Moral Duty and Evidence for God

Earlier, I noted the moral posturing of atheist PZ Myers and its intrinsic irony:

These are delusions in an atheistic reality. If God belief is a delusion, so too is this mushy sense of ought. There is no basis for it (beyond the personal sentiments of the believers). Yet Myers builds his whole life around it. He is passionate about it. He comes to us as a True Believer in his own sense of moral duty. He comes as a Crusader. Yet he mocks those who believe in God.

Chaudhari responded:

Indeed, Myers is writing a bunch of “oughts” without any real justification. Somehow these “oughts” are to be derived from atheism, and we are left wondering about the details.

But to invoke God as the source of “oughts” is not any better. That also leaves something unexplained, namely how you decided God exists in the first place.

To simply take it as given that God exists and is the source of “oughts” is just as arbitrary as saying that “oughts” are to be derived from atheism.

And even if we assume God exists and is the source of “oughts”, there is still the fact that Christians do not agree on the answers to many moral questions, and in some cases they take opposing positions.

First, I would note that whether we agree on the many moral questions is a secondary consideration. 

I’m focused on whether this sense of having a moral duty/obligation, this sense of “ought,” is rooted in reality or fantasy.   That Christians can disagree on what our moral duty is a problem, but that problem is nowhere near as severe (and devastating) as atheists insisting on a moral duty when atheism clearly teaches all such appeals to moral duty are rooted in fantasy and delusion. 

Chaudhari writes:

But to invoke God as the source of “oughts” is not any better. That also leaves something unexplained, namely how you decided God exists in the first place.

But this is backward.  I experience the reality of moral duty whenever I confront a moral question.  The moral obligation I feel is deeply felt, as if it connects to a higher truth.  It judges not just me, not just my clan or tribe, not just my country.  It judges us all, regardless of whether or not we agree.  And this deep experience of the “ought to be” is shared by most humans, even hardcore atheists like PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins.  So the question becomes whether this deeply held sense of moral duty is tapping into a larger reality or whether it is a delusion.   I lean toward the former.  The sense of moral duty does not feel like a delusion and only becomes delusional if we happen to embrace atheism.  Atheism is the reason to think our sense of moral duty is delusional. 

So here is how I look at it.

If atheism is true, our sense of moral duty is delusional.

I do not think our sense of moral duty is delusional (and apart from psychopaths, no one else does).

Therefore, atheism is unlikely to be true.  Meaning theism is likely true.

In other words, our sense of moral duty is evidence for the truth of theism.  Atheists won’t agree, as they need a gap as evidence (and nothing less) given their atheism is built on god of the gaps logic. 

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64 Responses to Moral Duty and Evidence for God

  1. TFBW says:

    Here’s another way to look at it. Let us start by assuming moral realism: that there is, in fact, an objective reality to the concepts “right” and “wrong” in their moral sense. This much, it seems, both I and an atheist like Myers can agree upon.

    This implies the existence of “moral agents”, being entities to whom the concept of morally right and wrong action apply. Again, Myers and I would agree that we are both moral agents, whereas simple molecules are not. The categories of moral right and wrong do not apply to the behaviour of molecules engaged in chemical reactions.

    This gives rise to another concept: the perfect moral agent. A perfect moral agent always does what is right; never what is wrong. Myers and I certainly disagree about how a perfect moral agent would behave, but we can both assent to the concept that the right thing to do in any given situation is, by definition, what a perfect moral agent would do.

    For the Christian, such a perfect moral agent actually exists, not only in the form of God, but also in human form as Jesus. For the atheist, on the other hand, there are no perfect moral agents: the concept is a purely imaginary abstraction which exists nowhere in nature.

    The atheist is thus faced with two problems absent from the Christian world view. First, how can a purely imaginary abstraction be objectively real, especially given the lack of consensus as to the nature of this abstraction? It’s not even a solid inter-subjective reality, let alone an objective one. Second, how is it that a moral agent can be composed of nothing but non-moral parts? At what point does a collection of non-moral molecules become a moral agent, and how?

  2. dpmonahan says:

    Regarding disagreements among Christians about moral law:
    1) across the 2k year Christian tradition they are not widely divergent but generally homogeneous. Most of the divergence is the last hundred years.
    2) they are mostly homogeneous about big questions, and tend to diverge in the details.

  3. Ilíon says:

    Morality, if moral obligations and expectations are real — and I would say that not even a psychopath or a sociopath *really* believes otherwise, for merely look at how morally outraged that sort inevitable acts when someone treats them as they treat others — is:
    1) transcendent
    2) inter-personal
    3) relational

    Morality is transcendent — it is ‘objective’ and it is ‘universal’; it is real and applicable irrespective of of anyone’s wishes or opinions.

    Morality is inter-personal — moral obligations and expectations exist only between persons, not between things and things, and not between persons and things, but only between persons.

    Morality is relational — the specific moral obligations and expectations obtaining between two persons follow from the relationship between them.

    In the comments of the older post to which Our Host refers, I had casually dismissed ‘Chaudhari’ as being intellectually dishonest … because, well, he is. ‘Chaudhari’ is just another God-denier who is denying the transcendent nature of morality — with his mouth … even as he expects and demands that others treat him as *he* thinks they ought. ‘Chaudhari’ is trying to use the “nice” route to seduce people into affirming the falsehood that morality is a social convention, rather than a transcendent reality.

    Look again at ‘Chaudhari’s’ comment in the other thread. What is practically the first thing he does? Why, it is to accuse Michael, or even everyone who regularly comments here, of merely assuming the reality of God, and insinuating that we cannot know that God is … and with the further insinuation that the reality of God is irrelevant, in any case. But, all of these, whether accusation or insinuation, are false. And then he bases his “argument”, such as it is, that we all ought to accede to *his* atheistic, non-objective, non- transcendent “morality”, on a true, yet irrelevant, fact.

    No one who regularly comments on this blog starts with the assumption that God is. Rather, in our own various ways, we all conclude it. While ‘Chaudhari’ does not frequently comment here, he did not just now pop in – surely he ought to have *some* inkling that his accusation is false. But, even if he did just now pop in, that would mean that he is making a (false) accusation before he has even the vaguest idea what he’s talking about. As I said: intellectual dishonesty. And I already know that it is a waste of time to try to engage that sort.

    =====
    Morality is real; moral obligations and expectations are real. We *all* know this to be true. Even those who vigorously deny it show by their own behavior that they know their denials to be false.

    Knowing that morality is real; knowing that morality is transcendent; knowing that morality is inter-personal; knowing that morality is relational — one *also* knows that:
    — morality is not, and cannot be, grounded in the transient;
    — morality does not exist, and cannot exist, apart from moral beings of some sort;
    — morality is not, and cannot be, grounded in the material or physical;
    — morality is not, and cannot be, grounded in the opinions of transient beings;
    — THUS, the reality of morality *requires* that there exists at least one moral being who is transcendent;
    — BUT, a multiplicity of transcendent beings is a contradiction in terms;
    — THUS, there is but *one* transcendent being … and “this all men call ‘God’”;

    And again:
    — morality is inter-personal – it does not exist unless there are persons;
    — BUT, morality cannot “begin to exist” with the appearance of transient persons, such as ourselves, for that assertion is to deny the transcendent nature of morality;
    — THUS, the transcendent being – God – must be acknowledged to be a multiplicity of persons: that is, there is one God, and that this God is at least two persons (*);

    And yet again:
    — morality is relational – the moral obligations and expectations between, say, a father and a son, follow from the relationship between the two. Yet, the l obligations and expectations between *this* father and son cannot follow from their specific relationship. For, to assert that is to deny the transcendent nature of morality, and it is to deny that knowing the moral obligations and expectations between *this* father and son can tell you anything about the moral obligations and expectations between *that* father and son.
    — THUS, once again, we come back to the reality of God, and the reality that God is a multiplicity of persons.

    (*) Christianity proclaims that God is precisely three persons. So, by the way, did ancient, non-Christian, neo-Platonism.

    ======
    Morality is real. We *all* know this to be true. But the reality of morality, and what we know to be true about the nature of morality *demand* that something very like certain fundamental claims of Christianity are true –
    — There is a God, >>WHO<< is the deliberate cause of all else;
    — There is ONE God;
    — Yet, this one God is a multiplicity of Persons.

    This same result will obtain with any other fact of reality known by all to be true, yet vigorously denied by atheism:
    – the reality of logic and reason, the reality of rational beings;
    – the reality of “free-will”, the reality of ‘agency’, of free moral agents;
    – the reality of consciousness, the reality of conscious beings;

    Everything points to God. Nothing makes sense, except in light of God.

  4. Ilíon says:

    TFBW: ==Second, how is it that a moral agent can be composed of nothing but non-moral parts? At what point does a collection of non-moral molecules become a moral agent, and how?==

    The same question can be asked of rational beings, of conscious beings, of agent beings.

    The ‘atheistic’ “answer” is that “doesn’t exist” can “give rise” to “exists” so long as the “doesn’t exist” is “sufficiently complex”, whatever that means.

  5. Chaudhari says:

    The premise is that if one is not convinced that God exists, then one’s sense of moral duty is a delusion. That is a tough row to hoe. It is not far from saying (and may even be equivalent to saying) that anyone who does not share your belief is delusional.

    Let’s take an example. I have an ingrained sense of moral duty to be kind to others (a duty that may not or may not be felt by others here). I am also not convinced that God exists. You are claiming that I am delusional. How? Delusion means (according to Oxford) “a false belief or opinion about yourself or your situation”. What false belief or opinion am I holding?

    If you want to better understand where I’m coming from, have a listen to the episode of the Mindscape podcast I mentioned before, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAodsREx-N0

    The podcast covers some of the strong evidence that our moral intuitions are the result of brain functioning, which is an hypothesis shouldn’t really be controversial, should it?

    For instance, an interplay of different parts of the brain occurs when people consider the Trolley Problem. One part favors one solution to the Trolley Problem, while another part favors a different solution. When there is damage to one part, the solution given by the other part wins.

    There is also the classic case of the guy who had a brain tumor pushing on his orbifrontal cortex, causing him to suddenly become a pedophile. When the tumor was removed, he ceased being a pedophile (he also regained control of his bladder). Some time later he got pedophilic urges again. Sure enough, the tumor had returned, and the urges stopped again when the tumor was removed again.

    If morality comes somehow comes from “on high”, then none of this evidence makes sense. And the fact that theists give widely different answers to moral dilemmas like the Trolley Problem suggests that they aren’t getting their answers from “on high”. They struggle with and deliberate upon moral dilemmas like everyone else.

    In the broadest, zoomed-out sense, I might state the difference between our views like this. Your view is that you have attained moral superiority over others by way of holding a certain belief. My view is that you are like everyone else: flawed, conflicted, and human.

