Okay; so we've come to part 3 in this series, which is the last of the logical arguments and evidences for the existence of God; after this we’ll move onto some other evidences and areas that can help us in the right direction.
In part 1 we covered the issue of causality; in part 2 we covered the issue of intelligence in design of the universe indicates an intelligent designer; and now in part 3 I want to discuss the argument from Morality.
I’m sure most would agree that there’s been a strong shift in societies’ claimed understanding of morality as being objective, to being more subjective and personal. This argument doesn't really hold once we scratch a bit under the surface. When we take an objective look at morality; we find that most people actually subscribe to a more objective moral code that’s intrinsic to most human beings.
Frederick Nietzsche said the following “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.”
Would you consider the following acts to be “sometimes” or “always” wrong?
- -Torturing babies for fun.
- -The Indian practice of widow burning (sati).
- -Priests sexually abusing children and church authorities covering it up.
- -Murder of innocent people.
I think most, if not all, of us would agree that the above list of acts is ALWAYS wrong.
“Nothing succeeds like excess … nothing is good or bad, only charming or dull.” Oscar Wilde
I wonder if he would consider the concentration camps where millions of innocent people died as being charming or dull…or just plain wrong? Few would deny that there are certain acts that are ALWAYS morally wrong. If this is true, then it would follow that there are objective moral values and duties for life. The burning question would then be; where do these objective morals come from? Where did this intrinsic moral value system in people come from?
“Any argument against the objective reality of moral values will be based on premises that are less obvious than the existence of objective moral values themselves.” Louise Antony - Atheist Philosopher
Some facts are facts about the way that the world is. It is a fact that cows eat grass because there are lots of animals out there, cows, and lots (all) of them eat grass. It is a fact that London is the capital of England because there exists a city called London that is the capital of a country that exists called England. For most facts, there are objects in the world that make them true.
Moral facts aren't like that. The fact that we ought to do something about the problem of famine or poverty isn't a fact about the way that the world is, it’s a fact about the way that the world ought to be. There is nothing out there in the physical world that makes moral facts true.
This is because moral facts aren't descriptive, they’re prescriptive; moral facts have the form of commands. Commands can be understood like this; commands cannot exist without something/someone else existing that commanded them.
Before we continue, let’s define the terms we’re talking about here:
- - Objective: independent of opinion (e.g. if 51% of the population said rape was right, it would still be wrong).
- - Values: whether something is good or bad (valuable); a description of worth.
- - Duties: indicates an oughtness of action; whether an act is obligatory. (e.g. If the teller gives you back the wrong change…)
Stanford published an article where they discuss this and define the arguments as:
- -Arguments from Normativity of Morality
- -Arguments from Moral Order
- -Practical Arguments from Moral Despair and Moral Discouragement.
So what are ingredients do you need to objectively define moral values or duties:
- - Firstly you need a Standard: This provides a measure of what’s good or bad; or right and wrong (e.g. if a moral standard is “do not murder”; then any act of murder fails against that standard and is thus immoral)
- - Secondly you need an Authority: This is someone who has the right to impose the standard and enforce adherence.
C.S. Lewis said “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
A key distinction that needs to be emphasized is between:
- - The source or origin of objective moral values which is an ontological (source/origin) question,
- - And the second is how we come to know them, which is an epistemological (knowledge) question.
Let’s take a look at the possible sources of objective moral values:
1) - The universe
2) - Society/culture
3) - The individual
4) - A transcendent Creator
Something important to note is that morality is of over-riding importance. If someone morally ought to do something, then this over-rules any other consideration that might come into play. It might be in my best interests not to give any money to charity or to help fight famine and poverty, but morally I ought to, so all things considered I ought to. It might be in my best interests to pretend that I’m too busy to play with my kids so that I can watch the game, but morally I ought not, so all things considered I ought not. If someone has a reason to do one thing, but morally ought to do another thing, then all things considered they ought to do the second thing. Morality over-rules everything. Morality has ultimate authority.
Let’s continue with the possible sources of objective morality:
From the universe:
“A man said to the Universe, Sir, I exist! Nevertheless, replied the Universe, That fact has not created in me The slightest feeling of obligation.” Stephen Crane
From a cause and effect standpoint, an effect must represent its cause in essence or nature. So the problem with the universe as a source for morality is this: how can an amoral, impersonal, meaningless and purposeless universe accidentally create personal moral beings who are obsessed with meaning and purpose? It’s not logically possible.
Richard Dawkins said “Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life...life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA...life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference”
“When Darwin deduced the theory of natural selection to explain the adaptations in which he had previously seen the handiwork of God, he knew that he was committing cultural murder. He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations, and evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and all that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will, life after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life.” William Provine
So the universe cannot be an objective source of morality.
From Society and Culture:
In Kenya, the practice of “beading” is carried out. A close family relative of a young girl places a strand of beads around the young girl’s neck. This effectively is a temporary engagement and the relative can now have sexual relations with her. Some girls are “beaded” when they are six years old. Many young girls get pregnant and either have abortions or kill their babies at birth. When they reach adulthood, the girls will marry outside of their village, but taboo dictates the girls will never be able to marry if they keep their babies resulting from beading.
Is beading RIGHT or WRONG?
