I watched the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham surrounded by new friends. I actually stumbled across these people in no small part because this debate happened. A friend of my wife’s on Facebook commented that she might attend- which led to my wife suggesting that this might be an event our 9 year old son might enjoy- which resulted in me confirming my attendance on a Facebook events page that is run by a local atheist group. Bill Nye helped me discover that my hometown has a fully developed and thriving atheist community that I was somehow completely oblivious to until a few days ago.
This, I suppose, is a lesson in unintended consequences.
So when I started my morning by recapping what other people thought of the debate with the intention of helping to clarify my own thoughts, I was sympathetic to the opinion of Michael Schulson in The Daily Beast that the debate was a losing proposition from the moment it was brokered. Facts are not something to be debated. We shouldn’t be lending credibility to creation myths by juxtaposing them with science. Bill Nye is the wrong person to be representing the scientific argument because he is not an expert on evolution. This was a common argument before the debate even aired.
On all accounts I think these arguments are wrong.
Academics Don’t Create Policy, But Somehow They Are The Only People Qualified To Talk About Science
Several people have pointed out that the Creation/Evolution debate is a political issue and not a scientific issue. I agree with that assessment. The question I’d like to ask is this: If people who are passionate about science aren’t going to wade into the political debate over what we teach the next generation- who is going to stand between opportunistic legislators and our children? Can we just assume that rationality is always going to rule the public stage in opposition to the court of public opinion?
Bill Nye is right that we need children that understand the scientific method and how proper science is done. We also need the public to be savvy enough to tell the difference between education and indoctrination. The idea that this debate emboldened creationists by giving them a stage is, I think, demonstrably wrong. First, you need to assume that all creationists are Young Earth Creationists (YECs). Then you need to assume that YECs aren’t already aware of Answers In Genesis, the Creation Museum, or Ken Ham. This is akin to going up to your nerdiest friend and telling them about this great new Star Trek series called “The Next Generation”. This debate didn’t bring new attention to Young Earth Creationism to the target audience for Young Earth Creationism. It brought new attention to YEC to exactly the people we need to see it- the large swath of Christian and other religious parents who think of Intelligent Design or Guided Evolution or some other pseudo-scientific concept when they imagine “teaching the controversy“. These people are embarrassed by people like Ken Ham. They know the earth isn’t 6000 years old, and they understand just how impossible it is to square that belief with observable phenomena. These are the people who are going to be moved by this debate. To assume that all people sympathetic to anti-evolutionary ideas are sympathetic to a literal reading of Genesis is a mistake. Many of those people will be moved by just how absurd it is to teach YEC as science. Some of these people might change their view about science education when faced with the prospect of science class becoming a strict literal interpretation of the first book of the Old Testament.
In this regard, I think that Ken Ham is exactly the kind of person those of us who care about science should debate. He is an extremist, a fundamentalist, an outlier even in Christian circles. Too many of us feel that Bill should have avoided giving Ken Ham a platform- when in fact that platform has already started to lay bare the deep divide among creationists. Pat Robertson has already called on Ham to “not make a joke of ourselves.” Inside the bubble of Young Earth Creationism, the idea of a 6000 year old creation and a big boat that held 10,000 animals while the entire world was flooded for a year seems perfectly reasonable. They think that people just need to see the evidence the way they do and everyone will be forced to concede the truth of their beliefs. It is the people outside this bubble that Bill needed to speak to, and I think he did that marvelously.
Bill Nye Is Exactly What We Need
To the degree that I think Ken Ham is exactly the kind of creationist that science educators need to draw attention to, I think people like Bill Nye are exactly the kind of person we need doing it. We need people who are teachers and communicators. We need people who aren’t going to go on tangents about overly dry and technical aspects of evolutionary theory when simple and focused arguments suffice. We need people who aren’t going to waste their whole half hour talking about the philosophy of science when someone tries to make the ridiculous distinction between observational science and historical science. We need the kind of people who say “there are trees older than you think the universe is.” We need people who can make radio waves and the big bang something I can explain to my 9 year old son. We need someone who can Gish Gallop with easily digestible facts that are memorable and funny.
