Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Quote: Ravi Zacharias on the Problem of Evil

“Let us remember that every worldview–not just Christianity's–must give an explanation or an answer for evil and suffering...this is not just a problem distinctive to Christianity. It will not do for the challenger just to raise the question. This problem of evil is one to which we all must offer an answer, regardless of the belief system to which we subscribe.”

–Ravi Zacharias

47 comments :

Lee said...

As an atheist, do I really have to spell it out to Ravi that I don't have to explain the problem of evil?

The universe looks as we should expect if there was no god, no absolute purpose, just a universe that cares not for itself or anything else.

The problem of evil is for those who believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God.

The answer is normally to push the problem to beyond the grave or to say I don't know God's purpose.

If I was a Christian (which of course I am not) this would cause me pause for thought.

Ravi here is just ignoring the problem it seems.

Lee

Leslie said...

"As an atheist, do I really have to spell it out to Ravi that I don't have to explain the problem of evil?"

followed by your explanation for why evil exists:

"The universe looks as we should expect if there was no god, no absolute purpose, just a universe that cares not for itself or anything else."

I think you just proved Ravi's point. It should give us all pause for thought.

wbmccarty said...

Lee, as an atheist, you face a different "problem of evil" than that faced by Christians. The problem for us Christians is to reconcile the existence of evil with the concept of a benevolent God, which is easily accomplished by positing that God has a morally satisfactory reason for allowing evil.

Your problem is less easily resolved. You must explain why you think some acts are objectively evil in the context of a godless universe that offers no grounds to establish a distinction between good and evil. Best of luck with that!

Thomas said...

Lee,
You should check out this excerpt from Ravi Zacharias' book "Can Man Live Without God?"

http://www.direct.ca/trinity/evil.html

I think it may point you in the right direction as to what he means when he says that atheists also have to deal with the problem of evil.

Love to hear your thoughts on it!

dvd said...

Lee

You said:
"The universe looks as we should expect if there was no god, no absolute purpose, just a universe that cares not for itself or anything else."


I don't think any part of the universe should look like "you" or "me" if God did not exist, let alone our suffering. Since parts of the universe look like you and look like me, and feel like you and feel like me, I find that unexpected in a mindless universe that has no purpose.

Lee said...

Hi All,

I hope I have time to reply tonight to these comments.

I will read the link provided and see what I have to add.

At the moment, I do not see why I have to explain anything about evil - I don't think absolute morals exists, so can it be really said that evil exists?

Thanks

Lee

wbmccarty said...

Lee, sorry: I incorrectly presumed that you believe in objective moral standards. Since you do not, I have a related question: Do you believe in objective truth?

Cheers,

Lee said...

Hi Thomas,

Well, I’ve read the link on the excerpt from Ravi’s book “Can man live without God”

Firstly, to answer the question in the title of the book – well, yes I can (and have) thank you very much Mr Ravi. All my life without any reason to believe in God :-)

Maybe for Ravi’s next book the title “Can man live without unicorns” would be a fitting sequel?

On the actually point of ‘evil’ - I was surprised how quickly Ravi fails to address my point, so I wonder why the link was provided?

Ravi writes "If there is such a thing as evil, aren't you assuming there is such a thing as good?"”

We have to be careful here.

‘Good’ and ‘evil’ as stated in the question would be merely relative terms in my view.

If Ravi is talking about ‘absolutes’ then isn’t there is a hidden premise in the absolute morals that there is an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God?

I personally make no such assumptions – I don’t believe in an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God, I don’t believe in absolute morals since they have never been demonstrated.

Arguments for absolute morals are dependent on a particular type of God – since I believe in neither, due to lack of logic or evidence, all the arguments seem rather circular on the matter.

Ravi has done nothing more than set a debating trap for the questioner... I don’t think I need to fall into it :-)

So I still don’t see why I need to justify ‘evil’ in the world.

The problem though for the Christian still remains since they DO believe in an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God.

Ravi then quotes a discussion between Copleston and Russell.

I don’t see why Russell was wrong in his response – morals are subjective are they not, linked to the ‘situation’/moment when the ‘morals’ are being judged/decided - the circumstances that lead us to our moral conclusion at the time - our evolutional history and culture upbringing.

Morals are not ‘black and white’.

Anyone (i.e. the Christian) who says moral absolutes exist and/or are needed are required me my view to do some demonstrating. It is a MAJOR claim.

To show morals are relative, just think if you see a woman screaming for help after falling into a river.

Is it our moral duty to save her? Would we be immoral if we did not to jump in an attempt to save her?

There isn’t an absolute here – think about it and then I hope we can agree.