  6. TFBW says:

    *Facepalm.*

  7. Tom says:

    Choudhari,

    The premise is that if one is not convinced that God exists, then one’s sense of moral duty is a delusion. That is a tough row to hoe. It is not far from saying (and may even be equivalent to saying) that anyone who does not share your belief is delusional.

    Isn’t this pretty much what atheists tend to think of theists? Dawkins writes books titled “The God Delusion” and Bill Maher likes to claim that religious belief is “a neurological disorder”.

    The podcast covers some of the strong evidence that our moral intuitions are the result of brain functioning, which is an hypothesis shouldn’t really be controversial, should it?

    Okay, but what’s stated here isn’t that people don’t have moral intuitions. Of course they do and the OP says as much. This whole post is about the is-ought, fact-value dichotomy. The question is how you jump from subjective moral feeling to objective moral truth.

    In the broadest, zoomed-out sense, I might state the difference between our views like this. Your view is that you have attained moral superiority over others by way of holding a certain belief.

    I don’t think that’s the argument. The argument is rather that morality doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in an atheist metaphysical framework.

  8. Ilíon says:

    ==In the broadest, zoomed-out sense, I might state the difference between our views like this. Your view is that you have attained moral superiority over others by way of holding a certain belief.==

    I had forgotten about Choudhari’s stupid accusation that Michael imagines himself to be morally superior to poor, put upon, Choudhari, by virtue of his belief about the nature of morality. I think that if one pays attention, one will see evidence that this accusation is, like most accusations made by God-deniers — mere projection.

    Michael professes Christianity. One of the fundamental tenets of Christianity — one which you can be assured that in some other context Choudhari would be denouncing as being ‘immoral’ — is that *no* human being is morally superior to another, and indeed that no human being can properly be called ‘good’ at all.

    Hell! Even I — who am continually disgusted by the unending intellectual hypocrisy of God-deniers — don’t imagine myself to be morally superior to them.

  9. Ilíon says:

    ==*Facepalm.*==

    Oh, now! Surely you didn’t think Choudhari would engage Michael’s response to/criticism of his accusations made in the prior thread.

  10. Kevin says:

    If atheism is true, then moral impulses are no different than experiencing hunger or fatigue. If one is sleepy, one goes to sleep. If one is hungry, one eats. If one wants a nice thing someone else has, one takes it.

    If an atheist criticizes one of these, then he has entered the realm of “ought”, which cannot be justified through the various propaganda and talking points by which atheism is deemed true over theism – there is no scientific evidence that eating food, taking a nap, or stealing is wrong.

    You can explain the existence of moral impulses under atheism, but under no circumstances can atheism justify outrage when someone else doesn’t “measure up” to your standards.

  11. Ilíon says:

    ===You can explain the existence of moral impulses under atheism, …===

    Only in the sense of “explaining” by means of ‘explaining away‘.

  12. TFBW says:

    I have an ingrained sense of moral duty to be kind to others … What false belief or opinion am I holding?

    There is a fundamental conflict between atheism and a sense of moral duty, so your false belief is either atheism itself, or that your experience of morality is a sense of something. Personally, I think that you do have some sense of moral duty, so it’s the atheism which is the delusional part. I will now explain the conflict, so that you may choose on which horn of the dilemma you prefer to be gored.

    One’s sense of sight allows one to perceive light. One’s sense of hearing allows one to perceive sound. One’s olfactory senses allow one to perceive the tastes and scents of substances. Unless there is some real, transcendent moral fact with which your faculties make contact in this act of sensing moral duty, then you do not have a sense, you have a hallucination (or a personal preference which you are dishonestly elevating to the status of “sense,” but let’s pretend that you are honest for the sake of argument). Given the lack of ontological room for transcendent moral truths in the typical atheistic framework, it falls to you to explain how your sense of moral duty is not delusional in this way. Appeals to brain states are irrelevant: hallucinations are also brain states.

    Short version: if there is a sense of moral duty, then there is a real entity which one senses when sensing moral duty. On atheism, what can that entity possibly be? Conversely, if there is no real entity of which the sense of moral duty is the object, then moral duty is a hallucination, and one is delusional if one treats it as real.

  13. Dhay says:

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2021/12/15/9079

    **

    Chaudhari > If you want to better understand where I’m coming from, have a listen to the episode of the Mindscape podcast I mentioned before, [Link to YouTube]

    Nobody in their right mind is going to listen to – still less spend the much greater time and effort needed to properly appraise it – a YouTube podcast video that’s an hour and a half long, especially not merely because some fan has done the equivalent of a (mere) Facebook ‘Like’ by linking to it and saying, (first thread) “There is some fascinating research [to be found at Link]” and (second thread) “have a listen to [it]”; podcasted words fly by, the points of interest scattered through mists an hour and a half wide.

    But I found that Sean Carroll’s blog includes a transcript of that podcasted interview with Joshua Greene; transcripts are easily copy-pasted, printed, then highlighted and margin-commented, so despite the transcript being over 14,000 words, 23 pages, I’ll indulge you – but don’t try my patience a second time – by making brief comments:

    https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2021/12/06/176-joshua-greene-on-morality-psychology-and-trolley-problems/

    The first thing I see is that you are not just arging by web-link, you are arguing by pundit. Your favoured pundit, Greene, is a well-credentialed philosopher arguing for a pragmatic flavour of utilitarianism (aka consquentialism.) Fine, though the 2020 PhilPapers Survey of philosophers’ positions – which is posiibly heavily selection-biased, beware – seems to evidence that while some philosophers do indeed favour Consequentialism, far greater numbers do not. Not only is Consequentialism not the only horse in the race, it’s not the front-runner:

    In table 1, for each question and each option, we present the total number of respondents and the percentage who either “accept” or “lean toward” that option. This figure can be calculated either as an “inclusive” figure, where respondents who endorse multiple options are included in the totals for each options, or as an “exclusive” figure, which counts only respondents who endorse that option and no other option.

    Normative ethics (P.10)
    Deontology 32.1% (inclusive) 19.7% (exclusive)
    Consequentialism 30.6% (inclusive) 21.4% (exclusive)
    Virtue ethics 37.0% (inclusive) 25.0% (exclusive)
    Other 18.2 (inclusive)

    https://philarchive.org/archive/BOUPOP-3 (pdf download)

    Carroll later asks about Virtue Ethics, to which Greene says he doesn’t really think Virtue Ethics is an answer [22:01]; but I note that Virtue Ethics is the first-place preferred answer in the Survey of Greene’s professional philosopher peers.

    For Greene, the problem of basic morality is already solved:

    So the fundamental moral problem for humans in general, is the basic problem of selfishness versus caring about others, and that’s basic morality; those emotional responses that I have described, and the structures built around them solve the problem of me versus us… [09:22]

    Greene is not just promoting Utilitarianist ethics, his own ethics are the Sam Harris style version that “tak[es] into account the suffering and well-being of all sentient beings equally”:

    …the most sensible meta-morality is try to make the world have as little suffering as possible, as most happiness or well-being as possible, taking into account the suffering and well-being of all sentient beings equally, and that is the core of it. And when you try to live that, I think what you end up being is what I call a deep pragmatist, that is you are mostly focused on evidence on trying to figure out what’s the best way to do this, working with human nature as it is not as it ought to be and aiming for this higher ideal, but very much engaged with the practical details of the world, so that’s my ethics. [15:27]

    I’ve looked at that ‘all sentient beings’ version elsewhere in these threads, and concluded it’s incoherent. Until (Harris or) Greene can justify objectively why the $100 that Greene says could be spent preventing a human from going blind [1:14:26] could and should be spent instead on reducing (specify how) the sufferings (specify how measured) of (specify number of eg ants, specify number of each and every other species) – until (Harris or) Greene gets down to specifics, I will treat the ‘all sentient beings’ version as a formulaic mouthing off of a mere platitude.

    Greene’s interest is primarily in developing what he terms a “meta-morality”or “higher level” moral theory applicable to competing groups (excluding ants, apparently):

    …The modern moral problem is a problem of us versus them, it’s a problem of not [not of – Dhay] otherwise selfish individuals trying to get along in a group, but groups with their own interests and their own values trying to get along with other groups, and so if morality is the solution to the basic moral problem of me versus you, or me versus us, we need something to solve the problem at a higher level, and so I think of that as a meta-morality, but just as morality enables individuals to live together as a group and cooperate, a meta-morality is something that enables groups to live together productively in a larger, more complex and more cooperative world. [09:22]

    That’s a worthwhile field of study. If Deontology, Virtue Ethics and those unspecified Other are not productive methods for investigating that particular meta-morality (Greene explains how Virtue Ethics fails as a tool [23:45]), whereas Pragmatic Consequentialism (Utilitarianism) is productive (or looks promising), then hey, go for it. As with string theory, it may end up getting nowhere, the theorist might discover that, in principle, it cannot get anywhere, or anywhere much, it might even succeed precisely or as an approximation, but whatever happens the theorist learns from trying.

    I prefer to describe myself as a deep pragmatist, and I think that that flows naturally from this conception of, “Okay, let’s start with the practical problem with different groups with different values and different interests, how do we resolve that problem?” Now, one way to resolve that problem would be to appeal to some universal objective moral truth. And my view is that there probably isn’t such a thing, but even if there is, we have no reliable access to it, right. So instead, we have to be pragmatic about this, so for practical purposes, I am not a moral realist.

    Perhaps he isn’t, himself, but he shouldn’t be dismissing moral realism so lightly; returning to the Survey, 62% of Greene’s peers are moral realists:

    Meta-ethics [P.9]
    Moral realism 62.1% (inclusive)
    Moral anti-realism 26.1%
    Other 11.8%

    Greene is into the moral equivalent of severe reductionism; like the Street Epistemologist who keeps pressing for justification of beliefs until the interlocutor runs out of answers, and it always comes down to “faith”, Greene reduces morality to quality of experience (which is where sentience comes in):

    …when you think about the things that you care about or that other people care about, and keep asking, “Why do you care about that?” until you run out of answers, it ultimately, almost always comes down to the quality of somebody’s experience,… [12:42]

    The SE’s like the Jengo Tower game analogy of toppling a person’s worldview by pullng out the foundations – though that relies upon the interlocutor supposing that foundationalism is a valid epistemology, which I don’t – but it’s just one epistemology. And like them, Greene relies upon not accepting any answer given, or not until it is the desired quality-of-experience “correct answer”.

    One view is that, given Munchhausen’s trilemma, all explanatory chains must terminate in either an infinite regress, a circular grounding, or an axiom that cannot in principle be further explained. If Greene’s questioning of explanatory chains ends at “the quality of somebody’s experience”, it’s because he has terminated how he wants to.

    This is getting to be rather a long response and has taken many hours to get this far, tiring and tiresome; so I’ll stop here and might or might not – probably not! – continue later in the same vein.

