Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can't Be Moral Without God? Wrong.

Many people believe that in some fashion it is not possible for a person to be moral without God. So the charge that atheists are somehow lacking morally in this regard is brought up again and again.

There are a lot of confusions embedded in these discussions coming from both sides. We need to get clear on what the claim might mean and sort out some ambiguities. The first ambiguity concerns whether the claim is to be taken in an epistemological sense or an ontological sense. That is, do they mean that if a person doesn’t believe in God, they won’t be moral, or that if God does not exist, then morality would not exist? The second ambiguity concerns what “be moral,” means here. Does it mean act in a morally decent, law abiding manner, or does it mean ground their moral decisions on the right moral considerations?

So that gives us several different ways to interpret the sentence. At the risk of being tedious, let’s deal with them one by one. Is it true that unless a person believes in God, then they won’t act in a morally decent, law abiding manner? No. There are a billion or so Buddhists on the planet, and several hundred million atheists, just for starters, who do not believe in any sort of divine being, but it would be absurd to suggest that none of them act in a morally decent, law abiding manner.

Is it true that unless a person believes in God, they won’t ground their moral decisions in the right moral considerations? Again, this can’t be true either. Kant, Mill, Rawls, Aristotle, and many other respectable, plausible moral theories give accounts of how moral decisions should be grounded without any requirement for the actor to believe in God. If the someone wishes to defend this claim, then they will need to argue that none of the widely respected, studied, and emulated moral theories that have been developed in history are right and that no acts that are done in accordance with them are moral. That seems like an extraordinary and implausible position to take. It seems that at least one of these must be at least as plausible as divine command theory. In fact, the vast majority of expert moral philosophers have taken them all to be superior theories.

Is it true that unless God exists, then no one would act in a morally decent, law abiding fashion? It’s hard to know what the critic is getting at if they say yes. They might be thinking that it’s only the fear of God or respect for God’s commandments that makes people behave themselves. But again, this is myopic. There have been billions of people in history who don’t believe, don’t know about, or who have taken no note of God in their deliberations, but they have behaved morally. So it’s not believing that God is present that keeps people in line. Whether God exists or not, there are people who think he does not and who behave morally. So it seems implausible that his existence or non existence makes any real difference in their behavior.

Is it true that if there were no God, then no one would ground their actions in the right moral considerations? We can imagine that the critic would insist that this one is true. Sure, lots of people do ground their actions in other, non-God considerations, and they also behave in what appears to be a morally decent manner. But in fact, says the theist, none of their actions are based on the right considerations. He might insist that if there were no God, then there would be no sense of morality in humanity, or humanity would have never developed an awareness of a moral dimension in their lives, or our natures would be radically different. God is responsible for our capacity to act in moral ways, so if there were no God, then there would be nothing like morality at all. And then this moral capacity, that can’t be explained any other way is employed as evidence for the existence of God.
The problem with this position, of course, is that it is danger of being circular reasoning. How is it that the theist came to know that the moral capacity in humans could have only come from God. It’s embarrassing if the answer is “from God.” It’s even worse if that moral capacity, that God told them came from God, is then used as evidence that God exists. God tells me that only God can provide us with morality. My morality proves that God must be real.

The critic might try to go deep here and insist that even though many moral systems like Aristotle’s or Mill’s make no explicitly appeal to God, if it hadn’t been for God endowing humanity with a capacity for moral action or a moral sense, Aristotle and Mill would have had anything in human behavior to theorize about. They wouldn’t have even been aware of any moral dimension to our lives. But this argument also seems to beg the question, and it’s very hard to see how one might defend it, particularly since we have some plausible alternative accounts of how morality arose in humanity. Evolutionary biologists have given us a large body of evidence now that indicates that evolution built us, along with lots of other species to be moral. We observe proto-moral behaviors in all sorts of animals now, and we have a number of theories that about why evolution might have selected for altruism, sympathy, cooperation, and other social instincts.

It’s possible that the capacity for moral behavior that we find in ourselves came from God, but the critic needs to argue that that’s the only possible source it could have come from. And that much stronger claim is very hard to give a plausible argument for.
So it looks like whatever they mean by the claim that you can’t be moral without God, it can’t be right. Some of the things that sentence might mean are obviously false, and other interpretations fall into circularity or have to argue for some claims that can’t fit with the facts.

41 comments:

mikespeir said...

