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The argument from morality

By Atheist Rob, 01 September 2012 · 1,769 views

I am a fan of the radio program and podcast named Unbelievable on Premier Christian Radio in the UK. In that program Christians and non-Christians are debating various topics. In a recent episode there was a debate between two bloggers, one of which recently converted from atheism to Catholicism. The reason she gave for her conversion is the argument from morality (basically it says that without God there would be no objective morality but since there is, God must exist).

You could imagine that as an atheist, I do not find the argument very compelling but many atheists accept the existence of an objective morality, just not the need for God to exist because of it. I don't accept the existence of an objective morality and used the Unbelievable episode as a trigger to write a blog article about it. The article is at Blogspot and I would welcome Christian criticism on it. Please note that in the article I don't go out of my way to show respect for the god of Christianity so if you have little tolerance for criticism of God or Christianity, maybe it's not such a good idea to read the article, but if you do have some tolerance I would welcome your criticism.

Regards,
Rob




Hi Rob,

I enjoyed reading your blog. My comments below deal strictly with the ideas presented and are not intended to be personal or aggressive in any way. That said, I find several ironies in your article. The first of many being your desire to write it in the first place, the next one being that you came here to find feedback. Why should it matter what anyone here thinks about your worldview?

But, anyhoo...

In your first example regarding lying, I find it curious that you admit having an affair would be immoral (or at the very least have detrimental consequences) but lying to protect your wife's feelings would be better than telling her the truth which would hurt her feelings. I'm curious as to why she should have hurt feelings? Why have feelings at all? If your whole system is based on natural selection, as you say it is, then multiple affairs should be a virtue. It's curious that you should feel the need to lie about the affair. If there is no morality, why lie - can there even be a lie? The desire to lie is to protect yourself, not your wife. But why should you need protecting?

I'm sure you're familiar with the quote: hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Why should you desire to pretend you didn't have the affair under any circumstances? Why pretend to be virtuous when your desire is to be scurrilous? Why have the affair knowing it would hurt your wife? You appeal to an altruistic selfishness as the basis of your "non-morality," but in the example of the affair - it's your selfishness that has created the dilemma in the first place. This makes no sense.

Why stop the affair after it's started? Why should the affair be "detrimental" to anyone, especially you? Why is a broken marriage undesirable, especially since the affair apparently was desirable? All of these things imply "negative" consequences. But, apart from morality, there should only be consequences - period. How can you classify lying to protect your wife's feelings as better than telling the truth and hurting them? This requires a value judgement. Apart from morality, there should be no such thing as lying. Apart from morality, when your wife asks you if you've had an affair, your one and only response should be to report what actually happened. The desire to lie (and call it a lie) betrays the inherent flaw in your position. Selfishness always has negative impact - on others and on myself. But how can this be?

Example 2 is too silly to dwell on. Pain is irrelevant. Motive is the only issue, not circumstance. Nuff said.

In example 3, breaking the vase has nothing to do with circumstance either. If you are angry and break the vase, your desire is retributive/punitive - which requires judgementalism - which requires a value judgement. These are all presumptuous and arrogant. You have neither the right to require nor exact a price from the property owner. Here again, motive is the issue, not circumstance. The baby-vase-breaker scenario is silly as well, and makes no case whatsoever. But, why would the adult-vase-breaker even argue in the first place? If there is no right or wrong, why argue about anything? Why get angry? Why break a vase as a result of anger? None of this makes any sense apart from a notion of morality.

Torturing babies in example 4 is your worst defense of all. A person's mental state (circumstance) has nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of their actions. But again, notice the irony and hypocrisy in your argument - narcissism is selfishness! How can selfishness be the source of your morality and a "personality disorder" capable of torturing babies? Furthermore, your "natural selection" is based on survival of the fittest. Survival of the fittest necessarily involves life and death - predator and prey! Your system cannot condemn the baby torturer for doing what your system necessarily requires. And again, what right do you have to make a value judgement apart from morality? Why is torturing a baby "a danger to society"? Beyond that, why would your narcissist, or anyone for that matter, require a concept of "funny" in the first place? Funny implies a-muse-ment or the lack of serious meditation. Wouldn't that imply meaning? Why try to escape meaning? Hmmm...

Altruistic natural selection based on kinship?! Seriously...you're gonna go with that? Contemporary tribal cultures are fraught with wars, infighting and cannibalism - literally and figuratively. Ancient tribal cultures were no different - man has not improved - which also illustrates that your "natural selective survival of the fittest" notion produces only death not life - less not more. The moment you define "us" you exclude all others.

In short, circumstance, mental state, or opinion have nothing to do with the inherent value of an act. All things are predetermined - preloaded with meaning. This entire discussion would be impossible apart from predetermined meaning. The fact that you wrote down your "musings" is evidence of your desire to convey meaning. But how should you have thoughts in the first place? How can there even be meaning in the first place? And how can meaning be conveyed? How can it be received and processed by another? If there is no morality, if nothing is right or wrong, then there can be no meaning. Natural selection can only "select" from what already exists. It creates nothing, it only destroys what already is. If your system is based on any form of naturalism, it will collapse under its own insanity.

Blessings,
Bill

P.S. Why are our desires contrary to what we know is best for our survival? Naturalism cannot account for this.
Hi Bill,

thank you for your reply. Lend me a few days to create a proper response. If you don't mind I will write the response at the blogspot site and put a link to it here. I don't think this site is intended for theological debates, I explicitly requested permission to post a reference to my blog post here and am grateful for the permission, but I don't intend to push my opinions on the visitors of this site, it should be a pull :) I'll get back to this soon, promised!

Regards,
Rob

Hi Bill,thank you for your reply. Lend me a few days to create a proper response. If you don't mind I will write the response at the blogspot site and put a link to it here. I don't think this site is intended for theological debates, I explicitly requested permission to post a reference to my blog post here and am grateful for the permission, but I don't intend to push my opinions on the visitors of this site, it should be a pull :) I'll get back to this soon, promised!Regards,Rob


Hi Rob,
While this site is not primarily for theological debate, we do allow them in the blogs at this time so feel free to discuss here or post a link to your own blog.
Blessings,
Peter

P.S. I have read your blog and have not had time to formulate a response.... working on a lot of other research right now. I am not sure I could add a lot to what Bill said.

This quote by C.S. Lewis did come too mind after reading your blog and Bill's response:


‘If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.’

C.S. Lewis "The Business of Heaven"

Apart from a creator, even our thoughts are meaningless. Who is to judge what thought is better than another if they are just the result of a random chemical reaction in the brain? Who is to say that the random chemical reaction I just had is any better than yours?

If materialism/ atheism is true our thoughts are just random accidents and they are meaningless. What is the point of even discussing anything? Who is to say anything is right or wrong?
Thanks Peter. The quote of Lewis gives rise to the idea that naturalism implies randomness and this idea is wrong. Randomness is but a small part of natural processes. Gravity is a non-random process by which galaxies, stars and planets can form. In biology, drift is a random method for selection but natural and sexual selection most definitely are not. Even in chemistry not all atoms will react with all others which makes chemical processes far from purely random and this is the basis for how proteins work. Science doesn't tell us all about the processes that we call life, but is does tell us a lot and more is learned every day and most of what we learn should not be qualified as "an accident".

Regarding meaninglessness, could we limit the answer to "it has meaning to me"? I could go on a lot further about that (part of which I touched upon in my "why I became an atheist" blog post of 6 years ago) but that is so far removed from the argument from morality that it would derail the subject.
Your last question brings that subject back though. Like I tried to convey in my blog post, I think morality is subjective and as such is determined by each individual independently. Even though there will be some outliers who will try to abuse that, they are outside of the bulk of the bell curve and the sum total of all moral values will tend to the betterment of the society. Call it "group selection". I know there is a debate in evolutionary biology if group selection is a valid process or not, but the comparison is there.

Regards,
Rob

Thanks Peter. The quote of Lewis gives rise to the idea that naturalism implies randomness and this idea is wrong. Randomness is but a small part of natural processes. Gravity is a non-random process by which galaxies, stars and planets can form. In biology, drift is a random method for selection but natural and sexual selection most definitely are not. Even in chemistry not all atoms will react with all others which makes chemical processes far from purely random and this is the basis for how proteins work. Science doesn't tell us all about the processes that we call life, but is does tell us a lot and more is learned every day and most of what we learn should not be qualified as "an accident".Regarding meaninglessness, could we limit the answer to "it has meaning to me"? I could go on a lot further about that (part of which I touched upon in my "why I became an atheist" blog post of 6 years ago) but that is so far removed from the argument from morality that it would derail the subject.Your last question brings that subject back though. Like I tried to convey in my blog post, I think morality is subjective and as such is determined by each individual independently. Even though there will be some outliers who will try to abuse that, they are outside of the bulk of the bell curve and the sum total of all moral values will tend to the betterment of the society. Call it "group selection". I know there is a debate in evolutionary biology if group selection is a valid process or not, but the comparison is there.Regards,Rob


This is off topic, but I am curious to your thoughts about how natural selection working with living cells could produce conscious awareness so we are able to think, reason, and discuss the subjects we are discussing now? If it was able to produce beings such as us, then the mutations required to accomplish it were quite random and the fact that we can think and reason are the result of random chance processes.

