Friday, February 17, 2012

Article: Ghosts for the Atheists by Robert Velarde

While doing some research recently I stumbled upon an article entitled Ghosts for the Atheists by Robert Velarde, author of numerous books, including Conversations with C.S. Lewis which is recommended by scholars such as Doug Groothuis and Peter Kreeft.

In the article, Velarde writes:

"In the world of the occult or paranormal, a haunting refers to a recurring manifestation of a ghost, usually at a particular location such as a home or other building. Haunting can also mean to disturb or bother the sensibilities or mind. It is in the second sense that this article will provide “ghosts” for the atheist, not as occult phenomena, but as apologetic arguments intended to nudge atheists from their worldview in the direction of Christian theism by weaving cognitive tensions in the fabric of their view of reality. These tensions can fester, bothering atheists because their worldview becomes haunted by ideas that favor the existence of God."

He goes on to list 10 of these so-called "Ghosts." You can find out what they are
here. The PDF is here.

I encourage our readers to check out this excellent article.

After all, I did...because "I ain't afraid of no ghost!" Sorry...I couldn't resist!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

29 comments:

Geoffrey Charles said...

Interesting thoughts.

As an agnostic, here are my quick answers to each.

1. I don't know what caused the big bang, but I know not to believe in a God of the gaps.

2. I don't know if the universe was designed for life, but I know life adapts to it's environment.

3. Morality describes certain actions that objectively affect the well being of individuals and groups of living things.

4. Aversion to suffering stems from a desire to biologically thrive, which is objective.

5. According to cognitive science, intelligent people (Christians, atheists, etc.) are good at rationalizing what they believe.

6. Meaning can be found in the "merely real," even if it's finite.

7. Apparently we've discovered truth is objective, and are slowly figuring out how to discover truth.

8. Biological variation, statistical expectation.

9. I don't think "the New Testament Gospels are accurate accounts of His life," but I do think the character in the Gospels was a significant Jewish figure of his day.

10. I am grateful for all the proven good done by Christianity, but not the unproven dogma.

Chase said...

Hello again Geoffrey. It is good to see you on the blog again.

You wrote:

"Morality describes certain actions that objectively affect the well being of individuals and groups of living things."

Correct me if I am wrong, I understand this to mean that morality is the process of evaluating actions and assigning a descriptor to them.

For example, the action of me getting flowers for my beautiful wife objectively results in happiness (well being) for both us. In this instance, morality allows us to ascribe the definition "love" to the
action I performed.

It seems this process only looks at the surface however, for I could
just be getting the flowers to get my wife to stop nagging me for a
day or two. It is not a very effective evaluation system for that is not love at all. Note: My wife does not nag me!

Another example:

A father of four waits in line for hours to get a new game console for
his children. The doors of the store open and he rushes in with all the other shoppers, but to no avail. All of the consoles are gone. He then proceeds to beat a fellow shopper to a plup in order to get the console. He returns home with the console and the family enjoys the console for a few years. What descriptor does morality allow us to
assign to this action?

The process is subjective and therefore flawed and ends up making
morality meaningless.

You also wrote:

"Aversion to suffering stems from a desire to biologically thrive,
which is objective. "

Does this mean that our "aversion" to things like 9/11, rape, serial
killers, or the death of a loved one are programed responses? Would
this then mean that nothing can be labeled as "evil"?

I look forward to your responses.

God bless.

Chad said...

Hello Mr. Charles,

Thank you for visiting the blog once again and taking the time to comment.

I appreciate you taking the time to offer your brief responses to each of the points made in the article I highlighted in the post; however, I’m sure that you recognize that an assertion does not equal an argument. Further, setting up straw-men does little to aid one is answering the question that we should all be interested in- What is true?

I offer one example- You wrote: I don't know what caused the big bang, but I know not to believe in a God of the gaps.

Whether willfully or not, you have grossly misrepresented exactly what thinkers and philosophers are arguing when they postulate God as the best explanation.

We have addressed this before on the blog here.

As the article states:

…most sophisticated Christian theists don't engage in a god-of-the-gaps form of reasoning. Rather, Christian scholars appeal to God as an inference to the best explanation. In logic, this approach is known as abductive reasoning. Like inductive arguments, the abductive form of thinking yields only probable truth. Unlike induction, however, abductive arguments don't attempt to predict future possibilities. This careful thought process moves from the data, facts, evidence, and phenomena of the world to draw the most consistent and plausible explanation for these realities. This abductive form of logical reasoning is very similar to the way detectives, lawyers, historians, and scientists reason.

