of the question’s resolution).

    If you are defending the idea that God’s moral law is perfect and absolute, then it becomes the same claim as G. Rodrigues in #14: “God is not a moral agent, but rather the pre-condition for there to be *any* morality at all. ”

    While I understand and accept that this is where the Christian world view comes from, to investigate the claim that God is immoral require explicitly rejecting this… otherwise it’s not a meaningful question.

  19. I think the idea of using a “consensus” standard is going to be hugely problematic. This is because the attempt by secularists to create moral standard outside of the existence of a moral law giver has been an abject failure. There just isn’t a credible “consensus” standard to be had. As Tom mentioned just recently“…so that in the end, the answer to your questions about whether there is any good moral reason for any moral choices, given philosophical naturalism, is no.”

    I’d suggest a issue by issue approach. If you find a circumstance where you think God hasn’t lived up to whatever standard you propose, then explain why. At least that keeps things moving.

  20. I agree with BillT. As usual.

    The critic can put up his sniff test in each case by case… by case…. basis…. and the Christian can put up his sniff test. That sort of work of pulling down false descriptives made by skeptics is tedious work but the Christian has to do it if he wants to overturn the consensus of (slavery etc…).

  21. ebaur, RE: #17

    You say this: “Using the “consensus” standard is not perfect, certainly… but I think it’s a more honest treatment of the claim to use that over biblical laws.”

    It appears to me, based on this statement, that you are equating God’s actions with biblical laws. IMO, this places you on very shaky ground. You must assume to proceed under this premise that biblical laws (the Law of Moses) are a perfect and faultless rendition of God’s will and ergo, that the ancient Hebrews interpreted God’s will for them and for humanity flawlessly and perfectly. I suggest to you that Jesus Christ gave us a different paradigm for examining the Law: its purpose.

    Matthew 5:17 New Living Translation

    Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

    Have you read my post about biblical slavery, comparing the purpose of the laws for servitude from Leviticus with the laws of the Colony of Virginia in terms of their purpose and intent? Here I quote myself:

    I point out that, unlike the laws of the Book of Leviticus, the slave laws of Virginia had both a very different intent and a different effect on those “foreigner” slaves. The laws of Virginia were intended to (and accomplished) making black Africans who were kidnapped and brought to the colonies for the sole purpose of enslaving them, have a permanent and unending status as slaves, themselves and all of their descendents, by virtue of their race alone, not just because they were “foreign” or “not our own people.” The slave laws of Virginia were for the purpose of removing any criminal penalties for all sorts of torture and killing of slaves at their owners’ will. They were also intended to punish anyone who aided escaped slaves or did not return them to their masters. Anyone who claims that these outcomes were the purpose and intention of the laws of OT has either not understood the OT or is deliberately misrepresenting the intent and purpose of the laws of servitude of the ancient Hebrews, including the legal and moral purpose of the Jubilee year: liberty. Please reread Leviticus 8:10 “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

    I’m sure we’ll have much more to say about slavery in the Bible when we get to that chapter, but meanwhile, what is your stance on whether or not biblical laws are God’s moral actions and do you claim that the ancient Hebrews interpreted God’s will perfectly and without fault?

  22. ebaur, you say,

    While I understand and accept that this is where the Christian world view comes from, to investigate the claim that God is immoral require explicitly rejecting this… otherwise it’s not a meaningful question.

    Actually, to investigate that does not require rejecting that. It requires holding it open to question. Big difference there.

    Note well, though, that what this really holds open to question is whether the Christian God exists at all. If the God of Christianity exists, then he is the immutably perfect moral law-giver.

  23. Ray, RE: #15

    I’m with Tom here. What is the purpose of your question, which seems to me to be off track. Are you engaging in anthropomorphism and attempting to explore the metaphor of God as Father? Please explain and elaborate to continue the conversation. JB

  24. ebaur ~

    JB’s point is fundamental:

    Moses as God’s perfect will for all of humanity for all of eternity?

    What Bible is THAT in?

    And so on.

    We have to allow Scripture – rather than misinformation – to define Scripture as we proceed.

  25. Wow, about three different angles to respond to. I’ll start with the easiest: an admission of error.

    Re: Tom @ 24 – I agree completely. I overstated that one, thank you for the correction.

    Additionally, I see what you mean about being able to prove the existence of the God of the Bible would render this question somewhat moot… but I don’t think you *need* to answer that for this discussion (otherwise lots of challenges boil down to that question). I think going down that path distracts too much from what the original post was about.

  26. Jenna Black –
    #23 “It appears to me, based on this statement, that you are equating God’s actions with biblical laws.”

    No, not really. You may be reading too much into what I said or I was just overly lazy about my wording. Sorry about that.

    You comment made me think of another question, however. If “God’s Law” is an absolute moral standard, then the problem becomes how do we know what “God’s Law” really is? And how do we know we have the right “God’s Law”? All of this comes down to human interpretation of translated/copied/transcribed words.

    If we can’t be sure we have the right law, then now this isn’t a question of consensus on the moral standard but rather a consensus on if we have the correct interpretation of the moral standard. I don’t think that helps your case and it doesn’t hurt mine… it just brings us full circle to where I started which is that we can’t just dismiss a disagreement on the grounds of “Irrelevant Imported Standards.” We have to figure out what the standards are.

  27. scblhrm @ 19 “That escaping of consensus is why and how slavery ended.”

    The consensus changed, so I think ‘escape’ is a loaded word. But regardless…

    Are you claiming that the Christians that owned slaves (and believed they were acting morally) we wrong in their interpretation of moral standards? Furthermore, do you think that your current interpretation is the correct one?

    If so, then how is that any different than me claiming (without a god to back me up) that the people then got it wrong and I have a better system?

    See… what I find most amusing about objections to moral relativism is that they miss that it really is just a historical observation. Even if there is an objective moral standard I would argue humans have had a really hard time figuring it out and I see no evidence that we have it right yet.

  28. BillT @21
    “I’d suggest a issue by issue approach. If you find a circumstance where you think God hasn’t lived up to whatever standard you propose, then explain why. At least that keeps things moving.”

    Absolutely! I think we’re going to get bogged down otherwise. That gives the theist a choice of either explaining why God’s actions were moral (by the claimed standard) or why the standard is inappropriate.

    “This is because the attempt by secularists to create moral standard outside of the existence of a moral law giver has been an abject failure.”

    I disagree. I think that humans have been very good at being moral to each other – by and large – and most don’t have to look up a set of laws in a book to do it. Now, you may not like the formal proposals that you’ve seen… but I think that the fact that even animals seem to have a sense of right and wrong hints that there is something in our brains that are hard wired to make moral judgements.

    For what it’s worth, the best candidate I’ve seen is the principle of “least harm” to decide if an action is moral. This is clear enough to make things like “don’t kill people” fairly obvious while being sufficiently vague to make things like “self defense is okay” still acceptable. Your mileage may vary… but calling it an abject seems melodramatic.

  29. ebaur,

    What do you mean by “the right law”? In monotheism, there is no other “law” than God’s Law. For humankind, there are only interpretations (or misinterpretations) of God’s Law. Keep in mind that the meaning of the name of the sacred writings of the Hebrews, the Torah, means the Law. The Torah is all about the Hebrews’ interpretations of God’s (the One and Only God of monotheism) Law, not a search for the “right law.” I can understand that a rejection of God’s existence (the God of monotheism) must entail a rejection of the concept of God’s Law, which is One just as God is One.

    So, I’m not sure how atheists can engage in an analysis of God’s moral character without accepting God’s existence, arguendo at least. A non-existent anything can take no action of any kind, much less action(s) that can be judged as moral or immoral.

  30. ebaur,

    Here is a relevant Bible passage: Jeremiah 31: 32-34

    32 “not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33″But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

    The Law is not just what is written in “a book.” It is what is written on our hearts and is within us.

  31. I think that humans have been very good at being moral to each other – by and large – and most don’t have to look up a set of laws in a book to do it. Now, you may not like the formal proposals that you’ve seen… but I think that the fact that even animals seem to have a sense of right and wrong hints that there is something in our brains that are hard wired to make moral judgements.

    First, “being moral to each other” isn’t what’s in question when we speak of a the lack of a moral standard outside of the existence of a moral law giver. What we are looking for is the reason why we should be moral to each other.

    Second, “that there is something in our brains that are hard wired to make moral judgements.” is an argument for the existence of a moral law giver not against it.

  32. ebaur,
    @29

    See #26 and #31/32.

    And yes – those ignoring consensus overtook it. So it isn’t necessary after all. Unless you want to concede no *ontological* progress *actually* occurred. Please don’t do the equivocation there between ontological / epistemology as BillT is alluding you’re inching towards.

    History?

    5K years of history is *enough* to observe the knowledge of good and evil in motion atop genomic stasis. Trinity and that Knowledge in play “back there” ~~ and so on in Genesis written who knows how long *after* such occurrences. Etc.

  33. Before we can determine is God is a “moral monster” we have to decide what actions are morally reprehensible.

    I disagree. Before we can determine that, we have to decide where morality comes from. Your statement has already begged the most important question.

    – If morality comes from consensus, then it is merely a human construct. Moral claims, against other people or God, are merely a statement that “we don’t like that”. To which a god (let alone “God”) is quite able to reply “So what? You have no power over me.”

    – If morality is a cosmic absolute, then it applies way beyond mere humanity. At which point you need to justify how it becomes embedded into the universe, especially if you posit it existing independently of God. And how do we have confidence in knowing something so vast, when we barely know ourselves?

    – If morality is embedded into a being, then it must be because that being has the authority to tell everyone how they should live. And whatever rules we have are by virtue of that being. Call him/her/it “God” (as opposed to “a god”, which implies a lack of omnipotence.

    Even Tom’s chart above contains a small but fundamental ontological flaw. The omnipotent God, as envisioned by the Hebrews and by Christians, is ontologically incapable of being a “moral monster”, because He is above all creation, and thus all moral rule. If he exists, we can’t judge Him. We can only judge whether the teachings we have about him are reliable.

    So let’s say we show those teachings to produce an incoherent and/or unlovable system. What then?

    – we could reject the teachings as false, but then we need to decide how we’re going to find out the truth. Or decide there is no truth, only here and now and the will to power, and morality is just make-believe, a social side effect of human physiology and psychology.

    – we accept God is (to our way of thinking) fickle, and deal with it. I might not like hurricanes or droughts or poisonous spiders or the effects of ageing, but it doesn’t follow from this that they are immoral or can’t exist. Rather, I learn to live with them as best I can.

    Stalin was a moral monster, and moral atrocities permeated his society. But we can comfort ourselves that he is answerable to God, who has promised that justice will be done. But if God is a “moral monster”, who is he answerable to?

    The important first question is not whether God is moral, but whether he is true. Given that, we can then ask “do these accounts portray truth, and if so what do they teach us about God’s morality (that is applied to us, not Him)?”.

  34. Andrew W,

    – If morality is a cosmic absolute, then it applies way beyond mere humanity. At which point you need to justify how it becomes embedded into the universe, especially if you posit it existing independently of God. And how do we have confidence in knowing something so vast, when we barely know ourselves?

    If naturalism is the case and there is no God, this is probably the closest, in my view. Morality would then be a system of innate social behaviors and emotions that human beings evolved as a necessary prerequisite to becoming so fluently social– a sort of Physics of intelligent agent interaction. A deep-rooted desire to be moral would have to anchored in the human DNA along with all the other desires of the human condition, else the whole system would fall apart.

    Deriving absolute moral propositions from such a system requires understanding all the variables involved in human society, multiple agents with values, goals and desires, cultural dynamics, environments, resources, evolutionary history of mind, future contingencies, etc., so, agreed, it is a difficult task. But, then, it is also my observation that religious systems, in practice, seem to have as much difficulty deriving absolute moral propositions as naturalists do. There are no easy answers here. Much easier most of the time to follow your heart, and that, under naturalism, would essentially be granting that evolution found a solution for one kind of highly successful, deeply social organism.

  35. DJC,

    Sam Harris AGAIN?

    Please.

    *Absolutely* changing – shifting. If you deny evolution its existence you’re just being silly. What you MEAN is absolute *for now*.

    That isn’t what Scripture means on the innate value of the other.

    Which is why I-Feel solves nothing if made god – which you must do. You have no choice/option. So nothing is granted. Philosophical naturalism? Show your work.

    Immutable Love in God – and absent in man – and the necessary pain all that brings (and so on) – isn’t *difficult* for Christianity to say. It has ALWAYS said so.

  36. scblhrm, please understand that I don’t ignore you out of ill will, it’s just that I never have any idea what you’re saying.

  37. Hey all,

    Quite a few people have made the same sort of comment in this thread, but I think Andrew sums it up perfectly.

    “Even Tom’s chart above contains a small but fundamental ontological flaw. The omnipotent God, as envisioned by the Hebrews and by Christians, is ontologically incapable of being a “moral monster”, because He is above all creation, and thus all moral rule. If he exists, we can’t judge Him. We can only judge whether the teachings we have about him are reliable.”

    Sincerely
    Shane

  38. DJC,

    Let’s go part by part then.

    #37 (mine) and in #36 (yours).

    Absolutely.

    That word.

    You used it.

    In #36.

    You implied it was difficult – but possible – to derive absolute moral propositions.

    I’m assuming you meant truth statements.

    But it’s so difficult that we should go instead on feelings.

    Okay so far DJC? It’s in #37 in reference to your #36.

    My response was “*Absolutely* changing – shifting. If you deny evolution its existence you’re just being silly. What you MEAN is absolute *for now*.”

    I know I’ll have to unpack that for you.

    But first:

    Once we know you’ve got this much we can proceed. But we need to be sure you’re following along this far.

    So, are you getting it so far?

  39. Shane,

    That is correct. Ontologically speaking the If/Then clause there would be (necessarily) correct. God and love and monster and all that. So the charge of monster-hood is often undertaken by skeptics as they feel it is evidence against the existence of *that* God. Their cases are flawed with misinformation and the flow chart is a *part of* showing that to be the case (the misinformation stuff). That God often agrees with them that X is ugly, less than the ideal, and so on is another problem in their “criticism”. Tom probably means to draw out other inconsistent lines in “that argument” of the skeptic *as well* ….not just the stuff of misinformation. Which is why ebaur and Tom agreed in #24/27 on “That Particular God Does In Fact Exist” isn’t the intended direction to go in the thread. It’s worth noting that Philosophical Naturalism can’t show any evidence on so many fronts that Theism is more logically plausible – else nihilism’s absurdity on every front…..eventually – but that isn’t the thread’s intended direction either.

  40. Andrew and Shane,

    Andrew says this, which Shane did not quote: “The important first question is not whether God is moral, but whether he is true. Given that, we can then ask “do these accounts portray truth, and if so what do they teach us about God’s morality (that is applied to us, not Him)?”

    Andrew, I agree with you and I don’t want to see what you said truncated into a misrepresentation of the fundamentals of this conversation. As I said above (Post #31) I question whether or not atheists can sincerely engage in a discussion/debate about God’s moral character without accepting, at least arguendo, that God is real (God exists). This is what I think you mean (correct me if I’m wrong) with your words “… whether he (God) is true.” I would be satisfied if our atheist interlocutors would at least acknowledge that the God with whom the ancient Hebrews had a relationship (the Covenant) with is whose character we are talking about when we discuss the God of Abrahamic monotheism.

    So, IMO what is vitally important is to recognize and acknowledge that we are talking about God as the ancient Hebrews understood God. Then we can begin to examine whether or not our understanding of God here and now in the 21st century coincides with the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of God, recognizing that their understanding of God is based on their experiences of/with God in their own time and in their own cultural, religious, historical, social and economic context.

    It is pointless to digress or divert our attention to naturalism (used here as a synonym for atheism) in examining the moral character of God. Naturalism and atheism offer no standard or criteria for making moral judgments about God’s actions, since naturalism posits that nature (all there is) is amoral, which is correct in that nature is incapable of formulating and acting on an intent. Moral judgments presuppose free will and a capacity for moral reasoning and moral agency. And of course, atheism is the proposition or philosophical opinion that there is no God (or gods or god), so God’s moral character is (or should be) a non-starter and non-topic for atheists.

    But not to worry. IMO, there is plenty to talk about regarding the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of God and to what degree they get/got “right”, especially as viewed through the lens of the life, teachings, death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What I think will be valuable, as you say, is to examine whether or not the biblical accounts portray truth about God and what God’s revelation of Himself teach us about morality.

  41. A (one) flaw in the monster argument:

    Misunderstanding the diagnosis of the human condition leads to requests for all the wrong treatments. “If we only had robust Knowledge and robust Law we’d actualize the ideal.”

    Knowledge and Order and justice and mercy are good things. God says so. None can deliver to man the ideal of immutable love. God said that too. And 5K years of history has agreed.

    Outside of the New Creation the Ideal is unobtainable.

    God got that right from the get-go. Knowledge and Law and Justice and Mercy….all GOOD – and all hopeless to bring that stuff of Perfection, those Ends that are God – those ends that are “Immutable Love”. “Better” will never be the “Ideal”.

    That’s important because the skeptic asks why the best wasn’t given – and we just told him that the best is immutable love. Now, if the skeptic agrees with that goal (perfect love) and then wants God to do magic with knowledge and laws to “make it actualize” then his argument is irrational.

  42. ebaur,

    To get a sense of your intended mileage (#30),

    Is it “better” for Israel to:

    Spend a few hundred years telling nation X which has our former slavery system and which burns kids alive to their gods to stop that slave stuff and change to Israel’s “…all men who so much as lose a tooth…” (and other radical differences but not in this post) and to stop burning kids alive. Then when they fail to drop those acts it is:

    Leave them alone. Evil demands no answer.

    or

    War of the sort that clearly left animals and women and children and even men all quite intact as it took yet future generations to war etc….

    There is no wrong answer…. it’s just a Mileage question to get a sense of your take on The Good – meaning Good of the sort that is less than the Ideal of Perfect Love which only the New Creation can ultimately birth in Mankind.

  43. @ebaur:

    If you are defending the idea that God’s moral law is perfect and absolute, then it becomes the same claim as G. Rodrigues in #14: “God is not a moral agent, but rather the pre-condition for there to be *any* morality at all.”

    No it is not the same thing, as evidenced by the fact that even Christians that disagree with my broadly Thomistic outline, will *agree* with me that God’s moral law is perfect (and maybe absolute, but I am afraid I do not know what you mean by that). It could not be anything less than perfect. My contention is simply that the whole problem rests on a category mistake. If God is not a moral agent, there is no sense in judging His actions as morally good or not; it is like saying that the number 2 is green. God *is* good, in fact He is The Good, but the Good here is not *moral* goodness, or standing up to the moral law. But there is no law above and beyond God, a standard by which He is judged. Because His actions — creation, say — are not like our actions, necessarily finite and embedded in a reality not of our own making. What law is there to bind or constrain creation ex nihilo?

    You do not quite grasp the vast gulf between us and God. God is not *a* being; something like us, except shorn of our limitations. Rather He is ipsum esse subsistens, Being Itself, the ground of all being, and creation is not a mere event located in the distant past, but the sustaining of being in being, of all being, in the here and now and at all moments. If per impossible God were to disappear, then everything, from the tiniest patch of spacetime to a ginormous black hole, would vanish and disappear into Nothingness. It is against this backdrop that one must understand the Moral Law and how God relates to it.

  44. Stuck in moderation? Or did I screw something up by posting with HTML or a really long post?

    I cut it up, I guess… sorry if there is duplication…

  45. The question of where morality comes from is a huge one, on it’s own or as part of this discussion. It seems you all agree with me that this needs to be determined before we decide if God is moral. Good.

    However, I don’t think we need to definitively answer it. I think it’s enough to say “God’s actions are moral according to standard A and not by standard B”. Maybe that’s not a satisfying conclusion, but it would allow the conversation to proceed on the original post w/out bogging down on a question that has been debated for centuries with no conclusion.

  46. 1) You all seem to believe there is an objective moral standard.

    Andrew went into some depth on the various choices here, but I’ll actually go up the chain a bit and quote BillT instead:

    Second, “that there is something in our brains that are hard wired to make moral judgements.” is an argument for the existence of a moral law giver not against it.

    Nope. I don’t know how to explain this to you if you don’t get it, but I would argue that the existence of moral behavior is an emergent property of our brains via evolutionary selection, not “given” to us in any way.

    What we are looking for is the reason why we should be moral to each other.

    Why is that important? I would argue that moral behavior – by definition – is the behavior we should have towards each other (read “should” as the best way we can act). Why do you have to abstract that into another layer? I don’t see that any clarity is gained by it.

    To restate: We can observe “moral” behavior (or knowledge of morals) in animals: defense of the weak, sharing, shame, etc. So, your question could be “why do animals act this way if nothing external is making them do so?” Whatever that answer is, apply it to humans.

    2) Many of you are missing the point that morality – as practiced in the real world – is relative.

    Even if there is an absolute/objective moral standard, we don’t know what it is. scblhrm ignored my questions about slavery and instead focused on the minutia of my first sentence. I’ll restate: If Christian slave owners believed themselves to be moral and you now believe that they were not… then you can’t claim that your book gives a meaningful objective standard. Or, more to the point, you can’t demonstrate that you have the right answer now – only that your answer is better than theirs. Which is exactly the claim I started with.

    Maybe there is an objective standard, but our understanding of it appears to be relative.

  47. Tom Gilson –

    How is the question relevant, and do you see the ways in which it isn’t?

    It’s relevant because children are in exactly that situation with respect to their parents – to use Jenna Black’s words, “When [children] attempt to judge [their parent]’s actions, [they] cannot do so with a full and complete understanding of [their parent]’s purpose and intent.”

    One key difference is that kids are eventually supposed to grow up and develop their own experience and judgment. Humans are never supposed to grow up with respect to God. Indeed, humans seem to me much more analogous to pets than children with respect to God.

  48. G. Rodrigues –

    If God is not a moral agent, there is no sense in judging His actions as morally good or not

    Well, we could judge God like other non-moral-agents – would God be good for ourselves and our loved ones? Plants aren’t moral agents, but some are good for us and some bad. Earthquakes aren’t moral agents, but are generally bad for us.

  49. Jenna Black:

    I’m not sure how atheists can engage in an analysis of God’s moral character without accepting God’s existence

    Yeah, we can. Just like we can debate the legality of Columbo’s methodologies in catching criminals and the morality of characters in Star Trek. I’m judging the *character* of God in the *books* of the Bible. Then we ask the question, “If God were a normal person, would these actions be moral?” If not, then it calls into question the “perfectness” of God. As mentioned above, Christians seem to reject this on the face of it… which is fine for you, but not me.

    So, I guess the meta-question is, why are you responding to these challenges? Are you looking to answer it for yourself? for a doubting believer? for an atheist? You should think about that deeply first because it should affect your axioms.

    If you are going to fall to contentious evidence to respond to the argument you can’t expect me to accept that, even if it’s a satisfactory answer to you. If you don’t care if I accept your answer that’s fine, you are welcome to ignore my objections. Let’s just be open and honest about that.

    From G Rodrigues:

    You do not quite grasp the vast gulf between us and God.

    Don’t mistake my rejection of your belief as a misunderstanding of it.
    For example:

    But there is no law above and beyond God

    This is the crux of it. The atheist argues that fallible human are more moral than God (as evidenced by descriptions in the bible). So, if you define him as an absolute moral authority then we say God must not exist (at least not in the form you claim). Saying I’m not allowed to judge God (by fiat) is just avoiding the argument, not dealing with it.

    So, again… who are you trying to convince? To me, defining morality as stemming from God and then saying God is moral is simply a circular argument.

  50. @ebaur

    It’s ignored (that specific line) because it’s addressed in other threads here in the slavery series. The text speaks for itself – Billybob’s rendering of it being different than Bubba Joe’s rendering isn’t a *proof* of no truth therein as you *irrationally* conclude / imply.

    Nice try.

    Rather different reads is a call to examine the text with historicity and reason and render a conclusion on Bubba or Billy (or neither) utterly independent of our current Normative semantic. If you think the Southern Plantation thing is in there then show your work.

    That’s the point of course – you can’t.

    That we interpret and act AGAINST our OWN norms/semantics to follow Scripture is why slavery ended.

    But you ignore that.

    Why?

    Your fallacy is an old false identity claim: Disagreement on Truth [equates to] No Truth.

    Huh?

    And #43 & #44?

  51. Last comment for now!

    Andrew W:

    Moral claims, against other people or God, are merely a statement that “we don’t like that”.

    I think that’s a good way of thinking of it. That seems to be what humans have been doing for millennia and it’s working so far.

    If morality is embedded into a being, then it must be because that being has the authority to tell everyone how they should live.

    I don’t accept this. Morality is an emergent property of our nature and nurture. We evolved as social creatures and a working society requires some amount of rules… other mammals don’t have legal systems but they do have brain chemistry for empathy and fairness. Most humans have those innate feelings (excepting psychopaths, for example). Society takes all the various opinions and merges them together for a legal system which itself does not define morality but a reflection of the societal consensus. Each individual has a slightly different view.

    Even if there is an objective standard out there, we don’t seem to know what it is. Like the slavery question I posed: Christians disagree on moral questions, so the standard doesn’t seem very effective.

    You can claim this is an interpretation problem, not a problem with the standard itself, but I would counter that we can’t functionally tell the difference between those claims.

  52. ebaur’s fallacy is an old false identity claim: Disagreement on Truth [equates to] No Truth.

    Huh??

    Imagine if that sort of *thinking* were applied elsewhere……

  53. scblhrm – I’m not ignoring it, we just disagree, I guess.

    As in my last comment, I don’t see a functional difference between these two statements:

    1) Those two people have different moral standards.
    2) Those two people have different morals because they interpret the standard differently.

    You are declaring by fiat that your scripture is the standard. But people – by and large – acted morally before your scripture was written. People who have never seen your scripture act morally, by and large. And people who claim to follow scripture absolutely sometimes don’t act morally (at least according to outside observers).

    So, how can an outside observer (someone who isn’t sure if there is an objective standard) tell the difference between the two statements?

  54. …but I would argue that the existence of moral behavior is an emergent property of our brains via evolutionary selection, not “given” to us in any way.

    Do you have any proof of that? If it’s a scientific question, as you propose, then shouldn’t you be able to back that up scientifically.

    Of course, the major problem with morality as a feature of evolution is to what reproductive advantage is it? The entire rest of the animal kingdom evolved quite nicely without it so we know, scientifically and quite conclusively, that it’s not a necessary feature of evolution. So how is it that it evolved in us when we know it’s not necessity for evolution nor is there any evidence that it provides any evolutionary advantage.

    All of that, not to mention, that if morality is evolutionary it’s not morality. If all morality is, is some evolutionary hard wiring then why should I or anyone else care about it. And if it doesn’t bind me or anyone else to it’s prescriptions, then it certainly fails to meet the definition of morality.

  55. scblhrm – two can play at that game…

    Disagreement on Truth [equates to] No Truth.

    Agreement on Truth does not equal Truth.

    Again, I *observe* relative morality throughout history. Even if there is a “Truth” we apparently don’t know what it is. So, trying to do our best without absolute Truth looks the same as trying to do our best understanding absolute Truth.

    BillT –

    The entire rest of the animal kingdom evolved quite nicely without it so we know, scientifically and quite conclusively, that it’s not a necessary feature of evolution.

    Wow, you totally missed what I said. We *do* observe what seems to be moral behavior in other animals. (We can’t tell motivation, of course, but the results are functionally identical.)
    Also, there is no such thing as a “necessary feature of evolution”. I have no idea what that is even supposed to mean.

    You know, I almost didn’t mention that bit about an morality being an emergent property simply because I can’t prove it. That’s my current suspicious/belief based on what I’ve read, but it’s by no means conclusive. I also don’t find arguments for an absolute morality give by a god to be convincing either. So where does that leave us?

  56. @Ray Ingles:

    Well, we could judge God like other non-moral-agents – would God be good for ourselves and our loved ones? Plants aren’t moral agents, but some are good for us and some bad.

    This is meaningless nonsense.

    @ebaur:

    Don’t mistake my rejection of your belief as a misunderstanding of it.

    I am not mistaking anything, it is exactly as I have said.

    This is the crux of it. The atheist argues that fallible human are more moral than God (as evidenced by descriptions in the bible). So, if you define him as an absolute moral authority then we say God must not exist (at least not in the form you claim). Saying I’m not allowed to judge God (by fiat) is just avoiding the argument, not dealing with it.

    Have you read anything I have said? I have said that there is no coherent sense to be made of saying that God is a moral agent (and before someone misunderstands me, yes, God is Just, Loving, etc. no Christian can deny that on pain of denying Christianity) and then you start off your display of understanding by “The atheist argues that fallible human are more moral than God”. Right.

  57. The only way to make the charge stick is if God is not actually God.

    If Goodness itself can actually be at the same time and the same way, not-Goodness, then I suppose we can do away with that pesky law of identity. Imagine the possibilities that this new way of thinking will soon open up: circles can be non-circular, 5 = 32, and humans can be non-human.

  58. ebaur says, “Nope. I don’t know how to explain this to you if you don’t get it…”

    Translation: you’re probably too stupid to understand, but the answer is contained in four simple letters: N-O-P-E.

    Sure, he goes on to add this: “I would argue that the existence of moral behavior is an emergent property of our brains via evolutionary selection, not ‘given’ to us in any way.”

    The problem there is that he’s wrong.

    ebaur, if you succeeded in showing that evolutionary explanation was possible, you would still not have shown that BillT was wrong that hard-wired morality argues for the existence of a moral law giver. You would only have shown there were two possible explanations, not one, for hard-wired morality.

    If on the other hand you try to show that morality actually did emerge through evolutionary selection, you’ll either have to (a) prove that God does not exist or was not involved, so there is no other viable answer except for evolutionary selection, which is a premise you can’t insert into the discussion at this point without begging the question; or (b) demonstrate the actual evolution of that which left no actual physical evidence in the record anywhere. Good luck with that.

    Meanwhile you continue to show that we are too stupid to understand things by asking why it’s important to know the reason we should be moral to one another. Pardon our idiocy.

    Maybe there is an objective standard, but our understanding of it appears to be relative.

    Nope. And here’s my reasoning, to extend that pithy answer beyond a simple four letters. Christians know that there is an objective moral standard. We practice it. We believe in it. We consider it to be quite clear in many if not most of its instructions. You provided slavery as a counter-example. Suppose you’re right about that (we’ll argue that another day). It doesn’t change the objectivity of the other objective standards in God’s objectively written word to us, for example, “Do not murder.”

  59. ebaur, RE: # 52

    You seem to be a bit “testy” about my proposal that atheists need to at least accept God’s existence provisionally (arguendo) for the sake of a discussion or debate about God’s moral character. By agreement and mutual consent, we are discussing God as God is depicted and represented by the ancient Hebrews in the Torah and Tanakh (Old Testament) and by Jesus Christ and his followers in the New Testament, which together comprise what the sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity have to say about God’s character. I, of course, as a believer in God and a Christian have my own knowledge of and understanding of God’s moral character from my own experiences of/with God and my study of other people’s testimony about their experiences of/with God (including the Bible). But that’s not the topic of discussion here, although my experiences of/with God constitute the lens through which I view the biblical accounts of the Hebrews’ relationship with and response to God.

    I ask for an arguendo position that God exists solely for the sake of this discussion and temporarily because without this, it seems to me to be impossible to sort out God’s moral actions from the Hebrews’ understanding of God’s moral actions in their relationship with Him. Unless we do this, we run the risk of judging God based on what people say about God rather than on who/what God is. This is what I attempted to explain to you earlier. God’s morality can and should only be judged based on God’s actions, not what people did or did not do in response to God’s actions. If atheists argue about God’s moral character and call God a moral monster based on the actions or inactions of people who believe in God, on what basis do they claim that God Himself is a moral monster? By any standard or moral criteria?

    You state that the hypothetical on which you base your analysis of God and judgement of/about God is the premise, quoting your exact words: “If God were a normal person, would be actions be normal?” This means that you have chosen to completely and totally anthropomorphize God in this discussion. This won’t get us/you anywhere. If you cannot accept, even provisionally, God as God, that which/who monotheism deifies and that the authors of the Bible deified, not just a “normal person” then where do you expect this conversation to go? Let’s just be open and honest about that.

    Let me give you an example: According to the Book of Exodus, God sent the Angel of Death to the Egyptians to slay their first-born in order to move Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from slavery. In your opinion, was this action of God’s moral or immoral, given that a “normal person” is incapable of sending the Angel of Death? Opinions differ on the matter. This sort of question, IMO, is what Paul Copan’s book is all about.

  60. Again,

    I don’t accept this. Morality is an emergent
    property of our nature and nurture. We evolved as
    social creatures and a working society requires
    some amount of rules.

    Other than your own non-acceptance, what is your proof that this is right?

  61. Even if there is a “Truth” we apparently don’t know what it is. So, trying to do our best without absolute Truth looks the same as trying to do our best understanding absolute Truth.

    Huh? Your statement is a contradiction. One cannot seek a end/goal that does not exist. If there is no such thing as “our best”, we cannot do our best.

  62. We know that there is no obligation for humans to conform to their evolutionary ways. Some humans have evolved into sociopaths. The fact that we know this condition needs to be fixed tells us that our obligations are not to evolution,

  63. ebaur, you say,

    Again, I *observe* relative morality throughout
    history. Even if there is a “Truth” we apparently
    don’t know what it is. So, trying to do our best
    without absolute Truth looks the same as trying to
    do our best understanding absolute Truth.

    Non sequitur.

    We all observe relative morality. Fine. If all morality is relative, then morality is all relative. If there is even just one instance of absolute morality, however, then there is absolute morality.

    Have you observed that every moral duty, value, and obligation throughout history is relative?

    (I thought not.)

    Similarly with truth. There is confusion on some truth, no doubt. That does not entail that there is no Truth. If there is some Truth, then there is some Truth, even if not all Truth is clearly understood or recognized.

  64. G. Rodrigues, quoting you and Ray:

    @Ray Ingles:

    Well, we could judge God like other
    non-moral-agents – would God be good for
    ourselves and our loved ones? Plants aren’t
    moral agents, but some are good for us and some
    bad.

    This is meaningless nonsense.

    You’re too kind.

  65. Translation: you’re probably too stupid to understand

    No, that wasn’t my intention, sorry if it was a bit glib.

    Meanwhile you continue to show that we are too stupid to understand things by asking why it’s important to know the reason we should be moral to one another. Pardon our idiocy.

    Um… what? Apparently I poisoned the well, here and I’m sorry about that. I really didn’t understand, so if anything I was the idiot.

    I started reading your blog around the time you posted a slavery article (it was talked about on an atheist podcast I listen to). Although I disagreed with portions of the post I continued to read the blog since I like having a diverse background of articles I read. Over the last few weeks I found numerous times that it sounded like you were responding to a non-theist argument, but you (or the comments) were missing what I believed to be a core aspect of the argument. In this case, I decided it was worth me mentioning my objection – and apparently you agreed with that first comment enough to post about it (I haven’t had a chance to read that yet).

    The idea was to say “hey, I know you Christians believe X, but the argument you are responding to precludes that belief, so restating your belief isn’t an argument against it”

    For example:

    if you succeeded in showing that evolutionary explanation was possible, you would still not have shown that BillT was wrong that hard-wired morality argues for the existence of a moral law giver

    You are correct, but BillT didn’t offer an argument, he merely stated it by fait. I wasn’t arguing he was wrong, I was attempting to show that it wasn’t *necessarily* true as he implied.

    SteveK said it best:

    The only way to make the charge stick is if God is not actually God.

    If you tell me that this is a site for Christians to understand these arguments against their faith better, then please understand that’s my goal.

    If you aren’t interested in what a non-theist would say then I’ll go away.

    Believe it or not, I don’t like confrontation… it’s why I rarely post on blogs in the first place. I suppose this is confirmation me me of that, or that I suck at getting my point across.

  66. G. Rodrigues, Tom – You mistake my point. There can be agents that are nevertheless not moral agents. Animals, say. Bears that get a taste for human junk food, and seek out human camps, are agents, but not morally culpable for the damage or injury they cause. We still capture and move them away from human-occupied areas, or if necessary kill them, anyway.

    God could be an agent but not a moral agent, true. Perhaps we can’t blame God for earthquakes that crush an orphanage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t form a judgment about whether that was good for the orphans or not based on what info we have.

  67. Wow, you totally missed what I said. We *do* observe what seems to be moral behavior in other animals. (We can’t tell motivation, of course, but the results are functionally identical.)

    Didn’t miss anything. What “seems” to you to be moral behavior in other animals isn’t that if you can’t produce any evidence it actually is moral behavior. And your inability to ascribe “motivation” to their behavior makes your “functional” results nothing more than your personal opinion. I believe the precise scientific term is “hand waving.” If you are going to claim you’re promoting science, you need to provide some evidence (as much as I’d like to take your word for it).

  68. ebaur,

    I observe innate value in the other.

    We are moral being’s and your claim that that isn’t observable is silly. It is observable and so we are back to your (PN’s) claim that it’s delusion (no truth…. ’cause we agree that love is evil…. huh??)

    We all agree love is evil?

    Huh?

    That’s relative in your observation?

    Your false identity claim isn’t helpful UNLESS you mean to argue No-Truth.

    Good luck as that becomes difficult.

    So we observe X.

    In everyone.

    Love.

    Ought.

    But you deny this.

    But if everyone experiences these impingements then it is either delusion (like PN claims of our experience of choosing…. it’s delusion) or it is perception (which Scripture predicts will be fragmented).

    Which is more likely?

    Clearly Scripture’s prediction matches our perceived reality (as in choice too) better than PN’s claim that ALL of the above is delusion.

  69. If you don’t realize by now that there are fundamental problems with analogizing God and plants, you’re not talking about theism but about your own tendentious and convenient distortion thereof. I can’t believe you think we would begin to take anything like this seriously. I can hardly believe you’re taking it seriously yourself. I can only believe that you’re a highly sophisticated troll.

    This is a blog for thinking, not for rooting around in posts and comments for ways to distort a conversation.

    Do you want to think with us, or what?

    If you want to think with us, please start showing it.

  70. ebaur,

    # 67’s “I thought not” says enough.

    We are all moral beings. We all perceive such contours and Scripture predicts that we will do so in a fragmented manner. PN claims delusion pure and simple.

    Just like:

    PN (philosophical naturalism) claims intention is *at bottom* not the *end of* regress – it’s delusion.

    Now – on ought / love / duty (Etc….) and volition if you want to dive into nihilism’s absurdity that is fine but you’re asking us to believe you and for *that* you will have to show your work.

    You haven’t.

    I’m not sure you can.

  71. @Tom Gilson:

    If you don’t realize by now that there are fundamental problems with analogizing God and plants

    Maybe Ray Ingles is making a veiled allusion to the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence, and that eating the consecrated wafer has problems for your stomach analogous to eating poisoned mushrooms?

    Atheism: starts in tragedy, ends up in farce.

  72. ebaur, thanks for that response this afternoon. I just noticed it in the moderation queue. I have no idea what caused the software to send it there. (BillT has the same thing happen to him sometimes for no apparent reason, too.)

    I may have jumped too early to a conclusion that you were being confrontational, and I apologize for that. I’d be glad to have you stick around, and I’ll try to be more careful myself next time.

  73. Tom Gilson –

    If you don’t realize by now that there are fundamental problems with analogizing God and plants, you’re not talking about theism but about your own tendentious and convenient distortion thereof.

    Both are (allegedly) phenomena outside the sphere of morality. G. Rodrigues said he wanted to be provocative, and I was going with it. He alleges that God’s action can’t be judged as morally good or not. I’m simply pointing out that, even if that’s true, it leaves the possibility open of judging God’s actions as beneficial or not.

    (And it’s funny, but so far whenever I bring up the analogy between pets and humans as they relate to God, it’s like that reply turns invisible. No one ever responds to it, here or elsewhere.)

  74. If I may go on the attack, there’s another issue with “morality as consensus”, in that it’s actually unworkable in a pure form.

    Say we have an innate bias towards certain “moral” norms. I’ve seen both Christian and atheist thinkers claim this, and it seems reasonable. Now, consider someone who fully buys into the “morality as consensus”, and acts to manipulate the consensus to be what pleases him. He fully buys into the idea that morality is just an idea, and doesn’t believe that there is any “ought” to what he is doing; he’s just making it so that society reorients itself around his preferences, even if others suffer.

    I think most of us wouldn’t consider him “good”; we’d consider him a psychopath.

    In contrast, he’d claim that he’s transcended his innate (and misleading) biases, and is acting out of pure self-interest rather than irrational urgings forced upon him by biology. And look, there is consensus, so what is the problem?

    On what grounds do you complain? You can’t appeal to biology, because he dismisses that as an evolutionary failing that he has overcome. You can’t appeal to consensus, because he has convinced a majority to act according to his preferences. You can’t appeal to the fact that his supporters are morally conflicted; that’s just their biology and why should he be subject to their biology if he can convince them otherwise?

    For any argument for morality to get traction, it must appeal to transcendence. Without transcendence, you are essentially stuck arguing that an arbitrary snapshot of biology and sociology (let’s call it “now”) is somehow the pinnacle (by what standard?) of moral development.

    And beware of the moral sleight of hand that assumes that because two world views happen to agree on a particular issue that they have a common starting point. There will come a time when a man standing on a ladder and a man falling from a roof are the same distance off the ground, but it would be foolish to assume that their perspectives on the world are interchangeable.

    This is the sleight of hand that occurs in the “god is a moral monster” arguments.
    (1) Take a point of intersection that the other side is unwilling to deny
    (2) Assume that the point of intersection justifies whatever argumentative baggage you have attached to it, regardless of whether that is true for the other side.
    (3) Extrapolate and claim contradiction.

    Now, one might claim that this complaint isn’t fair. The Christian philosophy being presented here has a nice, neat terminus, compared to messiness of “real world” philosophy. So then, why not grant that terminus, and show how it results in a contradiction when played out in practice? Or show a similarly neat flow of logic for an atheist position? Is it because granting either simple position – there is an absolute God who owns you, or morality is pure pragmatism with no fundamental basis – rips away illusions of self-rightness that you don’t want to give up? In either case, any feelings of your own “goodness” or “morality” are a pretence.

    (Incidentally, if someone wants to present a grounding for morality that is neither Christian nor atheist I would be interested to see it and see where it leads. But make sure you show your working.)

  75. The pet and human analogy is weak, because pets are not absolutely subject to us. Animals exist independently of humans, and our treatment of animals is constrained by the roles given to them and us. This is not to say that killing an animal is innately wrong (I think Scripture teaches something quite different), but it is nonetheless possible to act immorally in our treatment of animals.

    However, I agree with Ray that there are subtleties to the “animals are not moral” argument. For example, Gen 9:5-6 states that both animals and man are due a reckoning if they kill a man. Animals may be subject to moral punishment even if they themselves are amoral.

    But the Scriptures make a stronger claim; the world itself is fallen due to man’s rebellion against God, and this plays out between people, between people and animals, between people and plants, and in the world itself. The world is not morally neutral; it also is tainted by the evil of its rulers and God’s judgement upon them.

  76. Andrew’s Genesis 9 reference to animal reckoning ties nicely into the OT prophets speaking of tomorrow’s lion/lamb and child/snake (and of Adam/world). May be literal. May not be. No need to be wedded to either. But it leaves the Christian room to work if that line is taken by the skeptic’s “evolutionary morality” bit either in retrograde or anterograde fashion. Just an observation.

  77. Hi Jenna,

    “So, IMO what is vitally important is to recognize and acknowledge that we are talking about God as the ancient Hebrews understood God.”

    I think it’s important to talk about God as He actually is, rather than anyones understanding of Him. Mainly because it is impossible for us to fully know, understand or judge God and his actions.

    My point is, any shortcoming between God’s morality and our understanding of morality must be human error.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  78. “For any argument for morality to get traction, it must appeal to transcendence. Without transcendence, you are essentially stuck arguing that an arbitrary snapshot of biology and sociology (let’s call it “now”) is somehow the pinnacle (by what standard?) of moral development.”

    Well stated Andrew ~~

  79. Hi BillT,

    “Of course, the major problem with morality as a feature of evolution is to what reproductive advantage is it? The entire rest of the animal kingdom evolved quite nicely without it so we know, scientifically and quite conclusively, that it’s not a necessary feature of evolution. So how is it that it evolved in us when we know it’s not necessity for evolution nor is there any evidence that it provides any evolutionary advantage.”

    Acting morally could be a by product of another change which is an evolutionary advantage. Taming of wild animals by breeding the most social offspring often results in physical changes in the offspring as well.

    In this instance, we evolved into animals with large brains, which are good for remembering experiences and solving problems. This is what makes us better at surviving. The trade off is we are born with large heads with respect to our bodies, and are therefore unable to look after ourselves from birth. We need to be raised by our parents. Therefore we need parents that emotionally bond with their children. The development of emotions leads to empathy. Empathy leads to morality. So morality is a by product of evolving a larger brain size, which is the evolutionary advantage.

    That’s a terribly short and truncated explanation, but I’m sure you can fill in any blanks in my ham fisted attempt to explain how morality could come into existence via “evolutionary advantage”.

    Cheers
    Shane

  80. Shane,

    And your evidence for any of this is…? Your “explanation” is, like ebaur’s, nothing but your personal opinion. As I mentioned in my reply to ebaur in #72, if you’re going to propose a scientific explanation, which is fine, then providing evidence for your position would be reasonable and expected. You, like ebaur, are engaging in what is usually described in scientific circles as “hand waving.”

  81. @SteveK:

    The only way to make the charge stick is if God is not actually God.

    How I wished I had come up with such a pithy and accurate one-line summary (instead of several paragraphs worth of rambling).

  82. Hi BillT,

    “And your evidence for any of this is…?”

    I was pointing out that your were mistaken to suggest that every facet of a living organism today must exist because it is evolutionary beneficial. To characterise morality as a major problem to evolutionary theory because it does not offer a “reproductive advantage” is to misunderstand the effects of natural selection and the workings of the genome. If you wish to dispute this I can source the specifics regarding the physical alterations that occurred when selectively breeding purely for temperament.

    My explanation for morality is absolutely my opinion. Does it not make sense as a narrative? Is it not a good illustration of how it could have arrived as a consequence of evolution, without needing to be reproductively advantageous in and of itself?

    Cheers
    Shane

  83. Ray, the only thing you’re provoking (@79) is laughter, and it isn’t fun laughter.

    Both are (allegedly) phenomena outside the sphere of morality. G. Rodrigues said he wanted to be provocative, and I was going with it.

    That’s exactly the kind of ignorance I thought you could rise above.

    Would you like to remain on this forum? There are two kinds of provocative. There is the kind that provokes thought, reflection, re-thinking, wondering, and confronting new possibilities. That kind of provocation can be annoying, to be sure, but it can be good, too.

    There is also the kind that provokes nothing but annoyance. It’s the kind of provocation that suggests that God as a moral agent (or not) can be compared to a plant as a moral agent (or not). It’s the kind that misses the point so absolutely, yet tries to toss a dart in anyway. It’s the kind that hits with a nuisance impact and nothing else; but nuisance is nuisance.

    Don’t ever try that second kind of provocative again. It’s annoying, it’s a nuisance, and it doesn’t look good on you besides.

  84. BillT –

    Of course, the major problem with morality as a feature of evolution is to what reproductive advantage is it? The entire rest of the animal kingdom evolved quite nicely without it

    Not so fast. Intra-species cooperation – regulating the behavior of individuals in such a way that they can work together in groups for common benefit – is a reproductive advantage. Very few insect species have evolved sociality; it’s thought to have happened only a handful of times in the history of life on this planet, literally single digits. But social insects make up around 80% of all insect biomass. The term is “ecological dominance”.

    Compare feral humans to social ones. And explain how humans could possibly cooperate without some level of morality. Then you could support the idea that cooperation and morality has no reproductive benefit.

  85. Shane,

    You miss the point on selection. It cannot grant a *disadvantage*. If you refute this, then, over time, you are left without a species.

    Eventually.

    Sort of like you logic regressons “eventually” fading into nihilism. DISADVANTAGE can exist, but only if – by accident of course – it some how ties into a net-sum of advantage.

    That net-sum is necessary. If you argue against that net-sum in play over time where a species is concerned, you’re done.

    None of this is on topic here to this thread. So I’m getting out on the bit about the net-sum over time.

    It’s solid. As Ray just agreed to.

  86. Tom Gilson –

    It’s the kind of provocation that suggests that God as a moral agent (or not) can be compared to a plant as a moral agent (or not).