Maybe the Christian will like to take the example to more extremes?

Rape? Killing babies?

If so, before we continue, can someone please answer me this.

If your God decided to kill a baby, would it be morally wrong?

If your God told you to kill a baby, would it be morally wrong?

Shall we discuss this further?

Take care

Lee

Lee said...

Hi Leslie,

I think you just proved Ravi's point. It should give us all pause for thought.

I didn't mean to prove Ravi's point, so can you please explain how I did precisely?

Thanks

Lee

Lee said...

Hi wbmccarty

sorry: I incorrectly presumed that you believe in objective moral standards. Since you do not, I have a related question: Do you believe in objective truth?

Can you define them please… I honestly don’t know what ‘objective moral standards’ or ‘objective truth’ are.

I think I understand objective moral standards to be absolute morals – which I have stated I see no reason to believe in them.

Thanks

Lee

Brian said...

Lee. although some might just think absolute morals and objective moral values are pretty much the same, they are different, as I understand them.

Now, I almost want to ask what your definition of "absolute morals" would be, because Craig doesn't offer one (in his talk from the other day). But he does offer his definition of objective moral values here.

Objective moral values are "Moral values that are valid and binding whether anyone believes in them or not." I get the impression that "absolute morals," as you seem to be using the term, are taken as certain actions that are moral (or immoral) rather than values.

So, we could believe that there are certainly moral values that are objective (they are valid and binding whether anyone believes in them or not), yet the ACTION or the application of what one should do in response is not absolutely the same (absolute morals).

Yes, we may disagreement on what is moral or immoral... but the point is that everyone has a moral standard that they are appealing to.

Sorry to jump in on wbmccarty's interaction with you here; he may have a better explanation than I do.

Lee said...

Hi Brian

I almost want to ask what your definition of "absolute morals" would be

It isn’t for me to define – it’s not my claim.

My understanding though I get from speaking to Christians is that they are morals that cannot be changed and are ‘good’ by definition. They are the measure to all our standards so we might be able to say “This is good” and “This is bad”

Or something like that :-)

I think morals are subjective and relative – they change over time and for any given situation.

They are not therefore absolute in my view.

I admit I am still confused on the differences between Objective moral values and absolute moral values – at the core they seem the same.

Have to go

Lee

Leslie said...

Lee,

Ravi's point as I understood it is that every worldview has to give an answer for why there is evil/bad stuff in this world.

You proceeded to say that you do not have to explain the problem of evil.

But you followed that statement immediately with your explanation.

As soon as you did that, it seems to me that you both contradicted yourself (thus hurting your case) and helped Ravi's case by answering the question that he says everyone must answer.

wbmccarty said...

Lee,

By "objective truth" I mean truth that is true for all thinkers, as opposed to "relative truth" that is true for only some thinkers.

Does that help?

Lee said...

Hi Leslie,

Simple answer – No.

I have done nothing to explain absolute morals or the ‘evil’ in the world.

They do not exist in my view (or at least no one has presented a good argument for them that isn’t circular and tied in with their God)

I merely explained my position, not the former.

So I think you have just strawman-ed me :-)

Oh, and you didn't answer the simple question I gave. Only a good Christian can answer them - I cannot of course since I do not believe in your God.

Bad things happen, or at least things that I do not (or would not) enjoy and would want to happen to me. Nothing more.

The Christian runs from this, to ‘absolute morals’ which I cannot see the connection. This is for you to justify.

So I need a little more explanation from yourself rather than just your assertions.

You may be right, but just saying it doesn’t make it so

Lee

Lee said...

Hi wbmccarty

By "objective truth" I mean truth that is true for all thinkers, as opposed to "relative truth" that is true for only some thinkers.

If you are about to talk about the laws of logic - I've already done so on a previous post on this blog.

The 1st lesson Brian wrote about the laws of logic I seem to recall.

It's a long one, so I will not repeat it here.

Take care.

Lee

wbmccarty said...

Lee,

We seem to agree that the laws of logic--I have in mind in particular the law of noncontradiction--are objectively true. Our agreement on that point provides a necessary foundation for discussion of some of the issues you and others have raised.

To follow up on this point of agreement, would the laws of logic be the only form of objective truth? Are there not other rational or empirical claims that are objectively true? For instance, I suspect that you would agree that Obama is currently the U.S. President. Right?

Thomas said...

On the actually point of ‘evil’ - I was surprised how quickly Ravi fails to address my point, so I wonder why the link was provided?