A brief example of this can be found here.

Finally, I end with a question- Are you an agnostic that is sincerely seeking God and can’t find Him or are you an agnostic because you don’t really want to know if there is a God?

If you are interested in discussing each of these arguments in more detail, please let me know.

Further, you may want to explore the blog as we have addressed many of these issues in the past.

Respectfully

Geoffrey Charles said...

Hi, Chase. It's a pleasure to be back :)

"It is not a very effective evaluation system for that is not love at all."

I would agree with your conclusion that that isn't love, so I'm not sure I agree thus far with your interpretation of my #3.

"The process is subjective and therefore flawed and ends up making morality meaningless. "

Yes, there's subjectivity involved in evaluating moral dilemmas, but there's also objectivity involved. And that's important. The father's actions had objective effects on the other shopper and his family members, even himself. Thus, if morality is tied to that objectivity, then morality has objectivity.

If we set out to measure that objectivity, i.e. The objective effects of the man's actions, then we might succeed or fail. Perhaps the sciences are not yet able to do so. However, that doesn't mean that the objectivity doesn't exist, but rather it's not fully known. Therefore, the full meaning of that objectivity is also unknown to us. So, I don't agree that because there's subjectivity involved (as I admitted at first) morality ends up "meaningless."

"Does this mean that our "aversion" to things like 9/11, rape, serial killers, or the death of a loved one are programed responses? "

It seems that the forces that drive biological evolution would be the culprit. And keep in mind that these forces, along with our aversions, are objective.

"Would this then mean that nothing can be labeled as "evil"?"

It depends on what you mean by evil.

When I was a believer, I thought of "evil" as that which is contrary to the nature of God. Now, as an agnostic, I still find myself subconciously thinking of "evil" in that way.

In any case, 9/11 objectively affected the well-being of many people. If it greatly lessened the well-being of many people, could it be called "evil?"

Geoffrey Charles said...

Hello, Chad. Thanks for having me.

"assertion does not equal an argument "

I tried to assert things that I hold true, and that are held true by many believers, as well. So, without knowing whether you held those things true, I did so hoping that we'd find some common ground.

"I offer one example- You wrote: I don't know what caused the big bang, but I know not to believe in a God of the gaps."

This is my answer to the question posed in the article, "what caused the big bang?" not a representation of the arguments of other thinkers and philosophers.

Also, your links don't seem to work for me...

Regarding the Kalam Cosmological Argument, what do you think of my response to it? Here: http://geoffreycharles.blogspot.com/2011/06/does-god-exist-kalam-cosmological.html

"Are you an agnostic that is sincerely seeking God"

I'm sincerely seeking what is true, and trying to believe in that. I'd like to find more truth, and if that means finding out that God exists, then I want to believe that.

I want to change my mind to believe more truth.

Truth is good, yay truth!

Brian said...

In response to Mr. Charles answer to #1 ". I don't know what caused the big bang, but I know not to believe in a God of the gaps.":

The KCA merely shows the universe has a cause as opposed to the materialist view which states the universe is uncaused. Mr. Charles objection does not deny the conclusion of the KCA (actually it seems to confirm it.) The conclusion of the KCA is not “therefore God exists.” The KCA is best used in a cumulative case for the existence of God because once one has faced a “timeless”, “causeless”, “space-less” and “powerful” cause of the observable universe, the God hypothesis becomes far more plausible than it was on an uncaused-universe view. Most relevant here though: Simply because the KCA does not logically demand “God” as the cause, this hardly implies one “knows not to believe” God is the cause. That is an argument from ignorance of similar caliber to saying “God must be the cause.”

Chase said...

Geoffrey,

What you are describing reminds me of a process that takes place in government contracting. I am a buyer for the government and when proposals are received to provide a service the government requires a very thorough and standardized evaluation process must be in place to evaluate the proposals. Ranking standards are set (for example,“acceptable”, “good”, “marginal,” and so on) and the criteria that will result in an "acceptable" or a "good" and so on, is set as well. Then the proposals are evaluated to see where they rank.