    God supposedly can’t be compared to anything else, really, but humans do it because that’s our only way to understand things. Pointing out an aspect that might be compared to other things isn’t saying that God is those other things, or like those other things in other aspects.

    I still think you’re missing my point, but whatever. I can drop it, no biggie. I’m far more interested in any kind of response to #50. Speaking of which:

    Andrew W –

    The pet and human analogy is weak, because pets are not absolutely subject to us.

    Neither are children, of course. Yet God is repeatedly compared to a Father. Human parents have not just authority over their children, but substantial duties and responsibilities as well. God doesn’t have any duties or responsibilities for us, though. So far as I can see, the ‘pet’ analogy is actually much closer than the ‘child’ analogy. (And whether or not that’s ‘provocative’, that’s really how it seems to me.)

  87. Shane,

    That your sceniero could be a possible explanation is fascinating but untimately, as you admit, nothing but opinion. How is it that when it comes to those suggesting scientific explanations we get opinion instead of evidence.

    Ray,

    Your opinion (see above) that social cooperating requires morality is just that, your opinion. And your question “And explain how humans could possibly cooperate without morality” is for you to answer. It’s your proposition, aren’t you the one who is suppose to supply the evidence. Not to mention that I didn’t say they could but that, of course, tells us nothing about where that morality came from.

  88. Ray,

    So you are saying that the net-sum of blind forces for reproduction can yield a net disadvantage and the species will flourish?

    You can’t. The net-sum of propogation is necessary – else you have a net-loss-over-time.

    You don’t want a net loss over time.

    Do you?

    Now that we’ve established that blind forces flow into net sums, we are left with your arbitrary morality. No inherent Ought. But we’ve been through this over and over as Sam Harris ultimately fails for all the reasons you have in all these various threads.

    But none of this is related to the OP. If you want to evaluate an ultimate ontological morality (God) as compared to the ontolgoy of the blind and the indifferent (ontology here, not epistemology……this is the A, B, C’s of this stuff) then feel free to juxtapose Immutable Love’s ontology (God is love, etc.) up against Indifference (PN) as each gets to their ends of regression.

    The topic isn’t morality on evolutionary terms, but the Goodness of God and what standard(s) we use to attack/defend that. If you want to bring your Noble Lie as an end of regress and use it as a hammer on the ontology of God’s ceaseless reciprocity (love) then do so.

    “Evolution establishes that God is not Good because: __________”.

    But the mere foisting that evolution can or can’t create a non-arbitrary-ought, that it has the means to get us to that location on the ontological map (immutable love) (it does not have the means for those ends) isn’t the topic of the OP.

  89. Ray,

    Just to be as clear as possible. “…explain how humans could possibly cooperate without Morality.” I don’t think they can. But I see humans as essentially different than the rest of the animal kingdom given their consciousness and rationality at the very least. I see cooperation in the animal kingdom but among non conscious and non rational animals and thus without the need for morality to make that cooperation functional. As ebaur said you can’t ascribe the proper motivation to animal behavior to understand their actions as moral actions. We aren’t, in that sense, just more advanced animals. We are rational, moral, conscious beings much better understood as “made in His image” than just evolved.

  90. @Ray Ingles:

    I’m far more interested in any kind of response to #50.

    Excuse my obtuseness, but what exactly do you think in #50 merits response? All I can see is a failure to understand analogical language as applied to God.

  91. My response to this in #50:

    One key difference is that kids are eventually supposed to grow up and develop their own experience and judgment. Humans are never supposed to grow up with respect to God. Indeed, humans seem to me much more analogous to pets than children with respect to God.

    You’re wrong, and I don’t see any reason to waste time explaining how, since your track record shows you consistently not putting forth any effort to get it.

  92. G. Rodrigues –

    All I can see is a failure to understand analogical language as applied to God.

    Analogies only succeed to the extent that the factors being compared actually match… and if different factors don’t act against the analogy. And closer analogies can be expected to lead to better understanding.

    Children often accept that their parents have some good reason for causing them pain that they simply don’t understand. Sometimes that’s true… vaccines, medicine. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s not true. And those kids will earnestly say that “daddy beat me because he loves me”. Kids can’t be expected to tell the difference, they don’t have the experience and cognitive abilities to do so.

    Jenna Black’s assertion amounts to saying we’re in the same position with respect to God. So, pretty much by definition, we too would not be able to tell if our suffering were serving some greater purpose.

    Speaking of closer analogies:

    Tom Gilson – Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve actually explained the parallels in detail. “[Pets] are expected to obey their master, and while they are (supposed to be) well-loved and cared for, unlike children they have a fundamentally different nature and are never expected to eventually grow up and be the equals of their caretakers. Indeed, if they ever consider themselves, or act like they are, equals – it’s a disaster and may necessitate their destruction.”

    Tom’s out. Anyone else want to explain which of those statements is incorrect, and why?

  93. Pets made in my own image?

    Pets are my children?

    I pour myself into my pets?

    Is there a different Bible Ray is reading?

    Christ – and no other – finds such ties…..

    I thought this was a Christian blog.

  94. It’s not that the statements you made are incorrect. It’s the weak manner in which the similarities obtain.

    More than that, it’s the incredible range of dissimilarities you should be able to think of yourself, that would make the problems with your “analogy” as obvious to you as it is to everyone else, if you would only bother to do your own work instead of asking us to waste our time doing it for you.

  95. BillT – “Your opinion (see above) that social cooperating requires morality is just that, your opinion.”

    Well, then it’s an opinion we share, as you go on to say that “I don’t think [humans] can [possibly cooperate without Morality].”

    But I think it’s more than an opinion. Social cooperation works overwhelmingly well for the insects. Demonstrable fact, there. I already pointed out that humans do better with social cooperation than without (feral humans vs. those raised with others). There’s your reproductive advantage, which evolution can respond to (note: not create, respond to). Animals that live in groups display instincts for fairness, reciprocity, etc. – pretty much in direct proportion to how social they are.

    Humans are way more social than even our nearest primate relatives. Go look at some pictures of gorillas or monkeys. Notice anything about their eyes? The sclera of their eyes is the same color as the iris. Ours is white. We can tell where other people are looking, where their eyes are pointed, and they can see where we are looking. Lots of experiments show that human babies pick up on that early on, but even mature animals that grew up with humans don’t. Instinct, there.

    “We aren’t, in that sense, just more advanced animals.”

    Oh, I agree. But that doesn’t mean that we are “much better understood as “made in His image”.” Sometimes a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind. 31 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit? Nothing. 32 to 33 degrees? Ice becomes water. Then, crossing 212 degrees, water becomes steam. In terms of sociality, animals are in the foothills of mountains we’ve summited. We’ve managed at least a couple phase transitions along the way.

  96. So, pretty much by definition, we too would not be able to tell if our suffering were serving some greater purpose.

    As a universal statement, this is false. We know the good purposes that our suffering will serve to fulfill because we’ve experienced the fulfillment. When we don’t know the good purposes it can serve, we trust in the one (God) that ensures all greater purposes will be fulfilled. This is faith. Trusting that suffering will not be wasted.

  97. Tom Gilson –

    More than that, it’s the incredible range of dissimilarities you should be able to think of yourself,

    No, the more I read the more the similarities seem to become apparent. God is the “ultimate owner, who has all rights by nature over all people and things” – something way closer to the owner of a pet than the parent of a child. Even the rights a parent has over their children, they eventually give up. Doesn’t happen with pets, and doesn’t happen with God. (Not even after this life, not even at the end of eternity. Not ever.)

    I love our cats, and I love our dog. But I need my kids. God “has no needs that [H]e depends on us to fulfill”.

    Note that all I’m saying is that the “pet” relationship is a better analogy than the “child” relationship, in that it has a few extra similarities. I’m not saying the relationship is exactly like a pet relationship.

  98. Oh. Because there are apparent similarities, the huge range of dissimilarities that also exist have no relevance.

    Quit wasting our time here, Ray, and do your own thinking.

  99. Ray, I’m sure that if we met in person and had discussions over a wide range of topics, played a round of chess together, drank coffee, whatever, I would find you to be a well-rounded and enjoyable person to be with.

    The limited range of what you present yourself to be here does not represent the full range of what you are. I know that.

    Having said that, the limited range of what you present yourself to be here is that of a sophisticated troll, one who seems like he ought to be able to think through more than the little it takes to lob grenades into a conversation, but who consistently refuses to exercise that ability.

    From a distance, knowing that you are a fellow human being made in the image of God, I respect you greatly as such. I distinguish the person from the performance, even though all I know of you here is your performance.

    Having said that, I will point out again how constantly you’re carping on what you refuse to think through enough to understand, and you’re always asking us to explain what’s wrong with it, when it ought to be obvious to you before you ask it. Your performance is not worthy of any respect at all.

    I say this just to clarify what’s going on in my mind, in case you’ve noticed I’m not showing your comments here any respect. They don’t deserve it. You deserve it as a person, but not your contribution here.

  100. Evolution’s indifference at the end of all of its sentences argues quite robustly that the Chritian God is not Good because _________________”.

    Is there a tie-in?

  101. I confess I am stumped. I cannot even crack a decent joke on the most recent round of inane commentary.

  102. Ray,

    I think it was obvious that I was taking about animals in the one instance and humans in the other. Otherwise your musings on the connection between morality and social cooperation in humans and the connection between morality and social cooperation in animals are just that musings. And though I’m not quite sure, it seems like you are extrapolating backwards from what we do know about humans to what we don’t know about animals. I believe the differences in degree are far more than adequate to make a difference in kind and render that effectively moot.

  103. Ray,

    I simply must object. You say this about my comment in #13: “Jenna Black’s assertion amounts to saying we’re in the same position with respect to God. So, pretty much by definition, we too would not be able to tell if our suffering were serving some greater purpose.”

    The “assertion” of mine to which you refer is this: JB “When we attempt to judge God’s actions, we cannot do so with a full and complete understanding of God’s purpose and intent.”

    We cannot have a full and complete understanding of God’s purpose and intent because we are not omniscient. Children may not fully and completely understand their parents purpose and intent because they lack the maturity, knowledge and experience to do so, not because they have an owner-pet relationship with their parents.

    Please, cease and desist with this silliness, and above all, don’t claim that it is in response of a comment of mine.

  104. As for me, I’d rather talk about a relationship reality (God/man) rather than a relationship analogy (pet/man).

  105. Hi BillT,

    “That your sceniero could be a possible explanation is fascinating but untimately, as you admit, nothing but opinion. How is it that when it comes to those suggesting scientific explanations we get opinion instead of evidence.”

    In this instance it is because I am responding to your question

    “So how is it that it evolved in us when we know it’s not necessity for evolution nor is there any evidence that it provides any evolutionary advantage.”

    If you agree that my explanation is possible, then we have successfully answered your question. I wasn’t offering evidence of a scientific explanation because you, likewise, were just offering your opinion, rather than offering any evidence of your position.

    Cheers
    Shane

  106. Shane,

    There is a difference between me not offering evidence (on this particular thread) and not having any evidence whatsoever. You are in the position of satisfying both these. We, on the other hand, have offered the kind of evidence and reasoning befitting our position on morality. We have offered that not only “here” but in the overall the Argument from Morality is a mainstay of Christian apologetic thought and has been explained and supported extensively. Your position on evolved morality, though supposedly a scientific proposition, lacks any true scientific evidence and remains at best little more than a personal opinion.

  107. Shane,

    And just be the clear, your explanation is not really “possible” absent any facts. It’s just an opinion. It doesn’t answer any questions because it’s lacks the very basis (i.e., scientific basis for a scientific proposition) it needs in order to be “possible”. Unsupported personal musings don’t have legitimacy as science. Which is why I asked “How is it that when it comes to those suggesting scientific explanations we get opinion instead of evidence.”

  108. Hi scblhrm,

    “You miss the point on selection. It cannot grant a *disadvantage*.”

    Do you think morality is an evolutionary disadvantage? I’m not sure what your argument is.

    Cheers
    Shane

  109. Andrew W,

    Now, consider someone who fully buys into the “morality as consensus”, and acts to manipulate the consensus to be what pleases him.

    On what grounds do you complain?

    Under naturalism, morality must be anchored in a system of innate social behaviors and emotions. Those innate behaviors and emotions in turn will put constraints on moral consensus, it won’t be just arbitrary. Someone manipulating the system can only do so within what is permitted by innate moral behavior.

    But, that said, a perfect example of your moral consensus manipulators are the third-world despots and dictators, most likely narcissistic sociopaths and psychopaths the lot of them.

    For any argument for morality to get traction, it must appeal to transcendence.

    Under naturalism, our shared moral values combined with an enlightened understanding of how despots and dictators manipulate their subjects for their own gain results in an experience of moral outrage and we act on it. There is no need under naturalism (or any philosophical point of view) to justify moral outrage if the facts support it. Think about it: we hear indisputable evidence that a dictator lives in opulence while his subjects starve. Do we think “I need to check the Bible, is this man immoral?”, no, we trust our hearts and moral outrage immediately. Christians can argue our conscience comes from God while naturalists would argue our conscience comes from an evolutionary process seeking a stable solution to highly social beings.

    there is an absolute God who owns you, or morality is pure pragmatism with no fundamental basis

    Or a third case, morality is anchored in pure value, pure motivation, a passion for its own sake that drives us, in our DNA and/or in our soul.

  110. Hi BillT,

    “We, on the other hand, have offered the kind of evidence and reasoning befitting our position on morality. We have offered that not only “here” but in the overall the Argument from Morality is a mainstay of Christian apologetic thought and has been explained and supported extensively.”

    Tom’s evidence for God based on morality is at https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/03/evidence-for-god-humanness-and-moral-knowledge-part-1/

    In the OP he says this

    “AB1. We cannot know whether any action really is right or wrong unless right and wrong are real.
    AB2. We know that some actions really are right and others are wrong.
    AB3. Therefore right and wrong are real.
    AB4. If there is no God, then right and wrong cannot be real.
    AB5. Therefore (AB3 and AB4) there is a God.”

    In my reply #7

    “I ask for a clarification on ‘know’. How is it different to think or believe? This seems to me to be the main underpin of your argument. We can obviously think or believe something is right or wrong whether there is a God or not. On what basis do you claim that we ‘know’ these things?”

    His response #8

    “I’ll get to the knowledge question when I write Part 2.”

    Tom then replies in part 2 at

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/04/evidence-for-god-humanism-vs-moral-knowledge-moral-knowledge-part-2/

    “If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion; and each person’s opinion in that case is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action.” This is not morality, it’s aesthetics. If it is a culture-wide view rather than an individual’s view, then it is “we” rather than “I,” but the same still holds: it’s still aesthetics.

    Or, possibly, right and wrong become shorthand for, “Do more of that,” vs. “Stop doing that.” That, too is not morality. It’s the exercise of power, or at least the attempt to do so.

    Aesthetics is not morality. The practice of power is not morality. The language of morality may be there but the reality is stripped away. And if there is no morality, how could there can be moral knowledge?”

    I agree with that. But that is not an argument to the existence of moral knowledge. It is illustrating two alternatives.

    And then in reply #111 he posts

    “I am absolutely certain that every sufficiently mature human being knows that he or she has free will, an enduring personal identity, consciousness, the ability to think real thoughts rationally, and the knowledge that some things are really, objectively right and others are wrong.”

    His certainty is not based on any evidence. It is a reflection of what he wants to be true.

    For your part, your reasoning (and the subtext you were alluding to) is

    A. Morality has no reproductive advantage
    B. Things with no reproductive advantage can not be the result of evolution
    C. If we cannot explain morality through naturalistic means then it must have a supernatural explanation
    D. Therefore morality is evidence that God exists.

    Now you offered no evidence for any of the first three assertions (and I think it likely that they are all false) but I nonetheless choose B and gave examples of how it is incorrect. As such, D does not follow.

    Now I might agree that you have put forward the type of evidence and reasoning befitting your position on morality, but I don’t think we would mean the same thing.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  111. BillT

    Your position on evolved morality, though supposedly a scientific proposition, lacks any true scientific evidence and remains at best little more than a personal opinion.

    Evolved morality also lacks an objective obligation on the part of all human beings, which is something completely different than the morality Christian’s say actually exists.

    If Shane wants to convince us that there exists a morality that no human being is obligated to, he can stop right now because we are already convinced.

  112. Shane,

    You missed it.

    Badly.

    Lot’s of things give advantages. That’s why infants can be taught to hate and rape today. Evolution favors ALL that it has fashioned – right up till *today*.

    I’m done with that.

    See #118.

    Appealing to old threads won’t change #118.

    Those old threads failed where #118 touches on.

    I’m not interested in your epistemology.

    Show me your ontological ends of ought on #118. At the end of your regress.

    You’ll fail to reach those ends here just like in those old threads.

    It’s like an old record that keeps getting played.

    1) Show me #118’s solution or please stop wasting my time

    2) Show me how evolution’s ends of indifference prove that the Christian God is internally incoherent or please stop wasting my time.

  113. BillT,

    You are correct on the reproductive thing.

    Evolution’s means has to show that moral is moral APART FROM anyone reproducing.

    When they fail to show THAT (they will) THEN what they have left is a *false identity claim*.

    So Shane’s entire #117 lands *there*.

    And that’s JUST on “moral”. Never mind *moral ought* as per SteveK’s #118.

  114. Shane,

    Our explanation for the existence of morality is a philosophical/ theological understanding. The kind of evidence we provide, as would be expected, is philosophical/theological. Tom’s reasoning and evidence are completely appropriate for the type of argument he is making. He is not simply “reflecting on what he wants to be true”. He’s explaining why it is.

    You, on the other hand, are making a scientific argument but have no scientific evidence to support it. You can certainly attempt to refute the evidence or reasoning that either Tom or I have presented since, of course, we’ve actually presented some. We, on the other hand, can make no arguments about the evidence you’ve presented because there is none. I’m sure that difference isn’t lost on you.

  115. Shane, Ray,

    Ontological only please. I’m not interested in your epistemology.

    1) Show us #118’s solution or please stop wasting our time.

    2) Show us how evolution’s ends of indifference prove that the Christian God is internally incoherent or please stop wasting our time.

    3) Show us in evolutionary *ends* how its non-ought *moral* actually is *moral* APART FROM anyone ever – ever – reproducing or please stop wasting our time.

    A friend of mine had an emergent hysterectomy.

    You better not even try.

  116. scblhrm,

    Yes, I’m down in the weeds a bit with my approach. As has been pointed out, the evolutionary approach fails well before we actually dissect its details. At best, the “morality” it describes fails to be morality in any way that would be relevant to the common understanding of that term.

  117. Tom Gilson –

    I can only believe that you’re a highly sophisticated troll… you’re always asking us to explain what’s wrong with it, when it ought to be obvious to you before you ask it

    If it makes you feel better, assume that atheism really makes you stupid. I come at this from a really different worldview than you. Recall that while I’ve had a decent amount of religious education, I wasn’t raised religious. I read a lot of science fiction, which included things like ‘weakly godlike’ intelligences and ‘sufficiently advanced science’ and so forth. I’ve never been to Missouri, but “Show me!” is a slogan I can get behind.

    What I’ve written is how I see it. You’ve repeatedly talked about the “huge range of dissimilarities” but you haven’t pointed them out. Jenna Black seems to have actually replied, though:

    We cannot have a full and complete understanding of God’s purpose and intent because we are not omniscient.

    Exactly. God’s supposed to be much farther above us than a human parent is to a child. More even than a human owner is to a dog, or a mouse, or a sea monkey. Or even a pet rock.

    Children may not fully and completely understand their parents purpose and intent because they lack the maturity, knowledge and experience to do so, not because they have an owner-pet relationship with their parents.

    Again, exactly. Children don’t “have an owner-pet relationship with their parents” because they are the same kind, kids can and hopefully do grow up to be the equals of their parents. They can gain “the maturity, knowledge and experience” to understand their parents’ purposes and intents.

    Pets can’t do that. You can train a dog, they can be noble and loyal and well-behaved and loved… but they can’t ever be more than a pet. They’ll never really understand why you clean up after their droppings. Owners can love their pets – sometimes they even risk or give up their lives for a pet (running into a burning building, for example) – but pets aren’t children, nor are children pets.

    I hope you can see where I’m coming from. Perhaps there’s something in the “image of God” bit I’m missing that would help me understand the difference. So far as I can see, there isn’t really a Christian consensus on what that means, though.

  118. BillT – What would you accept as “scientific evidence” for an evolutionarily-developed sense of morality? What kind of target are we shooting for here?

  119. What would you accept as “scientific evidence” for an evolutionarily-developed sense of morality? What kind of target are we shooting for here?

    Ray,

    Shouldn’t you be telling me that? I’m told that morality is supposedly science. Shouldn’t I expect scientific evidence. Aren’t scientific proofs supposed to consist of some combination of observation, hypothesis, prediction, experiment, evaluation using empirical methods. Of course, I don’t think there is now or ever will be that kind of evidence because morality just isn’t really a scientific topic but how’s that for starters.

  120. Ray,

    I’d also be interested in your evidence (perhaps through an electron microscope?) of this final ontic end of love standing there – still intact – APART FROM both [sexual / non-sexual reproduction] and [mutable preference]. THEN I’d like to see how that (whatever you end up with) reveals any internal incoherence inside of the God of Christianity – the Ontic End Who is love.

  121. BillT, I’ve talked about insects in #90 and #102, both pointing out the huge and demonstrable reproductive advantage that sociality has conveyed on specific insect species. In those comments I also pointed out the demonstrable advantage that sociality has for humans. This is a prima facie case for sociality being a reproductive advantage to humans. That’s something evolution can respond to.

    And ebaur has pointed out the well-established phenomenon of social behavior consistent with morality in animals – “defense of the weak, sharing, shame”, etc. We can even observe moral instincts within ourselves, and actually study the neurology that implements them.

    So, in what ways is this not “scientific”, and what would it take to make it “scientific”? Again, I want to know what target I’m shooting for.

  122. Hi All
    Just to get in a word edgewise, I thought that this post from BioLogos.org is relevant to Ray’s (Hi Ray, how are you? 🙂 ) post:

    For example, there have been a number of efforts to argue that there may be evolutionary reasons for religious belief. That is, it may be that capacity for religious belief is ‘adaptive’ or is connected to other adaptive traits, passed down from our ancestors because they supported survival and reproduction. There is no consensus about this among evolutionary biologists. Nevertheless, its very proposal seems to be completely antithetical to any belief that God is objectively real. However, Christian philosopher Peter van Inwagen asks:
    Suppose that God exists and wants supernaturalistic belief to be a human universal, and sees (he would see this if it were true) that certain features would be useful for human beings to have— useful from an evolutionary point of view: conducive to survival and reproduction—would naturally have the consequence that supernaturalistic belief would be in due course a human universal. Why shouldn’t he allow those features to be the cause of the thing he wants?—rather as the human designer of a vehicle might use the waste heat from its engine to keep its passengers warm.3
    Van Inwagen’s argument is sound. Even if science could prove that religious belief has a genetic component that we inherit from our ancestors, that finding is not incompatible with belief in the reality of God or even the truth of the Christian faith. There is no logical reason to preclude that God could have used evolution to predispose people to believe in God in general so that people would be able to consider true belief when they hear the gospel preached. This is just one of many places where the supposed incompatibility of orthodox faith with evolution begins to fade away under more sustained reflection.

    see here for the complete article.

  123. Ray,

    And I responded to your insect/animal examples in my #95. Further , the “…demonstrable reproductive advantage that sociality has conveyed on specific insect species.” say a great deal about sociality and nothing about morality. As I said, cooperation in the animal kingdom among non conscious and non rational animals obviates the need for morality to make that cooperation functional. And even if animal behavior has the appearance of morality, there is no way to ascribe the proper motivation to know if it’s morality of just social behavior that apes moral behavior. Where have you drawn any link between advantageous reproductive social behavior and morality.

  124. Victoria – Actually, that’s a side issue at best. I haven’t argued that religious belief is “useful for human beings to have” or “conducive to survival and reproduction”. I’ve been arguing for moral intuitions and reasoning as being advantageous, and that’s not the same thing.

    In fact, while I think a lot of religious thinking can in fact be accounted for by the way our minds evolved, I also think the case for the reproductive advantage of religious thinking is much weaker than the case for the reproductive advantage of moral thinking. If you’re familiar with Gould’s terminology – so far as I can tell, things like the ‘hyperactive agent detection device’ are spandrels.

  125. @Ray
    I guess I should have explained why I thought it was relevant – I know you are referring to morality, not belief, but I think the same principle applies – just substitute ‘morality’ for belief in the passage I quoted. In terms of understanding the science and integrating it into a Christian worldview, a holistic approach rather than a reductionist one, one that I have come to find quite satisfying, is the way to go. Just because science can discern and describe a process by which something comes into effect does not negate the concept that it is God who thought up the process in the first place, and uses it to accomplish His purposes.

  126. BillT –

    cooperation in the animal kingdom among non conscious and non rational animals obviates the need for morality to make that cooperation functional

    But it lays obvious groundwork for morality in conscious and rational animals. Do you agree that (at least most) mammals are conscious? A huge amount of study into things like how animals have senses of reciprocity and fairness has been done on mammals, especially primates.

    Rationality is a significant difference, and I already discussed that – the whole ‘phase transitions’ thing. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find strong continuities with the precursors of where humans are now.

    Where have you drawn any link between advantageous reproductive social behavior and morality.

    Feral humans vs. social ones, plus the already-conceded point that human social organization can’t function without morality.

  127. Ray,

    There is no “obvious groundwork for morality” in the social interactions of animals/insects. Animals are “conscious” but not self conscious which is what I was (I think obviously) referring to. Again, I don’t believe the appearance in animal behavior that may look like morality is morality that in any way parallels human morality. My guess is that feral humans have had their morality deprogrammed by their circumstances (survival first). And the fact that human social organization can’t function without morality says nothing about whether morality evolved or whether animal morality exists.

  128. If human morality “evolved”, then human morality does not exist, not in the sense moral realists (mostly theists) take morality.

  129. BillT –

    Animals are “conscious” but not self conscious

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test#Species_that_have_passed_the_test

    Again, I don’t believe the appearance in animal behavior that may look like morality is morality that in any way parallels human morality.

    Why not?

    My guess is that feral humans have had their morality deprogrammed

    Humans who survive and grow up in the wild (“raised by wolves” or whatever) also have a very hard time developing things like language even when exposed to human society later. It’s very clearly established that we have inbuilt talents for learning languages, but that capacity has to be exercised and developed at the right time. Moral instincts – which seem to be established by (a) the commonality of basic concepts of fairness and such across human cultures, and (b) the parallels seen in animals which you seem to flatly deny the existence of – would be expected to need similar nurturing.

    And the fact that human social organization can’t function without morality says nothing about whether morality evolved

    “I already pointed out that humans do better with social cooperation than without (feral humans vs. those raised with others). There’s your reproductive advantage, which evolution can respond to (note: not create, respond to).” [G. Rodrigues, take note. I never said morality evolved. I’ve said that evidence indicates our sense of morality evolved, just like our talent for language or our talent for physics in Earthlike conditions.]

  130. G. Rodrigues, take note. I never said morality evolved. I’ve said that evidence indicates our sense of morality evolved, just like our talent for language or our talent for physics in Earthlike conditions.

    Ray,

    If this is all you are saying with all the above we can stop disagreeing. We don’t deny that we are physical creatures and I don’t deny we’re evolved in that sense so we’re done. If you’re ok with the idea that morality is God given I’m ok that we need some socialization to recognize it.

  131. BillT – Sorry, there’s a few steps there, and we’re only in agreement about some of them. That evolution is responding to something real, we agree on. That there’s a physical, neurological component to that response, we also seem to agree.

    But I don’t agree that morality is God given – at least in the sense I think you mean by that. I mean, I don’t think geology could be said to be “God given” in any direct sense – the features of the Earth and how it develops are way downstream from more fundamental things like the laws of physics, and the detailed history of the nebula that condensed to form the solar system.

    I’ve said that morality, as the phenomenon that evolution responds to, develops from the way the universe is and what kind of things we humans are, making our way in that universe. A Christian friend of mine agrees with me, but he thinks the universe was deliberately fashioned the way it is.

    G. Rodrigues – I haven’t equivocated, but you frequently seem to process what I actually write through your own preconceptions. Should you be able to find examples of me saying something else, I’d be curious to see them.

  132. I’ve said that morality, as the phenomenon that evolution responds to, develops from the way the universe is and what kind of things we humans are, making our way in that universe. A Christian friend of mine agrees with me, but he thinks the universe was deliberately fashioned the way it is.

    Ray,

    The problem with this (and I can see where both you and your friend are coming from and it’s a fine line here) is that the duty that we must all have to one another other in order for mortality to be morality and truly binding on all of humanity can’t be just a “phenomenon that evolution responds to”. That’s not enough to make it what it needs to be.

  133. @Ray Ingles:

    I haven’t equivocated, but you frequently seem to process what I actually write through your own preconceptions. Should you be able to find examples of me saying something else, I’d be curious to see them.

    You just did; in your response to BillT, a portion he quoted:

    I’ve said that morality, as the phenomenon that evolution responds to, develops from the way the universe is and what kind of things we humans are, making our way in that universe. A Christian friend of mine agrees with me, but he thinks the universe was deliberately fashioned the way it is.

    This is just *wrong*. You seem to concede that moral values are objective as moral realists like me and BillT conceive; you even explicitly corrected me and asserted that the only thing Evolution could be relevant to was our *sense* of moral duties (and even this is not quite right, neither is it quite right to say that we have an “evolutionarily-developed sense of morality”; and Evolution hard-wired all sorts of things into us, some morally indifferent, others positively morally repellent — but let all that pass). But if moral duties are objective then our evolution history is completely *irrelevant* to them, and only equivocation allows you to go from one to the other. The history and source of the kinds of things we are is irrelevant to our nature, and to the moral duties read off from it. If for example our Evolution history were completely different from whatever the experts take it to be, our moral duties would be the same. Or even if Evolution theory was all wrong and instead we had sprung up five minutes ago via a divine act of God, with the (false) memories of a past that never existed, our moral duties would be *exactly* the same.

    While I do not deny my many preconceptions, and misconceptions, and misdirections, the real problem here is that you have no idea what you are talking about. And I am not even going into your abusive talk of “kind of things we humans are”, needed to get morality off the ground; already did and it was as useless as milking a bull’s tits. And round and round the merry-go-round we go: one more round of equivocation, one more round whining about how I never make any arguments, one more round of Engineering!, etc.

  134. G. Rodrigues –

    You seem to concede that moral values are objective as moral realists like me and BillT conceive

    Objective, yes, but not as you conceive, I’m afraid.

    you even explicitly corrected me and asserted that the only thing Evolution could be relevant to was our *sense* of moral duties

    Mostly. As I have said before, “insofar as a large number of human traits – a large chunk of what we call ‘human nature’ – arose through evolution, it’s therefore relevant.” and “I’m okay with a morality that only applies to the general class of sapient, relatively hairless, fully bipedal, tailless, forward-facing-eyes, grasping-paws, live-young-bearing hair-possessing milk-giving amniote-possessing tetrapodal jawed vertebrate notochord-possessing multicellular non-chloroplast mitochondrial eukaryotes. That covers all of humanity and anything humanity might develop into for at least the next half a million years or so.”

    The fact that photosynthesis exists on Earth is a consequence of evolution, sure enough. But evolution didn’t set up the circumstances where photosynthesis would be useful. (Indeed, there’s reason to believe other alternatives came first.)

    It’s not even clear that evolution “invented” photosynthesis; evolution is more of a search process, and in that sense it could be said to have discovered photosynthesis.

    Once evolution produced/discovered/resulted in “SRHFBTFFEGPLYBHPMGAPTJVNPMNCME’s”, their further evolution could respond to the situation they found themselves in – social creatures dependent on group dynamics for survival and flourishing. And thus things like the moral sense we have. (Seriously, check out the links in #129.)

    And I am not even going into your abusive talk of “kind of things we humans are”, needed to get morality off the ground;

    I don’t believe I’m abusing the terminology, and I don’t think I’m using abusive language in the sense of insults. I’ve dabbled in the latter a bit with you in the pace, I concede, but it’s not fun and you’ve more practice.

    The history and source of the kinds of things we are is irrelevant to our nature, and to the moral duties read off from it.

    Evolution had some hand in how humans developed into the “kind of things we humans are” – but yes, however we got here we are objectively of a particular kind. Of course, I conceive of morality as objective, too – just constituted differently. “SRHFBTFFEGPLYBHPMGAPTJVNPMNCME’s” who live in this universe have goals and constraints, and thus, strategies emerge.

    As you know already. No equivocation there – indeed, I’ve never said anything different and have corrected your misinterpretations before, as I linked to above. Wanna actually resume that conversation?

  135. BillT –

    the duty that we must all have to one another other in order for mortality to be morality and truly binding on all of humanity can’t be just a “phenomenon that evolution responds to”. That’s not enough to make it what it needs to be.

    There are people who think that the Earth is the center of the universe or that the Earth is 6,000 years old or that vaccines cause autism or any number of things. There’s no natural law obligating them to change their minds, but they will thereby make mistakes that will have poor consequences for them and their loved ones – some short-term, some long-term.

    It’s in their best interest to get their heads straight. That’s not an obligation in the sense you want it to be, but it’s a real constraint nonetheless. Human cooperation and reciprocity and all the rest – and what flows from them, and what conversely flows from their lack – are realities too.

  136. Of course, I conceive of morality as objective, too – just constituted differently. “SRHFBTFFEGPLYBHPMGAPTJVNPMNCME’s” who live in this universe have goals and constraints, and thus, strategies emerge.

    Can we get you to plainly state that no human being is obligated to any goal and no human being is obligated to any strategy?

  137. @Ray Ingles:

    Mostly.

    From #137:

    I’ve said that evidence indicates our sense of morality evolved, just like our talent for language or our talent for physics in Earthlike conditions.

    The meaning is plain, so I do not understand what the adverb is being used for. You then add two self-quotes that presumably illuminate it, but do nothing of the sort.

    Once evolution produced/discovered/resulted in “SRHFBTFFEGPLYBHPMGAPTJVNPMNCME’s”, their further evolution could respond to the situation they found themselves in – social creatures dependent on group dynamics for survival and flourishing. And thus things like the moral sense we have.

    You are not making sense.

    Once evolution produced Human Beings, their further evolution? What further evolution? We are recognizably human beings; our ancestors were recognizably human beings. I take it you do not dispute that our moral duties are the same. What the ancestors of our ancestors were is irrelevant. If they themselves were rational beings like us, they had the same moral duties like we, if they were not, they had no moral duties, because irrational beings are not moral agents. So whatever social dynamics was more conducive to their flourishing, while an interesting topic, is irrelevant. Because once again, neither me nor BillT give a fig about the “moral sense”, and consequently, about any fairy tales you care to spin to explain its appearance. I mean, if all you are getting at is some vague talk about moral progress, I am with BillT: shrug shoulders.

    I don’t believe I’m abusing the terminology

    No, you are not abusing the terminology. You are just making use of concepts your metaphysical stance does not entitle you to, which is a form of intellectual abuse.

    Of course, I conceive of morality as objective, too – just constituted differently.

    So tell me, what do you think I mean by “morality as objective”, and, since you disagreed above with it, what is exactly my conception? What is exactly you are disagreeing with? And morality “constituted differently”? What does that mean?

    note: I have not followed the link in #129 to your pages, because if experience is any indication I would just waste my time (the comments on Aquinas are a classic that will scar me for life). I did follow the second link, read the name of the author, sighed already having a good idea what I was going to read, braced myself and slogged through the “Moral Instinct”. Irrelevant. In many ways it is an interesting article, in others it is a piece of ignorant crap and I cannot resist to add, a propos of absolutely nothing in keeping with the irrelevancy, Bentley Hart’s judgment of “The Better Angels of our Nature”:

    Pinker’s is an older, more buoyant, more hopeful commitment to the “Enlightenment” and I would not wake him from his dogmatic slumber for all the tea in China. In his book, one encounters the ecstatic innocence of a faith unsullied by prudent doubt. For me, it reaffirms the human spirit’s lunatic and heroic capacity to believe a beautiful falsehood, not only in excess of the facts, but in resolute defiance of them.

    note 2: in all fairness, I should add that I already know where this is going: exactly nowhere. How could it? Round and round we will go:

    The garden flew round with the angel,
    The angel flew round with the clouds,
    And the clouds flew round and the clouds flew round
    And the clouds flew round with the clouds.

    Is there any secret in skulls,
    The cattle skulls in the woods?
    Do the drummers in black hoods
    Rumble anything out of their drums?

    Mrs. Anderson’s Swedish baby
    Might well have been German or Spanish,
    But that things go round and again go round
    Has rather a classical sound.
    — Wallace Stevens, “The pleasures of merely circulating”

  138. Hi All,

    StevenK #118
    “Evolved morality also lacks an objective obligation on the part of all human beings, which is something completely different than the morality Christian’s say actually exists.”

    schblhrm #119
    “1) Show me #118’s solution or please stop wasting my time”

    BillT #120
    “Our explanation for the existence of morality is a philosophical/ theological understanding. The kind of evidence we provide, as would be expected, is philosophical/theological. Tom’s reasoning and evidence are completely appropriate for the type of argument he is making. He is not simply “reflecting on what he wants to be true”. He’s explaining why it is.”

    I think the essence is that we are referring to two different things. I am trying to show the appearance of traits that would pass as acting morally. As StevenK says, that is something entirely different to the morality you say actually exists. I don’t believe Christian morality exists. I see no evidence to suggest it does. I quote Tom again,

    “If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion; and each person’s opinion in that case is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action.”

    It seems to me this is exactly how the world works. Tom didn’t attempt to refute this at all. He offered no evidence to suggest this was wrong. He appealed to the notion that it is an unsavoury way for the world to work. That doesn’t make it wrong.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  139. It seems to me this is exactly how the world works.

    So, Shane, the problem of evil isn’t actually a problem that needs to be resolved? Wow. You’re part of the problem, Shane. Your worldview is dangerous.

  140. Hi SteveK,

    “So, Shane, the problem of evil isn’t actually a problem that needs to be resolved? Wow. You’re part of the problem, Shane. Your worldview is dangerous.”

    Compelling argument, misstating my belief like that. You’ve entirely convinced me I’m wrong.

    Cheers
    Shane

  141. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion; and each person’s opinion in that case is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action.”

    It seems to me this is exactly how the world works. Tom didn’t attempt to refute this at all. He offered no evidence to suggest this was wrong. He appealed to the notion that it is an unsavoury way for the world to work. That doesn’t make it wrong.

    So Shane, if I want to torture children for my own personal pleasure, you have nothing to say to me about the appropriateness of my behavior except “I don’t think highly of that kind of action.”

  142. Shane,

    Compelling argument, misstating my belief like that.

    It wasn’t an argument. That you agree right/wrong is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action”, I think I summed up your beliefs quite well.

  143. SteveK –

    Can we get you to plainly state that no human being is obligated to any goal and no human being is obligated to any strategy?

    Yes, no more than human being is obligated to fall under the influence of gravity. Humans aren’t obligated to have a particular range of goals, it’s just that they do have a particular range of goals by virtue of being human, just like they have a particular number of hands.

    G. Rodrigues –

    What the ancestors of our ancestors were is irrelevant… whatever social dynamics was more conducive to their flourishing, while an interesting topic, is irrelevant.

    …unless those social dynamics bear a striking resemblance to what you’d call moral behavior. Our last several ancestor species were also “sapient relatively-hairless etc. etc.”. That’s the “further evolution” to which I refer.

    So tell me, what do you think I mean by “morality as objective”, and, since you disagreed above with it, what is exactly my conception?

    Obligations imposed on sapient creatures by their telos, which telos is given by The Ground Of All Being. But I agree with Feser in that “since to a large extent the grounds and content of morality can be known from a study of human nature alone, it follows that to a large extent morality would be what it is even if human beings existed and [as Feser would say, per impossible] God did not.”

    But you yourself acknowledge that there’s no point in going any further, since you won’t bother reading what I write. Perhaps we do ‘go round and round’, but if you chose not to be an axle, who knows what might happen?

  144. @Ray Ingles:

    …unless those social dynamics bear a striking resemblance to what you’d call moral behavior.

    As predicted.

  145. Humans aren’t obligated to have a particular range of goals, it’s just that they do have a particular range of goals by virtue of being human, just like they have a particular number of hands.

    Society forces humans to comply with group goals they they are not obligated to comply with. Sounds like a great system, Ray.

  146. From the Feser page that Ray linked to

    Someone who denied the existence of God but accepted Aristotelian essentialism could have grounds for accepting at least part of the natural law. So too could someone who endorsed an atheistic form of Platonism (if there could be such a thing). But to opt for a completely anti-essentialist and anti-teleological view of the world — one which holds that the natural order is entirely mechanistic and that there is nothing beyond that order — is, the A-T philosopher would argue, to undermine the possibility of any sort of morality at all. For it entirely removes from the world essences and final causes, and thus the possibility of making sense of the good as an objective feature of reality.

    Perhaps G. Rodriques can explain what Feser means by this. It seems to me that atheism entails, at bottom, an anti-essentialist and anti-teleological view of the reality.

    And specifically to Ray’s comment about there being no obligations — it seems that this entails an anti-teleological view of reality, which would mean ‘the good’ is not an objective feature of reality. So how can this fall under the category of moral realism as Ray would like it to?

  147. …it’s just that they do have a particular range of goals by virtue of being human,…

    Ray,

    We get this. Your idea of morality is that it’s an “is”. And you go on to quite rightly say from your perspective “Humans aren’t obligated to have a particular range of goals…” (It isn’t an “ought”) But you must see that for us, (and I believe for everyone) this is a huge problem. For if there is no obligation then your “particular range of goals” is meaningless. Without any obligation your goals are optional. People can follow them if they like or not if they don’t. How would you answer my question to Shane in #151 in light of these non obligatory optional goals.

  148. @SteveK:

    Perhaps G. Rodriques can explain what Feser means by this. It seems to me that atheism entails, at bottom, an anti-essentialist and anti-teleological view of the reality.

    Prof. Feser is pointing out that one could be a moral realist after the Aristotelian or Platonic fashion and still be an Atheist; it is not *obviously* a contradictory conjunction.

    note(s):
    – there are other varieties of essentialism, but for morality, or so Prof. Feser argues, it is crucial *both* essentialism and teleology, or something sufficiently alike unto it. Materialists and naturalists (the more abundant and representative types of Atheism) typically deny *both*, but deny teleology with special gusto.

    The *obvious* qualifier is important though; For one because Plato and Aristotle were both theists, and argued for the existence of God on the basis of their metaphysical stances, so prima facie there is at least a puzzle here. The question then is the conjunction stable or even tenable? If the Fifth Way is correct (and it is; grin) then if you buy into formal and final causes, etc. then God exists. So the connection between God and morality, while *indirect*, does exist. Q. E. D.

    So how can this fall under the category of moral realism as Ray would like it to?

    It does not.

  149. Prof. Feser is pointing out that one could be a moral realist after the Aristotelian or Platonic fashion and still be an Atheist; it is not *obviously* a contradictory conjunction.

    Perhaps this is true, but it seems like a person’s imagination would have to work pretty hard trying to conjure up some “just so” metaphysical story in order to justify this form of atheistic belief system.

  150. What I mean is that a person would have to work hard to explain away/ignore history’s numerous references/evidences that point to the reality of God. It’s similar to how conspiracy theories work.

  151. G. Rodrigues,

    So how can this fall under the category of moral realism as Ray would like it to?

    It does not.

    I’d disagree. Moral realism simply means that moral propositions refer to objective features of reality. As long as matter and energy follow probabilistic patterns rather than being purely random, objectivity about states of matter and energy is possible under naturalism. Human nature is one such state of matter and energy.

    Denying essentialism is not denying that human nature exists, it’s denying that human nature is composed of an essence rather than an enormous number of probability distributions of matter and energy following probabilistic patterns.

  152. @DJC:

    Moral realism simply means that moral propositions refer to objective features of reality. As long as matter and energy follow probabilistic patterns rather than being purely random, objectivity about states of matter and energy is possible under naturalism.

    You have a large hole to plug to go from the second sentence to the first. As it stands, this is nothing but sheer question begging and is precisely what is disputed: with *arguments*.

    Human nature is one such state of matter and energy.

    Denying essentialism is not denying that human nature exists, it’s denying that human nature is composed of an essence rather than an enormous number of probability distributions of matter and energy following probabilistic patterns.

    Before making such claims, how about understanding in what sense I am using “Human Nature”?

  153. G. Rodrigues,

    You have a large hole to plug to go from the second sentence to the first. As it stands, this is nothing but sheer question begging and is precisely what is disputed: with *arguments*.

    What large hole do you mean? I don’t see it. What question begging are you referring to? I’m not catching your drift.

    Before making such claims, how about understanding in what sense I am using “Human Nature”?

    In what sense are you using “Human Nature”?

  154. DJC,

    Do you see morality as a “state(s) of matter and energy”. If so, on what basis do you make that claim.

  155. The probability of cataclysmic indifference is 100% and all sub-probabilities find coercion by that higher authority where (actual) essence and (actual) physical state finally – actually – merge.

    Even worse, that mathematics is actually applicable to reality is another stubborn problem for non-theists.

  156. @DJC:

    What large hole do you mean? I don’t see it.

    Yes, it is quite obvious that you do not “see it”. So your claim was:

    As long as matter and energy follow probabilistic patterns rather than being purely random, objectivity about states of matter and energy is possible under naturalism.

    Electrons, rocks and turnips “follow probabilistic patterns”, as described by Science, but they are not moral agents nor are they under any moral obligations. So quite obviously, nothing of moral interest follows from “follow[ing] probabilistic patterns”.

    In what sense are you using “Human Nature”?

    It is you who claimed that “Denying essentialism is not denying that human nature exists” in response to me, so presumably you would know in what sense I am using “Human nature” so as to be able deny it in the first place. Now you are asking me in what sense I am using “Human nature”? Anyway, to get a first sense of how I am using the term (after Aristotle and Aquinas) see for example here, first section “Metaethics” (note: this is the first decent link I could come up; I would have to scrounge a little to get something more definite).

  157. G. Rodrigues,

    Electrons, rocks and turnips “follow probabilistic patterns”, as described by Science, but they are not moral agents nor are they under any moral obligations. So quite obviously, nothing of moral interest follows from “follow[ing] probabilistic patterns”.

    The question for me is whether “moral realism” can be used to describe a state of affairs where moral agents are seen in probabilistic patterns rather than in essential forms. Since all “moral realism” as a definition cares about is that moral propositions refer to objective features of reality, it should still work in my view.

    The fact that some patterns of matter and energy are not moral agents doesn’t really help us on the question of whether all patterns of matter and energy are not as well. From a naturalist perspective, as it pertains to morality, the key difference in humans from all other forms of matter and energy would be the existence of language which builds extensively on (primate) neural maps that code for agent interaction behavior. At least that would be a start to that kind of an explanation which I think would at least establish reasonable grounds for moral behavior in certain patterns of matter and energy.

    It is you who claimed that “Denying essentialism is not denying that human nature exists” in response to me, so presumably you would know in what sense I am using “Human nature” so as to be able deny it in the first place.

    I assumed I knew what you meant by human nature per your post of Crawford Elder’s argument: (1) If there is no distinct human nature, there is no-one or nothing that can count as being essentially human, since having a nature is *at least* the possession of some properties, essential properties, the loss of which entails the end of the existence of said human. (2) If nothing or no-one can count as being essentially human, there are no human beings — apart from arbitrarily labeling such and such particulars as human beings.

    Anyway, to get a first sense of how I am using the term (after Aristotle and Aquinas) see for example here, first section “Metaethics” (note: this is the first decent link I could come up; I would have to scrounge a little to get something more definite).

    While I’m aware of metaphysical definitions of human nature, I’m not using those here since it is trivially true to me that naturalism/physicalism can not account for that. I’m more interested in knowing if that means, per Crawford, that naturalism can not refer to a human nature whatsoever. That, as far as I can tell, is not the case.

  158. BillT,

    Do you see morality as a “state(s) of matter and energy”. If so, on what basis do you make that claim.

    The question for me is whether matter and energy can evolve into life and then subsequently into intelligent agents which use moral behaviour for semi-optimal social interaction and I think the answer is tentatively yes.

  159. The question for me is whether matter and energy can evolve into life and then subsequently into intelligent agents which use moral behaviour for semi-optimal social interaction and I think the answer is tentatively yes.

