Tuesday, November 16, 2010

AA Simply Doesn't Get That Moral Argument

I've taken a little break from the Arizona Atheist for several reasons, the main one is that this back and forth gets time consuming and time is something I don't have a lot of lately. Another reason is AA's lack of civility and his inability to reason in a straight line. It's clear he really hasn't studied the fundamentals of argumentation or logic, because he can't follow a simple argument, as is made clear when he shifts back and forth so dramatically from saying there is no objective morality to condemning me as "f[expletive deleted]ing insane" for differentiating between murder and a killing that is not murder. But, I will respond here for those it may actually benefit. I will respond to his woeful attempts at interacting with the teleological and ontological arguments in the weeks to come.

In the most recent post dated 9/14, AA begins, "Because of Brennon’s obvious lack of ability to engage in discussion without his immature ridicule I’ve decided not to respond directly to him, though have replied here for anyone who might happen to wander from his blog to mine seeing if I've responded." This is AA's main modus operandi when he can't understand some argument, or can't respond to it; play the victim. He seems to have trouble differentiating between a terse critique of his logic, and a personal attack on him. No one is personally attacking him, I critique his argument, and it is surprisingly weak, if not disoriented. But here's the thing, AA doesn't think that there are objective morals. So my question is why is he getting mad even if I did insult him? What's wrong with me insulting someone if I personally feel it's okay to insult? The fact is that AA is a rigid, almost dogmatic, moralist but he has to say he's not to avoid the conclusion of the moral argument.

He continues, "This argument [that morality is subjective] may seem troubling to Brennon, but this gives away Brennon’s ignorance. Atheists make moral assertions by making rational, thought out (ie. subjective) choices about what is right and wrong, sometimes by following atheistic (godless) philosophies." I'm not sure what I'm ignorant about here, since I know this. How atheists arrive at their moral judgments has never been at issue in this debate, rather the debate is about whether there actually exists objective moral values and duties that all people are beholden to whether they know it or not. This is just a mini red herring.

He goes on,

Given the fact that objectivism regards things that exist independently from the human mind, this seems to be falsified both philosophically and scientifically...All things depend upon a conscious agent to bring things into existence and that includes moral values. If no human being were alive none of our moral beliefs would exist. Say another species evolved that species very well could have very different morals than us. Even other human societies have differing moral values and so this is also falsified without even bringing up Prime.
I don't know if AA is aware of what he just said here but, "All things depend upon a conscious agent to bring things into existence and that includes moral values" sounds like the cosmological argument to me. But we'll pass that off as an innocent misstep on AA's part and focus on the meat of this paragraph. First off, it seems ridiculous to say that things can't exist apart from the human mind. Obviously the universe does. Now, if AA actually meant perhaps that abstract concepts can't exist without the human mind, that also seems ridiculous. Would the laws of logic still hold in no human minds existed? I think they would. I can imagine a universe devoid of human life where modus ponens still was valid. But this is actually getting into the Transcendental argument for God. Since the laws of logic were still valid when and where there are no human minds, there must be a transcendent mind where these laws originate. But I digress.

I'm not sure how he thinks that objective morality, which is a metaphysical position, could be invalidated scientifically. I'd also like to see the philosophical argument that invalidates the position. "If no human being were alive none of our moral beliefs would exist," is just begging the question, since that is exactly what is being debated. He needs to argue that is the case. On the contrary, we all know, as AA shows himself in this very post, that there are things that are always wrong. It's always wrong to murder people. It's always wrong to torture innocent people.

He says, "Say another species evolved that species very well could have very different morals than us. Even other human societies have differing moral values and so this is also falsified without even bringing up Prime." Yes! That is exactly the point. If God does not exist, then our morals have evolved due to socio-biological pressures. But I'm sorry, if it turns out that extraterrestrials exist and they come to earth to rape our species in order to spread their own, it is still wrong, regardless of how their evolutionary history progressed. The Nazis evolved a society where it was right to kill Jews and homosexuals, but even if they had won and had eradicated the notion that that was wrong, it would still be wrong. Does AA disagree that the holocaust was wrong? He'd have to if moral relativism were true.