I do not want to get into a creation/evolution debate here, but natural selection explains very little of the information we see in living organisms. It is simply not able to produce the vast quantities of information in our DNA no matter how much time is allowed.

We have to deal with the fact that we exist and that we do have the ability to think and reason. I will never comprehend why anything exists at all. Either "nothing" exploded and turned itself into what exists today, or matter is eternal, or a Being who exists independently of this creation created us. There are only 3 options, some would say only 2 options because not many believe matter is eternal these days.

Admittedly, I do not find the arguments about the existence of morality to be as compelling as the arguments from the Biblical text itself. I do agree with the argument, however.

Either our thoughts and moral values/choices are inconsequential because we all die and return to nothingness very soon after we are born, or they potentially have great importance if a creator exists which is involved with His creation.

Blessings,
Peter

This is off topic, but I am curious to your thoughts about how natural selection working with living cells could produce conscious awareness so we are able to think, reason, and discuss the subjects we are discussing now? If it was able to produce beings such as us, then the mutations required to accomplish it were quite random and the fact that we can think and reason are the result of random chance processes.


Consciousness is a complex subject and the jury is still out there regarding many of it's sub-disciplines. Still, the preliminary scientific consensus is that there is a hard dependency between mind and brain. From a psychological perspective, much research has been done by Dr. Susan Blackmore and from a neurological perspective, much research has been done by people like Dr. V.S. Ramachandran. The latter has shown that brain defects have a direct result in behavior that we generally link to consciousness. Examples here are the Phineas Gage accident and Alien Hand Syndrome in split-brain patients. If consciousness is the product of a physical brain, I see no reason why evolution cannot explain it. We have an evolutionary advantage in this regard compared to other ape species but we pay a steep price for it in energy consumption (the brain constitutes around 2% of the body weight but consumes around 25% of the total body energy). What would prevent natural selection to produce something like a brain?

I do not want to get into a creation/evolution debate here, but natural selection explains very little of the information we see in living organisms. It is simply not able to produce the vast quantities of information in our DNA no matter how much time is allowed.


What do you mean by "information"? Kolmogorov complexity? If you mean that DNA is used as a "blueprint" and that "information" cannot be created by a "random process", think of the following scenario. You have a gene that codes for protein X. Now a mutation changes a nucleotide in the first codon from C to G by which it becomes a stop codon. The body would no longer produce the protein. Do you consider this "loss of information"? Now given that situation, a next mutation changes the G back to a C. Is that or is that not a gain in information? I see absolutely no problem in mutations followed by natural selection to create information in DNA. We even have a superb example of this: nylon eating bacteria.

We have to deal with the fact that we exist and that we do have the ability to think and reason. I will never comprehend why anything exists at all. Either "nothing" exploded and turned itself into what exists today, or matter is eternal, or a Being who exists independently of this creation created us. There are only 3 options, some would say only 2 options because not many believe matter is eternal these days.


Regarding "nothing exploding", read Lawrence Krauss' book "A Universe from Nothing". Regarding matter being eternal, I subscribe to that, even as someone who accepts the Big Bang cosmology. Time is relative. If you reach the event horizon of a black hole, your time stops. Literally. That means that you actually never fall "into" the black hole. This is a hard concept to wrap your mind around since time is such an integral part of our thinking. But the bottom line is, there is no "before" the Big Bang, since time itself started with the Big Bang. Talking about "before" the Big Bang or the "cause" of the Big Bang (which requires temporal preceding) is as illogical as asking what happens to metal at -315°C.

Admittedly, I do not find the arguments about the existence of morality to be as compelling as the arguments from the Biblical text itself. I do agree with the argument, however.Either our thoughts and moral values/choices are inconsequential because we all die and return to nothingness very soon after we are born, or they potentially have great importance if a creator exists which is involved with His creation.Blessings,Peter


This is a rewording of Pascal's Wager. Do you feel the same importance regarding the Norse Pantheon? You really do NOT want to end up in Niflheim, it's extremely cold for all eternity... I hope you can understand that you wave away this example as "silly" without the slightest fear of being wrong. I have the same idea about the Christian Hell (admittedly, I did not during the first stages of my deconversion and it caused many sleepless nights). But let's say that I could take Blaise Pascal up on his wager. I do not believe that the god of Christianity exists just as much as you don't believe the Norse god Odin exists. But if he did and I would confess believe in him, I would fake it and he would know that (being omniscient and all). If you, given your current worldview, would confess believe in Odin just to be on the safe side of Niflheim, you would also fake it. Believe is not a choice, it's being personally convinced. Pascal's wager just does not work.

Regards,
Rob

What would prevent natural selection to produce something like a brain?What do you mean by "information"? Kolmogorov complexity? If you mean that DNA is used as a "blueprint" and that "information" cannot be created by a "random process", think of the following scenario. You have a gene that codes for protein X. Now a mutation changes a nucleotide in the first codon from C to G by which it becomes a stop codon. The body would no longer produce the protein. Do you consider this "loss of information"? Now given that situation, a next mutation changes the G back to a C. Is that or is that not a gain in information? I see absolutely no problem in mutations followed by natural selection to create information in DNA. We even have a superb example of this: nylon eating bacteria.



What I mean in regards to the information in DNA, would be the information required for the 1st life form that was capable of reproducing. Many pieces are required to work together to have life. DNA is required to create many of those pieces. To get life, all of the pieces (DNA, RNA, cell membrane, protiens, ect…) would have to appear at the same time indenpendently and somewho come together. The DNA would have to by chance have the right sequencing to be able to support life. This is such an overwhelming hurdle, that honest scientists have positing that aliens planted life here. This just relocates the problem.

Natural selection as a mechanism explains very little. It explains some variation within a species, but not the evolution of a species. I am sure you have heard of the concept of “irreducible complexity.” Functional changes that would actually increase in the survivability of a species so that they were more likely to reproduce and get passed on generally would require many, many mutatations to appear simultaneously. The individual mutations that would occur would in most cases provide no functional change, so they would not be any more likely to get passed on and “selected” by natural selection. There is really no good answer to this problem. Admittedly, I have not looked into recent scientific rebuttles to this concept. However, natural selection by itself as a mechanism is not able to explain the kind of change we are talking about when we are referring to the evolution of the species.

This is a rewording of Pascal's Wager. Do you feel the same importance regarding the Norse Pantheon? You really do NOT want to end up in Niflheim, it's extremely cold for all eternity... I hope you can understand that you wave away this example as "silly" without the slightest fear of being wrong. I have the same idea about the Christian Hell (admittedly, I did not during the first stages of my deconversion and it caused many sleepless nights). But let's say that I could take Blaise Pascal up on his wager. I do not believe that the god of Christianity exists just as much as you don't believe the Norse god Odin exists. But if he did and I would confess believe in him, I would fake it and he would know that (being omniscient and all). If you, given your current worldview, would confess believe in Odin just to be on the safe side of Niflheim, you would also fake it. Believe is not a choice, it's being personally convinced. Pascal's wager just does not work.Regards,Rob



The Christian hell is a difficult thing to accept for me as well. It is something I have to accept because I believe in the claims of Jesus and the claims that the apostles made about Him. He taught about hell, so I have to accept it.

I believe in the Christian God over all others because it is completely different than all other religions in regards to evidence. I do not need to believe in other God’s just in case because the evidence for the Christian God is overwhelming to me and He claims to be the only God. Most other religions/Gods are based on the testimony of one individual claiming to get revelation from God.

I believe in Christianity because it is supported by multiple eye witnesses who claimed to see the miracles and the resurection. They were wiling to die for what the believed. If they were making these things up, then they were willing to die for what they knew was a lie. Not one of the apostles as far as we know admitted to making these things up.

I also believe because of the prophecies concerning the 1st advent of the Messiah.
Why would David write a Psalm where that talks about his hands and feet being pierced, being able to count all his bones, and having his gaments divded and lots cast for his clothing? What would cause him to say such things?

Why would Isaiah write about a man who was despised and rejected, who would be wounded for his and other’s transgressions, who would heal by his stripes, who would bear the iniquity of us all, who would not open his mouth when he was afflicted, who would be led as a lamb to the slaugher and not open His mouth, who would burried with thr rich, but died with the wicked ect., ect, ect… Why would such a man even enter in the mind of the prophet?

