8/27/08

Is There a Common Misconception Regarding Absolute Moral Claims?

I was planning on posting all three parts of my response to the challenges posed by Christopher Hitchens before responding to anything in the comments sections as things are pretty busy between work and home-life—and softball :o)

To read/Or not to read


In the comments section of part I someone made a point that I thought would be best addressed in here in a new post rather than in the nether regions of that post’s comment section.

First, I wanted to point out that the ability to post as a contributor, as opposed to posting to the comments section, can be a bully pulpit. Thus, I want to make it clear that I am not singling anyone out for embarrassment or calling out the commentator by writing this post. I merely felt that the matter may be better elucidated by a new post that would also provide a new comments section to discuss one particular topic more precisely. Moreover, I chose this topic because I find that it is a very common argument.

In this post I wish to address a very particular topic. It seems to me that there is a common non sequitur which is committed regarding morality. When a claim is made that morality is absolute and or ubiquitous, authored by God and even placed by God in every human being the following objection is oft raised: If that is the case, then why do morals differ from person to person and from culture to culture?.

It may perhaps be noteworthy that morality is actually very similar from culture to culture, at least on main points.
For example, does any culture hold cowardice to be a virtue? I do not here mean something like draft-dodging since it is considered valiant to fight the power.

Does any culture consider murdering innocent and defenseless human beings to be a virtue? It would be refreshing to answer, “No” but such does not seem to be the case. Yet, this brings us to an important point. Let us imagine that there is a culture according to which brutally murdering beautiful, healthy, innocent and defenseless human babies in the womb was considered a right, moral or as Dan Barker refers to it, “a blessing.”[1]


Even in such a case we note that even while claiming that this sort of murder is a right, moral or blessing there is a plethora of excuses upon which such proclamations are premised—it is a conceptus, it is a zygote, an embryo, a byproduct of conception, it is not human, not a person, not conscience, it is her body, her choice, et al. Does anyone find themselves laboring so diligently in order to concoct excuses for feeding the poor?

George F. R. Ellis has noted the following:
“The foundational line of true ethical behavior, its main guiding principle valid across all times and cultures, is the degree of freedom form self-centeredness of thought and behavior, and willingness freely to give up one’s own self-interest on behalf of others.”[2]


The bottom line is that the reason that I do not think that the objection nullifies the claim of absolute morality is that in one case we are dealing with what I will call a “law” and in the other we are dealing with whether people choose to obey that “law.”

For instance, I say, “In the USA it is absolutely illegal to run a red light in a non-emergency response vehicle.”
Do you answer, “If that is the case, then why do some people operating non-emergency vehicles response run red lights? It must not be true that there is such an absolute law”?


In one case we have an absolute law and in the other we have choices as to whether we obey that law or not.

And so, let us grant for a moment that God has authored a moral law but has also allowed free-will. This would mean that God could author the moral law and place it within each of us but it would still be up to us to obey.

The objection may have its place in another arena but it does not seem to succeed as a refutation of claims of moral absolutes since in this context it is a category mistake.

[1] During his debate with John Rankin (Evolution and Intelligent Design: What are the issues? ) and his debate with Dinesh D'Souza (Christianity versus Atheism)
[2] W. Wayt Gibbs, “Profile: George F. R. Ellis – Thinking Globally, Acting Universally,” Scientific America, Oct. 1995, p. 55

27 comments:

  1. Peter Kreeft deals with moral objectivity vs subjectivity in the form of a play in which which he plays the part of Socrates having a discourse with one of his students. It takes all of the usual objections to objective morality and pretty much shows how all of them are misunderstandings or simply don't hold any water. It is an excellent short "course" in objective morality if anyone is interested and is very entertaining.

    I am sure that you can either get it here, his website, or via itunes.

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  2. About the abortion debate, I agree with you that abortion is morally dubious, but I don't think you can say that people who disagree don't have a point.

    Especially towards the early stages of development, a fetus is a clump of cells. You probably kill thousands more pieces of life every day when you cook your food or wash your hands than you're killing in that instance. Are people just making excuses when we find it morally acceptable to carry out a genocide of microorganisms on a daily basis simply because a small number of them could potentially someday maybe make someone somewhere sick? Are you just making excuses, saying "it's not human, not a person, doesn't have a conscience, etc."? It's ethically unclear. Maybe mass genocides are going on in our hospitals every day.

    In fact ethics is the subject that has the highest amount uncertainty out of all the philosophical disciplines in my opinion.

    How about this variation of a well known thought experiment: there are 1,000 embryos in a test tube on one side of a railroad track that could someday potentially grow up to be human beings, and on the other side there is one full grown adult. Who do you save? And are you violating your hypothetical God's laws if you choose to save the one developed person over the hypothetical potential persons?