Many otherwise smart people have claimed that this debate was worthless and they avoided it because neither speaker had the authority to talk about evolution. Public opinion isn’t decided by experts. Policy isn’t made by experts. Hell, High School Biology class isn’t taught by experts. This wasn’t an academic debate and if it was it would have swayed virtually nobody involved in the future of science education. To be blunt, one of the problems in the divide over public science education is that it seems to be difficult for people to grasp the basics of evolutionary theory. Policy will be shaped by ignorance and incredulity if we fail to take interest in education. If the Bible denied that there are integers above 20,000, we wouldn’t insist that only those with a degree in theoretical mathematics argue with theologians. We would send in Warren Buffet and the Manager at TGI Friday’s to compare their purchasing power. When we want people to understand how simply wrong a proposition is, we need people who can speak in terms laypersons can not just grasp but easily internalize. Bill Nye is a brilliant science educator, and he was the perfect person to take on a science obfuscator.
The public is not going to get energized nor swayed by academic debates on the minutiae of evolution. They are going to be easily confused until some charlatan shows up to reassure them.
I think it is insulting to assume that all Christians are going to be moved by a literal six-day creation argument, and I think it’s ignorant to assume that there were no viewers who had positions that could be influenced by a clear and concise argument that science is the best way do science. Many people approached the prospect of this debate with a hyper-simplistic view of those who don’t accept biological evolution whole cloth. It is precisely this kind of superiority complex and lack of understanding that is going to stoke the fires of people who wish to sneak religion into science.
We are so busy thinking about the possibility that Christians are naive and easily duped that we fail to see that, more likely than not, the unintended consequence of this debate is a popular rebuke of literal six-day creation among the larger Christian community- the people who vote, who sit on Parent/Teacher Associations, who choose curriculum guidelines.
I found a community as an unintended consequence of a well marketed, elegantly argued, and entertaining debate about evolution- and I think that it will have the opposite consequence for Young Earth Creationists. Showing reasonable people what God in science class might really mean will make the fringe increasingly isolated.
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
That about sums it up.
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Could the argument from incredulity get any more objectively silly? If you answered “No.” to this question, you and I need to talk.
See, you have been living in a world where theists are only marginally insane, you have not been introduced to the fruits of having to create a plasticine reality to justify a confused mythology, you have never heard of presuppositional apologetics, let’s call it presup., for short.
Don’t worry. I’m here to help. Get that pot of coffee brewing, take a load off. You are about to visit the fringes of sanity; if you come out the other side intact, then I’ve done what I set out to do. Presup remains a tricky argument to counter because it is packed with loaded questions, misplaced definitions, bait and switch, and technical jargon. It stands on your ignorance, and it falls on close inspection.
What the F#@% Are Presuppositionalists Even Talking About?
Yeah, I know. Some troll just came into a good thread conversation and dropped a steaming pile of nonsense on your lap. I bet it went something like this:
You: Can you believe some people believe the earth is only 6000 years old? SRSLY!
Your Friend: Dude! I so know what you’re talking about! YEC’s…..for the LOL’s, right?
S#!+ For Brains: Excuse me, my good fellows. How do you know the earth isn’t 6000 years old?
Y: OMFG! SRSLY? It’s called evidence, homey! Have you heard of it?
YF: Totally. Case closed. Sucks to be you! I know because the evidence says so.
SFB: No. You see, you don’t know. You don’t know anything. You cannot have knowledge of anything in your worldview. If you do, it is surely circular! In order for anything to make sense, you need to presuppose the existence of God. You are a theist and don’t know it!
Y: WTF. That s#!+ makes no sense. You are ridiculous.
YF: What the F#@% does that even mean? Of course I know S#!+, like, I so know you are a douchebag.
SFB: Ahh! Can you prove that you know anything?
This is where it starts. You just got served with a steaming pile of presup nonsense. This is the “knowledge” variation. There is also the “morality” variation, the “existence” variation, and the list goes on. First, I guess we should dispense with the definitions. In this post, I’m just using the first two. The third definition for Moral Presup will be the subject of it’s own post, though I have argued against it in the past.
Argument From Incredulity: The assertion that a premise is true or false based on insufficient knowledge, willful ignorance, or misunderstanding of probability.