Whe woud Daniel prophecy that there would be 483 weeks of years from the command to rebuild and restore Jerusalem until the Messiah and that prophecy that this same Messiah would be “cut off” after he appeared?

Many other examples could be given, as I know you know. The question is not just whether or not one man fulfilled all these ancient prophecies, but it is also why what would cause all these men to even write things such as these? Why would these thoughts even enter their mind?

The typology in the Old Testament also overwhelms me. Where would Moses get the idea to put a brass serpent on top of a pole and have the Israelites be healed by looking at the brass serpent? Why would the Israelites be passed over through the shedding of the blood of a lamb? Why would Moses write a story concerning Abraham where God asks him to sacrifice his only son? There are so many examples that could be listed. It might make sense for a couple of these types to appear by coincidence in the Old Testament, but I could go and and on with strange stories that make no sense, unless they were planned by God to be a model of the coming Messiah.

The weight of the evidence from prophecy and typology is too me the greatest evidence that the God of the Bible is the true and living God. “Remember the former things of ald, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all my pleasure,’” Isa 46:9-10

I am also amazed at the character and teaching of Jesus. I do not think the apostles could have even come up with such a man if He did not exist. They would have no model to have copied from. His teaching and character are completely unique He is beyond comparison to anyone who has ever lived.

This is just a quick brain dump on my lunch break of a few reasons why I choose to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and why I do not feel the need to believe in other God’s just to be on the safe side.

Blessings,
Peter

Hi Rob,I enjoyed reading your blog. My comments below deal strictly with the ideas presented and are not intended to be personal or aggressive in any way. That said, I find several ironies in your article. The first of many being your desire to write it in the first place, the next one being that you came here to find feedback. Why should it matter what anyone here thinks about your worldview?


Hi Bill, thank you for the reply. I will try to give you at least the same courtesy that you've given me.
On my blog page I have an article describing my deconversion. I was a lukewarm Christian with little interest in the religion. It is through study that my interest awakened but it is the same that triggered my deconversion. I read the bible from cover to cover for the first time after losing my religion and I find it fascinating. I do not, however, believe it's true. Actually, reading is a bit of an understatement because tools like e-Sword and MySword enabled me to make make comparisons, fall back to Strong's dictionary, the KJV concordance and the ISBE encyclopedia and take notes. That said, I think you can only truly test your worldview if you have it picked apart by an opposing view. Why am I here? This site is a great resource for bible tools and I consider it a two-way street. I've contributed a bit to this site and will do so again, even if I disagree with the theological and epistemological view of the vast majority of its visitors.


But, anyhoo...In your first example regarding lying, I find it curious that you admit having an affair would be immoral (or at the very least have detrimental consequences) but lying to protect your wife's feelings would be better than telling her the truth which would hurt her feelings. I'm curious as to why she should have hurt feelings? Why have feelings at all?


I was afraid that this example would be misunderstood. I think I made it clear that having the affair would constitute an immoral act, but I separated the lie from the affair. That's why I said that the affair had ended, so lying or telling the truth would not be of significance to the affair itself. I want the morality of the lie to be judged by itself. On one hand I can use the lie to skip punishment (which could be deemed immoral) but on the other hand it could be said that telling the truth would hurt my wife and/or children on many levels. That's why I consider the morality ambiguous, I don't consider the affair moral or ambiguous at all.

If your whole system is based on natural selection, as you say it is, then multiple affairs should be a virtue. It's curious that you should feel the need to lie about the affair. If there is no morality, why lie - can there even be a lie? The desire to lie is to protect yourself, not your wife.


Where have I stated that there is no morality? I just don't believe in an objective morality. Secondly, why conclude that the desire is to protect myself? For this hypothetical I state that the lie is to protect my wife. Is it then still immoral? Thirdly, natural selection is a description of one of the mechanisms of evolution. Its not a prescription of what should be done according to my worldview.

But why should you need protecting?I'm sure you're familiar with the quote: hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.


Sorry, I'm not. English is not my native language and via google I got an impression of what it means, but I'm still not too sure.


... You appeal to an altruistic selfishness as the basis of your "non-morality," but in the example of the affair - it's your selfishness that has created the dilemma in the first place. ...


The affair is not the issue I am discussing in the article. It is the lie and only the lie that I'm evaluating. The affair is a necessary circumstance to make it clear that the lie can serve two purposes, one of which can safely be deemed immoral and the other one maybe less so. And since you seem the have some trouble understanding that this is a hypothetical, let me make it crystal clear for you. I would consider it an immoral act if I would have an affair. Not because I think that sex between consenting adults is wrong, but because we made each other a promise not to do it. Also from my selfish and reciprocal moral worldview I will not do it because I have a lot more to lose than the minor gain of half an hour of fun. But the act of sex outside of marriage in cases where all parties have given consent, I see nothing wrong with. Polyamory however is definitely wrong. It should either be multiamory or polyfilia, but mixing Greek and Latin like that is just wrong... (sorry, couldn't resist :) ) One more clarification of the selfishness of my moral worldview, I do not consider it a goal, I consider it a heuristic. Reciprocity conveys an inherent selfishness and is practiced all around, I dare to say by you as well.


<snip> But, apart from morality, there should only be consequences - period. How can you classify lying to protect your wife's feelings as better than telling the truth and hurting them? This requires a value judgement. Apart from morality, there should be no such thing as lying. Apart from morality, when your wife asks you if you've had an affair, your one and only response should be to report what actually happened. The desire to lie (and call it a lie) betrays the inherent flaw in your position.


So tell me, is lying morally wrong in case of the example of the violent husband? Why or why not?

Example 2 is too silly to dwell on. Pain is irrelevant. Motive is the only issue, not circumstance. Nuff said.


So again I ask you. Is the motivation of the surgeon to inflict pain on you immoral? Again, why or why not?

In example 3, breaking the vase has nothing to do with circumstance either. If you are angry and break the vase, your desire is retributive/punitive - which requires judgementalism - which requires a value judgement. These are all presumptuous and arrogant. You have neither the right to require nor exact a price from the property owner. Here again, motive is the issue, not circumstance. The baby-vase-breaker scenario is silly as well, and makes no case whatsoever. But, why would the adult-vase-breaker even argue in the first place?


I think I made it clear in my blog article that in the latter two cases it isn't the circumstance that may cause variation in the determination of morality, but the ability of the actor to make the value him or herself. In the baby example the baby has the intent to throw the vase on the ground. Babies tend to do that since it's part of their learning process, but the baby is incapable of making a value judgment that there is an inherent difference between throwing a pillow on the ground and throwing the expensive vase on the ground. Would you consider it immoral of the baby to intentionally throw the vase on the ground? If not, why not? What is the difference between me throwing it out of anger and the baby throwing it out of curiosity? The motive is there in both cases. So I agree, this example has nothing to do with circumstances and a lot to do with motive, but it definitely also has to do with the ability to make a value judgment.

If there is no right or wrong, why argue about anything?


Again the straw man. Where have I stated that there is no right or wrong? I have only stated that I don't consider the right or wrong to be objectively so.

Torturing babies in example 4 is your worst defense of all. A person's mental state (circumstance) has nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of their actions. But again, notice the irony and hypocrisy in your argument - narcissism is selfishness! How can selfishness be the source of your morality and a "personality disorder" capable of torturing babies?


Why can't it be? It's all a matter of degrees. My selfishness as a source of my morality is based on my wish to be treated well and the understanding that reciprocity would undermine that if I would not apply *** for tat. That's not narcissism, narcissism is a large degree more than that. A narcissist will expect to be treated well but not give anything in return. If that reaches the state of a psychological disorder, I can imagine that such a person lacks the ability to make the judgment that torturing babies is wrong. If such a person genuinely lacks the ability to make such a judgment, is his action still immoral? I would say no. It is wrong and very much so, but not immoral.

Furthermore, your "natural selection" is based on survival of the fittest. Survival of the fittest necessarily involves life and death - predator and prey!


OK, I know that Darwin used the term "survival of the fittest" in one of the later publications of "Origins", but it is an often misunderstood term. Also, it is not survival that is the key to natural selection, it's reproduction. Sometimes the fitter individuals reproduce less and get selected against (e.g. peacocks, there we have sexual selection where it is not the fitness to survive that drives the selection, but the attractiveness to pea-chicks).

Your system cannot condemn the baby torturer for doing what your system necessarily requires. And again, what right do you have to make a value judgement apart from morality? Why is torturing a baby "a danger to society"? Beyond that, why would your narcissist, or anyone for that matter, require a concept of "funny" in the first place? Funny implies a-muse-ment or the lack of serious meditation. Wouldn't that imply meaning? Why try to escape meaning?


