Why I changed my mind

(Mervin Bitikofer) #341

You can call it anything you want, but by your denying its objective correctness you tell me all I need to know about what this “morality” is, and more importantly: what it fails to be. It is really nothing more than “might makes right” and that if the Nazi’s had won WW2 and prevailed in spreading their cultural preferences around the world, then maybe it would be considered okay right now to exterminate any remaining Jews that anybody finds.

I prefer real morality [notice my own careless lapse right there! – it really doesn’t matter what I or society prefers] … the sort that can speak truth to power even if the entire world under the sway of that power tries to deny it. Subjective “morality” provides no basis for speaking truth to overwhelming power. It just has to shrug its shoulders and declare that “this is the new right thing to do now.” It makes incoherent shambles of your own attempts to criticize old testament atrocities because your cultural preferences today carry no more weight than their own did back then. But your willingness (a very healthy and necessary willingness, that!) to join with Christians in being horrified at atrocities of the past (as well as in the present!) is evidence of a healthy moral framework that you’ve imbibed from somewhere – it certainly didn’t come from any logic or reason or science as those have exactly and precisely zero to contribute in support.

Logic and reason provide the methods and rules for how to construct a valid argument. But it needs premises to work with. Now some premises might themselves be products of prior reason, such as when a system of mathematics is built up on prior proven theorems. But it all works back to some axiomatic set which is a foundation for holding up the whole edifice. Without premises, there is nothing for logic or reason to work with. And some of these premises (the ultimate ones – the postulates) must be from outside the whole set, themselves only accepted – not established by the system itself. No system is self-sufficient and complete in this regard. Godel proved something similar about mathematics, and if it’s true for math (the only real home for what we can justifiably call ‘proof’), then it’s a pretty safe bet it’s true of less logically rigorous systems (such as science) too.

edits added.

(GJDS) #342

Glad to see you are interested in a theological outlook.:sunglasses:

If I understand the subject of this discussion, it is that of human morality within a context of belief in God, or absence of such belief.

Briefly, humanity is able to discuss morality as part of human experience, and I think a dictionary definition of this is a good start.

· n. (pl. moralities)
1 principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour; a system of values and moral principles.
2 the extent to which an action is right or wrong.

Theologically we start with the faith based statement that God is only good, and is the source of all goodness.

This is an interesting way of saying that if we are cut of from communing with God, we loose the source of goodness. Yet humanity has been endowed with a conscience and a capacity to know what is good and evil to ourselves, but this is inadequate - thus the many differing views on the subject matter. It is not so much a loss of morality, but more as seeing ourselves as the arbitrators of good and evil, and not God as the source of all goodness.

I trust this would answer some of your questions. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


And lack of empathy towards others.

Where did Darwin say that we should kill people who are less fit?

Why? It seems to get to the heart of the matter.

(George Brooks) #344


What exactly is your point? That because “natural selection” can be twisted into Social Purging, then it Natural Selection must be wrong or denied?

Surely you see that we can’t deny findings in the study nature simply because some people will use that information to create Fake News, yes?

Some people say Christianity must be denied because Christianity promotes misogyny ? You can argue that it doesn’t … but isn’t that the point? You can argue that it doesn’t… but that doesn’t change how the evil folks will abuse notions of the Bible.

The same goes for the study of nature. Evil does what Evil will. You can’t blame the workings of nature on the Evil impulses.

And then there’s that last thought of yours… that Science doesn’t offer morality.

Remember, these are BioLogos boards. What science does not provide us … Christian faith does !

You must remember that despite the atheists constantly fluttering about like lawn moths … these discussions are ultimately aimed at one thing: that Christian faith can work alongside the study of the natural world.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #345

I see you are busy replying to somebody right now, T, so this post may cross with yours … but something @Christy said in another new thread might be of interest to you / us here:

Just because something is a social/cultural construct doesn’t make it less real. Language and gender roles are human constructs too, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real and important.

If we wrench her words from that context and perhaps into something she may not own, it would be saying something very similar to what you claim: If she had said: “Language and gender roles and morality are human constructs too, … but no less real for it” would that not echo perfectly what you are trying to say here?