In the same way, it sounds like what you are saying is that there is an objective ranking system in place to evaluate the actions of
people. However, we do not fully know the objective ranking system. If the objective ranking system is not fully known in a proposal
evaluation, there is no way the government can evaluate the proposals correctly. It is the same with morality. If we do not know what the objective ranking system is there is no way we can correctly determine what “well being” , as you call it, is. This just does not fit with reality. We know that there are certain actions that are wrong, bad,
evil, dispicable, averse, whatever you want to call them and certain
actions that are right, good, desirable, well being, whatever you want to call them.

Is the proposal evaluation system subjective? No. It is objective. Can the evaulators have a subjective view of what “acceptable”, “good”,“marginal”, and so on mean? Yes. But that is when the objective system is referred back to to avoid subjectivity and provide a correct label to a proposal. It is the same with determining morality. The evaulators of an action can have a subjective view of how to label the action. The objective standard must be referred back to to avoid this and to allow for the ability to ascribe a correct label of morality to the action.

So, I hold to my statement that the system of evaluating morality you described is flawed and makes morality meaningless.

Anyway, we both agree that there is an objective morality in place. We just disagree on whether or not it can be known and the source of it. It sounds like you think that “the forces that drive biological evolution” are the source. Please clarify what these forces are. I look forward to your response so we can continue our discussion.

Thanks for your cordiality!

Geoffrey Charles said...

Greetings, Brian.

"Simply because the KCA does not logically demand “God” as the cause, this hardly implies one “knows not to believe” God is the cause. "

I agree, and I'm not sure if you think that's what I said, so let me clarify. I said I know "not to believe a God of the gaps," which is to say, not to use an argument from ignorance. Ignorance should not lead one to say it was God or it was not.

"Mr. Charles objection does not deny the conclusion of the KCA (actually it seems to confirm it.) "

I should add, though, that I don't know whether it had a cause.

The first premise of the KCA, i.e. "whatever begins to exist had a cause," isn't something I think we know, at least to my understanding.

What "begins to exist?" If we say "the universe," then we're using an example with no comparison, because nothing "begins to exist" like "the universe" except for... well, "the universe." So how do we know it had a cause?

Instead of "the universe," if we say "eggs" begin to exist, then we're using an example of something that is a reformulation of pre-existing matter and energy. That's what eggs are. Now, eggs have a cause, which is, as far as we know, natural. In light of this, if we say "the universe began to exist," then we're implying it is a reformulation of pre-existing matter and energy that had a natural cause. But, that's not what KCA apologists mean, nor is it (to my knowledge) supported by science.

Therefore, I can't get past the first premise of the KCA.

Geoffrey Charles said...

Good evening, Chase.

The original article says "Whatever the atheist explanation, [morality] falls short of having ultimate and transcendent authority."

This is an interesting statement. What is "ultimate and transcendent authority?" Truth comes to mind. Reality. The way things are. That's ultimate and transcendent and authoritative.

The author also implied that on atheism, moral standards don't exist. And if that's truly the case, then this lack of moral standards is true. It is right. It's the way things are. Reality. It's ultimate and transcendent and authoritative.

"What you are describing reminds me of a process that takes place in government contracting."

This process does have some similarities. But I'm not saying we don't know anything about how to rank proposals and companies, I'm saying whether or not you know how to rank them, the companies you hire will have an objective effect on the well being of the government, the citizens, etc.

I think we do know how to rank some moral actions, but there's still stuff we don't know. But we've learned over time. Just like with evaluating proposals.

Let's say you didn't have a ranking system in your job, and nor did other governments. Over time, governments would hire companies and experience the objective effects of their choices. Some governments may go under, and some may thrive. Governments would learn from their choices, and determine a ranking system.

So too for morality. Over time, humanity has experienced the objective effects of it's choices. Some groups went under, and others thrived. But we're learning from our choices, and determining a ranking system for them.

So, as the government has learned the obvious signs of a bad company, humanity has learned the obvious signs of a bad action.

"If the objective ranking system is not fully known in a proposal evaluation, there is no way the government can evaluate the proposals correctly."

Correct, but I didn't mean to say we don't know anything about ranking moral actions.

For proposals, if the ranking system is partially known (and I would say that it actually is only partially known, because there are some things about a company that you just can't evaluate due to several factors), then the government could still make some good choices. But there will be tough calls sometimes. Under some circumstances, a normally good choice will turn out to produce undesireable effects, and vice versa. There will be proposals that could go either way, and decisions that seem to be highly subjective.