Why do you keep moving the goalpost? Pondering about the necessity of having the concept of fun is completely irrelevant. Bill Craig started using this example, not me. He said that torturing babies for fun is objectively immoral. So I ask the question that if the torturing is done by someone with the pathological condition that he is incapable of seeing the harm in torturing babies and he does find it funny, in that specific case, is it still immoral? I'm not asking if it is bad, I'm asking if it is immoral. Why or why not. If it is not (as I think), where is the objectivity of its immorality?

Hmmm...Altruistic natural selection based on kinship?! Seriously...you're gonna go with that? Contemporary tribal cultures are fraught with wars, infighting and cannibalism - literally and figuratively. Ancient tribal cultures were no different - man has not improved - which also illustrates that your "natural selective survival of the fittest" notion produces only death not life - less not more.


Evolutionary biologists like Frans de Waal have explained many data points with this principle, so much so that there is little resistance to the model from within evolutionary biology. Dawkins' "selfish gene" principle may not be universally accepted, but the principle stands firmly. This hand waving is far from sufficient to do away with the principle, so yes, I'm seriously going with that.

The moment you define "us" you exclude all others.In short, circumstance, mental state, or opinion have nothing to do with the inherent value of an act.


I'm not discussing the inherent value of an act. Read the title of my article. I'm discussing the objectivity of its morality.

All things are predetermined - preloaded with meaning. This entire discussion would be impossible apart from predetermined meaning. The fact that you wrote down your "musings" is evidence of your desire to convey meaning. But how should you have thoughts in the first place? How can there even be meaning in the first place? And how can meaning be conveyed? How can it be received and processed by another? If there is no morality, if nothing is right or wrong, then there can be no meaning.


There's the straw man again. Nowhere have I stated that there is no morality or no right or wrong. All I have stated is that I am as of yet unconvinced that the morality is objective. Can you name me an act, just one, which is clearly moral or clearly immoral regardless of the circumstances of the act and regardless of the state of mind of who acted? If not, how can we say that premise 2 of the syllogism (objective moral values and duties do exist) holds?

Natural selection can only "select" from what already exists. It creates nothing, it only destroys what already is. If your system is based on any form of naturalism, it will collapse under its own insanity.


I agree completely with the first two sentences. Natural selection only selects/subtracts/destroys what is already there. This also goes for other selections like sexual selection and genetic drift. But it is not the complete picture of evolutionary biology. There also needs to be a mechanism to replenish the variation. Without variation there is no evolution. That's where mutations and genetic recombination come in. You are not a clone of your parents. Even more, none of your chromosomes with the exception of the Y chromosome in men, is a clone of a chromosome of one of your parents. Selection is only part of the picture. Now how does the third sentence follow?

P.S. Why are our desires contrary to what we know is best for our survival? Naturalism cannot account for this.


Yes it can. Evolution does not work with "the best", it works with "good enough". If something has an evolutionary advantage--i.e. a trait that will increase the likelihood of reproduction (and it is sufficiently represented to prevent genetic drift of wielding it out), it will be represented more in later generations. It does not need to be the best.

I hope I have sufficiently answered your objections and I don't expect you to agree with me but you have not convinced me (yet) that objective moral acts actually do exist. I look forward to more arguments. Once again, thank you for taking the time to reply. I can't convince you but I hope you take my word for it that it's greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,
Rob

P.S., I tried using quote blocks (like I did in my reply to Peter above), but there seems to be a bug in the underlying software that it seizes to work if there are too many. I edited the text to indent the snippets of your text that I am replying to.

What I mean in regards to the information in DNA, would be the information required for the 1st life form that was capable of reproducing. Many pieces are required to work together to have life. DNA is required to create many of those pieces. To get life, all of the pieces (DNA, RNA, cell membrane, protiens, ect…) would have to appear at the same time indenpendently and somewho come together. The DNA would have to by chance have the right sequencing to be able to support life. This is such an overwhelming hurdle, that honest scientists have positing that aliens planted life here. This just relocates the problem.


If this would be how it worked, I agree, it would be an untenable position. But why would it be necessary that the whole system started with it's given complexity? You need 3 things for evolution to work: a population of self replicating individuals, variation in that replication and a means of selecting the better specimen from the new population. That's it, nothing more. You don't need a complete system with DNA, proteins and the like to kickstart evolution, you only need a self-replicating molecule. Now there are a few candidate molecules for this task, mostly simple RNA molecules. Abiogenesis is a hard subject, it may never be resolved. The problem is in the fact that the earth is no longer a similar environment as shortly after its formation and RNA molecules don't tend to leave fossils.
Panspermia is an interesting hypothesis that is based on the fact that Martian rocks have been found to have reached the earth as meteorites and the fact that some types of archaea and bacteria are capable of surviving some conditions that could survive such a trip. The reason why, if panspermia happened, it's more likely for life to have traveled from Mars to Earth i.o. the other way around, is that gravity on the earth is stronger than on mars, so it's more likely that the rocks escaped Mars' gravitational pull instead of Earths.
Personally I mostly look forward to a robot mission to the Jovian moon Europa. I think if there is life in our solar system outside of the Earth, there is the most likely place where to find it and if we do, it would be interesting to see if the building blocks are similar on not (similarity would indicate a single origin, while different building blocks would indicate multiple genesis events.

Natural selection as a mechanism explains very little. It explains some variation within a species, but not the evolution of a species. I am sure you have heard of the concept of “irreducible complexity.” Functional changes that would actually increase in the survivability of a species so that they were more likely to reproduce and get passed on generally would require many, many mutatations to appear simultaneously. The individual mutations that would occur would in most cases provide no functional change, so they would not be any more likely to get passed on and “selected” by natural selection. There is really no good answer to this problem. Admittedly, I have not looked into recent scientific rebuttles to this concept. However, natural selection by itself as a mechanism is not able to explain the kind of change we are talking about when we are referring to the evolution of the species.


First your description of micro and macro evolution. Let me ask you an analog question: What is the difference between a mustard seed and an adult mustard tree? The answer is incremental growth. Not only can evolution explain speciation, it has been witnessed both in the wild as in the laboratory and evolution even has multiple mechanisms for it (e.g. allopatric and sympatric speciation). It you want to read up on a possible speciation event at work, read up on the "ring species" salamanders in California. If one of the intermediate types goes extinct, we are left with two populations that cannot interbreed and thus make up separate species.
Regarding irreducible complexity, yes that is a valid way to falsify evolution. Guess who came up with the concept. If you thought Michael Behe you would be wrong. He only coined the term. The person that came up with the concept was Charles Darwin, who happened to be his own greatest critic. The error that Behe made with hs examples like the bacterial flagellum, the blood clothing system etc, is that he supposed that the system with parts removed becomes completely non-functional and that is often not the case, particularly in his examples. Kenneth Miller, a (Catholic) evolutionary biologist showed that in the case of the flagellum, if you removed 40 if the 50 proteins you were left with the type III secretory system, which is used by many species of bacteria to inject chemicals into other organisms. No, it's not a system for mobility but it does fulfill a purpose and has an evolutionary advantage.
One of the more beautiful anecdotes where Miller drove Behe completely up the wall happened during the Dover trial. Behe used the analogy of a mouse trap where all parts are needed simultaneously for it to work. During one of the trial days Miller appeared with a mouse trap with the holding bar removed and used it as a tie clip.

I believe in the Christian God over all others because it is completely different than all other religions in regards to evidence. I do not need to believe in other God’s just in case because the evidence for the Christian God is overwhelming to me and He claims to be the only God. Most other religions/Gods are based on the testimony of one individual claiming to get revelation from God.


I appreciate that. The reason why I used the example of Odin is to try to give you the idea that what can be convincing for one set of people may not be that convincing for others. I am honestly not convinced by the evidence that you present here, I'll elaborate below. But regarding evidence, have you actually investigated the claims of the Norse patheon? Have you read the Eddas? Even more, have you read the Eddas with the intention to know Odin? I hope I am conveying the awareness that you might have a different standard of evidence for the biblical stories than you have for the stories of other religions. I'm not sure of course, but that is the idea I get when I read your list of evidence.

I believe in Christianity because it is supported by multiple eye witnesses who claimed to see the miracles and the resurection. They were wiling to die for what the believed. If they were making these things up, then they were willing to die for what they knew was a lie. Not one of the apostles as far as we know admitted to making these things up.I also believe because of the prophecies concerning the 1st advent of the Messiah. Why would David write a Psalm where that talks about his hands and feet being pierced, being able to count all his bones, and having his gaments divded and lots cast for his clothing? What would cause him to say such things?Why would Isaiah write about a man who was despised and rejected, who would be wounded for his and other’s transgressions, who would heal by his stripes, who would bear the iniquity of us all, who would not open his mouth when he was afflicted, who would be led as a lamb to the slaugher and not open His mouth, who would burried with thr rich, but died with the wicked ect., ect, ect… Why would such a man even enter in the mind of the prophet? Whe woud Daniel prophecy that there would be 483 weeks of years from the command to rebuild and restore Jerusalem until the Messiah and that prophecy that this same Messiah would be “cut off” after he appeared?