    DJC,

    So, “matter and energy can evolve into life” is a “tentative yes” even though OOL studies have been basically spinning their wheels for the past 60 years and haven’t really advanced much from the (failure of the) “Miller-Urey” experiments.

    That and the evolution into intelligent agents that use morality for semi-optimal social interaction even though we know that evolution proceeded quite well without morality and isn’t necessary for evolutionary success. I would imagine the “tentative” is a very very big part of the “yes”.

  160. Let me take a sharp turn and make a different observation about “evolutionary morality”.

    Mostly, when we talk morality, the claim appears that “all people should be treated equally” or even “do as you would be done by”. Yet in practice, no-one actually lives like that in all ways. At some level, we all accede to a morality where different rules apply to those in power vs those under it.

    Examples:
    – in the general case, no one bats an eye when parents place limitations on children – and enforce them with discipline – that the parents themselves do not follow
    – thousands of years of seemingly successful civilisations practiced some form of slavery. Lack of some form of institutionally accepted slavery is a very recent phenomenon, and even then only in limited areas of the world.
    – Johnathan Gruber was recently exposed in the US media for claiming that obfuscation was necessary because the general public were too unintelligent to handle the details of legislation. And when he expressed these views in friendly forums, he was greeted with approval rather than considered a psychopath.

    Everyone has some form of elitism as an operating assumption in their moral thinking. There are many disputes about whether or not it is appropriate, but no-one consistently claims or lives in a completely flat moral system.

    From a social morality perspective, it follows that the idea of moral elitism is a moral good (since it is universal to both human thinking and human society, in some form or other). Indeed, it could be argued that it reliably brings significant social benefits, at least to those benefiting from being elite. Given this, how does one morally qualify when elitism is “good” or “bad”, or even demonstrate that (morally speaking) the good of the few is not ultimately the good of the many?

  161. From a naturalist perspective, as it pertains to morality, the key difference in humans from all other forms of matter and energy would be the existence of language which builds extensively on (primate) neural maps that code for agent interaction behavior. At least that would be a start to that kind of an explanation which I think would at least establish reasonable grounds for moral behavior in certain patterns of matter and energy.

    Your version of morality still lacks obligation, and as far as I am concerned, a moral realism that is devoid of obligation is a reality where language, normative behavior, awareness, desire, intelligence, etc all add up to nothing. None of these things tell us what should be done.

  162. It’s all flourishing (by blind axiom). Bell curves. Standard deviations.

    Pure descriptive. Void of prescriptive.

    Is = Right. Until blind axiom.

    Is = Right. Until borrowing.

    Is = Right. Right now. Always. Until……..

    Short of that blind axiom it is 100% probability of cataclysmic indifference where (actual) essence and (actual) physical state (actually) equate.

    Short of sex and baby-making (flourishing), short of blind axiom, short of borrowing, short of ought, short of obligation, short of should, short of the Non-Arbitrary, short of an (actual) Prescriptive, short of ignoring reality’s (actual) probabilistic authority, then evolutionary moralists have something there in “IS”.

  163. Andrew W.,

    To answer your question on how to differentiate, well, you are asking blindly cascading psychic phosphorescence to simultaneously ignore (actual) reality’s (actual) probabilistic authority and to give Mankind an (actual) Prescriptive which can transcend IS.

    So:

    Is = Right. Right now.

    Is = Right. Always.

    Until……… until……..

    Now you need merely sit back and watch as the evolutionary moralists do what Sam Harris did in his own moral landscape at that peculiar juncture.

    As if ignoring (actual) reality’s (actual) probabilistic authority by sticking one’s head into an artificial vacuum isn’t bad enough, we come upon yet another sticking of one’s head into an artificial vacuum as we observe that, of course, the evolutionary moralists just ignore that none of these nadir’s / peaks in Mankind’s moral landscape amid relative calm / relative violence over the last 50K years have had anything to do with evolution in-play or in-flux there inside of what we call Genome. Rather, it has only had to do with Knowledge in-play or in-flux. Knowledge of what is good and knowledge of what is evil there amid Personhood, there amid Reciprocity, there amid Being as such change over time nadirs and peaks amid awareness/blindness or amid light/dark there in motion atop genomic stasis.

  164. DJC,

    As noted to Andrew in comment #174 we don’t see that you’ve appealed to Genomic evolution at all here – but only to knowledge. Genomic motion is entirely unnecessary here. And even insufficient if you begin that annoying business of appealing to abstraction and meaning.

    As for IS, well, IS = Right. Right now. And always. Until, that is, you begin that process of language, of meaning, in what we can only guess to be something which you mean to be some inexplicable platonistic meaning dancing atop the immutable probability of indifference.

    We don’t see that you have gotten anywhere with what is, at bottom, a more robust descriptive of IS. Robustness doesn’t (actually) change anything. As the Theists have already noted (SteveK in #118, Etc.), we all seem to agree with you here. So our brutal moral experience leaves as asking you: “So what?

    Your descriptive leaves us (actually) embracing (actually) everything along the way as IS is forever void of any a priori borrowing. So long as you borrow to qualify any IS from any other IS you are not within your probability landscape. Because your landscape is right now. It’s not what you hope it will be one day. Pressures have favored, are even now favor-ing, cascades by probability into all sorts of ugly (Evil) places on your model. So unless you are willing to embrace all such locations (driven by probability) as indistinguishable from all other locations on your cascading neural map then we are in agreement.

    So up to that point we are in agreement. You are merely describing what is. Not what should be. And here we begin to see the break in your armor. Not that your next few posts will attempt to differentiate or to prophesy to mankind about should, but rather, that you already HAVE – and you don’t seem to be aware of it. And here is why that is the case:

    This is what “IS” – ad infinitum: 100% probability of cataclysmic indifference where (actual) essence and (actual) physical state (actually) equate.

    Now, you have in your entire thesis already begun the process of slicing up that pie into something which mandates the a priori as you say the following: “…..the key difference in humans from all other forms of matter and energy would be the existence of language which builds extensively on (primate) neural maps that code for agent interaction behavior. At least that would be a start to that kind of an explanation which I think would at least establish reasonable grounds for moral behavior in certain patterns of matter and energy…..”

    Your essence is now breaking away from your IS. There is a break here away from IS – an attempt at a break here away from IS – by you. Did you notice it?

    It’s subtle.

    Its location is unmasked when you go here, “Since all “moral realism” as a definition cares about is that moral propositions refer to objective features of reality, it should still work in my view….”

    You seem to be offering “nothing more than” the fact that the matter and energy in the moon is A-ish and the matter and energy in the sun is B-ish and the matter and energy in water is C-ish and matter and energy in Neuron-Maps is D-ish. But you are doing far more than that. You are now (at this subtle branch-off) building atop language, atop meaning, atop the first person. Unfortunately for your thesis you have thus managed to invoke and employ an entirely separate paradigmatic obstacle for you – which you will therefore need to justify as reducible to matter and energy – never mind that you’ve still gotten nowhere as far as moral ought (morality) is concerned and never mind the fact that your neuronal map’s (actual) essence and (actual) physical state (actually) equate in (actual) reality’s (actual) probability of cataclysmic indifference and not in your a priori cul-de-sac of meaning which you cannot coherently reduce to matter and energy. Never mind all that. If you are going to employ and appeal to propositional abstractions to make your full blown ontic claim on reality, well then, such semantic ascent and descent will have to end somewhere for you and matter and energy are going to fail you as your paradigm lacks any ultimate proposition. As W.L. Craig reminds us, “While such infinite disjunctions and conjunctions are unknowable by us, they are known to an omniscient deity, so that God has no need of blind truth ascriptions. Hence, He has no need of semantic ascent and, hence, no need of the truth-predicate. So in answer to our question, “Propositional Truth—Who Needs it?” the answer is: certainly not God! Indeed, we don’t need propositional truth either. All we need to truly describe the world as it is is the truth-predicate, and that will not saddle us with platonistic commitments.”

    As far as we can tell thus far in your descriptive, we have no ought, no should, no means to differentiate any IS from any other IS, no cogent connection between essence and physical state other than the probability of indifference (if you claim more is going on in reality then it is some sort of bizarre platonistic meaning built atop the really-real’s non-meaning), and no ontic real estate at all but only a kind of paltry epistemic borrowing of that pesky ultimate proposition which you must ipso facto forfeit even as you employ it.

  165. @DJC:

    From a naturalist perspective, as it pertains to morality, the key difference in humans from all other forms of matter and energy would be the existence of language which builds extensively on (primate) neural maps that code for agent interaction behavior.

    So first, it was because “matter and energy follow probabilistic patterns rather than being purely random”, now we are down to “the existence of language which builds extensively on (primate) neural maps that code for agent interaction behavior”: either way it is exactly as I said, there is a large (unpluggable) hole to plug.

    I assumed I knew what you meant by human nature per your post of Crawford Elder’s argument:

    Then if you know, you would also know that “Denying essentialism is not denying that human nature exists” is oxymoronic, since denying essentialism is denying that essences exist, and since human nature is an essence, human nature cannot exist. Which is the argument I make that you quote, which by the way, is *not* Crawford Elder’s argument — it can be considered *part* of Crawford Elder’s argument, but the latter is a reductio against conventionalism on essences.

    note(s):
    – there are some subtle differences between nature, essence and (substantial) form, but nothing that affects the arguments; in here I will just conflate everything.

    While I’m aware of metaphysical definitions of human nature, I’m not using those here since it is trivially true to me that naturalism/physicalism can not account for that.

    Glad we agree.

    I’m more interested in knowing if that means, per Crawford, that naturalism can not refer to a human nature whatsoever.

    If by human nature you understand “Green Cheese”, yes I suppose that naturalists can refer to human nature. But I imagine you do not mean by it “Green Cheese”; and since you already conceded you “cannot refer to it” in the sense I am taking it, what exactly is the point of your question? In other words, you have to first explicate in what sense you are using “Human nature” for us to know whether naturalists can legitimately make use of the concept or not. By your quote above on the “Crawford Elder” argument, you seem to want to take it in the minimalist sense of there existing some essential properties to human beings. No, I do not think that a naturalist can get away even with this much.

  166. Andrew W,

    Your take that moral elitism is acceptable and even advantageous is, I think, very poorly supported by the examples you have given.

    Disciplining children isn’t moral elitism it’s an example of parents taking responsibility for their children’s upbringing and teaching them morality. And the parents accept similar disciplines from their faith and/or the government and/or society.

    That “successful civilizations practiced some form of slavery” ignores the reality that legalized slavery has been completely eliminated from the world and slavery condemned universally as evil because of the moral end ethical underpinnings provided by Christian thought.

    That Johnathan Gruber was greeted with approval rather than considered a psychopath by other groups of elites says nothing about the general acceptance of his methodology. In general, he was condemned and is considered a disgrace and a moral reprobate.

    Other than that, spot on.

  167. SteveK –

    Society forces humans to comply with group goals they they are not obligated to comply with.

    Did society force you to have two hands? Did society force you to like breathing? I don’t think society has a lot to do with Maslow’s Hierarchy, particularly the bottom levels. In short, I’m talking about the basic goals that humans have simply by virtue of being human. Humans don’t want to spin webs to catch flies, for example.

    G. Rodrigues –

    you have to first explicate in what sense you are using “Human nature” for us to know whether naturalists can legitimately make use of the concept

    I’m still wondering why “sapient, relatively hairless, fully bipedal, tailless, forward-facing-eyes, grasping-paws, live-young-bearing hair-possessing milk-giving amniote-possessing tetrapodal jawed vertebrate notochord-possessing multicellular non-chloroplast mitochondrial eukaryotes” is insufficiently specific or unsupported by naturalism.

    BillT –

    So Shane, if I want to torture children for my own personal pleasure, you have nothing to say to me about the appropriateness of my behavior

    I don’t think you have any inbuilt desire to torture your children. I think you have more fundamental goals, and you’re choosing a particularly poor strategy for fulfilling them. Among the (many) problems you’re creating are a loss of fellowship and love between you and your children (actually one of the most fulfilling things in life) and drawing the ire of others who aren’t exactly pleased with making kids suffer.

    Why is drug addiction bad? Because it’s pleasant in the short term but incredibly destructive in the long term. It costs in relationships, in material goods, and eventually even in the pleasure that the drugs gave in the first place. It still amazes me how many smokers I pass every day walking to and from work.

  168. Ray,

    Nice job of avoiding actually answering the question. (Yes, we all noticed along with the selective editing.)

  169. Ray you tell us that evil is such an acute problem for you that its presence in the world is one of the major issues you have with Theism. However, when asked by Bill T about evil desire X – you reply with “You don’t have that (any) inbuilt desire of X”.

    That is autohypnosis, cognitive dissonance – and absurdity – at their best.

  170. BillT – I can say that you’re making an objective mistake, and worse it’s an objective mistake that negatively impacts others. That’s more than “I don’t think highly of that kind of action.” You didn’t get that already from what I’ve been saying?

    And, of course, my own concern for fellow-humans will make sure I work to stop you torturing your kids.

  171. Ray,

    So now evolution makes objective mistakes.

    Final causes?

    Except for the evil desires which exist but aren’t built into – found in – man?

  172. I don’t think you have any inbuilt desire to torture your children.

    Not to mention, of course, it’s a hypothetical and a hypothetical that has been used here many times before (including to Ray from me).

    And lecturing me about my real goals or all the bad consequences of “my” hypothetical action given that this is a hypothetical simply is laughable or quite sad I can’t decide which. And all this about my children when it’s clear that Ray didn’t even read it carefully enough to realize I didn’t say anything about harming my children.

    If that wasn’t enough we have Ray moving on to lecture us about drug use and smoking as if that had anything to do with the hypothetical topic in the first place (not that we don’t get it as a “smoke” screen).

  173. Ray, RE: #178

    Two comments I would like to add to the conversation. First, in response to this comment of yours: “I don’t think you have any inbuilt desire to torture your children. I think you have more fundamental goals, and you’re choosing a particularly poor strategy for fulfilling them.”

    Neither God nor society cares one whit about someone’s “goal” in torturing children. This is a “strict liability” sin and crime. There is no legal “mens rea” that can exonerate anyone from culpability in the torture of children. So I don’t think this is a very good example of the relationship between “goals” and intent as an aspect of subjective vs objective morality.

    Second, I am very interested in your reference and link to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As you may recall, I am a big fan of Maslow. The reference seems a bit out of place to me however. Could you elaborate some on how you think Maslow’s theories and research support your argument?

    Thanks. JB

  174. Ray,

    I agree with your perception of actual evil and its affront against actual ought. I also agree with your goals housed in various lines amid reciprocity. The probability of indifference is absolute and fails to make such things as these objective features of reality as you borrow here to cling to some faint sureness. But nothing is sure because nothing is objective short of borrowing. If our means cannot get us to X, then we must drop either our means or our X. If we are sure of X – then another means must enter. But the dance in between is autohypnosis at best.

  175. BillT,

    Even though OOL studies have been basically spinning their wheels for the past 60 years and haven’t really advanced much from the (failure of the) “Miller-Urey” experiments.

    That doesn’t sound accurate to me. Here’s a 2013 article at Nature that describes some of the theories and research that is happening today. RNA World alone is light-years past Miller-Urey and you can see from the wikipedia overview that there’s quite a lot of active work and recent results.

    That and the evolution into intelligent agents that use morality for semi-optimal social interaction even though we know that evolution proceeded quite well without morality and isn’t necessary for evolutionary success.

    Since evolution is a blind process it does not proceed towards a single optimum. Any biological function at all in a life form can emerge if it can do so through step-wise mutation, each step proving beneficial in some way.

  176. SteveK,

    Your version of morality still lacks obligation

    What exactly do you mean by obligation? If Christianity is true, are we obligated to be moral? No, I can still side with Satan, what’s stopping me? Only if I have a pre-existing desire to honour God would I feel any obligation.

    And as far as I can tell, I do have a pre-existing desire to be moral, and I would definitely not side with Satan if I thought God existed. But I take that pre-existing desire as an obligation that is a part of my human nature as an evolved social agent. I don’t have the option of being amoral, of not considering and caring about the most moral way to live my life, any more than I have the option of enjoying pain.

    So, if obligation is a desire to do the right thing, naturalistic morality has it.

    Or do you mean obligation is also a threat of punishment by a higher power? Well, we would still have prisons and police even under naturalism. So there, too, naturalistic morality has obligation.

    As a thought experiment, would blue look any different if God gave it to us directly -vs- evolution (through light wave-length detectors and self-awareness)? Blue might additionally trigger in me a sense of religious awe knowing God as the creator, but blue itself should still look the same. In the same sense, our moral emotions/intuitions might additionally trigger in us a sense of religious awe and reflection if we believe them to be given by God, but the emotions and intuitions themselves don’t need to intrinsically change.

  177. G. Rodrigues,

    it is exactly as I said, there is a large (unpluggable) hole to plug.

    What is that hole? Links or even vague references to more detailed comments in prior posts is fine. I just want to get a handle on what you mean here.

    “Denying essentialism is not denying that human nature exists” is oxymoronic, since denying essentialism is denying that essences exist, and since human nature is an essence, human nature cannot exist.

    Ditto here. Why must human nature be an essence? I want to be able to argue your point effectively and persuasively to myself before I attempt to refute it and I’m a long way from that.

  178. What exactly do you mean by obligation?

    I don’t want to speak for Steve (yes, I do!) but the obligation is to each other. If we are simply evolved then our obligation is simply to survive. If we are “made in His image” then we are obligated to each other through Him. That we regularly fail in this, doesn’t change the obligation.

  179. DJC,

    You say this: “As a thought experiment, would blue look any different if God gave it to us directly -vs- evolution (through light wave-length detectors and self-awareness)?”

    You seem to set up two options: An ability or awareness that is God-given “directly” versus a God-given awareness that is given by God via “evolution.” IOW, you seem to recognize that God “gives” through various avenues of creation. Based on this premise then, would morality look any different if God gave it to us “directly” versus via “evolution”? Then wouldn’t in either case, morality (the awareness of good vs. evil and the ability to choose between the two) be God-given? Are we really closer to agreement that we think because you now recognize that evolution is a means of creation that our Creator uses to “give” us His gifts?

  180. DJC,

    “So, if obligation is a desire to do the right thing, naturalistic morality has it….. Or do you mean obligation is also a threat…”

    Neither.

    And that’s the problem. That’s all naturalism has.

    And yet your – our – brutally repeatable moral experience houses far more than I-Want and I-Fear.

    Naturalism can’t reach there.

    Interesting that your entire appeal is to I, to Self.

    The Immutable grain of Actuality – in Naturalism – only has that sort of indifference…….

  181. BillT,

    I don’t want to speak for Steve (yes, I do!) but the obligation is to each other. If we are simply evolved then our obligation is simply to survive. If we are “made in His image” then we are obligated to each other through Him.

    If we are made in His image, why are we obligated to each other? It seems to me you are missing a step there. You are not naming a sense inside that feels awe at something larger than self, a sense that feels empathy with another person made in the same way you are and experiencing similar pain and joy. If you don’t have those senses, “made in his Image” means nothing. But if you do have those senses, those senses can also apply similarly to the grandeur of eons of time, light years of space, the cosmos, the mystery of existence, and, yes, empathy with another person made in the same way you are and experiencing pain and joy.

    Looks almost the same to me (except that God is personal and the universe is not, and that’s something, I grant, but not everything).

    Jenna,

    Are we really closer to agreement that we think because you now recognize that evolution is a means of creation that our Creator uses to “give” us His gifts?

    I do agree that God could use evolution as a means of creating morality. However, I believe that evolution without God is more parsimonious than evolution with God, so I have to explore that possibility first as a hypothesis/belief until it fails to hold up.

    scblhrm,

    Interesting that your entire appeal is to I, to Self.

    No more so than C.S. Lewis when we said “But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away”.

  182. Ray,

    In short, I’m talking about the basic goals that humans have simply by virtue of being human.

    In short, so what? It’s obvious that there are many ways to satisfy these basic human goals. One way is for society to force some people to comply with goals they they are not obligated to comply with.

    I see that I’m repeating myself.

  183. BillT,

    I’m not trying to argue that it’s acceptable or advantageous; I’m arguing that it’s a bias that is innate and, at some level, accepted. Humans typically baulk at a perception of moral elitism that disadvantages them; they are much slower to do so when it advantages them.

    The problem for the moral naturalist is to explain how a behaviour that is innate, universal, and generally to the advantage of those practising it can be consistently critiqued as “wrong” in a non-transcendental moral system based on universality of evolved human behaviour, short of arbitrarily favouring the “now” of the preferences of a given individual.

    Yes, any given instance can be critiqued, but the key issue is to prove those critiques non-arbitrary on a universal scale.

    – If every form of elitism is morally wrong, then why is it so universally prevalent?
    – If not necessarily wrong, then we no longer have a consensus model of evolutionary morality and require some external non-naturalistic metric to sort things out.

    Looking again, this is really just a concrete philosophical example of the atheistic problem of evil raised by Steve in post #172.

    “You can trust the moral intuitions of society to produce objective morality, except when you can’t”.

    The explanatory power of a Christian moral model – there is objective moral truth, externally given, but people have a bias towards self-interest and evil – is so far superior to naturalistic models they are barely comparable.

  184. DJC,

    I-Want and I-Fear?

    Nope.

    Nice try trying to pretend our definitions and ontological substrates are the same.

    I guess you have to pretend that is the case.

    But your appeal to such noble pretense is unavoidable given that Naturalism’s immutable grain of actuality cannot find love – but only indifference – at each step lacking the irreducibly moral – at each step void of ought – and full of I, of Self.

  185. @DJC:

    What is that hole?

    It is the hole left by someone that cannot recognize the fairly obvious, elementary point that from the premises (adduce some wishy-washy Evolutionary fairy tale stories) nothing substantial of moral relevance follows, e.g. moral realism or something close to it. You yourself admit as much when you say things like:

    At least that would be a start to that kind of an explanation which I think would at least establish reasonable grounds for moral behavior in certain patterns of matter and energy.

    The qualifications and tentativeness just is the acknowledgment that there is a large hole to plug. The hole in fact *cannot* be plugged, not even in principle, but since you cannot even get your case off the ground, I do not need to argue for this stronger claim.

    Why must human nature be an essence?

    Human nature, in the sense I am using the term, *is* an essence (note: actually there are a couple of subtle differences, but nothing that needs worrying about). I have already said this two or three times and I am starting to lose my patience.

  186. @BillT:

    Not to mention, of course, it’s a hypothetical and a hypothetical that has been used here many times before (including to Ray from me).

    It is not a hypothetical for *you*; it certainly is an *actual* goal for a few people down the entire course of human history.

    note: one could quibble here (and I should add that in a sense *correctly*) about the real goals, but either way, one can change the hypotheticals only slightly to generate parallel cases.

  187. DJC,

    You’re disorientated because you insist that the perfectly moral can be magically separated from perfect reasoning. You demand that I-Feel is the whole of morality.

    And you just insist that the Theist dances to THAT definition of the moral experience.

    Care to dialogue?

    I’ll start:

    The naturalist’s reported moral experience is a very different report (experience) than the theist’s reported experience of morality.

    The moral experience which lacks some component of reasoning cannot be entirely moral – and is in fact even immoral. Perfect reasoning brings us to the perfectly moral, which in turn brings us to the perfectly loving there inside of irreducible reciprocity – the irreducibly moral – which finds us inside of the perfectly volitional. At each step of [That Experience] the Naturalist and the Theist have very different experiences for the immoral embrace of what must be – at bottom – but a Lie is reasonably embraced by the Naturalist inside of each step’s motion (experience). Whereas, the reasoning at each step of the Theist is that which demands the perfectly true. The moral experience of the Naturalists thus finds the naturalist shattering perfect morality for in his experience of morality he finds he must claim that a Lie can be and in fact is Noble, Good, Lovely. And of course that is exactly what Indifference has programed him to Feel/Want/Fear. But his reasoning betrays both himself and that cosmic indifference. That experience cannot ever be perfectly moral – the Self must take that subtle step into some Lie at each phase of experience. The taking of that Step into Lovely-Lies has to do with our moral experience – and the Theist also experiences all of that – and then his moral experience carries on, keeps traveling, in and by reasoning, into the irreducibly moral.

    These moral experiences are (so far) very, very different.

    There is yet another difference and that is all the affairs of Ought, of Duty. Ought-Lie. Ought-Love. We find here a very different report of moral experiences. Those experiences are in fact different. A is not B.

    The Naturalist must artificially separate, isolate, reasoning from morality. That is how a Lie can be Noble, Good, Lovely, Beneficial. We flourish by it. He (the naturalist) experiences that self-induced (immoral) step along the way – quite often in fact. Whereas, the Theist experiences, at that juncture, no such immoral step for perfect reasoning carries man to the perfectly moral.

    Ought-Lie finds the Naturalist’s moral experience at its widest, its highest, its most Noble and that is housed in, sourced to, the Naturalist’s moral move, moral motion – reasoning – that the Immutable Grain of Actuality is Indifference.

    Ought-Love finds the Theist’s moral experience at its widest, its highest, its most Noble and that is housed in, sourced to, the Theist’s moral move, moral motion – reasoning – that the Immutable Grain of Actuality is the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

    Reasoning and morality cannot be magically untied one from the other. Because perfect reasoning and the irreducibly moral are, each, wrapped up inside of the other. We find here very different moral experiences going on inside of the Naturalist and the Theist. The naturalist wants to invent some artificial stopping point at I-Feel and just leave reasoning out of morality. Hume’s passions need no justification. (You said as much elsewhere as your “Anchor” of morality….no justification needed…. isolated from reasoning….)

    Unfortunately for you, for the naturalist, for Hume, and so on, our experience of Being fails to cohere with the naturalist’s artificial separation there. We experience Being in what never can be reduced to particle in motion as we experience in Being all the affairs of reasoning, of morality, of volition, and we find no “parts” floating out there in space magically separated from all the others. Perfect reasoning carries us to the perfectly moral and our moral experiences (the moral/reasoning singularity) unmask the very different moral experiences taking place inside of the Naturalist and the Theist.

    The only way for the two experiences to be “The Same” (I-Feel, I-Want, Hume’s Passions) is for the Naturalist to insist, demand, that this conversation take place in and by the Naturalist’s definition of morality. In other words, the Naturalist is not talking WITH the Theist, he is talking TO the Theist and demanding this: You WILL separate Reasoning from Morality. You will NOT define our moral experience as wrapped up inside of what just is the singularity-in-being.

    Well yeah, sure, if I-Feel is all that is ALLOWED in “Box X”, if Reasoning will NOT be permitted in this conversation as a fundamental part of Morality, then, sure, our moral experiences are the same (Feelings). Fine then. You win. You’re right. So much for dialogue.

    But of course the Theist DOES include Reasoning as a fundamental contour within Being and therefore within Morality.

  188. Andrew W,

    The fact that people choose self interest instead of what they know to be right is understood as wrong by secularists and sinful by theists. That’s it’s prevalent says everything about our brokenness and selfishness and nothing about the nature of right and wrong.

    “You can trust the moral intuitions of society to produce objective morality, except when you can’t”

    Which is why we argue so strenuously against the moral intuitions of society and cling doggedly to theism.

  189. If we are made in His image, why are we obligated to each other?

    DJC,

    It’s more than “a sense inside that feels awe at something larger than self.” We are cosmically and metaphysically connected to each other as part of that creation. We are part of the same fabric. It’s the only possible basis for the moral and ethical underpinnings of all moral obligation.

    Maybe it’s easier to see from the absence of obligation. Without the connectedness that comes from and can only come from our shared place in the creation we are just cosmic free agents with no obligations whatsoever except to survive. You feel responsible and connected to those around you, correct? On what basis could that be true. It’s much deeper and significant than a sense of awe at something larger than one’s self. Senses come and go. Our connection to each other is more real than that.

  190. DJC, #192

    You say this: “I do agree that God could use evolution as a means of creating morality. However, I believe that evolution without God is more parsimonious than evolution with God, so I have to EXPLORE that possibility first as a hypothesis/belief until it fails to hold up.”

    This statement makes me wonder if you really understand what monotheism deifies and how monotheists understand the concept of God as the Creator. Monotheism is not just an exploration of hypotheses about creation until they “fail to hold up.” It is the deification of all of the forces, processes, energies of nature that acting in concert as a whole result in creation as we know it, not as we think it would be or might be without an X that we speak of as God, the Creator. IMHO, here in this statement you have expressed the fundamental flaw of naturalism, materialism and atheism. JB

  191. I do agree that God could use evolution as a means of creating morality.

    This makes absolutely no sense. You are agreeing with something that nobody wants you to agree with.

  192. Jenna –

    Could you elaborate some on how you think Maslow’s theories and research support your argument?

    Well, the concept of basic, common human needs is kind of fundamental to what I’m talking about.

    Why are you paying so you can pump gas into your car? Is that something you really enjoy doing? No, you’re paying so you can get gas without going to jail. Why do you even want gas? So you can drive your car places. Why do you want to drive anywhere? Is that built-in? No, you need to be able to get between work and home, work and the grocery store, etc. Why even go to work? Most people say they wish they didn’t have to work at a job. But you want money. Why, because it’s an inherent human need? No, of course not – it’s because you need not just gas, but food and shelter and health care for you and your loved ones. Why pay for a private school for your kid? Because you love them and believe a good education will help them out in life.

    Most things we do are way downstream from our fundamental needs, from anything in Maslow’s hierarchy. The reason you work in a particular field is a balance of a lot of factors, from your needs to your interests to your talents to your opportunities. You strategize – how much time and money do you spend on education, versus the return in money and intangibles like challenge or enjoyment? What are your chances of landing a job in your chosen field? Etc., etc., etc.

    If you believe that people, simply by virtue of being human, need things like food, shelter, safety, love, respect, etc. – then you can start to talk about what strategies might work best to provide those needs. We can even study them. For example, something Christians in general would probably agree with – memories and relationships make you happier than material goods. We have evidence for that. You might dig Geoffrey Miller’s “Spent” – where he talks about branding and consumer behavior and how it’s often manipulated in ways that make us less happy, not more.

    Nobody has an inbuilt need to torture kids, any more than they have an inbuilt need to play soccer or rebuild car engines. Those are all learned, and, again, way downstream from actual basic needs and desires. And some things wind up making people happier than other things.

    That’s why I brought up smoking and drug use; BillT completely missed the point there. It’s a short-term strategy that brings terrible long-term consequences. You can get good at bad things, but it’s still problematic. The Dunkirk evacuation was an amazing achievement on the part of the U.K., but it was necessary because of costly mistakes that put the troops into that position. By the time you’re considering torturing children, you’re at the end of a long chain of mistakes. Choices a lot further up the chain would have provided a lot more happiness.

  193. Ray,

    Evil desires exist.

    Stop living in denial. Evil goals exist.

    Evolution doesn’t – cannot – make mistakes.

    Meaning we layer over reality exists unnecessarily (if naturalism) and thus the probability of cataclysmic indifference leaves such desires right where they’ve always been.

    I don’t see any progress here on your end. No necessity. No ought. And – per your complaint against God – too much evil.

  194. Ray

    Sure. Which ones actually work, though?

    Ask people and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. There are as many ways as there are individual goals. A need as basic as food can be fulfilled in numerous ways.

    Once again, I’m repeating myself.

  195. Nobody has an inbuilt need to torture kids,

    Really Ray?

    ‘Then I learned that all moral judgments are “value judgments,” that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either “right” or “wrong”….I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable “value judgment” that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these “others”? Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as “moral” or “good” and others as “immoral” or “bad”? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me—after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.”

    -Ted Bundy

    It’s you that miss the point Ray with your intellectualizing evil with nonsense like “Choices a lot further up the chain would have provided a lot more happiness.” Your “happiness” is a totally subjective emotion untethered from any reality because Ted Bundys exist and you can’t even tell them they’re wrong to pursue their evil. All you can tell them is “Choices a lot further up the chain would have provided a lot more happiness.” Not for Ted they wouldn’t.

  196. Ted is a simple example why Naturalism / Atheism must house OUGHT LIE as the Lie is Good, Lovely, Noble. Beneficial. Final Truth – Indifference – is thus avoided. And we flourish. Perfect reasoning cannot be employed and this is why the Naturalist must DEMAND that I-Feel and I-Reason be magically separated one from the other. DJC’s attempt to copy Hume here is such a case (as per #199). Whereas in Theism perfect reasoning finds us in the perfectly moral – irreducible reciprocity – Trinity – and that finds us in the perfectly volitional. God – divine simplicity – there satisfying necessity.

    Our own experience in Being affirms such seamless singularity.

  197. Ray,

    It seems to me that you are missing what to me is the most insightful and interesting aspect of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is its peak: self-actualization. I keep in mind that fact that Maslow considers self-actualization to be the highest and strongest need and that the fulfillment of this highest need is detracted from or prevented by unfulfilled needs at the “lower levels” of the pyramid/hierarchy.

    https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4570807.Abraham_Maslow

    “It looks as if there were a single ultimate goal for mankind, a far goal toward which all persons strive. This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the person, that is to say, becoming fully human, everything that person can be.”
    ― Abraham Maslow

    Are you familiar with Maslow’s research on self-actualized individuals and his examination of how consistently, people who are fully self-actualized experience “peak experiences” of the sort that we Christians call experiences of/with God?

    So far, I don’t really quite get how you are connecting Maslow with an argument about morality, at least without mentioning self-actualization as a need and driving force toward growth and fulfillment in the high-functioning human personality. IMO, Maslow’s theory and research is much more supportive of theism than of naturalism or atheism, although Maslow identified himself as a “humanist.”

  198. Steve,

    The actor who plays the professor is Tony Hale, Emmy award winning actor for his role on VEEP and an acquaintance of mine from my time with Campus Crusade where he founded an ministry for the creative community. It’s a great short film.

  199. Jenna,
    “It looks as if there were a single ultimate goal for mankind, a far goal toward which all persons strive.”

    This goal is a non-existent reality under naturalism, and probably every form of atheism (I’ve not heard of one). If it actually existed then reality would be inherently teleological and have purpose. This quote doesn’t make it clear but it seems there still lacks any sense of obligation to this reality, so even if the goal did exist as an objective feature of reality nobody is obligated to pursue it.

  200. SteveK,

    This quote is from Abraham Maslow, who self-identified as a humanist, talking about self-actualization. I agree that no one is “obligated” to pursue self-actualization, but Maslow describes it as a “need” and a “motivation” and not an obligation. However, he is clear about how wicked it is to interfere in/with or impede any human being’s self-actualization.

    “Let people realize clearly that every time they threaten someone or humiliate or unnecessarily hurt or dominate or reject another human being, they become forces for the creation of psychopathology, even if these be small forces. Let them recognize that every person who is kind, helpful, decent, psychologically democratic, affectionate, and warm, is a psychotheraputic force, even though a small one.”
    ― Abraham Maslow

    And my question is this: As people created in the image of God, is there not an obligation to strive toward and live to fulfill everything God means for us to be and everything God means for our brothers and sisters to be? It seems to me that this concept is at the core of Christianity. JB

  201. BillT,

    You feel responsible and connected to those around you, correct? On what basis could that be true.

    But on what basis could that be false? Assuming we feel a genuine connection with another person–I’m sure you know what it’s like to have a close friend or to be in love or to raise a child– why would there ever be a need to justify it externally?

    Of course we all want understand more what makes us tick and why we feel so close to people, but no amount of theories, sermons, or classroom lectures is going to do anything to break the power of experience.

    It’s much deeper and significant than a sense of awe at something larger than one’s self. Senses come and go. Our connection to each other is more real than that.

    I’m not talking about senses that come and go. I’m talking about the deep significance of truly meaningful experiences. I think therefore I am, I feel therefore I am. Everyone, Christian or nontheist has to start in the same place Descartes identifies. This is where obligations ultimately flow from.

  202. DJC,

    “I feel therefore I am. This is where obligations ultimately flow from.”

    Ted B. (#209) fully agreed. I. Self.

    Ought-Lie finds naturalism at its most moral. Void of True Reason (#199). Therein its final truth – Indifference – is avoided.

    And we flourish.

  203. G. Rodrigues,

    It is the hole left by someone that cannot recognize the fairly obvious

    That doesn’t sound like an argument, it sounds like assertion of the conclusion of an argument that hasn’t been made here. If you have links or even vague references to more detailed comments in prior posts is fine. I just want to get a handle on what you mean here.

    The hole in fact *cannot* be plugged, not even in principle, but since you cannot even get your case off the ground, I do not need to argue for this stronger claim.

    I won’t make my case. As I said, I want to be able to argue your point effectively and persuasively to myself before I attempt to refute. That’s why I’m asking for pointers to where you’ve made the argument substantially. I can not make a case without knowing what I’m arguing against.

    Human nature, in the sense I am using the term, *is* an essence (note: actually there are a couple of subtle differences, but nothing that needs worrying about). I have already said this two or three times and I am starting to lose my patience.

    I said in the post you replied to:

    If you have links or even vague references to more detailed comments in prior posts is fine. I just want to get a handle on what you mean here.

    Why must human nature be an essence? I want to be able to argue your point effectively and persuasively to myself before I attempt to refute it.

    You are losing patience with my requests to understand your argument in more depth? That just seems like unnecessary hostility.

  204. But on what basis could that be false?

    DJC,

    The connectedness we feel towards those we know must be true of those we don’t know in order for there to be the kind of moral obligation that would make objective morality true. Unless there is a true connection based on our shared creation, there is no other connection that could provide the necessary obligation to everyone. That’s how it could be false.

  205. Jenna,

    Monotheism is not just an exploration of hypotheses about creation until they “fail to hold up.” It is the deification of all of the forces, processes, energies of nature that acting in concert as a whole result in creation as we know it, not as we think it would be or might be without an X that we speak of as God, the Creator.

    That sounds right. But since I don’t see enough evidence to believe in Monotheism right now, my belief is an exploration of alternate hypotheses ordered by parsimony. That way, if God exists, I’ll eventually discover that without accidental belief in false gods (Hindu, Islam, etc.) along the way.

  206. But on what basis could that be false?

    I don’t understand why you’d ask this question. On what basis could a feeling about something external to ourselves be false? Simple. It’s on the basis of that reality being false. If I’m not actually responsible (obligated) to others, then that is the basis you’re looking for.

  207. scblrhm,

    Psychopaths such as Ted Bundy are exactly as expected if some people aren’t born with the moral intuitions and emotions that the rest of us have. I can’t tell a psychopath or sociopath that he ought to be behave, but neither can you. The Ted Bundy’s of the world scoff at moral obligations. There is nothing we can do except protect society from them.

  208. DJC,

    So you agree with Ray that no evil desires exist? And if there IS such a thing it is ONLY in psychopaths?

    Is THAT what you are saying?

    Or did you miss the whole point about the Self as the source of all meaning/truth?

  209. DJC,

    As per #199 your stinginess (parsimony) with perfect reasoning can’t, in the end, bring you the truth about reality. Ought-Lie is the glue you need to avoid your final truth – to get the flourishing stuff to gel – to be believable – else Indifference awaits you down every path you’ll ever follow. Ted B and ANY one else with goals contrary to your interests are perfectly reasonable in your paradigm and by all your stated means thus far. Reasoning on the one hand and Morality/Ought on the other hand for you will never find a final – singular – end of regression (ontic). Whatever “Being” is in your experience it is not the final truth of any path you may find. Indifference is. And the probability of your success in conquering – out reaching – that as you track down truth in any path at all is exactly zero.

    You may want to believe both Reason and your experience within Being and follow them to coherence rather than into Indifference, artificial boxes, and the need to avoid any bit of full and final truth (the need to embrace a lie) when appealing to anything over there in the (magically separated box) paradigm of Morality.

    Reality is one. Which is why/how we are one.

    Your artificial boxes (#199) just avoid that truth.

    Which is why you Ought-Lie. Naturalism’s “morality” is at its best when Ought-Lie is the foundation of its Ought-Anything.

  210. DJC,

    There is nothing we can do except protect society from them.

    But why do your goals/desires trump Bundy’s? Why do the majorities goals/desires trump Bundy’s?

    Bundy is, objectively speaking, defective but there is nothing in naturalism that allows you to rationally make that claim. And you are confusing the ability to convince someone of their immorality with the ability to declare someone objectively immoral. Bell curves won’t get you there you need something more.

  211. Psychopaths such as Ted Bundy are exactly as expected if some people aren’t born with the moral intuitions and emotions that the rest of us have.

    It’s also exactly what you’d expect to see in a transitional form as the species evolves and progresses.

    There is nothing we can do except protect society from them.

    And stop the natural progression of the species – what do you have against evolution?

  212. DJC,

    You say this: “But since I don’t see enough evidence to believe in Monotheism right now, my belief is an exploration of alternate hypotheses ordered by parsimony. That way, if God exists, I’ll eventually discover that without accidental belief in false gods (Hindu, Islam, etc.) along the way.”

    You have given us yet another expression of your misunderstanding of monotheism (which I wonder why you capitalize). First, what is an “accidental belief” and second, how do you recognize “false gods” without a conceptualization (understanding) of the One True God? And of course, if you are involved in an “exploration of alternate hypotheses”, then you can clearly articulate THE hypothesis that you find it necessary to explore alternates of.

  213. JB,

    Interesting question ~

    THE hypothesis.

    T.O.E.

    Singular.

    If reality truly is one – and if ought – and if it truly is the singular we – well that seamlessness necessitates a peculiar……

    And if such precedes Time…..

    And if such actualizes within Time, within Physicality…..

    Seamless singularity there in that T.O.E. – if “that” is the working hypothesis – well then I see no hope for naturalism.

    “Monotheism” may come into focus therein…..

  214. Ray, DJC, (Tom)

    The comment numbers seemed to have shifted by one.

    So, my prior references to you of #199 is now #200, and my reference to Bill T’s #209 is now #210. And so on.

    I have to say that you Ray, and you DJC, and Shane, and Andy, and other non-theists who think-on-screen here have at the end of the day always been a genuine help to me in seeing my own weaknesses, my own logical miss-steps, and also in introducing many and varied concepts which I’ve had to go research, Google, read about, and so on. All of which sums to my own better understanding of many concepts. I wonder – but for you what would we do here? Preach to the choir? In a very real way I am truly thankful for you – not for merely replacing the choir – but for your insights and for genuinely helping me understand a wide array of ideas much better than I had previously – Happy Thanksgiving to you and to yours 🙂

    Tom – others – well – a hundred Thank-You’s. By you and by yours my vision is ever more focused – Happy Thanksgiving!

  215. I can’t tell a psychopath or sociopath that he ought to be behave, but neither can you.

    DJC,

    We never said we could make them behave. But we can actually back up our position when we call them evil and psychopaths. On what basis do you call them that. Tell us what’s wrong with Bundy’s thinking in #210.

  216. Melissa,

    But why do your goals/desires trump Bundy’s? Why do the majorities goals/desires trump Bundy’s?

    Bundy is, objectively speaking, defective but there is nothing in naturalism that allows you to rationally make that claim. And you are confusing the ability to convince someone of their immorality with the ability to declare someone objectively immoral. Bell curves won’t get you there you need something more.

    I’m going to appeal to the bell curve but I do think that gets me there under naturalistic assumptions. Bell curves are objective and, with respect to the bell curve of modern humanity and its moral emotions and intuitions against fairness and harm, Ted Bundy either fits there or he doesn’t.

    If Ted Bundy falls within the bell curve, he’s a full-fledged moral agent and should be considered objectively immoral because our moral intuitions directly relate to the flourishing of the bell curve under naturalism (not to arbitrary segments of the bell curve;if moral intuitions solely applied to family, for example, society would be unable to consist of more than 1 family; since society consists of countless families of arbitrary genetic relatedness, moral intuitions must ultimately apply much wider).

    On the other hand, if Ted Bundy truly lacks human moral intuitions, he is in the same moral category as a man-eating lion. He is outside or on the extreme edges of the bell curve under this idea of naturalistic morality. Even though we may feel a sense of moral outrage at a man-eating lion, I think we understand that moral outrage at an agent incapable of moral deliberation is misplaced. And in that sense Ted Bundy is not objectively immoral but simply incapable of moral or immoral behavior by virtue of sort sort of genetic pathology. In that case, he is treated the same way one treats a man-eating lion. (This, btw, is where I think Ted Bundy fits; he was lacking an attribute crucial to humanness.)

  217. DJC,

    We don’t put man-eating lions on trial for murder because they are incapable of formulating an intent (mens rea) and acting on it. There is no indication that Ted Bundy was incapable of formulating a criminal intent and acting on that intent of his own free will. So, whatever “attribute crucial to humanness” Ted Bundy may have lacked, it was not free will.

  218. SteveK,

    It’s also exactly what you’d expect to see in a transitional form as the species evolves and progresses.

    Yes, it’s a more extreme example of the free rider problem in the evolution of altruism. But Ted Bundy is extraordinarily unfit if he managed to get executed while still in reproductive age.

    And stop the natural progression of the species – what do you have against evolution?

    Tom has a link to a paper that nicely exposed this fallacy in
    Some Serious Thinking on Evolved Morality:

    First, according to the orthodox evolutionary theory on which the Humean-Darwinian thesis is based, evolution has no direction. And so the notions of ‘moving in the direction of evolution’ or of being ‘more or less evolved’ have no content, and play no role in the thesis. Second, the Humean-Darwinian thesis argues that ‘all moral values are natural phenomena’, but it does not argue, and nor does it follow, that ‘all natural phenomena are moral’ or even ‘all natural values are moral’. As we have seen, according to the Humean-Darwinian thesis the test of whether a passion is moral is whether it promotes ‘the common good’, not whether it is natural. And besides, to a naturalist, all possible states of the universe are equally natural, and therefore ‘naturalness’ cannot act as a criterion of anything.

  219. BillT,

    The connectedness we feel towards those we know must be true of those we don’t know in order for there to be the kind of moral obligation that would make objective morality true. Unless there is a true connection based on our shared creation, there is no other connection that could provide the necessary obligation to everyone. That’s how it could be false.

    This is a bit hard for me to follow.

    Imagine being in a warm embrace with the one you love. Suddenly, for the sake of argument, you realize that naturalism is true. Is the warmth in your heart instantly replaced with icy coldness? Does a long history of intimate emotional connection and shared experiences vanish into thin air, in this thought experiment? I don’t think so. I think the warmth and emotional connection require no explanation, no justification and are there no matter what the universe does.

    Now, true, it is nice to pursue further explanations. But if they aren’t forthcoming immediately or reliably proven, no one is going to suddenly be incapable of love.

    Is this helpful or am I repeating myself?

  220. DJC,

    Bell curves are objective and, with respect to the bell curve of modern humanity and its moral emotions and intuitions against fairness and harm, Ted Bundy either fits there or he doesn’t.

    Bell curves may be objective but you need more. You need to explain why people should fall within the bell curve, why the outliers are wrong to behave that way. As it is, for you, they are just different, one more natural variation that cannot be objectively labelled good or bad.

  221. Jenna,

    You have given us yet another expression of your misunderstanding of monotheism (which I wonder why you capitalize).

    I think the chances are good that you’re misunderstanding me or I’m misunderstanding you. The discussion seems a bit fragmented now and you’ve taken some unexpected turns from my point of view which usually suggests we’re talking past each other. I’ll answer below in the hopes that I can get what point you’re making.

    First, what is an “accidental belief”

    That is a belief that turns out to be false.

    and second, how do you recognize “false gods” without a conceptualization (understanding) of the One True God?

    False gods can be recognized by finding a simpler explanation for the evidence that purports to require them. For example, naturalistic explanations of lightning can count against the existence of Thor.

    And of course, if you are involved in an “exploration of alternate hypotheses”, then you can clearly articulate THE hypothesis that you find it necessary to explore alternates of.

    Yes, naturalism is an alternate hypothesis to monotheism. Naturalism is the hypothesis that all phenomena arises from scientifically accessible properties of matter and energy.

    On a different topic you asked:

    We don’t put man-eating lions on trial for murder because they are incapable of formulating an intent (mens rea) and acting on it. There is no indication that Ted Bundy was incapable of formulating a criminal intent and acting on that intent of his own free will. So, whatever “attribute crucial to humanness” Ted Bundy may have lacked, it was not free will.

    The attribute I suggest Ted Bundy lacked is moral emotions and intuitions related to empathy and value of other human beings. I am of the view that empathy is a crucial attribute of human moral behavior and without it you can not have a moral agent (and what you do have is highly intelligent, very dangerous animal).

  222. Melissa,

    Bell curves may be objective but you need more.

    These two sentences seem to say different things:

    You need to explain why people should fall within the bell curve, why the outliers are wrong to behave that way.