An argument from incredulity was the good old standby of theologians for years. Eventually though, people started figuring out that we could use the tools of reason to answer those nagging questions in our universe. Below is a cursory list of incredulous assertions (theistic and otherwise), followed by their reasoned explanations:
- The earth is suspended on a firmament→ Yeah. Turns out the earth is held in space as a result of it’s gravitational relationship to the sun. Who knew?
- The moon is a source of light→ Again. Seems logical, but turns out it is just a giant reflector of the large gaseous sphere we call the sun
- Illness is caused by evil spirits→Really? People thought that? Yep. And unless you define “evil spirit” as being a microscopic organism, you are probably wrong.
- Humans sperm is a humunculus→ That’s right. Turns out your sperm is just a boring nucleus of chromosomes that require a diploid bond to take any real form. Sorry to burst your bubble. Thankfully, this allows us to sidestep the uncomfortable conversation with our girlfriends about whether sperm is the dietary equivalent of “Soylent Green”.
- Rainbows are God’s “shout out” to the LGBT community→No matter how cool that sounds (and I still want to believe it), turns out light refracts off of water molecules in the atmosphere. Science ruins all the fun.
So science seems to have ruined everything. Slowly and methodically, it seems that superstition gets squeezed out of the world we live in.
How does one manage to “win back” our world for hocus pocus, superstition, and anthropomorphic Godheads? Enter Presuppositionalism. This takes the old argument from incredulity:
We don’t know how this happens→.·. God
and changes it to this:
We can’t know how anything happens without God→.·. God
Bam! That will learn ya.
Presuppositionalism: God is the source of knowledge, reason, and logic. Claiming otherwise is circular reasoning, because you need to use logic and reason to verify logic and reason. There must therefor be something that transcends logic and reason. That something is……wait for it…….wait…for…it……GOD! Boo Ya. If we claim to know anything, we first must presuppose the existence of God. Whether we deny it or not.
The Moral Presup Argument: There can be no objective morality without something that makes things objectively good or objectively bad. Guess what that something is? No. Really, Guess….Without G-O-D, actions are just a matter of preference. If God doesn’t exist, people can’t say there is anything wrong with murdering people, or molesting children. If you don’t think child molestation is the bee’s knees, you instantly presuppose God.
Yeah, I know, that sounds absolutely retarded. And it is. But, and this is a big but, how do you show that it is, in point of fact, retarded? Well, let’s just rejoin your conversation from earlier…..
You: How do I prove I know anything? Well I use reason to test what I know against evidence.
S#!+ For Brains: How do you know that your reason is reasonable? If you test logic and reason with logic and reason, then you create a viscous circle. You need to account for reason in a non circular way, and that requires God.
Your Friend: That is Ten Drumsticks short of an Ice Cream Truck! WTF?
SFB: So you can’t account for reason then? Thanks for coming out, Jesus loves you, your going to Hell, and God Bless!
Holy mother of an imaginary zombie superhero! What just happened?
Well, I’ll tell you. Here is your logical chain:
- Humans possess logic and reason
- In order to prove this, we need to use logic and reason
- Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy
- Therefor we must presuppose something without logic or reason in order to account for logic or reason
- That something is God, and by God I mean the God of the Bible, YHWH, God of Abraham, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
So the presuppositional argument is that we cannot reason God’s existence, there is no rational proof for God; we must accept the entire premise on faith in order to avoid “circular reasoning”. They can’t explain why we must presuppose any God, or that God in particular, just that we have to presuppose something, and then they insist that there is only one possibility to presuppose.
You see, in order to reason which supposition we ought to presuppose in order to avoid our circular reasoning, we would also have to use logic and reason. So really, you can’t just assume a Christian God, because if you assumed Him, then you would have to deny that the Bible is evidence of God’s existence. If you claimed the bible is proof of His existence, you would have to use logic or reason, and that would be off limits- else you yourself commit the fallacy of circular reasoning. Essentially what I am saying is that Presuppositionalists commit circular reasoning every single day. They just think that by adding an extra step, that you won’t catch on.
The Parable of Presuppositional Logic
Imagine that a chair stands on the ground in front of you. Your legs are tired, you wish to rest. You go to sit down, when someone interjects:
“You can’t sit on that chair,” the man says, “it will surely fall to pieces under your weight!”