I don't have a rebuttal to everything but there's something to say about some of these. Who are all the eyewitnesses? We know the names of the disciples, but nobody knows how they died (maybe apart from James since Josephus in book 20 mentions the hanging of James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ. I'm not convinced that Josephus was mentioning Jesus from the gospels, the chronology is not quite right and since Christ is a title it might as well have revered to Joshua ben Damneus who was high priest of the Sanhedrin in 63 CE). It is a fact that Christians did die for their belief, but that doesn't make the belief true. It that would be the case, Islam would be extremely true by now...
Also, in Paul's list of eyewitnesses in 1 Cor 15, he includes himself (with the same Greek word for appeared: "ophte") but the appearance to Paul was in the form of a vision on the road to Damascus. If the 500 brethren witnessed the risen Jesus, why is it that we only read it in Paul? That's not 500 witnesses, that's 1. Regarding Daniel, there is a sizable number of scholars and historians who hold the opinion that Daniel was not written by a prophet during the 6th century BCE captivity in Babylon, but by a pious Jew from the second century BCE who suffered from the oppression by Antiochus IV. Some of the reasons include the fact that Daniel becomes more precise the more you approach 167BCE and after that it's incorrect again (regarding the death of Antiochus). Also there are some anachronisms regarding the period of the Babylonian captivity (who or what were the Chaldeans) and some historical goofs (the names of the Babylonian kings). These are unlikely to be made by a contemporary person in Nebuchadnezzar's palace. Also, it seems that in some parts (especially Matthew) the Gospels went out of their way to fulfill the prophecies. Have you read that according to Matthew, Jesus rode two animals simultaneously, a donkey and a colt?

<snip> Why would Moses write a story concerning Abraham where God asks him to sacrifice his only son?


I don't believe Moses wrote the Torah. I find the documentary hypothesis very convincing. It's also hard for someone to describe his own death and burial...

I really should stop now and get some sleep, Thank you very much for this exchange. It's off topic regarding the argument from morality, but it's enjoyable (to me) nonetheless. I hope it is for you as well.

Regards,
Rob
Hi Rob,

I enjoyed your response immensely! I'm a big fan of civil discourse among those who disagree. For someone who is not a native English speaker, you handle yourself well. Although, it does seem that you misunderstood some of the points I was trying to make, or perhaps I failed to make them...

It may take me a few days to find the time to compile a response - possibly Saturday. I will attempt to clarify my position and address the new questions you raise. I will ponder and meditate in hopes of offering a response worthy of yours to me.

Blessings,
Bill
Rob,

When I press "quote" it is putting the text alltogether, so I did not attempt to break up your answers. I enjoy these discussions too, I wish I had more time to give more complete answers.... my wife is on my case as we speak:)

I will just make a couple of more quick rambling comments for now. Long day at work and now doing home school (the weeks get very busy...)

You sure do have a lot of "faith" in the ability natural selection to "create" the complex life forms. I do not believe scientists are anywhere close to demonstrating that this can cause the complex changes required to involve a new organ or function. All that has been demonstrated are changes that are just already possibilities through breading or are very minor due requiring a limited number of mutations.

It is a giant leap of faith to extrapolate that to the evolution of the species.

As far as the discussion on irreducible complexity goes, you might be able to identify some function for some of the intermediate steps, but natural selection has to operate on individual mutations (most likely one at a time). I think if one tried to figure out how many mutations were required to evolve a particular function, the number would be quite high. I would like to see an attempt to identify the function of each individual mutation along the way. We are dealing with statistical absurdities in many of these discussions.

As far as Daniel goes, there are answers to many of the issues you raise. Are you suggesting that Daniel was not included in the LXX that was translated in the 200's BC? The main reason the liberal scholars have such a hard time with Daniel is because he is so precise in Daniel chapter 11. There are also a sizable number of scholars who hold quite a different view of the book of Daniel.

As far as the Torah goes, my point still holds concerning all of the types and prophecies even if Moses did not write the Torah. I believe Moses did indeed write it, and there may have been a few minor scribal edits after his death.

Daniel chapter 9 predicts that after the Messiah would be "cut off" that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. There also numerous places that predict that in the "time of the end" the Jews would be gathered back to the land (Ezek 38:8-9) They are being gathered back in unbelief, but they will eventually accept their Messiah as many passages such as Hos 5:15 hint at. Jesus also predicted (if you allow for the increasing evidence of the early date for the gospels) that the temple would be destroyed and the Jews would be scattered. There many other prophecies concerning Israel that I could list....

You not only have to account for the amazing amount of fulfillment in all these prophecies. As you know there are a large number of concerning the Messiah who was to come, along with an almost innumerable amount of types and models... but you also have to account for the wide variety of authors that all include strange prophecies of a Man who was to come. Where would they come up with these stories or prophecies? Why would they even write them in the 1st place?

In the end it all comes down to how we interpret the data. I am convinced that God intended these to authenticate the Bible too us.

Blessings,
Peter
The examples in The Myth of an Objective Reality are what Ayn Rand terms "Lifeboat Ethics". A reflection of the pursuit of one's immediate self-interest, regardless of how it affects, or effects, both self, and others, at a later point in time.

The premise Objective moral values and duties do exist breaks down on the definition of "objective".  Prior to roughly 1600 CE, all theologically based codes of morality shared the following precepts:
* Always tell the truth;
* Do not harm your friends
* Do not take things from others without permission;
* Do not have sex with anybody but your partner, and then only for procreation;
* Control yourself;

It is only with the rise of the Western Mystery Tradition, that theological challenges to these precepts are made. The crystalization occurs within Theosophy, and  θέλημα, and the rejection of those five yamas is only found in theological codes of morality that are either derivatives, or heavilly influenced by those magickal-mystical strains.

The universality of those yamas argues for an implicit objective basis for objective moral values. The strictures of Bhuddist Logic and reasoning might provide a logical proof.

jonathon
To BILLFARKAS -- The problem with your reply to Atheist Rob, is that you are assuming "shame," or the "feeling" of not wanting to hurt someone, etc, are "God given" "morality."

The reality is that these "moral" ideas/feelings are taught by the society you live in.

Once cavemen started grouping together they had to create acceptable group behavioral norms.

In other words, animal behavior is to steal food whenever you can, but when bigger brained Grog, now living in a group, took food from his neighbor it disrupted the group, - his neighbor would probably beat the you know what out of Grog, take his food back, and take Grogs food as well. The other cavemen watch and learn that there is a consequence for stealing. Same with having sex with someone else's mate, etc.

Eventually the group has a set of "SOCIETAL" norms/ laws that keep them from killing each other in a group living arrangement. This allows societal/city/nation growth.

Eventually these are written down. Don't murder, don't steal, don't cheat, etc. because there obviously are going to be problems if you do so.

This evolution is very obvious when you start looking at what other cultures had as laws, "moral" codes. For instance it was perfectly legal and moral for a headhunter to kill and eat his enemy. Some Muslim countries consider it perfectly moral "and God's law" to murder a daughter they can't control.

You get the point - these are learned/taught coping mechanisms for societal group living, which we developed as our brain capacity increased.

You asked, "Why have feelings at all?" Because these learned/taught behaviors allow you and the group you live in to coexist in better harmony.