Humans are moral beings. That much is undeniable. After that, though, is speculation. How people can insist that the best speculation involves unseen and unprovable entities is beyond me.

Bowling4Mac said...

I don't believe that the proportion of religious people who are highly moral is any greater than the same proportion among non-religious people.

I subscribe the the theory that some people have a "talent' for religion and that this trait is separate from the trait of having a lot of moral fibre. By talent I am of corse referring to a characteristic of the brain which gives rise to religious experiences that I have never had.

Furthermore, I would even go one step further and suggest that atheists (and I don't object to being called one since we all need to be labelled) have the ability to be more ethical in our lives given that we believe you only live once and thus one must be as happy as one can be in this life. Religious people spend a lot of time contemplating the afterlife and therefore perhaps forgetting to enjoy this life. Of corse religious people could turn my argument around and claim that the belief that this is the only life we have could well lead us to employ unethical methods to get what we desire. But Im not willing to subscribe to religious doctrines which have obvious flaws just so that I can live with the comfort of knowing that I don't need to rush to get what I desire in this life. As I said I don't think that the amount of moral fibre I posses has any correlation to my ability to take a leap of faith.

Anonymous said...

“It’s embarrassing if the answer is ‘from God.’ It’s even worse if that moral capacity, that God told them came from God, is then used as evidence that God exists. God tells me that only God can provide us with morality. My morality proves that God must be real.”

Embarrassing? Not to some theists — they use circular reasoning all the time. Ray Comfort and William Lane Craig come to mind.

Matt McCormick said...

It may not bother them, but it belies their position and it's an embarrassment to reason and the rest of us.
MM

RkBall said...

The question is can morality in any objective or real sense exist in a universe that is as an anti-creation, purposeless, meaningless, mindless and amoral, except as a category of inexplicable absurdity.

The darwinian answer: take stardust, water, and stir, is uncompelling as an explanation. Rational, reasonable people will conclude that darwinism affords an insufficient explanation for morality, and will look elsewhere for a sufficient explanation.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks for the input RK. You're conflating several important issues. Can Darwinism explain the tendencies in human beings towards moral behaviors. Certainly. If God installed a moral sense in humans, would they have feelings of moral conscience or an awareness of moral right and wrong? Perhaps. But it doesn't follow that if humans have feelings of moral conscience or an awareness of moral right and wrong then God must have put it there. Could humans have acquired their feelings of moral conscience and sense of right and wrong from natural selection? Yes. See Pinker, De Waal, Churchland and Churchland, Church, and a long list of others who have investigated the connection and sketched out the path whereby it could have happened. Is God the best or only explanation of why humans are aware of moral distinctions? No and no.

MM

RkBall said...

Could humans have acquired their feelings of moral conscience and sense of right and wrong from natural selection? Yes."

Either human beings acquired the ability to sense moral realities that were already "out there", in which case morals objectively exist but must be accounted for, or, morals are nothing more than the product of a mindless, purposeless, amoral process, in which case they are an absurdity, and humans would be irrational to pay any more attention to them than to say, burps or hiccups.

Can the uncreatively mundane produce the sublime? Apparently so.

Such is the world that the materialist is forced to take refuge in.

Matt McCormick said...

See the new post. I've dealt with this objection many times before, as have philosophers for centuries. But for those who don't know their moral philosophy, it still seems salient.

MM

Bowling4Mac said...

Re: RkBall's second comment.

Atheist humans can pay more attention to morals than to burps or hiccups because our morals come from what we learn in our lives and what we learn from other people we decide are trustworthy, based on rational reasoning. It is perfectly rational for an atheist to pay a lot of attention to their morals.

Its very easy to argue that atheists have just as much reason to form morals and to obey them. Religion for many people is just oppression. They do the things their religion tells them to because of fear or for other negative reason.

As an atheist I treat people as I would like to treated not because someone told me to but because I know that Im as human as the next person and perhaps my good behaviour will rub off on the people around me.

Morals are not "out there" anywhere they are in our brains. And for a reason. Morals are not mindless or purposeless. They have a purpose in humankind. Just because there is no divine hand guiding the human race doesn't mean there is no place in humankind for things like morals, you just have to see the logic of their existence.

RkBall said...