“It looks perfectly sturdy,” you say,”it appears to be made of oak, with four sturdy legs.“
“You think that now” says the man, “but I know chairs, and this one is no good. If you allow me, I will fix it so that you may sit.”
Then the man pulls out a cushion. He plopps it down on the chair. “There!” he says, “Now it is perfectly safe.“
“What are you talking about?“, you say, dumbfounded. “All you did was put a cushion on it. That makes it no more safe, or sturdy.“
“Maybe. Maybe not.“ says the man. “Yet if you really think about it, I surely made it more comfortable.“
Thus ends the parable of presupposition. Presup can’t change the nature of anything. It doesn’t add structure to anything. It just takes something that works perfectly well and makes your use of it less of a pain in the ass. You feel like you are sitting on a cloud, and so long as you don’t look down, you can keep imagining it was so.
Does The Cushion Make The Chair More Sturdy?
So where does this leave us? What did we learn today? Hopefully we all agree now that presuppositionalism is just bait and switch. It is adding a step for no good reason. You still disagree?
Tell me then. What is the difference between these two propositions:
- Humans have reason and logic
- Reason and logic are the culmination of activities in our brain as a means to interpret, interact, and express the reality in which we exist
- the source of reason and logic, then, is in our brain, but dependent on the input of reality
- If I wish to prove reason and logic, I must appeal to the source of reason and logic. This is circular reasoning, but not viciously circular.
- Humans have reason and logic
- The source of reason and logic is God, as is the source of reality.
- If I wish to prove reason and logic, I merely need to appeal to God.
- If God is the source of reason and logic, then I must appeal to the source of reason and logic to prove reason and logic.
- I also must appeal to reason and logic to prove that the source of reason and logic exists. Oh, and appeal to reason and logic to argue that the bible was authored by the source of reason and logic. This is not at all viciously circular, or begging the question.
So they have made the chair more comfortable by changing the definitions and assuming their premise by fiat. So long as you focus on the cushion and not the chair, you can keep believing you don’t need four legs and solid ground. The chair is more comfortable because it hides your need to examine what lies beneath.
Welcome to presuppositionalism.
To end this post, I will pull two quotes from the previous post that started this discussion. I think that Jason basically sums up this whole post in a single comment:
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Dan The Atheist Debunker:You cannot use a term “suppose” three time only to conclude an “actual” afterwords. Your logic and critical thinking skills are certainly lacking. Please try again. Thanks for the smile though. I will cherish it.
Jason:“You cannot use a term “suppose” three time only to conclude an “actual” afterwords.”
I owe my creationist friends a humble apology.
It seems that evolution is observably false after all…..
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—The process of evolution, through which single-celled organisms slowly developed over billions of years into exponentially more sophisticated forms of life, has inexplicably culminated in local Albuquerque resident Mitch Szabo, leading evolutionary biologists reported Monday.
According to baffled sources within the scientific community, the exact same mechanisms responsible for some of nature’s most spectacularly ingenious adaptations have apparently also produced a 35-year-old office assistant who has only worn pants that actually fit him a total of five times in his adult life.
“The identical processes that have given us the remarkable camouflage of the stick insect and the magnificent plumage of the bird-of-paradise have, it would seem, also given us a man who cannot scramble an egg,” University of Pennsylvania biologist Ann Goldwyn-Ross said. “Despite evolution’s emphasis on the inheritance and replication of advantageous traits, a man walks among us today who sweats profusely in any temperature and went to see Anger Management in theaters twice.”
From the Onion.
In the hopes of having Peter clarify his opinions and commit to his own logic, I will answer several questions he asked in his newest post. I will intersperse his post with my replies, Peter in red, myself in blue. I will also not cherrypick his questions or commentary, because I am just that kind of guy. Peter, for those who are joining midstream, is not.
I still argue that your whole argument rests on not clarifying your position or your interpretation of my position, so let’s be honest about why you are responding. You are hoping that you can force me to contradict myself. You won’t answer questions because you know that answering them shows you contradicting yourself. I’ll play the game, if only to show you that, unlike you, I have taken the time to think out my positions. You know which questions you continue to avoid. If you don’t then I can assume you uninformed based on reading comprehension alone. Let’s begin, shall we?