    The fact is that I think a lot of people's intuitions in such a case would be screaming to save the developed person over the multitude of potential people. So there clearly is SOME difference in our moral intuitions between that point.

    If there is such a universal "law," then I am curious to hear exactly what it is, because you are being so incredibly vague with it's supposed parameters that it's almost like you made no statement at all. Yes all humans have things in common; all humans also have what we would think of as immoral qualities such as greed and avarice, but that doesn't prove that such qualities are divine. Why should a shared opinion about the rightness or wrongness of something give it different treatment? Just because we consider a moral compass to be desirable, does that mean it must come from God?

    Also you seem to be making the claim that a vast portion of the world is "wrong" in their moral outlook. Do you have any non theological claim that can demonstrate clearly that you are "right" in yours? How can you assume that you are the magical right one and everyone else is magically the wrong one? If you presume to so quickly debunk the world's opinions you should have strong positive support for your own; this support should not include arguing from a moralistic perspective that presumes the truth of your own argument as it's foundation.

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  3. Mariano, it's un-defendable that atheists have a moral standard, they even admit that themselves. *SIGH* I'ts so frustrating seeing Hitchens being taken seriously, I mean how much does this idiot smoke and drink every day? This is the best atheists can show us in their attempt to convince us atheists have a moral standard? Plus I would like to dispell any rumors that I am Frank Walton. I am one of the founding members of atheism sucks, and I do communicate with Frank from time to time. He is completely shutting himself off from the internet to focus on a new blog dealing with NEO - atheism and it's departure from classical atheism as an attempt to redefine atheism.
    I owe Frank my life as he got me off the streets where I was a gangbanger.

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  4. Mariano- first of all, I must speak a word of appreciation for your approach. You are always polite and attentive, something which cannot be said of many Christians or atheists. ¡Paz, salud y alegría, y tiempo para ganarlas!

    That said, I agree that the existence of lawbreaking, and of different morals, does not necessarily mean that there is not such a thing as absolute morality. But the fact that there is broad consensus on what is good and what is bad does not show that absolute morality exists, either.

    The fact that we are social animals, and that other social animals such as chimps have much behavior in common with us, is evidence in favor of a biological source for the beginnings of morality, which we have of course embroidered upon in many ways.

    If you want to make a case for God being the source of morals, you have to start by giving evidence that God exists. Otherwise, there's evidence enough that morals come from biological and cultural evolution. I'll stick with the simpler explanation, until such time as I see reason to doubt it.

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  5. I'll make you a deal. I'll stop using the differences between cultures to refute absolute morality if you stop using the similarity between cultures to support it.

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  6. This post singles out one problem brought up on the topic, while ignoring many other relevant points brought up in the previous topic.

    One of the biggest problems with the idea of "absolute morality" is that we have no way of knowing exactly what it is, why it is, how it works, or where it came from. Aside from what makes for a healthy society (killing and stealing are wrong, people should help each other, etc.), there is no consensus, especially when supernatural claims are introduced.

    Even if there is such a thing as "absolute morality", why should we assume that any single culture, religion, or belief system best understands it? As I see it, the presented idea of "absolute morality" is convoluted, ethnocentric, and unnecessary.

    That doesn't mean that "anything goes". We still have rules and codes of behavior, based on what is best for individual human beings and society at large. We're accountable to secular laws, ourselves, and each other. We're responsible for our own well-being and that of those around us. It's only natural that we would be (we wouldn't survive otherwise).

    The author also probably opened up a big can of worms by bringing up the abortion issue. If a god authored "absolute morality", and expressed it within the Christian's Holy Bible, why doesn't the Bible ban (or even mention) abortion? Also, why isn't there a ban on pedophilia, rape, slavery, and running red lights in the Bible? (I know there were no red lights back then, but it was his example, not mine. :P)

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  7. The point about the variability of morality across societies is that this is an indication that morality is a natural phenomenon and not a condition imposed (or proposed) by an outside agency. To use the traffic light law as an example: if there was a universal single source of this law then the laws regarding traffic lights would be the same in all societies. Even in societies that did not have traffic!! But that is not what we see. We do not see traffic light laws where there are no traffic lights. We do see variation of exactly what the traffic light law says from one country to the next. What we see is that traffic light laws are a human invention to achieve certain objectives. Since those objectives are pretty much the same in all countries and since a good idea in one country gets transported to another country, there is a certain amount of natural convergence in traffic light laws but still a certain amount of variability.

    This is the point. Morality looks like a natural phenomenon – not at all like what we would expect a supernatural phenomenon to look like.