Is it wrong to not address your point? :-) Okay seriously, the link was provided because it addresses atheism and morality. Remember, you didn’t say that you consider yourself a moral relativist until after I posted the link. Either way, the link raises issues that you would still need to think through.

‘Good’ and ‘evil’ as stated in the question would be merely relative terms in my view.

I have a hard time believing that you are actually a consistent moral relativist, Lee. It would be helpful if you expanded upon this.

For example, is torturing babies for fun relative? You may feel it’s wrong but the follow-up question is key in order for you to be a consistent moral relativist: Why do you feel torturing babies for fun is wrong? The answer to this question is key.

Is it relative if I force my morality on you? It certainly should be in your view but I’m sure it’s not. In other words, you probably feel like no one should force their morality on others. Again, the question is why? If morals really are relative to the individual, then what is the problem if I force my morality on you? Perhaps one of my moral imperatives is to push my views on others. On your view, how could I be wrong?

Is judging others based on race relative? Again, in your view it should be just fine for some people to practice racism and you should not interfere with their viewpoint. I’m guessing that you’d have a problem with that.

Case in point is the recent tragedy at the Holocaust museum where an individual (who believed that certain races are inferior) gunned down another man. On your view, why was he wrong? Did he violate the “hurt” principle? What is that based on?

Further, is it good to be a moral relativist? In other words, is that a morally good viewpoint to take in life?

One more key point on this: if you believe morals are relative because of evolution, wouldn’t rationality also have to be relative to the individual because of evolution? Both rationality and morality are immaterial components of humanity and in your view would both have had to evolve. It appears as though “wbmccarty” is taking you up on this point so I’ll defer to him/her.

If Ravi is talking about ‘absolutes’ then isn’t there is a hidden premise in the absolute morals that there is an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God?

I wouldn’t want to speak for Dr. Zacharias but I believe he is speaking about objective morals and wouldn’t necessarily use the term “absolute”. Brian’s post kind of covered that. I agree with Brian and see a difference between the two terms.

Arguments for absolute morals are dependent on a particular type of God – since I believe in neither, due to lack of logic or evidence, all the arguments seem rather circular on the matter.

Why is arguing in a circle wrong? Would it be objectively wrong or just relative to the individual?

Ravi has done nothing more than set a debating trap for the questioner... I don’t think I need to fall into it :-)

Would it be good or bad to fall for it? Just asking… :-) I’ll have to come back later and get to the rest of your post.

Thanks Lee!

Leslie said...

Lee,

"I have done nothing to explain absolute morals or the ‘evil’ in the world."

But that wasn't Ravi's point. I'm pretty sure he meant "evil" in the same sense of "bad stuff", thus the addition of the synonymous "suffering."

His point was that the problem of pain and bad things happening in the world is something everyone seeks to deal with. In other words, everyone at some point asks why event X happens (death, sickness, etc). Your answer is that we live in a natural universe which has no concern or purpose or any of that stuff, so sometimes life is just going to stink. That is still an attempt to explain why bad things occur - regardless of whether you consider these things objective, absolute, etc. In attempting to explain why certain things stink in life, you have proven Ravi's point.

Lee said...

Hi wbmccarty

I’m not great on logic – still trying to learn it.

So I will be happy to discuss the topic further if you like.

Any mistakes I make will make me understand the subject better.

would the laws of logic be the only form of objective truth?

I think 2+2 always equals 5, sorry 4 :-)
(There is an old physics joke on this, but I’ve not got time to share – it is sad anyway)

Also, you cannot have a married bachelor, or a male filly horse.

Deduction seems to work absolutely – however, it only tells you what you already know, so is pretty useless as well if you ask me in finding anything new :-)

For instance, I suspect that you would agree that Obama is currently the U.S. President. Right?

The last I heard – though news travels slow down here in Oz.

Take care

Lee

Lee said...

Hi Leslie,

In attempting to explain why certain things stink in life, you have proven Ravi's point.

Fair enough, though I like to think my explanation is better than his :-)

Lee said...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for you reply – you have written me a lot to respond to, so thanks again.

I will not have time to respond to much tonight, but I will post a little now – then more when I can.

Hope that is good with you (Get it, good?… never mind)

Remember, you didn’t say that you consider yourself a moral relativist until after I posted the link.

I honestly didn’t know I was until you just told me :-)

I have a hard time believing that you are actually a consistent moral relativist, Lee. It would be helpful if you expanded upon this.

I thought I did with my woman in the river analogy above?

I will expand on this example if you answer me this - If I see a woman fall in a river – is it morally my duty to try and save her? If not, why not?

What do the absolute moral standard have to say on the matter?

My point will be that we judge and evaluate our decision to see what is morally ‘best’ (?) for any given situation.