He then goes off into the discussion we had about slavery. This was a digression from the main point that came up because he wanted to show that morality is relative by showing that people in the past defended slavery. But I'm done arguing about that, as I have already shown that Thomas Aquinas did not have in mind the slavery where all humanity is stripped from the slaves, because Aquinas accepted that all humans have intrinsic value. The thing is, as I stated in the post he responded to, "simply offering examples of people who thought a certain moral abomination was morally good does not prove in any sense that morals are relative or that what that person did was right in any way. All showing past moral abominations does is show that moral abominations happened in the past." So the slavery thing isn't at issue here. Rather we are trying to determine whether some sort of slavery is objectively wrong.

AA says, "The moral argument no more proves god’s existence than someone arguing that moral absolutes mean that fairies exist. Brennon calling me ignorant is ignorance in itself! It’s more than clear that it is he who doesn’t understand logic." Actually, the moral argument is deductive, so if the premises are true then the conclusion is true. He must show that the premises are false to defeat the argument. He's been attempting to argue against premise 2, but he constantly reverts to some objective morality when he's offended by what I say and wants to criticize me for it. Why can't he be consistent here? I think it's because he intuitively knows that there are objective morals. Otherwise he has nothing to criticize me about.

Here again is where theists run into road blocks with morality. Human beings ourselves create the rightness or wrongness of an action. It’s been done for thousands of years, with laws being passed in various states and rules being changed throughout time. In one state something is illegal but in another state it’s legal. In one country something is legal; in another it isn’t. In one period of time slavery was legal and now its condemned by nearly everyone. Our moral values change over time, and despite Aquinas’s views on feudalism most christians throughout history owned slaves and freely participated in the slave trade. But over time their views began to change. The idea of slavery is relative to the time and place in which one lives.

Laws may reflect morality, but they obviously don't create morality. There has to be some reason why we institute certain things as laws, and it's obvious the laws against murder are there after everyone knows that murder is wrong. Laws also don't always deal with morality, but on social conventions. Yes, some states institute laws that say we are to drive on the right hand side of the road while others direct us to drive on the left hand side. It's obviously not intrinsically good or bad to drive on one side or the other. These are just social conventions.

Furthermore, it's obvious that some governments can institute morally bad laws, such as the United States institution of slavery or modern Muslim countries who subjugate the rights of women. Laws may reflect morality, but it's obvious they don't create it. And is AA saying that slavery was right at one time, since that was the social leaning of the culture? If that's correct, then those who were fighting against slavery were committing a moral crime, which doesn't seem right at all. There are so many problems with this kind of morality, and it's obvious that not even AA can live consistently with it.

AA then goes on and seems to say that rape is okay if the culture approves. Really? I've got to say, I think that there is something seriously wrong if he thinks that is the case, and ought to look into counseling. I think it's clear to anyone whose mental faculties are operating properly that rape is always wrong in every case because it is a direct attack and defiling of a human being. But, it's true that if AA is correct and there is no objective morality, then rape isn't really wrong. Great white sharks forcibly copulate all the time. It helps their genetics spread. We're no different than sharks ultimately if God does not exist.

AA says,

According to Brennon, I guess the several religious Inquisitions were considered wrong by those performing them. Of course, that would not be accurate. They believed they were doing god’s work by torturing people and suppressing heresy. So, no Brennon, torture has not always been “wrong, no matter what culture you’re in” or time period.
Apparently, AA is saying that it was right for the church to kill heretics for things they believed, since at the time this kind of thing was not thought to be bad. Well as unprovable as that is, since I'm sure at least the ones being subject to the Inquisitions thought it was bad, it isn't relevant to whether objective morals exists. Again, showing that certain people did bad things doesn't disprove objective morality, it just shows that people did bad things. Just as I sense that there is a computer in front of me right now, I also sense that it was wrong for the church to do what it did, and it has always been wrong and will always be wrong. I have no more reason to doubt that than I do that the mind-independent world exists, and I think everyone knows it.