    Morality is much more complicated and fluid than traffic light laws. A much better analogy is between morality and languages. There is a high degree of variability between (and within) languages; there is a high degree of variability between (and within) moral norms. There is a central commonality between languages due to constraints of our physiology and due to the objectives that languages have to fulfill and due to the common evolutionary history of the languages (and perhaps do to the evolutionary history of the human brain); there is a central commonality to moral norms for similar reasons.

    You can, of course, tack on a supernatural proposition to the explanation of morality (or languages) but it is a superfluous proposition that should be cut out using Occam’s razor

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  8. The Atomic One said:

    "Especially towards the early stages of development, a fetus is a clump of cells."

    I agree. Do you know what else are clumps of cells? We are! Albeit bigger clumps of cells, but clumps of cells nonetheless. How are we different from a fetus in any morally significant way? Or do you think there's essentially no difference? I'm not looking for a debate, just interested in your personal opinions. As you said, the abortion issue can be morally dubious.

    "You probably kill thousands more pieces of life every day when you cook your food or wash your hands than you're killing in that instance."

    Do you believe that the germs and bacteria you kill when you wash your hands has the same intrinsic moral value of a human person? If so, why?

    I agree that there is obviously a great deal of differing opinions and positions one can take when it comes to ethics, which is partly why I find it so interesting to study. Actually that's one of the reasons why I love philosophy in general so much.

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  9. jdhuey said:
    "This is the point. Morality looks like a natural phenomenon – not at all like what we would expect a supernatural phenomenon to look like."

    Your expectation of what a supernatural phenomenon would look like is based on what? A Naturalist, Materialist philosophy, excluding supernatural phenomena? Why should anyone accept such a limitation? It is not logical to place physical limitations upon a non-physical entity; and it is not logical to make demands that a (potential) creator behave himself according to your specifications.

    But let's look at the implications of such a thought.

    If a supernatural ethical phenomenon would be expected to occur equally in every individual, and to be be "not natural" in its essentials, then the same should hold for other phenomena. One in particular is the phenomenon of life itself, which occurs universally in certain molecular arrangements which pass it on to more, similar molecular arrangements. The "life" phenomenon is inherited, not bestowed randomly on molecular arrangements. Materialists choose to believe that life was passed down through all living things, beginning with one particular molecular arrangement that had no living ancestor. It became living spontaneously, for no apparent reason.

    This is not an expectation of physical particulate matter. In fact it is never, ever seen in non-living matter - that it suddenly jumps to life. Yet this is a precept of materialist evolution, the one piece of "science" that attracts atheists.

    But life is universal in humans (from conception to death); it has no material cause; it is not created separately for each individual, it is inherited; it follows no known natural cause and effect process; its probability of occurance from non-living molecules is so low that parsimony would eliminate it post haste except that it is necessary for atheist dogma.

    So the fact of universal life amongst certain forms of molecular arrangements, which is passed on and on through the generations, must be considered to be supernatural, if the original argument is to hold.

    If life itself is supernaturally bestowed, then what is the reasoning that there is no supernatural, universal ethic? It becomes just: "I don't recognize it as supernatural". The idea of a naturally occuring universal ethic is as absurd (probabilistically speaking) as is abiogenesis; invoking parsimony is definitely in order.

    Declaring that there exists no universal ethic makes the atheist claim of "being a good person" without any merit whatsoever. If there is no universal standard, there is no universal good, only a local judgment based on local criteria. That is not "good", that is conformance to one's own creed du jour.

    Athiest claims always wind around in circles such as these:

    1. Because there is no god, there is no universal, absolute ethic; BUT, I am a good person because, either (a) I conform to a universal, absolute ethic, or (b) because I conform to my own local, relative ethic du jour.

    2. Because there is no universal, absolute ethic, there is no god; BUT, I am a good person because, either (a) I conform to a universal, absolute ethic, or (b) because I conform to my own local, relative ethic du jour.

    The atheist wishes to deny universal ethics while at the same time utilizing universal ethics in his own behalf to justify his "being good".

    These arguments fail.

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  10. Stan,

    As I said before, our system of morality is based on what is best for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole. It developed over thousands of years, and is still developing. At one time, people thought that slavery was OK. Now, we don't. At one time, torture was considered acceptable. We no longer believe so. These changes in our ethical code developed over many years, as we've grown in collective experience and understanding.

    In other words, our ethical system is in constant development as the human race progresses through history, based on what makes for a healthy society. No "universal morality" is necessary, and adding supernatural claims only clouds the issue. There is no consensus on such matters, and no evidence to back up even the existence of any supernatural phenomenon.