Best here would be defined as the one that causes the least harm/sadness, and tries to create the greatest good(i.e. feeling of happiness)


For example, is torturing babies for fun relative?

Is sticking a metal needle into a baby that will cause them pain right or wrong?

It depends on the situation… if it was just a sewing needle – that would be wrong. It just causes pain without any benefit

If it was a medical needle to give the baby an injection – that would be good. Small pain for the proven greater good

Why do you feel torturing babies for fun is wrong? The answer to this question is key.

I personally do not like to feel pain. When I see a fellow human, I assume they also think and feel like me – and also do not like to feel pain.

Causing unnecessary pain is bad… i.e. wrong.

What more do I need to say?

Time is up

I will return…

Lee

Thomas said...

Lee,
Thanks for you reply – you have written me a lot to respond to, so thanks again.

Yeah, I know…bad habit. Sometimes I have to stop myself because I’m just not good at being succinct.

Hope that is good with you (Get it, good?… never mind)

I’m good with that :-) I may be going out of town tomorrow so I may miss your post but I’ll try to get to it in a couple days.

I will expand on this example if you answer me this - If I see a woman fall in a river – is it morally my duty to try and save her? If not, why not?

What do the absolute moral standard have to say on the matter?


The objective moral standard would be something like this: Since I believe that all humans have objective value (an objective moral), I will do all I can to save her life because she has value and is made in the image of God.

Hypothetical moral situations are always tricky though. For example, are there other people there that are better swimmers than I (because I’m terrible!)? Could we throw her a rope? Is it better to call the paramedics? Would they get there in time to save her with a helicopter rescue?

Any one of these solutions would work as long as I’m doing my part and doing my best to save her with the abilities that I have. I do this because humans have objective value (that’s the key principle). Notice that the solution to this scenario could vary quite a bit depending on the situation. The solution does not have to be absolutely the same every time but the objective moral principle (humans are valuable) would remain unchanged. This is what Brian wrote about above, I think.

That’s part of the reason why I refer to them as objective standards (i.e. humans have objective value and are worth preserving) and not absolute standards (i.e. I must always jump in the water in this situation absolutely every time regardless). Does that show the difference?

My point will be that we judge and evaluate our decision to see what is morally ‘best’ (?) for any given situation.

This is where I see the problem of your view. There is no morally “best” situation if morals are relative to the individual (how could you possibly know what’s best?). I’m sure you would try to help but someone else could simply feel that humans don’t have objective value and thus are worthless to try to save. On your view, why would someone who felt that way be wrong? In you view, they’re not wrong; they just have different moral preferences.

Best here would be defined as the one that causes the least harm/sadness, and tries to create the greatest good(i.e. feeling of happiness)

Lee, this is exactly what I was trying to get at earlier (except I probably used too many words to get there!). Why is causing the least harm/sadness “good”? Why is that a good thing? It seems that while you try to reject objective morals, you are invoking one right here: “don’t hurt others”.

In your view, you may feel its good but I don’t have to feel that way. My view of harm/sadness could be the complete opposite of you if there is no objective standard. And the scary part is you can’t say I’m wrong.

Thomas said...

Lee,
I told you I couldn’t be succinct!

Is sticking a metal needle into a baby that will cause them pain right or wrong?

This scenario better describes my viewpoint. There is an objective standard that I appeal to (and now you are appealing to it too!). Sticking a needle into a baby purely for entertainment is objectively wrong. Sticking a needle into a baby for a medicinal need is not objectively wrong.

This example proves my position, not yours. Again, what is wrong with harming an innocent baby in your viewpoint?

Causing unnecessary pain is bad… i.e. wrong.

Why is that wrong? Is it evil to cause unnecessary pain? How do you differentiate? You are appealing to an objective standard again…but that’s my view! I’ll share it with you though :-)

Again, you may feel it’s wrong but why do I have to feel it’s wrong? What if I enjoy pain and enjoy inflicting pain. On your view, why would I be wrong to do that to someone else?

I’ll have to stop here. Bottom line: you keep trying to tell me that morals are relative to the individual but then you keep invoking an objective moral standard. Set me straight on that confusion when you have the time. Thanks, Lee!

Lee said...

Hi Thomas,

Don’t worry about the length of your reply – I’m happy that you are addressing my points. It also means when I end up writing an essay you cannot complain :-)

I think your main point against my position is that you feel I am not able to say something is right or wrong with any ‘authority’.