I would add that these "moral/laws" are not always "moral" or right! They just bring the group to a lower boiling point. = Muslims murdering women - Hebrews killing women who chose to have sex-while the men had sex with whomever they pleased, slavery, etc.
Hi Peter,

Rob,When I press "quote" it is putting the text alltogether, so I did not attempt to break up your answers. I enjoy these discussions too, I wish I had more time to give more complete answers.... my wife is on my case as we speak:)


Thank you Peter, I do as well, as long as both sides of the debate show the other side some courtesy without the need to agree. Both you and Bill have shown me that, I hope I come across similarly. Regarding your wife, just tell her that you're defending the faith against an atheist and she'll understand :)

As far as Daniel goes, there are answers to many of the issues you raise. Are you suggesting that Daniel was not included in the LXX that was translated in the 200's BC? The main reason the liberal scholars have such a hard time with Daniel is because he is so precise in Daniel chapter 11. There are also a sizable number of scholars who hold quite a different view of the book of Daniel.As far as the Torah goes, my point still holds concerning all of the types and prophecies even if Moses did not write the Torah. I believe Moses did indeed write it, and there may have been a few minor scribal edits after his death.Daniel chapter 9 predicts that after the Messiah would be "cut off" that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. There also numerous places that predict that in the "time of the end" the Jews would be gathered back to the land (Ezek 38:8-9) They are being gathered back in unbelief, but they will eventually accept their Messiah as many passages such as Hos 5:15 hint at. Jesus also predicted (if you allow for the increasing evidence of the early date for the gospels) that the temple would be destroyed and the Jews would be scattered. There many other prophecies concerning Israel that I could list....You not only have to account for the amazing amount of fulfillment in all these prophecies. As you know there are a large number of concerning the Messiah who was to come, along with an almost innumerable amount of types and models... but you also have to account for the wide variety of authors that all include strange prophecies of a Man who was to come. Where would they come up with these stories or prophecies? Why would they even write them in the 1st place?In the end it all comes down to how we interpret the data. I am convinced that God intended these to authenticate the Bible too us.Blessings,Peter


Quoting you out of order, so I can respond to this one first. The reference to the Septuagint is interesting and worth looking further into. That said, do we actually have a copy of LXX that goes back to that time? Last I heard the oldest part of the bible that we do have is a piece of papyrus from the book of Isiah that was among the Death Sea Scrolls and dated to the second century BCE (around the 130s BCE IIRC). You are aware that most scholars (not the most conservative ones) agree that the last twelve verses of Mark, the adulteress story in John 7:53-8-11 and the "Johanine Comma" in 1 John 5:7-8 are all absent in the original documents? You can verify it for yourself in the oldest available "complete" bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates to the 4th century CE and is available online. If those can be later interpolations (according to a scholarship majority), why can't Daniel?

I will just make a couple of more quick rambling comments for now. Long day at work and now doing home school (the weeks get very busy...)You sure do have a lot of "faith" in the ability natural selection to "create" the complex life forms. I do not believe scientists are anywhere close to demonstrating that this can cause the complex changes required to involve a new organ or function. All that has been demonstrated are changes that are just already possibilities through breading or are very minor due requiring a limited number of mutations.It is a giant leap of faith to extrapolate that to the evolution of the species.As far as the discussion on irreducible complexity goes, you might be able to identify some function for some of the intermediate steps, but natural selection has to operate on individual mutations (most likely one at a time). I think if one tried to figure out how many mutations were required to evolve a particular function, the number would be quite high. I would like to see an attempt to identify the function of each individual mutation along the way. We are dealing with statistical absurdities in many of these discussions.


I thought I needed to take away some misconceptions about the theory of evolution. It is not faith-based at all. I consider faith to be accepting a proposition as true without evidence or in spite of evidence to the contrary. Evolution on the other hand is a scientific theory for two reasons, it is based on real and tangible evidence (which I will discus more below) and it is falsifiable. That means that I can name a number of discoveries that, when made, will render the theory of evolution false. If I can find an ERV insertion on the same locus in both horse and human but in no other ape, evolution is false. End of story. But don't take my word for it. Ask Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH and former head of the Human Genome Project, and evangelical Christian. He said that even if we would never have found a single fossil, molecular evidence alone is more than sufficient to serve as unambiguous evidence that the theory of evolution is correct. Let me clarify a few of these.

I already mentioned the ERV insertions. Endogenous retroviruses are viruses that store their genetic material as RNA, use the cellular mechanisms to translate it back to DNA and insert this DNA into the host genome to be translated into proteins by the normal mechanisms. HIV s an example of such a retrovirus. the insertion happens randomly and can fail and as such will not produce proteins, but it is still detectable in the DNA. If such a failed insertion happens in a gamete that is used for reproduction, all cells in the offspring will have that insertion included and pass it on to its progeny. Around 10% of our genome consists of ERV insertions. That gives us a tool to create a phylogenetic tree where organisms that are closer in the tree share more ERVs. There are a number of ERVs in the human genome that are not in that of the chimp, or other great apes. There are a number of ERVs that are in chimp and human but are absent in other great apes. There are a number in human, chimp and gorilla and are absent in orangutan and gibbon and so on.

Second evidence concerns redundant proteins. There are a number of proteins like cytochrome c that are essential for most of life. These proteins are highly redundant, so much so that in an experiment human cytochrome c was implanted in yeast and it worked as if it was native. These proteins do not differ much but organisms that are evolutionary further apart show more difference in the amino acids than organisms that are evolutionary closer even though there is no functional necessity for this. What's more, even identical amino acids can help build the tree. A codon consists of 3 nucleotides and are translated to 1 amino acid. 3 nucleotides create 64 possible combinations (4*4*4) but only 20 different amino acids are used for proteins. This is because some amino acids can be created by multiple arrangements of nucleotides. For example, glutamic acid can be selected by codons GAA and GAG. If we compare the differences in nucleotides of identical amino acids, we see the same pattern of greater difference between organisms that are further apart.

The same patterns can be seen when comparing transposons or non-functional pseudo-genes (like the vitamin C gene defect in great apes, including humans). Again, do not take my word for it. The sequences of many genomes are online and you can use tools from the NCBI and EMBL to try this for yourself. There's a YouTube video online that shows how to do that, named "The Joy of Phylogeny: How To Make Your Own Phylogram".

These lines of evidence are only molecular, we have not even touched paleontology, vestigial organs and atavisms, developmental biology, computer simulations etc. So did I take a leap of faith? Not by a long shot.

I'll finish up with some friendly advise and precede it with a reflection. If I want to know something about the bible, I will not ask my Buddhist neighbors who have never read it, I will read it myself or ask people like you who did. If you want to know what the theory of evolution teaches, don't ask your pastor. Read a book from evolutionary biologists. Your "statistical absurdity" is based on the idea that evolution is comparable to a whirlwind in a junkyard that creates a Boeing 747. It could not be more wrong. If I could suggest an introductory text, I'd advise you to read "Evolution for Dummies" by Krukonis and Barr. I have it on my bookshelf and I think it is a great introduction without a theological ax to grind. To be clear, I don't expect you to believe a word it says or what I said. What I do hope to reach with this advise is that you do not have wrong ideas of what the theory of evolution teaches and use those wrong ideas as arguments against it.

Sorry for the lengthy reply :)

Regards,
Rob
Purely from a Scientific world view, evolution just somehow doesn't have the maths to support it. From a philosophical point of view, that if I were an atheist I would ditch it and simply believe in nothing. To believe in something is to have a faith in it. Faith and Belief are the one and the same thing, comes from the same Greek word, Pistis.

But considering I'm a Christian I have faith (belief) in God as a real being stuffs me up in believing in nothing and cuts me out from being an Atheist. The weird thing about believing in nothing is that its an impossibility due to the fact that everyone believes in something, and because everyone believes in something everyone has faith in something of some shape or form. So on that basis, evolution, like anything else what anyone may wish to believe in, faith (belief) is involved.

I just thought I'd throw this into the mix simply because its a bit of fun.

As to the arguments you raise, and though I disagree with you, I respect you for your intellectual honesty.

Blessings,
Autograph.png
Hi Rob,

Thanks for your note.

As far as evolution goes, it is pointless for us to discuss that much further I think until I get time to get up to speed. It has been a while since I have done much reading/study on the subject.... over 10 years I think. I am preparing to teach on Bible prophecy right now in my small amount of available free time. http://www.cvcreeksi...erin-talks.html I would love to spend time getting back up to speed so i could discuss these things more in depth, but it will be a couple of months. I could stand to read a book or two for "dummies".

Yesterday, there were articles floating around the web about the discovery that the "junk" DNA includes millions of switches that serve functions. I found it fascinating. I have always wondered how the cells know what kind of cell to become during the cell division process as a fetus is growing in the womb. It may be these switches somehow.
http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=all

I would need to spend more time getting up to speed on the latest research to talk to you more in depth. I am convinced, however, that scientists often claim that their discoveries mean much more than they actually do in explaining how one species could evolve into another.

The "whirlwind in a junkyard" comment applies more to the origin of the first life form that is able to reproduce. For there the discussion turns to whether or not natural selection can explain the highly complex life forms that we see.

When I look at the data in Bible prophecy in the Old Testament, it screams out to me that this had to have been orchestrated by Someone who knows the end from the beginning. You do not see it this way. We all interpret data differently. It is interesting that we kind of started out the same. I grew up in a Catholic home and did not really believe any of it. I almost died when I was 20 in a car accident. 9 operations later, I got out of the hospital and started reading the Bible. Over the process of a year, I became a believer.

As far as the NT documents. I believe the last 12 verses of Mark were in the original. I am more convinced by the "majority text" data than the "critical text" data to be honest. My views would be expressed best here: http://www.walkinhis...pickering3b.htm. Either way, the passages in question in the NT are relatively few. No important doctrine of Christianity is in question.