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  11. Stan,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and polite response.

    jdhuey said:
    "This is the point. Morality looks like a natural phenomenon – not at all like what we would expect a supernatural phenomenon to look like."

    Stan said:
    “Your expectation of what a supernatural phenomenon would look like is based on what? A Naturalist, Materialist philosophy, excluding supernatural phenomena? Why should anyone accept such a limitation?”


    I don’t have any general expectations of what a supernatural phenomenon would look like. The properties of supernatural realms are as varied as people’s imaginations. The only universal expectation is that it would not look like a natural phenomenon. Now, as skeptics and debunkers have shown time and time again, when a supposed supernatural phenomenon can be carefully investigated there has always been a naturalistic explanation. So, it just makes practical sense that unless there is really good evidence that a phenomenon has some supernatural aspects (of some type) that we should first assume that it is completely natural. This is, I think, the gist of Hitchen’s challenge: show us something that couldn’t have a completely natural explanation.

    “It is not logical to place physical limitations upon a non-physical entity; and it is not logical to make demands that a (potential) creator behave himself according to your specifications.”

    It seems to me that it those who claim that there is such a thing as the “supernatural” that are placing the constraint. It is by creating these two categories or realms (natural and supernatural) that some type of expectation is assumed. Some supposed difference. If the ‘supernatural’ always looks and behaves just like the ‘natural’, doesn’t it just make sense to do away with the concept of ‘supernatural’?


    But let's look at the implications of such a thought.

    If a supernatural ethical phenomenon would be expected to occur equally in every individual, and to be be "not natural" in its essentials, then the same should hold for other phenomena. One in particular is the phenomenon of life itself, which occurs universally in certain molecular arrangements which pass it on to more, similar molecular arrangements. The "life" phenomenon is inherited, not bestowed randomly on molecular arrangements. Materialists choose to believe that life was passed down through all living things, beginning with one particular molecular arrangement that had no living ancestor. It became living spontaneously, for no apparent reason.


    This is one of those ‘category’and‘definition’ things. The idea of dividing the universe into ‘living’ and ‘non-living’ is very useful and it comes very naturally to us. And, for the most part, not an issue; however, when science begins to investigate the boundary between ‘life’ and ‘non-life’ the supposed sharp razor thin line turns out to be a bit fuzzy. Take for example viruses. Biologists argue a lot about whether or not to call a virus alive or not. By some definitions it is, by others it is not. But the viruses just don’t care about our human need to put things into categories. They just are what they are.

    The origin of life question – abiogenesis – has much the same aspect to it. The idea that there once were chemicals that were definitely not alive, that then, at a later date, became alive seems silly but only if you ignore the fuzzy region when there were chemicals that were in some intermediate condition. Those chemicals just didn’t care about our human need to put things into categories. They just were what they were (and then they became us).

    So, while the exact process by which non-living chemicals transitioned into living chemicals has don’t been discovered yet, there is no reason to think that there was anything other than natural processes involve.

    If life itself is supernaturally bestowed, then what is the reasoning that there is no supernatural, universal ethic? It becomes just: "I don't recognize it as supernatural". The idea of a naturally occuring universal ethic is as absurd (probabilistically speaking) as is abiogenesis; invoking parsimony is definitely in order.

    Declaring that there exists no universal ethic makes the atheist claim of "being a good person" without any merit whatsoever. If there is no universal standard, there is no universal good, only a local judgment based on local criteria. That is not "good", that is conformance to one's own creed du jour.


    Again, we have a false dichotomy on our hands: universal versus strictly local ethics. Reality is more complicated than that. First off, what we think of as morality and ethics are necessary for any society of creatures to exist. Other social animals have evolved their own set of behaviors with their own set of moral norms. We humans have our own. So, right there the idea of a universal ethic falls down. But within the confines of the human species, there is a common core of moral thought – a moral instinct. Around this common core, great variation can occur but again that variation is constrained by the necessity that the moral norms and ethics of the society have to work.

    What seems to cause you folks here a lot of distress is the idea that morality is not rigid but is indeed malleable. This seems to be the same type of distress that some physicists had in the early part of the 20th century when the Newtonian concept of an absolute frame of reference for space was replaced by the Einsteinian idea of relativity.

    Athiest claims always wind around in circles such as these:

    1. Because there is no god, there is no universal, absolute ethic; BUT, I am a good person because, either (a) I conform to a universal, absolute ethic, or (b) because I conform to my own local, relative ethic du jour.

    2. Because there is no universal, absolute ethic, there is no god; BUT, I am a good person because, either (a) I conform to a universal, absolute ethic, or (b) because I conform to my own local, relative ethic du jour.