Your claim seems to be that without an absolute standard torturing babies cannot be said to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Well, in a sense you are both right and wrong (must be a quantum thing)

I cannot say it is absolutely wrong (since this requires absolute standards which I see no reason in accepting), but I can still say it is wrong morally – as I have done and provided my reasons for doing so.

I do it based on personal experiences which I feel are felt by everyone.

So, you are not understanding my position when you say I am "appealing to an objective standard" - I am just appealing to a personal feeling, nothing more. It is subjective if anything. I hope you have the seem feelings and desires - that is all.

Of course, maybe my personal morals are all wrong and torturing babies is actually a good thing... my genes tell me it is wrong, I personally would not like it – so I am sticking to my guns on this one.

Now you want to say it is absolutely wrong – fine, now justify it. You want to get your morals from some 'outside source', then what is it, God? What happens when God changes His mind, or cannot God do that?

So where is it written, so to speak, and how did you come to this conclusion?

It isn’t written down anywhere but in our genes and laws (and not in the 10 commandments if I recall – funny that).

If you cannot justify it, just ‘feel’ it is wrong (or indeed wish it to be universally wrong) then really you are just like me... stuck with what we have.

We agree on certain things being ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ because we both have evolved down the same historical path and been raised in similar cultures – we both have feelings - that’s it.

If you were raised, what, 500 years ago in some South American country where the tribes thought it was a requirement of their gods that humans had to kill babies to ensure the sun comes up tomorrow – what would your absolute moral standard have to say back then?

Well, I say you don’t have any absolutes and you would have thought this to be fine, your gods cannot be wrong after all, and I suspect you would have also claimed that killing babies in this way was an absolute ‘must’ and therefore ‘right absolutely’

End of part I :-)

Lee said...

Part II

You mentioned racism and forcing ones morals onto others.

Racism is wrong – my position can be justified by my usual means - how I personally would like to be treated by others. Racism itself is also understandable (but still morally wrong) as it happens based on evolution and ‘in groups’/'out groups'.

I would not force my moral standards on anyone, I have no absolute moral standard to trick myself into thinking I am right – I might ‘educate’ others about my morals and hope they ‘convert’ (or indeed maybe change me) but that is different.

Now, for the Christian who believes in ‘absolutes’ – the game is different.

You would ‘absolutely know’ someone is committing an ‘absolute immoral act’ and so, I assume, wish to punish someone for that act (or at least stop them from committing the act in the first place).

The problem though is how do you justify this ‘absolute immorality’ in the first place (as I have asked before)?

I notice you have not addressed my question on what act God could commit that would be morally wrong, or (to make a little twist) If God commanded you to torture a baby would it be morally right?

It is important to know this – since you assume God is the basis of your absolute morals I think, the problem, as I see, is that it is a failed system. EVERYTHING God does the Christian will have to define as ‘good’. How do you get your morals from that?

Let’s take more down to Earth example – homosexuality.

Is it absolutely immoral? Yes/No?

If you say yes, can you justify it? If you think no, let’s think of another example...

How about eating humans? Same set of questions...

Oh, and here could be an interesting one... suicide. Absolutely Morally wrong? Yes/No?

If you find my examples poor, please answer why and maybe you could provide me with a list of absolutes immoral acts so I can check them against my list :-)

And as for the Holocaust museum shootings... awful, but I wonder why the man didn’t like Jews? Have you asked yourself that question?

Though I’m sure he wasn’t a good Christian :-)

As for circular logic and reasoning – if you don’t know why this is in error, then Google “fallacy circular reasoning”. I trust you were just being humorous on this point.

OK – that’s enough for one reply.

Take care, and I look forward to your answers to my moral questions – I hope you don’t dodge them, they are important I think to our discussions.

Lee

wbmccarty said...

Lee, I don't mean to ignore your reply. But others have taken a more direct path to the same destination to which my thinking would have lead :-)

To add one corollary point that rejoins the two lines of arguments. It seems to me that anyone who believes in objective truth, in contrast to subjective relativism, must also believe in objective morality. To state my case perhaps somewhat too succinctly, I will simply claim that humans have a moral obligation to seek and practice truth. Therefore objective morality seems to follow from a belief in objective truth.

Cheers,

Lee said...

Hi wbmccarty

But others have taken a more direct path to the same destination to which my thinking would have lead :-)

But are they right?

I can jump to a conclusion very quickly - doesn't mean I am correct.

humans have a moral obligation to seek and practice truth. Therefore objective morality seems to follow from a belief in objective truth.

What moral obligation and where does this come from?

You have just asserted your conclusions in this last reply

Thanks

Lee

wbmccarty said...

Lee,

You have just asserted your conclusions in this last reply.