And likewise for morality. Though we don't fully know how to rank moral actions, we know enough to rank some actions as better than others at producing well being. But there are tough calls, and times when we don't know how to measure an action. Sometimes the effects of an action might be negligible. Whatever the case may be, this view of morality is not meaningless.

"you think that “the forces that drive biological evolution” are the source. Please clarify what these forces are."

I'm thinking about the physical laws that shape reality. The nature of the universe and everything in it (well-being, concious creatures, the effects of our actions, etc.) are defined by these laws.

Sometimes conversations about morality give me a headache! It's difficult to stay on the same page and not talk over somebody who has different ideas about morality.

cvaughn3946 said...

Hi Geoffrey,

In response to your comment-

“And likewise for morality. Though we don't fully know how to rank moral actions, we know enough to rank some actions as better than others at producing well being. But there are tough calls, and times when we don't know how to measure an action. Sometimes the effects of an action might be negligible. Whatever the case may be, this view of morality is not meaningless.”

I can see why conversations can lead to a headache. If one has a worldview that includes moral relativism, there can be no “right or wrong” answer since all moral views are equally good and everyone should be able to do what they want according to their point of view. You stated above “But there are tough calls, and times when we don’t know how to measure an action.” If one has a firm moral foundation based on a Moral Lawgiver, it’s seems quite clear how actions should be measured.

Chase said...

Hello again Geoffrey,

"The author also implied that on atheism, moral standards don't exist."

Velarde did not say moral standards do not exist under atheism, he said that moral standards setup under atheism have no "ultimate and transcendent authority." I will tie this in later.

First, I will sum up my understanding of our discussion so that we are on the same page. I agree it is difficult to stay on the same page. Please correct me if I am mistaken in my understanding of what you are saying:

1. The effects human actions cause, are objective. By objective you mean separate from humanity. They just are.

2. For the betterment of humanity, humans have set up a system to evaluate and assign a moral value to the effects caused by human actions and, therefore, to human actions.

3. Based on number 1, this assigned moral value is independent of the human action and the effects of that action. There is correlation, but not causation. The moral value assigned correlates with the human action and the effects of that action, but the moral value assigned was not caused by them. The moral value assigned was caused by human evaluation of the action and its effects. The human action and the effects of that action only have moral value because humans give them a moral value. This includes the evaluation system itself. It is an effect of human action and it only has moral value because humans assign moral value to it.

So, from all that you are saying (if I summed it up correctly) it sounds like the source of objective morality is not "the physical laws that shape reality," as you stated previously, but human experience. And in that case, it is not objective at all because human experience is subjective. Human experience is also not an ultimate and transcendent authority.

If the effects of our actions just are what they are as I conclude from what you are saying, it seems to me like this morality evaluation system is an illusion conjured up by us to make us feel as if we have control. Sure, humans assign a moral meaning to their actions and the effects of those actions, but it means nothing outside of humanity. So, it ultimately does not mean anything at all in reality.

It reminds me of Brian Regan when he jokes about how him and his siblings set up a "call" system since there were so many of them. "I call this chair" or "I call the front seat" for example. Then he went outside of his family home and found that the system does not work in the world. Here is a link to Brian on that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7jYtd53Hnk

Again, I look forward to your response.

Geoffrey Charles said...

Hi, cvaughn.

I'm not sure how much of my comments you've read, but I've said that the effects of actions are objective, and that we know some actions are right/wrong. My admission of some subjectivity and relativism does not do away with the objectivity I mentioned. Therefore, in my view, not all points of view are OK.

"If one has a firm moral foundation based on a Moral Lawgiver"

I agree, but don't think we know how to support such a foundation. How would you support it?

Geoffrey Charles said...

Hi, Chase.

"Velarde did not say..."

I said I thought he "implied," but my point was to show how the definitions of words we use in moral discussion, e.g. transcendent, ultimate, authority, are significant.

If for Velarde or you those words necessarily refer to the divine, and I consent to their use in conversations about morality without checking with the person what they mean, then we could easily begin to talk over one another.

"2. For the betterment of humanity, humans have set up a system to evaluate and assign a moral value to the effects caused by human actions and, therefore, to human actions."