"Atheist humans can pay more attention to morals than to burps or hiccups..." You are suggesting that moral sense is not intrinsic to human nature, nor indwelling, but a product of mere thought or reflection -- then why not call just call them "ideas", or "social obligations that we have invented"? Where does the deeply engrained sense of "ought", of there being actual right and wrong, and an actual obligation to do or not to do something come from? Surely more than just humans sitting around the campfire. Why should there be a moral sense at all, in a universe that is surely amoral and completely indifferent? God provides a coherent and sufficient explanation. Darwinism a banal and indifferent one. Meh.

And, if your morals are nothing more than human invention, then what objective basis is there for saying that one person's artificial construct is any better or worse than another's? One culture believes they ought to love their neighbor, another, that the right course of action is to eat their neighbor.

RkBall said...

"it's an embarrassment to reason and the rest of us."

Why, if reason is the result of darwinism, should one give any particular weight to reason? It's no more thought out or grand than evacuation. You may trust a reasoning process slopped together by an arrational, mindless, purposeless process, but I wouldn't. Once again, darwinism provides an insufficient explanation.

The only grounds that secure warranted faith in reason and moral sense are theistic. You may deny God, but you live in his rational/moral universe every day of your life.

Bowling4Mac said...

Re RkBalls reply

You seem to be looking at the world as if you have never lived and as if you have never experienced anything or learned from it.

I act in what I consider to be a moral way because I am human. I could understand being indifferent to morals if I were not human and I were not living this life but I am. My actions have consequences.

Morals ARE social obligations that we, as society, have created. I live in, and was brought up in, England which has been described as a post-theistic society. Thats a pretty good description and yet I come across people everyday who have managed to develop what I would describe as moral behaviour yet have never been overly exposed to religious dogma. The obligation to do or not do something comes from society. The universe is indeed completely amoral but humans are not and society, at least the one I live in, does not allow me to be amoral without suffering the consequences.

It is obvious to any rational person that the moral behaviour I speak of is "better" than cannibalism. I don't think I need to detail why this is. You don't need a lot of life experience to grasp that understanding.

RkBall said...

"You seem to be looking at the world as if you have never lived...." No, I am asking "why". I understand that human beings are hopelessly moral individuals to the fibre of our beings and not just, as you suggested in your previous post, because we've thought about it.

What I am trying to get out of you is a rational and deep explanation for why this should be so -- theism provides a full, sufficient and satisfactory explanation -- materialism does not and, I suspect, cannot.

That we, this tiny insignificant species, on this tiny insignificant planet, in this tiny speck of the universe should be uniquely moral, when we are surrounded by an amoral sea of mindless matter, when the rest of the universe made of stardust and water assuredly was not prior to the emergence of life, when matter and molecules are not, when darwinism as a process is not -- requires an explanation.

Unless, you are content to wave your hands and say, "just is".

Matt McCormick said...

See the new blog post on the insufficiency of theism to explain morality.
MM

Bowling4Mac said...

Re RkBall's 2nd reply

On a side note, theist explanations for a lot of things, including morals, are far from satisfactory in my book.

On another side note what is your definition of "materialism"? If you are suggesting that worshipping Walmart is the only option after giving up the church this seems somewhat closed-minded.

Scientists and Psychologists do not have a perfect understanding of why we as human beings are uniquely moral. But does that mean I should worship the marshmallow fairy? No.

The reason I find a theist explanation of morality unsatisfactory is because theism requires that I take a "leap" of faith. That is, leap off the cliff of rational thinking. I am content pondering scientific, psychological and philosophical writing until my thirst for answers on life is sufficiently quenched that I can lay in the grass and look into the night sky in sheer awe of the wonder of the universe.

Every bit of the universe, except us, is amoral in the sense that planets do not look out for one another. But it is also amoral in the sense that planets do not throw meteors at one another. That is not to say that a meteor may not crash into the earth tomorrow and destroy us all. It might. But there is little reason for me to get depressed about this. Being an atheist gives me the freedom and mental strength to be comfortable with the understanding that I am no more significant than a bread crumb on my chopping board.

But does this understanding mean there is no reason why I should not walk up to the next person I see and punch them square in the face? No it does not. Because I still know that I am human and I still know that I will feel guilt if I do that. And I still know that I will probably go to prison which will probably be a very unpleasant experience. I can believe that I am an insignificant speck and also believe that I am a slave to my feelings and emotions at the same time.

A Conservative Teacher said...

Averroes, Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas said that the presence of evil can be explained because some people, through their free will, reject God and his teachings, and by doing so reduce the presence of God in thier lives, thus allowing evil to fill that vaccum. It is a sound argument and means that if you reject God, you indeed can not be truely moral.

mikespeir said...