This is a very simplistic way to look at things, but I am convinced for many reasons that Jesus is who he claimed to be and that the NT documents give us reliable information about his teachings. He referred to the Torah as the writings of Moses and he referred to to the book of Daniel as if it was written by Daniel. He also referred to both portions of Isaiah as if they were both written by Isaiah. I believe that Jesus was around when Daniel and Moses wrote the books, so He was in a position to know :).

The arguments against the late authorship of Daniel have been answered by competent conservative scholarship. I will dig into the arguments against Daniel being the author if you would like to discuss them further. There were 8 nearly complete copies of Daniel in the dead sea scrolls. This appears to have been one of the most popular books there. There is a lot of evidence that has emerged that make it difficult for even liberal scholars to believe in a data as early as 165 BC.

I hope to be able to discuss evolution with you more in the future :).

Blessings,
Peter
Hi Stephen,

Purely from a Scientific world view, evolution just somehow doesn't have the maths to support it. From a philosophical point of view, that if I were an atheist I would ditch it and simply believe in nothing.


Do you have an example of an evolutionary process that is not supported mathematically? I agree that if I encounter something like that I would ditch it and if it's a central part of the theory of evolution, I would ditch evolution. That would not mean that I would accept the Genesis story, that has a number of problems of its own, but I am in no way married to the theory of evolution.

To believe in something is to have a faith in it. Faith and Belief are the one and the same thing, comes from the same Greek word, Pistis.


We're getting into the specifics of language and I am not a native English speaker, my English is though up to a high school level so take this paragraph of mine with a grain of salt, but as I understood it faith is a subset of believe, namely a believe without evidence or contrary to conflicting evidence. I believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. I don't have faith that it will because I understand the mechanisms. I believe that my wife does not have an affair outside of our marriage. I don't have evidence either way, so in this case I do have faith. Faith is closer to trust IMO than to a generic believe, at least that's how I understood it until now. Merriam-Webster seems to support my notion.

But considering I'm a Christian I have faith (belief) in God as a real being stuffs me up in believing in nothing and cuts me out from being an Atheist. The weird thing about believing in nothing is that its an impossibility due to the fact that everyone believes in something, and because everyone believes in something everyone has faith in something of some shape or form. So on that basis, evolution, like anything else what anyone may wish to believe in, faith (belief) is involved.


Like I alluded to in the previous paragraph, I do believe in many things and even have faith in some. I lack believe in the supernatural and that includes gods, devils, angels and souls. I agree with you that believing in nothing (in the sense of lacking a believe in everything) is an impossibility. Scientific theories however do not require faith (in the sense that I described above). A scientific theory is a model to explain to explain facts (observations). As such a scientific theory is not true or false, it is good or bad in its ability to explain the facts. Newton's gravitational formula was good enough to explain how gravity works, in that it could explain the elliptical orbits of planets around the sun and it was even good enough for the calculations needed to send a man to the moon, but it was not enough to explain the shifting long axis in Mercury's orbit. It would take Einstein's curvature of space-time to explain that one. This too is the case with evolution. It's one of the best supported models in all of science. There is more evidence for the correctness of the evolutionary model than there is for any gravitational theory. The only reason I can think of for someone not to accept the theory of evolution, is theological and honestly, I have yet to encounter an honest non-theological objection against the theory of evolution.

I just thought I'd throw this into the mix simply because its a bit of fun.As to the arguments you raise, and though I disagree with you, I respect you for your intellectual honesty.


As I do yours. Thank you for your kind words!

Regards,
Rob

As far as evolution goes, it is pointless for us to discuss that much further I think until I get time to get up to speed. It has been a while since I have done much reading/study on the subject.... over 10 years I think. I am preparing to teach on Bible prophecy right now in my small amount of available free time. http://www.cvcreeksi...erin-talks.html I would love to spend time getting back up to speed so i could discuss these things more in depth, but it will be a couple of months. I could stand to read a book or two for "dummies".


Peter, I applaud you for your willingness to actually look into the opposing view. You gained a lot of respect points from me, I hope other will follow your example.

Yesterday, there were articles floating around the web about the discovery that the "junk" DNA includes millions of switches that serve functions. I found it fascinating. I have always wondered how the cells know what kind of cell to become during the cell division process as a fetus is growing in the womb. It may be these switches somehow.http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=allI would need to spend more time getting up to speed on the latest research to talk to you more in depth. I am convinced, however, that scientists often claim that their discoveries mean much more than they actually do in explaining how one species could evolve into another.


At one time people tended to name all non-coding DNA "junk DNA" and IMO that is a little short sighted. Telomeres and centromeres are non-coding, but without them the mechanisms for duplicating DNA fail. I can agree that there are many "switches" in non-coding DNA, but it sure does not imply that it's all functional. Around 5% of the DNA consists of genes that are translated into proteins, and we can see that the mutation rate in no-coding DNA is far larger than in the genes. If it was all functional those mutations would mostly be detrimental to the organism. Also, part of the DNA can be identified as "junk", namely the ERV insertions and pseudo genes that I referenced in my previous reply to you. At least initially they are non-functional. That does not mean however that a function cannot arise by a future mutation.

I almost died when I was 20 in a car accident. 9 operations later, I got out of the hospital and started reading the Bible. Over the process of a year, I became a believer.


I'm glad you're still around :) Such an experience has the tendency to get you to reevaluate the sense of life and a religious conversion is an understandable result. I don't think it would happen to me anymore, I've investigated it critically too much to have an emotional response that outweighs my rational ideas on the subject. I think...

As far as the NT documents. I believe the last 12 verses of Mark were in the original. I am more convinced by the "majority text" data than the "critical text" data to be honest. My views would be expressed best here: http://www.walkinhis...pickering3b.htm. Either way, the passages in question in the NT are relatively few. No important doctrine of Christianity is in question.


Thank you very much for the link. It looks like some interesting material and I will surely look into it. Regarding the importance, I think one of them is crucial to the orthodox Christian doctrine. 1Jn 5:7-8 is the only reference in the bible (AFAIK) that references the trinity. I can agree with the evaluation of the importance of the ending of Mark and the adulteress story in John.

This is a very simplistic way to look at things, but I am convinced for many reasons that Jesus is who he claimed to be and that the NT documents give us reliable information about his teachings. He referred to the Torah as the writings of Moses and he referred to to the book of Daniel as if it was written by Daniel. He also referred to both portions of Isaiah as if they were both written by Isaiah. I believe that Jesus was around when Daniel and Moses wrote the books, so He was in a position to know :).The arguments against the late authorship of Daniel have been answered by competent conservative scholarship. I will dig into the arguments against Daniel being the author if you would like to discuss them further. There were 8 nearly complete copies of Daniel in the dead sea scrolls. This appears to have been one of the most popular books there. There is a lot of evidence that has emerged that make it difficult for even liberal scholars to believe in a data as early as 165 BC. I hope to be able to discuss evolution with you more in the future :). Blessings,Peter


That sounds interesting. What I read is that the Qumran copies of Daniel are dated to the 120s BCE and I agree that it was a popular book. If the late date is correct it would be written in the Maccabean period when the Jews were suffering under Antiochus Epiphanes. A book like Daniel would be something that could boost their morale.

Kind regards,
Rob
Hi Rob,

I’ve been praying all week about this response. I want you to know this is not something I take lightly. I don’t view this as a game or challenge to be won or lost. Truth matters. The comments below are offered in humility with sincere regard for you as my fellow man (created in God’s image, I believe), worthy of dignity and respect. Let me also say that I have no delusions of being able to provide the final word that will end this debate henceforth and forevermore. My remarks are just that – mine. I offer them solely as participation in the arena of ideas - - and I enjoy it as well. ;^)

In your response to me, you mention your “deconversion” and that you were formerly “a lukewarm Christian with little interest in the religion.” I’m no fan of religion myself. I don’t consider belief in the truth to be religion – and I say that at this point without qualifying what the truth is – just making a generalization. Let me ask you this, though: if Christianity is about passionate beliefs, can someone be lukewarm, with little interest, and still be considered a Christian. Personally, I don’t think so. Christianity is not a set of things to give mental assent to, and another set of things to do. It’s not a religion in that sense. I don’t consider it a religion at all.

I was raised in a nonreligious home. I received no nudge one way or the other. My belief is not the result of a pursuit for answers. I also don’t base my belief on intrinsic biblical evidences. To believe the Bible based on anything contained in the Bible is circular reasoning. My belief is the result of outside intervention. I believe the Bible is authoritative because the Author indwells me and provides internal witness that His word is reliable. Of course, I readily admit that this carries no empirical weight for anyone else but me; but it serves to illustrate why religious application is ineffective. My belief is based on an internal intimacy, not on a set of assumptions or sets of logical propositions. Having said that, if something is truly true, the evidence will necessarily support it.