I still stand behind everything I wrote above, but this is just to let you know I think I understand where you are coming from. It would be interesting to see if any middle ground actually proved to be possible in this.


Just as it was thought objectively moral to jail homosexuals for simply being homosexual in Christian America, and now that objective morality has changed.

What you are speaking of is your subjective choice of religious morality. Other people choose other religions, and they make the same claims of objectivity while contradicting your own claimed objective morality. If objective morality is simply following rules set out in something humans wrote, then that is an abdication of morality, at least in my eyes.

If we aren’t using our own empathy and reasoning to determine what is moral, then what in the world are we using? Are we simply following commands like a dog being told to attack a stranger? Are we automatons incapable of determining things for ourselves?

On the flip side, maybe there is an objective source for morality. At least from what I have seen, it is subjective, but I am more than happy to be wrong. But what I fear most is locking ourselves into the idea that a set morality has to be true and refusing to change it in the face of reasons to do so.

As I have stressed all along, empathy is part of that process. Empathy allows us to determine other peoples’ emotions and relates them to our own emotions. Logic and reason allow us to determine how our actions can negatively affect other people, and it forms the basis of fairness and justice in human society, at least from what I can see. You are completely right that logic and reason need something to work with, and I think that something is empathy and how we treat each other. That seems like a pretty darn good foundation for morality, at least in my estimation.


Irrelevant. It’s a logical (though incorrect) extrapolation.

Not at all. You’re turning the argument around.

The moral argument for God does not state that morality exists because God says it does.

The moral argument for God says that because morality exists (universally), then God exists.

I think that’s probably the third or fourth time I’ve clarified that.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #348

They do?! What are the contradictions? I’m struck more by all the commonality of it all … treating others as we would want to be treated, humility, honesty, etc. Are there other major religions contradicting this?


Um…have you been reading the thread?

I neither said nor implied anything of the sort. The issue is on why or how Hitler was wrong.

All of that is irrelevant to the conversation.

Right. How could I both blame Darwin for Hitler and claim that science doesn’t offer morality?

You’re completely misinterpreting, maybe because you’re missing the context of the rest of the conversation.

Absolutely. What, in anything that I posted, would lead you to think I was saying something to the contrary of that?


Then it is a logical extrapolation from the laws of gravity that we should throw people off of tall buildings because people should fall.

So what God commands is not necessarily moral?


Would you say that Sharia law fits well with Christianity’s views on a moral society?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #352

I’m think that my friends stuck in an OT view of morality.

I think that the NT view is much better. This takes several forms. Love others as you love yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love others as Jesus loves you.

Of course for believers there is ,Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love others as you love yourself.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #353

Just a quick glance at all that Wikipedia shows on “Sharia law” tells me that this is a huge system, and asking if I agree with it is about like asking if I agree with China. To the extent that it is said to include justification for abuse of women, for example, I would disagree. Though it seems worth noting that it seems to be disputed today about what Sharia law really justifies or teaches or doesn’t. BUT – to the extent that any faction of it does justify abuse of anyone, I would disagree with it, and have the grounds to disagree with it (just as I disagree with Christians abusing their religion to justify abuse of people).

If I accept your notion of morality, though, then my grounds for opposing it evaporate into a culture war – just hoping that “my culture” prevails. Or else (on your kind of morality) it might at some point in the future become okay to abuse people because of race or gender --it will just depend on the winds of culture.


You could say it was logical. But it is incorrect. Not because of the behaviour of gravity, but because of the value of people. That is probably an apt comparison of Hitler’s use of logic.

Sort of beside the point of the moral argument for the existence of God. Tangential, probably for reasons.

(George Brooks) #355


I accept your interpretation for why my comments are not relevant, and the deserved chastisement for not confirming the context of your posting.

Have a splendid week. George Brooks

(John Dalton) #356

My point is that there are other, simpler ways to explain it.

Which is not convincing, as I’ve said.

If there’s no objective morality, you have no legitimate complaint if someone punches you in the face. Not really.

I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. It’s an obvious reality that I’ve been harmed by this situation, potentially seriously. There’s no need for an unknowable objective morality to give me cause for complaint.