And what makes this a "sound argument," Teacher? Because you say so? Because Thomas Aquinas says so? 'Splain.

RkBall said...

There cannot be evil unless there is also good. The problem in explaining the human condition, or, at the very least, humans' apprehension of it, is that both good and evil must be accounted for. Both are absurd, silly concepts in a materialistic universe in which no good or evil exists prior to the accidental construction by mindless, amoral matter and natural processes, of human beings.

Apart from a source additional to mindless amoral matter, good and evil can be nothing more than some kind of illusion or delusion inside the brains of humans put there either by amoral evolution, or simply invented by human beings.

It is not immoral to strike a rock or pumpkin and smash it into its constituent material parts; it is no more immoral, under materialism, to smash a baby's head in; it's just a human conceit of our self importance or value -- neither of which is, objectively true in a unthinking, mindless, amoral universe. Even Dawkins, the Great One, admits this.

It's either God and moral accountability to him, or absurdity. Atheists, in choosing a belief system which frees them (temporarily) from accountability to an ultimate moral authority, must live with the absurd implications of their choice.

mikespeir said...

No, RkBall, that's not true. You see, I can make bald assertion as well as you can. Think I'm wrong? Show me.

RkBall said...

ms -- you sound like an angry person. I made an argument; you made a bald assertion. Since you said nothing, I shall respond in kind.

mikespeir said...

"It is not immoral to strike a rock or pumpkin and smash it into its constituent material parts; it is no more immoral, under materialism, to smash a baby's head in...."

This is not an argument. It's an assertion. Don't complain about my anger after you've made such a stunningly vicious charge. Astonishingly (?), materialists aren't out smashing babies' heads in. Why not? Because God has infused us with a moral sense, though we don't recognize it? Says who? If you can't demonstrate so, then you must admit that 1) we are moral and 2) we have reasons for being moral that have nothing demonstrably to do with deity.

RkBall said...

"1) we are moral and 2) we have reasons for being moral that have nothing demonstrably to do with deity."

Of course you are moral -- we are all hopelessly moral. What you don't have is a reason why anyone should think that moral senses in a human being have any more objective validity or ultimate consequence than, say, burps or hiccups. Authentic moral sense inserted by an unthinking, purposeless, amoral process?

mikespeir said...

Let me see if I can spell out what I thought would be obvious. Reference my first post on this thread. We are moral creatures. That is fairly uncontroversial. It's something we'll agree on. Now we can get to guessing why we're moral creatures. Believers such as yourself insist we're moral creatures because God made us so. There's a problem with that. Nonexistent entities don't cause--aren't the source of--anything. They didn't cause the universe, they aren't the reason for its order or its function, they didn't create life, and they don't make us moral. Nonexistent entities don't do anything because ... they don't exist.

Oh, but God exists, you say? Well, then, the task before you is to demonstrate that. That's what you'll need to do first. Once you've shown that God exists, then maybe we can talk about whether he is the cause of our moral sense. But it simply won't do to say, "We're moral agents, therefore God exists." That doesn't work.

RkBall said...

"But it simply won't do to say, "We're moral agents, therefore God exists." That doesn't work."

And that is why I never said this. I simply said that, if God doesn't objectively exist, neither do morals, and the moral sense that we do have is an absurdity associated with the human condition caused by nothing more than a mindless, amoral, purposeless process -- and therefore no more authentic or meaningful than a burp or hiccup.

mikespeir said...

"...if God doesn't objectively exist, neither do morals...."

So, you're not claiming the corollary, i.e., morals do exist, therefore, God? You really aren't saying that? Can you imagine why I might have thought you were? What other inference am I to take away from what you said.

The fact is, there are morals. It is equally factual that it cannot be established that God even exists, and much less that he has anything to do with morality. Until you can establish those things you have no business making veiled threats and insupportable claims such as, "Atheists, in choosing a belief system which frees them (temporarily) from accountability to an ultimate moral authority, must live with the absurd implications of their choice."

RkBall said...

"So, you're not claiming the corollary, i.e., morals do exist, therefore, God? You really aren't saying that?"

No.

"Can you imagine why I might have thought you were?"

I'm just guessing here. You weren't reading carefully? You have trouble following an argument?

"What other inference am I to take away from what you said."