I didn't intend presenting a formal argument. But, since you raise the point, is your concern with the form or with the content of my claim? That is, do you dispute the premise that humans are obligated to seek and practice truth?

Lee said...

do you dispute the premise that humans are obligated to seek and practice truth?

The word 'obligated' I take issue with, obligated to who?

It is as if you have a hidden premise lurking behind it :-)

Lee

wbmccarty said...

Lee,

I think you're making too much of the structure of my claims. I'm neither a logician nor the son of a logician :-)

Take a simple case. Suppose someone--that's your "who"--sold you a used car he knew to be a lemon. Certainly, you'd be upset that he'd done you wrong. But, do you have any way to account for the wrongness of his action? Isn't he merely observing nature's rule, survival of the fittest?

Cheers,

Lee said...

Hi wbmccarty

I'm neither a logician nor the son of a logician :-)

Me neither... so we are equal on that one.

Never taken a logic course (as I am sure Brian can confirm with the errors I make)

Take a simple case. Suppose someone--that's your "who"--sold you a used car he knew to be a lemon. Certainly, you'd be upset that he'd done you wrong. But, do you have any way to account for the wrongness of his action? Isn't he merely observing nature's rule, survival of the fittest?


This is a different example to your “obligated to seek and practice truth” but let’s see where it takes us.

Have you heard of “game theory”?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory

I think this addresses your question.

If the salesman only ever wants to sell me a car once, and I have no way of affecting his future sales then it seems the salesman was right – it would be to his advantage to sell me a ‘lemon’ (or some other fruit)

However, in the real world...

1. Most countries have laws to protect the customer from those bad transactions
2. I can affect his future sales. I would be down at his showroom everyday shouting at him that he sells rubbish cars – it would be hard for him to sell any more cars like that.
3. If I thought I had zero come back, I would not have purchased the car in the first place – the salesmen needs to build up trust – the only he can do this is that I trust I have some form of come back.

So, given the ‘real world’ example – it would be wrong for the salesman to sell me a lemon because
1. I would not buy any more cars from him
2. I would try my best to ensure no one else bought cars from him
3. the law of the land will protect me so I would get my money back or he would be fined.
4. the salesman would go out of business by doing wrong on a regular basis

Simple really :-)

No absolute morals required, no gods...

Lee

Thomas said...

Hi Lee,
Better late than never! Took me awhile to get back to you and I am sorry. Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts here and then I’ll perhaps have to graciously bow out of this discussion for now for the sake of time.

What you are saying is that morals have evolved and are just what humans feel are right or wrong. If so, morals are subjective and meaningless (i.e. rape is just what some people do). If a thing can’t be distinguished from its opposite then it is just meaningless.

You could not possibly argue with someone over rape, torture, cannibalism, people imposing moral values, etc. in any sort of meaningful way. Rape is just what some people do just like some people like coffee-flavored ice cream. This is what your position logically works out to and you aren’t able to consistently live like this which has been my point all along.

I can still say it [torturing babies] is wrong morally – as I have done and provided my reasons for doing so.

I’ve already demonstrated that your reasoning is flawed in previous posts. Arguing that there is some sort of “hurt principle” is contradictory to your position. You can’t say, “There are no objective morals” and then say “It’s not right to hurt someone else”. You defeat your position and it falls apart. Torturing babies is just what some people do just like some people like khaki shorts.

You must face the logical conclusion of your position: morals are actually meaningless. To argue otherwise would simply defeat your position.

I do it based on personal experiences which I feel are felt by everyone.

Why listen to them? Explain why you are morally obligated to listen to the majority. What if the majority built gas chambers and decided that one race is inferior to another?

my genes tell me it is wrong, I personally would not like it – so I am sticking to my guns on this one.

And if someone else’s genes feel that any behavior is right, you could in no way claim that they are wrong because in your viewpoint morals are meaningless.

Now you want to say it is absolutely wrong – fine, now justify it…What happens when God changes His mind, or cannot God do that? So where is it written, so to speak, and how did you come to this conclusion?

Lee, I’m beginning to think you’re not reading my posts :-) As I’ve already noted: objective is the key word and it’s objectively wrong to harm another human being because they are created in God’s image. That’s all over the Old and New Testaments. It’s really not that complicated. There’s no reason to redefine God as something he’s not (that would be known as a “category mistake” in logic!).

to be continued...

Thomas said...

(Part 2)
Lee,
If you were raised, what, 500 years ago in some South American country where the tribes thought it was a requirement of their gods that humans had to kill babies to ensure the sun comes up tomorrow – what would your absolute moral standard have to say back then?