    I note you have not expended near as much effort as I have; you have not even supplied time stamps for the very little you have referred to; and you have referred by paraphrasing minimally rather than by quoting. You evidently expect others to do what you are not prepared to bother to do yourself.

    I hope I have raised questions in your mind about the quality of Greene’s philosophy, and that you now “better understand where [you’re] coming from.”

  14. Kevin says:

    Dhay,

    If I recall, Chaudhari is one of those who responds to no one but Michael. So all of that may have been a complete waste of time until such point as you get any direct feedback.

  15. Dhay says:

    Kevin > If I recall, Chaudhari is one of those who responds to no one but Michael. So all of that may have been a complete waste of time until such point as you get any direct feedback.

    Using thread dates, I find one response by Chaudhari to OP back on 07 May 2021, two responses (one to OP as linked above, one to Ilíon (which Ilíon responded to amply in this thread, receiving no answering response)) on 08 November and one to OP in this 15 December thread.

    He’s responded to Ilíon, he can respond to me. And if he’s stupid enough to claim, as he has, that his own position (“where I’m coming from”) coincides with Joshua Greene’s, he can damned well defend Greene and himself when I point out the more obvious weaknesses of their joint position.

  16. Michael says:

    In the broadest, zoomed-out sense, I might state the difference between our views like this. Your view is that you have attained moral superiority over others by way of holding a certain belief. My view is that you are like everyone else: flawed, conflicted, and human.

    Chaudhari, I was going to reply to your comments, but several others (Tom, TFBW, Kevin, Ilion, Dhay) beat me to it. Your objections are weak and reinforce the impression that atheism is propped up by reliance on knocking down straw men.

  17. Chaudhari says:

    Happy New Year.

    I have not said that I am an atheist and I do not have all the beliefs y’all seem to ascribe to me. I take atheism to mean the denial of the existence of God, which is not my claim. I said that I am not convinced that God exists.

    Sorry but I can’t really be expected to respond to such walls of text. However TFBW was concise and to the point, so I’ll just respond to him if y’all don’t mind.

    > Given the lack of ontological room for transcendent moral truths in the typical atheistic framework, it falls to you to explain how your sense of moral duty is not delusional in this way.

    There are many reasons for being kind to others, and there are ways for this to manifest in our psychology as a sense of duty without being delusional and without requiring “transcendent moral truths”, in my view.

    For the sake of argument, though, I’ll grant the point. Let us say the sense of duty to be kind requires “transcendent moral truths”. Why, then, must “transcendent moral truths” come from God? Why not the Tao or anything else? I quite enjoy Taoism, actually.

    I don’t think my original point has yet been met head-on. Again, it is of no value to simply claim that God exists and is the source of “oughts” without any effort to define God and put forth reasons for believing in His existence. Unless there is such an effort, all you’re doing is hiding your own personal sense of “oughts” behind this thing called “God”, and then claiming they come from God and not yourself. At worst, it is sanctifying your own personal opinions as divine. This is not something people do consciously — they are just so accustomed to the idea that their “oughts” come from God that they haven’t thought about the problem that entails.

    And even if the existence of God has been established, there is another problem: how do you receive messages from God about what the “oughts” are? How do you know what God wants?

    In sum, this is what’s needed:

    1. A definition of God.
    2. The reasons for believing in His existence.
    3. The method by which messages from Him are received regarding what the “oughts” are.

    Unless all three have been stated, there is no reason to take seriously any claim that invoking God provides any special knowledge regarding “oughts”.

    My claim is that we all struggle with moral problems in much the same way. There is hard, physical evidence to back this up. We are all in the same boat. None of us of have any special, other-worldly, transcendent knowledge of “oughts”. Those who say God gives them the right to such a claim must meet the items 1, 2, and 3 above (also please tell us God’s solution to the Trolley Problem).

    I am sorry if I sounded sanctimonious by making apparent my revulsion to sanctimony. And sorry for singling out Michael.

  18. Dhay says:

    Chaudhari > Sorry but I can’t really be expected to respond to such walls of text.

    You twice expected us to respond to the video you linked to, the transcript of which is a massive 23 page wall of text, one that’s 14,000 words long. I rather think you should yourself make a fraction of the effort that you expected of others.

  19. Kevin says:

    Again, it is of no value to simply claim that God exists and is the source of “oughts” without any effort to define God and put forth reasons for believing in His existence.

    Do you believe convincing unbelievers that God is the source of moral truth is the point of Michael’s posts on this subject?

    If not, then why do you think Michael does not have reasons to believe God exists and, consequently, believe in a source for moral truth?

  20. Chaudhari says:

    > Do you believe convincing unbelievers that God is the source of moral truth is the point of Michael’s posts on this subject?

    God being the source of the sense of moral duty is an implicit assumption in “our sense of moral duty is evidence for the truth of theism”.

    If you’re arguing for “the truth of theism”, you can’t just quietly throw in that assumption. It’s like the old joke with “assume a can opener”.

    When you think about it, believing that one’s sense of moral duty comes from God is a recipe for disaster. Atrocities have been committed by individuals believing such. We call them atrocities, but they believed they were doing the duty God called them to do. Who is right? Even if God exists, how do you figure out what He wants?

  21. Ilíon says:

    ==I rather think you should yourself make a fraction of the effort that you expected of others.==

    He certainly plays to type, doesn’t he?

  22. Ilíon says:

    Kevin: ==Do you believe convincing unbelievers that God is the source of moral truth is the point of Michael’s posts on this subject?

    If not, then why do you …==

    He’s playing a game popular with leftists, atheists, Darwinists … and trolls … which I call “Deny and Demand”. That is, simply deny that you have offered a cogent argument for your position, or that you have answers his question(s), or that you have responded to his objections, and so on, and demand that you do it again. The game relies upon you being supremely hesitant to acknowledge to yourself that you’re not dealing with an intellectually honest person.

    Look at his statement you’ve quoted: “Again, it is of no value to simply claim that God exists and is the source of “oughts” without any effort to define God and put forth reasons for believing in His existence.

    No one who regularly comments here has ever done that. And, in fact, in this very thread I myself presented a carefully reasoned argument showing from the reality and nature of morality that:
    1) God is/exists,
    2) and that God’s nature is as Christianity has always maintained.

    But, because he’s a God-denier – and every single one of them is intellectually dishonest, else they would be God-deniers — and possibly also a troll, he can dismiss my post (and Dhay’s post) as “such walls of text” to which he “can’t really be expected to respond ”.

    Classic “Deny and Demand”.

  23. TFBW says:

    Since Chaudhari responded to my post, I’ll respond in kind.

    There are many reasons for being kind to others …

    And also many reasons for doing the opposite of that. Isolated reasons for actions are not morality, not even in aggregate. If there is such a thing as objective morality, then it stands apart from these reasons and acts as the frame of reference against which the actions are judged moral or immoral; whether the reasons are virtuous or vicious. A “sense of duty” is only veridical (rather than delusional) if said duties actually exist and can be sensed; simply having reasons for one’s actions is not grounds for claiming a “sense of duty”. In the absence of an objective moral reality, a “sense of duty” is nothing more than a collection of impulses or preferences that have nothing to do with any reality which might be called “duty”.

    At this point, I would like you to give a clear answer on whether you agree with this analysis, because I don’t want to repeat myself further. Can a “sense of duty” be an actual sense of actual duty if there is no such thing as actual duty? Can we agree that personal reasons and inclinations are not “duty” as such, and if you have a “sense of duty” when all that exist are personal reasons and inclinations, then your sense is delusional? Reasons and inclinations can exist independently of actual duty.

    Let us say the sense of duty to be kind requires “transcendent moral truths”. Why, then, must “transcendent moral truths” come from God? Why not the Tao or anything else?

    Generally speaking, the only thing available within the ontology of atheism is matter/energy and the laws of physics which govern them. If you want to appeal to realities beyond these, you have entered into the supernatural realm. My contention is that there is nothing in the laws of physics which even accommodate the possibility of moral duty or “oughts”. I don’t think this is even a controversial statement. Given this “standard model” of atheism, a sense of duty must be delusional. Conversely, if it is not delusional, then the standard model of atheism must be wrong.

    If you want to introduce a mystical concept like the Tao, we’ve already passed beyond the standard model of atheism, and we’ll need to be a little careful about what this term means. It can’t simply be the written text which bears that name. The text can only be relevant if it describes truths beyond itself: a transcendent Tao. As such, I’ll assume “Tao” in the transcendent sense. I see two possibilities here: you can simply assert that the Tao exists and is the moral reality one senses when sensing duty, or you can say that the Tao is an aspect of God. The latter alternative would be theistic, so it’s not available to you. I therefore assume you mean a supernatural but impersonal Tao, and I will use “Tao” as a placeholder for all possible supernatural but impersonal moral realities.

    I will grant that there is a philosophical niche for mystical atheism of this sort which allows for real duty to exist: one can believe in a transcendent but impersonal Tao as the object of one’s sense when sensing moral duty. Whether or not this is delusional depends only on the existence of said Tao and how one senses it; the exact same problem one faces if appealing to God. God is an agent who can imbue us with the necessary capabilities, however, whereas the Tao offers no such explanation as to how we might be able to sense it. Suggest a solution if you have one: I see no better option than to throw more mysticism on the pile.

    There is a broader set of objections one might raise against the Tao, all variations on, “what difference does it make whether the Tao exists or not?” God acts; the Tao does not. Why care what the Tao says? It’s impotent. Do you believe in a real but impotent morality? What’s the point? It sounds like the perfect case for Tao-agnosticism.

    And even if the existence of God has been established, there is another problem: how do you receive messages from God about what the “oughts” are? How do you know what God wants?

    As noted above, this is a problem for anyone who declares any real sense of morality. It’s not specific to theistic models, and it’s worse for non-theistic models, so it’s not my problem. You’re just throwing additional work at me to excuse yourself at this point. In any case, I’d have to produce a wall of text to answer it, and you use walls of text to excuse your own laziness. My existing response is sufficient.

  24. Ilíon says:

    ==I therefore assume you mean a supernatural but impersonal Tao, …==

    But that … dodge … must fail, too, since moral duties are interpersonal

  25. TFBW says:

    My imagination extends far enough that I can posit the existence of an impersonal thing which somehow defines interpersonal duties: something like the truths of mathematics, but applied to persons, not number. I find the idea unsatisfactory, for many reasons, but it’s not quite at “round square” levels of self-contradiction.

  26. Ilíon says:

    ==”And even if the existence of God has been established, there is another problem: how do you receive messages from God about what the “oughts” are? How do you know what God wants?“==

    Notice what he’s attempting here. It’s another common God-denial game, though one for which I don’t have a cute name. As is SOP with God-deniers, he wants to breeze right past the First Question … and to go straight ot raising tedious objections to aspects of “theism” from a grounding in atheistic presuppostitions. But, a careful, rational consideration of the First Question blows those atheistic presuppostitions out of the water.