    The atheist wishes to deny universal ethics while at the same time utilizing universal ethics in his own behalf to justify his "being good".

    These arguments fail.

    Neither of your two points is what I believe atheists would claim. I can’t speak for other atheists but for me the claim I make is that ALL morality is of human/ natural origin and that we share a common moral instinct with lots of variation across time and societies. Each of us, to the best of our ability, try to form the best moral precepts and to make the best moral choices we can that balances our individual personnel needs against the needs of others. Those who want to claim that their moral judgments are somehow superior to mine because they are founded is some supernatural realm are making an unwarranted claim to an authority that simply doesn’t exist.

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  12. The problem with the Christian version of "Absolute Moral Law" is that it comes from scraps of paper from thousands of years ago. On these scraps of paper, MEN (Humans), wrote what THEY BELIEVED the moral law OUGHT to be (using their imperfect human thought processes). They did NOT get this moral law from any supernatural agency.

    Fast forward thousands of years . . .

    Christians no longer know the truth that these were just fictional stories with moral laws embedded within. They truly believe the fictional narrative that a supernatural being "revealed" these "truths."

    Until religious folks can provide enough evidence that a God really does exist--most atheists rightly deduce that the "moral law" purported to be true by Christians is nothing more than what people thousands of years ago thought the "moral law" should be for their own local society.

    By the way, there is no free will, because I was never given the choice to be here in the first place.

    Regards

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  13. Logan said...

    The Atomic One said:

    "Especially towards the early stages of development, a fetus is a clump of cells."


    I agree. Do you know what else are clumps of cells? We are! Albeit bigger clumps of cells, but clumps of cells nonetheless. How are we different from a fetus in any morally significant way? Or do you think there's essentially no difference? I'm not looking for a debate, just interested in your personal opinions. As you said, the abortion issue can be morally dubious.

    Well, for one thing, depending on the fetus' development, there wouldn't be a brain or a developed nervous system with which to fell any pain.

    Also, for the first few weeks after conception there isn't even any blood yet. Your own bible says that life is in the blood.

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  14. Logan said:

    "Do you know what else are clumps of cells? We are! Albeit bigger clumps of cells, but clumps of cells nonetheless. How are we different from a fetus in any morally significant way? Or do you think there's essentially no difference? I'm not looking for a debate, just interested in your personal opinions."

    I'm not sure we are different from a fetus in any morally significant way... but the point was that if we are not different from a fetus in any morally significant way, we should also assume we are not different from any other organism on the planet in a morally significant way, and that all life should be considered to have equal value.

    "Do you believe that the germs and bacteria you kill when you wash your hands has the same intrinsic moral value of a human person? If so, why?"


    Well, my personal thoughts on the matter are very conflicted in all honesty. I don't necessarily believe that human life has moral superiority or greater weight than the life of other organisms. At the same time, it would be false of me not to admit that I value the life of a human being more than the life of a bacteria if I have to choose. So in that regard, I think it makes our morality essentially self centered and inconsistent because we value our own species above the other species on the planet. So rather than theorize endlessly about what morality SHOULD be with regard to microorganisms, at this point I've basically accepted that what's important pragmatically is what our moral intuitions ARE. I merely brought this up because when you get down to the microscopic and early developmental level, almost all organisms are indistinguishable from a small colony of single celled organisms, of the type that we would consider similar to a small colony of bacteria. It's what makes the issue so complex, that we can't seem to find a major morally significant difference between ourselves and other animals. We willingly eat chicken eggs, which are the equivalent of chicken embryos, but can't stand to think about our own embryos being destroyed. And I can't understand why that should morally be the case besides the fact that we are not chickens.

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  15. jdhuey:
    This is, I think, the gist of Hitchen’s challenge: show us something that couldn’t have a completely natural explanation,

    When shown certain singularities, the "skeptics" or Atheists uniformly deny their existence. So denial becomes the default truth statement when confronted. But even more egregious is the perceived necessity to attach a made-up tale or "Just So Story" to any observation that comes without an attached empirical proof. For the skeptics, this is enough to discredit the nature of the observation; it is not necessary to prove their own position: Material cause for everything. This approach is an imaginary proof system.

    "If the ‘supernatural’ always looks and behaves just like the ‘natural’, doesn’t it just make sense to do away with the concept of ‘supernatural’?"

    See "Just So Stories" above.

    "Again, we have a false dichotomy on our hands: universal versus strictly local ethics. Reality is more complicated than that."

    And,

    "Neither of your two points is what I believe atheists would claim."

    Atheists can and do claim this; maybe not yourself: every Atheist gets to choose of course; that's the nature of relativism.