You wrote: “You will notice that I include objective morality as a possible option for the atheist.”
You also wrote: “Morality is objective in the sense that rules, whether understood by convention or natural order, are the basis for the definition of a species and how it interacts with the world.”
And also: “Morality is subjective in the sense that our choices impact our ability to survive; so the best solution is not always clear, or do not impact our survival, so that reason can transcend a rule that has outlived its merit.”
My question for you is this: is being self-contradictory objectively wrong? Or is the claim, “being self-contradictory is wrong,” a matter of personal opinion, i.e., subjectively wrong? The reason I ask is because you accused the Bible of being self-contradictory. Then later you wrote: “Are you morally obligated to follow the laws of logic? Nope. You have every right to be wrong.”
George: First, do you believe it self-contradictory to believe that morality has both subjective and objective elements? Only you have argued that morality is purely one or the other. That said, is being self-contradictory objectively wrong? By almost any metric the answer would be yes. To clarify, it might be possible for your opinion to be self-contradictory and still get the right answer, but that would be unlikely. I really cannot clarify this for you enough Peter; you have no obligation to accept truth. It really helps, but you are not forced by anyone to have an opinion. You are obliged by reality and society to accept the consequences of your actions. If you can show me where your opinion on X is more important than the nature of X, then I’m willing to listen. Being wrong and thinking something is wrong are two different things. You have always attempted to conflate the two, but you thinking it doesn’t make it so. Here’s your false dichotomy. Something can be both thought wrong and objectively wrong, you can be objectively wrong but not be thought wrong, you can be thought wrong but not be objectively wrong. Your opinion, my opinion, it doesn’t matter. That is not what someone who uses the word “subjective” when talking about morality means. You can insist that it is, but it doesn’t make it so. If your opinion does change the meaning of how someone communicates an idea, then you are a “subjectivist” yourself. The word “subjective” you use, as well as the word “objective” you use, have very different meanings for you then they do for someone who argues the subjective nature of morality. Maybe you are correct to assume that they are using the wrong word, perhaps “contextual” is a better one. Morals are both objective, in that there are some opinions that are wrong regardless of any persons opinion, or subjective in that they are not objectively wrong but moral/immoral/neutral by the metric of the person who judges it. Is capital punishment wrong? By my metric, yes. Can I see why it is a contentious issue? Sure. Do I consider people who support capital punishment immoral? Yes. That is my opinion, and it is shared by many people. Would I consider that opinion to be an objective moral truth? Not really. Does that analogy help at all?
I have another question that concerns what you wrote here: “In order for the premise that subjective morality is self-contradictory to be true, man must be unable to refuse an objective moral truth by fiat.”
Whose fiat are you talking about? And so I’m clear, are you saying that the ability to disobey a law shows that morality is not objective? Or have I misunderstood you? Also, do you make a distinction between, on the one hand, whether one is able to or can break a law, and on the other hand, whether one is permitted or allowed to break a law?
You wrote: “In order for your premise to stand you must prove that man is solitary by nature, that nothing in reality transcends his personal opinion of what is moral or immoral.”
To which premise were you referring? Also, so you’re clear, I do not believe that there is nothing in reality that transcends man’s personal opinion. God is transcendent.
You have most certainly misunderstood me if you think that the statement “In order for the premise that subjective morality is self-contradictory to be true, man must be unable to refuse an objective moral truth by fiat.” has anything to do with whether morality is objective or subjective or both. It is a statement about your belief that subjective morality is self-contradictory. It is a statement that shows you are wrong. That doesn’t mean subjective morality is right, or that objective morality is wrong. It doesn’t mean the opposite of that either. It means that the opinion that subjective morality is self-contradictory is wrong. I say that because your premise for proving self-contradiction is that someone’s (in this case your) ability to refuse to accept truth makes that truth worthless. You have every right to disagree with Jason, I have every right to break God’s Law, neither of these fact make either premise self-contradictory. If you disagree with Jason and he is right, there are consequences, the first being that you are wrong. His opinion of whether you are wrong or not has no bearing here. Nor does your opinion that you are right. When I talk about what transcends your opinion, I refer to facts, consequences, reality, logic, human nature, and human constructs. Your opinion of whether Jason is right or wrong has no bearing on any of these things. A subjective moralist would say that his opinion of your moral obligations is beside the point, that your wages are due to those things that transcend his opinion. That sounds familiar to your presuppositional opinion that your moral obligation is owed to God. Where the subjective moralist differs is that he understands morality to be logically contingent to its variables as opposed to the commandment of some (possibly non-existent) higher power. You essentially end up saying the same thing in different language, you just presuppose that if there is a God, he is infallible, and therefor must be consistent with at least the first five of the six transcendent variables I listed above. You presuppose. Not me.