    I said that the outliers are increasingly seen as amoral agents (the further they are from the center of the bell curve of human moral emotions and intuitions) and therefore are not objectively immoral the same way man-eating lions are not objectively immoral.

    As it is, for you, they are just different, one more natural variation that cannot be objectively labelled good or bad.

    Yes, just different, like man-eating lions (i.e Ted Bundy case). But why does naturalistic morality need to label man-eating lions good or bad? It is not lion DNA that is the key difference, it is the presence or lack of moral emotions and intuitions that makes the difference for good and bad.

  223. DJC,

    is the presence or lack of moral emotions and intuitions that makes the difference for good and bad

    No it’s the presence or lack of emotions and intuitions that you arbitrarily label “moral”. You are giving preference to certain emotions and intuitions for no good reason except that they happen to line up with your own (or the majorities).

    Just to be clear what you need is:

    1. An objective criteria for separating emotions and intuitions into moral or not.

    2. An objective criteria for why any individual should preference these “moral” emotions and intuitions above any other emotions or intuitions they have.

    3. Some objectice feature of reality that provides your cutoff for declaring that Bundy is not actually human in the relevant sense which is what you are effectively arguing.

  224. DJC,

    We weren’t talking about just love we were talking about what kind of connectedness would be required to create the moral obligation to form the basis for objective morality, no? My point is that sure you feel moral obligation to those you know and love but you would have to have that same feeing for everyone in order to have the obligation sufficient to form the basis for objective morality. That kind of connectedness can only come from a shared creation.

  225. DJC,

    Thanks for responding point by point to my questions and comments. This does facilitate more accurate and reasoned understanding of each other’s perspective. I appreciate it.

    First, in regard to your comments about “accidental belief” and false gods: In monotheism, false gods are idols and idolatry is prohibited because idolatry leads us away from a true understanding of God and a loving relationship with Him.

    You say this: “False gods can be recognized by finding a simpler explanation for the evidence that purports to require them. For example, naturalistic explanations of lightning can count against the existence of Thor.”

    When you bring up examples of deities from polytheism and the mythology of a polytheistic religion to engage in a discussion of whether or not these gods “exist”, you may in fact be approximating a better understanding of my point, which is about deification. The deification of any natural phenomenon or human characteristic does not make that natural phenomenon cease to exist. It is rather pointless to talk about whether or not Thor or Tláloc (the Aztec god of rain) “exist” since we agree that these mythological deities are anthropomorphisms and narratives for the purpose of worshipping the natural phenomenon is a mytho-poetic and religious context.

    But I’m sure you would not go so far as to claim that rain, thunder and lightning do not exist. You said as much: “Naturalism is the hypothesis that all phenomena arises from scientifically accessible properties of matter and energy.” So, naturalism does not deify natural phenomena. True enough. It can even be said I am sure, that many proponents of naturalism disapprove of deification.

    But what you fail to articulate for me is what monotheism deifies. You cannot say that the natural phenomena and processes that monotheism deifies as a unified, indivisible whole and refer to using language and concepts as God do not exist. I use this as an example: What I call “God” is whatever caused the Big Bang. Do you claim that the Big Bang does not exist because I deify its cause, calling it the Creator? Or that the universe that resulted from the Big Bang does not exist because I deify its cause?

    Monotheism is not a “hypothesis” so therefore naturalism cannot be and is not an “alternate hypothesis” to monotheism. Naturalism deifies nothing. Monotheism deifies the Creator of everything.

  226. Melissa,

    No it’s the presence or lack of emotions and intuitions that you arbitrarily label “moral”. You are giving preference to certain emotions and intuitions for no good reason except that they happen to line up with your own (or the majorities).

    What I want to say is that certain emotions anchor morality: other-condemning (contempt, anger, disgust), self-conscious (shame, embarassment, guilt), other-suffering (compassion) other-praising (gratitude, elevation) (from Jonathan Haidt). These are not morality entirely but they are “moral emotions”. These reflect our values as human beings towards human beings in a very basic sense.

    These emotions do not provide unambiguous moral propositions, so aren’t full morality in that sense. But they provide the anchor for all our articulating and working out of moral propositions.

    I’m also not giving arbitrary preference to those emotions, it goes much deeper. I take Hume’s view that values are the products of emotions that are inherent to human nature. We don’t need a reason to want because wanting is it’s own justification (independently of other wants). Intrinsic emotions don’t in themselves require reasons or rationalization, they just are, and just are valid.

    For example, if we see indisputable evidence that a dictator lives in opulence while his innocent subjects starve, we do not need a good reason to prefer to feel moral outrage, or anything like that. We just feel moral outrage, full stop.

    1. An objective criteria for separating emotions and intuitions into moral or not.

    Agreed, and generally I think any emotion that plays a strong social function seems to qualify.

    2. An objective criteria for why any individual should preference these “moral” emotions and intuitions above any other emotions or intuitions they have.

    There is no preferring or reasons needed for emotions and intuitions, as I argue above. People just naturally feel the need to condemn, praise, feel shame, feel gratitude, empathize and they just accept that social situations, if they are as they appear to be, have emotional coloring according to value.

    Reasons enter into it if people also value rational deliberation as a means of resolving value conflicts. Then it is possible to argue that more values can be achieved by taking one course of action compared to another.

    3. Some objectice feature of reality that provides your cutoff for declaring that Bundy is not actually human in the relevant sense which is what you are effectively arguing.

    Agreed, our understanding of genetics and psychology of mind must be solid to confidently handle morality on the fringes of humanity (from a naturalist perspective). But I don’t think that is theoretically beyond reach.

  227. BillT,

    We weren’t talking about just love we were talking about what kind of connectedness would be required to create the moral obligation to form the basis for objective morality, no?

    True, but if our sense of moral obligation is, at base, similar to the ineffable quality of love, it should not require abstract connectedness or anything else to justify feeling it. It is justified by the mere existence of another human being. I’m saying that what gives the most weight to moral obligation is an intrinsic deep value, like love, that we have for people and we have that regardless of beliefs.

    My point is that sure you feel moral obligation to those you know and love but you would have to have that same feeing for everyone in order to have the obligation sufficient to form the basis for objective morality. That kind of connectedness can only come from a shared creation.

    But we do have it for everyone. It is not necessarily the same as love but it is expressed every time we feel anger at injustice, shame at something we did wrong, compassion for someone who is suffering, a feeling of elevation when some one does something particularly selfless and noble. All of this is about people, whether we know them or not. Why do people matter so much? It’s instinctive, we don’t need to believe in a shared creation first.

  228. DJC, RE: #242

    The fundamental and overwhelming problem of naturalism is that it offers no paradigm for moral reasoning and no rational basis on which to formulate moral values.

  229. Jenna,

    Monotheism is not a “hypothesis” so therefore naturalism cannot be and is not an “alternate hypothesis” to monotheism. Naturalism deifies nothing. Monotheism deifies the Creator of everything.

    I take deifying to be assigning the attribute of mind (intelligence, emotion, goals, hopes, etc.) to some fundamental aspect of reality. Mind seems to require information and a computational substrate, however. So any explanations that include mind must also include a certain amount of extra complexity, at least as much as, say, the human brain at 100 trillion synapses.

    Coming from a position of ignorance about the true nature of reality I can form two hypotheses: reality is naturalism, reality is deism (note that the hypothesis is the proposition “reality is deism”, not “deism”). Which hypothesis is simpler? “Reality is naturalism” must be at least 100 trillion synapses less complex than “reality is deism”. So from the point of view of parsimony, I should start with the simpler hypothesis (reality is naturalism) and see how it fairs. If naturalism fails, then I can move on the hypothesis that “reality is deism”.

  230. DJC,

    The idea we feel the same, or even anything remotely like the same, feeling for everyone that we do for those we know and love is pie-in-the-sky nonsense. Most people nowadays can’t even have a civil conversation with someone who votes for a different political party than they do. And you think this can support objective morality. Please.

  231. DJC, RE: #245

    It appears to me that you have not understood what to deify and deification (the act or process of deifying) is, since it has nothing to do with “deism” as a belief.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/deify

    Deify: to make a god of; exalt to the rank of a deity; personify as a deity: to deify a beloved king. to adore or regard as a deity: “to deify wealth”

    To deify is to make holy, sacred, to adore and worship. When we deify we always deify “something” in that there is content and conceptualization in what we exalt as “God.” The deity that is the product of deification is as St. Thomas Aquinas expresses it what we speak of as God: “This all men speak of as God.” Monotheism deifies the totality of the forces and processes on nature that we speak of as the Creator. There is really no question or controversy about whether or not something called “God” does something or does not do something that we label “exist” in monotheism.

    I wonder if you saw my comment earlier about neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg’s research into the metaphysical mind. Based on my understanding of his research, I think that he would find your notions about added complexity in/for the process of deifying existing reality to be rather puzzling, as do I. Personally, my preference is for thinking with the whole brain and exploring rather than rejecting the complexities of conceptualizations of reality.

  232. DJC,

    Here I’m re-posting part of my comment about Dr. Andrew Newberg’s research. It is #347 in the comments regarding the “Divine hiddenness” argument (Schellenberg).

    Andrew Newberg (2014). The metaphysical mind: Probing the biology of philosophical thought.

    Dr. Newberg’s analysis supports and affirms our shared opinion that we cannot isolate cognitive processes and the “will” in analyzing metaphysical thought, which is what thinking about and reasoning about “God” is, whether the thinker and reasoner calls what they are thinking/reasoning about “God” or not. Nor can a person, physiologically speaking, isolate the brain’s processing functions one from another: The whole of metaphysical thought is not merely the sum of its “parts” or sub-processes.

    According to Dr. Newberg, what many atheists may be engaged in is reductionism and fragmentation, which he has a chapter about in his book. Newberg points out (p. 116) that “scholars” such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett “…subscribe to a strong reductionism in which the material world, as demonstrated through science, is how all things can be understood.”

  233. DJC,

    Agreed, and generally I think any emotion that plays a strong social function seems to qualify.

    Emotions that play a strong social function can easily fuel bad behaviour as well as good.

    There is no preferring or reasons needed for emotions and intuitions, as I argue above.

    Exactly, and people are very easily able to ignore or rationalise away feelings of shame etc if they happen to be getting in the way of achieving their other goals. So in spite of what you argue you do need a rational reason to preference “moral” feelings over feelings of greed etc, otherwise you have no should. Most of us act immorally because we don’t, in that moment, care enough about virtue as opposed to our own comfort. The question is why should we care more than we do?

    Agreed, our understanding of genetics and psychology of mind must be solid to confidently handle morality on the fringes of humanity (from a naturalist perspective). But I don’t think that is theoretically beyond reach.

    Your genetics and psychology needs an objective human nature to identify. You don’t have that. What you have is a “human nature” defined according to your purposes that you then use genetics and psychology to justify. There is no objective cutoff, only ‘probabilistic patterns’ where you get to decide where on the curve the cutoff will be so that the interference to your goals and values is minimised.

  234. For example, if we see indisputable evidence that a dictator lives in opulence while his innocent subjects starve, we do not need a good reason to prefer to feel moral outrage, or anything like that. We just feel moral outrage, full stop.

    But only if we have been inculturated in the “right” way. Given the “wrong” influences, we can instead see this as “protecting society from the savages”. Innately, the only universal moral feeling is to protect oneself and what one cares about; everything else is trained. Or a matter of presentation so that or intuitions are triggered towards one party or the other.

    I’d also point out that deification and the seeking of it, either of natural phenomena or the supernatural, is a mostly universal human experience. We, as a whole, seek powers greater than us to give meaning and direction to our lives. Does it follow that those who deny this (e.g. atheists) are morally deficient, or even psychopaths? Assuming the answer is “no”, explain why we should shun Ted Bundy’s moral framework (on the basis of bell curves or whatever) but not an atheistic one?

  235. BillT,

    The idea we feel the same, or even anything remotely like the same, feeling for everyone that we do for those we know and love is pie-in-the-sky nonsense. Most people nowadays can’t even have a civil conversation with someone who votes for a different political party than they do. And you think this can support objective morality. Please.

    You and I both agree that we have the capacity for anger at injustice no matter who is being wronged, the capacity for shame no matter who we wronged, the capacity for compassion no matter who is suffering and the capacity for gratitude no matter who is being selfless. We have the capacity for morality that goes beyond family, tribe or nation and extends to all moral agents. Those are our intrinsic moral emotions that anchor moral behavior. That’s all I’m saying.

    Of course I’m not saying that people experience nothing but those moral emotions. Indeed, if that were the case, we would be flawlessly moral creatures. No, human nature is composed of many emotions and values in addition to moral ones. Let me quote C.S.Lewis from Mere Christianity:

    Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires-one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away.

    I’m saying that naturalistic morality agrees completely with this observation. We have inside of us something that provides an “ought” by default. It tells we ought to do the moral thing and avoid the immoral (or less moral) thing, that moral obligations exist. But we also have other instincts that are at odds with moral obligations.

    Suppose I ignore a moral obligation. Which do you think is more likely?

    (1) I believe it is okay to ignore moral obligations.
    (2) I believe it was not a true moral obligation, that the situation appeared to be one requiring moral obligation, but upon further analysis, there’s nothing I could do; they didn’t really need my help; someone else should have taken on the moral obligation, and so on.

    I’m arguing that it is always (2), never (1). The intrinsic nature of moral obligation is valid in itself and can not be undermined. However, it is always possible to reason that moral obligation did not exist in any particular situation. This latter case is where moral analysis in the form of reason should be applied: are the “facts” of (2) really facts or just excuses? This is how a naturalistic approach to morality would proceed.

  236. Melissa,

    Exactly, and people are very easily able to ignore or rationalise away feelings of shame etc if they happen to be getting in the way of achieving their other goals. So in spite of what you argue you do need a rational reason to preference “moral” feelings over feelings of greed etc, otherwise you have no should. Most of us act immorally because we don’t, in that moment, care enough about virtue as opposed to our own comfort. The question is why should we care more than we do?

    But rationalizing is key. If moral emotions were transient and not binding, we could effortless ignore moral obligations and require no rationalization.

    “Sure I felt a strong moral obligation but, meh, ignored it.”

    A world where we can turn off moral obligation effortlessly is a world in which moral obligation only works through threat of punishment. A scary world indeed.

    But in reality, it takes rationalization to ignore moral obligations. It is difficult. It often creates lasting guilt and who knows what sort of long-term psychological damage guilt causes. We twist logic and reason to justify ourselves. A naturalistic approach to morality takes the force of moral obligation for granted and focuses on the rationalization. Is it a valid argument or an excuse?

    A naturalistic argument against slavery would first take for granted that we all recognize an intrinsic moral obligation to human beings and then challenge the rationalization that slaves are not human beings.

    Your genetics and psychology needs an objective human nature to identify. You don’t have that. What you have is a “human nature” defined according to your purposes that you then use genetics and psychology to justify. There is no objective cutoff, only ‘probabilistic patterns’ where you get to decide where on the curve the cutoff will be so that the interference to your goals and values is minimised.

    Okay, I agree that ‘cutoff’ is not strictly appropriate for probability distributions and bell curves. How about instead a gradiated approach? We’re talking about Ted Bundy, here, so I think considering him a 1% moral agent based on his lack of empathy would be reasonable.

  237. DJC,

    You say this: “A naturalistic approach to morality takes the force of moral obligation for granted and focuses on the rationalization. Is it a valid argument or an excuse?”

    Is there really such a thing as “a naturalistic approach” to morality?

    Definition of Naturalism: “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”

    According to this definition, Naturalism accepts no spiritual explanations. How do you argue that a sense of obligation to each other due to our common and shared humanity is not spiritual?

  238. DJC,

    You haven’t established that naturalistic morality exists. All of the things you cite are arguments for theistic objective morality. You list all the things that theists use to demonstrate that morality must come from a theistic orientations and then abracadabra call those same things evidence for a naturalistic view of morality.

    You haven’t established a universal moral duty under naturalism without which your entire argument is moot. You haven’t established why evolved moral principals should matter to anyone i.e., why are they an “ought” rather than an “is”. You haven’t established that human beings are any more intrinsically valuable than the ant you accidentally crushed on your way out the door this morning. You simply take the conclusions and call them your own.

  239. Bill T,

    That’s typical. Notice how DJC never presents any arguments. He just makes assertions and obfuscates. Personally I find such people to be a waste of time. They are either clueless or dishonest and don’t know what they are talking about.

  240. DJC,

    A naturalistic argument against slavery would first take for granted that we all recognize an intrinsic moral obligation to human beings and then challenge the rationalization that slaves are not human beings.

    For this argument to succeed, you need human beings to *actually* be objectively/universally obligated – and not just feel/sense that they are. Feelings/sensations/perceptions are not obligations.

    At least 5 people on this blog have pointed out this gaping hole in your worldview. When will you wake up and recognize that naturalism is not the answer?

  241. Hope y’all had a good long Thanksgiving weekend!

    SteveK –

    A need as basic as food can be fulfilled in numerous ways.

    Yes… and no. There’s a lot of things that people can digest. There are a Lot more things that they can’t. Even among the things humans can digest, there’s a smaller number of things they can survive on. And an even smaller set they can thrive on. (C.f. things like a high-carb diet leading to diabetes, etc.)

    There’s a lot of space on Earth where humans can live. We can (over)estimate it as from the surface of the Earth up to maybe 50km. That’s roughly 50 billion cubic kilometers. Of course, that’s about 5×10^-20th of the volume of the Solar System or less than a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of that volume.

    Sure, there’s a range of diets humans can live on. Don’t confuse that with an infinite range. And don’t confuse survival with thriving.

    BTW, checked out the video you linked to. In your view, which of the professor’s counterarguments corresponds to the argument I’ve been making?

  242. BillT –

    Your “happiness” is a totally subjective emotion untethered from any reality because Ted Bundys exist and you can’t even tell them they’re wrong to pursue their evil.

    I’ve stated before that I’ve asked prayed to God and not received any recognizable response. Many have said that I simply wasn’t willing to recognize the response I did get.

    I don’t see where the ground I’m standing on is any less firm if I state that Ted Bundy was thoroughly mistaken. Note that in the passage you quoted there was no consideration of any kind of relationship with other people, no love or even companionship. That’s a pretty big source of pleasure (or more precisely, joy) to miss.

    But let’s give you maximum credit. I suppose it’s possible that Ted Bundy was a person who simply wasn’t wired to experience any joy in communing with other people. I’m skeptical, but let’s assume arguendo that’s true. I’m perfectly willing grant that, in that case, the kinds of morals I’m talking about wouldn’t be persuasive. Of course, it’s demonstrably the case that Christian morals weren’t persuasive to him either. Can you propose any sort of morals he would find persuasive? It seems churlish to deride my scheme for not persuading him if yours likewise fails…

    Of course, to the extent that Bundy was damaged to the point where he was unreachable and incapable of empathy, communion, and was unwilling to take any consideration for the feelings of others… then he can hardly object if we defend ourselves from him, no?

  243. DJC,

    But rationalizing is key. If moral emotions were transient and not binding, we could effortless ignore moral obligations and require no rationalization.

    Hang on just a minute. Maybe the justification for not following our selfish desires is the rationalization. You admit they are all just feelings and intuitions. Why should one set be more binding. Not to mention that it really isn’t that hard to ignore our moral obligations, We do what we know is wrong quite often. Either you’re very good, or more likely you’re rationalizations have been so successful that you’ve reduced your moral obligations down to the stuff that’s easy for you.

    We’re talking about Ted Bundy, here, so I think considering him a 1% moral agent based on his lack of empathy would be reasonable.

    You really missed it. There is no real cutoff. No essences. There’s nothing to find. That is why your previous point about slavery doesn’t work either. You need some kind of essence or meaning in nature or there is nothing to get wrong. you don’t really mean that declaring Ted Bundy a non-person is “reasonable” you mean doesn’t make you feel bad. You need some justification for disregarding Ted’s strongest felt desires as legitimate and that’s all you’ve got left.

    Without some kind of meaning and purpose in creation you have no objective morality. You need meaning (what it is to be a human) for it to be universally binding and purpose to get your ought. You rightly acknowledge that objective morality exists, now you need the metaphysics to support it.

  244. Ray,

    I’m perfectly willing grant that, in that case, the kinds of morals I’m talking about wouldn’t be persuasive.

    You and DJC make the same error. Being persuasive reasons to the immoral person and being an actual obligation to an immoral person are two different things in the theistic worldview. It’s not surprising that you do conflate the two because under naturalism there is no obligation, except to the person’s existing strongly felt desires.

  245. Ray,

    Yes… and no.

    We agree. Good.

    Sure, there’s a range of diets humans can live on. Don’t confuse that with an infinite range.

    I’m not.

    And don’t confuse survival with thriving.

    I’m not. Whatever the need to ‘thrive’ means to a naturalist, I’m certain there are numerous ways to fulfill that need to.

    In your view, which of the professor’s counterarguments corresponds to the argument I’ve been making?

    Which argument are you talking about today, Ray? Is it the argument for moral realism that includes a universal obligation applicable to all humans regardless of their individual biology/desires/goals or is it the counterfeit that lacks any obligation? If the former, then I’d say you’ve touched on all the arguments in the video in different ways and at different times. They all fail for the same reason. Here are the arguments from the video (3:45 mark).

    Point: There is no valid reason why I should not kill you.

    Counterpoint:
    1) It’s illegal…murder is illegal, you’ll go to jail.
    2) It’s wrong to kill
    3) It’s abnormal…your DNA is abnormal
    4) Society agrees killing is wrong
    5) Our species won’t survive if we allow killing
    6) You’re a sick man. Your mind is diseased.

  246. Andrew W,

    For example, if we see indisputable evidence that a dictator lives in opulence while his innocent subjects starve, we do not need a good reason to prefer to feel moral outrage, or anything like that. We just feel moral outrage, full stop.

    But only if we have been inculturated in the “right” way. Given the “wrong” influences, we can instead see this as “protecting society from the savages”. Innately, the only universal moral feeling is to protect oneself and what one cares about; everything else is trained. Or a matter of presentation so that or intuitions are triggered towards one party or the other.

    I don’t think that’s true. Studies of very young children show that they apply altruism and morality to arbitrary people, long before they have a well-formed idea of protection or of people they care about. Some quotes from research by Tomasello in “The roots of human altruism” (pdf at google search):

    Human infants as young as 14 to 18 months of age help others attain their goals, for example, by helping them to fetch out-of-reach objects or opening cabinets for them. They do this irrespective of any reward from adults (indeed external rewards undermine the tendency), and very likely with no concern for such things as reciprocation and reputation, which serve to maintain altruism in older childre nand adults. Humans’ nearest primate relatives, chimpanzees, also help others instrumentally without concrete rewards. These results suggest that human infants are naturally altruistic ,and as ontogeny proceeds and they must deal more independently with a wider range of social contexts, socialization and feedback from social interactions with others become important mediators of these initial altruistic tendencies.

    From this research is it seems we are innately atruistic. Our moral impulses seem to apply widely and universally perhaps until we are taught to restrict them.

    I’d also point out that deification and the seeking of it, either of natural phenomena or the supernatural, is a mostly universal human experience. We, as a whole, seek powers greater than us to give meaning and direction to our lives. Does it follow that those who deny this (e.g. atheists) are morally deficient, or even psychopaths? Assuming the answer is “no”, explain why we should shun Ted Bundy’s moral framework (on the basis of bell curves or whatever) but not an atheistic one?

    I agree, seeking a higher power can be driven by the very real moral emotions we have of awe and self-transcendence (these are studied and written about by Jonathan Haidt and others). But atheists don’t necessarily lack awe and self-transcence, I feel it in nature, in music, in relationships and in the grandeur of the universe. I just don’t feel it in a higher power because I don’t believe there is enough evidence to support one.

    But would lacking awe and self-transcendence make one immoral or morally deficient? No, I can’t see why. Immorality is invariably defined by how you treat human being not by what you can or can experience.

    In contrast, Ted Bundy’s lacking moral framework leads him to specifically mistreat human beings. That’s the key difference.

  247. SteveK –

    Whatever the need to ‘thrive’ means to a naturalist, I’m certain there are numerous ways to fulfill that need to.

    But you’ve granted that there are limits to that range. And I’ve already talked about the consequences of that. If there’s a restricted range of goals, then there’s a restricted range of strategies. Cultures can vary while retaining the same basic morals. There are a lot of different ways even to be Christian, for that matter.

    With regard to the video, can you point to specific examples of me actually using those arguments? Hyperlinks would be the most helpful.

  248. Jenna – Sorry, took me a bit to get to you, but you weren’t forgotten, honest!

    Are you familiar with Maslow’s research on self-actualized individuals and his examination of how consistently, people who are fully self-actualized experience “peak experiences” of the sort that we Christians call experiences of/with God?

    Sure… but even Maslow didn’t assume or conclude that those actually were experiences of/with God.

    at least without mentioning self-actualization as a need and driving force toward growth and fulfillment in the high-functioning human personality.

    Why do you conclude that can’t be accounted for in a naturalistic framework?

  249. JAD,

    Bill T,

    That’s typical. Notice how DJC never presents any arguments. He just makes assertions and obfuscates. Personally I find such people to be a waste of time. They are either clueless or dishonest and don’t know what they are talking about.

    I’m sorry you feel this. I am trying to present arguments, not assertions, and I’m working hard to be as clear as I possibly can. I may be clueless (although if so I expect that to be shortlived as I become enlightened through discussion), but I assure you I’m completely honest.

  250. Melissa –

    Being persuasive reasons to the immoral person and being an actual obligation to an immoral person are two different things in the theistic worldview.

    From the perspective of the actual behavior, though, the distinction isn’t terribly relevant. Especially when people are arguing that my morals can’t work because they won’t persuade anyone…

  251. Ray,

    From the perspective of the actual behavior, though, the distinction isn’t terribly relevant.

    It’s extremely relevant for this discussion which is about the ontological status of moral facts.

    Especially when people are arguing that my morals can’t work because they won’t persuade anyone…

    No, that’s just you confusing the two issues again because what was originally written was …

    Ted Bundys exist and you can’t even tell them they’re wrong to pursue their evil.

  252. @ Ray #263
    Oh goodie, the link to your rant on “objective” morality….again.

    If there’s a restricted range of goals, then there’s a restricted range of strategies. Cultures can vary while retaining the same basic morals.

    We agree…again. What we don’t agree on is the primary goal of man – but that’s because your worldview (naturalism) doesn’t have one. Your worldview doesn’t obligate human beings to any particular goal or method of achieving it, so all options are equally valid.

  253. I’m perfectly willing grant that, in that case, the kinds of morals I’m talking about wouldn’t be persuasive. Of course, it’s demonstrably the case that Christian morals weren’t persuasive to him either.

    The problem with this statement is that we aren’t trying to be persuasive. Ted Bundy is a degenerate moral reprobate completely beyond persuasion of any kind.

    We’re trying to establish that one, we all absolutely know that what Ted Bundy did was immoral, two, that though we all know this no one except those that accept theistic objective morality have any right to claim that Ted Bundy was immoral so, three, theistic objective morality must be true. Put another way, either theistic objective morality is right or Ted Bundy is right. That’s all the choices there are.

  254. Melissa,

    Hang on just a minute. Maybe the justification for not following our selfish desires is the rationalization. You admit they are all just feelings and intuitions. Why should one set be more binding.

    Because it’s always there, it never goes away. It can’t be shut up, it’s the quiet voice within, the nagging of the conscience. Selfish desires may burn fiercely, passion, lust and rage overpower everything else for a time, but after we cool down, the moral obligations are still there. They’re always pushing, always present. I’m sure you agree with this!

    Not to mention that it really isn’t that hard to ignore our moral obligations, We do what we know is wrong quite often. Either you’re very good, or more likely you’re rationalizations have been so successful that you’ve reduced your moral obligations down to the stuff that’s easy for you.

    I’m not sure where you are getting the idea that I’m claiming to be very good. Suppose I apparently ignore a moral obligation. Which do you think is more likely?

    (1) I believe it is okay to ignore moral obligations.
    (2) I believe it was not a true moral obligation, that the situation appeared to be one requiring moral obligation, but upon further analysis, there’s nothing I could do; they didn’t really need my help; someone else should have taken on the moral obligation, and so on.

    I’m arguing that, with us, it is always (2), never (1). The intrinsic nature of moral obligation is valid in itself and can not be undermined. However, it is always possible to reason that a moral obligation did not exist in any particular situation. This latter case is where moral analysis in the form of reason should be applied: are the facts of (2) excuses or facts? This is how a naturalistic approach to morality would proceed. Of course I am guilty of using (2) with excuses rather than facts, all the time!

    I’m not self-righteous in my own eyes, that’s an atheist stereotype and a silly one.

    You really missed it. There is no real cutoff.

    I agreed with you, a 1% moral agent is not a cutoff. It reflects a hypothetical possibility that Ted Bundy is no more than 1% of a moral agent and 1% capable of moral emotion and reasoning. Therefore, we treat him as we must treat a 1% moral agent, which is to avoid 99% of the methods we would use to persuade a normal person to be moral. By using percentages and gradiated treatment, we avoid the black and white fallacy of cuttoffs.

    You need some kind of essence or meaning in nature or there is nothing to get wrong

    You seem to suggest the only alternative to essence is random chaos. But between essence and random chaos are probability distributions. You can make objective statements about bell curves and probability distributions else science would be impossible.

    you don’t really mean that declaring Ted Bundy a non-person is “reasonable” you mean doesn’t make you feel bad. You need some justification for disregarding Ted’s strongest felt desires as legitimate and that’s all you’ve got left.

    To review my naturalistic approach to morality, morality objectively applies to moral agents, and moral agents are those which are hardwired with powerful moral emotions that mediate and moderate social behavior in complex ways.

    However, naturalism understands that moral agents are hardwired with differing degrees of moral emotions and, hence, there’s a bell curve of moral agency with those most capable of moral reasoning in the large bell-like center and those least capable at the far edges.

    For those capable of moral reasoning, naturalistic morality takes the deepest moral emotions as basically noncognitivist so moral reasoning addresses and focuses on improperly reasoned rationalizations to let intrinsic guilt and intrinsic desire to be moral do it’s proper work.

    For those barely capable of moral reasoning, like Ted Bundy, this objective moral approach applies very little. If a person incapable of moral reasoning is also harming others, he must be treated largely as a non-moral force of nature that society must be protected from, like a man-eating lion.

    Without some kind of meaning and purpose in creation you have no objective morality. You need meaning (what it is to be a human) for it to be universally binding and purpose to get your ought. You rightly acknowledge that objective morality exists, now you need the metaphysics to support it.

    If meaning and purpose are fundamentally anchored inside, what makes life worth living is the experience itself, not the explanations or frameworks or rationalizations that try to explain the experiences. Imagine being in a warm embrace with the one you love. Suddenly, it dawns on you that naturalism is true. Is the warmth in your heart instantly replaced with icy coldness? Does a long history of intimate emotional connection and shared experiences vanish into thin air? Do you think any less of that person? I don’t think so. I think that warmth and emotional connection require no explanation, no justification and are fully valid in themselves no matter what the universe is. There may be more to reality than experience, but the unquestioned fact of the shared experience of emotions is enough for objective morality.

  255. Hi SteveK
    #152

    “So, Shane, the problem of evil isn’t actually a problem that needs to be resolved?”

    “It wasn’t an argument. That you agree right/wrong is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action”, I think I summed up your beliefs quite well.”

    If I believe something is right or wrong, then I think others should share these beliefs, and I will make arguments or take actions to spread my belief to others. On the benefits of vaccinating your children, for example. I am no authority on the subject, I have no medical training at all, but everything I have read tells me the benefits are enormous and the risks slight.

    Suggesting that I can only try and impact the world when I empirically know something, rather than just subjectively think something is obviously incorrect.

    Also, how would you define evil?

    Cheers
    Shane

  256. Hi BillT,
    #151

    “So Shane, if I want to torture children for my own personal pleasure, you have nothing to say to me about the appropriateness of my behavior except “I don’t think highly of that kind of action.””

    Do you think highly of that kind of action, Bill? If not then you could also say that phrase. Really, trying to trivialise horrific actions like those with Tom’s phrase is no way to argue a point. You want to tell me I know it is wrong, rather than just think it is wrong, but you offer no evidence that I do. What is the objective evidence that torturing children is wrong?

    And why go to the extreme where we both agree, if you are trying to show there is an objective morality. How about homosexual sex? I think you believe it is objectively immoral. I disagree, along with many others. We are a long way from a consensus on this issue. So please make the case for it’s objective immorality.

    Cheers
    Shane

  257. Hi Melissa,

    “Bundy is, objectively speaking, defective”

    Can you explain how he is objectively defective, please. As opposed to being just at the outer limit of the bell curve.

    Cheers
    Shane

  258. DJC,

    Because it’s always there, it never goes away. It can’t be shut up, it’s the quiet voice within, the nagging of the conscience. Selfish desires may burn fiercely, passion, lust and rage overpower everything else for a time, but after we cool down, the moral obligations are still there. They’re always pushing, always present. I’m sure you agree with this!

    Except that with the right kind of environmental inputs they can be shut up. So why not shut them up.

    I’m arguing that, with us, it is always (2), never (1).

    And I am saying that your 1 should be it is not OK to ignore a moral obligation but I am going to do it anyway. If you think that’s not true then you are not very self-aware or your moral bar is very low.

    I agreed with you, a 1% moral agent is not a cutoff. It reflects a hypothetical possibility that Ted Bundy is no more than 1% of a moral agent and 1% capable of moral emotion and reasoning. Therefore, we treat him as we must treat a 1% moral agent, which is to avoid 99% of the methods we would use to persuade a normal person to be moral. By using percentages and gradiated treatment, we avoid the black and white fallacy of cuttoffs.

    Who said anything about methods to persuade. What I want is a reason for you to treat his goals and desires as unimportant compared to yours that doesn’t amount to will to power, and no your justification that Ted Bundy is just like a man-eating lion and not a human being is entirely will-to-power. The majority under the bell curve get to ignore his desires and force him to forgo them for no other reason than he is different to them and they have the power to ensure their feelings are honoured.

    You seem to suggest the only alternative to essence is random chaos. But between essence and random chaos are probability distributions. You can make objective statements about bell curves and probability distributions else science would be impossible.

    No. Science has the same problems, everyone just ignores them, much like you are doing with morality. Everyone behaves as if there is meaning and purpose embedded in creation until it becomes inconvenient to them.

    If meaning and purpose are fundamentally anchored inside, what makes life worth living is the experience itself, not the explanations or frameworks or rationalizations that try to explain the experiences.

    Do you ever stop and consider the massive contradiction you are living. Correct me if I’m wrong but you have stated numerous times that everything is reducible to energy and matter as described by science. That has no meaning and purpose, there is no meaning and purpose in that worldview. You may not want to work out the metaphysics of purpose and meaning but please do not then try and assert that morality is no problem for you and naturalism is somehow the better “hypothesis”.

  259. Shane,

    Can you explain how he is objectively defective, please. As opposed to being just at the outer limit of the bell curve.

    The bell curve is DJC’s paradigm not mine. Before I go into another round of questions from you maybe you’ll answer one of mine. Can someone’s leg be objectively defective?

  260. Can someone’s leg be objectively defective?

    I think a more interesting question is this: can someone’s mind (or for the physicalist, brain) be objectively disordered (defective)?

    The reason I think it’s more interesting is because it puts both morality and rationality under the worldview microscope at the same time.

  261. SteveK,

    I think a more interesting question is this: can someone’s mind (or for the physicalist, brain) be objectively disordered (defective)?

    I agree it’s an interesting question … but baby steps.

  262. DJC, Ray and Shane,

    The three of you appear to me at this point to be proclaiming and/or defending naturalism (and by proxy, atheism) as a superior worldview to theism, in particular Christianity. Your claim seems to be that naturalism explains every aspect of human moral reasoning and moral conduct simply because it is “natural” or “inherent” for humans to act morally. Please correct me if I am misunderstanding the thread and theme of your arguments.

    What you seem to me to be proposing is a sort of God-less theology, a theology without a theos, and a morality without an objective moral standard in opposition to the metaphysical reasoning that is the Christian moral vision. My question to you is this: What sort of response to your confidence in naturalism as the answer to everything, the perfect worldview, are you looking for from us. Or are you just expounding on your personal preference for a worldview, such as in DJC’s case, the “parsimony” of firing off fewer brain synapses during metaphysical musings?

    I am asking you this: If naturalism is the answer, what is THE Question?

    I ask this because I do know that you have a myriad of objections to religion, specifically, a dislike of/for deification, so perhaps we need to examine those objections from a social and cultural perspective rather than from a cognitive, intellectual, philosophical viewpoint.

  263. Melissa –

    No, that’s just you confusing the two issues again

    I don’t think so. The fact that I might not be able to convince Ted Bundy how he might actually be happiest isn’t the same thing as there being no way to tell how he (and other humans) might be happiest.

  264. SteveK –

    Oh goodie, the link to your rant on “objective” morality….again.

    Actually, it’s a link to a specific section of it, which specifically addresses your specific objection.

    Your worldview doesn’t obligate human beings to any particular goal or method of achieving it, so all options are equally valid.

    Sorry, that’s wrong. I mean, if my worldview doesn’t pick out a specific ‘best food’, does that mean people can eat anything including rocks and arsenic and fire – that all substances are “equally valid” as food?

    My worldview doesn’t ‘obligate’ humans to particular goals – it simply notes that people do, in actual fact, have fundamental goals that fall in a particular range. I mean, you don’t have to be obligated to breathe in order to breathe, do you? Do you find breathing a burden, one you’d feel guilty about avoiding?

  265. BillT –

    We’re trying to establish that one, we all absolutely know that what Ted Bundy did was immoral,

    So far as I can see, the claim is that Ted Bundy didn’t know that, it’s the rest of us that do.

    two, that though we all know this no one except those that accept theistic objective morality have any right to claim that Ted Bundy was immoral

    But my claim is that he is immoral, by the scheme I’ve been talking about. That he’s chosen strategies for fulfilling his most fundamental goals that are objectively sub-par, even massively counterproductive.

    Sharing with and loving other people is incredibly rewarding. You should know this – you claim to be Christian, so I assume you’ve put that kind of thing into practice. I don’t think there needs to be a spiritual reason for this, I think it’s the way humans are and how we evolved.

    I linked to this quote before, but I’ll just put it here now: “Call it… joy. The thing like pleasure that you feel when you’ve done a good thing or passed up a real tempting chance to do a bad thing. Or when the unfolding of the universe just seems especially apt. It’s nowhere near as flashy and intense as pleasure can be. Believe me! But it’s got something going for it. Something that can make you do without pleasure, or even accept a lot of pain, to get it.” – Spider Robinson

    Why can’t I believe that’s a real thing? Why can’t that be objective, and something that Ted Bundy doesn’t see, the same way he doesn’t see the obligations you propose?

  266. Ray, RE: #281

    You say this: “I don’t think there needs to be a spiritual reason for this, I think it’s the way humans are and how we evolved.”

    And you say this: “Why can’t I believe that’s a real thing? Why can’t that be objective, and something that Ted Bundy doesn’t see, the same way he doesn’t see the obligations you propose?”

    Keep in mind the big divisions and differences between naturalism and monotheism: 1) miracles, as part of God’s revelation to humankind and to individual persons in their/our relationship with Him 2) the acceptance of the spiritual dimension of reality, and 3) deification.

    Yes, the concept of “spiritual reasons” is rejected in naturalism because the concept (understanding) of the spiritual dimension of reality is rejected on naturalism. But you are certainly free to believe that joy that Spider Robinson describes is real, just as I as a Christian believe it is real. Not “seeing” others’ joy as precious and worthy of deep respect, as in the case of serial killer Ted Bundy, is what we Christians call sin. Sin is a spiritual problem, not just a social and cultural problem.

    This is the problem I see with naturalism: giving a different label to spiritual phenomena and experiences in an attempt to de-spiritualize them, taking the Spirit out of spirit.

  267. @Ray #280

    Sorry, that’s wrong. I mean, if my worldview doesn’t pick out a specific ‘best food’, does that mean people can eat anything including rocks and arsenic and fire – that all substances are “equally valid” as food?

    *sigh*

    You rebutted something I didn’t say. As I talked about their being no obligation to any particular goal or method of achieving it, you tell me I’m wrong by pointing to the goal of eating and the limited ways there are to eat.

    If you were to actually rebut my comment – if what I said was *actually* wrong – you would have referred me to a naturalistic reality that *obligates* all human beings to pursue the goal of eating even if they don’t want to. You would have referred me to the naturalistic reality that makes starving human beings rather than feeding them, morally wrong.

    But since there is no such reality, what will you say? I guess you’ll just keep pretending that you’ve rebutted my comment by regaling me with tales of breathing and how you cannot help but breathe – just like the human sociopath/predator cannot help but do what they do.

  268. So far as I can see, the claim is that Ted Bundy didn’t know that, it’s the rest of us that do.

    It’s not about what he knew or even what we know it’s about his actions being objectively immoral. Period.

    But my claim is that he is immoral, by the scheme I’ve been talking about.

    No. It isn’t. Because the scheme you’ve been talking about doesn’t describe morality in any way shape or form. As you explain in your very next sentence and in contradiction to your morality claim “…he’s chosen strategies for fulfilling his most fundamental goals that are objectively sub-par, even massively counterproductive.” This has nothing to do with morality. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. Zilch.

    And Ray we’re talking about a man that raped and murdered dozens and dozens of women and you’re taking about “strategies for fulfilling his most fundamental goals that are objectively sub-par, even massively counterproductive.” Are you kidding!!! Have you no heart, have you no soul.

  269. Ray,

    That he’s chosen strategies for fulfilling his most fundamental goals that are objectively sub-par, even massively counterproductive.

    As BillT said, this says nothing about the morality of his actions. But using your twisted logic, if you were to train/consult with Ted and help him improve his strategies to the point of near-perfection, you would be helping him become an (almost) morally perfect murderer.

  270. Why can’t I believe that’s a real thing? Why can’t that be objective, and something that Ted Bundy doesn’t see, the same way he doesn’t see the obligations you propose?

    Ray,

    Just so I address your point directly. You can believe it’s a real thing but no one else has to. All they have to do is say “I don’t care what you think is a real thing.” And when they do that and go out and rape and murder dozens and dozens of women all you can say to them is “You’re choosing strategies for fulfilling your most fundamental goals that are objectively sub-par, even massively counterproductive.” Wow, Ray. That ought to do it. Does it do it for you?

  271. If naturalism is the answer, what is THE Question?

    Another question:
    If I don’t prefer/like the answer (naturalism), is the human will (all 8 billion of them) obligated to train themselves to prefer/like it? In other words, are human beings universally *obligated* to pursue what is true and as a corollary, is there something objectively wrong/broken/defective with the human being who does not?

    No baby steps for me, Melissa. 🙂

  272. Shane.
    I don’t think in all the time I’ve spent here I’ve ever seen anyone try as hard as you to avoid answering a question as you did in your #272. Must be a world’s record. Just to get to the specifics though.

    Do you think highly of that kind of action, Bill? If not then you could also say that phrase.

    Answering a question with a question and projecting my answer to it for me. A double header.

    trying to trivialise horrific actions like those with Tom’s phrase is no way to argue a point

    An outright misstatement. I trivialized nothing in fact just the opposite. It’s a very serious question, seriously asked.

    You want to tell me I know it is wrong, rather than just think it is wrong, but you offer no evidence that I do.

    ??? Do what?

    What is the objective evidence that torturing children is wrong?

    Really? Wow.

    And why go to the extreme where we both agree, if you are trying to show there is an objective morality.

    Testing theories at their extreme is a standard practice in intellectual discussions. And I don’t believe we agree or agree on the same thing.

    And even though you didn’t answer my question, I’ll answer yours.

    How about homosexual sex? I think you believe it is objectively immoral.… So please make the case for it’s [sic] objective immorality.

    I believe all sex outside of marriage is problematic. It takes an ultimate intimacy and places it in a context where the intimacy isn’t reciprocated by ultimate commitment. In common parlance, it’s using someone. (And I believe that now, as has been true for all of recorded history, marriage is the union of opposite sexes.)

  273. Melissa,

    Except that with the right kind of environmental inputs they can be shut up. So why not shut them up.

    Why cut off one’s leg to fix a bruise? The moral emotions have negative painful sides –guilt, shame, anger–, true, but they also have enormous positives — admiration, gratitude, elevation, doing good for another, being recognized as a good person by other people. Is there anything better in life, honestly?

    And I am saying that your 1 should be it is not OK to ignore a moral obligation but I am going to do it anyway. If you think that’s not true then you are not very self-aware or your moral bar is very low.

    Alright: I believe it is not okay to ignore moral obligations but I’m going to do it anyway. Now my question to you is “why”? Why am I going to ignore moral obligations? If you can answer why without engaging in some form of rationalization (invalid logic or reasoning) you may have a point. But I’m not sure how that will work since the statement is a contradiction in itself.

    What I want is a reason for you to treat [Bundy’s] goals and desires as unimportant compared to yours that doesn’t amount to will to power, and no your justification that Ted Bundy is just like a man-eating lion and not a human being is entirely will-to-power. The majority under the bell curve get to ignore his desires and force him to forgo them for no other reason than he is different to them and they have the power to ensure their feelings are honoured.

    It’s simple really, Bundy intends to kill or harm. It isn’t will-to-power to stop someone from killing or harming you, or at least hardly something to object strenuously to that I can see. If Bundy doesn’t intend to kill or harm, your objections would apply and it might be invalid to coerce him.

    Do you ever stop and consider the massive contradiction you are living. Correct me if I’m wrong but you have stated numerous times that everything is reducible to energy and matter as described by science. That has no meaning and purpose, there is no meaning and purpose in that worldview. You may not want to work out the metaphysics of purpose and meaning but please do not then try and assert that morality is no problem for you and naturalism is somehow the better “hypothesis”.

    I will correct you first that I’m not asserting that naturalism is the better hypothesis except when asked directly what I believe and why. I’m not trying to get you to give up your beliefs, I’m simply replying to what I perceive to be invalid and improper criticism of naturalism and what it entails.

    There is no meaning and purpose in matter and energy because meaning and purpose strictly, absolutely require mind and a conscious observer. However, that said, it still seems to me plausible that matter and energy appear to be capable of evolving into mind with a conscious observer. Therefore there is no massive contradiction. Your claim of contradiction I suspect is not based on a factual or logical argument (how could it be without knowing a lot more than we do know currently about this universe) but one based on the intuitive feel of being and experience. But the intuitive feel of being and experience and how that maps to reality is exactly where we’re being shown to be the most ignorant in recent decades. It is exactly there where reasonable methodologies for attaining knowledge require that simpler explanations be explored first.

  274. Ray,

    I don’t think so. The fact that I might not be able to convince Ted Bundy how he might actually be happiest isn’t the same thing as there being no way to tell how he (and other humans) might be happiest.

    For goodness sake. Reply to what I’ve written in context with what you wrote otherwise the discussion will, as always descend into farce.

  275. DJC,

    Why cut off one’s leg to fix a bruise? The moral emotions have negative painful sides –guilt, shame, anger–, true, but they also have enormous positives — admiration, gratitude, elevation, doing good for another, being recognized as a good person by other people. Is there anything better in life, honestly?

    Positive and beneficial us in the eye of the beholder until you have the metaphysic to ground it.

    Why am I going to ignore moral obligations? If you can answer why without engaging in some form of rationalization (invalid logic or reasoning) you may have a point. But I’m not sure how that will work since the statement is a contradiction in itself.

    I will just say first that, and I should have picked you up for this sooner, is that what we are doing is ignoring moral feelings of obligation rather than actual obligations, otherwise your argument is question begging because you’re trying to establish they are actual obligations. So the scenario: I’ll lie to my boss (immoral) so I can have a day off work (preferred goal).

    It’s simple really, Bundy intends to kill or harm. It isn’t will-to-power to stop someone from killing or harming you, or at least hardly something to object strenuously to that I can see.

    It is will-to-power until you have established objective morality, which you haven’t. All you’ve got is that his feelings won’t let the majority gain their good feelings and the majority are going to forcibly ensure the preferential treatment of their feelings.

    Your claim of contradiction I suspect is not based on a factual or logical argument (how could it be without knowing a lot more than we do know currently about this universe) but one based on the intuitive feel of being and experience.

    No, my claim of contradiction is based on actual arguments (I can hunt down some references if you are unaware of the arguments against materialism) and my knowledge of what the natural sciences actually entail. If you want to reduce everything down to matter and energy, as studied by science, you will not, in principle find meaning and purpose, they are deliberately excluded. You might check out this for an extended discussion of this point.