One may indeed infer that God exists, to the extent that one recoils from the absurdity of human life under materialism, and to the extent that one concludes that materialism is an insufficient cause for things like objective morality. But to infer the existence of God from these arguments is something quite different from your bald assertion " morals do exist, therefore, God". It takes a certain suppleness of mind.

"veiled threats and insupportable claims such as, "Atheists, in choosing a belief system which frees them (temporarily) from accountability to an ultimate moral authority, must live with the absurd implications of their choice."

You have done nothing to refute my absurdity argument. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Matt McCormick said...

I've read your posts over and over, RK. I've seen you assert with great authority that materialism entails moral absurdity. But I haven't detected any sort of argument for that conclusion. Nor have I seen you actually address any of the arguments I've given in the posts--mostly there are just adamant denials of their conclusions.

Furthermore, it would be another mistake to conflate materialism with atheism.

MM

Matt McCormick said...

On a related note, Plantinga himself, the patron saint of modern theist philosophers, argues forcefully against the view that using teleological language commits one to some metaphysical views about the existence of a supernatural designer. There's no conflict between using the language as a sort of short hand without making any assumptions or having any requirements about an actual designer. See Warrant and Proper Function, and catch up on your philosophy of biology.
MM

mikespeir said...

I think Matt's pretty much summed it up, RKBall.

You can only be doing one of two things here: feinting toward (not making) an argument or making unsubstantiated assumptions. Considering the context of this thread and that your comments are all about morality, the argument you would be hinting at would be the Moral Argument. But you've said in no uncertain terms that you're not making that argument. (Which is obvious enough, anyway.) And you're not even waving at any other argument. Thus, I'm forced to reiterate my initial accusation: you're making bald assertions. Now, you're free to do that, I suppose, but you can't expect us to take simple, unsupported claims seriously. Despite what you apparently think, the truth of what you're saying is anything but self-evident.

RkBall said...

Mike -- Of course I'm making an argument, but it is an inferential argument, rather than the kind of QED argument you are looking for.

"But you've said in no uncertain terms that you're not making that argument."

No, I did not say this.

It is possible to say that something points to, or indicates, as opposed to "proves". You need to develop a suppleness of mind and an appreciation for nuance.

RkBall said...

Matt -- I am arguing from the premise of sufficient cause. One of the principles of software engineering is that "what goes out, must have come in" i.e., there must be sufficient inputs to produce a given output.

All the closed-system of materialism has to offer us is human beings which are the product of mindless, amoral, purposeless processes (and nothing more). If I'm wrong about this first premise, let me know.

Now, humans are, by nature, moral creatures. (If I'm wrong, let me know.)

What is the foundation of this moral sense? I see only two possibilities -- man himself, or nature, i.e, darwinian processes. (Wrong, let me know.)

Man himself.

The first source is man himself, with morality not being innate, but, as intelligent apes, or worms, or bacteria, being rationally determined by man as a rational creature (rationality is another problem for materialism, but let's grant it for the sake of argument.)

Morality in this view is the result of human reflection and contemplation -- and nothing more. In other words, we are not wired to be moral creatures, we overlay moral thinking upon our amoral urges.

In this view it is nothing more than a subjective overlay by humans upon more foundational realities -- that we are nothing more than stardust and water, re-mixed by an amoral, unthinking process, for no purpose.

Morality is then, at foundation, subjective. The human race may develop one set of moral constructs, an alien race another. And it would not be a question of one being right and the other wrong -- because in the closed system of materialism, morality is not intrinsic to the universe, it is some kind of overlay, and there is no external arbiter.

Indeed, different human groups or cultures could conceivably develop different moral systems, and there same problem would apply -- no outside, objective arbiter.

Now, the higher we go in moral thinking -- thinking that human beings have "value", thinking that human beings have "intrinsic worth", thinking that harming another human being is "wrong" or "evil", the higher we go in the disconnect from our origins from mindless, dead molecules -- and the more absurd and incongruous we become. Surely we deceive ourselves when we think we are worth something or have value! Our moral sense "emerges" like a vapor from the elements, but that's all it is at heart, vapor. It is grounded in nothing, ultimately.

Our moral thoughts are grounded in nothing more than utilitarian thinking -- I don't like to have pain inflicted upon me, so I won't inflict pain on others -- but this does not make inflicting pain "wrong". I feel good when I give to charity, so I'll give to charity -- but this does not make giving "good". This is not objective right and wrong, good and evil. This is just pragmatism, dressed up as right and wrong. This may get us to pragmatic advice for getting along in life, but it does not get us to objective right and wrong or good and evil. It falls short.