    Commonly, they then later play the “You didn’t satisfy *me* with respect to the misguided objections I raised to “theism”, therefore Gos is not” card. But, those objections, even had they not been misguilded, were about secondary and tertiary questions, leaving the First Question ignored.

    This game is one of the reasons why I say that until a God-denier acknowledges that God-denial is false, which is to say, admits that God is, he has no place at “the grown-up table”.

  27. Ilíon says:

    I find myself utterly incapable of reasoning on the basis of imagination.

  28. Kevin says:

    If you’re arguing for “the truth of theism”

    But that’s just it – he isn’t. Michael’s central argument, in this post and the initial one that prompted this one, is that atheism provides no basis for any sort of moral reality. He lays it out himself:

    Michael: I’m focused on whether this sense of having a moral duty/obligation, this sense of “ought,” is rooted in reality or fantasy. That Christians can disagree on what our moral duty is a problem, but that problem is nowhere near as severe (and devastating) as atheists insisting on a moral duty when atheism clearly teaches all such appeals to moral duty are rooted in fantasy and delusion.

    Michael goes on to lay out an argument as to why he believes the moral impulses we all feel support a theistic reality more than an atheistic one. He is not “arguing for the truth of theism”, but rather the severe deficiency of atheism as a foundation for morality.

    Every time you pop up on this forum, your actual aim is very obviously the same regardless of the topic. Back in April it was the “Science and the Resurrection Belief Are Not Incompatible” post. In May it was “Week of Reason: God of the Gaps Atheism”. Perhaps there are others I missed, but these are sufficient to illustrate.

    Michael: A common talking point among the New Atheists is the assertion that the resurrection of Jesus contradicts science and thus must be wrong. Yet this argument is seriously misguided, as it depends on a faulty understanding of both science and Christianity.

    You: Okay but you haven’t presented evidence for God’s existence!

    Michael: The New Atheists insist there is no evdience for God because there are no Gaps and thus demand someone provide them a Gap. When someone tries to provide then a Gap, the New Atheists scorn them for relying on Gaps and trying to provide gaps.

    You: Okay but you haven’t presented evidence for God’s existence!

    Michael: I’m focused on whether this sense of having a moral duty/obligation, this sense of “ought,” is rooted in reality or fantasy. That Christians can disagree on what our moral duty is a problem, but that problem is nowhere near as severe (and devastating) as atheists insisting on a moral duty when atheism clearly teaches all such appeals to moral duty are rooted in fantasy and delusion.

    You: Okay but you haven’t presented evidence for God’s existence!

    We all get it. You want Michael to lay out his evidence for God’s existence so you can reject it, which is what you plan to do regardless of what he would say. But not a single one of these posts he has made even requires God to exist in order to still be true.

    The common argument that science and the Resurrection are incomopatible is blatantly false – true whether or not God exists

    The common appeal to miraculous gaps as the only thing that would count as evidence for God is seriously flawed – true whether or not God exists.

    Atheism provides zero basis for any moral system that isn’t rooted in a illusory web of neurological impulses that favor some behaviors over others – true whether or not God exists.

    Why don’t you simply ask for a relevant on-topic post for you to ask for why Michael believes that God exists, so you can reject it there and quit derailing the topic of other posts?

  29. Dhay says:

    Ilíon > Morality, if moral obligations and expectations are real — and I would say that not even a psychopath or a sociopath *really* believes otherwise, for merely look at how morally outraged that sort inevitable acts when someone treats them as they treat others…

    Morality is real; moral obligations and expectations are real. We *all* know this to be true. Even those who vigorously deny it show by their own behavior that they know their denials to be false.

    I can example that: Richard Dawkins wrote in 1995 that there is no good, no evil – none at all of either – in the whole universe; hence no morality, no immorality – none whatsoever – in the whole universe:

    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

    Ch.4, River out of Eden

    1995 was the year Dawkins was awarded the Oxford University’s Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science. The quote, then, exemplifies what the UK’s top science communicator expected (and presumably still expects) the public to accept as correct, correct because it was written by the UK’s top science communicator, correct because Dawkins’ severely reductionist philosophical materialism and total denial of the supernatural required and requires it be correct.

    Yet Dawkins railed, livid, at the “green-eyed monster” of his wife’s jealousy and anger upon discovering his adultery. He evidently considered his wife was morally wrong to object and complain.

    Ilíon > No one who regularly comments on this blog starts with the assumption that God is. Rather, in our own various ways, we all conclude it.

    I can example that, too: in the 07 May 2021 “Week of Reason: God of the Gaps Atheism” thread I responded to a critic of the OP that, “I am amazed by the super-confident claim of many atheists that there is no, No, NO, NO evidence for God:…” and supplied a (brief and rather incomplete) list of some of the arguments providing evidence for God.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2021/05/07/reason-week-god-of-the-gaps-atheism/#comment-40009

    The critic to whom I provided that brief list – with no expansion of them into tldr walls of text that Chaudhari finds so tedious and objectionable – of arguments providing evidence for God, that critic was Chaudhari.

    Ilíon > While ‘Chaudhari’ does not frequently comment here, he did not just now pop in – surely he ought to have *some* inkling that his accusation is false. … As I said: intellectual dishonesty…

    He’s insisting he hasn’t had an answer to his:

    I don’t think my original point has yet been met head-on. Again, it is of no value to simply claim that God exists and is the source of “oughts” without any effort to define God and put forth reasons for believing in His existence.

    But as documented above, Chaudhari has already been provided with the reasons he keeps demanding.

    (Add in your own ‘Argument from morality’ and its similars, which I omitted from the May list.)

    Ilíon > As I said: intellectual dishonesty. And I already know that it is a waste of time to try to engage that sort.

    Looks like it, in both parts. He had that “*some* inkling”, so yes, what you said.

  30. Dhay says:

    Kevin> Back in April it was the “Science and the Resurrection Belief Are Not Incompatible” post.

    Well caught, in an excellent response: my earlier “site:” search missed Chaudhari’s responding in that thread. So I missed that I had pointed out that the sycophantic (towards Chaudhari) responder, MP, looked rather like a Chaudhari sockpuppet.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2021/04/03/science-and-the-resurrection-belief-are-not-incompatible-3/#comment-39743

    Which would be trolling.

    Also, that I had pointed out:

    I spy a trolling technique: abandon a discussion for long enough — over a month in this case — for everyone to have forgotten who wrote what, such that it’s a slog to get up to speed again, then jump back into that forgotten thread and pretend you haven’t already been answered.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2021/04/03/science-and-the-resurrection-belief-are-not-incompatible-3/#comment-40006

    Which brings me back to the subject of the ‘arguments providing evidence of God’ response I gave to Chaudhari in May, and Chaudhari’s pretense that nobody has provided such.

    Which would be trolling.

  31. Dhay says:

    Chaudhari > (also please tell us God’s solution to the Trolley Problem)

    Let’s see what Chaudhari wrote earlier:

    For instance, an interplay of different parts of the brain occurs when people consider the Trolley Problem. One part favors one solution to the Trolley Problem, while another part favors a different solution. When there is damage to one part, the solution given by the other part wins.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2021/12/15/9079/#comment-45229

    Well, well, Chaudhari is asking whether (or implying that) God might have brain damage.

  32. Ilíon says:

    ==Chaudhari > (also please tell us God’s solution to the Trolley Problem)==

    Is the “Trolley Problem” the tendentious atheistic “moral dilemma” in which one is given the false dilemma (*) of murdering a fat man so as to stop a trolley full of people which is speeding toward their certain doom, or is it the *other* tendentious atheistic “moral dilemma” in which one is given the absurd dilemma (**) of diverting to a different track a trolley full of people which is speeding toward their certain doom, thus saving the passengers, but consequently killing a number of innocent people who are inexplicably tied to that second track?

    Regardless, God’s answer is that he sacrifices *himself* to save the lives of helpless rational/moral beings hurtling toward their certain doom.

    (*) that is, that there are no other options

    (**) Really? How in the Hell did they get there? And, why isn’t anyone in authority hunting for the madman who sets up these sorts of “moral dilemmas”?

  33. Ilíon says:

    TFBW: ==My imagination extends far enough that I can posit the existence of an impersonal thing which somehow defines interpersonal duties: something like the truths of mathematics, but applied to persons, not number. I find the idea unsatisfactory, for many reasons, but it’s not quite at “round square” levels of self-contradiction.==

    Certainly, one can imagine a “round square”, but one cannot conceive a “round square”, for the term is a self-contradiction.

    Similarly, while one can imagine “an impersonal [non-relational] thing which somehow defines [or grounds] interpersonal [relational] duties [of persons]”, one cannot conceive it, for it is just this sort of self-contradiction: “That-Which-Exists-Not *causes* the existence of That-Which-Exists”, though this specific self-contradiction is more: “That-Which-Has-Not *causes* the having of That-Which-Has”,

    The “truths of mathematics” are as grounded in the nature of God as “truths of morality” are. That we can discuss and reason about either of these sets of truths (*) without explicit reference to God does not elevate either to the Platonic Realm of Unthought Thoughts.

    (*) and, indeed, that we can think about them as being two separate sets

  34. TFBW says:

    It’s likely that my brain has been addled by the collective influence of Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan, and Douglas Adams, because I can imagine all sorts of nonsense. I can imagine levitation as, “picture a teapot on a table; now take away the table and leave the teapot where it is.” In the same way, I can imagine the Tao as, “picture the moral law implied by God’s character; now remove God and leave the moral law where it is.”

    Even with my advanced idiocy skills, however, I can’t imagine a round square. I can’t picture a way in which roundness can be established except at the cost of squareness. One can apply the shapes in orthogonal dimensions, but this merely creates an object with a round aspect and a square aspect, not a round square. I suppose if you project an appropriate non-Euclidian space, a circle in that space can look square in the projection, or vice versa. That’s about the best I can offer.

  35. Ilíon says:

    TFBW: ==”Even with my advanced idiocy skills, however, I can’t imagine a round square.“==

    Of course you can imagine a “round square” — you’re doing that every time you think/say/write the phrase. What you can’t do conceive such a thing — in contrast to the other imaginings under discussion, the self-contradiction is explicit in the very phrase, and so you immediately classify it as the absurdity it is.

    TFBW: ==” … because I can imagine all sorts of nonsense.“==

    That’s to my point: one can imagine all manner of nonsense, absurdity, or self-contradiction. Thus, one does not rationally reason on the basis of imaginings.