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

  276. Jenna –

    This is the problem I see with naturalism: giving a different label to spiritual phenomena and experiences in an attempt to de-spiritualize them, taking the Spirit out of spirit.

    Would it be invalid for me to turn that around? I could say something like, ‘this is the problem I see with supernaturalism: giving a different label to natural phenomena and experiences in an attempt to spiritualize them’.

    I have problems with the supernatural – philosophical, historical, and practical. Why is it invalid for me to try to account for things from my perspective, the same way you do from yours?

  277. SteveK –

    you would have referred me to a naturalistic reality that *obligates* all human beings to pursue the goal of eating even if they don’t want to

    No, instead I point to the reality that all humans want to pursue the goal of eating. Some don’t eat because of other goals (e.g. hunger strikes) but they still want to eat. Indeed, in the case of hunger strikes, the fact that they are willing to forgo something they really want to do is what’s supposed to make the protest effective.

    I don’t need an obligation to want to eat. That’s the point.

    just like the human sociopath/predator cannot help but do what they do

    Unlike the victim in the video you linked to, I’m not a sociobiologist. I don’t think that sociopaths “cannot help but do what they do”. People might have genes that dispose them toward sociopathy, but people can have genes that dispose them to alcoholism and not become alcoholic. And development has rather a lot to do with how such genes are expressed. (Did you ever check out David Sloan Wilson’s “Evolution For Everyone” like I asked back in February?) Sociopaths might need more help developing empathy, the way dyslexics need more help learning to read, but that’s not the same as being incapable.

  278. Ray,

    I don’t need an obligation to want to eat. That’s the point.

    It’s a point I agree with so I’m not sure why you raised it to begin with.

    Sociopaths might need more help developing empathy, the way dyslexics need more help learning to read, but that’s not the same as being incapable.

    I agree (again). I’m struggling to understand the point of your comments. You respond to me with a comment about breathing and eating as if you are rebutting my comment regarding obligation. I guess it’s not a rebuttal.

    Note that I *can* choose to refrain from eating and breathing so it’s not as if I have no choice but to do these things.

    But hey, I’m pleased to agree with you, Ray.

  279. BillT –

    This has nothing to do with morality.

    Okay, look at image #1. Then look at image #2. Go on, look! It’ll only take a couple seconds, that’s all.

    The rectangles you see in #1 aren’t “really” there, and even though the ‘corners’ are in the same places in #2, your brain doesn’t see them anymore – because of the orientation change.

    But just because the rectangles are illusory doesn’t mean that there’s no pattern at all in #1! I think the sense of obligation that humans feel about morality is rather like the rectangles we see when we look at image #1 – a way our brains react to, reflect and process, an underlying reality. (Remember that bit about “warmth” and “cold” being realities – realities about how humans relate to temperature?)

    Our sense of morality – our talent for moral reasoning – is a response to a reality. And that’s the reality I’m talking about – those objective strategies resulting from human goals and the universe we live in.

    And Ray we’re talking about a man that raped and murdered dozens and dozens of women and you’re taking about “strategies for fulfilling his most fundamental goals that are objectively sub-par, even massively counterproductive.” Are you kidding!!! Have you no heart, have you no soul.

    Of course I do! Because it has to do with real people, it’s very urgent. You’re asking me to talk to a guy with impaired empathy, though. And you’re asking for a formal system. A treatise on surgery is going to sound clinical, but it’s not inconsistent with the suffering of the patient. Such an account is aimed at a different purpose, of necessity.

  280. The old rectangles-that-don’t-actually-exist-but-are-VERY-VERY-meaningful-to-humans analogy for morality.

    You are creative, Ray, but not very wise.

    Our sense of morality – our talent for moral reasoning – is a response to a reality.

    This is the subjective view of morality. Individuals see patterns among random things and they organize their lives around these perceptions. You expect all human beings to see the same patterns and react to them in the same way. There’s no reason why this should be the case though, hence your analogy fails at every level.

  281. SteveK – No, it’s not “patterns among random things”. The orientations of the corners in image #1 are not random. There is a real difference between #1 and #2.

    When your brain sees those rectangles, it’s picking up on a real, objective pattern. You could imagine someone with brain damage, who could look at both pictures and not see much of a difference. They would be failing to see something real.

  282. Ray,
    My comment was referring to the rectangles, not the corners. In your analogy the rectangles are not intended to be facts of reality otherwise you would have never used the term ‘illusory’.

    So make up your mind, Ray. Do the rectangles objectively exist? If yes, then by analogy morality is grounded in something factually external to the human being perceiving it.

  283. Melissa,

    Positive and beneficial us in the eye of the beholder until you have the metaphysic to ground it.

    Is pain in the eye of the beholder without metaphysical grounding? I don’t think so, then why would pleasure or positive emotions require them? Our basic values are shaped by intrinsic qualities of mind (pain, pleasure, happiness, sorrow, gratitude, etc.) that are meaningful in themselves.

    Of course I don’t mind looking beyond experience to understand more about reality but I think that’s about satisfying curiosity rather than grounding. And I should add here again that these intrinsic qualities of mind can also point to God. Nothing I have argued here is supposed to be incompatible with Christianity. I’m simply taking the evidence as we understand it today to demonstrate that naturalism can be self-consistent (but allowing that it may be incomplete). More on that below.

    I will just say first that, and I should have picked you up for this sooner, is that what we are doing is ignoring moral feelings of obligation rather than actual obligations, otherwise your argument is question begging because you’re trying to establish they are actual obligations. So the scenario: I’ll lie to my boss (immoral) so I can have a day off work (preferred goal).

    It doesn’t matter to my point whether feelings are moral obligations themselves or point to something metaphysical that further grounds it. What I want to say is that the mind (or soul) can be thought of, in some sense, as a committee of “single-minded beings”. The apostle Paul refers to the new nature and the old nature. C.S. Lewis refers to instincts, impulses and Moral Law. A naturalist view would posit these as brain “modules”, emotions that put value on particular states of action, behavior or belief.

    There is a “being” (in naturalism describing a brain “module” related to moral emotions and intuitions, Paul might call it the new nature, C.S. Lewis might call it Moral Law) belonging to the “committee of mind” who always speaks up for moral obligations by wanting the self to do the right thing. At the same time, there are many other “single-minded beings” at the mind’s table with different goals and desires. There is no “I” on the committee necessarily, the committee itself reflects the divergent aspects and drives of a single self. Decisions must be made, unanimity is not a requirement. Certain selfish drives speak up loudly but quiet down when they get what they want. Moral obligations are drowned out frequently, but once the din dies down, they’re still their talking, stubbornly insisting on the moral point of view. Experience, environment and genetics change the strengths of these drivers over time.

    When I talk about ignoring moral obligation, it is the committee overriding the moral voice. However, there’s a rationalizer on the committee who always provides a good reason why the result was the best decision for self, all things considered. Only in hind sight can the rationalizer’s argument be seen to be faulty. The moral voice on the committee always has authority when it is heard; that is, the mind never listens to the moral voice and decides to reject it any more than the mind listens to pain and decides to reject it. The moral voice can only be drowned out by higher, louder priorities. That’s how I understand my desire to do good, my failure to do good, my regret and guilt over failing to do good, and my redoubling of effort to be better next time, and so on. I think it is also consistent with a Christian view of human nature.

    Since moral authority is in the moral voice, I don’t need to look beyond self to listen to it, any more than I would need to look beyond self to decide whether to listen to pain. Morality works because it doesn’t need to be grounded to work. All naturalism does is assume that proper reasoning about our moral values also leads to humanity flourishing, and that’s an assumption based on theories about the evolution of social beings.

    It is will-to-power until you have established objective morality, which you haven’t. All you’ve got is that his feelings won’t let the majority gain their good feelings and the majority are going to forcibly ensure the preferential treatment of their feelings.

    I’m not getting your point. The only thing I get from Google on will-to-power is Nietzsche’s outdated philosophies and that does not seem to be what you’re referring to here. If Bundy truly lacks moral intuitions, he is morally indistinguishable from a man-eating lion and surely you wouldn’t claim that naturalism doesn’t allow us to defend ourselves from man-eating lions.

    No, my claim of contradiction is based on actual arguments (I can hunt down some references if you are unaware of the arguments against materialism) and my knowledge of what the natural sciences actually entail. If you want to reduce everything down to matter and energy, as studied by science, you will not, in principle find meaning and purpose, they are deliberately excluded. You might check out this for an extended discussion of this point.

    My point is that those kind of arguments against materialism have never (or rarely) made believers and that’s because they’re so abstract. It is our intuitions of meaning and purpose that are most concretely persuasive about ultimate reality, but they are also what’s being very seriously challenged by neuroscience.

    Meaning and purpose are values, and values are part of mind, so I would not expect to find meaning and purpose anywhere at all outside of my mind. I’m in this brain and interpreting all of reality through pre-constructed matter, so there isn’t much I can do except be whatever I was created to be and enjoy the ride. That’s the starting point, everything else requires a bit of a leap. That’s my naturalistic position (but also similar to Calvinism, so not totally an atheistic point of view).

  284. DJC,

    Is pain in the eye of the beholder without metaphysical grounding? I don’t think so, then why would pleasure or positive emotions require them?

    Of course pain is in the eye of the beholder. Pleasure or positive emotions don’t require metaphysical grounding but if something is to be declared objectively beneficial it does.

    A naturalist view would posit these as brain “modules”, emotions that put value on particular states of action, behavior or belief.

    And the problem with that is that there is no value in a naturalistic worldview except as an unexplained add on which then undermines your claim that all can be reduced to physics.

    I think it is also consistent with a Christian view of human nature.

    You’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince us of something that we are basically in agreement with while ignoring the metaphysical problems of your view.

    Morality works because it doesn’t need to be grounded to work.

    We’re not talking about morality “working” we’re talking about where it fits in your worldview. You have not at all addressed the problem that value, purpose etc are excluded from your worldview, except for wishful thinking that clearly it must fit in somehow.

    If Bundy truly lacks moral intuitions, he is morally indistinguishable from a man-eating lion and surely you wouldn’t claim that naturalism doesn’t allow us to defend ourselves from man-eating lions.

    What I’m saying is in naturalism that there is no right way except what the majority says it is. What is right is decided by power.

    My point is that those kind of arguments against materialism have never (or rarely) made believers and that’s because they’re so abstract.

    So what. I only care about whether they are true or not, whether most people have the ability to understand them is beside the point. If you’re intellectually honest and are going to insist that materialism/naturalism is true you’re going to need to grapple with the actual arguments, not just ignore them.

    It is our intuitions of meaning and purpose that are most concretely persuasive about ultimate reality, but they are also what’s being very seriously challenged by neuroscience.

    How is neuroscience challenging our understanding of humanness and that, for example, hearts are for pumping blood.

    Meaning and purpose are values, and values are part of mind, so I would not expect to find meaning and purpose anywhere at all outside of my mind.

    Meaning and purpose are related to formal and final causes and are embedded in reality and comprehended by our intellects, of course you’re going to find them outside your mind. See that was easy to assert, except that my assertion is backed by the observation that evacuating meaning and purpose from nature is what causes the problem of mind to be so intractable, not to mention the problems posed to scientific realism.

  285. SteveK – The rectangles don’t exist. The pattern in the orientation of the corners does, though. The rectangles are “grounded in something factually external to the human being perceiving [them]” – they are part of the way humans perceive that (real, external, objective) pattern.

    In the same way: Our sense of morality – our talent for moral reasoning – is a response to a reality. And that’s the reality I’m talking about – those objective strategies resulting from human goals and the universe we live in.

  286. Really? Ray, optical illusions now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone go so far afield to support something I’m not sure he even believes in. You know morality is something real. It’s not just a reaction it’s not like optical illusions, it’s not just because you say its true. It’s real Ray and you’re jumping through hoops trying to avoid admitting it’s real and the only reason it could be.

  287. Ray,

    The rectangles don’t exist.

    OK. Putting this all together, when you said this:

    When your brain sees those rectangles, it’s picking up on a real, objective pattern.

    You were saying that your brain sees rectangles that don’t exist. I think I understand naturalism now.

  288. Cripes, you two. The morality is real, the sense of obligation is how humans experience it. Again, like warmth and cold – temperature is real and external, warmth and cold are how humans experience it. We don’t pick up on absolute temperatures, we pick up on the difference between our temperature and the environment. But that’s not the same thing as saying warmth and cold don’t exist – they’re ways we relate to temperature.

    Morality exists, our sense of obligation is how we humans relate to that reality. I realize it’s not the way you’re used to thinking of things but at least put in a little effort to understand what I’m saying. So far it feels to me like you know I must be wrong, so you’re not even trying to process my words.

  289. Ray,
    Our confusion is because you are sending mixed messages. You use terms like ‘illusory’ and ‘don’t exist’ in your analogy and later on you use terms like ‘real’ and ‘objective’. What do you expect?

    Morality exists, our sense of obligation is how we humans relate to that reality.

    What do you mean by ‘morality exists’? What might this existence look like under naturalism?

  290. Melissa –

    For goodness sake. Reply to what I’ve written in context with what you wrote otherwise the discussion will, as always descend into farce.

    Well, I’ve been explaining why I can tell Ted Bundy he’s wrong, objectively. Maybe Jenna in #282 is the only one who’s addressed that. So, frankly, in this farce I kinda feel like the straight man.

  291. Cripes, you two. The morality is real, the sense of obligation is how humans experience it. Again, like warmth and cold – temperature is real and external, warmth and cold are how humans experience it.

    No, Ray. Real. Real objective morality which can come only through an real objective law giver. Real obligation based on the real intrinsic value each of us has and can only have through a real shared creation. Real.

  292. Ray,

    What’s the last sentence in #301?

    If this an answer to my questions in #305, I’m afraid you are adding to the confusion. Here’s what you said in #301

    And that’s the reality I’m talking about – those objective strategies resulting from human goals and the universe we live in.

    This reality is not external to the human being. What do you mean by ‘morality exists’?

  293. Ray,

    those objective strategies resulting from human goals

    That only results in objective morality if both the strategies and the goals are objective. Are human goals objective? If so, you’re looking at teleology embedded in nature and it would be interesting to hear how you fit that in your worldview.

    I know you have previously answered this by claiming because there’s only a range of human goals not infinity human goals that makes your morality universal but a range is a range so that doesn’t work.

  294. I remember, Ray. We agree on several things, but in the next comment I responded with “so what?”. I didn’t really get an answer. From what I can tell, you have your facts but no objective ‘good’ or ‘evil’ among those facts – and this is what I’m looking for you to explain.

  295. Ray,

    You might want to take a look at that first link, too. And I believe in teleologies – plural.

    What I find interesting is that Maslow’s hierarchy is often put forward in these discussions as evidence for some kind of naturalist morality when really it is evidence that human beings have a purpose that is more than just felt desires and conscious goals. If that is true we have a situation where our desires as subjective goals, in some parts reflect, however imperfectly, our true underlying (not dependent on human minds) purposes.

    That’s yours (and DJC’s) contradiction. Every piece of evidence you put forward in favour of a naturalistic morality speaks for the reality of final causes embedded in nature, apart from anything we humans might think or feel about the situation.

    Not to mention that you still need to get from your “range” to your objective should. You haven’t bridged the gap.

    I know you believe in subjective teleology, subjective natures, subjective purposes and objective strategies to obtain those purposes but that does not give you objective morality. One of the links even agrees with me on this “Given N subjects, you have up to N different teleologies.” Your teleologies are subjective.

    I truly don’t understand this desperate weaving and ducking to avoid the obvious.

  296. Melissa,

    Of course pain is in the eye of the beholder. Pleasure or positive emotions don’t require metaphysical grounding but if something is to be declared objectively beneficial it does.

    My reference to pain was in response to your suggestion that moral emotions can be ignored if one doesn’t have metaphysical grounding for them. I was trying to show that’s not the case.

    Also, I don’t immediately see why objective benefits need metaphysical grounding as a general rule. Nutrition is objectively beneficial but needs no metaphysical grounding that I can see.

    You have not at all addressed the problem that value, purpose etc are excluded from your worldview, except for wishful thinking that clearly it must fit in somehow.

    I have addressed them by arguing it appears to be a category mistake to assign value/purpose outside of minds.

    What I’m saying is in naturalism that there is no right way except what the majority says it is. What is right is decided by power.

    What is right is decided by human values under naturalism, not by power. And it certainly isn’t power we value or we would happily let dictators rule over us. Using values as the guide, it appears to be something like the greatest good for the greatest number combined with the least bad for the least (this is still being studied though).

    So what. I only care about whether they are true or not, whether most people have the ability to understand them is beside the point. If you’re intellectually honest and are going to insist that materialism/naturalism is true you’re going to need to grapple with the actual arguments, not just ignore them.

    I was reacting to your incredulous question –“Do you ever stop and consider the massive contradiction”– as honestly as I could. The traditional logical arguments against materialism have no emotional impact for me (although they’re certainly challenging fun), but I do honestly recognize a stark difference in (unexamined) intuition -vs- the nature of reality as suggested by, say, eliminative materialism. But I don’t let intuition trump the data and arguments coming out of scientific study that has directly lent support to those sorts of philosophical approaches. I’m not committed to intuition or to assigning moral rightness or wrongness to views of reality, I’m committed to seeing where the data leads; that’s how I resolve the apparent contradiction.

    How is neuroscience challenging our understanding of humanness and that, for example, hearts are for pumping blood.

    I think the most challenging is learning the difference between the mind’s neural maps of reality and reality itself. I’m not sure if that practically changes our understanding of humanness or hearts, but it certainly challenges the traditional foundations.

    Meaning and purpose are related to formal and final causes and are embedded in reality and comprehended by our intellects, of course you’re going to find them outside your mind. See that was easy to assert, except that my assertion is backed by the observation that evacuating meaning and purpose from nature is what causes the problem of mind to be so intractable, not to mention the problems posed to scientific realism.

    Re easy to assert: I was responding to your claim that “If you want to reduce everything down to matter and energy, as studied by science, you will not, in principle find meaning and purpose, they are deliberately excluded”. I was explaining that looking for meaning and purpose in matter and energy or anywhere except mind I view as a category mistake.

    To expand further (guided by the Feser article) the claim is that science can’t provide qualitative knowledge, only quantitative knowledge, and that’s somehow a strike against it. I would answer by arguing all philosophies are required to *start* with the conscious observer (how could they not?), and so all knowledge has to be qualitative. Writing down qualitative knowledge as language symbols, digitizing and storing it, and transmitting to other minds converts qualitative knowledge to quantitative and back, but ultimately there is only one class of knowledge and it starts and ends with the mind.

  297. DJC,

    Nutrition is objectively beneficial but needs no metaphysical grounding that I can see.

    When you can see why nutrition being objectively beneficial requires a metaphysical grounding (and just to be clear, by that I am talking about the metaphysics of your worldview supporting your claim) then you will also see why morality requires the same underpinning in your metaphysics.

    What is right is decided by human values under naturalism, not by power. And it certainly isn’t power we value or we would happily let dictators rule over us. Using values as the guide, it appears to be something like the greatest good for the greatest number combined with the least bad for the least (this is still being studied though).

    What is right is decided by the human values of the people with power. What you’re describing is tyranny of the majority.

    But I don’t let intuition trump the data and arguments coming out of scientific study that has directly lent support to those sorts of philosophical approaches.

    Do you understand the difference between scientific data and the interpretation of that data? Do you understand that the support from “scientific study” is not from science at all, but rather the interpretation of scientific findings within a naturalistic framework. Do you understand that those same findings can be interpreted within other frameworks that makes more sense of the total data and doesn’t throw up such absurd conclusions. It’s not science that’s driving any conclusions but rather a pre-commitment to materialism.

    I think the most challenging is learning the difference between the mind’s neural maps of reality and reality itself. I’m not sure if that practically changes our understanding of humanness or hearts, but it certainly challenges the traditional foundations.

    Please present one neuroscientific finding that challenges “traditional frameworks.”

    science can’t provide qualitative knowledge, only quantitative knowledge, and that’s somehow a strike against it

    No. The argument is that by it’s nature science provides knowledge of the aspects of reality that are quantitative, controllable and predictable, therefore it can only ever give a partial picture of reality. What counts as external reality is not limited to that which science can study but if people assume this is true then the only place for everything else to reside is the mysterious mind. Your claim that I am making a category mistake with respect to meaning and purpose rests solely on the assumption that this artificial divide is real not a product of the methods we use.

  298. Melissa,

    Not to mention that you still need to get from your “range” to your objective should. You haven’t bridged the gap.

    If I am remembering correctly, Ray has said elsewhere that his version of morality does not include an objective should / obligation. If that is an accurate assessment then I think we can all agree that naturalism explains this counterfeit morality very well.

  299. Melissa,

    What is right is decided by the human values of the people with power. What you’re describing is tyranny of the majority.

    No, I’m pretty sure power doesn’t enter into it. I said that human values as it pertains to morality do not value special privileges and rights to those in power (as far as I can tell), so whatever argument you’re making, you have to leave out “power”.

    Do you understand the difference between scientific data and the interpretation of that data? Do you understand that the support from “scientific study” is not from science at all, but rather the interpretation of scientific findings within a naturalistic framework. Do you understand that those same findings can be interpreted within other frameworks that makes more sense of the total data and doesn’t throw up such absurd conclusions. It’s not science that’s driving any conclusions but rather a pre-commitment to materialism.

    I understand that you think that, but I don’t. I see no conspiracy in science to undermine theism or prop up naturalism, just an honest attempt to understand reality.

    Please present one neuroscientific finding that challenges “traditional frameworks.”

    The traditional idea that the human brain stores propositional/language content as the basic representation of beliefs has been refuted. Rather, the brain represents all of reality as continually updated neural maps with semantic content underpinned in physical brain structures related to perception, action, emotion. The original problem of intentionality was that since beliefs are words, and words require a dictionary, and dictionary definitions require more words requiring more dictionary lookups, thoughts must have some mysterious way of avoiding the infinite regress and instead magically point to the things they represent. Instead, neuroscience shows beliefs are constantly updated multi-dimensional neural maps which track abstract invariant features of reality. The modern view is given in Paul Churchland’s “Plato’s Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals” (2013).

    The argument is that by it’s nature science provides knowledge of the aspects of reality that are quantitative, controllable and predictable, therefore it can only ever give a partial picture of reality. What counts as external reality is not limited to that which science can study but if people assume this is true then the only place for everything else to reside is the mysterious mind. Your claim that I am making a category mistake with respect to meaning and purpose rests solely on the assumption that this artificial divide is real not a product of the methods we use.

    As I said, I don’t think that’s what scientism necessarily entails. We all have to start with the undeniable truth of the conscious observer, so all knowledge is qualitative from the start. Science is dealing with the qualitative but once removed via the language and symbols we use. Propositions are encodings of qualitative experience, so if we can talk about it, if we can write it down, science should be able to deal with it. Isn’t science just a method whereby conscious observers rigorously deal with all the data of conscious experience? I don’t agree with Feser that anything yet is being swept under the rug. The eliminativist examples are only eliminative of ways of thinking, not of any valid data relating to the phenomena.

  300. DJC,

    No, I’m pretty sure power doesn’t enter into it. I said that human values as it pertains to morality do not value special privileges and rights to those in power (as far as I can tell), so whatever argument you’re making, you have to leave out “power”.

    No I’m afraid you have it wrong. The values of those who value the most values being satisfied are being privileged over those of, for instance, the dictator who wants to feather his own nest.

    I understand that you think that, but I don’t. I see no conspiracy in science to undermine theism or prop up naturalism, just an honest attempt to understand reality.

    By your response you don’t understand at all. Of course there is no conspiracy in science, I’m a scientist myself, why would I think that, and what in anything I’ve written would make you think that. Why don’t you reread what you quoted and respond to what is there, not what you think is there.

    thoughts must have some mysterious way of avoiding the infinite regress and instead magically point to the things they represent.

    Yes, our thoughts are not about anything, I’ve heard that before, and if it could be coherently argued for I might have a reason to take it seriously. That’s beside the point though, I asked for findings from science, not materialist philosophy.

    Isn’t science just a method whereby conscious observers rigorously deal with all the data of conscious experience?

    No.

    I don’t agree with Feser that anything yet is being swept under the rug. The eliminativist examples are only eliminative of ways of thinking, not of any valid data relating to the phenomena.

    You didn’t understand what Feser was actually arguing. You don’t understand what is involved in the natural sciences. You think I’ve got some problem with science when I don’t. This discussion is going nowhere.

  301. Melissa,

    The values of those who value the most values being satisfied are being privileged over those of, for instance, the dictator who wants to feather his own nest.

    Yes, but privileging a majority is not the same as privileging power. Democracy, for example, is not correctly characterized as “might makes right” but it still might be tyranny of the majority.

    I agree that naturalism implies that human values (those values held by the most) take precedence over values that are not consistent with human values. But I’m not sure that’s a problem. Human values seem, in large part, to be necessary values for social organisms, so whoever or whatever is not sharing those values is some distance from a social organism. I’m not sure what sort of relationship is implied between social and non-social organisms, perhaps just agreeing to leave each other alone.

    By your response you don’t understand at all. Of course there is no conspiracy in science, I’m a scientist myself, why would I think that, and what in anything I’ve written would make you think that. Why don’t you reread what you quoted and respond to what is there, not what you think is there.

    For background, I first said that I accept the results of scientific study (i.e. neuroscience) that have lent support to naturalistic philosophies such as eliminative materialism. You replied by asserting that my reference to “scientific study” is not science at all but an interpretation of scientific findings within a naturalistic framework. I interpreted this as casting aspirations on any and all “scientific study” (scare quotes) that support naturalism. I see instead that you are either casting aspirations on my interpretation or on the interpretations of naturalist philosophers who draw on scientific studies, not that the studies themselves are necessarily at fault. Okay, but that remains to substantiated of course.

    Yes, our thoughts are not about anything, I’ve heard that before, and if it could be coherently argued for I might have a reason to take it seriously. That’s beside the point though, I asked for findings from science, not materialist philosophy.

    It can be coherently argued and quite easily. If beliefs are not propositional as science shows (not materialism), what are beliefs about? If “about” is used in the propositional sense, that’s a problem, beliefs aren’t about anything. So “about”, then, has to be used in a different sense, as relating to multi-dimensional neural maps which track abstract invariant features of reality. Thus beliefs are about things but the traditional meaning of “about” must be eliminated.

    Isn’t science just a method whereby conscious observers rigorously deal with all the data of conscious experience?

    No.

    Why not?

    You didn’t understand what Feser was actually arguing. You don’t understand what is involved in the natural sciences. You think I’ve got some problem with science when I don’t. This discussion is going nowhere.

    The problem is your terseness and occasional curt assertions leave much room for interpretation. I’m consistently writing a lot more than you in an attempt to communicate effectively but your mood seems to darken on each successive post. Perhaps it is best to drop it here for now.

  302. DJC,

    Yes, but privileging a majority is not the same as privileging power. Democracy, for example, is not correctly characterized as “might makes right” but it still might be tyranny of the majority.

    It is characterized as might makes right when there is no actual “right” apart from what the majority says it is.

    I agree that naturalism implies that human values (those values held by the most) take precedence over values that are not consistent with human values.

    Ted Bundy’s values are just as much human values as yours, defining him as non-human is just a convenient way to avoid that fact.

    If beliefs are not propositional as science shows

    Science does not show it. If you want to make a claim you need to provide actual evidence, in this case actual science.

    The problem is your terseness and occasional curt assertions leave much room for interpretation.

    But you completely misunderstood Feser’s long argument so it’s not just me you’re misunderstanding. I admit though that I do get frustrated by an almost continual misunderstanding of where the dispute lies, and the mislabeling (which I think is caused by an underlying confusion over what science is) of materialistic philosophy as science. Although I’m still trying to work out whether it is due to confusion or is a deliberate attempt to illegitimately co-opt the authority of science to lend support to dodgy philosophy. As someone who has spent some years doing actual science in a lab and writing an actual scientific thesis and papers, and a big fan of science I am angry at it’s misuse in this way. My patience wears thin.

    Why not?

    Science is in fact concerned with a particular subsection of our experience and due to the methods it uses other parts are forever out of reach. if you want to render the term science vacuous that’s your choice, but you need to be aware that when your expand the bounds of science to include your materialistic philosophy you must also include theological philosophy as science.

  303. Melissa,

    Ted Bundy’s values are just as much human values as yours, defining him as non-human is just a convenient way to avoid that fact.

    It’s an empirical question whether a psychopaths’ values are the same as the rest of us. My hypothesis would be that some percentage of human beings lack crucial moral emotions and intuitions making them amoral beings and capable of great evil without guilt. A-moral beings have, basically, no concern or desire to be good.

    A naturalistic approach to morality which adopts a Humean-Darwinian approach (morality works because people feel that they ought to do the right thing) doesn’t work at all on a society of amoral beings. If one appeals to the conscience or sense of moral duty of an amoral being, they have no idea what you’re talking about.

    However, I am a moral being and belong to a billions-strong community of beings that feel moral duty. What reasons do we have to override the values of amoral beings? The main reason I can think of is self-defense. We value a harm-free existence, we value a life without brutal death at the hands of a psychopath. Under naturalism, our values are all that matters (and such values include value for other’s values, but we simply don’t have value for value for our destruction).

    Science does not show it. If you want to make a claim you need to provide actual evidence, in this case actual science.

    I’m basically talking about how embodied semantics theories in cognitive science have replaced symbol processing theories. Instead of predicate logic and propositions being the unit or language of thought, semantics are anchored in neural structures relating to perception, action and emotion. If there are problems in materialism, they should be identified in the most up-to-date scientific models, not outdated ones.

    But you completely misunderstood Feser’s long argument so it’s not just me you’re misunderstanding.

    I’m certain that I have not “completely” misunderstood Feser’s arguments. I’ve been reading Feser for some years so I have the gist of what he’s saying. I do admit to trouble getting some of the subtler nuances, though, and a lot of that might be because I find his premises capable of being questioned. I’ll try to summarize my understanding below.

    Science is in fact concerned with a particular subsection of our experience and due to the methods it uses other parts are forever out of reach. if you want to render the term science vacuous that’s your choice, but you need to be aware that when your expand the bounds of science to include your materialistic philosophy you must also include theological philosophy as science.

    My view is that rigorous treatment (techniques for eliminating common methods of error and improving the chance of correctness) of data (observations, feelings, experiences) is necessary to be confident of anything. Treating data rigorously is basically as good as anything science does do so any discipline that treats data rigorously is good enough to be a science in my book. I see phenomenological data as part of scientific knowledge because there is always an observer; science is nothing without conscious minds to start with. So phenomenological data is basically being treated rigorously like everything else.

    The degree of rigor obviously differentiates the institution of science -vs- everything else we do. But I see no good reason why we shouldn’t strive for that degree of rigor as far as is practically possible. I don’t follow why some knowledge gets a pass on rigor.

    Mini summary: This subtopic got started when you told me that I will never find meaning and purpose in my worldview. I agreed because meaning and purpose are something only beings with values have (i.e. the only way I can understand the concepts) and I look for meaning and purpose in what I seem to be. You said that evacuating meaning and purpose from nature leads to the problems the Feser article describes. But I feel instead that keeping meaning and purpose in the mind but recognizing the mind’s central position in all our conscious endeavors is not something necessarily incompatible with “scientism” and seems to avoid the gaps in knowledge that Feser identifies.

  304. DJC,

    Under naturalism, our values are all that matters

    We agree. You favour your values not because they are objectively better than Ted Bundy’s but because they are yours. Anything that stands between you and achieving your values is fair game.

    I’m certain that I have not “completely” misunderstood Feser’s arguments. I’ve been reading Feser for some years so I have the gist of what he’s saying

    From your replies to me there is no evidence that you understood the argument.

    But I feel instead that keeping meaning and purpose in the mind but recognizing the mind’s central position in all our conscious endeavors

    That’s dualism. You need to rigorously work through what it is your arguing for and against. I’m done.

  305. Melissa –

    What I find interesting is that Maslow’s hierarchy is often put forward in these discussions as evidence for some kind of naturalist morality when really it is evidence that human beings have a purpose that is more than just felt desires and conscious goals.

    But… Maslow’s hierarchy is a ranking of “felt desires and conscious goals”. That’s kinda the whole point.

    Every piece of evidence you put forward in favour of a naturalistic morality speaks for the reality of final causes embedded in nature

    Once you have a subject (as opposed to an object) – a being that can experience and want things – you have causes. That’s an objective fact – that’s why subjects are different from objects.

    I know you believe in subjective teleology, subjective natures, subjective purposes and objective strategies to obtain those purposes

    Well, there’s the problem. I don’t believe in “subjective natures”. I think people actually, objectively have natures. Fairly precisely defined ones, even. As I asked G. Rodrigues all the way back in #179, I’m still wondering why “sapient, relatively hairless, fully bipedal, tailless, forward-facing-eyes, grasping-paws, live-young-bearing hair-possessing milk-giving amniote-possessing tetrapodal jawed vertebrate notochord-possessing multicellular non-chloroplast mitochondrial eukaryotes” is insufficiently specific or unsupported by naturalism.

    And peoples purposes flow from those (objective) natures, and naturally teleologies flow from purposes. People’s teleologies can differ but that’s not the same as their being purely subjective. For example, a big chunk of those teleologies will match up, because of those objective natures.

    Of course there will be variations in morality, in the specific details of what people should do, in this scheme. That’s hardly a surprise – even in Christianity, things that a priest is obligated to do would be forbidden for a lay person, and vice versa. Similarly for a parent and child, a man and a woman. And even then, Christianity allows for a lot of prudential – can I say “subjective”? – judgment.

    Given the way motor vehicles work, you kinda have pick one side of the road to drive on or the other. Driving on the left is perfectly workable – the U.K. gets along just fine that way – but driving on the right works too. It’s subjective which one you pick, but it’s not subjective that you have to pick. There’s a lot of room for moral schemes, still – just as there’s a lot of constraints on what humans can eat and yet there are so many cuisines. Yet those cuisines tend to have a great deal in common – more than they differ, in fact. Especially compared to what other living things on Earth eat, let alone what’s conceivable.

  306. BillT –

    Real objective morality which can come only through an real objective law giver.

    I’m not a fan of Philip K. Dick’s fiction, but one thing he said struck me as profound – “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” I don’t think human nature goes away if you stop believing in it, nor do the purposes humans have because of that nature, nor does game theory. So what I’ve got seems objective to me.

    Now, true, other beings with other natures might have other moralities. But I’m fine with a morality that only applies to humans, and not energy beings or sentient lizards.

    SteveK –

    This reality is not external to the human being.

    Wait, does something have to be external to a human being to be real and objective? My heart is very much internal to me, but I’m pretty sure it’s real and objective…

  307. Ray,

    Well, there’s the problem. I don’t believe in “subjective natures”. I think people actually, objectively have natures. Fairly precisely defined ones, even. As I asked G. Rodrigues all the way back in #179, I’m still wondering why “sapient, relatively hairless, fully bipedal, tailless, forward-f …

    Just because you can define your idea of what a human being is in minute detail does not make your definition objective. Can your definition be wrong? If so, what is it in reality that you’re defining? What in naturalism supports the reality of human natures?

    Not to mention that link you pointed me to describes subjective teleology.

    People’s teleologies can differ but that’s not the same as their being purely subjective.

    How are you using subjective and objective? If the teleologies exist solely in the mind they are subjective. Of course that could get you where you need to be if the teleolgies were universal, but you agree that they are not. It’s great when they match up because there will be no conflict except that caused by uncertainty over the best course to take given those goals but we know that our felt desires and concious goals don’t match up.

    And even then, Christianity allows for a lot of prudential – can I say “subjective”? – judgment.

    I think you are confusing what it means to be subjective and also absolute morality with a universal objective morality.

    but driving on the right works too. It’s subjective which one you pick, but it’s not subjective that you have to pick.

    There is no actual right or wrong side of the road to drive on just human convention. How does this help you? This whole paragraph is an argument for moral relativism.

    Your arguments are full of contradictions. I’m done.

  308. Ray,

    Wait, does something have to be external to a human being to be real and objective? My heart is very much internal to me, but I’m pretty sure it’s real and objective…

    You’re the one who mentioned morality being grounded in something external to the human being. This has been your mantra for a while now.

    You (#301)
    The rectangles don’t exist. The pattern in the orientation of the corners does, though. The rectangles are “grounded in something factually external to the human being perceiving [them]” – they are part of the way humans perceive that (real, external, objective) pattern.

    In the same way: Our sense of morality – our talent for moral reasoning – is a response to a reality. And that’s the reality I’m talking about – those objective strategies resulting from human goals and the universe we live in.

    You (#304)
    The morality is real, the sense of obligation is how humans experience it. Again, like warmth and cold – temperature is real and external, warmth and cold are how humans experience it. We don’t pick up on absolute temperatures, we pick up on the difference between our temperature and the environment. But that’s not the same thing as saying warmth and cold don’t exist – they’re ways we relate to temperature.

    Morality exists, our sense of obligation is how we humans relate to that reality.

    In summary:
    (1)Morality is real and factually external, like temperature or patterns of rectangles

    (2)Morality is a reality that humans relate to.

    (3) Our sense of morality is our response to this reality.

    Repeating myself from #309: What do you mean by ‘morality exists’?

  309. @Ray Ingles:

    As I asked G. Rodrigues all the way back in #179 [snip]

    For the same reason that you no more get a definition of humanity by listing out all the people that have ever lived.

  310. Melissa,

    We agree. You favour your values not because they are objectively better than Ted Bundy’s but because they are yours. Anything that stands between you and achieving your values is fair game.

    But that way of characterizing it is misleading because it suggests that there’s something selfish or instinctively wrong with favouring one’s values. I’m not talking about just selfish values, I’m talking about the sum total of everything that moves a person, good and bad. We have *no choice* but to favour our values as a starting point or we’re just inert matter.

    If you claim I favour my values because they are mine, while you value what is objectively real or better, I have to ask, is not your value for objectivity yours? How else can you possess it if it isn’t yours? And how can you value anything unless some part of that value is, at core, intrinsically part of you first?

    There’s no real difference you’re referencing here between us. And I want to take a moment to caution you on implying that I’m looking to reduce my moral obligations, desiring to set my own moral bar low, or just plain self-centered. Eventually you’ll realize this is not the case and I don’t want you to regret taking that tack. I don’t think there’s any place in discussions of the complexity of ultimate reality for presuming the motives and character of persons in advance of understanding what they’re trying to say.

    From your replies to me there is no evidence that you understood the argument.

    I’m sorry you found that to be the case and I’ll work harder next time to communicate.

    That’s dualism. You need to rigorously work through what it is your arguing for and against. I’m done.

    Dualism divides physical from the non-physical so I don’t subscribe to it. Physicalism says that consciousness is, in some sense, part of physics, that’s what I think is worth exploring. Thanks for the discussion.

  311. @ G. Rodrigues #328
    Ray seems to be adhering to the only option that naturalism has: existence precedes (or coincides with?) essence. But that’s seems obviously wrong. If a man one day wakes up to find himself without some feature on Ray’s list, he is no longer considered to be a human. There are no damaged human beings, just new/different beings that were at one time, human. Am I understanding this correctly?

  312. Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” I don’t think human nature goes away if you stop believing in it, nor do the purposes humans have because of that nature, nor does game theory. So what I’ve got seems objective to me.

    Human nature doesn’t go away if you stop believing it because it, like morality, wouldn’t exist without God to define it and provide the “purposes humans have” that give it its substance. All you’ve got is the they way things are. That’s no more “human nature” than the way things are for cockroaches being “cockroach nature” unless, of course, that’s all you really mean which wouldn’t be really anything at all.

  313. First off, G. Rodrigues – A list of examples is, indeed, not a definition. A list of properties, on the other hand, can indeed be a definition. Which one did I provide?

    Melissa –

    Just because you can define your idea of what a human being is in minute detail does not make your definition objective.

    Which of those traits is not objective? There are 18 of them, surely you can find one or two.

    Not to mention that link you pointed me to describes subjective teleology.

    If the goals objectively exist, then they are objective. And teleologies flow from goals. Granted, the teleologies of humans don’t match up well with those of squirrels or tapeworms, but they have a whole lot in common with each other, because the goals do too.

    Of course that could get you where you need to be if the teleolgies were universal, but you agree that they are not. It’s great when they match up because there will be no conflict

    Actually, the strategies can match up even if you have different goals. Hedonists with any sense of history want safe, free, wealthy societies. So do parents who love their kids. There are only a few ways to get safe, free, open societies.

    we know that our felt desires and concious goals don’t match up.

    That’s actually an interesting point. What do you do when you have conflicting desires? Ever wake up after a late night and be torn betwixt just a few more minutes of sleep, please and yikes I really need to visit the bathroom? Not all desires are quite so pressing, of course, but we often decide not to do something we very much want, for the sake of something else we deem more important. Looked at a certain way, choice is a process of sorting through our wants, and applying those wants to the available options. Even someone who does something altruistically, with no thought for their own benefit, is still doing it with the intent of benefitting others – i.e. because they desire good for another.

    Part of being a grownup is understanding what’s most important to us – what we “really want” – and figuring out what choices actually promote that. If we do know what we want – if we do accurately know ourselves – then we should, allowing for human failings, choose accordingly. Why would we do otherwise? Doesn’t the same apply to any version of morality and free will?

    There is no actual right or wrong side of the road to drive on just human convention. How does this help you?

    First off – even in Christianity, not everything is a moral choice. So if my moral scheme doesn’t pin everything down and dictate every choice, that’s not a mortal failing.

    And second, a little meta – which you pick is arbitrary, that you have to pick one or the other is not. It’s yet another example of how a goal (using road vehicles for transportation) runs into real-world conditions (roads and intersections etc.) and forces strategies upon you. Even when you have very different vehicles – bikes, motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks, with different purposes – the same strategy is forced upon them because of what they do have in common.

  314. Jenna, a late reply.

    What I call “God” is whatever caused the Big Bang. Do you claim that the Big Bang does not exist because I deify its cause, calling it the Creator? Or that the universe that resulted from the Big Bang does not exist because I deify its cause?

    No to both.

    Monotheism is not a “hypothesis” so therefore naturalism cannot be and is not an “alternate hypothesis” to monotheism. Naturalism deifies nothing. Monotheism deifies the Creator of everything.

    Right, monotheism is not a hypothesis. The hypothesis that I’m referring to is “monotheism is true” -vs- “naturalism is true”. By my reckoning, the first hypothesis is more complex than the second so I should consider the second first. Using and testing simpler hypotheses first seems likely to be a faster way to converge to truth.

    The three of you appear to me at this point to be proclaiming and/or defending naturalism (and by proxy, atheism) as a superior worldview to theism, in particular Christianity.

    I’m not comfortable calling naturalism “superior” in all possible and conceivable measures to theism so I won’t make that claim here. That seems to jump way ahead to knowledge of ultimate reality that I don’t possess. I am defending naturalism though as a reasonable point of view (as far as I can tell).

    Your claim seems to be that naturalism explains every aspect of human moral reasoning and moral conduct simply because it is “natural” or “inherent” for humans to act morally.

    If there are purely natural ways for social beings to evolve moral conduct, then this should be considered a simpler hypothesis than proposing that they were intelligently designed. It seems reasonable that simpler hypotheses be considered first.

    What sort of response to your confidence in naturalism as the answer to everything, the perfect worldview, are you looking for from us.

    Naturalism is not the answer to everything or the perfect worldview. I believe it is a simpler worldview than theism and thus, is reasonable to pursue as a working hypothesis as long as it sufficiently explains observation.

    Or are you just expounding on your personal preference for a worldview, such as in DJC’s case, the “parsimony” of firing off fewer brain synapses during metaphysical musings?

    This is not a personal preference. The parsimony I refer to is not parsimony of thought, it is parsimony of the world view being considered.

    I ask this because I do know that you have a myriad of objections to religion, specifically, a dislike of/for deification, so perhaps we need to examine those objections from a social and cultural perspective rather than from a cognitive, intellectual, philosophical viewpoint.

    I think “dislike” overstates it. It’s not that I dislike the more complex hypothesis, it’s that going with the simpler hypothesis (life is explained without gods) that is consistent with observation appears to be a better strategy for disproof and better strategy on the road to truth. But at all times, my view is that everything is (or should be) up front, open to test, open to disproof, and open for discussion.

  315. I know I said I was done but this current round of cluelessness is truly breathtaking.

    Ray,

    Which of those traits is not objective? There are 18 of them, surely you can find one or two.

    You’re asking the wrong question. The question is where or how does the thing that you’re defining exist?

    The rest of your post similarly missed the point.

    DJC,

    There’s no real difference you’re referencing here between us. And I want to take a moment to caution you on implying that I’m looking to reduce my moral obligations,

    No need to caution me as that was not what I was doing. Why would I change the subject. I would caution you that when you think that there is no difference in the referencing that you are probably failing to climb out of your worldview to asses another.

    To help you out. What you need to provide is a way to assess which values are good or bad without reference to values which would be circular or question begging and that leaves you in the position that good and bad is ultimately decided by those who have the power to see their values favorited in our social structures. The reference to value is generally hidden so it’s easy to be fooled. You need to dig down to see what’s grounding say you definition of the common good because in the end, given your worldview commitments, it will ultimately just rest on values once again because that’s all there is as you have been at pains to point out.

    A final comment let’s imagine that:

    1. Some people put forward an objection to physicalism on the grounds that mind cannot be described by physics because physics only captures the quantitative and non-teleological and the mind has unavoidably quanlitative and teleological aspects.

    2. Cue several comments worth of discussion to establish that this is not considered some kind of problem with science.

    3. Back on track, the response to the objection is to affirm the essential qualitative knowledge and the reality of meaning and purpose located in the mind.

    4. It is pointed out that 3. implicitly affirms dualism.

    5. Response is “Physicalism says that consciousness is, in some sense, part of physics”

    Since we have established that qualitative experience, meaning and purpose are not included in the mathematical formulation physics gives, in what sense can they be part of physics?

    You’re not taking the objection seriously. Your responses are non-responses.

  316. @Ray #333

    Given what humans are, they have certain basic goals. Given the universe they live in, this leads to certain strategies working best to meet those goals.

    Going back to my summary in #327, this isn’t an answer. My summary – which references your words – said that morality is factually external to the human being (points 1 and 2). In your answer here, the only thing that falls into that category is the universe. Everything else is internal to the human (goals, strategies, human-ness).

    Maybe you should read #327 again.

  317. Melissa,

    this current round of cluelessness is truly breathtaking.

    I don’t think that’s fair or helpful. Insults just push the discussion towards heated emotional exchanges instead of dispassionate analysis. I try to be calm and carefully consider all sides of an argument but barbs can still be painful and subtly distort my approach. By treating your opponents with open contempt, you often guarantee a nonproductive result.

    What you need to provide is a way to assess which values are good or bad without reference to values which would be circular or question begging

    You can not assess which values are good or bad without referring to preexisting values, at some point you have to stop. Hume identified this problem long ago:

    Ask a man why he uses exercise ; he will answer, because he desires to keep his health. If you then enquire, why he desires health , he will readily reply, because sickness is painful. If you push your enquiries farther, and desire reason why he hates pain, it is impossible he can ever give any. This is an ultimate end, and is never referred to any other object. . . And beyond this it is an absurdity to ask for a reason. It is impossible there can be a progress in infinitum; and that one thing can always be a reason why another is desired. Something must be desirable on its own account, and because of its immediate accord or agreement with human sentiment and affection. (Hume, 1777, pp. 244-245).

    (From the Curry paper referenced at “Some Serious Thinking On Evolved Morality”).

    I see no alternative; whether Christian or atheist we must find something desirable on its own account deep inside us to make sense out of values and of morality.

    that leaves you in the position that good and bad is ultimately decided by those who have the power to see their values favorited in our social structures.

    If those in power have different values, that’s a different argument. My premise is that humanity largely shares similar values that are genetic in some sense and that lead directly or indirectly to moral behavior.

    If you’re saying that humanity is, in some sense, forcing our values on non-humans by virtue of our power and success as a species, I think that’s absolutely true. I don’t see it as an argument against naturalistic morality, though.

    it will ultimately just rest on values once again

    But that’s where we all rest, as far as I can tell. True, Christians can say those values were created by God rather than by evolution and that suggests a (possible) positive long-term outcome for the human race. But if human moral values are the result of a blind search by natural selection stumbling upon stable social species, morality can also be trusted to lead to the “common good” in the sense of the flourishing of the human species.