And, since there is no objective criteria "out there", anyone can refuse to play the game. Some people find pleasure in inflicting pain -- who's to say this is "wrong"?

RkBall said...

Darwinian foundations.

I prefer the view that moral sense is not just a human overlay, that it is indwelling, innate, and persistent. But this makes the problem even worse. Forget about rational foundations for morality. At least we are rational whereas the processes of nature, being mindless, are not. Now morality is rooted in nothing greater than darwinian wiring.

Darwinian processes are themselves mindless, amoral and purposeless (would you agree with that).

If so, there is just insufficient input to take the output -- moral sense -- seriously. To trust it. To think that it actually means something. To think that it is anything more than a survival strategy (and strategy is the wrong word), it is really nothing more than a cruel burp of mindless, amoral evolution that doesn't care even if we survive or not, let alone develop moral sense.

So, we are endued, as you like to say, with the sense of "ought", the sense that some things are right and others wrong, in the same way that there is something wrong with the notion that 2 + 2 =5 and that it is not just a matter of rational constructs of the human brain (view one) that 2 +2 should be 4, or feelings (view 2) that 2 +2 feels like four, but an apprehension of an objective fact that lies outside of human sense experience and is true whether we recognize it or not.

The problem, of course, is, that in a closed-system materialistic world, there is no place for objective morality to exist outside of the molecules themselves. Unless you posit that morality somehow existed potentially in the stardust and water that begat us and is part of the fabric of the universe.

So, that is why I argue from absurdity. The materialist, in positing the objective existence of good and evil, right and wrong, cannot adequately account for it.

He can argue why we *think* there is right and wrong, but good and evil themselves cannot be sufficiently accounted for. And a truly scientific materialism would seek to debunk such thinking.

And that is why I conclude that have two fundamental choices: a) freedom from God and moral accountability to him coupled with the absurdity of the human condition or b) God and accountability to Him, and authenticity.

It does not "prove" the existence of God. But it does demonstrate why rational human creatures should at least lean towards hoping that God in fact does exist.

RkBall said...

"There's no conflict between using the language as a sort of short hand without making any assumptions or having any requirements about an actual designer. "

One might think that those whose whose main mark in life is to adamantly and persistently deny a teleological dimension to cosmological reality would be eager to describe said reality without recourse to teleological language. In fact, you would think they would insist on it. The fact they don't is curious; the fact they perhaps cannot, suggestive, to say the least.

What an odd reality you claim we inhabit -- an intrinsically a-teleological process wires us to be hopelessly teleological in thought and speech.

If the universe, and life, cannot be described without recourse to teleological language, then why should one believe that the a-teleological view is true? If it is "true", then "we" are not. At a minimum it supports my contention that we are absurd creatures -- hopelessly out of tune with the a-teleological, a-moral essence of our surroundings.

Thanks for all the references and suggested areas for further study. That's what I like about your site.

Matt McCormick said...

Those look a lot more like arguments, RK. I'm not going to try to address all of it in the comments section. As I see it, there are several problems in your reasoning: you're still ignoring the arguments that I (and others) have given that show that the dilemmas you're giving--morals come from man's imagination, or from God--are false dilemmas. 2) An argument that God offers no explanation or justification for morality (which I've been giving) does not amount to an argument for materialism. So limitations of materialism are beside the point. 3) you're committing the fallacy of composition. Since you cannot conceive of how molecules can be moral, you refuse to accept that combinations of them could be. I cannot imagine how a large airport can function smoothly, but the limits of my knowledge or my sense of wonder impose no impossibility on the event. By a similar argument you might think that it is impossible for complicated computer software program to run or for a plant to grow. 4) this brings us to the insufficiency of your "sufficient reason" argument. What you've done is string together several complicated human behaviors where you don't have a clear grasp on the mechanisms and then leapt to the conclusion that only God (Christian?) could explain how we could have all of those things. If you do your homework and actually try to understand the scientific accounts that we now have that go a long way towards explaining each one of those (instead of rejecting them as impossible at the outset) you'll see that we have closed many of these so-called gaps. Furthermore, suppose that x,y, and z are all unaccounted for phenomena in humans. You assert that they would all be explained perfectly well if we adopt the God hypothesis. Therefore we should. But that's a fallacy too. There's an infinite list of other supernatural hypotheses that will offer the same mysterious blanket explanation: Sobek did it, Thor did it, aliens did it, Allah did it, invisible magic elves endowed us with a moral sense, and so on. It simply doesn't follow that since you can come up with an explanation that might work, that it therefore must be true. This is the theist's equivalent of making the Just-So story mistake that evolutionary biologists sometimes make.