Yes, eventually humans began to set up moral systems, but before this, the "evaluation" was done by natural selection.

For example, an animal that treats its young with care will generally be more likely to thrive in its environment than an animal that treats its young with violence and neglect.

Over time, evolution has built into us certain moral emotions and the ability to evaluate some actions and recognize whether or not they increase or decrease well being.

"3. Based on number 1, this assigned moral value..."

I'm not quite following #3, and I think it might help to use a different term for "moral values." Maybe something specific, such as "increased well-being, i.e. goodness." If we use that phrase, then your sentence, "this assigned [increased well-being, i.e. goodness] is independent of the human action and the effects of that action" seems incorrect because the "increased well-being, i.e. goodness" is dependent upon the human action, not independent.

Had certain actions not objectively increased our well being, then we all would not tend to label those actions as "good."

"The human action and the effects of that action only have [increased well-being, i.e. goodness] because humans give them [increased well-being, i.e. goodness]."

I think this modified sentence shows that we're not on the same page because I think it's wrong. Using my example of animals treating their young with care (i.e. a "good action"), humans have not decided that such an action will increase well-being. Such an action increases well-being, i.e. goodness regardless of what humans say. However, humans do tend to call such an action "good" because of the good effects of it.

I wont comment on the rest of your post because it's your conclusions that are based on a different understanding than my own. Hopefully we can get back on the same page.

Mariano said...

We oft seem to get in polemical trouble due to not defining terms. Consider, for example, that the term “morals / morality” is often used to mean various things from the identification of behaviors that are beneficial to absolute must principles and much in-between.
This may be of help:
“Morals,” by definition, are tentative, situational, relative, etc. as they refer to the “mores” which are merely descriptions of that which people do.
“Ethics,” by definition, are absolute, unchanging, universal, etc. as they refer to the “ethos” which are prescriptions of that which people should, ought do.
So, for example, where I live Native American’s and Spaniards often argue when a status of a Conquistador is to be raised. They argue because to one culture the Conquistador is a villain but to the other culture he is a hero.
On the moral level they disagree as it is relative to the culture whether the Conquistador is villainous or heroic.
However, on the ethical level they agree as both cultures condemn villainy and both cultures praise heroism.
Examples of this abound everywhere we look. Godless mechanistic evolutionary whatever you want to call it can certainly account for morality by this definition but not for universal ethics.

Chad said...

Hello Mr. Charles,

Thank you for the reply and we can agree that the search for truth is of utmost importance. I would further add that the sincere seeker of truth should always be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads even if that destination is uncomfortable.

I apologize for the links not working. You can find them here and here.

Finally, regarding your response to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, I plan on offering my thoughts via your blog post that you shared above asap.

Respectfully

Geoffrey Charles said...

@Mariano-

I see that your distinction could be helpful.

I was thinking about your claim "Godless mechanistic evolution can't account for universal ethics."

That's an interesting statement. If we grant that there are universal ethics, then perhaps those are akin to the laws of physics. For example, just as a dropped apple is certain to obey the law of gravity, so is an act of villainy certain to decrease human well-being.

A difference between these laws comes into the picture when you talk about obligation. The difference is that one isn't obligated by anyone to keep the laws of physics, whereas people are obligated to keeps laws of ethics. But obligated by whom?

Whether or not there's a God, we are sometimes obligated by other people to keep laws of ethics. Governments, families, and other groups make us keep laws of ethics. So, laws of ethics can be used to make "laws of the land."

We use laws of ethics to make "laws of the land" because we desire to thrive. That's how natural selection has shaped us.

In this case, a "law of the land" has the qualities of being both objective and transcendent (like a law of physics), but also inter-relational.

So in this sense, evolution can produce ethics.

Mariano said...

Geoffrey,
Thanks for the interaction friend.
That is odd, I would have thought that the case is the opposite: are obligated to keep the laws of physics but not obligated to keeps laws of ethics. I am obligated to experience entropy but not obligated to love.

In-groups and out-groups may benefit from ethics but and things such as the rules of the road may be imposed and enforced but I can break them all and if am not caught then I simply get away with it (perhaps I should stress that I do not want to get lost arguing about metaphors).

Now, as to how natural selection has shaped us, I agree 100% with Richard Dawkins when he states that in nature the selecting agent is simple and stark, it is the grim reaper. For all the fanciful talk of natural selection it boils down to just that: you drop over dead or you do not.
Natural selection does not care (if we may anthropomorphize) for ethics or even truth: it only cares for survival. We have been modeled equally via acts of love and brutality.