You wrote: “By picking and choosing what you want the definitions to be, you create black and white pronouncements from a million shades of gray.”
I was operating according to the dictionary definitions of objective and subjective. There are free dictionaries online for you to look up the meanings. Should I assume from your comment here that we should go by your definition of objective and subjective instead of the dictionary definitions of these words? If so, then I refuse. There’s no reason we can’t use the dictionary definitions of these words.
I’m not asking you to accept my definitions of those words. I’m asking you to accept the definition of a word in the context it is being used, as opposed to the context you want to apply to it. The funny thing about the English language is that words have multiple meanings, some of them with only subtle differences. “Subjective”, as I mentioned in an earlier response, has different uses with subtle differences. You insist on using it as an admission that atheists believe morality is a personal opinion, because you use this definition:
The Free Online Dictionary provides the following as the primary definition of subjective:
a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
b. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.
When just a few mouseclicks down from that definition you get this one:
Also, you wrote: “Logic does not transcend reality, it is a slave to it. Logic is objective. ………. What transcends logic to make it objective? Reality.”
Are you saying that logic is not part of reality? If reality transcends logic, then is it impossible for logic to be part of reality?
Looking forward to your clarification so that I might give you a proper reply.
See Peter, this is where all our trouble starts. You really need to read beyond the first line of a definition. If you bother to use your favorite Free Online Dictionary, and move down to the other two definitions of “transcend” you will find that transcendent has the following definition:
3. To exist above and independent of (material experience or the universe)
The definition you want to use is #3 from the second definition:
3. (Philosophy) Philosophy Theol (esp of the Deity) to exist beyond (the material world)
You can ruminate for hours about how I am wrong by subtly changing the meaning of my words out of their context. You have done it before, you’ll do it again I’m sure. When I say that logic is a slave to reality, I am obviously making a distinction between the two, but saying that one (logic) is dependent on the other (reality). Logic is objective in that its very definition means that it comports with reality. If it does not, it is not logic, it is imagination. Reality happens whether you are willing to make sense of it or not. Logic is constructed to reveal truths about reality. Can we, by consensus, change the rules of logic? Semantically, yes. We can’t, however, change reality so any change we agreed to would have to comport with reality or else it wouldn’t be logic. We could call it logic, but that would redefine the word, and seems rather pointless.
Your trick here is to make someone agree with the fact that the laws of logic are man made constructs, which in one sense they are, then argue that they are then a matter of opinion. By this metric, gravity is a man made construct, so do you propose that I might deny the laws of gravity and levitate around?
You want to play semantic games, because that is the entire point of presuppositional apologetics, to play with meanings and extrapolate consequences based on your interpretations. You do not get to decide what I must believe. I should be able to explain it, if asked, but just because you don’t want to listen doesn’t make you right.
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Presuppositionalist Peter, of Atheism Presupposes Theism, posted the following reply to comment I made at his site over the last few days. My attempts to comment on his blog have thus far failed for reasons that I am unsure of. His post:
1st Reply to George
I have a job. I work for a living. I can’t be at your beck and call.
George: “Killing is wrong. I agree with you.”
Do you believe that killing is objectively wrong or subjectively wrong?
George: “If there are some exceptions to that rule does that not make it by nature subjective, in that it requires context?”
The Free Online Dictionary provides the following as the primary definition of subjective:
a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
b. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.
This might not be the best definition of subjective, but I’m providing it for you anyway because I’m not sure that you understand what you’re saying. However, I do believe that context is a key component in considering the morality of an action. But so also is motivation, effect and, of course, the standard by which an action is deemed right or wrong.