I wholeheartedly agree that “you can only truly test your worldview if you have it picked apart by an opposing view.” I enjoy reading opposing theological viewpoints. We often misunderstand opposing viewpoints, and our polemics often paint a caricature that bears no resemblance to reality.

Diving right in, let me clear up a few misunderstandings. I completely understood that the first example (affair/lying) was entirely hypothetical. Also, my comments about “no morality” were intentional. If you like, you can change it to “objective morality” for each instance where you objected to the “straw man.” Let me explain:

To say that morality is subjective is like saying truth is subjective. “What’s true for you is not necessarily true for me,” is a nonsensical statement. All one need do is ask, “Is that statement true for the both of us?” The argument is immediately shown to be moronic. Likewise, to say that morality is subjective is to say that there is no morality at all. If it only exists in the mind of each individual, then it doesn’t exist at all. But you say it’s the product of “natural selection.” In so doing, by anchoring morality in something outside yourself, something you claim to be objective, you have created a system of “objective morality.” On the other hand, if morality could be considered to be subjective, there is then no way to prevent neither anarchy nor tyranny, both of which are the chaotic logical ends to your premise.

In my opinion morality is linked with truth. Relativism is absolute drivel. Anyone with any scientific sense will admit that. Truth is that which conforms with reality. Only one thing can be true, regardless of what we think about it. There may be many subjective perspectives on truth, but there is still only one objective truth. Of all the explanations of how the universe came into existence, only one of them is factual. Morality must be objective because it is based in that which is true – a statement which is functional in your epistemology and mine.

I will illustrate the truth/morality relationship by examining your first (hypothetical!!!) example.

First off, the curious thing about hypotheticals is that they have an air of sovereignty about them, which in itself is illustrative. That said, it’s easy to contrive the perfect circumstances to allow for the desired conclusion. But in point of fact, hypotheticals are inconsequential – literally and figuratively. They bear no consequences – which ultimatlely renders them meaningless. There is a deeper point there if you ponder it.

In your critique of my critique ;^) you object to me saying the lie was to protect yourself. Even though your hypothetical is the product of your own sovereignty, you betray the truth of my point when you admit in your response to me, “On one hand I can use the lie to skip punishment.” We always lie to protect ourselves, not others. You said you, “separated the lie from the affair,” but the lie is occasioned by the affair and thus cannot be separated. Morality based on selfishness and reciprocity cannot account for the fact that your selfishness is what created the problem in the first place. This conflict is inconsistent.

Later you say: “And since you seem the have some trouble understanding that this is a hypothetical, let me make it crystal clear for you.” (If you can tell me why I should have feelings, I will agree that they should be hurt by the bite of that remark. ;^) “I would consider it an immoral act if I would have an affair. Not because I think that sex between consenting adults is wrong, but because we made each other a promise not to do it.”

You say the affair would be wrong because you made a promise. But why should your wife and children assume you meant it? Why should they assume that when you conveyed that message that it had any meaning whatsoever? Why should they assume you would act upon the content of that promise? All of this implies objective truth. It implies that your conveyed meaning had expectations attached to it.

If actual circumstances imply meaning then there must be an objective reality. If that meaning comes with expectations then there must be objective justification to expect such. If your promise to remain faithful (a virtue based in truth) elicited in your family the expectation that you actually meant it, and that you would and should act upon it, this implies the pre-existence of objective truth and the fact that truth necessarily prescribes specific actions. In order for a lie to even be a possibility, truth must exist with the intrinsic expectation to be truthful. Otherwise, why should your family be hurt? Upon what basis should they expect you to keep (moral behavior) a promise (truth claim). Not to be repetitively redundant over and over but, Why does a promise carry the expectation that you mean it (truth) and that you then act upon it (expectation)?

And again, why would it hurt if you don’t keep it? All of this implies a qualitative reality that transcends the physical vibration of your vocal cords and the reciprocal vibration in the inner ear. This is more than a natural phenomenon.

Lying capitalizes on this universal expectation of truth – otherwise lies wouldn't work. This is precisley why you devise the lie – in order to maintain the pretense of integrity. This is what the quote means: Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. We lie to cover our vice because we know we should be virtuous. We play the hypocrite because we want to appear truthful. By why should our desires want one thing and our intellect another? We want to behave like scoundrels under the pretense that we are not. Natural selection cannot account for this inconsistency. But why should I deny the actual reality of the truth if morality is subjective? Your wife deserves to be able to make a choice based on the actual facts. Your lie would be a means of keeping what you no longer deserve. You are no longer “the fittest,” so according to your theory, you should not “survive”?

Your team says evolution makes no mistakes, which is not inconsistent if there is no objective morality. The statement would be true if there is no objective basis upon which to call anything a mistake, but then true statements are impossible without such a basis. Truth and morality are inseparable – logic fails without the ability to assess it veracity – veracity being a virtue if reality is to be perceived factually. According to Dawkins and others, natural selection is, at best, indifferent: worst case it’s cruel. Regardless, evolution is ammoral – it does what it does, whether you like it or not. Any notion of morality is nonsensical with evolution as its genesis (pun intended). Cruelty and/or indifference cannot create virtue – or anything for that matter. Any type of existence implies transcendent meaning; and meaning implies purpose; and purpose implies intent.

Now that I’ve gotten the introduction out of the way… ;^)

Let’s look at some specifics of your hypotheticals: In example one, I don’t think telling the truth and hurting your family or lying and sparing them are the only options. You might tell her the truth and she may be gracious and forgive you resulting in an even stronger relationship. Likewise, the case of the violent husband is a false dichotomy. I could tell him his wife is inside, take a baseball bat to the side of his knee and inform him that the police are on their way (as a former U.S. Marine, I have a different perspective on such matters). Or I may confront him with the truth and he may break down in repentance, beg her forgiveness, and they, too, may end up with a stronger relationship. Hypotheticals work both ways – I can play your game too.

Pain in example 2 is still silly. Pain is irrelevant. Marines like pain.

Example 3: You seem to equate the two different motives regarding the vase – I don’t. Yes, they both have motives, but they are far from equal. One is curiosity and the other is retribution – these are vastly different qualities. Now, I do however agree that there is a moral dilemma in both cases. I repeat my first assertion that the angry man’s desire to be retributive makes no sense if there is no “objective” morality. Why even argue in the first place? There’s no basis for one to be right and one to be wrong, or to even care about it. And again, he is presumptuous to assume the right to demand and exact a price for something that has no ultimate meaning. The value of the vase is subjective as well – another owner might use it for a chamber pot or spitoon – so the vase, too, is irrelevant. In the case of the baby vandal, the dilemma involves the supervision of the baby. Who in their right mind leaves a baby unattended around things of value? If the parents of the baby were negligent, the owner of the vase could assail them for the cost of the vase. But, if the owner was babysitting the vandal, then the owner is responsible for the vase. The baby, however, had no intention of causing harm, and as such is guilty of nothing immoral. Regarding the angry vandal, the desire to harm someone (not mine) by exacting a cost (also not mine) IS immoral. The same applies to the narcissistic baby torturer. His understanding is irrelevant as to whether or not there has been a moral lapse.

Morality is by definition the ability to discern right from wrong. We cannot even have this discussion without objective meaning, which also implies right and wrong. To say “morality” means this and not that is to make an objective value judgement. Discerning right from wrong means right and wrong exist apart from my understanding of them. Your assertion that morality is subjective is itself a claim of objective truth that carries with it certain expectations of uniform reality. If you try to convince others of the veracity of your claim, your appeal is to objectivity. Your statement cannot be true because it is contradictory.

The baby torturer may not be able to discern right from wrong, but the rest of his “closely related individuals” are able; and they, if they hold your view, will perceive this as immoral. Moral responsibility only exists between persons, not in a vacuum. Even in your own system, morality becomes the objective consensus of the “kinship” group, so that this man’s actions are indeed immoral within your own model.

My remarks about “funny/escaping meaning” had nothing to do with “moving the goalpost.” My entire post, beginning with asking why you would write yours in the first place, has to do with the underlying meaning of things – so my remarks about fun were consistent.

Your view of subjective morality derived from altruistic selfishness is based on your desire to be well treated – which is understandable, to be sure – but evolution and natural selection require conflict, not harmony. So why seek harmony? If you desire to be treated well, but I desire to treat you cruelly, evolution demands we fight it out, and the one who wins survives. No rationale, no remorse, no intrinsic value one way or the other – just cold, hard facts. So then, what’s the point of this discussion? You have no basis upon which to disagree. Any attempts to do so are strictly dogmatic and not rational.

Blessings,
Bill

This is longer than I expected - please forgive any typos - I fixed as many as I found...
Hi Bill, I haven't had a chance yet to give your reply the attention it deserves, but thanks for it anyway. I will reply real soon now!

Regards,
Rob

August 2017

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