Now, you cannot claim that evolution can produce ethics just as it can produce law of physics because we do not know of evolution producing either. In fact, what we call the law of physics are merely describe our observations of phenomena and we actually have not idea whatsoever what they laws actually are.
What we are referring to as being ethics, on the evolutionary view, is 1) our interpretation of bio-sensory neural feedback, bio-chemical reactions within our gray matter and 2) actions which we consider mutually beneficial towards ensuring our collective survival.

However, as for 2) this begs the question as to why we should consider something to be ethical (or, good, right, beneficial, desirable, etc.) because it is mutually beneficial towards ensuring our collective survival. Why is that the premise (supposing that it is being put forth as the premise, that is).
For example, if humanity disappeared it would be of great benefit to the rest of the living beings on earth and to the earth itself.
Why is human survival the end all (or, beginning premise of ethics). This stinks of species-ism (an unjustifiable preference for one’s species).

This is the bottom line and key question, that of ultimate premise/foundation/basis.

cvaughn3946 said...

Geoffrey,

In response to your question:

"I agree, but don't think we know how to support such a foundation. How would you support it?"

My response would simply be to go back to the moral argument given in two recent posts on this blog (Peter Williams on 2/19 and Paul Copan on 2/25).

1.If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore God exists.

Both articles provide solid evidence to back what I support but here are two quotes that stick out to me:

"A command only makes sense when there are two minds involved, one giving the command and the one receiving it. If an objective moral law has the property of being a command that we receive, then there must be an objective, personal, moral commandander beyond individual or collective humanity."

-Francis J. Beckwith and Greg Koukl

Secondly,

"As Paul Copan explains, the moral argument urges that although "Belief in God isn't a requirment for being moral...the existance of a personal God is crucial for a coherent understanding of objective morality."

So anyone, including an atheist can "do the right thing" because they know objective morality. But the question is, how does their worldview explain where these morals came from. Ontologically, it can't be done.

I would also recommend William Lane Craig's four part study of the Moral Argument in his Defender Series which can be found on his Reasonable Faith website.

I've appreciated the opportunity to converse with you and read your interactions with others. Praying that you will indeed find truth in your search.

C.V.

Chase said...

Hello again Geoffrey,

You stated:

“Over time, evolution has built into us certain moral emotions and the ability to evaluate some actions and recognize whether or not they increase or decrease well being.”

What you have described above, and what you have been discussing previously, is a system of survival not a system of morality. Please explain to me why this system should be labeled morality when with every other species on the planet it is labeled survival. Do humans hold a special position in biological evolution? I thought biological evolution was not partial in dealing with species.

Finally, you have stated that there is objective morality. Please provide an objective moral and its grounding. Not how we came to discover it is objective, but why it is objective.

Again, I look forward to your response.

Chad said...

Fascinating discussion!  I won't be able to address everything that has been mentioned; however,  my goal in commenting is to hopefully clarify a few things.

Much of this discussion has centered around the how we have come to know what is “right” and what is “wrong.”  This is a fascinating epistemological discussion; however, my interest in this interaction [as Chase,, CV, and Mariano have mentioned] is more ontological.  That is, does theism [personal God] or atheism [no God] better ground or anchor objective moral values and duties?  Or, in other words, what is the foundation of these objective moral values?  It seems to me that all parties commenting agree that some things are objectively wrong.  When I say “objective” that is to say “independent of people's opinions.”  For example, it is objectively wrong to torture little babies for fun.  

It seems to me that naturalistic evolution or, as Mariano referred to it, “godless mechanistic evolution, proves inadequate to account for “universal ethics” that we all seem to agree upon.

How do rights and values emerge from valueless matter?  Surely matter has properties [shape, mass, color, texture, etc.], but moral value isn't one of them.  If God doesn't exist, human dignity, worth, and moral duty must have emerged from valueless processes.  From valuelessness, valuelessness comes. You don't get human dignity, worth, and obligation from a valueless, material world.  

Further, what about the is-ought problem?  How do we move from what is [the descriptive] to what ought to be [the prescriptive].  There are lots of “natural” phenomena with biological, survival-enhancing explanations that we intuitively know are profoundly wrong, however advantageous to creating progeny or “thriving.”