    Since we have established that qualitative experience, meaning and purpose are not included in the mathematical formulation physics gives, in what sense can they be part of physics?

    I’ll quote from Galen Strawson’s “Why Physicalism entails Panpsychism” in response:

    Real physicalism, then, must accept that experiential phenomena are physical phenomena. But how can experiential phenomena be physical phenomena? Many take this claim to be profoundly problematic (this is the ‘mind-body problem’). This is usually because they think they know a lot about the nature of the physical. They take the idea that the experiential is physical to be profoundly problematic given what we know about the nature of the physical. But they have already made a large and fatal mistake. This is because we have no good reason to think that we know anything about the physical that gives us any reason to find any problem in the idea that experiential phenomena are physical phenomena. If we reflect for a moment on the nature of our knowledge of the physical, and of the experiential, we realize, with Eddington, that ‘no problem of irreconcilability arises’.1

    Back to you:

    You’re not taking the objection seriously. Your responses are non-responses.

    I am taking the objection seriously but my response has been limited on this topic primarily because the subject was morality, not consciousness.

  318. DJC,

    You can not assess which values are good or bad without referring to preexisting values, at some point you have to stop. Hume identified this problem long ago:

    Exactly, if you buy into Hume’s metaphysics. So you either need to jettison objective morality or Hume’s metaphysics. Which will it be?

    My premise is that humanity largely shares similar values that are genetic in some sense and that lead directly or indirectly to moral behavior.

    Except for the one’s who don’t share those values … or the one’s that may share them but value other things more highly … or …

    Your premise is suspect. Human behaviour is the evidence against your premise that we all value most the things that you are labeling good and moral.

    If you’re saying that humanity is, in some sense, forcing our values on non-humans by virtue of our power and success as a species

    No that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying adopting the values of the majority as good is just the powerful (being the majority) imposing their values on the minority for no good reason except that they value them.

    But that’s where we all rest, as far as I can tell

    You say you’ve read some Feser. If that is true why would you think we all rest there.

    Christians can say those values were created by God

    Or Christians might argue that our values are a response to objective purposes embedded in creation and as such we can be right or wrong about them. Good is not defined by our values therefore we can literally value what is bad. Valuing something that is bad in your scheme doesn’t really make sense.

    “common good” in the sense of the flourishing of the human species.

    The common good or flourishing of the human species is an appeal to subjective values given your metaphysics. One way to escape this is to accept the reality of formal and final causes that are not dependent on what any particular human thinks about them. Flourishing is then the fulfillment of these final causes. So that would be one option to escape your vicious regress, there may be others.

    I’ll quote from Galen Strawson’s “Why Physicalism entails Panpsychism” in response:

    So you’re agreeing that these things can’t be part of physics. I applaud your willingness to change your mind but it would help move the conversation along if you made it clear that you are changing your position. Your response at first glance appears to be an attempt at rebutting my point.

  319. @Ray Ingles:

    A list of examples is, indeed, not a definition. A list of properties, on the other hand, can indeed be a definition. Which one did I provide?

    Thanks for bringing to my attention the distinction between examples and properties.

    But then, I did not give a list of examples, did I? Neither did I said you gave a list of examples But since I am a gadfly, here is the following exercise: denote by H be the set of human beings. For every person i that has ever existed consider the predicate P_i that says

    i e H

    with e the set-theoretic membership relation. We obtain a (finite) list of properties P_i of H. By the axiom of extension it uniquely characterizes H. So according to your criteria I have given a definition. Which, and that was my point, notwithstanding *whatever* putative extensional adequacy it has, is no less a useless definition than the one you gave (*) because it does not even address the important points. But since I do not expect you to understand this (Melissa said it best), the exercise stays as a parting shot.

    (*) There is one objection you could mount here — save it. Not only it is not important for my point, it *can* be circumvented.

  320. Melissa,

    Exactly, if you buy into Hume’s metaphysics. So you either need to jettison objective morality or Hume’s metaphysics. Which will it be?

    I don’t really know what Hume’s metaphysics were exactly (seems to be controversy over whether he is moral subjectivist or realist), but his description of the nature of values seems correct; or at least I haven’t heard anything better to take its place. A “Humean-Darwinian” approach to naturalistic morality recognizes that low-level moral emotions and intuitions are valid in themselves (noncognitivist) but are also adaptations permitting social cooperation. Social cooperation is a way in which individual beings achieve great benefit at small cost. As long as individuals value the great benefits of social coordination, moral propositions can be also interpreted as an objective approach to helping an individual find the best path in life.

    So this approach ends up with moral propositions having an objective noncognitivist aspect –low-level moral emotions and intuitions shared across the human species by virtue of genetic similarity–, and an objective cognitive aspect — doing the right thing will lead to the flourishing of the human species which is the best way for you to benefit as well.

    “Don’t enslave” as a moral proposition could first appeal to an objective noncognitive aspect– “you know in your heart that it is wrong to enslave others. How would you like to be a slave?”, but can also appeal to cognitive — “a society that enslaves is a weaker society, a society that dehumanizes some may dehumanize others, etc.”

    Except for the one’s who don’t share those values … or the one’s that may share them but value other things more highly … or …

    Your premise is suspect. Human behaviour is the evidence against your premise that we all value most the things that you are labeling good and moral.

    I’m not talking about moral propositions or even complex moral beliefs when I refer to low-level moral emotions and intuitions. Certainly we reach many different and incompatible moral beliefs based on experience; moral beliefs change. I’m talking about the simple, basic values behind the emotions of contempt, anger, disgust, shame, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, gratitude, empathy. Those are what we share as human beings to a very large extent. They give us the common ground to talk about and understand moral language.

    Sure, there are some that don’t have these low-level moral emotions and values or experience them greatly diminished, but these people tend to be the sociopaths and psychopaths of society. Insofar as they don’t undermine society, their lives can be uneventful. But if there is a clash of values, say a sociopath embezzles a large sum of money from a charity, the sociopath will lose, and I don’t see that this necessarily is an indictment of a naturalistic view of morality.

    No that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying adopting the values of the majority as good is just the powerful (being the majority) imposing their values on the minority for no good reason except that they value them.

    Again, I’m not talking about moral propositions when I refer to low-level moral emotions and intuitions. The minority here in the category of low-level moral emotions and intuitions must be sociopaths and psychopaths and the values being imposed on them are our values to live life without violent harm, to have one’s possessions kept safe, to take only one’s fair share, etc.

    You say you’ve read some Feser. If that is true why would you think we all rest there.

    Or Christians might argue that our values are a response to objective purposes embedded in creation and as such we can be right or wrong about them. Good is not defined by our values therefore we can literally value what is bad. Valuing something that is bad in your scheme doesn’t really make sense.

    That seems compatible with what I’m saying. I can assign measures of good or bad to all my values defined solely by how they strictly affect and relate to my moral emotions and intuitions that desire the best for others. Values that hinder them are bad (or have the potential for bad), for example. As long as my moral emotions and intuitions that relate to social behavior are very important to me and at least a lot of the time *most* important to me as a deeply social being, I can willingly do that (and I think this is exactly what we all seem to do, irrespective of beliefs).

    The common good or flourishing of the human species is an appeal to subjective values given your metaphysics. One way to escape this is to accept the reality of formal and final causes that are not dependent on what any particular human thinks about them. Flourishing is then the fulfillment of these final causes. So that would be one option to escape your vicious regress, there may be others.

    The common good or flourishing may in practice have a lot of subjectivity but in theory it should be objective if human values are fully discoverable by science. I’m not ruling out formal and final causes, but it seems superfluous to me at the moment.

    So you’re agreeing that these things can’t be part of physics.

    No, my position is that “experiential phenomena are physical phenomena” as the quote expressed so I think consciousness and mind are physical properties, but properties we have not adequately uncovered. So I do not take the position that “scientism” is only concerned with the quantitative. However, maybe it would be better if I disavowed “scientism” entirely since I seem to hear the term used more by critics than by proponents. What does it really mean any more? For me, “scientism” can not productively make a qualitative/quantitative distinction for pretty much exactly the reason Feser gives: the qualitative is just too important. My view is that science should be a method whereby conscious observers rigorously deal with all the data of conscious experience, no less.

    As for consciousness and physics, Strawson’s point is that physics/matter is being dismissed too quickly. As I see the point, physics have created bacteria, single cell, and multi-cellular organisms through evolution. Within multi-cellular organisms, some have evolved complex specialized neural cells capable of representing environments with crude maps for replication purposes. Within those, some have evolved better neural maps and agency detection: a way of perceiving certain mobile multicellular organisms as being capable of attention-directedness towards other things. Within those organisms with agency detection, some are able to point that agency detection at the source resulting in a “self” distinction of attention-directness. Within those organisms with concept of “self”, some have also evolved extreme sociality via language and moral social structures, and can talk and write about “self”, “consciousness”, and “qualia”. All of this seems tentatively possible for physics, given the incredibly complex physical structure and behavior of neurons and brains. The only thing missing is whether physics allows these creatures to *truly* experience anything, despite apparent appearances. It doesn’t seem to me that much of a leap to allow it.

  321. DJC,

    but his description of the nature of values seems correct;

    And why do you think that matters? My whole point is that you need more than values.

    As long as individuals value the great benefits of social coordination, moral propositions can be also interpreted as an objective approach

    “as long as” there’s the rub. Also note that you write that they can be interpreted as, not they are. Your whole case rests on a premise that people will always value the great benefits of social coordination over and above everything else. They don’t.

    doing the right thing will lead to the flourishing of the human species which is the best way for you to benefit as well.

    Well we know that depending on the circumstances and particular goals this is definitely not true.

    “Don’t enslave” as a moral proposition could first appeal to an objective noncognitive aspect– “you know in your heart that it is wrong to enslave others. How would you like to be a slave?”

    It’s a very big stretch to think that the majority of people in history who have kept slaves know in their heart that it was wrong. You are reading your own values onto everyone else.

    I can assign measures of good or bad to all my values defined solely by how they strictly affect and relate to my moral emotions and intuitions that desire the best for others.

    Exactly I can assign as they relate to my moral emotions and intuitions. You assign what is good and bad in relation to your moral emotions and intuitions. You are not describing an objective good and bad here. While this may give you a way of assessing your own behaviour it does not allow you to say anything objective about the behaviour of others.

    Certainly we reach many different and incompatible moral beliefs based on experience; moral beliefs change. I’m talking about the simple, basic values behind the emotions of contempt, anger, disgust, shame, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, gratitude, empathy.

    So how does that fact that we share certain emotions as human beings, that you admit can lead in very different directions give you objective morality? There just isn’t enough there to build anything on.

    I’m talking about the simple, basic values behind the emotions of contempt, anger, disgust, shame, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, gratitude, empathy. Those are what we share as human beings to a very large extent. They give us the common ground to talk about and understand moral language.

    I agree with all of this. We have common ground to talk about morality but that is not objective morality.

    The common good or flourishing may in practice have a lot of subjectivity but in theory it should be objective if human values are fully discoverable by science.

    No in practice flourishing is truly objective if final causes are real and science can definitely be useful for helping us achieve those goals. Human values are subjective, therefore the idea of human values in the sense of a universal description is not possible rather you will have many particular human values.

    My view is that science should be a method whereby conscious observers rigorously deal with all the data of conscious experience, no less.

    OK so by science you don’t really mean science and by physics you don’t really mean physics but you still seem keen to impart the authority of real science and physics on your “science” and “physics”. So you include AT metaphysics in science and physics?

    As for consciousness and physics, Strawson’s point is that physics/matter is being dismissed too quickly. [snip] All of this seems tentatively possible for physics

    I’m afraid you have misread Strawson as he writes:

    It follows that real physicalism can have nothing to do with physicSalism, the view—the faith—that the nature or essence of all concrete reality can in principle be fully captured in the terms of physics

    I suggest you work out your views more fully before you come in claiming that naturalistic morality or indeed naturalism can adequately explain anything. The fact that it is simple does not enter the discussion until it can be shown to have comparable explanatory power and it doesn’t. On the question of simplicity I don’t know that matter plus mind is any more simple than matter plus form so we can’t use parsimony as a criteria to select between them. God is only an extra complication if he is offered as an extra postulate which he is not. He is rather a necessary implication of the metaphysics.

  322. Hi Melissa,

    “The bell curve is DJC’s paradigm not mine.”

    Yes, but I believe you disagree with it. That’s why I asked.

    “Before I go into another round of questions from you maybe you’ll answer one of mine. Can someone’s leg be objectively defective?”

    I would say so. Or at the very least the parts that make up the leg can be. The function of the leg is to support a person whilst standing and move the person around in the world. A leg incapable of doing both of those things would be labelled completely useless, whether it was due to physical damage to the leg itself, or the nerves that run to it through the spine. I’m not sure if quad/paraplegics have legs defined as objectively defective, for example.

    But if you are referring to legs that still function, but have limited use, it would be harder to refer to it as being objectively defective. A man with a limp can still stand and get around, so it is still fulfilling it’s function, although subjectively it is less useful than a more able bodied individual.

    Cheers
    Shane

  323. Hi Jenna,

    “275

    “DJC, Ray and Shane,

    The three of you appear to me at this point to be proclaiming and/or defending naturalism (and by proxy, atheism) as a superior worldview to theism, in particular Christianity.”

    “Your claim seems to be that naturalism explains every aspect of human moral reasoning and moral conduct simply because it is “natural” or “inherent” for humans to act morally. Please correct me if I am misunderstanding the thread and theme of your arguments.”

    I am not actually claiming anything. The theist claims that we all have moral knowledge that is an objective fact. The incredible diversity of what earths population believes are right and wrong actions indicate to me that everyone’s belief of right and wrong is subjective to the individual. Ted Bundy believes he is right to do what he did to other people. I disagree with him. This seems to me to perfectly illustrate that morality cannot be an objective fact that we all just know. It shows that our moral beliefs are just that, beliefs, and not some objective standard.

    It seems Ray and DJC disagree with me here, but I don’t think their argument makes sense. If there truly is objective morality that exists outside of humanity then it would be a very good argument for Theism. But so far the only argument given is “You know what is right and wrong, you just know it.” This is not a satisfying answer when it seems so much of the world have different beliefs in right and wrong then I do.

    “What you seem to me to be proposing is a sort of God-less theology, a theology without a theos, and a morality without an objective moral standard in opposition to the metaphysical reasoning that is the Christian moral vision. My question to you is this: What sort of response to your confidence in naturalism as the answer to everything, the perfect worldview, are you looking for from us. Or are you just expounding on your personal preference for a worldview, such as in DJC’s case, the “parsimony” of firing off fewer brain synapses during metaphysical musings?”

    I came to this forum as a relatively new atheist looking to see if there was any evidence to support the theist world view. The argument from morality hinges on nothing that can be physically shown, it seems. So you are left with “What would the world look like if morality was subjective?” And I think it would look exactly like it looks now. The theist says, “What would the world look like if morality was objective AND people had the ability to ignore the objective moral knowledge that they have.” Whilst it might look like it does now, it’s a more complicated explanation, therefore I believe naturalism is a more satisfying answer.

    “I am asking you this: If naturalism is the answer, what is THE Question?”

    Why is the world like it is?

    “I ask this because I do know that you have a myriad of objections to religion, specifically, a dislike of/for deification, so perhaps we need to examine those objections from a social and cultural perspective rather than from a cognitive, intellectual, philosophical viewpoint.”

    As a person who was a theist, you must understand that I didn’t stop believing because of any objections to religion. I stopped believing because I examined the evidence and I couldn’t keep believing. It was a traumatic, and frankly terrifying, to come to the realisation that there was no-one looking after “the big picture”. I’m sure you can try and imagine how you would feel if you stopped believing. The idea that people give up God because of material desires is pretty ludicrous. You wouldn’t do it. And neither did I.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  324. Hi BillT,

    “trying to trivialise horrific actions like those with Tom’s phrase is no way to argue a point

    An outright misstatement. I trivialized nothing in fact just the opposite. It’s a very serious question, seriously asked.”

    “You want to tell me I know it is wrong, rather than just think it is wrong, but you offer no evidence that I do.

    ??? Do what?”

    Know it is wrong, instead of just think that it is wrong.

    “What is the objective evidence that torturing children is wrong?

    Really? Wow.”

    Tremendous answer. See this is the part where you could have supplied the objective evidence and won the argument. Instead, you imply that it is obvious that we all know torturing children is objectively wrong.

    A question then, if it is objectively morally wrong to torture and kill children, doesn’t this mean that God was objectively morally wrong to drown all the children in the great flood?

    “And why go to the extreme where we both agree, if you are trying to show there is an objective morality.

    “And even though you didn’t answer my question, I’ll answer yours.

    How about homosexual sex? I think you believe it is objectively immoral.… So please make the case for it’s [sic] objective immorality.

    I believe all sex outside of marriage is problematic. It takes an ultimate intimacy and places it in a context where the intimacy isn’t reciprocated by ultimate commitment. In common parlance, it’s using someone. (And I believe that now, as has been true for all of recorded history, marriage is the union of opposite sexes.)”

    You didn’t answer it at all. Is homosexual sex objectively immoral? Feel free to expand that to be “All sex outside of marriage is objectively immoral.”

    Above you give reasons for your belief of why it is problematic. You have given your opinion and backed it up with why. This is what I expect to see in a world where morals are subjective beliefs held by individuals. This is not what I expect in a world where there is objective morals that we all inherently know.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  325. Shane,

    The function of the leg is to support a person whilst standing and move the person around in the world.

    Can you explain what you mean by function in non-teleological terms?

  326. “What is the objective evidence that torturing children is wrong?

    Ok. From and only from a theistic viewpoint are all people intrinsically valuable. We are because being created by God in his image makes us so and is the only thing that can make us so. Given that, we also have a duty to each other as part of our shared creation and the intrinsic value that each of us has. Thus, it is objectively immoral to harm another person for one’s personal pleasure.

    You didn’t answer it at all.

    For you not to understand that it’s perfectly appropriate to substitute “objectively immoral” for “problematic” is a bit surprising but if you need my permission to do so you have it. Using someone for any reason is objectively immoral. (See above.)

  327. Shane,

    This is not what I expect in a world where there is objective morals that we all inherently know.

    Maybe someone is actually arguing this but I think you’ve got the wrong idea. It’s not that we all inherently know what is objectively right or wrong. It’s that we all do believe that some things really are bad or really are good.

  328. Can you explain what you mean by function in non-teleological terms?

    I believe such an explanation is attempted by saying biological ‘function’ is a term of teleonomy, not teleology.

    Wiki:
    Whereas the concept of a teleonomic process, such as evolution, can simply refer to a system capable of producing complex products without the benefit of a guiding foresight.

    Apparently, it’s a term that someone invented in order to avoid the teleological issue. The problem with this term is that I don’t see any evidence for it in reality, thus I’d say it’s a fictional term. I say this because ALL outcomes are guided to some extent – and all it takes is *some* guiding to be guided. When people say that ‘ the laws of physics’ rule the day, they are saying that natural processes are guided.

  329. Melissa,

    So how does that fact that we share certain emotions as human beings, that you admit can lead in very different directions give you objective morality? There just isn’t enough there to build anything on.

    For me, the key to moral realism is if some moral propositions can be linked back to objective features of reality without getting caught up in subjective opinion. If so, that set of moral propositions is objective morality. Let me review the moral approach I’m suggesting.

    I would take the fact of growth in human civilization (something like 3 million in 35,000 BCE, 7 billion today) as pointing to something intrinsic in human behavior that helps us get along and thrive as social organisms relative to all other organisms (except maybe bacteria). If whatever it is did not exist, humanity would be living in tiny isolated, warring families. What that special “socializing” factor appears to be is a certain class of emotions experienced by individuals, the moral emotions, that are linked to the interests or welfare of society in some way instead of just to the immediate interest of the individual.

    I assume the moral emotions and intuitions are objective features of the mind, capable of being measured and likely experienced virtually the same across most of us.

    All moral propositions likely link back to these moral emotions and intuitions in some way, but, true, there are probably a host of other things moral propositions are influenced by which vary between humans based on many factors, leading to plenty of apparent subjectivity in the practice of morality. Likewise, subjective factors also prevent the force of moral propositions in the first place.

    The kind of moral approach I’m arguing is just the general thesis that it is often possible to dissolve the subjective components of moral propositions by reasoning, leaving just the force of the objective components (moral emotions).

    It’s a lot like a religious approach because (1) it assumes we have an intrinsic desire to do good, to be seen as a good person and to not be seen as a bad person (2) it assumes our weaknesses or ignorance lead us to confuse our subjective preferences with moral propositions (3) but only moral propositions that can be defended objectively, reasonably, by some empirical guidebook or measure are binding. And (4) it isn’t a trivial task to identify all objective moral propositions, although some are easier than others (don’t murder).

    For example, let’s take slavery:

    It’s a very big stretch to think that the majority of people in history who have kept slaves know in their heart that it was wrong.

    True. But what I meant was that the majority of people in history did know that it was wrong to enslave their own kind, and that seems to be a direct link to a low-level moral emotion. The latter would be taken as the objective component of the moral argument. “Slaves are not kin” or “Slaves don’t feel pain (much)” would be the personal preference, subjective part of the argument. When literacy and the printed press were invented, suddenly people could put themselves into the very lives of slaves (thanks to Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” for example) and experience empathy (as kin) for beings which, prior to the experience, they may have thought incapable of true pain or suffering. At this point, “slaves aren’t kin” or “slaves don’t feel pain” is exposed as not just personal preference but perhaps factually wrong in each mind. Thus, moral reasoning through technology dissolves certain personal preferences regarding slavery.

    Exactly I can assign as they relate to my moral emotions and intuitions. You assign what is good and bad in relation to your moral emotions and intuitions. You are not describing an objective good and bad here. While this may give you a way of assessing your own behaviour it does not allow you to say anything objective about the behaviour of others.

    Since others share the same moral emotions and intuitions (not moral propositions), it should not be a stretch for us to agree to call them “good” influences. And here I’m referring specifically to 3 moral emotions and intutitions: empathy with others, the desire to be seen as someone who is good, and the desire not to be seen as someone who is bad.

    I’m afraid you have misread Strawson as he writes:

    It follows that real physicalism can have nothing to do with physicSalism, the view—the faith—that the nature or essence of all concrete reality can in principle be fully captured in the terms of physics

    Okay, yes, consciousness can not be fully captured in the terms of physical law sciences today but I believe consciousness will be eventually seen to be part of physical law. Strawson says that only a “revolutionary development” in physics would allow consciousness to be “discerned and described” by that science and I expect that to happen. If that includes AT metaphysics, that’s fine.

    On the question of simplicity I don’t know that matter plus mind is any more simple than matter plus form so we can’t use parsimony as a criteria to select between them. God is only an extra complication if he is offered as an extra postulate which he is not. He is rather a necessary implication of the metaphysics.

    I can not see any way where God is less complex than non-God so I’m not following you here. If you mean God is necessary, then parsimony doesn’t enter into it since parsimony should only apply when two theories equally explain observations. If God is necessary, naturalism failed long ago.

  330. DJC,

    You commented a while back on how you consistently write more than I do. Here’s my problem: You write a lot but don’t answer the question, so providing me with a review of what you have already written does to move the conversation along, although it does expose some of your buried assumptions.

    I would take the fact of growth in human civilization (something like 3 million in 35,000 BCE, 7 billion today) as pointing to something intrinsic in human behavior that helps us get along and thrive as social organisms relative to all other organisms (except maybe bacteria).

    Your assumption is that the survival of more people is good.

    True. But what I meant was that the majority of people in history did know that it was wrong to enslave their own kind, and that seems to be a direct link to a low-level moral emotion. The latter would be taken as the objective component of the moral argument. “Slaves are not kin” or “Slaves don’t feel pain (much)” would be the personal preference, subjective part of the argument. When literacy and the printed press were invented, suddenly people could put themselves into the very lives of slaves (thanks to Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” for example) and experience empathy (as kin) for beings which, prior to the experience, they may have thought incapable of true pain or suffering. At this point, “slaves aren’t kin” or “slaves don’t feel pain” is exposed as not just personal preference but perhaps factually wrong in each mind. Thus, moral reasoning through technology dissolves certain personal preferences regarding slavery.

    What you’re describing is not objective, you’re just describing changing people’s feelings towards a situation, not convincing them that it is objectively right or wrong. We could easily find examples in the opposite direction where people are dehumanised so that the pesky empathetic emotions don’t get in the way of using them. The assumption here is that we should feel empathy for all human beings. You need to justify that statement.

    Since others share the same moral emotions and intuitions (not moral propositions), it should not be a stretch for us to agree to call them “good” influences. And here I’m referring specifically to 3 moral emotions and intutitions: empathy with others, the desire to be seen as someone who is good, and the desire not to be seen as someone who is bad.

    You need to first define what you mean by good in a way that this statement isn’t question begging. Also the last two are the basis of peer pressure which isn’t always what I would call objectively good and also the motivation of cover ups which are not good either. These “good” influences can also prompt immoral behaviour. You need more.

    Okay, yes, consciousness can not be fully captured in the terms of physical law sciences today but I believe consciousness will be eventually seen to be part of physical law.

    Consciousness will not be captured by mathematical formulae so whatever captures it will not be physics. Do you agree?

    I can not see any way where God is less complex than non-God so I’m not following you here. If you mean God is necessary, then parsimony doesn’t enter into it since parsimony should only apply when two theories equally explain observations. If God is necessary, naturalism failed long ago.

    Here’s my problem with your use of parsimony to justify your insistence on not considering theism.

    1. You agree that matter alone cannot account for our experience so you at least need mind or consciousness to account for qualia but you obviously haven’t worked through what that entails, it’s just a vague handwaving.

    2. If your “neural map” is supposed to represent anything you have a problem of intentionality that you will need to accommodate. So you probably need to include intentionality in your mind component.

    3. You need to deal with how universals exist. This question is crucial for both morality and science, as they are both attempting to answer questions about universals.

    4. You need to work out how things can change and still be the same thing.

    5. You need to work out what you mean when you talk about physical law. If it is expected to function as any kind of explanation it needs to either exist or represent something that exists. Hume’s problem of induction is related to this.

    There’s probably a few other problems I’ve missed. Your belief that your final answer is going to be less complex than theism is extremely optimistic, especially considering that for classical theism, God is a necessary implication of the metaphysics (actual/potential distinction etc.). What puzzles me is why you would tenaciously hold onto your preference for naturalism without adequately exploring other options that have been rigorously worked out. In science the preferred explanation is the one that explains the data at a given time. Since you don’t have an adequate naturalistic explanation, naturalism should not be preferred. If you are really attempting to apply the methods of science in some limited way to your philosophy you should either have reasons for why the alternatives don’t fit the data we have or accept one of the alternatives (always keeping an open mind that you may new data may surface that requires you to change your position).

  331. I can not see any way where God is less complex than non-God so I’m not following you here.

    Go here to see how. The analogy of seeing is referenced so I thought this article was a good one – plus it addresses some objections.

    If God is necessary, naturalism failed long ago.

    Ding, ding, ding!

  332. Melissa,

    You commented a while back on how you consistently write more than I do. Here’s my problem: You write a lot but don’t answer the question, so providing me with a review of what you have already written does to move the conversation along, although it does expose some of your buried assumptions.

    I write a lot in an attempt to answer what I think your question is. If I’m not answering the question you want answered, just ask it again, I’ll get it eventually. I’ll try to ask more questions below if I sense any possibility of alternate interpretations.

    Your assumption is that the survival of more people is good.

    No, it’s just a fact that points to the existence of something objective in human nature that causes it. I’m trying to avoid assumptions about good or bad in human race flourishing because I think that is a slightly different, but parallel argument for naturalistic morality (i.e. Sam Harris’ argument). My argument for the moment is specifically about how the moral emotions lead to an objective moral approach.

    What you’re describing is not objective, you’re just describing changing people’s feelings towards a situation, not convincing them that it is objectively right or wrong.

    I said that people largely share an objective moral emotion that says in some sense that “enslaving my friends, my family, my people” is wrong. Are you saying this is not the case or that this is just a subjective feeling?

    If people initially have a feeling “slaves aren’t kin” or “slaves don’t feel pain” which turns out to them to be wrong upon reflection, they must now abandon this feeling, leaving the original objective moral emotion applying to slaves as well. That seems very much like being convinced that slavery is objectively wrong.

    Also, feel free to provide an example how people change their perception of a situation by being convinced about its objective morality in a morally valid way in your view so I can compare and contrast with my example. Any shift in moral thinking seems like it could be described as a change in feeling that is motivated by a desire to have beliefs that are “really right”, and that feels to me exactly like how I’m describing it here.

    We could easily find examples in the opposite direction where people are dehumanised so that the pesky empathetic emotions don’t get in the way of using them. The assumption here is that we should feel empathy for all human beings. You need to justify that statement.

    I’m making no assumption that we should feel empathy for all human beings. The only assumption I’m making is that people have an objective moral emotion that gives power in some sense to the idea that “enslaving my friends, my family, my people” is really wrong. When they discover that black Africans, for example, are actually are like people, like friends, like family thanks to the “empathic” power of a good book, they apply the same objective moral emotions to slavery and find it immoral.

    You need to first define what you mean by good in a way that this statement isn’t question begging. Also the last two are the basis of peer pressure which isn’t always what I would call objectively good and also the motivation of cover ups which are not good either. These “good” influences can also prompt immoral behaviour. You need more.

    Let me back up here. Your original comment was comparing a Christian approach, which I thought looked compatible with what I’m saying:

    Or Christians might argue that our values are a response to objective purposes embedded in creation and as such we can be right or wrong about them. Good is not defined by our values therefore we can literally value what is bad. Valuing something that is bad in your scheme doesn’t really make sense.

    I’m taking about a particular subset of our values as the moral emotions, though, not all of them. What about just those? Some moral emotions give you a feeling of elevation in relation to social behavior, some do the opposite, giving you a feeling of disgust, anger. This is where good and bad comes from to a first approximation, doesn’t it? Now behind the emotions one may pose an entire metaphysics, and I’m not necessarily rejecting that. But at least good and bad first are identified with these moral emotions. And if not, where else could you get them? I can’t identify good if it doesn’t feel good in some way under some combination of values, can you? Ditto for bad?

    The parable of the Good Samaritan just takes for granted that being beaten up by robbers is a bad thing, that failing to aid an injured person is a bad thing, that it is a good thing when a person puts aside ideological differences to help another in trouble. Why don’t these need to be taught? Why do even babies grasp most of this? Because they are an objective part of our moral emotions.

    Consciousness will not be captured by mathematical formulae so whatever captures it will not be physics. Do you agree?

    Physics as the methods and practices of physical sciences or physics as the behavior of matter and energy and nothing else? If the former, yes, I expect we need better methodologies that can be seen to take into account all data of conscious experience.

    Here’s my problem with your use of parsimony to justify your insistence on not considering theism.

    1 … 5

    These are all good points that I have, actually, worked through to a first approximation. My efforts with you are not an attempt to communicate and defend the totality of everything I know but an attempt to establish productive discussion and common ground on much smaller points and issues.

    What puzzles me is why you would tenaciously hold onto your preference for naturalism without adequately exploring other options that have been rigorously worked out.

    I have explored other options extensively.

    Since you don’t have an adequate naturalistic explanation, naturalism should not be preferred.

    I do have what appears to me to be an adequate naturalistic explanation. We can discuss all that but I really think keeping topics focused and looking for common ground is much more productive.

  333. DJC,

    I said that people largely share an objective moral emotion that says in some sense that “enslaving my friends, my family, my people” is wrong. Are you saying this is not the case or that this is just a subjective feeling?

    Yes, I’m saying that this is not universally the case. Plenty of people have sold off their friends, family and people to slavery without a second thought, have treated their wives and children as chattel etc. What you do have is a feeling that it is wrong to enslave the people that you feel bad about enslaving. Further who you feel bad about enslaving is entirely subjective as for you there is no objective standard as to who (or what) should prompt these feelings. Therefore there is no way to support your claim that when the feeling that something is right is replaced by the feeling that something is wrong (which is exactly what you are arguing), a subjective opinion is being replaced with objective fact.

    But at least good and bad first are identified with these moral emotions. And if not, where else could you get them? [snip] Why don’t these need to be taught? Why do even babies grasp most of this? Because they are an objective part of our moral emotions.

    Good just refers to how well a particular instantiates it’s essence. Immoral behaviours are those that frustrate the human’s final causes. By rational investigation much of what is good for a human may be discovered (hence why the naturalist can be moral without having a foundation for morality), in fact some of it is obvious, but science can in be bought to bear at this point. In this way good and bad is independent of our feelings, and discoverable to our intellect. If everything was working perfectly our feelings would perfectly match what is objectively good and bad.

    We can discuss all that but I really think keeping topics focused and looking for common ground is much more productive.

    OK. But why I bought it up initially is because of your claim that good and bad must exist only as values in the human mind and that I was making a category mistake to suggest otherwise. If you really had investigated other options you would realise that cannot just be asserted and only holds if a mechanistic view of nature (i.e. one devoid of intrinsic teleology) is correct.

  334. G. Rodrigues – I confess, you’re too clever for me. I can’t see the difference between how I characterized your words (‘a list of examples [of humans]’) and your words themselves: “listing out all the people that have ever lived”.

    And further note that I said that set of properties “can be a definition” (emphasis added), not that all sets of properties are ipso facto a definition. So your set-theoretic legerdemain is beside the point. It has to do with what “the important points” are. You haven’t elaborated your objections on that score.

    I’m not examining people and summing up the traits of “sapient, relatively hairless, fully bipedal, tailless, forward-facing-eyes, grasping-paws, live-young-bearing hair-possessing milk-giving amniote-possessing tetrapodal jawed vertebrate notochord-possessing multicellular non-chloroplast mitochondrial eukaryotes”. I’m taking that set of traits and using it as a definition for things that fall under the kind of morality I’m talking about. For my purposes, those are among “the important points”.

    Indeed, for a lot of the conclusions, I’d figure many of them aren’t needed. If the inhabitants of Pandora from the movie “Avatar” existed, they might well not be “non-chloroplast mitochondrial eukaryotes”, but the rest are easily sufficient.

  335. Melissa,

    I said that people largely share an objective moral emotion

    Yes, I’m saying that this is not universally the case. Plenty of people have sold off their friends, family and people to slavery without a second thought, have treated their wives and children as chattel etc.

    But are you disagreeing with me? It seems compatible to say both that people largely share a moral emotion and also that it is not universal. If you are saying people largely do not share any form of objective moral emotions, then we have a real disagreement.

    Here are more examples of triggers for moral emotions that I would say are largely shared, largely objective from Jonathan Haidt. The first sentence below in each paragraph may or may not trigger a moral emotion (and if it does, it seems rather subjective), but the second sentence is expected to be near universal in triggering a moral feeling of wrongness.

    Stick a pin into your palm.
    Stick a pin into the palm of a child you don’t know.

    Accept a wide-screen TV from a friend who received it at no charge because of a computer error.
    Accept a wide-screen TV from a friend who received it from a thief who had stolen it from a wealthy family.

    Say something bad about your nation (which you don’t believe) on a talk-radio show in your nation.
    Say something bad about your nation (which you don’t believe) on a talk-radio show in a foreign nation.

    Slap a friend in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit.
    Slap your minister in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit.

    Attend a performance-art piece in which the actors act like idiots for 30 minutes, including flubbing simple problems and falling down on stage.
    Attend a performance-art piece in which the actors act like animals for 30 minutes, including crawling around naked and urinating on stage.

    These each hit the basic moral dimensions of human nature according to Haidt (Harm, Fairness, Community, Authority, Purity).

    Further who you feel bad about enslaving is entirely subjective as for you there is no objective standard as to who (or what) should prompt these feelings.

    But if we are hardwired to feel in a similar manner for similar situations, why is that subjective? We all see colors slightly differently. What if our color vision was so important us that people got in fights over whether a color is more green or less yellow? That seems to me to be closer to the situation with morality. Everyone agrees on the pure yellows and pure greens but when you get to the yellowish greens and greenish yellows, there is much more disagreement.

    The approach I’m suggesting here is that the “pure colors” of morality do exist and that they are objective. And that gives us a lot of common ground to resolve less clear, subjective parts.

    In this way good and bad is independent of our feelings, and discoverable to our intellect. If everything was working perfectly our feelings would perfectly match what is objectively good and bad.

    I take that to mean you see that the “half-way colors” of morality have objective answers as well, where I don’t have a guarantee for that (under naturalistic morality). However, I still see that your good and bad according to essence has to still be fully compatible with our feelings else we’d have no hope of recognizing it. The perfect morality must be recognizable as the perfect morality. And so it seems we must both still look inside for our moral guide.

    But why I bought it up initially is because of your claim that good and bad must exist only as values in the human mind and that I was making a category mistake to suggest otherwise. If you really had investigated other options you would realise that cannot just be asserted and only holds if a mechanistic view of nature (i.e. one devoid of intrinsic teleology) is correct.

    I shouldn’t say “you are making a category mistake” as that’s not my place to judge, but what I mean is that the only way I understand values primally is as originating within mind. That’s where it has to start, to assert anything else is to take on a burden of proof. A universe absent teleology may seem bleak but one with teleology (in the form requiring mind) seems to take on again a burden of proof. What seems the right thing to do to me is question the assumptions and start fresh, not because that guarantees truth but because it puts one on a path that is easier to test.

  336. DJC,

    It seems compatible to say both that people largely share a moral emotion and also that it is not universal.

    You need it to be universal otherwise you have no business making a supposedly objective moral judgement about anyone’s actions.

    In the case of slavery you have a situation whereby we all share a common moral emotion of empathy such that it feels icky to enslave particular things that we feel empathy for. Actions that feel icky like that we label wrong.

    Someone feels like that about just their friends and family.

    Life happens and at a later time their empathy also kicks in in relation to a wider circle of people.

    Someone else feels empathy towards animals and feels icky about using animals.

    What makes any of these feelings more objective than the others?

    The approach I’m suggesting here is that the “pure colors” of morality do exist and that they are objective

    How do “pure colours” of morality exist? If solely in what you call the mind, then they exist subjectively. I think we all generally agree on both colours and morality because colours and final causes (from which morality is derived) exist in the things themselves and these are grasped by the intellect. You however do not have that option.

    However, I still see that your good and bad according to essence has to still be fully compatible with our feelings else we’d have no hope of recognizing it.

    If by fully compatible with our feelings you mean that our feelings are always a reliable guide to what is good and bad then no. It is the intellect that recognizes good and bad and our feelings flow from that recognition but we can be wrong about it.

    but what I mean is that the only way I understand values primally is as originating within mind. That’s where it has to start, to assert anything else is to take on a burden of proof.

    What I mean is that I understand good and bad as existing primarily in the things themselves and are recognized by reason. That’s where it has to start, to assert anything else is to take on the burden of proof.

    What seems the right thing to do to me is question the assumptions and start fresh

    So let’s drop the assumption that value can only exist in the mind shall we and examine the reasons and arguments (not assumptions) that are given for intrinsic teleology in natural things. You’ve read plenty of Feser, what do you find lacking in the basic arguments?

  337. Melissa,

    Some questions since I think there might be some key differences of view highlighted here.

    How do “pure colours” of morality exist? If solely in what you call the mind, then they exist subjectively. I think we all generally agree on both colours and morality because colours and final causes (from which morality is derived) exist in the things themselves and these are grasped by the intellect. You however do not have that option.

    Subjectivity can refer generally to any conscious experience or it can refer to “personal taste”. I am fine with morality having its primary force in conscious experience but the practice of morality can only be personal taste if the moral emotions are perceived very differently across individuals. I think it can be empirically shown that moral emotions are experienced largely the same across humanity and therefore the practice of morality is far more constrained then it would be it was just personal taste.

    Pain seems to exist only in the mind, but the fact that we all share the ability to feel it means that our behavior in response to pain is well defined and anesthesiology is a fairly objective science. So it seems strange to say that pain is subjective with the meaning that it is a matter of personal taste. Now maybe we could say that pain exists externally in a sense in all the situations that occur that can trigger pain and suffering in human beings. But if so, I would also think in a similar sense morality exists externally in all the situations that occur that can trigger moral emotions.

    How are you using subjectivity in morality here?

    If by fully compatible with our feelings you mean that our feelings are always a reliable guide to what is good and bad then no. It is the intellect that recognizes good and bad and our feelings flow from that recognition but we can be wrong about it.

    I don’t see how the intellect can recognize good or bad without preexisting values in the form of feelings/emotions. How can we recognize good and bad rationally/intellectually without certain basic premises/presumptions that are visceral, deeply felt, pure emotion?

    but what I mean is that the only way I understand values primally is as originating within mind. That’s where it has to start, to assert anything else is to take on a burden of proof.

    What I mean is that I understand good and bad as existing primarily in the things themselves and are recognized by reason. That’s where it has to start, to assert anything else is to take on the burden of proof.

    Descartes said “I think therefore I am”. I thought everyone agreed that this was the only absolutely certain starting point for all knowledge. Am I wrong about that, are you saying there is a better starting point?

    So let’s drop the assumption that value can only exist in the mind shall we and examine the reasons and arguments (not assumptions) that are given for intrinsic teleology in natural things. You’ve read plenty of Feser, what do you find lacking in the basic arguments?

    I’ve taken http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/09/teleology-revisited.html as describing some of the background, and it comes down to Aquinas’ argument that teleology entails divine intellect. But Feser acknowledges that this is not a trivial argument, so I feel at least justified initially in considering a universe absent this kind of teleology.

  338. DJC,

    But if so, I would also think in a similar sense morality exists externally in all the situations that occur that can trigger moral emotions.

    Here’s the thing. We feel pain (if everything is working properly) in response to real damage to our bodies. The damage is objectively real. It seems you agree with that. You also correctly understand that if a similar situation is to apply for morality then in some sense morality exists externally as well. Therefore, as I have been trying to get you to see all along, in your scheme the objective good is, contrary to what you have explicitly argued, implicitly assumed in some kind of external form.

    I don’t see how the intellect can recognize good or bad without preexisting values in the form of feelings/emotions.

    Because you are still assuming that good and bad can only be understood in terms of emotions/feelings. Since you said you’ve read enough of Feser to have a reasonable understanding I didn’t feel it was necessary to spell everything out in detail. From Feser:

    Now, natural law theory as understood in the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) tradition presupposes this understanding of natural objects. Human beings, like every other natural substance, have a nature or substantial form, and what is good for them — what constitutes their flourishing — is determined by the ends or final causes that follow upon having that sort of nature or substantial form. But just as we can normally determine the efficient causes of things without making reference to God, so too can we normally determine the final causes of things without making reference to God. And thus, just as we can do physics, chemistry, and the like without making reference to God, so too can we do ethics without making reference to God, at least to a large extent. For we can know what is good for a thing if we can know its nature, and we can know its nature by empirical investigation guided by sound (A-T) metaphysics.

    If you have further questions on this I can point you to a more substantial explanation.

    I’ve taken http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/09/teleology-revisited.html as describing some of the background, and it comes down to Aquinas’ argument that teleology entails divine intellect. But Feser acknowledges that this is not a trivial argument, so I feel at least justified initially in considering a universe absent this kind of teleology.

    But in the article you linked to Feser explicitly mentions the problem of misunderstanding purposes in the sense of the intrinsic purposes in nature that make science and morality intelligible. I’m talking firstly about final causes because they are what is relevant to this discussion. If you want to affirm objective morality, you must affirm the objective good and the only way you are going to do that is by affirming the reality of final causes.

  339. Melissa,

    Here’s the thing. We feel pain (if everything is working properly) in response to real damage to our bodies. The damage is objectively real. It seems you agree with that. You also correctly understand that if a similar situation is to apply for morality then in some sense morality exists externally as well. Therefore, as I have been trying to get you to see all along, in your scheme the objective good is, contrary to what you have explicitly argued, implicitly assumed in some kind of external form.

    I agree with that except I wouldn’t say “assumed” (in the sense of presumed) in external form but, rather, inferred from the moral sense. From pain we can infer that there is likely an external situation (real damage) triggering it, and from moral sense we can infer that there is likely an external situation (real moral interaction of agents) triggering it. I think naturalism can be agnostic on the exact ontological status of the external events as long as there is some predictable correlation between the felt experience and the external events.

    Because you are still assuming that good and bad can only be understood in terms of emotions/feelings. Since you said you’ve read enough of Feser to have a reasonable understanding I didn’t feel it was necessary to spell everything out in detail. From Feser:

    Well it looks to me like he is saying the same thing if I can understand basic primitive feelings/emotions/values as synonymous with “nature”. What moves us can’t be reason alone, but nature plus reason. Good and bad only make sense in terms of our nature. I can go with that.

    But in the article you linked to Feser explicitly mentions the problem of misunderstanding purposes in the sense of the intrinsic purposes in nature that make science and morality intelligible. I’m talking firstly about final causes because they are what is relevant to this discussion. If you want to affirm objective morality, you must affirm the objective good and the only way you are going to do that is by affirming the reality of final causes.

    I think final cause as capturing the sum total of the actions of matter, energy and time under probabilistic patterns detected by the mind could be compatible with my way of thinking. Is this a valid sense of final cause? I’m just worried about how putting the mind’s patterns “out there” in the world creates possible subtle errors in thinking.

  340. DJC,

    I think naturalism can be agnostic on the exact ontological status of the external events as long as there is some predictable correlation between the felt experience and the external events.

    Vague handwaving does not in fact cut it. The only reason why your position seems remotely plausible to you is because you have not actually thought it through. What you have is some kind of good and bad in the external situation (something you have consistently denied).

    Well it looks to me like he is saying the same thing if I can understand basic primitive feelings/emotions/values as synonymous with “nature”. What moves us can’t be reason alone, but nature plus reason. Good and bad only make sense in terms of our nature. I can go with that.

    No he is not saying the same thing. I’m still happy to point you towards some explanations of the basics. You need them. Good and bad only make sense in terms of the final causes that flow from our nature. It is reason that grasps human nature (a universal) and the attendant final causes of human nature and so grasps what is good and bad.

    I think final cause as capturing the sum total of the actions of matter, energy and time under probabilistic patterns detected by the mind could be compatible with my way of thinking. Is this a valid sense of final cause? I’m just worried about how putting the mind’s patterns “out there” in the world creates possible subtle errors in thinking.

    Final causes are just effects that a substance is directed towards by virtue of it’s nature. Therefore the final cause could not be the sum total of the actions of matter, energy and time under probabilistic patterns. I am not suggesting that we put “the mind’s patterns out there” but rather the intellect grasps the final causes that are already out there in the things themselves.

  341. Melissa,

    Vague handwaving does not in fact cut it. The only reason why your position seems remotely plausible to you is because you have not actually thought it through. What you have is some kind of good and bad in the external situation (something you have consistently denied).

    Of course I don’t agree with “vague handwaving” or “have not actually thought it through”, but I do find useful the comparison of the felt perception of pain and the events that cause that perception to the felt perception of morality and the events that cause that perception. Are you saying pain should be taken as actually present in tissue damage and not just a consequence of nerve signals reaching the brain? Phantom limb pain, pain as a consequence of improper nerve signalling and so on seem to strongly suggest that pain should be centralized in the mind and events that trigger it be thought of as pain-triggers but not pain in themselves. Is this view not compatible with AT metaphysics?

    No he is not saying the same thing. I’m still happy to point you towards some explanations of the basics. You need them. Good and bad only make sense in terms of the final causes that flow from our nature. It is reason that grasps human nature (a universal) and the attendant final causes of human nature and so grasps what is good and bad.

    I think I’m referring to something more basic. Where does Feser explain how human nature recognizes good? Why does human nature find anything important in final cause? It seems to me there must be something in human nature that values its final cause and seeks to achieve it. Let’s suppose something’s nature is for self-destruction. Does it then automatically perceive death as good or is it possible to still perceive death as bad?

    Final causes are just effects that a substance is directed towards by virtue of it’s nature. Therefore the final cause could not be the sum total of the actions of matter, energy and time under probabilistic patterns. I am not suggesting that we put “the mind’s patterns out there” but rather the intellect grasps the final causes that are already out there in the things themselves.

    Let me back up. I take Feser to be saying that teleology and final cause should be uncontroversial to a point because all it says is that “if there is a regular efficient causal connection between a cause A and an effect B, then generating B is the final cause of A”. If that is the case, then start with a predictable pattern of matter, add time and energy under predictable patterns and you get another predictable pattern of matter– that seems to be saying the same thing. But I don’t see yet where any of that requires an “essence”.