Thanks for clarifying your position.

MM

mikespeir said...

"No, I did not say this."

Ah, I see. You're going for the Moral Argument after all. But it takes a greater "suppleness of mind" than I possess to sense the path you're on. Wow.

But now you've put out such a flood of stuff, and I'm not so sure I care to fight a world war.

I don't know that there's anything objectively (if by "objective" we mean something like "hardwired into reality") "wrong." So what? The fact is, we all subscribe to some code of morality. And it generally works. Furthermore, when it doesn't work it doesn't seem to break down along the line between believer and unbeliever, which is telling. We can quibble about where it comes from but, again, if you're going to insist that source is the Divine, you'll first need to show that the Divine exists, not simply suggest that without the Divine morality is subjective and expect us to jump the several intuitive chasms to your conclusion.

Bowling4Mac said...

RKBall

I still do not see that you have said anything about why God should exist other than the fact that we as absurd, as you like to say, human beings "like" to think that he exists. Or that it gives us comfort to "believe" that he is out there somewhere. Of course "believing", whatever that means, becomes a lot easier if everyone around you does and you were brought up to believe.

I find your point of view highly unsatisfactory.

It still seems blindingly obvious to me that religion is a human construct. It also seems obvious that our sense of right and wrong is nothing sacred or mysterious its just a by-product of society. This becomes more obvious when you think of other animals having a sense of right and wrong and even punishing each other for doing something they think is "wrong".

Im not sure whether you are suggesting that we should be depressed about our plight as humans on this earth but I find your posts highly depressing! If there is one thing I can definitely say I disagree with you on, its that we can still be positive people despite the burden on all this knowledge.

RkBall said...

"Im not sure whether you are suggesting that we should be depressed about our plight as humans on this earth but I find your posts highly depressing!"

Well, "From nothing. By nothing. For nothing." is not exactly a mantra for elevating one's self-esteem. But what else has the materialist got?

20th cc. existentialists denied God's existence, then from this concluded that human existence was absurd. I think they got it right, and anything else is window-dressing and self-deception.

Have a great (ultimately meaningless, purposeless, destined-for-extinction) day!

Matt McCormick said...

Once again, an argument that appeals to God do nothing to provide us with answers to moral problems is not an argument for materialism. And atheism should not be conflated with materialism. Furthermore, materialism comes in several different varieties: eliminative, methodological, ontological, etc. None of them, as far as I can tell, match with what you're calling materialism.

MM

D.C. Willis said...

It is hard to believe that a book (Bible), which is full of immorality can be expected to teach morality.

http://subtledeceit.com/index.php?p=1_16_GOD-OF-ISRAEL

Gaius Sempronius Gracchus said...

Some moral skeptics claim morality is bunk and moral pronouncements no more meaningful or practically relevant than the claim of a superstitious Polynesian that eating a certain type of coconut is taboo.

We, like the Polynesian, are hypnotized by nonsense words.

He is hypnotized by "taboo" and we are by "wrong," "right," and "duty."

Have you commented on that sort of skepticism?

On the meta-ethical level it rests on a kind of error theory but on the normative level instead of being reformist it is flatly rejectionist.

trueandreasonable.co said...

"Evolutionary biologists have given us a large body of evidence now that indicates that evolution built us, along with lots of other species to be moral. We observe proto-moral behaviors in all sorts of animals now, and we have a number of theories that about why evolution might have selected for altruism, sympathy, cooperation, and other social instincts. "

Here is the big problem. All those theories about how we evolved to have these moral beliefs have nothing to do with them being true.

The truth of whether it is good to be altruistic or cooperative or sympathetic has nothing to do with these theories. It could be morally wrong to have these traits and the theories would still work just as well.

Its interesting that you give several moral systems just like you give several different religious systems. But when you give the religious systems you suggest that just like we don't believe the majority of them we shouldn't believe say Christianity. But you withhold that logic when it comes to moral systems.

In fact you seem to imply the opposite that since there are so many theories (albeit contradictory theories) of how morality can work without God surely one is correct.