George: “Unless you only consider murder a moral question and not killing? Killing seems to me to be a moral question, I wonder if you agree?”
In the Christian worldview, every action or deed is a moral matter, since everything we do is either to God’s glory or to our own glory.
George: “… I wonder if we are even able to agree on the definition of morality out of the gates.”
Probably not as the Christian position is that morality is not a matter of subjective or personal opinion.
George: “You state, in your answer, that killing is not a moral question.”
I did not state that. It is a moral question. But as you said, we likely disagree on the definition of morality.
George: “So you can kill at will, so long as you are justified in doing so?”
There is a distinction between killing at will and killing when you are justified in doing so. Perhaps what we need to clarify is when killing is justified. I gave three examples already as to when it is justified: self-defence, just war and capital punishment. Of course, even these three examples need further clarification and explanation. For example, I hear both atheists and theists say they’re in favour of capital punishment. I hear both atheists and theists say they’re opposed to capital punishment. Also, people might disagree over what constitutes a just war as opposed to a unjust war.
George: “If you killed me today, because God told you to do it, you would not be morally culpable?”
Since the close of the canon of Scripture, God no longer speaks in a direct fashion as He did, for example, to the prophets of the Old Testament. I know that may sound weird to you, but there it is for you anyway. Yes, it would be wrong for me to kill you, unless you were trying to kill me.
George: “I’m struggling to follow your logic, because I suspect there is none to follow.”
Are the laws of logic universal and invariant? Or are they a matter of convention?
George: “So we are clear, Christianity only comports with child killing, as long as God told you to do it. Your words. So if God decided to tell you to kill your children, then you are morally right to do as he says. Glad you cleared that up for us.”
You are not clear.
George: “How, then, are we to know what God told you? Does He give you a receipt? If someone kills their children and tell you that God commanded it, are you morally bound to believe him? What is the procedure?”
God reveals Himself in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. He also reveals Himself in creation. Now, you may not agree with that and you may not like that, but that is how God reveals Himself. It’s not magical and it’s not cryptic. If you want to know what God reveals and who He is, then go watch a sunrise, watch the frost form on a window, go see the northern lights, go and read the Bible.
Also, the reason I asked the question about the difference between a human killing a human and a lion killing a zebra is because the atheist worldview says that man is just an animal that evolved from animals. But in the Christian worldview, man is created in God’s image. Yes, man shares certain similarities with animals, but in the Christian worldview man also shares similarities with God, such as the ability to reason, to imagine, to create, to be self-aware, to make choices, etc., etc. Why is the difference between humans and animals so astronomically huge? The Christian worldview can account for that whereas the atheistic worldview cannot.
My first attempt to post a reply went like this:
O.K., I’ll play along, but your 15 minutes is almost up. Every single commenter here has poked holes in your boat, and your already drowning and telling the coast guard you’re just fine. This whole debate is turning into the “Black Knight” scene from “Quest for the Holy Grail”, and just like in the movie, eventually we give up arguing against your false reality and move on.
“I have a job. I work for a living. I can’t be at your beck and call.”
See, that seems clever, until your apologist friends read the conversation and notice that it’s not that you <b>didn’t</b> respond because you were busy. You responded to other comments just fine. You still haven’t responded to the request for a Bible verse condemning pedophilia that was asked 5 days ago now, yet you had the time to write 14 comments and 3 blog posts in the interim.
“Do you believe that killing is objectively wrong or subjectively wrong?”
You really do not listen. Guess. Use your logic.
“The Free Online Dictionary provides the following as the primary definition of subjective:
a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
b. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.”
I’m glad you can look things up. The same source offers this definition:
1. belonging to, proceeding from, or relating to the mind of the thinking subject and not the nature of the object being considered
2. of, relating to, or emanating from a person’s emotions, prejudices, etc. subjective views
Why would you conflate a definition that clearly tells you it relates to “decisions” or “experience” with one that relates to “views”: the very subject we are talking about? Especially when it’s on the same page? Reading comprehension, Peter, reading comprehension.
“This might not be the best definition of subjective, but I’m providing it for you anyway because I’m not sure that you understand what you’re saying. However, I do believe that context is a key component in considering the morality of an action. But so also is motivation, effect and, of course, the standard by which an action is deemed right or wrong.”