    TFBW: ==”I can imagine levitation as, “picture a teapot on a table; now take away the table and leave the teapot where it is.”==

    Allow me to rephrase that so as to draw out the absurdity —

    == I can imagine levitation as, “picture a teapot being supported against the pull of gravity by a table; now remove the table from under the teapot, but leave the table’s function of supporting the teapot against the pull of gravity in place.”==

    It can’t be done, it is both sleight-of-mind and profoundly irrational: the table’s function of supporting the teapot against the pull of gravity is an inseparable property of the table.

    TFBW: ==”In the same way, I can imagine the Tao as, “picture the moral law implied by God’s character; now remove God and leave the moral law where it is.”==

    Indeed, this imagining *is* “in the same way”. For it is of exactly the same sort as the levitation imaging; it is both sleight-of-mind and profoundly irrational.

    Moral obligations and expectations are mental constructs, they exist within — and only within — actually existing minds. As previously established, true moral obligations and expectations cannot be grounded in the natures/characters nor relationships of human persons, for we are not transcendent; true morality can be grounded only within the natures/characters and relationships of actually existing transcendent persons.

    So, *this* imagining can be rephrased as –

    ==”I can imagine the Tao as, “picture the moral law as existing within the mind of and as implied by the character or nature of a transcendent person (*); now remove that transcendent person from the imaginary picture but leave his character or nature and mind in place to continue to ground the moral law.”==

    There is no such thing as free-floating ‘Mind!’; there are only actually existing minds. There is no such thing as free-floating ‘Character! / Nature!’; there are only actually existing persons who are of thus-and-such character or nature.

    (*) due to the difficulty of speech representing the multi-personal nature of the One God, I am eliding that.

  36. Dhay says:

    Chaudhari > (also please tell us God’s solution to the Trolley Problem)

    The classic Trolley Problem — there’s quite a few inventive and hilarious piss-take variations on it to be found online — is a binary choice between an immoral action and an immoral inaction: both options are immoral, there is no moral course of action or inaction.

    It’s also a false dichotomy, refuted like all false dichotomies, as soon as any third (or more) course of action can be pointed out. The SMBC comic strip, always thought-provoking as well as funny, points out that the most appropriate course of action — a third course available to take, hence refuting the classic Trolley Problem dichotomy — is, “I would remove the part of my brain that governs empathy, which is the source of ethics.” [That would be the amygdala, according to Chaudhari and his think-alike pundit, Joshua Greene.]

    https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2013-03-28

    Of course, that would leave the person unable to take any decisions; removal of empathy kills Moral System one, and although Moral System Two is rational and deliberative, it is nonetheless provided with a rudder by (as Greene puts it at 42:26 in his wall of text), “reasoning [is] in the service of an end that you have ultimately on some affective basis”.

    *

    The classic Trolley Problem, humorous variations likewise, is a hypothetical problem. As I understand the theology, a Deist God doesn’t act in history, not even hypothetically, and the active-in-history “Living God” of Abraham, Isaac and Jesus acts actually. Asking for God’s solution misses the mark.

    *

    There’s no moral solution to the classic Trolley Problem — that’s part of the design. Because it’s hypothetical, I am fully justified in treating it as trivial and in ignoring it.

    (Or if someone were to insist I treat it as if real, shooting the Moral Philosopher who set the Problem results in the same lowest death toll as could be achieved in the “real” Trolley scenario, with the added benefit that the “really” psychopathic Philosopher who set it up doesn’t get to do it again. (I’m tongue in cheek, of course, I am under no obligation to accept the scenario as in any way real.))

    *

    I am always amazed at the practical naivety of the Trolley Problem setters, and at their apparent insistence on considering morality solely in the terms of Utilitarian Moral Philosophy. In UK law anyone taking action to intentionally kill someone is guilty of murder; I am a law-abiding citizen, so on legal grounds — that’s deontological morality, is it? — I am fully justified in inaction.

    *

    For a better informed and more serious dismissal of Trolley Problems you might like to read the 3,433 word wall of text, “The Trolley Problem Will Tell You Nothing Useful About Morality”; which includes:

    …the answer to the “What did we learn?” question will be the same regardless of which answer we choose: “I learned that I have kind of a sick mind.”

    https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/11/the-trolley-problem-will-tell-you-nothing-useful-about-morality

    (Don’t stop at the large and intrusive advert in the middle, the text continues beyond.)

  37. Ilíon says:

    ==For a better informed and more serious dismissal of Trolley Problems …==

    Meh. Leftism has nothing to teach anyone.

  38. Dhay says:

    Ilíon > Meh. Leftism has nothing to teach anyone.

    Perhaps, but I am as happy to borrow others’ criticisms of Trolley Problem morality as to provide my own; and if criticism comes from Right and Left, so much the better.

  39. Chaudhari says:

    > Michael’s central argument, in this post and the initial one that prompted this one, is that atheism provides no basis for any sort of moral reality.

    And my central argument is that it is hypocritical to claim, on the one hand, that all morality is illusory without God, and then, on the other hand, to simply assert that the idea of God is not illusory and that the feeling of moral duty coming from God is not illusory.

    > He is not “arguing for the truth of theism”

    Yet he concludes, “our sense of moral duty is evidence for the truth of theism”.

    I’ll take your dialogic conceit and summarize the conversation like this:

    “Moral duty without God is illusory!”

    Me: “But how do you know the idea of God is not illusory?”

    “That’s not what we’re discussing! Stay on topic! How dare you!”

    From my perspective, I see people congratulating each other on their exquisite raiments while giggling at others who are naked. When I chime in with, “Excuse me, but where are your clothes?”, there’s a massive response that, as far as I can see, doesn’t really address the point.

    You are right that there is a similarity with the last post in which I participated insofar as me noticing another case of finger-pointing at naked people. Maybe it’s just something I’m inclined to mention.

    I always aim to be kind, but I don’t always succeed. I am as flawed as anyone. When I see others who are unkind, I try to keep in mind that they have their own issues they are going through.

    What seems apparent to me is that several people here have been disrespected by non-believers. There is unkindness and lashing out. In some cases the disrespect may have been committed by a parent or authority figure, causing extra sting. I am sorry if you have been disrespected by non-believers. But lashing out at a random non-believer like me will not heal that wound. I have not disrespected you, or if I have, I am sorry. Kindness can jump-start the healing process.

  40. Chaudhari says:

    TFBW, you have given much too much significance to my mention of Taoism. I said I enjoy Taoism, not that I am some mystical believer in it. And Taoism (refreshingly) does not purport to be hardly anything you have ascribed to it.

    I said, “Why not the Tao or anything else?” If one is just going to assert God, one might as well assert the Tao or anything else. Let’s say the God idea fulfills all the properties you think are important while every other idea (like Tao) falls short. That still does not make the God idea a reality.

    To me it seems clear that those who claim their morality is objective because it comes from God are hiding their subjective morality behind this thing called God. Because they subjectively decided that God exists and is beaming morality to them, their morality is just as subjective as everyone else’s morality. The only difference is that by subjectively adding God they only think they have made it objective. They have done this without realizing it.

    Oh, you say that God is an objective fact and not a subjective idea? Why?

  41. TFBW says:

    TFBW, you have given much too much significance to my mention of Taoism.

    My general problem is that I’m trying to apply philosophical rigour to someone who talks fluff.

    If one is just going to assert God, one might as well assert the Tao or anything else.

    That’s where you’re completely wrong. If one is going to assert real, objective morality, then it must have an objective basis: a foundation which provides the necessary support. The laws of physics are objective, but contain nothing pertaining to persons or relationships, so they lack relevance. Our feelings are possibly relevant, but they are subjective. A perfect, eternal, transcendent, relational being (such as the Biblical God) has the necessary properties. The moral law is then a description of how this being behaves in much the same way that the laws of physics are a description of how matter and energy behave.

    Oh, you say that God is an objective fact and not a subjective idea?

    I say that only an objectively real God of the kind I described is capable of supporting the existence of objective morality. If you believe objective morality exists, then the existence of a being like this is an implication of that belief. Conversely, if you deny the existence of such a God, you deny the existence of the object morality was describing, leaving it an entirely imaginary construct with no basis in reality. You can have it both ways only through the power of sloppy thinking and self-delusion.

  42. Ilíon says:

    TFBW: ==If you believe objective morality exists, then the existence of a being like this is an implication of that belief. Conversely, if you deny the existence of such a God, you deny the existence of the object morality was describing, leaving it an entirely imaginary construct with no basis in reality. ​You can have it both ways only through the power of sloppy thinking and self-delusion.==

    God-deniers — frequently, the same individuals– are generally quite content to do both: deny the reality of morality so as to deny the reality of God, and also to assert and appeal to the reality of morality when that suits their need of the moment.

    That’s part of the reason that I tend to focus on the Argument From Reason; though, here too, God-deniers — even as they proclaim themselves to be paragons of, nay, the very embodiments of, ‘Reason!‘ — will gladly throw reason under the bus attempting to escape the shadow of a hint of God.

  43. Kevin says:

    And my central argument is

    Your central argument seems to be that no one can criticize anything an atheist says without a treatise that God exists.

    This blog is largely dedicated to countering the talking points of the New Atheist (anti-theistic) movement. One of those arguments is that belief in the Resurrection is incompatible with science. That position is incorrect. You don’t have to prove God exists to point that out.

    Another thing they do is criticize God of the Gaps reasoning as evidence for God, but when asked what they would count as evidence for God, they invariably demand gaps. You don’t have to prove God exists to point that out.

    They – including PZ Myers – argue there is no objective morality, yet they – for example, PZ Myers – are filled with righteous outrage and are on moral crusades against those who disagree with them. PZ’s own beliefs shoot him down. You don’t have to prove God exists to point that out.

    And that has been the point you’ve seemingly missed this entire time. Go back and read the initial post Michael made that spawned this one – PZ Myers criticizes belief in God as a delusion and thus people should not believe in God. Yet under atheism, moral beliefs are just as delusional because they are nothing but biological impulses, yet PZ Myers says that atheists OUGHT to do this and that, and is filled with indignant outrage at those who don’t. The hypocricial, intellectually dishonest posturing of PZ Myers and those like him are the target of Michael’s decisive beatdown.

    Yet you insist Michael prove God exists or else his criticism is invalid. See the problem?

    Now, in this secondary post Michael did decide to address your off-topic criticism, and he again asserted (correctly) that PZ Myers has no basis for his outrage. Michael also believes that the existence of moral sensibilities makes more sense in a theistic worldview than an atheistic one. Even that latter point does not require proving God exists.

    Nothing Michael has said, in any of the posts you’ve addressed, requires proving God exists. Yet you insist upon it. It’s hard to criticize what we’re wearing when you aren’t even looking at us.