    I do see that posing an essence makes things easy; it is simpler to think that pain is right there throbbing in a sore elbow. But that’s also misleading, the pain is really “in our minds”.

  342. DJC,

    I do find useful the comparison of the felt perception of pain and the events that cause that perception to the felt perception of morality and the events that cause that perception.

    Pain is how we feel very real tissue damage if everything is working properly, as you note we can get that wrong. You are correct that moral feelings are a response to how we perceive certain situations. Again those feelings can mislead us. The good and bad is in the external situation, not in our feelings.

    Where does Feser explain how human nature recognizes good? Why does human nature find anything important in final cause?

    OK, you’ve got everything backwards and upside down. Human nature just is the substantial form or essence of the human being, it is the intellect that recognises good.

    But I don’t see yet where any of that requires an “essence”.

    Ask yourself what you mean by “predictable pattern of nature”. All sorts of things could be hidden in there. If you don’t unpack what you mean you will never understand what it is you are arguing or whether it even makes sense. The reason why the final cause is proposed is to explain the regularities of nature and the formal cause or essence is linked to the final cause. If A is a universal then you need an essence or form. I think you really do need to read a book, because you need the basics. You might see if you can get your hands on TLS.

    I do see that posing an essence makes things easy; it is simpler to think that pain is right there throbbing in a sore elbow. But that’s also misleading, the pain is really “in our minds”.

    I’ve already agreed that pain is a feeling triggered by real tissue damage if everything is working properly. Tissue damage is not “in the mind” and sometimes our feeling of pain does not in fact correspond to real tissue damage, we are mistaken. In the same way moral feelings are triggered when our intellect recognises real good and bad but sometimes we are mistaken. The good and bad are not “in the mind”.

  343. Melissa,

    You might see if you can get your hands on TLS.

    Is that really the only place these ideas are presented in comprehensive form? It would be great to see a website devoted to AT with FAQ, essays, forums. But yes, I will spring for the kindle so I can use the terminology properly in future discussions.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  344. SteveK –

    My summary – which references your words – said that morality is factually external to the human being (points 1 and 2). In your answer here, the only thing that falls into that category is the universe. Everything else is internal to the human (goals, strategies, human-ness).

    (Thanks for the reminder about this. There were a lot of conversations going on at the end of the year.)

    It seems you’re using a rather strange definition of ‘internal’ here. If I can look at you and see it, is it really ‘internal’? Of that “SRHFBTFFEGPLYBHPMGAPTJVNPMNCME”, at least ten of them can be determined by inspection. Others can be determined by behavior. I mean, I honestly can’t understand what you mean when you say “human-ness” “is internal to the human”. Can you really not tell the difference between a human and a dog without asking them?

    One of my key points is that strategies are not subjective or internal. There’s a lot of research and study of chess theory. Just saw this article on Monday, for example.

    In the area of goals, you’re on the strongest ground – but it’s really not as firm as you’d think. Again, because the ‘human-ness’ isn’t subjective, the goals that follow from that are more than a little determined. Pain is subjective, for example, but does that mean nothing happens to anyone if you hold their hand in a fire?

  345. Ray,
    When something is external to X, it is not an integral part of X. Whatever you mean by ‘Ray the human being’ or ‘Ray’s human-ness’, morality would not be a part of this. This is how I’m using the term.

    Look at #304 where you used the temperature analogy: Temperature, like morality, is real and external. Warmth and cold, like our sense of obligation, is how we experience it.

    In the analogy, you’re saying there’s an external temperature (E) and our own temperature (O), and we experience the relational difference as warm and cold.

    Applying this analogy, you’re saying there’s an external morality (E) and our own morality (O) and we experience the relational difference as obligation.

    I have no idea what this external morality is. But supposing we can get past that, human obligation is entirely subjective on your view. You sense an obligation to A, while others sense an obligation to not-A. Both are equally valid obligations based on the realities of E and O.

    (side note: Loosely speaking, Christianity is working with the same E and O, however there’s something distinct about E that resolves the problem of moral relativism that naturalism can never resolve)

  346. Ray,
    Not sure what the significance of your question is because I only care to discuss what you mean by ‘factually external to the human being.’ This is the topic I addressed in #365. Can you reply to what I said there first?

  347. Hi Melissa,

    “Maybe someone is actually arguing this but I think you’ve got the wrong idea. It’s not that we all inherently know what is objectively right or wrong. It’s that we all do believe that some things really are bad or really are good.”

    From Tom’s argument from Morality. https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/03/evidence-for-god-humanness-and-moral-knowledge-part-1/

    “Introduction: Moral Knowledge We All Share

    Do you know whether it’s right or wrong for parents to nurture their children? Do you know whether it’s right or wrong for parents to torture their children for fun? Do you know whether it’s right or wrong for a power plant to practice green environmental methods? Do you know whether it is right or wrong for a chemical plant to dump its waste products into the nearest river?

    I believe you know these things. This knowledge is rooted in our humanness, and it leads to the knowledge that there is a God.”

    I believe some things are good and others bad. The argument from theism has been put forward to me as knowing that some things are good and others bad. It changes it from being my subjective opinion to an objective fact, which I believe is necessary to use it as evidence for God. I don’t think there is anyway that my subjective opinion can be used for evidence, even if it is shared by a large group of people. Particularly in light of differing opinions shared by other large groups.

    If I have got your argument wrong, please correct me.

    Cheers
    Shane

  348. Hi BillT,

    “Ok. From and only from a theistic viewpoint are all people intrinsically valuable. We are because being created by God in his image makes us so and is the only thing that can make us so. Given that, we also have a duty to each other as part of our shared creation and the intrinsic value that each of us has. Thus, it is objectively immoral to harm another person for one’s personal pleasure.”

    Well that’s a belief based on a world view. It’s not evidence that the belief is correct and using it to support the world view is circular reasoning.

    “For you not to understand that it’s perfectly appropriate to substitute “objectively immoral” for “problematic” is a bit surprising but if you need my permission to do so you have it.”

    I’m sorry you find that surprising, but “problematic” does not have the weight of “objectively immoral” to my ear. But in that case your argument against homosexual sex is that it is the ultimate intimacy outside of the ultimate commitment of marriage. Do you not think it’s unfair to blame that on the individuals when you are also actively campaigning against them being able to marry? And in the same vein, in those states where it is now legal, do you have no problems with those that have made the ultimate commitment to each other expressing that through the ultimate intimacy (even though it is obviously still against your ultimate beliefs)?

    Cheers
    Shane

  349. @370:

    If the belief that all humans have intrinsic value were only held by theists because of their theism, then it would be circular to use it to support theism.

    Do you believe all humans have intrinsic value?

  350. Well that’s a belief based on a world view. It’s not evidence that the belief is correct and using it to support the world view is circular reasoning.

    No, it isn’t “a belief based on a world view.” It’s a perfectly straightforward explanation for what intrinsic value is and why it exists only under theism. You asked for an explanation and I gave you one and your response is to try and mischaracterize it without dealing with it’s substance.

    And like I said in the other thread, marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Changing the definition doesn’t change that. And using that (which I had already addressed) as a way to avoid the point I was making is, like the above, a failure to deal with the substance of my argument.

  351. I don’t think there is anyway that my subjective opinion can be used for evidence, even if it is shared by a large group of people.

    If I may crossover in the discussion. So, Shane, to use the example from above you think it’s just your “subjective opinion” that “for parents to torture their children for fun?” is wrong. It isn’t objectively wrong for parents to do that it’s just your opinion and that, of course, means it might be ok for parents to do that. You good with that?

  352. Hi Tom,

    “@370:

    If the belief that all humans have intrinsic value were only held by theists because of their theism, then it would be circular to use it to support theism.

    Do you believe all humans have intrinsic value?”

    The question is do all humans believe that all humans have intrinsic value? And the answer to that is obviously ‘No.’ I think a unanimous moral belief would go a long way to proving theism. But what we see is moral belief of the individual highly dependent on the society in which the individual lives.

    More in my reply to BillT.

    Shane

  353. Hi BillT,

    “It’s a perfectly straightforward explanation for what intrinsic value is and why it exists only under theism. You asked for an explanation and I gave you one …”

    I asked for “objective evidence that torturing children is wrong?”

    You said that if theism is true than all people are intrinsically valuable, and therefore torturing children is objectively wrong. Your “explanation” is predicated on “if theism is true”. This is not objective evidence that torturing children is wrong, just that your opinion is that it is wrong if (your specific) theism is true.

    “And like I said in the other thread, marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Changing the definition doesn’t change that. And using that (which I had already addressed) as a way to avoid the point I was making is, like the above, a failure to deal with the substance of my argument.”

    I think I dealt directly with the substance of your argument as you wrote it. You thought sex with no commitment was immoral, so I asked if the immorality disappeared if there was a commitment? If the immorality remains then you did not accurately describe your position. I don’t hold that against you as I want you to clarify your thoughts on the matter and I understand how that can happen in a discussion.

    “If I may crossover in the discussion. So, Shane, to use the example from above you think it’s just your “subjective opinion” that “for parents to torture their children for fun?” is wrong. It isn’t objectively wrong for parents to do that it’s just your opinion and that, of course, means it might be ok for parents to do that. You good with that?”

    As with Tom, please weigh in on all matters here. The more the merrier.

    There are parents that think it’s okay to torture their children for fun. They have a different opinion to me. How could that be if there were objective facts about the matter? And returning to an unanswered question I posted above, if torturing children is objectively immoral, and God drowned thousands of children in the flood (a torturous way to die, I think you would agree) does this not mean that God acted immorally? If God can not be immoral, then drowning children was not immoral in this instance. If the morality of the act changes, then this means the morality regarding it is subjective. Or worse, torturing children is not now, and has never been, an immoral act. And your belief that it is objectively wrong is entirely incorrect.

    So how can you know if something is really immoral, just because you think it is? We are only fallible humans, after all. Which brings me back to do you have any evidence that torturing children is objectively wrong?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  354. Hi Tom,

    “Shane, do you believe humans have intrinsic value?”

    To clarify the sentence I looked up the definitions:

    intrinsic
    adjective
    belonging naturally; essential.

    and

    value
    noun
    1.
    the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
    2.
    principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.

    It seems the adjective refers to a certainty about something and the noun refers to something that is variable. They don’t seem to be a good match. I can say I believe that humans have value. Even all humans have value. Is that good enough?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  355. Shane,

    I get that you don’t want to actually deal with the substance of my points. I wouldn’t if I were you either. That my belief that people have intrinsic value is based on the truth of theism is what we are talking about. Whether theism and only theism can and does make people objectively and intrinsically valuble. It does. I’ve shown that and all you’ve done is try and change the subject.

    I made it clear in my first post on the subject that marriage was between a man and a woman and you ignored that and raised the issue again. Now, you’ve raised the issue a third time and still haven’t dealt with the substance of my position.

    There are parents that think it’s okay to torture their children for fun. They have a different opinion to me. How could that be if there were objective facts about the matter?

    Because people who believe “…it’s okay to torture their children for fun.” are moral monsters. Morality doesn’t make people moral it tells us whether people are acting morally or not. No one who has thought about this for more than five seconds could not understand that unless they were trying not to understand.

  356. Shane,

    Allow me to present a different approach to the question of the truth of the intrinsic value of people and the necessity of theism for the validity of that proposition.

    Let us start with hypothetical “parents who torture their children for fun” and a hypothetical ant “that you unintentionally squashed on your way out the door this morning.”

    Think about how you would feel if you found out your good friends were “parents who torture their children for fun” and how you would feel if you found out about the ant “that you unintentionally squashed on your way out the door this morning.”

    If you would allow me to project as I think it obvious your moral sense is in working order. I think you would be revulsed to the point of physical sickness to discover the former and completely nonplussed at discovering the latter. Why?

    If there is no God then there is no difference in the value of the child and the ant. We are all just branches of the evolutionary tree separated only by circumstance and equally valuable or not. Therefore, you should either be outraged at both of these circumstances, as both resulted in harming equally valuable lives, or unaffected by both as they both resulted in harming equally insignificant lives.

    But you or I or anyone with a moral sense that is in working order don’t experience either of these feelings. We are outraged and sickened at parents who would torture their children for fun. We simply shrug, if that, at finding out we squashed that ant. Why?

    There is only one reason why we should and do feel differently about these two different circumstances. That is because the children are intrinsically valuable in a way the ant isn’t or ever could be. And that intrinsic value, as I’ve shown, can come from only one place. Your functioning moral sense is, in itself, proof of God’s existence.

  357. Shane,

    I believe some things are good and others bad. The argument from theism has been put forward to me as knowing that some things are good and others bad. It changes it from being my subjective opinion to an objective fact,

    You are confused about what is meant by the terms. For you to know some things are good or bad does not make whether some things are good or bad an objective fact. Do you think that before anyone knew that DNA existed there was no objective fact of the matter?

    There are parents that think it’s okay to torture their children for fun. They have a different opinion to me. How could that be if there were objective facts about the matter?

    Someone could just be wrong and that is why there is disagreement. That goes for many of the questions that human beings disagree on. There is an objective fact of the matter, some people just have the wrong answer. If you think people are wrong in their opinion that it is OK to torture children then you believe in objective morality. If you judge those people who do such things as bad then you believe in objective morality.

    Now, you also claim that a leg is objectively defective (bad in the non-moral sense) if it is unfit to walk because it’s function is to walk. If that function is an objective fact about the leg that points to objective teleology and an objective good or bad. The question is important. Is the function of the leg just something that is made up by you or does it objectively exist. The question is crucially important for the question of morality.

  358. Hi BillT,

    “I get that you don’t want to actually deal with the substance of my points. I wouldn’t if I were you either. That my belief that people have intrinsic value is based on the truth of theism is what we are talking about.”

    But this says nothing about whether people have intrinsic value or whether theism is true. It only asserts what you believe and why you think you do. You want to show “because people have intrinsic value then theism must be true”, you must first show that people have intrinsic value.

    “Because people who believe “…it’s okay to torture their children for fun.” are moral monsters. Morality doesn’t make people moral it tells us whether people are acting morally or not.”

    Our sense of morality tells us we think they are acting morally or not. You believe consenting homosexuals who engage in sex are acting immorally. I do not.

    “I made it clear in my first post on the subject that marriage was between a man and a woman and you ignored that and raised the issue again. Now, you’ve raised the issue a third time and still haven’t dealt with the substance of my position.”

    Then you should probably clarify the substance of your position.

    “Let us start with hypothetical “parents who torture their children for fun” and a hypothetical ant “that you unintentionally squashed on your way out the door this morning.””

    Let’s replace “parents who torture their children” with “God drowning untold numbers of children in a great flood”. I find God’s actions to be utterly immoral. You?

    “If there is no God then there is no difference in the value of the child and the ant. ”

    There might be no difference in some intrinsic or objective value but I personally value the human child more. Because I am human. And capable of empathy. I know the suffering a child can experience, and everything I know tells me ants don’t suffer in the same way. I am not a vegetarian, but I know plenty who are and they are outraged at the treatment of animals. Why, if they are not worthy of the same respect as people? Why does their morality extend beyond humans if our morality comes from God who gave us the animals to use?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  359. Hi Melissa,

    “You are confused about what is meant by the terms. For you to know some things are good or bad does not make whether some things are good or bad an objective fact. Do you think that before anyone knew that DNA existed there was no objective fact of the matter?”

    So you use the word “know” interchangeably with the word “believe”?

    “Someone could just be wrong and that is why there is disagreement.”

    The difference is between someone being wrong and me thinking someone is wrong.

    “That goes for many of the questions that human beings disagree on. There is an objective fact of the matter, some people just have the wrong answer. If you think people are wrong in their opinion that it is OK to torture children then you believe in objective morality. If you judge those people who do such things as bad then you believe in objective morality.”

    If I believe people are wrong to thing steak should be cooked well done instead of medium rare does that mean I believe in an objective reality about the way meat should be cooked?

    “Now, you also claim that a leg is objectively defective (bad in the non-moral sense) if it is unfit to walk because it’s function is to walk. If that function is an objective fact about the leg that points to objective teleology and an objective good or bad. The question is important. Is the function of the leg just something that is made up by you or does it objectively exist. The question is crucially important for the question of morality.”

    I don’t think the function of a leg is made up by me. If I was a lizard and be unable to comprehend this conversation, my leg would still have the same function.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  360. Shane,

    So you use the word “know” interchangeably with the word “believe”?

    I think what matters is how Tom is using the word and I think. The Oxford dictionary defines know as to be aware of through observation, Inquiry or information.

    If I believe people are wrong to thing steak should be cooked well done instead of medium rare does that mean I believe in an objective reality about the way meat should be cooked?

    If you think they are actually wrong, then yes, you think there is something of an objective reality about the way meat should be cooked. If you think their preferences just don’t match your preferences then no. But that is beside the point. Disagreement over the facts does not necessarily mean there are no facts so your justification for claiming that there is no objective morality does not stand up under scrutiny.

    I don’t think the function of a leg is made up by me. If I was a lizard and be unable to comprehend this conversation, my leg would still have the same function.

    So you agree that there is at least some objective teleology in nature. You asked in what way morality could be objective and my answer is that human beings can be defective (or bad) in the same way as a leg when they choose to pursue actions that frustrate their intrinsic, objective purposes.

  361. Shane,

    My only question left for you is why do you bother. You certainly don’t want to honestly engage in a discussion. You pretty much only avoid, deflect or try to change the subject.

  362. SteveK –

    Applying this analogy, you’re saying there’s an external morality (E) and our own morality (O) and we experience the relational difference as obligation.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying, sorry. Warmth and cold are simple examples, illustrating a principle, not covering the entire ground. I mean, my chess analogy is meant to illustrate the reality of strategies arising from the interaction of goals and fixed constraints. I do not claim that real-life moral dilemmas are as simple as chess problems!

    The sense of moral obligation is a lot more complex and nuanced than a simple sense of temperature. Consider, say, the 2002 Spider-Man film, or the 2003 Hulk film. You can tell that something’s “off” about how the superpowered protagonists move. Humans have elaborate hardware in their head for processing how other humans move, and it can sense when the physics of humanoid motion are wrong. That’s way more complicated than a simple sense of temperature, but it’s still humans relating to how things work in the world.

    Humans have instincts for relating to each other, too. We have hardware for processing and policing social contracts (as I’ve mentioned before). We can see when actions are ‘off’, are going to lead to harm and strife and suffering.

    Another analogy: coastlines. A coastline arises because of two things: the geometry and height of the land, and the height of the water. Change one or the other, and the coastline changes. There are no coasts on Mars, but if we were to add water, we can tell where the coasts would be.

    Different heights of water lead to different coastlines, but they are the product of things external to the water – the geometry of the land. Different species from humans might well have different morals than ours – but that would be because of how their nature interacted with the same external universe.

    So when I say morality is external to humans, I mean it in a similar way to how the shape of the coastline is external to the oceans – it’s the way things like humans or oceans relate to things external to themselves.

  363. Ray,

    So when I say morality is external to humans, I mean it in a similar way to how the shape of the coastline is external to the oceans – it’s the way things like humans or oceans relate to things external to themselves.

    Since you’ve told me nothing more about WHAT this external reality is, I default back to my prior conclusion: it’s the universe or some portion of it.

    The problems are obvious and numerous. I won’t bother repeating them.

    For a brief moment, Ray, I thought you might be able to say something that would cause me to rethink naturalism and perhaps take it more seriously as a worldview – but no, that didn’t happen.

  364. SteveK – As I said before, not ‘the universe or some portion of it’, it’s “those objective strategies resulting from human goals and the universe we live in”.

    You say that’s not “external to the human being”. But it absolutely is. We’re back to the chess analogy, but let’s break it way down. There are three distinct types of things in it.

    1. Goals: in this case, the goal to win the game.
    2. Fixed constraints: in this case, the rules of chess; castling, en passant, how knights move, etc.
    3. Strategies: in this case, the strategies that arise because of the interaction of the first two. The “Sicilian Defense” is not a goal. It is also not part of the rules of chess. It is something else.

    A goal is internal to an actor. But fixed external constraints – like, say, the laws of chess or the laws of nature – are not internal to an actor.

    And strategies are not internal to an actor, either. They can be recognized and implemented by an actor, but they aren’t internal to them. Strategies can be treated mathematically and studied in the abstract. They aren’t real in the way an electron is real, but they aren’t imaginary or illusory either.

  365. I get it, Ray.

    1) The human being
    2) Something external to the human being
    3) the sense of obligation that an interaction between (1) and (2) produce in the human being.

    aka – moral relativism without any obligations or culpability.

  366. SteveK – Nope. You missed at least one step, and phrased things incorrectly.

    1) The human being
    2) Constraints external to the human being
    3) The external realities that the interaction between (1) and (2) produce.
    4) the sense of obligation in the human being that’s a response to (3).

    And your final line is totally off-base, building on the incorrect case above while also ignoring everything else I wrote.

  367. Ray,
    I acknowledge that (2) has constraints. I don’t see the significance of adding the extra step, but I will accept all of the steps as you have listed them even though I have questions about the external realities in (3). The conclusion remains the same – there exists no factual obligations. A list of facts cannot result in an obligation. To wit:

    (1) There exists a goal to maximize the well-being of all human beings
    (2) There exists a limited number of ways to strategically achieve that goal
    (3) There exists a ‘best way’ strategy to achieve that goal
    (4) There exists a sense of obligation in human beings to achieve (1) according to (3)

    There does NOT exist an obligation for any human being to act on, or do anything with these facts. Some would argue that self-medicating and moving on to a different goal is more satisfying.

    Please explain in detail how I’m totally off-base and building the incorrect case while ignoring everything else you wrote.

  368. SteveK,

    A sincere question for you:
    Why would anyone be obligated to behave morally under theism?

    Thank you in advance.

  369. Bill L,

    Why would anyone be obligated to behave morally under theism?

    Because the obligation is a fact of reality. The obligation doesn’t exist in the same way that a solar system exists, but it’s equally objective and real.

  370. SteveK,

    Thank you for helping me think through this.

    Your reply seemed a little circular. Maybe it would be helpful if I understood what you mean by “obligation.” To me it seems to be an abstract idea or feeling that may be represented by something like a contract (but let’s set that representation aside).

    I could imagine a King obligating a subject to pay a tax. Perhaps the subject does not accept that obligation, but the King can have a punishment inflicted upon him,

    Conversely, a subject may feel an obligation to the King, and protect his life during an assassination attempt. In this case the King needn’t even be aware of the obligation.

    Or perhaps the two accept some mutual obligations – “You pay taxes and I’ll make sure my army protects you when needed.”

    Through all of these, someone must hold an obligation in the mind.

    How do you see it?

  371. Thank you for your honesty SteveK,

    Given your belief that morality can be objective only under theism, and that we only know this through intuition, and given that you do not seem to have an understanding of why moral relativists would be less morally obligated than theists, I suggest you stop using the moral arguments for why theism is better than atheism.

    You may indeed find a better argument in the future. Please let me know if you do.

    Again, thank you for your time.

  372. SteveK – (Your list of facts wasn’t presented as a list of what I’ve said, which is good because that isn’t what I’ve said.)

    Think about recipes. If you want to make a cake, you could be boring and follow the recipe: use flour, eggs, and sugar, and bake it in an over. Or you could use ground beef, lard, and coffee beans, and bake it in a refrigerator. Or maybe you could use cement, motor oil, and sawdust, and fire it in a kiln!

    Neither Hestia nor Frigg will smite you if you pick the latter two. However, only one of those possibilities is likely to produce an actual edible cake. There’s room for plenty of variations on a recipe (you might say people can use prudential judgment in the kitchen) but if you want to make a cake, you’re – ahem – obligated to use a limited range of ingredients and techniques.

    Cooking with buffalo chips, by burning them, is one thing. If you see someone cooking buffalo chips to eat, you’re likely going to feel a sense of queasiness, of wrongness. I don’t think that feeling is arbitrary, or a coincidence.

  373. Ray,

    There’s room for plenty of variations on a recipe (you might say people can use prudential judgment in the kitchen) but if you want to make a cake, you’re – ahem – obligated to use a limited range of ingredients and techniques.

    Your use of the term ‘obligation’ is merely a retelling of what a person does to achieve their desired goal. It’s a trivial use of the word.

    You’re saying, if I want to make this thing called ‘a cake’ as I have defined it in detail, I must use certain ingredients. Well, duh! And if I want to walk to the top of the stairs I’m ‘obligated’ to – wait for it – walk up the stairs until I reach the top.

    The factual obligations that I’m referring to applies to the entire human being – all human beings, in fact – regardless of what their individual feelings, desires and goals are.

    Under naturalism, are all human beings obligated to live a certain way regardless of what their individual feelings, desires and goals are? No.

    If you see someone cooking buffalo chips to eat, you’re likely going to feel a sense of queasiness, of wrongness. I don’t think that feeling is arbitrary, or a coincidence.

    Feelings and sensations are not obligations. You know that.

  374. SteveK (and Ray Ingles),

    Feelings and sensations are not obligations. You know that.

    Of course that’s correct. Not all feelings and sensations are obligations. But what I don’t know here Steve, is if obligations are more than feelings, or thoughts (still setting contracts aside). From the examples I gave you, at least one member of the party would have to have the feeling that he has a duty or that the other member of the party has a duty. That seems to be what an obligation is.

    Now if God has this feeling and someone does not share it, the person would still be subject to God’s punishment (I think this is the way you see it – or something similar – right?). But how is this different then most members of a society having that feeling?

  375. @BillL:

    Why would anyone be obligated to behave morally under theism?

    There are different answers to this because it is not clear what you mean by obligation.

    On one level, behaving morally is the practical side of behaving rationally. Speaking from the Aristotelean-Thomist POV of things, a schematic argument could run as follows:

    (1) If I want what is good I ought to do what realizes my natural ends.

    (2) I want what is good.

    (3) I ought to do what realizes my natural ends.

    (1) is an hypothetical justified on the basis of AT’s account of the good and human nature. (2) is self-evident (at least on Aquinas’ account of the good and human nature). (3) follows, yielding the desired imperative. Needless to say, the trickiest part is to substantiate (1). The two crucial ingredients for it are a robust essentialism (roughly, for the “natural” side of (1)) and immanent teleology (roughly for the “ends” side of (1)) and at any rate, something like it is necessary if we are to pull off a “natural”, that is, based on human nature, ethics.

    At this point someone might interject and complain that there must be a sleight of hand somewhere, since, and to borrow Kantian language, (1) is an hypothetical and (2) is a statement of fact, so how do we get the categorical, absolute imperative in (3) if it is not found anywhere in the premises? This is one form of “you cannot get an ought from an is” objection, which is precisely what an AT metaphysician will dispute — you *can* get oughts from is’es. It is buried in (2), but its substantiation takes more space that I can devote to it. At any rate. the proximate ground for the necessity, or obligation to behave morally is in human nature.

    On another level, the obligatory aspect of the commandments comes from the authority that issued them, that is we ought to do X because the *proper* authority commanded us to do X, with God being the highest authority and, in a relevant sense, the *only proper* authority to issue moral commandments.

    The first account of obligation applies to natural law and the second is proper to Divine law.

    On yet another, third level, and as showed in the previous point, the *ultimate* ground of obligation lies in the law as promulgated by God, whether natural, immanent law, whether divine or external law, in the same sense as natural necessities follow upon the divine creative fiat.

  376. G. Rodrigues,

    Thank you for trying to help me with this. I really do appreciate it.

    To make this clear at the start, I know next to nothing about AT metaphysics. And this whole thing stemmed from SteveK’s #391 for me when he stated “….moral relativism without any obligations or culpability.” I started wonder why, even if morality were relative (I personally don’t know that it is or is not, but once I asked Steve why he thought morality to be objective… he basically said he intuited it to be so), would there be no obligations or any less culpability when compared to a theistic morality system.

    I think you can get a pretty good idea of what an obligation is to me by reading # 398. I see it as a sense of duty or a feeling that one or both parties must have to respond in a certain way for established reasons. I think that’s the way most people understand an obligation.

    So the obligation my come from the more powerful, the less powerful, or from equals. It may be taken as an internal duty, or a duty that one confers upon the other, or something that both agree to. Again, I think this should all be obvious and agreed upon by everyone.

    Now if there are additional ways you (or Steve) see it, I would like to know. Or if I have gotten something wrong, I would like to know.

    It seems that a society is just as able hold someone obligated and culpable (because of their feelings) as a God would be.

    I will grant what might be an exception – the sociopath who gets away with it all until the end of his life. However, I would question whether that person is rational at all and wouldn’t be the same kind of person that would not comprehend eternal punishment from God. (But then again I don’t see the point of punishing a non-rational thinker.)

  377. SteveK –

    It’s a trivial use of the word.

    I don’t think so. I grant that it’s not identical to how you’re using it, but I think it’s significant anyway.

    Under naturalism, are all human beings obligated to live a certain way regardless of what their individual feelings, desires and goals are?

    They are “obligated” (in my sense) to “live a certain way” if “their individual feelings, desires and goals” are within a particular range. As I’ve said, I’m talking about the basic goals that humans have simply by virtue of being human. As I said, the concept of basic, common human needs is kind of fundamental to what I’m talking about.

    Coastlines again. Ocean levels change, rise and fall over time. But there’s a limit. There isn’t enough water on Earth to cover the Appalachians, let alone the Rockies.

    Humans have a huge amount in common, even in goals and needs. If you think otherwise, look at the goals and needs of things that aren’t human. It’s not like I haven’t put up examples before.

    So I can say “all humans are obligated to do certain things” because they actually do want common things. It’s like we’re in cooking school – everyone here wants to bake a cake.

  378. Ray,
    You’re not giving me any new information.

    As I’ve said, I’m talking about the basic goals that humans have simply by virtue of being human. As I said, the concept of basic, common human needs is kind of fundamental to what I’m talking about.

    If the obligation coincides with the fact that a person is a human being and has basic human goals and needs, can you explain how human moral evil results?

  379. @Bill L:

    Let me home in on this:

    I think you can get a pretty good idea of what an obligation is to me by reading # 398. I see it as a sense of duty or a feeling that one or both parties must have to respond in a certain way for established reasons. I think that’s the way most people understand an obligation.

    That there are *feelings* commonly associated to moral obligation is a primary datum of human experience, but feelings cannot ground anything at all, neither can they justify anything at all. Since, and just to quote the example you give afterwards, as you observe sociopaths do not seem to experience these feelings. Now what? You cannot simply say that sociopaths are “irrational”, you have to *justify* it. Why are the sociopaths deficient in some *objective* sense or other as we take them to be? Why *ought* we to feel these types of feelings commonly associated with moral obligation? But this is just a reformulation of the problem, not a solution.

    Note that I am not claiming that these feelings are not important, as their presence is a sign that the inner, moral conscience is well developed, at least up to a point. My only point is that they cannot do the work of justifying anything whatsoever.

  380. G. Rodrigues,

    Feeling seem to be grounded or serve as justification for many things (probably most things) we experience. If I burn my hand on the stove, my feeling is to take my hand away as soon as possible. Not only is there that almost involuntary reaction to the heat, but I realize that I do not want to go around in life with a burnt hand. This is justified by even more things that I feel. I realize this is circular, but that seems to be how it is. Why should some things not be grounded in feelings is the question I would ask?

    “Irrational” seems to be a way we have of labeling people (or ideas) that are not shared by most people, especially when those people are using the best methods of obtaining knowledge that we are aware of. The sociopath is irrational because he does not share either the common understanding of good behavior and most likely the full consequences of his actions.

    We do feel moral obligation because these are the neuronal configurations that lead to producing the most offspring under the circumstances. “Ought” seems to arise from those feelings.

    I’m not sure how else to see it.

  381. SteveK –

    If the obligation coincides with the fact that a person is a human being and has basic human goals and needs, can you explain how human moral evil results?

    For one, humans have to actually figure out strategies, and develop talents.

    The rules of chess have been essentially stable since about the 1700s, but chess theory has developed a lot since then, exploring and devising new strategies. A competent modern player could expect to tackle grandmasters of a century or two ago. Humans have had to learn better ways of living with each other. Practically the first thing I ever wrote here included The history of social progress (what Dawkins called the ‘zeitgeist’; e.g. the progression from ‘kill all your enemies’ to ‘slavery for captured opponents’ to ‘the Geneva Conventions’) seems to fit up with an engineering timeline. (Novelist Spider Robinson once wrote, “It took a couple of hundred million years to develop a thinking ape and you want a smart one in a lousy few hundred thousand?”)

    I noted before how humans have talents for physics, and language, and even anticipating how other humans can move. But all of those talents must be exercised and developed; they are aptitudes for learning, not hardwired databases. Similarly for human moral sensibilities.

    That’s part of it. It even matches up with a lot of theistic moral theories – if someone’s been raised to think something’s moral even though it isn’t, they have reduced or even no moral culpability for that something.

    Nor are our moral instincts perfect, referring back to that thinking/smart distinction. Our physics instincts have blind spots, too – e.g. gyroscopes. In the moral realm, we tend to go for the shiny material things even though making other people happy tends to make us happiest. We are tempted to cycles of revenge even when it’s not in our best interest. We’re complex beings, it’s true.

    But we have been experimenting for a couple hundred thousand years and there is some information available about what works in the long run and what doesn’t.

  382. Ray,

    For one, humans have to actually figure out strategies, and develop talents.

    You’ve either introduced an new ‘obligation’ into the situation, or you’ve expanded the previous definition, so now you’ll need to re-explain. This is what you said in #406:

    They are “obligated” (in my sense) to “live a certain way” if “their individual feelings, desires and goals” are within a particular range. As I’ve said, I’m talking about the basic goals that humans have simply by virtue of being human. As I said, the concept of basic, common human needs is kind of fundamental to what I’m talking about.

    Everyone, in virtue of being human, fulfills this ‘obligation’.

    But now you’ve introduced a new way to fail at being human by obligating all humans to have certain talents, abilities, desires that go beyond the basics that you said are common to all humans. Explain.

  383. We do feel moral obligation because these are the neuronal configurations that lead to producing the most offspring under the circumstances. “Ought” seems to arise from those feelings.

    And as has been said here before but bears repeating. If all moral obligation is, is “the neuronal configurations that lead to producing the most offspring” why should I or anyone else give a hoot about it. And if I or anyone else doesn’t have to give a hoot about it then it’s not a moral obligation.

  384. BillT

    I have a feeling that if you knew morality were the result of biology, that you would not start going out raping and pillaging tomorrow – either because you care about people (which is what I suspect), or because you fear the retribution you will receive when you try to hurt people.

    So if there is a “should” here, it is probably the one that is based on allowing you to fulfill your own goals… namely getting along with people. As for the “obligation” here, that is what I am asking questions about. I would love it if you would review my previous questions and comments and provide your own feedback about how you see obligations.

  385. Hi Melissa,

    “I think what matters is how Tom is using the word and I think. The Oxford dictionary defines know as to be aware of through observation, Inquiry or information.”

    I don’t believe Tom is referring to morality as something that can be observed, inquired about or have information collected on it. I think he is referring to something innately within us. Maybe I am misunderstanding his thoughts on the matter.

    “Disagreement over the facts does not necessarily mean there are no facts so your justification for claiming that there is no objective morality does not stand up under scrutiny.”

    Sure. But as above how can you observe the facts of morality? Perhaps this is to do with a misunderstanding on my part on what facts are being referred to.

    “So you agree that there is at least some objective teleology in nature.”

    When referring to physical things that have an obvious physical function that serves an end.

    “You asked in what way morality could be objective and my answer is that human beings can be defective (or bad) in the same way as a leg when they choose to pursue actions that frustrate their intrinsic, objective purposes.”

    This is embedded in the idea that human beings have a purpose beyond having offspring. What evidence is there that this is the case?

    Cheers
    Shane

  386. Hi BillT,

    “Shane,

    My only question left for you is why do you bother. You certainly don’t want to honestly engage in a discussion. You pretty much only avoid, deflect or try to change the subject.”

    Do you find it at all telling that you pretty much mirror the thoughts I have about your input into our discussions? If you ignore our interactions, and look at my discussions with others, Melissa currently, do you think I’m avoiding, deflecting or trying to change the subject there? If you don’t think I’m honestly asking questions looking for answers then don’t feel obliged to respond to me. But I promise I am only trying to understand why the people I engage with believe the things they do, and address the problems I see with their beliefs.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  387. Ray,

    1) The human being
    2) Constraints external to the human being
    3) The external realities that the interaction between (1) and (2) produce.

    Why are the realities in 3 external?

  388. I’m back from an intense week of teaching and interactions at Defend the Faith. It’s hard to keep up with everything at once!

    Bill L., I like the questions you’re asking.

    You said in #409,

    Feeling seem to be grounded or serve as justification for many things (probably most things) we experience. If I burn my hand on the stove, my feeling is to take my hand away as soon as possible. Not only is there that almost involuntary reaction to the heat, but I realize that I do not want to go around in life with a burnt hand. This is justified by even more things that I feel. I realize this is circular, but that seems to be how it is. Why should some things not be grounded in feelings is the question I would ask?

    The circularity is a problem. Also missing is the objective reality that extended contact with a hot stove produces real injury. The feeling is not the reason to remove your hand. It’s the heuristic device your body employs to induce you to remove your hand, without having to process all the cognitive chain of thought that would induce you to remove it on rational grounds. It’s a shortcut to (in this case) a rational decision, but it is not what makes the decision rational.

    If one were to press your analogy, then, one would find it leading in a different direction than you intended. You want to say that feelings ground moral obligation, but you’ve built your case here on an analogy where feelings don’t ground anything.

    “Irrational” seems to be a way we have of labeling people (or ideas) that are not shared by most people, especially when those people are using the best methods of obtaining knowledge that we are aware of.

    True enough, but unfortunately so, and neither necessarily nor properly so. The term is better employed for people who make judgments and decisions for irrational reasons: reasons that are unjustified by evidence, principles, and sound thinking. On that basis, those who believed in a Ptolemaic model of the universe were (probably/usually) rational. They didn’t have Brahe, Kepler, and Newton to explain why a heliocentric model made more sense. So “using the best methods of knowledge that we are aware of” is consistent with rationality, even though later discoveries often make former methods obsolete.

    Morality is rational only if it is justifiable on rational grounds. The term “irrational” cannot be wiped away as easily as you have just tried.

  389. This is embedded in the idea that human beings have a purpose beyond having offspring. What evidence is there that this is the case?

    Wow.

    I mean, really, really, really, Wow.

    What evidence is there that people have a purpose beyond having offspring, you ask? If that’s your view, then what evidence is there that having offspring counts as a purpose?

    If having offspring is the only purpose for which you have found any evidence, then you have found that there is no purpose for humans; for having offspring is only nature’s way for humans to have more offspring, and nothing more. It is to say that the purpose of humans is to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x so as to do x,

    and when x is done, all that remains of human purpose is to do x.

    Do you believe this is the only purpose of humans?

  390. Now, suppose humans had some purpose other than having offspring. What would you count as evidence for that?

    You’re counting a certain type of evidence as indicating that our purpose is to have offspring. You see no evidence that we have any other purpose. What if the evidence is there, but you’re not counting it as evidence? What would it take, in your view, for something to count as evidence that we have some other purpose?

  391. Hi Bill L,

    I hope you don’t mind me jumping in here.

    “I think you can get a pretty good idea of what an obligation is to me by reading # 398. I see it as a sense of duty or a feeling that one or both parties must have to respond in a certain way for established reasons. I think that’s the way most people understand an obligation.”

    The problem with your definition imo is your use of the word “must”. No-one must do anything, and “should” is a better fit, and usually there is a consequence if people don’t respond in the usual way; lack of trust, personal feelings of guilt, incarceration, etc. People break their “obligation” if the benefits of breaking it outweigh the consequences. Sociopaths don’t deal with guilt and aren’t concerned about personal integrity either.

    I would suggest that moral obligation can only truly exist under Theism (as SteveK said), because it becomes an intangible thing that God can bestow. Without theism then we have a system where by the majority of us treat people the same way we want to be treated. A society made up of individuals that feel this way is more likely to thrive than a society made up of sociopaths, so evolution could lead us down the path of evolving empathy as a natural extension of the mothering instinct that evolved to help us protect our young. The question to me (and to you, I think) is what evidence is there that morality is an intangible objective thing?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  392. @Bill L:

    If I burn my hand on the stove, my feeling is to take my hand away as soon as possible. Not only is there that almost involuntary reaction to the heat, but I realize that I do not want to go around in life with a burnt hand. This is justified by even more things that I feel. I realize this is circular, but that seems to be how it is. Why should some things not be grounded in feelings is the question I would ask?

    I have already answered, so I am not sure what is it that you are asking. Yes, you have some “feelings”, so does the thief (e.g. he intensely desires what he steals) or anyone else you care to name. Ok, great. Now what? Now nothing, nada, zilch.

    “Irrational” seems to be a way we have of labeling people (or ideas) that are not shared by most people, especially when those people are using the best methods of obtaining knowledge that we are aware of. The sociopath is irrational because he does not share either the common understanding of good behavior and most likely the full consequences of his actions.

    No, irrational, means without a reason, or that the reasons invoked do not and cannot justify — which is precisely what your “attempt” at justification is. And no, the sociopath *does* realize the consequences of his actions, as so does the Thief, he just makes a calculus of risk and payoff and comes to a conclusion that you dislike. And saying that the sociopath “does not share either the common understanding of good behavior”, simply begs the question against the sociopath since what is in dispute is whether the common understanding is *right*.

  393. Tom Gilson –

    Why are the realities in 3 external?

    Can you put a one-word name to the “realities in 3”? If so, you’d know my answer. Or should by now, at least.

    But as a bonus, I’ll answer with another question: Is the “Sicilian Defense” real or not?

  394. Thanks for your reply Tom,

    The circularity is a problem. Also missing is the objective reality that extended contact with a hot stove produces real injury. The feeling is not the reason to remove your hand. It’s the heuristic device your body employs to induce you to remove your hand, without having to process all the cognitive chain of thought that would induce you to remove it on rational grounds. It’s a shortcut to (in this case) a rational decision, but it is not what makes the decision rational.

    If one were to press your analogy, then, one would find it leading in a different direction than you intended. You want to say that feelings ground moral obligation, but you’ve built your case here on an analogy where feelings don’t ground anything.

    I realize that circularity may seem like a problem, but I do not see why it is in this case if it does indeed describe what is happening. I think you’re right – I did not give a good analogy because of the involuntary reflexes involved. But I could have made an equal case with most other situations that justify actions based upon feeling.

    But suppose I describe my feelings that I should not play my music too loudly because of my neighbors? Indeed I feel this is an obligation of mine. I feel like I don’t want to see them upset. I feel like I should be a good neighbor. On this, my behavior to keep quiet would seem rational and based in feeling.

    I think we agree on the use of “irrational.” I’m not trying to wipe the term away. So we seem to be able to describe the sociopath as irrational based on the outcomes of his behavior – he will not make himself happy, especially in the long-run. But you are the psychologist here Tom. Please tell me if I’m wrong about them, but I think one of the main problems is that their actions are not based on feelings for others. That is, they have no obligations ground in feeling.

  395. Shane Fletcher,

    I welcome your input greatly!

    I’m not certain, but I think you have misunderstood my use of the word “must” in that sentence. I meant to say that in order for an obligation to exist (presumably in the mind) that the feeling must exist. In other words, it is the feeling of duty or reciprocity that generates obligations.

    I was not saying that someone must do anything in that sentence.

    While I agree with other things you’ve said, I’m not so sure that moral obligations are any less real if grounded by anything other than human feeling thank they would be under theism. I agree that God could bestow this intangible thing, but I do not see why humans could not do that – even under relativistic morality.

    Maybe this analogy will help – Kim Jong-un could bestow an obligation to a citizen that she should pay tribute to him. He may hold her responsible and even engender a sense of morality in the actions.

    In this analogy, the way in which I use the word “moral” is not a description of the act being good. It is a description of how the act is perceived – it evoked her sense of morality (right and wrong).

    I think we are in agreement on other areas Shane. I just see that all of these things discussed here are matters of feeling – morality, obligation, and so on.

  396. G. Rodrigues,

    It looks like we’re going wrong somewhere. Perhaps what I misunderstand is were you wrote:

    “….feelings cannot ground anything at all, neither can they justify anything at all.”

    I’m sorry, I just don’t know what to make of that so I’m asking for you to help me understand. If I see a spider on the wall in front of me, even if I know it is a harmless one, I still have an uneasy feeling about it. I could leave it in my house. It may be perfectly fine there. But I remove it and when someone asks me why I did that, I reply that I really don’t like spiders. And I just don’t see any harm in removing it. Now my actions were grounded and justified by my feelings. And I think my action was rational given my feelings.

    Where am I going wrong? I don’t know why we *ought* to feel the feelings associated with moral obligation; I just know that we do (I think those feelings can be detrimental as in the sense of armed people avenging a prophet as a sense of moral retribution – but this is getting side tracked).

    So you seem to be saying in #408 that feelings can not ground anything, but (it seems) on the basis that some people (sociopaths) do not feel that? But so what? It seems that if they are lacking the very ability to make moral decisions, then we don’t let these kinds of people tell us what is moral.

    No, irrational, means without a reason, or that the reasons invoked do not and cannot justify….

    I think we agree there. I tried to convey that when I wrote “….using the best methods of obtaining knowledge that we are aware of.” So this is what I was trying to say about the sociopath… he has his reasons, but is only aware of them to a limited point. We ask him – “Why did you beat up that guy?” He responds “He had it coming, or he shouldn’t have been in a bar that dangerous. Anyway, I like to beat up people.” We retort “What would you hope to achieve?” or “What will happen in the long run to you and society if you and others act this way.” You’ll quickly find that they’ve not really thought through the consequences of their actions.

    Here’s an example from a blog. Scroll down about half way to the longest blue-colored quote box:
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/faq-on-violence

    These guys realize the consequences of their actions about the same way a first time chess player realizes the consequence of one move and one move only.

    But all of this is not really the point. What I am trying to find out is why there are not obligations or culpability under moral relativism.

    It seems that if a person or group of people are able to evoke the feelings of moral obligations in themselves or others, then they would be able to be held to those. I don’t know how we would know the world works in any other way.

  397. One key line there, Bill L: “And I just don’t see any harm in removing it.”

    The groundedness of your actions depends on the truth of that judgment. If you were wrong about that judgment, that alone would suffice to overturn all the “grounding” you thought your feelings provided.

    Let me restate it in a different manner. Let’s assume (and I agree) there’s no harm involved in removing the spider from the wall. That fact, and that alone, makes your action morally neutral with respect to the spider and all external reality. Your feelings are the only morally relevant fact.

    Suppose now we take it as true that F, there is something morally good about satisfying our feelings when all else is neutral. In that case it follows that your action would be morally good, on account of F’s being true.

    Now, whether F is true would depend on something other than F, wouldn’t it? What makes F true, if it is true? What grounds it? It couldn’t be feelings. Feelings can only do that work if F is known to be true, which means we can’t use them to determine whether F is true.

    Note also that F only applies when all else is neutral. What if all else isn’t neutral? Do feelings still suffice to ground our moral decisions?

  398. To be clear Tom, I meant that spider analogy only as a means to demonstrate that feelings can indeed ground and justify some actions. I did not really try to make that example specific to morality, but let me see…

    I am not sure it is morally good to satisfy ones feelings, nor I am not sure we can do much with that example, come to think of it. Morality seems to be the feeling of what happens when at least 2 actors are involved. So I would say in that case that the action is morally neutral. But I think I see what you’re getting at.

    So in the neighbor example, I do what satisfies my feelings, because I anticipate my neighbors feelings. If my neighbor were deaf – this would not be an issue. Now would you say there has to be something “good” outside of our feelings? I don’t think so. There just needs to be our primary feelings and our awareness of each others feelings and how things may play out over the future because of that. There need be nothing “real” other than thoughts and feelings.

    Is lowering your noise level because of your neighbor morally good? Yes, if your neighbor is affected. All of this seems to be based on feelings (excluding physical concepts such as sound of course).

    I’m not meaning to side-step your example. If you can think of a way it can be used, let me know.

  399. I have a feeling that if you knew morality were the result of biology, that you would not start going out raping and pillaging tomorrow – either because you care about people (which is what I suspect), or because you fear the retribution you will receive when you try to hurt people.

    Bill L,

    Of course, the above has nothing to do with what I said. Morality isn’t what makes us do or not do good. Morality is what tells us whether we do or not do good. We have free will so we can or can not treat others any way we like. It’s morality that lets us know why we should treat others well. It doesn’t force us to treat others well. Is this really news to you?