To be continued...

Chad said...

Continued...see, I told you it would be!


Contrast this with Theism.  God's existence makes excellent sense of objective morality or “universal ethics.” Rather than moving from valuelessness to value, the theist begins with value [God's good character] and ends with value, [divine-image-bearing humans with moral responsibility and rights].  God perfectly bridges the gap between “is” and “ought.” Further, this seems to be more consistent with our human experience.

Charles, I found this statement profound.  You said if we grant that there are universal ethics, then perhaps those are akin to the laws of physics. For example, just as a dropped apple is certain to obey the law of gravity, so is an act of villainy certain to decrease human well-being.

You are not the first person to compare the laws of physics to universal ethics or a moral law.  

However, there are key differences:

“There are parts of our human nature that operate according to…descriptive natural laws. If you tickle me, I will laugh. If either of us eats contaminated food, it will upset our stomachs. If we are dropped from a tall tower, we will plummet to the ground. These are the laws of physics and chemistry working on us, and we have no choice in the matter. On the other hand, there is a part of our human nature that is not descriptive but prescriptive. The simple proof of this is that moral norms and precepts, unlike natural laws, can be violated .None of these commandments would make any sense if we had no option. But there is more. When we humans invoke the language of morals-praising and blaming, approving and disapproving, applauding and scorning-we appeal to a shared standard of judgment external to ourselves. Let us call this standard the natural law or the moral law. If differs from the scientific laws of nature in that it tells us not what we do but what we ought to do. Consequently we are free to break these laws in a way that we are not free to violate the laws of gravity…as Carl Sagan puts it, ‘Nature…arranges things so that its prohibitions are impossible to transgress.“ {D’Souza,What‘s So Great about Christianity, p.228.)

On this view, humans beings do not determine right and wrong; we discover right and wrong.  

Prescriptions always have prescribers.

It seems to me that it is completely consistent to say that each human has rights and intrinsic value because they were created in the image of God. It seems to me to be completely inconsistent to say that humans have rights and intrinsic value because they originated from blind, meaningless, valueless, accidental processes.

As ethicist Richard Taylor has stated:

“The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God.  The words remain, but their meaning is gone.”

Godspeed

Geoffrey Charles said...

Hi, Mariano.

"I am obligated to experience entropy"

Your use of "obligation" is not like mine.

"if am not caught then I simply get away with it"

I agree, but such does not mean you're not obligated (using the dictionary definition here).

"we do not know of evolution producing either"

Well, it depends on your definition of "ethics," and I didn't say that evolution produced the laws of physics.

"ethics... is 1) our interpretation of bio-sensory neural feedback, bio-chemical reactions within our gray matter"

In one sense, *everything whatsoever* qualifies under this definition.

"2) actions which we consider mutually beneficial towards ensuring our collective survival."

I'm saying more than just "we consider mutually beneficial" but "objectively increase human well-being."

"why we should consider something to be ethical..."

Because that is the definition of "ethical" that I've been using.

"Why is that the premise"

What other definition of ethical would you propose?

Geoffrey Charles said...

Hi, cvaughn3946.

"A command only makes sense when..."

Agreed, but if, for example, there are no humans "commanding" or holding others accountable, then in what sense is a moral law still to be considered a command? Why? This is getting at the definition of "objective moral values," which is important to establish when using the moral argument for God.

"the existance of a personal God is crucial for a coherent understanding..."

Again, it depends on the definition of objective morality. If the definition is one that necessitates the existence of a personal God, then of course the aforementioned quote is true. But if the definition doesn't necessitate God, then the quote isn't true.

"how does their worldview explain..."

So far in the discussion, I've been using the definition "actions that objectively affect human well-being." I've added that we have moral emotions built into us by natural selection, science is learning to measure well-being objectively, humans desire to obligate one another to keep moral laws because of our desire to thrive, etc. None of this, as far as I know, necessitates the existence of a personal God.

"I've appreciated the opportunity to converse with you..."

Likewise, fellow commenter and fine Sir.

Geoffrey Charles said...

Hi, Chase. It's a lovely evening, I might add.

"...is a system of survival not a system of morality."

