Christian problems with morality

Questions of morality and ethics figure highly in theist arguments against atheism. Questions like “Why are we moral?”, “Where does our morality come from?” and “How do we decide the correctness or otherwise of moral decisions?”

Theist answers to these question are usually along the line that their god created humanity as a moral species. We either know what is “right” and “wrong” or this is “revealed” to us, or our religious leaders, by our god. Of course, these arguments don’t convince non-theists. I suggest, however, they should not convince theists either, particularly modern Christians.

Superstitious explanations

I say this because they are basically arguments from superstition. They belong to the same genre of “explanations” as the mythology of the ancients who explained thunder and lightning as resulting from the anger of their gods. These sort of arguments are used because they can explain everything, but of course they explain nothing.

Humanity, being an inquisitive and intelligent species did get past this level of knowledge. We began to admit that we didn’t know the answers to questions about our environment (and ourselves) and set about trying to find the real answers. Thus began a scientific approach to discovery.

Organised religions inherited the superstitious approach claiming “revealed” knowledge and explanations. But they have had to reduce their claimed sphere of knowledge and acknowledge the advantages of true investigation and reason in understanding our surroundings. Some Christian theologists were able to codify this by “explaining” that their god created the universe and gave it logic and order, an understandability. Humanity was then created as a species with the corresponding ability to investigate and understand reality.

Thereby modern science was sanctioned and given the job of describing and understanding reality without resorting to superstitious explanations. Theology made a virtue out of necessity! God became the prime mover and source of order but was no longer required as an “explanation” of every phenomena we didn’t understand.

Culture wars

This is probably a common or even a majority position for Christians today. However, the alternative superstitious approach is still common and exerts a powerful influence politically and socially (but no longer in science). This is represented in attitudes towards “miracles”, creationism/intelligent design, etc. In effect the struggle between the superstitious (anti-science) and rational (supporting scientific naturalism) schools of theology is still very active today. We could say this is the real basis of the “culture wars” of today.

So, I see the “god-given” “explanations” of morality as coming from the superstitious side of Christianity. Progressive, liberal Christians should be rejecting these and searching for real answers to these questions. I suspect many do – it’s just that their voices aren’t heard (perhaps their voices are too soft?).

Non-superstitious explanations

So how do we answer these questions about morality? Well, firstly we admit that we don’t know everything. We have to investigate. And like any difficult question today we can only give partial answers which will improve as we discover more about ourselves and our history.

Briefly, I suggest that our ethics and morality developed from our biological and social evolution. Historical experiences have also played a role. We have some knowledge of this from investigations of other mammals, particularly our closest evolutionary cousins, the primates. Evolutionary psychology also provides some insights, as do anthropological studies of a whole range of existing human societies.

A lot of our morality is intuitive, “in-built,” but the human species has evolved with a brain that provides us with the ability to reason. This enables us to go beyond “natural” instinctive reactions and to consider wider social and ethical issues around these questions. We as a species have developed a moral logic. History suggests that this moral logic is not set in stone – it in itself is evolving.

Unfortunately, a superstitious understanding of morality as “god-given” does not recognise either the origin of our instinctive morality, an objective moral logic, or the evolving nature of our moral and ethical attitudes. When religion relies on “revealed” moral instructions it lags behind or is incapable of dealing with the range of moral and ethical questions our species faces in the modern world.

Related Articles:
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Morals, values and the limits of science
Is religion the source of morality?
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25 responses to “Christian problems with morality


  1. Whenever morality is based on theology, whenever right is made
    dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established.

    Ludwig Feuerbach
    –The Essence of Christianity

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  2. Bob, do you think it’s legitimate to widen that message – to see that “theology” is just an example for any dogmatic ideology? Don’t the crimes committed by the Stalinists and Maoists in the name of communism belong to the same class as the crimes committed by Christians, Muslims, etc., in the name of their religion?

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  3. Captain Skeptic

    It seems that other mammals have an influence on our ethics and morality. I was reading the Sea Shepherd blogs from the Antartic harrying the Japanese whaling fleet and was struck by this comment from Mihirangi:-

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  4. Captain Skeptic

    Whoops, got the xhtml thingies wrong. Here’s the quote

    How can we prove that not all of humanity has gone insane? Can we be heroes? As much as I’d like to kid myself with the romantic notion… unfortunately we have no extraordinary gifts, we definitely don’t possess superhuman strength, we don’t wield any powerful weapons, we’re not committing an act of gallantry and there are no rewards for outstanding achievement. We are here within the deterring restraints of the law… but yes we have passion and we have the emotional and intellectual intelligence to know what is humane. It feels “natural” to protect and defend “Nature”, it feels right, it feels urgent and it is absolutely necessary.

    http://www.seashepherd.org/migaloo/blog/blog_071216_Mihirangi.html

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  5. doubtingthomas426

    LOVE your post, Ken. I hope you’ll check out my site http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/ as I think you’ll find it right up your alley. I’ve categorized all my posts on the left. Take a few minutes to read through a few. Leave a comment if you like. I’m going to check out some of your other posts now. Take Care.