Nothing, objectively or intrinsically. And isn’t that the way things seem to be when we look at differing ideas on such questions among different people (including those on different parts of the mental spectrum), cultures and over time? A range of factors such as evolved moral capacities (not inconsistent with EC by the way as far as I can see) and ability to grasp physical realities give us the ability to make moral assessments.

To embellish a bit, I don’t see how Lewis’s argument helps us understand anything. He hasn’t shown why objective morality is necessary. Feelings that it should be or is desirable or the fact that we can make moral judgements don’t get us there. Even if it were necessary, he hasn’t shown why that would make God necessary. It would have to be shown that objective morals can’t exist independently of God to do so. But he hasn’t gotten anywhere near that far anyway.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #357

which are no more meaningful than a cat squealing because you stepped on its tail. Of course you don’t need any moral basis to complain about getting punched in the face. Mere animal instinct is all you need to have that response. What you don’t have is any real basis for complaining that your assailant is somehow “in the wrong”.

It seems like this is devolving again into thinking we need arguments (on your terms) that proves God’s existence. I’m not sure any of us here are on board with your chosen need for that. I know I’m not. What I’m trying to show you is that without objective morals, you simply can’t get where you want to be: a place where you can have any valid complaint about other cultures behaving atrociously. Empathy is a good thing; and I have full grounds for thinking so as a Christian; --others, including you, may also have good foundation for thinking so based on other religious convictions that help you acknowledge objective morality [even if only subconsciously]. But science, logic, reason, none of those help you one whit to validate the goodness of empathy or anything else. You get that from other premises prior to science. For all you know from science … ‘empathy’ may be a survival-hindering weakness soon to be eradicated by evolutionary selection. The fact that it may for the moment in your present locale be advantageous has no relevance to your desire to validate your criticism of other cultures, be they parts of Sharia law or O.T. atrocity.


So…harm is the criterion for morality or the basis for your reaction? Says who?

That’s not his ultimate intention. He demonstrates that universal morality exists. We deny it until we are affected.

(John Dalton) #359

I don’t see why we have to put an external meaning on it. It’s exactly as meaningful as it is. But that’s not what I’m talking about, at all. Your cat is merely making a physical response to pain, yes. We do the same. I’m talking about much more than that. Imagine this situation. I’m on anesthetic in the hospital to have my ingrained toenail removed. Someone comes along and punches me in the face. I don’t feel it, and I suffer no damage or pain when I awake. Is it wrong? I say yes, and objectively so. Objectively speaking, that person’s action had the potential to cause me harm, and was wrong. I have the ability to make such an assessment, and I do not need to call on an objective truth to do so. I can make objective assessments based on criteria we agree on. I have no doubt this person caused me harm and was wrong. Do you disagree?

Look back at the argument, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me here. @fmiddel specifically pointed out several times that Lewis’s argument was for the existence of God. That’s the only reason I addressed the question so directly. I think it’s a far less interesting question than the existence of objective morality and our ability to access it if it does exist. Not to press this too hard, but I don’t have a need for such arguments, and I don’t think I’ve argued much in that vein at all in my time here. I’m not interested in doing so on this board. In fact, I often take care to point out that my arguments don’t negate the possibility of God’s existence–and I believe the same about my arguments in this thread.

I think I’ve laid out my case for why non-objective morality is valid, and can do so at more length, but instead let me ask you a question–a point which I made to fmiddel but didn’t receive a response to. If this objective morality exists, how can we access it so that we can judge other cultures for example? (really, I’m usually more concerned about individuals closer to home when it comes to morality, but it’ll do.) How does it inform our moral assessments?

I’m saying that harm is a physical reality which we are able to assess, and certainly one criterion of any moral system worth its salt. Even simpler mammals have a rudimentary sense of this–imagine a dog play biting and holding back in a way that avoids harm.

I don’t think it matters if it’s his ultimate intention. He has to demonstrate it for his argument to be sound. “Universal morality” seems to be a new term in this discussion, and I’m not exactly sure what you mean by it. Maybe I’ll look up the exact wording of his argument some time.


That is an almost impossible criterion. Harm is not just physical. It can be emotional or mental. If someone sees me discipline my child, they may accuse me of harm, but it would be more “harmful” in the long run to not do so.

But let’s take this deeper–why is harm wrong?