Yes, it's rooted in our evolutionary history when survival was of utmost importance, but it has grown to include additional considerations, e.g. increasing well-being, reducing suffering, in ways that don't result in immediate survival or death, but rather affect survival more distantly. And if (again) we define morality as concerning actions that affect human well-being, then what I've described above is both rooted in survival and describes morality.

"every other species on the planet it is labeled survival"

But we've been discovering that other social animals have recognized the importance of morality. Their morality is obviously not has advanced as our own because we're the most socially advanced species. And by advanced I mean how we communicate, interact, trade, govern, vote, educate, volunteer, etc etc. So, the morality of other species is still only generally concerned with survival.

"Please provide an objective moral and its grounding."

Baseless murder, because it objectively decreases human well-being regardless of human opinion.

How about you provide the same?

Chad said...

Hello all,

I ran across this post entitled "The Ontology of Morality" that I thought would prove instructive.

Check it out here: http://jwwartick.com/2012/02/27/ontology-moral-humanism/

Godspeed

Chase said...

Hi Geoffrey,

The majority of my responses are in parenthesizes within your statements from your most recent comment to me.

"...is a system of survival not a system of morality."

Yes, it's rooted in our evolutionary history when survival was of utmost importance (You are not denying what you have been describing is a system of survival), but it has grown to include additional considerations, e.g. increasing well-being, reducing suffering, in ways that don't result in immediate survival or death, but rather affect survival more distantly (Whether the actions result in survival in the present or survival in the future it is still a system of survival). And if...we define morality as concerning actions that affect human well-being, then what I've described above is both rooted in survival and describes morality (Why describe the system as morality when it is not morality? As you have stated it is "rooted in survival". Let's call the kettle black. The system is survival not morality. The system only has the label "morality" because humans prescribed that label to it. As you have pointed out, under biological evolution every action of a species is driven by survival. Morality does not exist under biological evolution. So, the human species is just like every other, for whether it survives or not does not matter. Again, if your worldview is correct, humans are putting a “morality mask” on this system of survival. In other words, “morality” in the entire scope of biological evolution does not mean anything objectively. It only has meaning subjectively to humans. Humans are just fooling themselves with this "morality" business).

"every other species on the planet it is labeled survival"

But we've been discovering that other social animals have recognized the importance of morality. Their morality is obviously not has advanced as our own because we're the most socially advanced species. And by advanced I mean how we communicate, interact, trade, govern, vote, educate, volunteer, etc etc. So, the morality of other species is still only generally concerned with survival. (So, regarding the list of human actions you have above, what else do those actions contribute to humanity besides its survival?)

"Please provide an objective moral and its grounding."

Baseless murder (First off, "baseless murder", does this mean there are circumstances in which murder has a basis?), because it objectively decreases human well-being regardless of human opinion (Under biological evolution, the only thing keeping me from being murdered is because it does not contribute to the survival of humanity. So what happens when it does contribute to the survival of humanity? I just answered the question I asked you above. Under your worldview, if you were asked the question, "Is murder right or wrong?" You can only say, "It depends on the circumstances").

How about you provide the same?

Sure, murder (not baseless murder, because under the Christian worldview there is no circumstance in which murder can have a basis), because it is the destruction of a human being made in the image of God and valued by God.

I think our conversation has run its course. You may have the last word if you like.

Again, I enjoyed it and found it very beneficial. I pray that you do find the Truth. He (Jesus; John 14:6) will be found if you are sincerely seeking.

God bless

Geoffrey Charles said...

"Morality does not exist under biological evolution."

It all hinges on your definition. I suppose I've redefined morality by calling it "actions that objectively affect the well-being of humans." I think we both agree that such a definition describes something that does exist under biological evolution.

I would guess that your definition of morality includes the more traditional notion of obligation to a supernatual or abstract entity that I find difficult to justify. The only obligation I know of is between humans, and the only objective part about it is how our actions affect our well-being.

I guess the next step would be for me to ask you to show me evidence of your definition of morality, but it seems this conversation has dwindled. It's up to you.

Toodles.

Chad said...

You can find a great debate on some of the topics being discussed here between Sam Harris and Dr. William Lane Craig here.

Godspeed

sue said...

aw comon, aren't atheists allowed to enjoy ghost stories around the campfire? it seems there are a few atheists out to lord over their definition upon the other atheists. some atheists believe in spirits - guess that has something to do with weird things that go on in the realm of physics. all i know is, the Lord Jesus is sovereign.