He tries to resurrect the Euthyphro dilemma again, but I've already shown how this fails, since things are neither right because God declares them, nor are they right separate from God, but they are right because they match up to God's nature, which itself is the good. Therefore, morality is what it is because God is who He is. He then gives us moral duties in the form of divine commands that flow necessarily from His essential nature.

I took each and every source possible that I could use to determine god’s nature: the bible, nature, and peoples’ actions and sayings. They are all contradictory, so how in the hell can Craig simply declare god’s nature as “good”??!! Brennon, due to his blind devotion to Craig, apparently couldn’t see a logical argument if it landed on his face.
It doesn't matter if sources that propound moral advice contradict one another to whether there actually is an objective moral reality. Craig can declare that God is the good because 1) reason tells us that the greatest conceivable being would be the good and 2) God has revealed it.

AA then examines my explanation about moral values and duties as they come from God as it relates. I said,

If our moral duties come about because of the commands of God (which flow from His nature which is the good) then we are obligated to follow those commands. So I have no right to take an innocent life because God has said so. However, God does not issue moral commands to Himself because He is the locus of morality. He can give and take life as He chooses. That's why we accuse people who think they have that right with "playing god." God is under no obligation to allow anyone to live any longer than He chooses.

So that means that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites whenever He sees fit. The problem isn't, then, that He took the lives but that He commanded the Israelites to take the lives. Now you'll say "so He commanded murder!?!?!" No. He commanded something which without a divine command would have been murder.

Said another way, unjustified killing is murder, but with a divine command we have a justifiable reason to kill. Therefore, a divinely commanded killing is not murder.
To this, AA responds,

Brennon’s argument is literally insane. He is giving the same justification for murder as many christians throughout history. It’s scary some people still think like this. Also, despite his semantics what he is talking about is moral relativism. It’s relative to god’s commands! The very issue the Euthyphro dilemma refutes!
First I want to point out AA's consternation at my defense of God's command to kill the Canaanites. Why is he so upset? He doesn't believe there are objective morals. What, then, is wrong with this and what is wrong with the Christians throughout history who have killed people? The only way this would be wrong is if there is an objective standard by which to compare it.

Second, whether things are objectively right or not are not relative to God's commands, but rather God's commands adhere to His necessarily moral nature. His commands to us to not murder (unjustified killing) flows from His essential goodness and justice. Now, God does not issue these commands to Himself. Further, God is not obligated to let us live any longer than He wants us to. It is His prerogative. But it isn't our prerogative. Now, if God does command us to kill someone, then we have a justifiable reason to kill them, ergo it isn't murder. Similarly, there are other times when killing is justified, such as in self-defense.

To this reasoning, AA let fly his, "You are f[expletive deleted]ing insane, Brennon. You sound like a christian terrorist and it’s scary!" When you know you've lost an argument, to save face often one resorts to the ad hominem. I think it's interesting that AA is apparently appealing to some objective moral standard to say that what I have said is evil or something. If there is no morality, AA, then there's nothing wrong with Christian terrorism (which we all know is a huge problem in this world; hoooo-ee!). What are you basing this critique on?

Anyway, it's obvious that AA wants to have his cake and eat it too. He's failed to recognize that past examples of immoral behaviors don't show that there isn't objective morality, he's defended past acts of immorality by saying that it was right at that time (totally making moral reformers like Ghandi immoral for their time), and then he attacked my morality as insane. Clearly, AA can't even keep his own thoughts straight on this issue. Until he actually gives some reason to think that the moral reality we all sense isn't a reality, but an illusion, then he hasn't refuted anything. But that isn't surprising at all.


Ryan Anderson said...

Seems to confirm my comment that your belief has made you a bad person.

bossmanham said...

Heh, ok. So me disagreeing with you means I'm a bad person. Ok, I will happily wear the label. I'm a bad person to Ryan Anderson. Boo hoo.