A couple years ago Eric Chabot and I were talking with students and giving away copies of True Reason on the Oval at Ohio State University. Eric is the Ratio Christi chapter director there, and I was with him as a friend and as editor of the book.
Most of our conversations that day were cordial, respectful, and enjoyable. One stands out in contrast, though. A red-headed student came up with metaphorical guns blazing, angry at Christians for standing in the way of gay rights. He shouted me down every time every time I tried to answer. I couldn’t get an answer in anywhere. It was all about gay rights. Finally I raised my own voice just loud enough for him to hear me ask, “Do Christians have the right to finish a sentence?” He shouted back, “NO!”
I couldn’t help thinking of that while I was watching Michael Shermer’s performance in this debate, starting at about 1:29:00, especially after about 1:34:15, and more especially at 1:38:00.
This was supposed to be a question-and-answer time between Shermer and Turek. Turek had had his 15-minute turn asking questions (starting at about 1:23:00), and Shermer had of course had his turn to answer.
Now it was Shermer’s turn to ask. Was it Turek’s turn to answer? Do Christians have the right to finish a sentence? See for yourself. It wasn’t entirely like my experience at Ohio State, but I think you’ll see why it reminded me of that day. And we do have Shermer saying (at 1:39:40), “Well, I think I formed my question in the form of an answer.”
The Turek-Shermer Debate:
To my view, Shermer never really understood many of Turek’s points, especially about ethics. He should have read Turek’s book Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. I’ll be reviewing it here tomorrow. (Update: see here.)
He should also have thought through where ethical norms, values, and duties come from. He says our best values came from the Enlightenment (see his comments at around 1:40:00). That’s arguable, but suppose for the sake of argument he was right. If so, he could only be right to the extent that our moral opinions came from Enlightenment thinkers. That wouldn’t explain how anyone’s moral opinions should be regarded as moral facts; and Shermer certainly believes in moral facts.
If there are moral facts, the Enlightenment didn’t make them so. The Enlightenment’s thinkers didn’t make it so. The best they could have done would have been to discover moral facts, or re-discover them. If (for the sake of argument, still) our morality comes from the Enlightenment, then our morality is the codification of a bunch of dead white men’s opinions. If there are moral facts, the Enlightenment isn’t what made them so.
So Shermer really has no explanation for where morality comes from. And I think he made it all the way through the debate without ever realizing it was so.