  400. Hi Tom,

    “Shane, I do not claim that something (such as morality) must be observable to be knowable.”

    I didn’t think so.

    “Do you believe this [having offspring] is the only purpose of humans?”

    I don’t even believe that. Having purpose indicates that there is a bigger reason behind our existence. I see no evidence that is the case. I use the word “purpose” loosely when describing the act of our genetic material copying itself in the form of offspring as that is the driving biological force that got us to this point.

    Now I believe that life is worth living for any number of reasons, and great things can be achieved, but I don’t believe these things can be described as a purpose. I would think that most people would agree that an atheist cannot believe there is ultimately any purpose to our lives. “Purpose” is an “argument” that theists use to forward their case, but it seems to me to based in wishful thinking rather than based on any evidence.

    “Now, suppose humans had some purpose other than having offspring. What would you count as evidence for that?

    You’re counting a certain type of evidence as indicating that our purpose is to have offspring. You see no evidence that we have any other purpose. What if the evidence is there, but you’re not counting it as evidence? What would it take, in your view, for something to count as evidence that we have some other purpose?”

    I really don’t know. But that’s not generally what gathering evidence is about. You shouldn’t go looking for things that will help or hinder your viewpoint. You should gather all the evidence and see what it tells you. I mean purpose is something we would definitely have if Christianity is true. If you believe in Jesus then you believe we have a purpose but I don’t think it works the other way around. Maybe it does. Maybe you have solid evidence that we have a purpose, which would prove conclusively that Jesus was really resurrected to save humanity, and I would obviously love to hear it.

    I will also say here that gathering evidence is different to testing a hypothesis. When testing a hypothesis you definitely go looking for results that will disprove your theory. But the hypothesis generally comes about from evidence you have already collected.

    Cheers
    Shane

  401. BillT,

    Back in #412 you said “If all moral obligation is, is “the neuronal configurations that lead to producing the most offspring” why should I or anyone else give a hoot about it. And if I or anyone else doesn’t have to give a hoot about it then it’s not a moral obligation.” [Emphasis added] To which I replied with the quote you repeat in #429.

    The point is, you do give a hoot about it. In fact, you have little choice but to give a hoot about it. Can you think of any evidence to the contrary? It is your brain that leads you to behave the way you do. So in that sense it has much to do with what you said. Let me know if you still don’t see how, I will try to explain it differently.

    I think where you really want to go is the normative sense of morality, correct? That is, what is good? (I was more questioning moral ontology and epistemology at this point).

    I’d say before we move on to that, we try to establish what exactly an obligation is. You can refer to #398 and let me know what I have done wrong or what is insufficient. Specifically, is an obligation anything other than a feeling?

  402. Hi Bill L

    “I meant to say that in order for an obligation to exist (presumably in the mind) that the feeling must exist. In other words, it is the feeling of duty or reciprocity that generates obligations.”

    I see what you’re saying. This seems to be true in the case of sociopaths who are missing those feelings and so feel no obligation. But how does that work for psychopaths, whose feelings/obligations are only to themselves, and whose actions will often be detrimental to other individuals?

    “While I agree with other things you’ve said, I’m not so sure that moral obligations are any less real if grounded by anything other than human feeling thank they would be under theism. I agree that God could bestow this intangible thing, but I do not see why humans could not do that – even under relativistic morality.”

    Under naturalism there can be nothing intangible. There must be a physical reason for everything. The argument for theism is essentially that there can be no physical reason for an objective morality that exists outside of us. And it seems to me that this is true. So the question becomes is there an objective morality. And I see no evidence that there is anything guiding our choices of right and wrong beyond our own feelings, which are shaped by our experience. So while I agree that human feelings make a “moral obligation” as you see it, it seems to me that it can only be a subjective thing to each individual. And that is what I see in the world. People living their own lives, making their own choices. The fact that I think it is wrong to marry off my 8 year old daughter doesn’t mean that the world is not full of cultures that do exactly that. Do they do it despite thinking it is morally wrong? No, they have no moral problems with it at all. Because it is what they know.

    “Morality seems to be the feeling of what happens when at least 2 actors are involved.”

    This is a good point. But not all of the actors need to be people. A vegetarian is acting on their moral beliefs regarding animals. I think it could be extended to the use of the spider in the example, although the further from us on the “evolutionary tree” you go the more difference of opinion on the moral treatment of animals. Some people have no qualms about killing spiders.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  403. Hi Shane,

    But how does that work for psychopaths, whose feelings/obligations are only to themselves, and whose actions will often be detrimental to other individuals?

    That’s an interesting question and I would really love it if Tom were to join in here as a psychologist. I think we can almost imagine the psychopath as having a rather strange inner dialogue where he does set up obligations. I really think though the point is that these are never moral obligations because they do not involve the interaction with others.

    Under naturalism there can be nothing intangible. There must be a physical reason for everything.

    Agreed there. I suggest the physical reason under naturalism would be neuronal configuration. Thus the naturalist could not see this as intangible while the theist could. Still, obligations would be there either way. Which is the point I jumped in to contest with SteveK back in #391.

    I agree with everything else you said (I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons). But I’ll take things a step further with the child marriage thing… While I agree that these cultures believe they are acting with good morals, we can begin to make more objective observations about the kinds of actions that lead to greater human happiness (one of the very bases of morality) or the happiness of sentient creatures. I suspect that if we had enough knowledge, we would determine that certain actions lead greater overall suffering and others to greater overall happiness.

    While this is not completely objective because it is still based in feeling (we feel we want to be happy), it may be the closest we can come through naturalism.

    Cheers

  404. Hi Bill L,

    “I think we can almost imagine the psychopath as having a rather strange inner dialogue where he does set up obligations. I really think though the point is that these are never moral obligations because they do not involve the interaction with others.”

    An interesting point. Another thought in the same vein, is that people are generally not so easily classified. While there maybe an extreme absence of empathy which results in Sociopathy and an extreme desire to hurt others which results in Psychopathy I think people generally fall somewhere on the Bell Curve, and society makes the arbitrary lines to make the classifications. People that hold women captive in basements for years might none the less have never missed a car repayment and have tipped their post man handsomely at Christmas time.

    “But I’ll take things a step further with the child marriage thing… While I agree that these cultures believe they are acting with good morals, we can begin to make more objective observations about the kinds of actions that lead to greater human happiness (one of the very bases of morality) or the happiness of sentient creatures. I suspect that if we had enough knowledge, we would determine that certain actions lead greater overall suffering and others to greater overall happiness.

    While this is not completely objective because it is still based in feeling (we feel we want to be happy), it may be the closest we can come through naturalism.”

    I think you acknowledge at the end that this is still a subjective thing, based on our personal beliefs and experiences. And this is pretty much where I am. I don’t think ‘close to objective’, or ‘more objective’ (because we are thinking of the welfare of others) makes it truly objective, and thus we are left with it being subjective. My own personal opinion about the behaviour of myself and others. Of course we are really just talking about classification now. This is why I am happy to say that objective morality can only exist in Theism. The real question then becomes can we prove that objective morality exist?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  405. StevK – Thanks for the reminder, but I was literally coming back to type this when I saw it.

    Recall the question – essentially, where does ‘human moral evil’ come from?

    Everyone, in virtue of being human, fulfills this ‘obligation’.

    No, any more than everyone who tries to bake a cake, even following the recipe, succeeds. My wife is a great cook. My sons and I cooked dinner for her Sunday, and it came out all right, though it took probably three times as long as she would have taken and the fries were burned.

    But we did what we could to meet the goal, and we learned some things along the way. We’ll do better next time.

    But now you’ve introduced a new way to fail at being human by obligating all humans to have certain talents, abilities, desires that go beyond the basics that you said are common to all humans.

    In what sense have I introduced any new desires, especially obligations to have some? I’m specifically appealing to common human desires, and noting that people have them by virtue of being human. Things aren’t obligated to fall under the influence of gravity – they just do. Humans aren’t obligated to want food and shelter and security and recognition and love and so forth – they just do.

    The “talents and abilities” vary, sure, the same with language (not everyone can be Shakespeare) and human physics (not everyone can be a gymnast) and so forth. Of course there’s going to be different levels of success in meeting these obligations!

    But there’s a fundamental difference between short-term thinking and long-term thinking. We feel that difference in our gut, when it comes to how people treat other people. That feeling we get about evil – when people treat other people as if they were things – is a response to that reality. As I’ve said before, it’s akin to when we see someone make a boneheaded mistake in any realm – you should know better! – but it’s much more serious because it involves people, and people are important to people.

  406. …we try to establish what exactly an obligation is. You can refer to #398 and let me know what I have done wrong or what is insufficient. Specifically, is an obligation anything other than a feeling?

    Bill L,

    Yes, quite a bit more than a feeling. As Christians we understand our moral obligation to come from the two aspects presented in our understanding that “we are created in His image”. First, that because we are created “in His image” we are intrinsically valuable. As I explained in my #381 (and elsewhere in this thread) we either have intrinsic value because of this or we have none at all.

    Second it is “we” that are created with this intrinsic value. That is, we are all part of that same creation and are thus created equally. It is these two things that taken together create moral obligation. Our intrinsic value and our equality in our shared creation. These create a duty to each other based on our value and equality. Without both of these as the basis of our reality there can be no moral obligation. It’s not a feeling at all. It’s a reality.

  407. BillT,

    Ok, thanks for pointing out #381 to me. It is interesting that it is mostly based on feeling – as I suspected. But you also say this:

    “If there is no God then there is no difference in the value of the child and the ant.”

    However, it seems that value can only come from sentient creatures (you seem to agree but probably say it is only God – correct?). But it is quite clear that humans value things and that these feelings are what motivates us. I feel greater kinship with humans than I do ants, therefore I value them more (also for their greater cognitive abilities, but let’s keep it simple).

    An intrinsic value would be something we as humans claim that other things have even if they did not matter to humans. For instance, I may say that if microbial life were found on Mars, it has intrinsic value, but that comes from my feelings. If you know of any evidence that things work any other way – please let me know.

    Think about it another way… Why is something that was ‘created in his image’ intrinsically valuable? Is it because he is the ultimate giver of value? Why can not humans equally assign value (as I argue they clearly do)?

  408. Is it because he is the ultimate giver of value?

    Yes.

    Sure, we “value” some things over others but only He can truly confer real intrinsic value. The king of true value the separates life in general from our lives in particular.

  409. OK BillT… then I grant you, you have found a high source of value through theistic grounds. The highest one in the Universe no doubt if there is a God.

    However, if there is no God, then we still have the highest source of value – namely that value which is conferred by sentient creatures. Either way, we have value conferred by sentient creatures.

    So it seems that my original objection still stands – moral relativism can still have both obligation and culpability.

  410. …moral relativism can still have both obligation and culpability.

    But that obligation and culpability are purely voluntary and depend on for their content the whims of man. You can choose to adhere to those obligations or not if you even can guess what they might be. They have no more real force than that. Hardly the stuff on which to build much of anything.

  411. I’m not so sure they’re completely voluntary. The fact that you would not start raping and pillaging tomorrow is more than a random decision. You have strong feelings that involved love, fear, justice, guilt, hate and so on. Though it may be possible to suppress these, it is not easy.

    The person who decides not to honor the obligations often ends up dead or in prison.

    It may not seem like much to build upon, but it seems to be the way the world works.

  412. @Ray #436
    In the long stream of comments I’ve learned a lot more about your metaphysical worldview. Thanks for that.

    I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I think your ‘obligation’ is nothing of the sort. Your labels of ‘good’ and evil’ are mere descriptive labels with equal factual value (zero value), Neither is more significant that the other. They are just different relative descriptions of reality. Biology can’t obligate, neither can gravity.

    Your idea that a common set of ‘basic human desires’ makes no sense under a naturalistic worldview. First of all, this common set doesn’t exist in any real objective form. Naturalism ensures that it cannot.

    Yes, labels like ‘love’, ‘truth’, ‘significance’ are all on the lips of every human being. But to ACTUALLY obtain them ALL as the pinnacle goal of humanity means they must exist in reality as the SAME thing – an ACTUAL thing to obtain with our mind, not just one that we all agree is the goal – that would be putting the cart before the horse.

    Where you gonna get objective human significance that covers all human beings in a worldview that doesn’t have that? Make it up. Well, that was easy!

    You can reply if you’d like, but I think I’m ready to move on to other topics. Thanks for the conversation.

  413. Hi Bill L,

    “It may not seem like much to build upon, but it seems to be the way the world works.”

    And that’s exactly where we are. The naturalistic explanation fits exactly to the world we observe. In #155 SteveK says

    “Society forces humans to comply with group goals they they are not obligated to comply with. Sounds like a great system, Ray.”

    seemingly oblivious that he is accurately describing exactly how a democratic society works.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  414. SteveK,

    I hope you don’t mind; I know your comment was not directed at me, but I have some questions.

    Your labels of ‘good’ and evil’ are mere descriptive labels with equal factual value (zero value), Neither is more significant that the other.

    My experience tells me that values only come from emotion. What we label as good and evil seem to be products of our emotional centers. Why do you think values can not come from emotions?

    Biology can’t obligate, ….

    Can biology provide a factual basis (in your view) for why animals experience hunger, jealousy, or fear?

    Your idea that a common set of ‘basic human desires’ makes no sense under a naturalistic worldview.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you had specifically in mind for Ray, but don’t we all share a very common brain structure since we all evolved from a common ancestor?

    I think before you move on too quickly, you should try to establish if what you want to believe in so strongly (objective morality) actually exists.

    Thank you

  415. Shane,

    I largely agree with everything you’ve said, however:

    “Society forces humans to comply with group goals they they are not obligated to comply with. Sounds like a great system, Ray.”

    seemingly oblivious that he is accurately describing exactly how a democratic society works.

    This is the point I have been trying to make… I think Steve is not really clear about what an obligation is. The democratic society that forces humans to comply with group goals is obligating them to do so. An obligation must come from the emotions and desires of one or more parties.

    This would seem true even under theism. God could obligate others because he is supreme ruler. Others could feel an obligation to propitiate God because they see they owe something or they fear retribution.

    I think what SteveK does not see is that the motivations he gives for moral behavior under theism are just as valid under naturalism. But I will grant that they may not have the ‘cosmic’ significance he sees, and it is also possible that the occasional psychopath will not be caught and indeed go unpunished.

  416. Bill L,

    The Theist is agreeing with you. Without an “ontic” regress to a Moral End, there is no such thing as objective morality which precedes and outlives feelings. Feelings are the whole show. Invention. Not discovery. Else a sort of genetic fallacy and so on attempting to hedge and fudge on final causes.

    Fine.

    So what?

    The argument FOR objective morality is fun to have, but the point of this with SteveK has been to refute Ray’s claim that it exists without God.

    He seems to have succeeded, as both you and Shane agree with SteveK.

  417. scblhrm,

    Perhaps I have not been following SteveK’s and Ray’s conversation closely enough to understand it – for that I apologize to all involved. My disagreement with SteveK started back in 394, and I probably should have just stuck to that and not interfered with his and Ray’s conversation.

    I wanted to know why if there are moral obligations in Theism, why should their be none under naturalism. From what I can see now, there is no reason to suspect one has the monopoly.

    But I think Shane’s disagreement with Steve has not been challenged – SteveK seems to wish to proceed with the belief that morality is objective. Shane has asked for good reasons to believe why this is so, but it seems reasons are not forthcoming. I hope SteveK would not want to form the basis of his beliefs upon what he wishes to be true.

    But here I go again, perhaps foolishly, interfering in other people’s conversations.

  418. Bill L,

    Metaphysical wish fulfillment. Well yes, abstractions like Morality and Mathematics are fun to dissect in ontological regress.

    This quote of a commenter on Edward Feser’s blog alludes to such lines perhaps: “I think materialism can lead to a strange regress: fictional objects, fictional counterfactuals, fictional mathematics, fictional free will, until everything is fictional and we’re back floating in a jar, hallucinating the world. Perhaps eliminative materialism is the final absurdity in the regress — eliminating even the mind.”

    Such lines, just like the argument FOR objective morality preceding and outliving feelings, are all fun to have, but the point of this with SteveK has been to refute Ray’s claim that such “ontic regressions” without God are viable. Short of Ray appealing to some flavor of a genetic fallacy employing some sort of hedging on final causes, SteveK seems to have succeeded.

  419. SteveK seems to wish to proceed with the belief that morality is objective. Shane has asked for good reasons to believe why this is so, but it seems reasons are not forthcoming.

    Bill L,

    The objective basis for morality under theism was explained to Shane in the same way in in the same posts as I explained it to you. You, at least, acknowledged it and dealt with it. Shane, on the other hand, just tried to avoid dealing with it. He has no grounds to claim he hasn’t been given good reasons.

  420. The objective basis for morality under theism was explained to Shane in the same way in in the same posts as I explained it to you. You, at least, acknowledged it and dealt with it. Shane, on the other hand, just tried to avoid dealing with it. He has no grounds to claim he hasn’t been given good reasons.

    Ah, I think I see the issue now BillT. I had hoped you had realized that I was being generous in the sense that I was saying if Theism is true, then you would have found the highest source of moral obligation. Whether this makes it objective or not has not really been established (a la the Euthyphro dilemma).

    But notice I have also said that if materialism is true, we would still have the highest source of moral obligation.

    Now, as I understand Shane’s point, he is not granting you the “if/then” that I was willing to for sake of discussion. He is saying to you – first show me the evidence that morality is objective. Though I may have missed something, I don’t think anyone has done that.

  421. Hi Bill L,

    “This is the point I have been trying to make… I think Steve is not really clear about what an obligation is. The democratic society that forces humans to comply with group goals is obligating them to do so. An obligation must come from the emotions and desires of one or more parties.”

    Hmm … okay. I see what you are saying there, but I wouldn’t use obligation in that way. As I see it I have no obligation to pay my taxes, as long as I understand that I can be sent to prison for my failure to do so. I am given a choice, and whilst one option is more unpleasant than the other, I don’t consider the least unpleasant an obligation. To my mind obligation refers to something I have no choice in. This could be a fault in my understanding.

    For my part, I have been using the phrase objective morality, which is something that exists separate from the individual. It seems to me if it exists separate from a human being, then it must be supernatural, meaning it could only exist under Theism. In that case it should also be unchanging over time and it should also be accessible by all people. I see no evidence that such a thing exists, and certainly no evidence that it has always existed.

    “Now, as I understand Shane’s point, he is not granting you the “if/then” that I was willing to for sake of discussion. He is saying to you – first show me the evidence that morality is objective.”

    Thanks for posting this. It is good to know that I have been clearly making my point and the others are simply ignoring the question. To be clear BillT,

    ” Shane, on the other hand, just tried to avoid dealing with it. He has no grounds to claim he hasn’t been given good reasons.”

    You did give good reasons that Objective Morality can only exist under Theism in fact I have said I believe Objective Morality can only exist under Theism. Prove Objective Morality exists and you have probably converted me back to a belief in God.

    Now if you can’t prove Objective Morality exists, that’s fine. I don’t mind you saying, “I believe morality is objective because it comes from the God I believe in.” You just can’t use your sense of morality as evidence that God exists as Tom has done.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  422. Shane,

    Obviously all of us agree with you.

    You’re perfectly justified in your regress of denying experience and perception, no matter how painful, how brutal, how repeatable, as reflections of reality given your a priori tendencies towards PN (philosophical naturalism).

    The denial of our painfully brutal and tediously repeatable moral experience as at once properly basic to the stuff of “Man” and yet ultimately Fiction is akin to the regress of Atheist Dr. Rosenberg. In the same way he holds that it is a properly basic (warranted) belief that you and I exist and yet he doesn’t think persons actually exist (essence, etc.). He doesn’t think he exists as a person. “He says there are no selves, no persons, no “I’s” in the sense of a person perspective. And yet this gentleman seems to agree that belief in one’s own existence and that of other minds is properly basic.”

    We find that the same goes for Mathematics and all such epiphenomenal eliminative materialist regressions of “Man’s” properly basic beliefs. Notice the refreshing honesty there in Rosenberg’s treatment of perception. He does not engage in cherry-picking / equivocation as so many Atheist’s too often do. The essence of X is the essence of X.

    Okay. Fine. Philosophical Naturalism ends in the opaque. The important nuance to pull out is PN’s a priori commitment to such means and such ends while avoiding the epistemic equivocation we too often see in the philosophical treatment of Perception and Final Reality. Such abstractions end in either in the Hard Stop of Platonism, or of Theism, or of eliminative fiction.

    The Atheist / Naturalist philosopher of science Michael Ruse employs similar intellectual honesty: “The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5”. Mind’s perception of this or that warranted belief whether such be Mathematics or Morality, and so on, and so on, within that isolated part of reality that is the realm of all things “Man” finds all such neural-maps akin in both kind and essence. You have to admire such honesty. Ray too here (equally honest) equates Mathematics and Morality as he employs neural maps and bell curves and standard deviations. Final Essence doesn’t “magically change” halfway through his argument as it too often does in the language employed by other, less honest, folks seeking to avoid Platonism, Theism, and eliminative fiction.

    Properly Basic: People commit suicide and/or kill others (and so on, and so on, Etc.) over moral issues far more often than over mathematical issues as such properly basic, brutally warranted beliefs just do comprise said neural maps and hence just do comprise “The Real” in that isolated part of reality that is the realm of all things “Man”. Of course, quite obviously, as Craig reminds us, if moral values are gradually discovered, not invented, then our current gradual and fallible apprehensions of the moral realm no more undermine the objective reality of that realm than our current gradual and fallible perception of the physical world undermines the objectivity of that realm.

    As we follow Michael Ruse’s 2+2=5 is just as wrong as rape to the unavoidable ontological tie-in we begin to track PN’s means and ends where such properly basic beliefs are concerned. Mind’s abstractions there in Mathematics and Morality and so on all bring us to Platonism, or to Theism’s objectively real there in the Omni/Omni/Omni Necessary Being – what David Bentley Hart refers to as “God – the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality…..”, or to, finally, the materialist’s eliminative regress to Fiction as a quote of a commenter on Edward Feser’s blog captures: “I think materialism can lead to a strange regress: fictional objects, fictional counterfactuals, fictional mathematics, fictional free will, until everything is fictional and we’re back floating in a jar, hallucinating the world. Perhaps eliminative materialism is the final absurdity in the regress — eliminating even the mind.”

    “I am surely rational to believe in a properly basic way that I am surrounded by a world of physical objects that I see. But if someone were to give me some sort of evidence that I am really a brain in a vat or in the Matrix, and so all that around me is an illusory projection of my own mind, then that would be a defeater for that properly basic belief, and I may come to doubt that belief. Now, in exactly the same way they can say, “In order for me to doubt what I perceive as moral values and duties in a properly basic way, you need to give me some defeater for thinking that I’m having a delusion.” And here I think the problem is the one enunciated by Louise Antony, the Atheist philosopher whom I debated on the existence of God, when she put is so well. She said, “Any argument for moral skepticism is going to be based upon premises which are less obvious than the reality of moral values and duties themselves, and therefore [it] can never be rational to accept moral skepticism.”” (W.L. Craig)

  423. But notice I have also said that if materialism is true, we would still have the highest source of moral obligation.

    Bill L,

    Yes, maybe. It would be the best you could do. But that source of “moral obligation”, as I mentioned, doesn’t really obligate anyone. You can use the words “moral obligation” to describe what you have under naturalism but I don’t think it’s fulfills its description. Emotions, feelings just don’t obligate anyone.

    …in fact I have said I believe Objective Morality can only exist under Theism. Prove Objective Morality exists and you have probably converted me back to a belief in God.

    Shane,

    Proofs don’t exist for this or the existence of God or many of the questions we debate. However, we do reason to the best possible inference and the best possible inference for the uniformity of moral understanding is the existence of objective morality. Sure, that gives you enough wiggle room to deny it but only, I think, to you own detriment. God can provide the moral obligation but he doesn’t obligate you to believe it. We also have the free will he gave us. Your choice.

  424. Shane,

    To my mind obligation refers to something I have no choice in.

    It’s hard for me to imagine what something would look like where you have no choice in the matter. Could you give an example? It seems with moral obligations (consistent with your taxes example), you would always be able to do or not do the action.

    If I understand scblhrm’s abstruse writing, what remains to be demonstrated is how we would distinguish a sort of God-given morality from an evolved morality. He seems to want to say – Well, we really feel some things are wrong. But this is just what we should expect if morality is a function of the brain, interacting with other brains.

  425. BillT,

    But that source of “moral obligation”, as I mentioned, doesn’t really obligate anyone.

    Could you look over my #398 and tell me where I went wrong? What reason do I have to believe emotions and feelings just don’t obligate anyone?

  426. Bill L,

    It’s not about distinguishing. It’s about ontological regression. In PN all perception as far as we can tell ends in fiction.

    Once you start tracking Abstractions (Mathematics, Morality, Proposition, Truth Predicate), that becomes clear. Platonism, Theism, and eliminative materialism emerge.

    I could not care less about the epistemic arena. Ontological ends are of far more import.

  427. scblhrm,

    I could not care less about the epistemic arena. Ontological ends are of far more import.

    I don’t see how we can understand one without the other.

  428. Bill L,

    I think your #398 touches on real examples of obligation. The second one regarding the subject to his king gets the closest to what I understand is the reality of moral obligation. I think though, you’ve described obligation there without the emotions/feelings that you propose as the basis for obligation. The obligation to the king is based on the king’s position as sovereign and the subject’s allegiance to him. That’s not emotions/feelings. That’s duty owed to one’s king.

  429. Bill L,

    You’ve a lot of different themes going on at once, so just a few thoughts on some of them:

    I don’t buy that you don’t know the difference between epistemology of morality and the ontological regression of morality to whatever full stop awaits one’s philosophical ends.

    Shane may (he may not) mean by a choice in the matter that at the end of it all whatever we happen to want/feel finds that an obligation overrides all that. Our feelings can be wrong just as our physics can be wrong. Fallible knowledge in physics obviously does not mean there is no world out there to measure, and so too with moral knowledge.

    The problem with lesser obligations is that equals cannot have such warranted ontological authority over one another. Which is why your “sentient being” is a false identity claim – you equate Man with God (they are both sentient) and think that just ends the regress.

    It doesn’t.

    If there is no such things as the *Proper and Good* Authority as the “Full Stop” that is the God Who is love (greatest conceivable Being) then we find no *proper and good* obligation in that the final grain of reality is not a moral grain and thus should we run or drag our hand against the grain the splinters we get may hurt, but they are not “immoral” spinters in the sense of God’s (immutable love’s) means and ends. Essence begets essence and as love (God) begets man we find not only the Good but also Bill T’s *proper* Authority, as neither is without the other. Morality void of love is an epistemic foreign and alien to Christianity as the “ontic” there of ought/love are one and the same with its epistemology. Self-Sacrifice finds us in Christ as such ends find their “ontological full stop”.

    I get that you may not want to insert “Immutable Love” in place of “God”, or in place of “final hard stop” where morality is concerned, but then, there are non Christian blogs at which to trace other ontologies to (their) other “full stops”.

  430. Bill L,

    This may add a dimension to the word “obligated” –

    Reality just is “whatever it is” and different world-views break that down into different ends (full stops). Man cannot change Actuality as he is, being contingent upon it, not a necessary being. Something exists necessarily. If PN then particle / indifference. If the Christian God then love simply via the fact that God is love. Simple. If Reality is the Christian God then reality is love. Essentialism may help you there on “essence”.

    We have no choice on what the grain of reality is or in what direction that grain runs whether PN or Theism is true.

    If we get splinters in our hands by “running our hands against the grain”, as in, being outside of love then we are in fact (final essence) speaking of moral splinters in the Christian paradigm but not in PN’s paradigm simply because the final grain of reality in PN is not love but is instead indifference. “Morality is love” as we unearth love’s self-sacrifice as is found within Trinity’s ceaseless reciprocity. Clearly “obligation” does import on the word *Authority* as Bill T describes. Obligation also imports elements of essentialism and necessity. There are entire books on both. Mankind under PN is (in this sense) “obligated” to the immutable grain of Indifference, whereas, in the Christian paradigm, Mankind is “obligated” to the immutable grain of love. Which is why, if PN, then all such appeals to ought-love as a moral hard stop are a matter of wish fulfillment for [Actuality] is Indifference, whereas, if Christ, if the Christian God, then all such appeals to love’s ceaseless reciprocity find their source, order, and ends in Trinity and “wish fulfillment” in that case would be atheism.

  431. Bill L,

    As you can see from my last post, with PN vs. Christ, either way your/our feelings lead you/us to wish fulfillment depending on which is true.

    Therefore, your search for which is which is hopeless so long as you stay IN feelings ALONE.

    That is why your endless “how do we distinguish” is totally misguided so long as you ONLY look at feelings.

    Which is why one’s philosophical regressions (reason, “hard stops”, etc.) emerge. It’s the metaphysics……

  432. BillT,

    I think though, you’ve described obligation there without the emotions/feelings that you propose as the basis for obligation. The obligation to the king is based on the king’s position as sovereign and the subject’s allegiance to him. That’s not emotions/feelings. That’s duty owed to one’s king.

    OK, I hadn’t thought it necessary to explicitly state the emotions involved.

    In that example, what would make a man be willing to lay down his life for his King? Let’s first imagine a person with no emotions… (again, I wish someone with some training in psychology would chime in here). Perhaps it is a severe case of autism or sociopathy. Let’s say he is functional enough to understand that his king is about to be assassinated. Does he jump in out of a sense of duty? It seems unlikely in the extreme.

    Do you really think that someone would give his life for someone he does not love or value? If he doesn’t even know the King, he would have to have a sense of duty inculcated in him through other means… perhaps through beloved parents or peers.

    Were you ever in the military BillT? I was, and I know the personal feelings and emotions that must be continually cultivated in order maintain that sense of duty. Everyone around me was there with a sense of love for their country, their family or their God (usually all 3).

  433. Bill L,

    In that example, what would make a man be willing to lay down his life for his King? Let’s first imagine a person with no emotions… (again, I wish someone with some training in psychology would chime in here).

    I’m not trained in psychology, but I would like to point out psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s work which identifies six key dimensions of human morality, two of which are Loyalty/Betrayal and Authority/Subversion. Each moral dimension is driven by social intuition and emotions rather than abstract reasoning. So I think Haidt would argue that the moral intuition of loyalty and devotion to authority would play strongly in someone laying down his life for his King.

  434. scblhrm,

    I’m certain you are an intelligent and deeply caring person. I’m pretty certain you are more intelligent than I am. However, I have to tell you that reading your posts (for me) is almost like reading stream of consciousness style writing. I’m trying to understand you, but it is difficult.

    One thing that I have found helpful when you want your audience to understand you is to never assume they have read the same books or have the same information that you have. Your last 3 posts were better, but if you look back at #453 you make a lot of assumptions. I have noticed that not many people will run to pick up a book they haven’t read just because someone mentioned it in a blog post – and they want to check the logic of their argument.

    In short, I would find it helpful if you carefully but briefly described your views if you want most people to understand them. (I’m willing to grant you that I may be too dumb to understand you. If that is the case, either don’t bother with me, or try to step down to my level – depending on your objectives).

    Ok, on to your posts:

    I don’t buy that you don’t know the difference between epistemology of morality and the ontological regression of morality to whatever full stop awaits one’s philosophical ends.

    To be clear, I meant that I don’t think that we can understand moral ontoloty without understanding moral epistemology.

    Our feelings can be wrong just as our physics can be wrong. Fallible knowledge in physics obviously does not mean there is no world out there to measure, and so too with moral knowledge.

    This seems to be an important difference between us. I see morality in this sense as an objective or goal… keeping it simplified – the goal of having people get along. So in this sense, I agree that someone can be wrong about morality. But wrong only in sense that it does not obtain the goal. (I think this may be similar to Ray’s chess analogy, but I’m not certain about his meaning).

    ….equals cannot have such warranted ontological authority over one another.

    The ontological description I am using for morality is one based in thought and feeling. The way people can express mutual love, they can express mutual obligation. There needn’t be any more authority than the authority people give it.

    If there is no such things as the *Proper and Good* Authority as the “Full Stop” that is the God Who is love (greatest conceivable Being) then we find no *proper and good* obligation in that the final grain of reality is not a moral grain….

    I don’t see that. The way I see it is that “proper and good” is the product of human mind. So if humans are the highest authority, then moral grain would be to achieve what they deem as proper and good.

    I get that you may not want to insert “Immutable Love” in place of “God”, or in place of “final hard stop” where morality is concerned, but then, there are non Christian blogs at which to trace other ontologies to (their) other “full stops”.

    Is this a polite way of telling me to stop writing and go away?

  435. DJC,

    I think Haidt would argue that the moral intuition of loyalty and devotion to authority would play strongly in someone laying down his life for his King.

    I’ve read some of Haidt’s work. I actually agree with you. But I think Haidt would also agree that loyalty and devotion are the products of emotion (which is what I’m saying).

  436. Bill L.,

    Okay thank you. Feelings are the whole show and in regress simply end in fiction – Indifference both the precursor and the final yield. Abstractions such as Mathematics and Morality do find such eliminative regress in philosophical naturalism. As you are content to stay IN feelings and feelings ALONE then it’s best that you keep that as the end of your ontological regress.

  437. Bill L,

    It’s still not primarily an emotional response. We are emotional beings and emotion always play a part but the subject/king scenario you describe is primarily one of duty and loyalty. You love your king and your fellow soldiers because you have decided to be loyal to them and assume responsibility for them.

  438. BillT,

    It seems that we may be at an impasse then…

    I say that a sense of duty and obligation only come from thoughts, emotions, and feelings. You say they are involved but are not the whole picture. Can you think of any way to resolve this?

    (I also think the love comes before the decision to be loyal… at least that has been my experience.)

    BTW, I hope you don’t feel obligated to respond every question I have for you.

  439. Hi BillT,

    “Proofs don’t exist for this or the existence of God or many of the questions we debate. However, we do reason to the best possible inference and the best possible inference for the uniformity of moral understanding is the existence of objective morality.”

    I see no uniformity of moral understanding amongst the billions of inhabitants of this world. This is why I see no need to infer an objective morality. You believe it objectively immoral for consenting adults to have sex outside of marriage. I do not.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  440. Hi Bill L,

    “It’s hard for me to imagine what something would look like where you have no choice in the matter. Could you give an example? It seems with moral obligations (consistent with your taxes example), you would always be able to do or not do the action.”

    I can’t imagine one either. That’s why I don’t use the word and that’s why I had no problem with the SteveK quote. I always think of these things as a choice, even if one of the choices is preferred.

    However, I now have a clearer picture of the problem as you see it in #398 and the related posts. It seems to me that SteveK is a bit muddled on the definition of ‘obligation’ as he was using it.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  441. Shane,

    Okay – sorry that all the quotes of W.L. Craig were too complex for you. You’re not the first skeptic to find that to be the case. And don’t worry about disagreement about moral perceptions. Clearly that is akin to disagreement about scientific questions as well and “Disagreement Equals Proof Of No Truth To Be Discovered”. Because that is how discovery works. Or so you conclude.

    I misjudged you it seems.

  442. Atheists point to the common themes in human morality and shout “Eons of Neural Maps!”

    Then they shout “No common moral themes exist!”

    Comical.

    Then they shout: “Disagreement about X equates to No X exists so stop investigating!”

    Comical yet again.

    A few Dr. Craig quotes on those items would be helpful – but….. best not to confuse their obviously well organized egosyntonic packages….

  443. Hi scblhrm,

    “Okay – sorry that all the quotes of W.L. Craig were too complex for you. You’re not the first skeptic to find that to be the case. And don’t worry about disagreement about moral perceptions. Clearly that is akin to disagreement about scientific questions as well and “Disagreement Equals Proof Of No Truth To Be Discovered”. Because that is how discovery works. Or so you conclude.

    I misjudged you it seems.”

    Is that supposed to be an answer to

    “Obviously all of us agree with you.”

    About what?

    Because I didn’t understand it if it was.

    Cheers
    Shane

  444. Shane,

    As W.L. Craig’s series of quotes / paraphrases Etc. were just too much to follow there clearly isn’t any need for me to add yet more in a futile attempt to answer.

  445. Hi scblrhm,

    “Atheists point to the common themes in human morality and shout “Eons of Neural Maps!””

    Did I say that?

    “Then they shout “No common moral themes exist!””

    Did I say that?

    “Then they shout: “Disagreement about X equates to No X exists so stop investigating!””

    Did I say that?

    Seriously, point to my words, show me my mistake, provide the data that shows why I’m wrong. What you did was to say

    “Obviously all of us agree with you.”

    without explaining what it was you agreed with, then rabbited on for 8 paragraphs. If I don’t even know what you’re agreeing with, how can I possibly follow the rest of your post. Sure it could be that the Craig quotes were too complex for me. Or it could be that you are terrible at writing for your audience. If you are constantly reading posts by people that can’t follow what you are saying, you have to at least acknowledge that the latter is a possibility.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  446. Shane,

    I said “Atheists”.

    Did I name you?

    Show me where I did please.

    I mean…. if that’s how this works….

    I’ll be careful next time to go point by point rather than several in one post. That should help…….

  447. Hi scblhrm,

    “I said “Atheists”.

    Did I name you?

    Show me where I did please.”

    So your answer is, No, I did not say anything of those things? Then it seems odd that you should mention them in the course of this discussion. Certainly seems odd that BillT should reference your comments as indicator that I’ve been hypocritical some how.

    “I’ll be careful next time to go point by point rather than several in one post. That should help…….”

    Yes sir, it will. Shorter more succinct replies will certainly help in the dialogue.

    Thanks
    Shane

  448. Well at least we’ve established that there are 7 billion DIS-SIMILAR neural map blueprints running around the planet. Evolution got lucky there. Very, very lucky. In fact – given the robust similarities necessary for genomic maps at such a macro – level, the obvious lack of shared human emotions and shared felt-landscapes are proof that neural maps don’t exist. Whereas, Spirit (meaning in ontological regression, etc.) clearly has the needed room for fractured Knowledge / Awareness in such arenas as Good, Evil, Self, Other, and a common collective “Us” there in love’s ceaseless reciprocity, both in fractured pain and in wholeness. But Evolution has no such Neural Map explanation as to how and why 7 billion critical blueprints are so, so, so dissimilar. Given such an obvious lack of common blueprints of shared humanity and shared emotional landscapes, we can conclude that neural maps are a fiction. Which of course all perceptual constructs ultimately are in PN’s eliminative regress.

  449. Shane,

    The Christian paradigm begins and ends in love’s landscape. The landscape therein, whether in fractured pain or in joy’s wholeness, is the whole moral ontology, simply because it is God’s ontological footprint. Love’s ceaseless reciprocity ever in Trinity. Self in sacrifice. Us. That your eyes do not see the obvious enunciated throughout Mankind’s story is astounding.

  450. Bill T,

    Sorry …. 483 was just some sarcasm. Disagreement about X can be used as evidence for X or against X. Data doesn’t interpret. People and presuppositions do. It always comes back to pesky metaphysics.

  451. Bill L.,

    I’ve read some of Haidt’s work. I actually agree with you. But I think Haidt would also agree that loyalty and devotion are the products of emotion (which is what I’m saying).

    Right, I agree with you and have argued your point of view here. (As I understand the point you’re arguing against, morality is apprehended through the intellect in a sort of extra-sensory manner. This is because universals, numbers, propositions, morality are immaterial and can not be grasped with the senses, only the mind, requiring a non-material realm where forms exist. I don’t agree with any of that, though.)

    On Haidt, I just noticed that he has been favoring “intuition” over “emotion” not because they’re all that different but because he see a tiny amount of cognition in the low-level moral feelings that seem to be a tad higher than pure emotion, hence “intuition”.

  452. Hi scblhrm,

    “Well at least we’ve established that there are 7 billion DIS-SIMILAR neural map blueprints running around the planet. Evolution got lucky there. Very, very lucky. In fact – given the robust similarities necessary for genomic maps at such a macro – level, the obvious lack of shared human emotions and shared felt-landscapes are proof that neural maps don’t exist.”

    What do you mean by neural map blueprints?

    And obviously we share emotions. No-one is arguing that. The argument is that the cause of those emotions is a personal subjective thing. I feel many emotions when looking at my wife and children that you would not feel when looking at my wife and children. They would just be strangers to you.

    “Whereas, Spirit (meaning in ontological regression, etc.) clearly has the needed room for fractured Knowledge / Awareness in such arenas as Good, Evil, Self, Other, and a common collective “Us” there in love’s ceaseless reciprocity, both in fractured pain and in wholeness.”

    You will have to explain a bit further how an objective morality gives a better explanation of different personal views than if we all just have a separate personal subjective morality.

    “But Evolution has no such Neural Map explanation as to how and why 7 billion critical blueprints are so, so, so dissimilar.”

    Please explain the dissimilarity you are referring to. I’m pretty confident that the morals of any demographic will display a nice bell curve instead of being random as you seem to be indicating.

    “Given such an obvious lack of common blueprints of shared humanity and shared emotional landscapes, we can conclude that neural maps are a fiction.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by blueprints, and I haven’t seen an evidence that we are obvious lacking a common or shared one. I certainly don’t see how you can come to any conclusions at all, so please lay out the data.

    “Which of course all perceptual constructs ultimately are in PN’s eliminative regress.”

    Well let’s start with this one before we make any sort of sweeping generalisation.

    Cheers
    Shane

  453. Shane,

    486 is all I’ve got.

    Sorry but it won’t be more.

    I get that you’ve never, ever, ever read atheists employing neural map talk on this blog in evolutionary morality or any other kind of moral regress…. and so on. Not to worry – there is a search box.

  454. Hi scblhrm,

    “The Christian paradigm begins and ends in love’s landscape. The landscape therein, whether in fractured pain or in joy’s wholeness, is the whole moral ontology, simply because it is God’s ontological footprint. Love’s ceaseless reciprocity ever in Trinity. Self in sacrifice. Us. That your eyes do not see the obvious enunciated throughout Mankind’s story is astounding.”

    I think I have a good idea of the Christian paradigm and how morality works in it. What I don’t see is that this is reflected in the world and how it works. You might find it astounding, but if it is that obvious then it should be very easy to illustrate it to me to convince me. Please supply any evidence you have. How about we start with what is the most obvious to you.

    Let me ask a question regarding God being love; How do you know this is so? Is God love because of the things He says and does, or are the things He says/does loving because He is God? I am trying to get to a description here without it being circular. I have asked BillT if torturing of children is objectively morally wrong, then did God commit an objectively immoral act by drowning so many of them in the great flood? And if not, then doesn’t it mean that there are circumstances when drowning children is not immoral, and therefore doesn’t that preclude the act from being objectively immoral? And to take that further, doesn’t the fact that you think the act of drowning children is immoral, when God doesn’t, mean you are just flat out wrong in what you think is immoral? Doesn’t this mean that your morality is not actually based on the something given to you by God but is something you have based on your own personal empathy and emotions? Which means that our idea of morality is a subjective thing that we each have, born out of our life experiences and the things we have learned, coupled with the feelings/emotions that are generated in us?

    A lot of questions there, I’m sorry, but I hope it demonstrates one continuous stream of conscious.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  455. Hi scblhrm,

    “Shane,

    486”

    Sure, but sarcasm doesn’t come from no-where. It is generally an over exaggeration of a point you are making.

    “Disagreement about X can be used as evidence for X or against X.”

    Please quote where I did that. If it happened we can clear it up and get on with the discussion.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  456. Shane,

    “God” and Evil and love and final reality?

    You know I’ve never unpacked those sorts of thoughts before. You may be the first to wonder and ask such profound questions about ultimate reality.

  457. Hi scblhrm,

    “I get that you’ve never, ever, ever read atheists employing neural map talk on this blog…”

    Searches for

    neural map
    neural mapping
    neural blueprint

    did not give any results.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  458. Shane,

    I searched “shane” and got 4 hits. The most recent being several months ago despite the 100’s that should be there. The repeat search got another result just as unhelpful. But the good news for you is that the search for MY name got ZERO hits. Nada. None. Now what does THAT tell you 😉

  459. Hi scblhrm,

    “Shane,

    I searched “shane” and got 4 hits. The most recent being several months ago despite the 100’s that should be there. The repeat search got another result just as unhelpful. But the good news for you is that the search for MY name got ZERO hits. Nada. None. Now what does THAT tell you ;)”

    That the best chance of my finding out what your talking about is for you to tell me directly in this thread. 😉

    Cheers
    Shane

  460. Shane,

    As was noted already in 490, “Sorry but it won’t be more” and that is simply b/c neurobiological constructs employed in evolutionary morality aren’t line’s I’ve time to draw out point by point here/now. Whether such amounts to our shared humanity’s shared common “landscapes of feelings” (feelings etc. are the whole show per this thread’s PN folks thus far where morality’s landscape is concerned) or whether such amounts to an unshared humanity in humanity’s unshared, uncommon “landscapes of feelings” (morality’s landscape etc.) is again not something I’ve time to re-invent here with you point by point. And, that you (apparently) claim that there is no common thread in morality only leads the Christian to conclude that you claim that you fail to see love and lovelessness as ubiquitously observable in every layer of Mankind’s moral fabric – from A to Z – and a failure to see constructs of love and constructs of lovelessness in every moral construct touches on yet other fundamental, elementary, basic, theistic metaphysical constructs which a format such as this (blog etc.) just does not avail us well in available space to re-hash point by point. Even worse, that you seem to infer that one’s love of “A” and another’s love of “B” somehow equates as evidence for No-God is akin to the (misguided) claim that scientists disagreeing about the contours of “M” means that there is no M to discover so we can just stop “questioning”. All of these problems stacked up lead me to believe that there isn’t enough time to re-hash all of this point by point. Thus the former, “Sorry but there won’t be more” etc. Besides, I’m still miffed at your FOUR hits to my ZERO hits 😉

  461. Hi scblhrm,

    “And, that you (apparently) claim that there is no common thread in morality only leads the Christian to conclude that you claim that you fail to see love and lovelessness as ubiquitously observable in every layer of Mankind’s moral fabric”

    Don’t we agree that there are sociopaths that don’t have/feel/react to love, thus meaning it is not ubiquitous throughout mankind? And don’t we agree that there are psychopaths who’s feelings of love extend into areas that the majority of us find disturbing (a love of killing, raping, torture, etc)?

    And even if you want to argue that love is still connected somehow to these individuals, and all others on the bell curve, the fact that we all can be ranked by our level of, or the amount we, “love” does not indicate that there is an objective external source of this love any more than the fact that all humans feel hunger indicates there is an external objective source of the feeling of hunger.

    “Even worse, that you seem to infer that one’s love of “A” and another’s love of “B” somehow equates as evidence for No-God …”

    At no point have I claimed that anything is evidence for No-God. I claim

    The proof of objective morality would probably prove God’s existence.
    Being unable to prove objective morality means you cannot use morality as evidence for God’s existence.
    In no way does it mean it can be used as evidence to prove God’s non existence. This is an extra unfounded step in the same way that not believing in God is a step removed from believing there is No-God.

    “… is akin to the (misguided) claim that scientists disagreeing about the contours of “M” means that there is no M to discover so we can just stop “questioning”.”

    Yeah, that’s not something I’ve done either. Although it seems to me that disagreeing about the specifics of something which hasn’t been discovered yet is putting the cart ahead of the horse.

    “Besides, I’m still miffed at your FOUR hits to my ZERO hits ;)”

    You will have to take that up with Tom, lol.

    Cheers
    Shane

  462. Shane,

    As noted, all the confusion you just expressed proves the point of just no time (for me at least) to rehash it all point by point…..

    Thanks for your time.

  463. “Don’t we agree that there are sociopaths that don’t have/feel/react to love…”

    And there it is again.

    Always touching on love and lovelessness….and everything in between……

    Moral fabrics just can’t get away from such vectors….. ubiquitous….. Love. Lovelessness.

  464. Steve

    I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I think your ‘obligation’ is nothing of the sort.

    And I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I thoroughly disagree.

    Your labels of ‘good’ and evil’ are mere descriptive labels with equal factual value (zero value), Neither is more significant that the other.

    As you should expect by now, I ask: significant to whom?

    Your idea that a common set of ‘basic human desires’ makes no sense under a naturalistic worldview. First of all, this common set doesn’t exist in any real objective form. Naturalism ensures that it cannot.

    There are more forms of ‘naturalism’ than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    Where you gonna get objective human significance that covers all human beings in a worldview that doesn’t have that?

    It’s not like we haven’t gone over ‘significance’ before. As I’ve said, “I’m okay with a morality that only applies to the gene