    "I can’t speak for other atheists but for me the claim I make is that ALL morality is of human/ natural origin and that we share a common moral instinct with lots of variation across time and societies. Each of us, to the best of our ability, try to form the best moral precepts and to make the best moral choices we can that balances our individual personnel needs against the needs of others."

    Surely you are aware that it doesn't work this way, especially in the still extant societies that are Atheist government controlled.

    The admitted moral relativism of Atheism makes any behavior chosen by the individual Atheist "moral". This is the conclusion that obviates Atheist morality, because if any and all behaviors can be declared "moral", then the concept of morality is trivial: it has no meaning whatsoever. And this is the underlying point that Atheists use, but deny.

    The use of secular rules of behavior as examples of morality dissolves under the relative ethic argument. The rules are not ethics, they are practical, and functional.

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  16. jimt1234 said,

    "On these scraps of paper, MEN (Humans), wrote what THEY BELIEVED the moral law OUGHT to be (using their imperfect human thought processes). They did NOT get this moral law from any supernatural agency."

    I'd certainly entertain your empirical proof for this assumption. Please provide your incontrovertable evidence, thanks.

    "Until religious folks can provide enough evidence that a God really does exist--most atheists rightly deduce that the "moral law" purported to be true by Christians is nothing more than what people thousands of years ago thought the "moral law" should be for their own local society.",

    What type of evidence for a deity would you accept? I suspect that you want specific physical, material evidence for a non-physical entity. If you are unable to to percieve the necessity of a first cause for (a) the universe and (b) the essence of life that is not individually created for each individual but is passed down to each new generation by preceding generations, then you will not accept anything as evidence because you have already chosen the answer, which you cherish far beyond the ability of any evidence to disuade. You are entrenched, then, in the fallacy of rationalization, and in agenda mongering.

    By the way, there is no free will, because I was never given the choice to be here in the first place.

    Interesting argument. Illogical but interesting.

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  17. Stan
    What type of evidence for a deity would you accept? I suspect that you want specific physical, material evidence for a non-physical entity. If you are unable to to percieve the necessity of a first cause for (a) the universe and (b) the essence of life that is not individually created for each individual but is passed down to each new generation by preceding generations, then you will not accept anything as evidence because you have already chosen the answer, which you cherish far beyond the ability of any evidence to disuade. You are entrenched, then, in the fallacy of rationalization, and in agenda mongering.
    Yet you just assume that god himself was not "caused" by anything. In the end, you have the same problem.

    At least he's asking for evidence for this god.
    ---
    Stan
    Your expectation of what a supernatural phenomenon would look like is based on what? A Naturalist, Materialist philosophy, excluding supernatural phenomena? Why should anyone accept such a limitation?
    Because there is no evidence that your particluar diety exits? Yours is the same rationale that every other cult on the planet uses.

    Why should we just blindly accept "supernatural phenomena" without evidence? If we followed your line of reasoning, any supernatural claim would have to be accepted. (except of course, those that contradict your own supernaturalist beliefs)


    It is not logical to place physical limitations upon a non-physical entity; and it is not logical to make demands that a (potential) creator behave himself according to your specifications.
    So much for all the bible verses that say that god answers prayer then. Or the tests that OT "prophets" like Elijah did vs. the prophets of Baal.

    Just a dodge to avoid the fact that there is no evidence for supernatural occurrances.


    logan

    "Especially towards the early stages of development, a fetus is a clump of cells."


    I agree. Do you know what else are clumps of cells? We are! Albeit bigger clumps of cells, but clumps of cells nonetheless. How are we different from a fetus in any morally significant way?
    Depending on the level of development, the fetus would not have any brain or nervous system developed to feel pain, and in the first few weeks there isn't even any blood. Doesn't the bible say something about the life being in the blood?

    Or do you think there's essentially no difference? I'm not looking for a debate, just interested in your personal opinions. As you said, the abortion issue can be morally dubious.
    Yeah. Even the bible says that if a pregnant woman is killed while two guys are fighting, the guy who hit her dies. If just the fetus dies, he just pays a fine.

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  18. Daddy Cool said...

    Mariano, it's un-defendable that atheists have a moral standard, they even admit that themselves.

    As opposed to the "moral standard" that it's ok to kill babies when god orders it? I've heard the excuses that Robert Turkel and Glen Miller put out; basically it amounts to nothing else but "situational ethics".

    People did what they had to do to survive at the time. Thing is, if there was a "loving" "moral" god around, he could have helped out just enough so that they woudn't have to have killed the amelekite babies. After all, he did have the Midianite virgin women spared.

