Archive for October, 2017

Dr. James A., PhD

Following yesterday’s article on the Trolley Car, we follow up with the other atheist who offered the following objections to the moral argument for the existence of God. Mind you, the presentation is quite childish, which follows the rhetoric of Richard Dawkins who encourages his followers to insult and mock Christians. As I’ll demonstrate, such an attitude is quite presumptuous given the utter vacuous nature of the following arguments.

Just to recap, the moral argument was stated in 2 ways: If God does not exist, objective moral duties and obligations do not exist. Objective moral duties and obligations exist. Therefore, God exists. And the second that a moral law implies a moral law Giver. If the premises of the first argument are true, then the conclusion necessarily follows. The arguments below from Tony Murphy did nothing to attack the premises of either argument.

  1. To start, Tony commits the fallacy of appeal to the stone. He gives no value for x or y so one can’t really determine what kind of argument he’s referring to because he can’t possibly claim that I gave no grounds for my argument given that he’s ignored the major and minor premises of the moral argument. His argument is a mere assertion that no argument was given because he disagrees with the conclusion. In fact, the rebuttal itself is “ex recto”.
  2. The second opening argument appeals to the stone as well, not to mention, is questing begging (asserting swaths of evidence without citing any, not that he even offered just what this swatch of evidence is supposed to support).
  3. In his argument against the terms “subjective” and “objective”, he is punting to the either/or verses the both/and system of logic, as well as the old arguments against the meaningfulness of language (although doesn’t specifically make that argument, it’s clearly implied by the silly semantic attack on the distinctions between these terms, and how they apply to moral arguments). First, I assume that Tony expects me to believe he’s making meaningful statements about the lack of meaningfulness of language, so that part of his argument is self-defeating. Secondly, in attempting to eliminate the existence of dichotomy by punting to both/and version of logic, he makes the fatal mistake of maintaining that this is the only correct view of morality. However, that creates its own dichotomy because he posits that either his view is correct to the exclusion of all others, or my view is correct. If his view is merely subjective, then there’s no reason for me or anyone else to take him seriously. If it’s objective, then it needs to provide an ontological explanation for its grounding.
  4. Empathy and Solidarity. First of all, his statement that “rules are the antithesis or morality. Real morality requires thought, and fixed rules prohibit thought” is sheer sophist nonsense. He assumes that there is a proper way to think in reaching the right conclusions which is itself, a RULE of thought that follows basic principles and rules of logic. Furthermore, this statement does nothing to explain the foundations of morality. It simply describes certain behaviors, and posits them as a ‘just so’ morality. Moreover, by assuming there is a “real” reality, there must be a “fake” or lesser morality. No foundation is offered as to how the difference was determined, so where exactly the mind hides while it waits for the standard to give him something to think about is a mystery.
  5. The ad hominem attack about what he knows today about our “idiot mythology” isn’t even worth addressing. The arguments used by atheists against the stoning of rebellious children in the Old Testament has been addressed thoroughly by Paul Copan in Is God A Moral Monster? so I won’t belabor the argument here. However, given that Tony never raised the issue of the Old Testament setting, God’s right to judge evil, nor any explanation at all as to what standard he is relying to determine that any act was evil to begin, this amounts to merely argumentum ad misericordiam.
  6. Morality is a simple contract, says Tony. What determines whether the person drafting the contract is right about his/her terms? Where there’s a social contract, there’s a social contract writer, and that writer must have had some premise on which to ground the rules for the society to live by. And just how does one go about determining which society’s contracts should be followed? Are these rules only right for that society, or are they binding on all people at all places and times? If they are only proper for our society, then aren’t we guilty of imposing our morality on Nazi Germany for condemning the murder of Jews? The majority of their culture “signed a contract” that tolerated and encouraged the murder of Jews (we’ll not mention Hitler’s argument from Darwinianism as to why Jews were an inferior race). Thus, on what basis does Tony condemn Nazi Germany? If culture decides its own morality, then the atheist can’t claim that the Nazis were objectively wrong.
  7. Moreover, the idea that we “rewrite and modify” the contract presumes that some transcendent standard exists outside of the herd. If moral obligations exist prior to the natural selection of these somehow crafted genes of morality, then evolution itself can’t serve as the explanation. “New situations” and “new understandings” are quite arbitrary given that the fittest of the culture could  simply decide that continued care of the elderly is a financial burden on the herd, so it’s best to just euthanize him. With no objective standard that transcends the herd that applies to all people in all situations and places and times, there’s no reason why such a decision can be deemed “evil” (in fact, it’s being practiced in Norway).

Tony also accused me of committing the fallacy of “affirming the consequent”. This argument, is itself, fallacious because affirming the consequent is a FORMAL fallacy that has to do with the rules of categorical syllogisms, and Tony is using it as an informal fallacy. Affirming the consequent does not apply when the minor and major premise of an argument have been distributed properly, and avoids other rule violations (such as 4 term fallacies). The premises being true (and he never offered any objections to the premises raised by the moral arguments), the conclusion NECESSARILY follows.