If culture is a source of morality, then:
- -Widow burning can be morally acceptable…
- -Cannibalism can be morally acceptable…
- -Murder can be morally acceptable…
- -Unforgiveness can be morally acceptable…
- -Rape can be morally acceptable…
- -Gratuitously torturing innocent babies can be morally acceptable…
Interestingly, during the trials at Nuremberg, the Nazi defense attorneys argued that Hitler’s soldiers who were on trial were only following the orders of their society and should therefore not be held accountable. A judge countered that argument with the question, “But sir, is there not a law above our laws?” We need an ultimate authority to appeal to in matters that transcend history and culture/society.
Another issue with this is what/who is mankind morally obligated to? Real moral obligation exists, but to whom?
Consider the issue of the “Reformer’s Dilemma”. How can a culture ever be positively influenced from the outside if the culture is the determiner of good and evil?
Culture or Society cannot be an objective source of morality.
From the Individual:
Not too many people would argue this point as it’s pretty easy to refute.
How do you decide between differing moral opinions if each individual is the ultimate decision maker of what is good and bad? How does the statement “For me, rape is wrong, but it might be OK to you” sound? With individuals, everything boils down to emotion and emotive responses to morals without moral global absolutes.
Frederick Copleston debate with Bertrand Russell:
In his debate with the atheist Bertrand Russell, the Jesuit and philosopher Frederick Copleston looked at Russell and asked, “Lord Russell, do you believe in good and bad?” Russell replied, “Yes”.
Copleston continued, “How do you differentiate between good and bad?” Russell replied, “The same way I differentiate between blue and green or yellow and green.” Copleston then said, “Wait a minute, you differentiate between yellow and green by seeing don’t you?” Russell said, “Yes”.
So Copleston challenged him by asking, “How do you differentiate between good and bad?” Russell replied, “I differentiate on those matters on the basis of my feelings, what else?”
The truth is that though people espouse relativism, they actually demand absolutes. Consider how people react to being ‘wronged’ proves they want and recognize absolute morality. Steal from a relativist; let them be the victim of false advertising; watch how they respond when their spouse is relatively faithful to them vs. absolutely faithful, and the reaction showcases the recognition of absolute morality.
Richard Dawkins said “Science cannot tell you if it’s right or wrong for you to eat your own baby’s clone, but it can tell you that’s what you are actually doing. Then you can decide for yourself if you think it’s right or wrong.”
Mmm; people can decide for themselves what’s right or wrong? Sounds like a slippery slope.
What about science as providing an objective source for morality?
“You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn round and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.” Albert Einstein
Sam Harris said “The moral landscape is a space of real and potential outcomes whose peaks correspond to heights of potential well-being and whose valleys represent the deepest possible suffering. . . . Questions about values are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.”
But Harris’ moral theory collapses under closer scrutiny. He redefines good to be “the flourishing/well-being of conscious creatures”. Harris admits in his book that it is possible that the peak of the “moral landscape” could be occupied by flourishing rapists, murderers, and thieves. So he admits it’s possible that goodness and creaturely well-being are not identical. Therefore, Harris’ moral theory collapses.
The individual cannot be an objective source for moral values.
Before we move on; another interesting argument is the argument from conscience, associated with Joseph Butler and John Henry Newman. They proposed that, along with giving moral guidance, the conscience also provides evidence of objective moral truths which must be supported by the divine. They highlighted the fact that people avoid acting immorally, even when it’s in their best interests. Newman proposed that, to explain the conscience, God must exist.
So far we've covered 3 of the 4 possible sources for objective morality, and each one has failed…which leaves us with the 4th.
A transcendent Creator:
Consider this possibility:
- - Laws imply a Law Giver.
- - There is an objective Moral Law.
- - Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver.
From another angle:
- - If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
- - Objective moral values and duties exist.
- - Therefore, God exists.
“We might well argue that objective intrinsically prescriptive features supervenient upon natural ones constitute so odd a cluster of qualities and relations that they are unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful God to create them.” J. L Mackie - Atheist Philosopher
Let’s consider the atheist dilemma:
- - If there’s such a thing as evil, you must assume there’s such a thing as good.
- - If you assume there’s such a thing as good, you assume there’s such a thing as an absolute and unchanging moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil.
- - If you assume there’s such a thing as an absolute moral law, you must posit an absolute moral law giver, but that would be God – the one whom the atheist is trying to disprove.
- - So now rewind: if there’s not a moral law giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil.
So what about the Euthyphro Dilemma?
- - Is something good because God approves it, or does God approve something because it’s good?
- - The first makes God arbitrary.
- - The second makes ‘good’ independent of God.
This is solved by the following:
- - God is the greatest possible being.
- - God’s nature is what grounds absolute moral right/wrong.
- - God has no obligations to anything outside of Himself.
- - He simply acts and what he naturally does is good because it comes from His nature/essence.
From the above we come to the conclusion that God provides the only objective standard for moral values
that God provides the only transcendent authority for enforcing the “oughtness” of moral duties.
The 3 parts of this series so far have given us proof that there is a perfect, necessary, and eternal being that created the universe with life in mind and has the authority to tell us how we are to run it. The correct response to this would be to seek God’s will and to practice it.
In part 4 we’ll be building on the foundation of the first 3 parts and looking additional evidences around the topic “Does God exists?”
w w w.confidentchristians.org
w w w.apologetics315.com
http://w w w.existence-of-god.com/moral-argument.html
I’ve utilized the flow of the freely available presentations at Apologetics 315 (powerpointapologist) which is free to use and modify as needed; and drawn from multiple other sources for this article.