    I always aim to be kind

    I only speak for myself, but you mistake being blunt with being unkind. I’ve seen these fishing expeditions many many times before, and they invariably end with the nonbeliever denying the evidence presented, no matter what. It’s within the realm of possibility that you’re the first person to go fishing for those reasons with a completely open mind. I don’t like the odds.

    In some cases the disrespect may have been committed by a parent or authority figure, causing extra sting.

    Passive aggressive condescension does not help your claim to kindness. But if you are wanting to be kind, then I’m open to a demonstration that I’m wrong.

    Science and belief in the Resurrection are not incompatible. New Atheists demand gaps as evidence despite criticizing gaps as evidence. It is hypocritical to say God is a delusional belief that should be abandoned but delusional moral codes should be held.

    Which of these requires proving God exists in order to be a valid argument?

  44. Dhay says:

    Chaudhari > From my perspective, I see people congratulating each other on their exquisite raiments while giggling at others who are naked. When I chime in with, “Excuse me, but where are your clothes?”, there’s a massive response that, as far as I can see, doesn’t really address the point.

    I’ll take your dialogic conceit (echoing your phrase above) and quote the first half of PZ Myers’ famous ‘The Courtier’s Reply’ (the second half is like the first paragraph):

    I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

    Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.

    … [Ends like it starts.]

    https://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/24/the-courtiers-reply

    The major fault that I see with The Courtier’s Reply is that Richard Dawkins and Myers, together with those giving the Reply as a substitute for a reply that’s thoughtful, reasoned and rational – is that The Courtier’s Reply dismisses – and the dismisser eschews – not only (what Jerry Coyne calls) Sophisticated™ Theology but also theological arguments based on every less-Sophisticated™ level of thought, reason and rationality. To spell it out, The Courtier’s Reply despises considered thought, despises reason, despises rationality.

    https://andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheEmperorsNewClothes_e.html

    So what’s left? The context is the Hans Christian Andersen imaginative story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, in which a child rightly does not see what isn’t there to see. But Myers’ sneering Reply amounts to: If I don’t see it, I won’t believe it.

    Yeah, yeah: I don’t see Newtonian gravity, General Relativity, or the Big Bang, I have to rely on reason and argument to establish and weigh what evidence there is for those, as I have to for much, much else.

    You don’t get to rule out Sophisticated™ Theology without also ruling out Sophisticated™ Physics, Sophisticated™ Maths, Sophisticated™ Biology (including the arguments on which Coyne’s favourite ‘Evolution is True’ is based) – without also ruling out Sophisticated™ anything and everything.

    > When I see others who are unkind, I try to keep in mind that they have their own issues they are going through. What seems apparent to me is that several people here have been disrespected by non-believers. There is unkindness and lashing out. In some cases the disrespect may have been committed by a parent or authority figure, causing extra sting. I am sorry if you have been disrespected by non-believers. But lashing out at a random non-believer like me will not heal that wound. I have not disrespected you, or if I have, I am sorry. Kindness can jump-start the healing process.

    I’m going to disrespect that as a piece of fantasy, fantasy from someone who is both incompetent at psychological diagnosis and strangely unaware that anyone who actually is qualified to practice psychological diagnosis doesn’t: it’s near-impossible to diagnose someone remotely (even with proper training), it’s unprofessional to try, it’s thoroughly unethical for a properly qualified medical practitioner to put a diagnosis – someone’s personal and private medical information – into the public domain, more unethical yet for a clueless, malicious incompetent to do so for the purpose of attempted reputational damage.

    As the saying goes, what you have said is not worth a tinker’s cuss. And it’s on the same level.

    > Oh, you [TFBW] say that God is an objective fact and not a subjective idea? Why?

    I had great fun critiquing “objective facts” (via critiquing Sam Harris’ “NOTHING IS MORE SACRED THAN THE FACTS” meme) in 2017, in eight sometimes lengthy responses to that meme in the “Sam Harris Promotes Sam Harris Memes” thread.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/sam-harris-promotes-sam-harris-memes/#comment-37403

    TFBW (in reply) > I say that only an objectively real God of the kind I described is capable of supporting the existence of objective morality. If you believe objective morality exists, then the existence of a being like this is an implication of that belief…

    In his 10 September 2015 blog post entitled “Richard Dawkins and the Chimera of “Moral Duty””, Doug Drake criticises Dawkins for not being a consistent Philosophical Materialist Reductionist, and in the course of that criticism states that if moral duty exists, it must exist objectively:

    Apparently militant New Atheist Richard Dawkins believes there is such a thing as “moral duty.” In a recent tweet [Linked] he wrote, citing an article in the Washington Post,

    US has as much moral duty to accept Syrian refugees as Europe. If not more.

    if moral duty is not just a subjective figment of his imagination and is capable of acquiring the legitimacy to apply not only to himself, but to the entire population of the United States as well, it must somehow exist as an entity in itself.

    https://helian.net/blog/2015/09/10/morality/richard-dawkins-and-the-chimera-of-moral-duty/

    TFBW (continuing reply) > …Conversely, if you deny the existence of such a God, you deny the existence of the object morality was describing, leaving it an entirely imaginary construct with no basis in reality. You can have it both ways only through the power of sloppy thinking and self-delusion.

    Which the God-denying Drake says in his own words. If he cannot see it, if he has to infer it, if there is no (what Chaudhari calls) “hard, physical evidence to back this up”, it does not and cannot exist. Drake asserts that a “moral duty”, if it exists, is or should be something that can be captured and shown to him, and that will hopefully turn out to be his favourite colour, green.

    It’s the The Courtier’s Reply mentality.

  45. Chaudhari says:

    TFBW, it seems you repeated a point without responding to my answer to it:

    > Let’s say the God idea fulfills all the properties you think are important while every other idea (like Tao) falls short. That still does not make the God idea a reality.

    You have an idea of something that, you believe, gives a basis for morality. For the sake of argument, let’s accept that. It still doesn’t follow that the idea has any connection to reality.

    I don’t believe I took a position on whether there is an objective morality “out there” independent of human minds. In practical terms, it makes no difference because how does the morality “out there” get beamed into our consciousness? How do you know what God wants?

    History is replete with individuals committing heinous acts while thinking they are doing God’s will. It is just a super bad idea to take one’s subjective feelings about morality and try to make them objective by inserting this subjective idea of God. Effectively, it is deifying one’s own subjective opinion. The atrocities of history are the worst-case results of this, but more often it merely produces rigid, self-righteous individuals.

  46. Chaudhari says:

    Kevin, I’ve pretty much agreed with the gist of the posts. In the old post, I agreed that asserting the non-existence of God is a mistake. And more recently I agreed that Meyers “is writing a bunch of ‘oughts’ without any real justification”. So I don’t know why you think I’m saying the criticism is invalid. On the contrary, I’ve affirmed its validity.

    I have affirmed that, yes, those people you’re pointing out are naked. It is fair and valid to point out that they’re naked. I also think it’s fair to ask the question, “Excuse me, but where are your clothes?”

    You can interpret that to be a “demand”, I guess, but that wasn’t my intent. Like you, I was just bringing to light the issue of hypocrisy: pointing out other people’s nakedness without a moment’s consideration of whether one is wearing any clothes. It is not invalid to obsess over the nakedness of others, just hypocritical.

    I’m sorry that you thought I was being condescendingly passive aggressive. Based on the patterns I’ve seen here, I do believe there are individuals here who have been disrespected by nonbelievers, particularly authority figures such as parents. I was being serious when I apologized on their behalf.

    I’m intrigued by your suggestion that no nonbeliever would accept the present arguments for God. That’s actually a crucial threshold to cross on the path to nonbelief, because the next step is to seriously ask yourself: if nonbelievers shouldn’t accept these arguments, then why should I? Do these arguments require prior belief in order to be “convincing” with regard to the very belief that is already held?

    And when you’ve relinquished the desire to punch back at the nonbelievers who have disrespected you, and when you’ve relinquished the desire to feel morally superior to them, then what is left of the reasons to believe?

    Contrary to what one might fear, the dawn of nonbelief doesn’t spur one to start murdering left and right. Indeed it can be a path to peace and humility, for when you know — really know, in your bones — that you are truly no better than anyone else, the mind opens up like a flower, and it’s as if the world opens up with it. Of course, such an attitude is entirely consonant with religion and Christianity in particular, but it’s not the type of attitude found on many blogs.

  47. Kevin says:

    So I don’t know why you think I’m saying the criticism is invalid. On the contrary, I’ve affirmed its validity.

    Yes, but then you told Michael he was not really making any points without giving his reasons for believing in God. Given that an atheist could equally make the points Michael made – belief in the Resurrection does not violate science, atheists demand the very thing they reject, and atheists who claim God is a delusion but claim moral superiority are hypocrites – then your objections simply make no sense to me.

    To put that in question form, if an atheist can equally make the same arguments that Michael made, then why is Michael naked if he doesn’t spell out why he believes in God?

    Based on the patterns I’ve seen here, I do believe there are individuals here who have been disrespected by nonbelievers

    Every believer who has been on the internet in the last fifteen years has been disrespected by nonbelievers at least once. Conversely, every nonbeliever has been disrespected by believers at least once. That’s the nature of online discourse. Some people might get fired up over it, but I’ve been doing this way too long to get emotional. I simply cut to the chase now.

    I’m intrigued by your suggestion that no nonbeliever would accept the present arguments for God. That’s actually a crucial threshold to cross on the path to nonbelief, because the next step is to seriously ask yourself: if nonbelievers shouldn’t accept these arguments, then why should I?

    That word change from “would” to “should” is a biggie. I stated that they wouldn’t, not that they shouldn’t.

    Do these arguments require prior belief in order to be “convincing” with regard to the very belief that is already held?

    Nope. They simply aren’t relevant to these topics, unless your answer to my question above makes it clear that they are.

    And when you’ve relinquished the desire to punch back at the nonbelievers who have disrespected you, and when you’ve relinquished the desire to feel morally superior to them, then what is left of the reasons to believe?

    Are you my ex-wife? This reminds me a lot of her version of reasonable discourse.

    Contrary to what one might fear, the dawn of nonbelief doesn’t spur one to start murdering left and right

    I don’t believe anyone here has implied otherwise.

  48. TFBW says:

    Let’s say the God idea fulfills all the properties you think are important while every other idea (like Tao) falls short. That still does not make the God idea a reality.

    Correct. I have never claimed otherwise. If you’ve been following me, you’ll see that I’ve emphasised that it creates a dichotomy. You can deny God but in doing so you also deny objective morality. Conversely, you can assert the existence of objective morality, but in doing so you also assert the existence of God. Michael said originally, “our sense of moral duty is evidence for the truth of theism.” You claimed to have such a sense. My point is that if that sense is real, then God is real. Conversely, if God is not real, the sense is delusional. So choose: God exists, or your sense of morality is a delusion. What’s it going to be?

    … how does the morality “out there” get beamed into our consciousness?