    They would have been more likely to corrupt the ancient Isrealis since they had more memories of their families that the Isrealites knocked off. The babies would not.

    Yet apologists call both the baby-killing and the keeping of the virgin women an "act of mercy".

    Why was it an act of mercy to kill the kids and take the virgins as booty?

    Answer: It wasn't. There was no god to help out with supplying food (manna) for the babies, and the women were just spoils of war.

    As time went on, farming and other practices made such measures unnecessary so people were able to pass laws against them; based on the viewpoint of the victim of those actions.


    That's evolving morality. The theist problem is that the same god worshipped by those people back then is the same god that they worship now. They claim that this god is perfectly moral and unchanging.

    In defending this OT God's actions you wind up getting so-called "pro-life" people defending the killing of babies and pregnant women.


    There is no such thing as "absolute morality". Atheists are just honest enough to admit it.


    -----
    By the way, Daddy Cool you're not really in a position to criticize other people's morality until you back up your accusations.

    (I'm assuming that, since the user name is the same, that it is the same guy).

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am ever the Skeptic of atheists bearing bible verses.

    reynold said, authoritatively:

    Even the bible says that if a pregnant woman is killed while two guys are fighting, the guy who hit her dies. If just the fetus dies, he just pays a fine.


    No such thing. This is a recent fad amongst abortion fans: mangle a quote from the bible to make it look like it is really OK. Here is the actual quote (EX 21:22-24):

    "(22)If two men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever thewoman's husband demands and the court allows; (23)But if there is serious injury you are to take life for life, (24) eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."

    In fact, the killing of the fetus is punishible by death.

    and again:
    "Doesn't the bible say something about the life being in the blood?

    The metaphore pertains to everlasting life being purchased by the death of Jesus. The source of life is not human blood.

    The Bible is a closed book to closed people.

    ReplyDelete
  20. reynold said,
    "Why should we just blindly accept "supernatural phenomena" without evidence? If we followed your line of reasoning, any supernatural claim would have to be accepted. (except of course, those that contradict your own supernaturalist beliefs)

    If you are unable to engage discernment, then I agree that you should believe only that which you, personally, see, feel, and hear. Oh, wait. You really cannot trust those things either; so you must not believe anything whatsoever, then you will be absolutely certain of what you know.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Stan said...

    I am ever the Skeptic of atheists bearing bible verses.

    reynold said, authoritatively:

    "authoritatively"? Huh?

    Then you imply that I'm among the "abortion fans", making it seem like I agree with them about the activity and making me look like I'm against life or something.

    Hate to burst your bubble but I am pro-life, as I repeat later.

    I am ever the Skeptic of xians bearing moral pronouncements.


    Even the bible says that if a pregnant woman is killed while two guys are fighting, the guy who hit her dies. If just the fetus dies, he just pays a fine.

    No such thing. This is a recent fad amongst abortion fans
    I hate to burst you bubble, jack. I'm pro-life!

    : mangle a quote from the bible to make it look like it is really OK. Here is the actual quote (EX 21:22-24):

    "(22)If two men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever thewoman's husband demands and the court allows; (23)But if there is serious injury you are to take life for life, (24) eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."


    In fact, the killing of the fetus is punishible by death.
    Good enough then, I stand corrected. Just like you do when you called me an "abortion fan".

    Maybe I should have just stuck with the blatent verses where he orders the killing of pregnant women and children because their amelikite parents were "evil".

    Even if the adults were, why kill the kids? After all, he let Moses let them keep the virgin Midianite women did he not? Couldn't he have helped provide for them?



    and again:
    "Doesn't the bible say something about the life being in the blood?

    The metaphore pertains to everlasting life being purchased by the death of Jesus. The source of life is not human blood.

    Here, you're not on as solid ground. I've heard Henry Morris for instance in his book The Biblical Basis for Modern Science which is refuted by another xian organization here


    Leviticus 17:11 - "The Life of the flesh is in the blood"

    Henry Morris states, "The fact that the blood sustains life is a relatively modern concept, especially associated with William Harvey’s discovery in 1616 of the circulation of the blood" (p.371).


    They go on to refute him by pointing out:
    This concept of life being in the blood is a very old concept common to the ancient Near East (Kedar-Kopfstein 1978, 237-9). Let us look at a few examples.

    The Bible is a closed book to closed people.
    I guess Henry Morris' must have been one of those "closed people" eh?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Stan said:

    If you are unable to engage discernment, then I agree that you should believe only that which you, personally, see, feel, and hear. Oh, wait. You really cannot trust those things either; so you must not believe anything whatsoever, then you will be absolutely certain of what you know.