Let me line up the many ways this argument fails:
1. It’s a “non-sequitur” fallacy: it doesn’t follow that because some people differ on moral viewpoints that therefore, objective moral values don’t exist. Objective morals don’t change even if people decide to change or not adhere to them.

2. On your viewpoint, you should be rejoicing that they did this because they felt it was right and you should have no problem if groups continue to do this even today.

3. This argument proves too much and actually supports my position. Let me explain:

Notice what this supposed tribe is doing: they are not randomly killing innocent children. They believed that it is noble to sacrifice few to save many. Sound familiar? For some reason, men and women in fatigues keep popping into my head :-)

Anyways, in order to preserve the most amount of life, they believed that the gods had to be appeased with sacrifices. However wrong their practices are, they are motivated by what they thought would preserve the most amount of life because life has objective value and it is noble to sacrifice few to save many.

To give another example: Hindu’s don’t eat cows. The rest of the world does (except for vegetarians I suppose). However, upon examination, one finds out that the reason Hindu’s don’t eat cows is because of their belief in reincarnation. To them, the cow might be grandma or grandpa. So in actuality, Hindu’s agree with us that it’s not alright to eat humans…ever. The underlying objective moral value (i.e. it’s not alright to eat humans) is still identical to ours but their justification differs. This proves objective moral values not relative moral values.

Racism itself is also understandable (but still morally wrong) as it happens based on evolution and ‘in groups’/'out groups'.

I completely agree with you that if there is no god and we evolved, then racism is actually natural for humans to practice and no different than a lion attacking a gazelle…it’s what they do. How sad that your position forces you to agree that racism is not actually wrong but needed in the evolutionary process!

There have been times throughout history when treating other races as inferior felt right by the majority. Therefore, since your position is that morality is felt individually and then decided by the majority, challenging this majority feeling would be immoral in society. Therefore, anyone who fights for moral reform such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or William Wilberforce would be immoral persons.

Further, you seem to be implying that morals have “improved” over time. This again defeats your position. For how could relative morals “improve”? This implies that there is some unchanging, objective standard by which you are measuring. You could not possibly know that you are increasing the quality of something unless you have an unchanging, objective standard.

to be continued again...sorry!

Thomas said...

(Part 3...last one!)

Lee,
I notice you have not addressed my question on what act God could commit that would be morally wrong, or (to make a little twist) If God commanded you to torture a baby would it be morally right?

I assure you it was merely an oversight; not a deliberate attempt to dodge your question. First, are you implying that I’m being unfair to you when I don’t address your questions? How does “unfairness” work if morals are relative? You are again defeating your position and demonstrating that one can’t be a consistent moral relativist.

Secondly, you are making a “category mistake”. You are essentially assigning a characteristic to God who could not possibly have that characteristic by definition. It would be like asking, “What color is morality?” One can’t assign the characteristic of color to something like morality because it could not possibly have that characteristic.

Let’s take more down to Earth example – homosexuality. Is it absolutely immoral? Yes/No?

If God exists, then homosexuality is objectively wrong because it distorts God’s intended purpose for human sexuality.

If you say yes, can you justify it?

All I would have to do is demonstrate that it is reasonable to believe that the Christian God exists, and then conclude that it is reasonable to conclude that homosexuality is objectively immoral.

In your view, homosexuality is right and wrong even though that would be a logical impossibility. In addition, you couldn’t be upset with me for personally “feeling” that homosexuality is wrong. One person feels its right; another feels it wrong. One person likes vanilla ice cream; another person likes chocolate ice cream. Morals are just our personal feelings, according to your view.

How about eating humans? Same set of questions...

If God exists, then eating humans is objectively wrong because it distorts the image of God (it would be an attack on God’s creation).

Oh, and here could be an interesting one... suicide. Absolutely Morally wrong? Yes/No?

Again, if God exists, then suicide is objectively wrong because it is murdering oneself and there are commands to not murder.

If you find my examples poor, please answer why and maybe you could provide me with a list of absolutes immoral acts so I can check them against my list :-)

I don’t find your examples poor, Lee. I just see no reason why you’d want to discuss them at any length of time given that they are meaningless things in your view. One person likes eating coffee ice cream another likes eating humans. They are both right in your view. I don’t suppose you debate the values of one ice cream over another on any forum or give that any serious thought :-)

Take care, and I look forward to your answers to my moral questions – I hope you don’t dodge them, they are important I think to our discussions.

To tag you back, here are some questions that you haven’t responded to yet:
1. Is it morally good to take the position that morals are relative? Is it morally bad to believe that morals are objective? You could not say that they are both right because that would be logically impossible plus it would defeat your position.