    If God created us, this is easily explained by Him creating us with a moral faculty (conscience). In other words, it’s a design feature that requires no “beaming”. Alternatively, if this morality is not an agent, but simply a disembodied truth, then your question identifies a significant problem. It’s not a problem for theism, however, so you tell me.

    History is replete with individuals committing heinous acts while thinking they are doing God’s will.

    And also with people committing heinous acts because they think the ends justifies the means, and God doesn’t exist (e.g. 100+ million people dead thanks to godless communists in the 20th century). Such atrocities have no bearing on whether or not God actually exists, however, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. In fact, the only way these acts can actually be atrocities is if morality is real and God exists, so the conclusion seems to be that (a) morality is real, (b) God exists, and (c) people do evil things including misrepresenting God or denying His existence. Clearly that wasn’t the conclusion you were aiming for, so fill in the gaps for us.

  49. Dhay says:

    I see I commented twice on Joshua Greene and Trolley Problem research back in the 09 March 2017 “Does Secularism Make You More Vulnerable to Mental Illness?” thread. Both are relevant to the discussion in this present thread, as evidenced by Chaudhari having twice asked responders to listen to the Joshua Greene video – a wall of text in transcript – that he linked to, in order “to better understand where I’m coming from.” So I have copy-pasted them here, partly to clarify what Chaudhari those arguments of Greene’s which Chaudhari claimed were his own position but made no serious attempt to explain or develop – does he understand them himself? — and partly to challenge Chaudhari.

    There’s a digression in my first about secularism, another about Sam Harris, but these, too, are relevant to this present thread, so I’ve left them in.

    I’ll post these as two separate responses to avoid running foul of the limit on permitted number of links, thereby avoiding moderation delays.

    At the end of the second, I will have a question for Chaudhari.

    First comment

    In his 2010 Edge Conversation address, Joshua Greene — who “studies the psychology and neuroscience of morality, focusing on the interplay between emotion and reasoning in moral decision-making” — says:

    Next case, the trolley is headed towards five people once again. You’re on a footbridge, over the tracks, in between the trolley and the five people, and the only way to save them, we will stipulate … somewhat unrealistic … is to push this large person … you can imagine, maybe a person wearing a giant backpack … off of the bridge and onto the tracks. He’ll be crushed by the train, but using this person as a trolley-stopper, you can save the other five people. Here, most people say that this is not okay.

    Now, there are a lot of things that are unrealistic about this case. It may not tell you everything you’d want to know about moral psychology. But there is a really interesting question here, which is, why do people quite reliably say that it’s okay to trade one life for five in the first case, where you’re turning the trolley away from the five and onto the one, but not okay to save five lives by pushing someone in front of the trolley, even if you assume that this is all going to work and that there are no sort of logistical problems with actually using someone as a trolley-stopper?

    So, I and other people have looked at this, almost every way possible now. A lot of different ways. With brain imaging, by looking at how patients with various kinds of brain damage respond to this, with psychophysiology, with various kinds of behavioral manipulations.

    And I think … not everyone here agrees with this … that the results from these studies clearly support this kind of dual-process view, where the idea is that there’s an emotional response that makes you say, “No, no, no, don’t push the guy off the footbridge.” But then we have this manual mode kind of response that says, “Hey, you can save five lives by doing this. Doesn’t this make more sense?” And in a case like the footbridge case, these two things conflict.

    What’s the evidence for this? As I said, there’s a lot of different evidence. I’ll just take what I think is probably the strongest piece, which is based on some work that Marc has done, and this has been replicated by other groups. If you look at patients who have emotion-related brain damage … that is, damage to a part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex … they are four to five times more likely to say things like, “Sure, go ahead and push the guy off the footbridge.”

    And the idea is that, if you don’t have an emotional response that’s making you say, “No, no, no, don’t do this, this feels wrong,” then instead, you’re going to default to manual mode. You’re going to say, well, five lives versus one. That sounds like a good deal.” And that’s, indeed, what these patients do.

    https://www.edge.org/conversation/a-new-science-of-morality-part-2

    Greene is using a camera analogy here: his camera has both automatic and manual settings, and the automatic settings work quickly and reliably well nearly all of the time, he only needs to fiddle with the slow and error-prone manual settings when doing something out of the ordinary; likewise, he (and we) can rely upon his (and our) intuitive System 1 to work quickly and reliably well nearly all of the time, falling back on his slow and error-prone rational think-it-through System 2 to cope with what’s unusual.

    What I find interesting in Greene’s discussion of the Trolley Problem’s variant scenarios is that most normal people will not push a backpacker under a trolley (killing him) to save five lives, their emotion-based automatic settings for morality stop them, it’s repugnant to do so; on the other hand, among brain-damaged emotionally incapacitated patients (and presumably among sociopaths and psychopaths likewise) it’s typical to fall back on the use of basic mathematical logic to reason it is OK to kill the backpacker to save five others — they use System 2 rationality to reach a conclusion disgusting to neurotypical people because they are brain-damaged and thus have no emotion-based alternative.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/does-secularism-make-you-more-vulnerable-to-mental-illness/#comment-18836

    *

    Do remember that, next time you read the claims, explicit and implicit, that the idea that “Science and Reason” should rule and be the norm — that that idea marks a superior person, someone among the Übermensch at thinking: it rather seems to mark the emotionally and morally deficient; it’s typical of the “patients” Greene refers to.

    To link with the thread title – “Does Secularism Make You More Vulnerable to Mental Illness?” – super-rational “Science and Reason” type secularism may be a mark of mental illness.

    *

    I note that the research recently commissioned and contributed to by Sam Harris, entitled Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence, says “These results highlight the role of emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning, and related phenomena.”

    (The experiment was centred around presenting the subjects with super-impressive counter-evidence, deliberately and often obviously exaggerated in order to become super-impressive — you and I would term this Fake News and Alternative Facts — so why Harris and his co-researcher should have supposed that pissed-off subjects wouldn’t have an emotional reaction, and quite strongly negative, and that the least gullible hence least persuadable would have the strongest reaction, is anybody’s guess. And raises the question, Does Sam Harris know how to think like a scientist?)

    Actually, emotion has an essential and necessary role in any moral decision-making, hence in the political decision-making looked at in the experiment and paper. (See Greene, above and link.) Signs of emotion (or activity in emotion-related areas of the brain, to be precise) are to be expected in any normally functioning normally reasonable human. They are a green flag, not a red flag.

    Which raises the question, Does Sam Harris know how to think like a scientist?

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/does-secularism-make-you-more-vulnerable-to-mental-illness/#comment-18836

  50. Dhay says:

    Second comment, plus the question for Chaudhari

    From a The Atlantic article, “If Buddhist Monks Trained AI”, here’s more that’s relevant to Joshua Greene and the Trolley Problem:

    Greene joked that only two populations were likely to say that it was okay to push the person on the tracks: psychopaths and economists.

    Later in his talk, he returned to this, however, through the work of Xin Xiang, an undergraduate researcher who wrote a prize-winning thesis in his lab titled “Would the Buddha Push the Man of the Footbridge? Systematic Variations in the Moral Judgment and Punishment Tendencies of the Han Chinese, Tibetans, and Americans.”

    Xiang administered the footbridge variation to practicing Buddhist monks near the city of Lhasa and compared their answers to Han Chinese and American populations. “The [monks] were overwhelmingly more likely to say it was okay to push the guy off the footbridge,” Greene said.

    He noted that their results were similar to psychopaths—clinically defined— and people with damage to a specific part of the brain called the ventral medial prefrontal cortex.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/06/how-do-buddhist-monks-think-about-the-trolley-problem/532092/

    The article didn’t say what Han Chinese and Americans would do. It does say that “practicing Buddhist monks near the city of Lhasa” – presumably Tibetan Buddhist monks – are similar to psychopaths and people with brain damage.

    Hmmm. Buddhism and it’s secular-meditation Buddhism-lite is sold — by among others, Sam Harris — as providing mental health benefits.

    I don’t want to think like a psychopath. I’ve read what meditation does to people like Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and other Buddhist leaders mired in debauchery. I think I’ll retain my normality and my morals.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/does-secularism-make-you-more-vulnerable-to-mental-illness/#comment-21320

    *

    Chaudhari > Sorry but I can’t really be expected to respond to such walls of text.

    Fine, I have but one question, now you have presumably read the above…

    Chaudhari > (also please tell us God’s solution to the Trolley Problem)

    Please tell us your solution to the Trolley Problem, specifically to the ‘Fat Man’ version as discussed above: would you, yourself push the fat man to his death? Yes or no?

  51. Dhay says:

    Chaudhari > I’m intrigued by your suggestion that no nonbeliever would accept the present arguments for God. That’s actually a crucial threshold to cross on the path to nonbelief, because the next step is to seriously ask yourself: if nonbelievers shouldn’t accept these arguments, then why should I?

    There a lie and a bait-and-switch there. Kevin has already pointed out the bait-and-switch, so I’ll point out the lie.

    Kevin > I only speak for myself, but you mistake being blunt with being unkind. I’ve seen these fishing expeditions many many times before, and they invariably end with the nonbeliever denying the evidence presented, no matter what. It’s within the realm of possibility that you’re the first person to go fishing for those reasons with a completely open mind. I don’t like the odds.

    It’s not “no nonbeliever”: it’s clear to me from the wording that Kevin specified those nonbelievers who go on fishing expeditions.

    You have distorted and mis-paraphrased so many times, I am convinced that you are thoroughly insincere, that you are doing so deliberately and maliciously, that you are a troll.

  52. MP says:

    Chaudhari wrote (and repeated, claiming that this hasn’t been answered):

    > Let’s say the God idea fulfills all the properties you think are important while every other idea (like Tao) falls short. That still does not make the God idea a reality.

    Well, the answer is simple: actually it does.

    If we have listed the possible alternative explanations of some fact, and ruled out all but one of them, then yes, we know that the one that is left is the true one.

    Also, it is plausible that “Tao” means just “God as understood in Taoism”. It is not necessarily an alternative to “God”.

    > History is replete with individuals committing heinous acts while thinking they are doing God’s will. It is just a super bad idea to take one’s subjective feelings about morality and try to make them objective by inserting this subjective idea of God. Effectively, it is deifying one’s own subjective opinion. The atrocities of history are the worst-case results of this, but more often it merely produces rigid, self-righteous individuals.

    And, assuming Chaudhari is right, what exactly is wrong with that? Are they to follow Chaudhari’s subjective morality instead? Why? Or are they now supposed to follow objective morality that Chaudhari claims to be unknowable or nonexistent?

    > I’m intrigued by your suggestion that no nonbeliever would accept the present arguments for God. That’s actually a crucial threshold to cross on the path to nonbelief, because the next step is to seriously ask yourself: if nonbelievers shouldn’t accept these arguments, then why should I? Do these arguments require prior belief in order to be “convincing” with regard to the very belief that is already held?

