Another apologist flushes his brains down the toilet wrt to ethical reasoning . . . and counsels the rest of us to do likewise

22 12 2008

Prepare to stifle a yawn as yet another Christian apologist deludes himself that he is saying something insightful about atheism and morality:

. . . while we can certainly agree with Harris that we can know objective moral truths “without reference to scripture,” we are left wondering how human value and dignity could emerge given naturalism’s valueless, mindless, materialist origins. If, on the other hand, humans are made in the divine image and are morally constituted to reflect God in certain ways, then atheists as well as theists can recognize objective right and wrong and human dignity-without the assistance of special revelation (Rom. 2:14-15). But the atheist is still left without a proper metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and responsibility. And despite Harris’s claims, naturalism seems to be morally pretentious in claiming the moral high ground, though without any metaphysical basis for doing so. No, biblical theism, with its emphasis on God’s creating humans in his image, is our best hope for grounding objective moral values and human dignity and worth. (Via Richard Dawkins)

What makes biblical theism—which basically boils down to “right and wrong are what God judges to be right and wrong”—a proper metaphysical basis for morality? All the apologist is doing is allowing his holy book to do his thinking for him. Far from accepting responsibility for his views on morality, he simply passes the buck upstairs. “Don’t ask me, man. I’m just following orders.”

You want to be taken seriously when you claim the moral high ground over the unbelievers? You’re going to have to ask, and make more than a half-assed attempt at addressing, some pretty hard questions about your deity’s ethical philosophy. Let’s take, for instance, the injunction against murder. All we can garner from the Bible is that God thinks that murder is wrong. We don’t know why God thinks murder is wrong. We have no means of subjecting his arguments in support of his position to critical scrutiny because, well, he offers none. Murder is wrong, my dear sheeple, because God says it’s wrong. That is all ye know, and all ye need to know.

I am of course highly dubious about the concept of “objective right and wrong.” There is a difference between simply asserting that these exist—which is a very simple exercise which can be performed by anyone, and has been performed by many—and showing that they exist. Demonstrating that theists and atheists alike can have ideas about objective right and wrong does not solve the problem (and certainly does not constitute evidence that humans are made in the image of a deity, as the apologist presumes): all it demonstrates is that we have certain ideas about morality. That the “hardwiring” of such ideas may have given our ancestors a survival advantage is the subject of fruitful research in psychology and neuroscience, and is certainly more parsimonious an explanation (i.e. for why we have such ideas about morality as opposed to why they may or may not be the correct ideas) than the “Goddidit” argument from ignorance the apologist is serving us.

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4 responses

22 12 2008
mikespeir

Yeah, these people make a lot of noise about “objective morality,” while “objective” remains poorly defined, at best. I mean, what’s the practical difference between “objective morality” and universally subjective morality?

In fact, as is so often the case, what we really have here (morality) is a phenomenon that cries out for some accounting. One could guess that some creator being instilled it in us or one could, rather, look at evolutionary history and see that when Man developed the ability to reason he could see that Nature’s way isn’t always the best. Good enough is good enough for it. We wanted something better; something that could more reliably ensure our survival as a race. We invented some ground rules that have worked for us in the main, even allowing us to prosper above and beyond what Nature alone ever did. These, we instill into our young such that as they mature they see our principles as all but instinctual. Now, isn’t that at least as good an accounting for morals as is the SWAG that some god programmed us with them?

26 12 2008
Stewart

Of course it’s a pathetic non-argument all round, but why does ‘biblical’ theism represent our best answer? Why not other-book theism, or ancestor-spirit theism etc etc? Well, because that’s what the guy spouting this was brought up with. If he were brought up in Kandahar or Riyadh he’d be just as complacently spouting the best hope of quite another theism, and he’d be quite ignorant of and probably hostile towards or at least bemused by the bible. The fact that biblical theists can’t see this screamingly obvious point makes a shambles of their claim to objectivity. They need to get out more.

30 12 2008
SB

Merry Christmas, or if you prefer, happy festive season.

I can understand choosing to be theistic because it is your best guess at a reasonable way to live your life.

The problem is that if your theism is of the variety that claims to know god absolutely, and in particular god’s detailed obligations required of all humans, and you think (either individually or collectively with other voting theists) that you can impose such rules on the rest of society, you are immediately at war with all who do not subscribe to your particular brand of theism.

In doing so you are doing one of the worst possible things you can do to another human – denying their ability to choose for themselves the way they live their lives.

In theistic terms this amounts to denying people their free will – the very thing god endowed humans with to set them apart from other creatures, that bit of us which is the essence of being created in god’s image. Ultimately this is futile as coerced virtue is not virtue at all.

The way a democratic society should proceed is to grant as far as possible to its citizens the respect they deserve as being capable of deciding their own morality. The urge by some to impose morality by law is a vestige of past tyranny.

30 12 2008
arthurvandelay

(Mostly) hear, hear! SB

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