Wow, we actually found a clause we can agree on in totality! You’re right that your definition is not the best one. You are indeed providing it because you are trying to put words in my mouth. The rest I cannot find fault with, for you proceed to concede that you can apply prejudices that are independent from the nature of the object being considered. Read the definition again Peter.
Also, show me the asterisk in the Bible after the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”.
“In the Christian worldview, every action or deed is a moral matter, since everything we do is either to God’s glory or to our own glory.”
This may be important soon…..
…I gave three examples already as to when it is justified: self-defence, just war and capital punishment. Of course, even these three examples need further clarification and explanation.”…
See how I indicated when I paraphrase? That lets people know that there is context. It is called being intellectually honest. Anyway, You didn’t really give three, you gave four. You included revelation. By not including it here you make it seem like I was putting words in your mouth when you make your next point. Just so we are clear, I did no such thing.
I won’t bother to address the next point, I will accept that that is your position on revelation. I obviously fundamentally disagree, based on the presupposition that there is in fact a “God” to communicate with.
“God reveals Himself in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. He also reveals Himself in creation. Now, you may not agree with that and you may not like that, but that is how God reveals Himself. It’s not magical and it’s not cryptic. If you want to know what God reveals and who He is, then go watch a sunrise, watch the frost form on a window, go see the northern lights, go and read the Bible.”
This will become very important soon….
“the atheist worldview says that man is just an animal that evolved from animals. But in the Christian worldview, man is created in God’s image. Yes, man shares certain similarities with animals, but in the Christian worldview man also shares similarities with God, such as the ability to reason, to imagine, to create, to be self-aware, to make choices, etc., etc. Why is the difference between humans and animals so astronomically huge? The Christian worldview can account for that whereas the atheistic worldview cannot.”
Show me one human behavior that cannot be found to have an unambiguous parallel in the animal kingdom. Other than a God postulate, which we can neither prove nor disprove has a parallel. You haven’t even done that yet. As I pointed out, your premise of the lion and the zebra is a false conflation. Prove yourself.
I then commented thus, in order to try and make the debate more civil…..
My other attempts to comment on this post failed, I assume because Blogger had some issues.
My full response to this post is at my blog, as well as a shorter version in the thread at Jason’s blog.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the discussion, I feel that in the last few days I was able to more closely question the reasons for my beliefs. Your questions, and the questions I asked myself when formulating my responses, took me to task to make sense of my intuitions about morality. The end result is that I still fundamentally disagree with you and now know why.
Your position that morality is objective and can only be understood by positing a God is really no different than the atheists position on subjective morality. If we take the time to understand each others definitions of “subjective” and “objective” we realize that both of us are putting words in the other persons mouth, not a very helpful tactic.
Both the atheist and theist will come to terms with morality within their own worldview, and if someone presupposes a Christian God to exist, then they would have to come to your conclusions about morality. Likewise, if someone posits an absence of Gods, they must come to the conclusions I have. Where presuppositionalism goes wrong is that it employs a number of false dichotomies to make a case a presupposition of God. It exists as a way for Christians to tell atheists how atheists think, and by that metric alone it is disingenuous.
For example, when you say to Jason that if you have no moral obligation to accept anything he says, you are in fact saying the same thing as “I am exercising my free will (and if Jason’s comments are truthful, my sinful nature) in not accepting anything you say”. I would ask you to explain the subtle differences between these two expressions of the same situation. It is only a difference in expression that in one case you are sinning against God in disregarding an objective moral truth(for which you will face judgment) and in the other you are placing yourself in the situation of being wrong (and subject to judgment by a society that values the facts)
I think I know your answer, but I’ll let you present a case for it.
As I said before, your conflation of a human killing a human and a lion killing a zebra is a false one. Either we discuss the differences between lion on lion vs human on human or lion on zebra vs human on cow/fish/zebra etc.
Lions do not appear to wantonly kill other lions, nor is cannibalism common. Does that imply that lions were also made in God’s image? Why are there so many moral parallels between the behavior of animals and humans? The scientific worldview can account for that whereas the theistic worldview cannot.
Please read my comments to the rest of your points on my blog or Jason’s.
I hope he is not just avoiding me…..
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