    Others have noted that here “would” changes to “should”. Yet, how did that happen? What hidden assumption would make it possible to go from “would” to “should”? I’d say that the assumption that “The unbeliever is reasonable, honest etc.” has been hidden.

    So, we have an “argumentum ex hominem” (see https://blog.chrislansdown.com/2021/03/21/the-problem-with-ex-hominem-arguments/). And, by the way, in this case ad hominem is no longer fallacious, for one’s personality has been used in an argument. Facts about it are no longer irrelevant.

    So, do we have any evidence that this “unbeliever” is reasonable, honest etc.? Will we get it?

  53. Dhay says:

    An exchange between two Freethought bloggers:

    Mano Singham > Trying to clear up the misunderstandings of people who are determined to go in a particular direction just leads to an endless rabbit hole.

    Marcus Ranum > They aren’t misunderstandings, though. They’re deliberate misconstrual therefore I ignore them as dishonest.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2022/01/10/how-social-media-conversations-often-go/#comment-4916919

    Evidently atheist bloggers are not free from insincere, malicious, trolling responders who deliberately misconstrue and misrepresent.

  54. Chaudhari says:

    > if an atheist can equally make the same arguments that Michael made, then why is Michael naked if he doesn’t spell out why he believes in God?

    It’s not the same. An atheist is not arguing that morality is delusional without God.

  55. Chaudhari says:

    > If you’ve been following me, you’ll see that I’ve emphasised that it creates a dichotomy.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say you have established this dichotomy. It is still true that all you’ve really done is hide your own subjective morality behind the veneer of God. You have inserted the subjective idea of God and have then claimed that your morality is objective because it comes from God.

    > So choose: God exists, or your sense of morality is a delusion.

    Whether or not God exists is independent of my choices. Merely believing God exists does not make morality non-delusional, according to your terms. If the idea of God is a subjective belief, then all you’ve done is fool yourself into thinking your morality is real while others are deluded.

  56. Kevin says:

    It’s not the same. An atheist is not arguing that morality is delusional without God.

    Which would be valid if that was the point Michael was making, or one of his points I said an atheist could equally make.

    Belief in science and the Resurrection are not incompatible. Antitheists criticize gaps as evidence but often demand gaps as evidence. PZ Myers and others like him mock belief in God as delusional yet truly believe in their moral superiority.

    “An atheist is not arguing that morality is delusional without God” isn’t the point Michael made. It is the point that PZ Myers himself makes. If you, like PZ Myers, believe that there is no actual right or wrong, then living your life as a moral crusade trashing others who disagree is among the most delusional of behaviors, yet he mocks people who believe in God as delusional.

    That was Michael’s point. Not what you said. So combining that with the other two topics where belief in God is irrelevant to the point being made, and it does indeed appear like yet another fishing expedition.

  57. Chaudhari says:

    “If atheism is true, our sense of moral duty is delusional.”

    That point is being made in the original post. But you say that point is not being made. Is your issue merely with my paraphrasing of “morality is delusional without God”?

  58. TFBW says:

    It is still true that all you’ve really done is hide your own subjective morality behind the veneer of God. You have inserted the subjective idea of God and have then claimed that your morality is objective because it comes from God.

    Even if what you say is true (which it isn’t), it makes no difference. The dichotomy establishes that objective morality is not possible without God. To assert that objective morality exists is to assert that God exists. To assert that you have a moral sense which is not delusional is to assert that God exists. This is the dilemma in which you find yourself and which you perpetually refuse to address. Details about what actions actually count as morally good or evil have no bearing on this argument: it’s not even possible that actions can count as objectively morally good or evil unless God exists.

    Whether or not God exists is independent of my choices.

    Correct.

    Merely believing God exists does not make morality non-delusional, according to your terms.

    So what? That doesn’t address your dilemma. Your problem is that you claim to have a sense of morality, but if you claim that it’s not delusional, then you imply that God exists.

    If the idea of God is a subjective belief, then all you’ve done is fool yourself into thinking your morality is real while others are deluded.

    More distractions, but let’s clear it up anyhow. If God exists, objective morality exists, but knowledge of objective morality is not guaranteed any more than the existence of matter and energy guarantees knowledge of the laws of physics. The existence of God (or of matter an energy) is simply one of the necessary conditions for such knowledge to be possible at all. In the absence of God, no morality exists, and any moral sense is necessarily delusional. In other words, if God exists, one’s moral sense can still be wrong; if God does not exist, however, then it hallucinates something that does not exist.

  59. Kevin says:

    That point is being made in the original post.

    The actual point being made is in the actual original post linked to in the OP of this thread. In it, and in this one, Michael points out that PZ Myers dismisses objective morality yet claims moral superiority for himself, highly delusional behavior for someone who mocks others for believing in the God delusion. The point is the hypocrisy of PZ Myers, which is not contingent upon why Michael believes in God.

    You are correct that Michael said what you quoted, but that was a point, not THE point. You pulled the part out of his actual point that gave you an opening to ask his reasons for believing in God, just like the other subjects of the Resurrection and gaps as evidence.

    You are fishing.

  60. Chaudhari says:

    TFBW, for the sake of argument I’ve accepted your dichotomy.

    > So choose: God exists, or your sense of morality is a delusion. What’s it going to be?

    This is not a fallacy itself, but it seems to be urging me to commit one: “Either A or B. Well obviously we don’t want B. Therefore A.” But the argument you’ve constructed does not preclude the conclusion that we are deluded. In the context and terms you have supplied, on what grounds can we conclude that we are not deluded? Or on what grounds can we conclude that God exists? To sidestep argument-making by suggesting that one should just choose is to not make an argument at all.

    Actually, I’m OK with my own fallibility. I may well be deluded. In fact, I greatly prefer that premise over “I am not deluded”. With your argument, starting from “I may or may not be deluded” leads to “God may or may not exist”. Perfect.

    Looking back, I think the trouble begins with the austere ontology you put forth,

    > Generally speaking, the only thing available within the ontology of atheism is matter/energy and the laws of physics which govern them. If you want to appeal to realities beyond these, you have entered into the supernatural realm.

    In this ontology, can anything be said to exist apart from the goings-on of fundamental particles? Do hurricanes exist? In this ontology, by what right may we attach a label to a swirling of particles with an intrinsically vague boundary and say that it exists? Music is just vibrations of air; does music exist in this ontology? Or can these things only exist in “the supernatural realm”?

    So this ontology seems to be a bit of a caricature. If you think it’s reasonable for nonbelievers to include hurricanes and music in their ontology, then you may start to see the problem with your argument, which would need to work for every conceivable ontology that does not include God, not just some caricature ontology.

    > knowledge of objective morality is not guaranteed any more than the existence of matter and energy guarantees knowledge of the laws of physics.

    Thank you for clearing that up. So practically speaking — epistemically speaking — believers and nonbelievers are in the same boat with regard to moral intuitions. Yet one camp says, “I know what is right because God exists and I flawlessly obtained my moral intuition from Him”, even though, as you point out, they don’t necessarily know that.

  61. Chaudhari says:

    > The point is the hypocrisy of PZ Myers, which is not contingent upon why Michael believes in God.

    Correct, it is entirely valid to point out someone’s nakedness, regardless of whether you are wearing clothes. Switching metaphors, it is not invalid for the pot to call the kettle black, whether or not the pot itself is black. It seems you haven’t wrapped your mind around the idea that something can be both valid and hypocritical.

    If you are able to interpret the blog post as not being a demand for PZ Myers to remedy his hypocrisy forthwith, then you are able to interpret my comments as not being a demand for the OP to remedy his hypocrisy forthwith.

  62. Kevin says:

    I suppose if Michael wants to grab the hook, he will.

  63. TFBW says:

    But the argument you’ve constructed does not preclude the conclusion that we are deluded.

    Absolutely right. Either we are deluded, or it is not the case that we are deluded, but if we are not deluded, then God must exist. You can claim that we are all deluded if you like; you can claim that either we are deluded or God exists, and I will agree; it’s only where you blur the boundaries in such a way that you sneak in the possibility that we are not deluded and God does not exist that I take exception.

    Or on what grounds can we conclude that God exists?

    P1. If God does not exist, then our moral sense is delusional.
    P2. Our moral sense is not delusional.
    C. God exists. (P1, P2, MT)

    Of course, you can avoid the conclusion by denying either of the premises, but you’ve got some explaining to do whichever one you deny. Almost nobody acts as though their moral sense is delusional.

    Actually, I’m OK with my own fallibility.

    There’s a difference between fallibility and delusion. Nobody is infallible, but if you’re delusional, you’re not even wrong. If morals are a delusion, then it doesn’t even make sense to ask whether things are “right” or “wrong”—the concepts themselves are a figment of the imagination. You can only be right or wrong about moral claims if there are actual facts of morality.

    In this ontology, can anything be said to exist apart from the goings-on of fundamental particles?

    This is just muddying the waters. You can debate how many grains of sand make a pile, but it doesn’t change the fact that a pile of sand consists of nothing more than matter and energy. Where you run into trouble is a non-theistic God-substitute like the Tao, which, like God, is necessarily neither matter nor energy. This isn’t just a matter of blurry boundaries: it’s a very clear-cut qualitative distinction.

    If you think it’s reasonable for nonbelievers to include hurricanes and music in their ontology …

    It’s perfectly fine for philosophical materialists to speak of hurricanes and music so long as they maintain the position that these things consist entirely of matter and energy, nothing else. Something like the Tao is off-limits, since it is neither.

    … believers and nonbelievers are in the same boat with regard to moral intuitions.

    No, there are three distinct sets of problems. Non-believers have the problem that if God does not exist, then their moral intuitions must be delusional: to believe that one’s moral intuitions are not delusional is to assert God’s existence by implication, so a non-believer who asserts any kind of moral reality contradicts himself. Believers have the problem that their intuitions could be (and quite often are) wrong. Taoists have the problem of explaining how their intuition manages to relate at all (let alone reliably) to this completely non-physical thing with no agency of its own.

    “I know what is right because God exists and I flawlessly obtained my moral intuition from Him”

    I don’t know of anyone who claims that. There are plenty of people who behave as though their moral intuitions are infallible, but they are mostly political activists rather than theists. A Christian is more likely to base a moral claim on scripture than intuition, and the Bible contradicts the idea that we obtain a flawless moral intuition from Him. On the contrary, it tells us that we are very flawed beings.

  64. Dhay says:

    Yet one camp says, “I know what is right because God exists and I flawlessly obtained my moral intuition from Him”

    No camp says that. Which tells me Chaudhari’s here for as many laughs as his distortions and phantastic allegations can get him. He’s a jeering heckler.

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