    Quit being such a tease and just tell us how we're supposed to discern which supernatural claims are true.

    For instance, let's take this claim: I, kuhlmann, am the son of God. I have returned as I said I would. And like the fossils in the rocks, I was put here in this forum to test your faith. As you have astutely pointed out, it would be silly to have expectations for how I, God, should behave. You are a mere mortal, whereas I occupy a different realm of existence, far too advanced for your feeble mind to comprehend. So I ask you to accept me as Jesus Christ reborn or suffer the eternal consequences. If you are a true believer, you will write "I accept kuhlmann into my heart as my personal savior" three times in your reply. I certainly hope that you're not one of those skeptics who requires specific, physical evidence for proof of my identity. The fate of your eternal soul rests on your decision. What's it going to be?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Stan said...

    reynold said,
    "Why should we just blindly accept "supernatural phenomena" without evidence? If we followed your line of reasoning, any supernatural claim would have to be accepted. (except of course, those that contradict your own supernaturalist beliefs)


    If you are unable to engage discernment, then I agree that you should believe only that which you, personally, see, feel, and hear.
    When did I say "personally"? I'm only asking how is it that supernaturalist claims can be possibly tested.

    Oh, wait. You really cannot trust those things either;
    Uh, why not?

    so you must not believe anything whatsoever, then you will be absolutely certain of what you know.
    So, you equating my not accepting supernaturalist claims without evidence as being of the same kind of mindset as one who can't trust his senses at all and therefore can't "know anything"?

    Sounds vageuly like the reasoning that Sye TenB uses.

    http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2008/08/syes-latest-response.html
    SYE This begs the question that God cannot reveal that logic can be trusted via, or wholly apart from our senses, in such a way that we can be certain of it.

    MY RESPONSE: No it doesn't. I am saying yes, maybe you do have a religious experience that the laws of logic hold. Not an experience via your five senses. Let's consider that. I then point out two major problems with that route to justifying logic.



    I hope I'm wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I just realized: this is one post that didn't make it through. This is one that did make use of god's ordering of babies to be killed...If you had seen this, Stan, there would be no question that I'm "pro-life".


    Daddy Cool said...

    Mariano, it's un-defendable that atheists have a moral standard, they even admit that themselves.

    As opposed to the "moral standard" that it's ok to kill babies when god orders it? I've heard the excuses that Robert Turkel and Glen Miller put out; basically it amounts to nothing else but "situational ethics".

    People did what they had to do to survive at the time. Thing is, if there was a "loving" "moral" god around, he could have helped out just enough so that they woudn't have to have killed the amelekite babies. After all, he did have the Midianite virgin women spared.

    They would have been more likely to corrupt the ancient Isrealis since they had more memories of their families that the Isrealites knocked off. The babies would not.

    Yet apologists call both the baby-killing and the keeping of the virgin women an "act of mercy".

    Why was it an act of mercy to kill the kids and take the virgins as booty?

    Answer: It wasn't. There was no god to help out with supplying food (manna) for the babies, and the women were just spoils of war.

    As time went on, farming and other practices made such measures unnecessary so people were able to pass laws against them; based on the viewpoint of the victim of those actions.


    That's evolving morality. The theist problem is that the same god worshipped by those people back then is the same god that they worship now. They claim that this god is perfectly moral and unchanging.

    In defending this OT God's actions you wind up getting so-called "pro-life" people defending the killing of babies and pregnant women.


    There is no such thing as "absolute morality". Atheists are just honest enough to admit it.


    -----
    By the way, Daddy Cool you're not really in a position to criticize other people's morality until you back up your accusations.

    (I'm assuming that, since the user name is the same, that it is the same guy).

    ReplyDelete
  25. Well, they've taken down the link where they talk about "daddy cool"'s accusations. Since his accusations have themselves been taken down, he'd have to repeat them and post his evidences for his accusations here.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Stan "No such thing. This is a recent fad amongst abortion fans: mangle a quote from the bible to make it look like it is really OK. Here is the actual quote (EX 21:22-24):"
    Which translation is that? Is it one of the inerrant ones, or what?

    "The metaphore pertains to everlasting life being purchased by the death of Jesus. The source of life is not human blood."
    You're not thinking of the right passage.

    "The Bible, is a closed book to closed people."
    Yup. The phone book is the same way. I can't count the number of times that outsiders, or "them", have misinterpreted the Book of (Local) Numbers. We should go back to printing it in Latin, to keep the riff-raff out.

    ReplyDelete
  27. fyi - Harris has written an interesting article for EDGE regarding morality. Since that makes it apropos here is the link:
    http://www.edge.org/discourse/vote_morality.html#harriss

    ReplyDelete