2. If you believe morals are relative because of evolution, wouldn’t rationality also have to be relative to the individual because of evolution? Both rationality and morality are immaterial components of humanity and in your view would both have had to evolve. Therefore, how could one be logically correct? However you argue this point, you defeat your position.

Regardless of whether you respond or not, I enjoyed the discussion, Lee. I look forward to having more sometime soon! Thanks!

Barbara said...

Lee, I haven't the time to read every post, so I hope that I am not restating a rather obvious consern:

In claiming that all morality is relative, aren't you demonstrating an absolute, of which you claim does not exist?

theoddamerican said...

I have been reading some of the post up at the top and it is funny that if there is even an assumption that killing babies or rape is wrong that there is a built in assumption that there is a good. You see, if someone is truly an Atheist and states that there is no truth, no morality or any foundation for this, then this individual has no right to even bring these situations up. We are subject to our nature and a man raping a woman is just passing his DNA on to become a more dominating part of the gene pool. If you kill a baby then you are merely asserting that the baby needed to be removed. There is no right and wrong so why even argue the point of right and wrong? For further reading check out The Modern Revolutionist by G. K. Chesterton

Chancey said...

Greetings all, I'm enjoying the post and find the kind debate quite refreshing compared to most. I'm encouraged by the non-combative atmosphere.

Specifically for Lee: Thank you for setting an example for me in the manner in which you present your arguments. I appreciate the humor thrown in here and there and the calm presentation of what you believe.

As a Christian and believer in objective morality I disagree on the basis in which you present most of them, but they are very tactfully and respectfully presented.

Rather than write an essay I would like to point you to a book entitled "The Reason for God" by a man named Tim Keller. I found it a very enlightening and intellectual read. One of the greatest arguments I have ever read for the existence of moral objectivity and also for the Christian faith. and yes I acknowledge my biased favoritism :) Can any of us truly escape it?

Thanks and I hope you can find the time to pick up the book. Also I would be glad to read anything you would recommend to a young, ignorant fundamentalist like myself. ;)

Jared said...

No absolute morality = Whoever has the biggest stick wins? If we are just products of chance then we are predetermined beings and THEREFORE have PERFECT justification before any court of law that would suppose otherwise yes? How can you say a suicide bomber is wrong and should be punished if he was FROM BIRTH D E S T I N E D to make such decisions. This is supposing that (and I AM supposing you to be an atheist) The brain is the sum total of our working being which means we are not independent of it which means we have no soul. (easily disproved, even a magnet the size of Uranus wouldn't hold to that if it were made of pure ferris ore) What the hell am I talking about? The original problem of 'evil' that an Atheist faces. no matter HOW relative your terms are as SOON as you have a differing opinion with someone else you can NOT suppose with an atheistic background one to be more right than another. You would have to suppose somehow that REASON was a cognitive part of the survival process, which is IS NOT. Ding dong. Oh and uh, how does one 'reason' without a 'self' or consciousness? Absurd :)

Lee said...

Hi Jared

No absolute morality = Whoever has the biggest stick wins?

How do you know what this 'absolute morality' is?

Could you please explain how you came to discover what was 'right' and what was 'wrong'?

I have no stick, but I think we could come close to agreeing what is 'right' and what is 'wrong'

How do you think we can do that?

Lee

Jeff said...

If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true , but rather because of a series of chemical reactions… … Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.
- Douglas Wilson

Jeff said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2Flgdwlqz0&feature=related

Lee said...

Hi Jeff,

Care to defend what you just cut and pasted?

Lee

Kent said...

To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, "I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge" --Ravi Zacharias

jamie said...

Lee,
How about re-reading Thomas' replay (the 3 pager), and reply to it please... You completely dodged one of the only serious arguements I've seen on this blog. His grievances remain unaddressed. Not very fair to go on and continue to pick on easier targets and avoid the tougher ones...

jamie

Lee said...

Hi Jamie,

You completely dodged one of the only serious arguements I've seen on this blog

Sorry about that, I honestly missed that reply - I guess I planned to come back to the response but forgot and never got back. Or whatever...

Looking back, it was a rather long reply from Thomas (and it was over a year ago now). It will take me time to catch up and to reply.

Was there any particular point/s you want me to address?

Please post/copy them here and I will get back to them.

Thanks

Lee

Lee said...

Hi Chancey,

Thank you for your kind words... it seems I have missed many posts on this thread.

You asked for a book to read... from the top of my head.

I would recommend

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman

See you around.

Lee

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. By posting your comment you are agreeing to the comment policy.

Blog Archive

Amz