Atheism has no explanation for why I ought to be moral because it can not explain how moral duties and obligations obtain from an evolutionary foundation. They can explain past moral behavior in a descriptive manner, but they can’t offer a reason why I should be moral in the future. Atheism consistently confuses the explanation of morality in terms of knowing how people react and behave and describing their outward conduct (epistemology) with the question of where did morality come from (ontology)? What gave morality it’s “oughtness”?If evolution is the explanation, on what basis did evolution “know” that there would be a herd that would need moral guidance so much that an uncaused, undesigned set of morals would show up in the gene pool that just happened to have the effect of a conscious aversion to murder, albeit, without even knowing yet whether propagating the species was even a good thing to begin with, or why punishing humans for willfully murdering another human would be different from punishing dogs for raping other dogs. As William Lane Craig stated, “it’s as if nature knew we were coming”. Not only is evolutionary explanations for morality beyond credulity, it claims a supernatural clairvoyance about the needs of the future species which is why even Dawkins admits that the universe “appears” designed.

Unfortunately, I stopped watching the NFL given that they’ve turned a sport into a cesspool of immorality, and recently, an arena for politics. So I won’t be able to see Tony showing his “arse” on television, although I think we’ve all seen enough of it in his writings.

 

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For more on addressing the fallacious reasoning behind these social contracts, see Mark Linville’s, Moral Argument, Greg Koukl’s Relativism, Feet Planted Firmly In Midair, and J. Budziszewski, Is Morality Neutral?

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Dr. James A., PhD

In having a small Twitter debate with about 10 atheists, we discussed the foundations of morality (or rather, I discussed their foundations, the others punted to evolution). When I demonstrated that morality is not something that can be empirically tested and therefore can not fall under the umbrella of scientism, the Trolley Car Problem was raised to show that science can offer laboratory level evaluations of morality, and hence, there’s no need to posit God as the ontological foundation of morals because science can explain them through natural means.

However, that objection is somewhat of a red herring and a category fallacy. The argument was about the grounding of morality, not what dilemmas can be trumped-up by hypothetical scenarios. A laboratory may conduct experiments that observe behavior, but it can’t tell you how much a moral decision weighs, or what color thoughts are. It also can’t give you a scientific explanation as to why the scientist ought be honest in his interpretation of the data (perhaps deceiving people is the greater good because the population is too ignorant to understand the experts).

The reader can view the Wikipedia version of the Trolley Car Problem (since this was the reference cited by the atheist). It is called a “problem” because the solution appears to present an impossible conundrum that would demonstrate that there are no objective moral duties or obligations because nobody can point to a single set standard that would offer the right decision to make in the dilemma. However, there’s an enormous problem with this logic that serves to prove that objective moral duties and obligations actually do exist, and that the dilemma doesn’t serve as a valid rebuttal against objectivism (let alone as an objection against the grounding of morality).

First of all, whether the Trolley Car Problem attacks the grounding of morality is non sequitur. The dilemma merely shows that the expressions of morality, how they are implemented may be applied in different ways. But what’s overlooked is WHY this is even a dilemma in the first place! The dilemma actually presupposes that human life is valuable, and that regardless of what decisions CAN be made, the dilemma presupposes that some decision-whatever that may be- OUGHT to be made based upon some standard that saves the greatest amount of lives. Furthermore, it also presupposes that a decision that would result in the deliberate taking of a life would be objectively wrong in the event that killing one person to save another would be the “proper” choice. Any choice made is founded on the presupposition that human life has value. The dilemma does not posit that a person may make the wrong choice if the subject were a dog or porcupine. The dilemma is there because it is a HUMAN life at stake, which shows the innate recognition of the value of human life over animals. If a person were to pull the lever to save a wounded bird resulting in the death of children, we would conclude that person was insane.

 

The dilemma does nothing to refute that objective moral duties and obligations exists. Rather, it must presuppose them in order for this to even be accurately deemed a dilemma. If some transcendent standard of right and wrong does not exist, then why OUGHT I care who lives or dies in this dilemma? Perhaps the fat man is a serial killer and killing him would’ve been the right decision after all because it helps protect the species. But then again, why is protecting the species good in the first place?( The survival of the species presupposes that there is a good purpose for mankind, but even Richard Dawkins admits that evolution proves that we are made in a world that is purposeless. Even if these survival genes were naturally selected, how did natural selection know what would be good for the species in order to know how to craft the genes that would choose what is good? I digress.) Perhaps the serial killer only kills other sociopaths and in evolutionary concepts taken to their most logical conclusions, that helps propagate the species and is therefore a “good” thing. Atheists and evolutionists have no reasonable answers for why someone OUGHT to be moral, or why they SHOULD do what is right.

The Trolley Car Problem merely explains descriptions of different behaviors (or different possible behaviors), but this reduces morality to conduct, and that’s not the argument. It does not lead to a valid critique against the ontological foundations of morality, but rather, reinforces them. Thus, the Trolley Car Problem really isn’t a problem at all. It is merely a spin on the so-called problem of evil, which presupposes that there’s some standard of justice and righteousness that some action or inaction has deviated from. If there’s no God, objective moral duties and obligations do not exist. Objective moral duties and obligations exists, therefore, God exists. Where there’s a moral law, there’s a moral lawgiver, and this is a basic fact known to even the atheists that claim not to know so.

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I will address more on the difference between the order of knowing and being in part 2 of this as there is one more objection written by another critic in this same conversation. Atheists and evolutionists often confuse epistemology with ontology in arguing for the existence of morality, and that will be taken up in my next response.