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  6. Ken—

    The problem with your approach is that you are taking morality as a thing, and then asking how it developed. You are not asking the most basic question, which is what morality itself is. You’re simply assuming its existence without explanation. Now, a purely naturalistic worldview is, in principle, opposed to the existence of morality or reason. These things cannot exist if everything is reducible to the physical. It is not that they are hard to explain, or cannot yet be explained—it is that they don’t actually make sense at all in a materialist worldview. It is no good to suppose that they have evolved or developed, because that does not speak to the fundamental question of what they are. Your worldview admits only questions of what is in a physical sense; yet morality concerns itself with questions of what ought to be. Between the one and the other there is a divide which, in principle, can only be crossed if morality and reason are properly basic to the universe.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  7. I believe my worldview is naturalistic and I am not opposed to morality and reason – I don’t think anyone with this worldview is. So clearly you assumption is unfounded.

    Dominic, stop trying to presuppose what other people should think and recognise what they do think.

    The fact that you and I have a concept of what “ought to be” is something that can be investigated – even though you and I as individuals don’t understand how our brains produce that concept. One thing we have to be very careful of are “explanations” generated from without, having no basis in empirical investigation. These may provide us with personally satisfying dogmas but are not going to provide a truly useful and verified knowledge of this phenomenon.

    You seem to be suggesting that we cannot investigate the reasons for our moral intuitions and feelings, that we have to adopt a religious imposed interpretation. But isn’t that just going back to a superstitious approach?

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  8. Ken—

    I didn’t suggest that naturalists are consciously opposed to morality and reason. I suggested that a naturalistic worldview is, by merit of its presuppositions, in principle opposed to morality and reason—regardless of whether its adherents are consistent with this or not. It is not simply that naturalistic worldviews focus unduly on is questions while ignoring ought questions. It is not simply that they do not actually have a mechanism for investigating ought questions at all. Rather, it is that they preclude ought questions entirely by supposing that everything is reducible to the physical. Since the physical only describes what is, there is a conceptual barrier between naturalistic presuppositions and questions of morality (and reason), which simply cannot be bridged. When you say, “you and I as individuals don’t understand how our brains produce that concept” (of “ought”), you are understating the case significantly. It is not simply that your worldview has no means of understanding this question. It is that it denies the coherency of the question entirely, because in naturalism “ought” questions should not, and in principle cannot exist. If all that exists is reducible to what is, then where did “ought” even come from? It is not a naturalistic thing at all, and is precluded from naturalistic investigation. Furthermore, if everything is ultimately reducible to explanations of what is, then ought explanations (even if they could exist) have no value; no real explanatory power. And this is again destructive to morality, and of course to the pursuit of science itself, since without “ought” you cannot say that we “ought” to pursue only naturalistic explanations; and that we “ought not” to pursue supernaturalistic ones.

    If you affirm the existence of morality and reason, then you are implicitly denying your naturalistic presuppositions. That is the point I am making.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  9. My naturalistic worldview is not “in principle opposed to morality and reason.” Nor does my view suppose “that everything is reducible to the physical.”

    Bnonn – you spend a lot of time presupposing what my view is but are starting with the wrong assumptions. You misunderstand my views, beliefs and philosophy. Not a good start for a discussion!

    I support morality and reason. I try to understand how our species has developed moral intuitions and reason. I don’t deny those positions and understanding to theists and I think the same respect should be accorded me.

    However, your arguments would have more value if you explained alternative approaches. Just how do you propose we pursue “supernaturalistic” approaches to morality and reason, and to the scientific study of these. I would have thought “supernaturalist” approaches were actually a departure from reason and science?

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  10. Ken—

    You do not suppose that everything is reducible to the physical? You are presumably then a realist about non-material things? If so, that is quite surprising given your previous statements, but you certainly have my apologies for misrepresenting you. However, if you are indeed not a strict naturalist, then why do you have a problem with the idea of supernatural explanations? I don’t propose that science should be investigating supernatural explanations, since it is a natural discipline—rather, I am proposing that science should recognize that not only is it limited to naturalistic explanations, but that naturalistic explanations are not the only possible explanations.

    Since morality and reason are not naturalistic processes, I don’t know why science would expect to be able to investigate them. It may well be able to investigate the naturalistic processes with which they can correspond, but that is not the same thing. Similarly, one may call the examination of the history of morality and reason “scientific”, but it is not the same as an investigation of what those things are in and of themselves, and of how they came to be. Supernaturalistic approaches are certainly a departure of science, but they are not a departure from reason. The premise of this post of yours is that supernaturalistic explanations are not explanations at all—but that presupposes that only naturalistic explanations have value, which is a philosophical position you would have to justify, and which you now seem to be saying you do not hold anyway?

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  11. You have a lot of “shoulds” and “oughts!” Scientists don’t operate that way – if they did we would not be where we are now. It is far more open minded. I repeat, no scientist asks herself “is this natural?” “Is this supernatural?” They get on with their work, collect the evidence, develop hypotheses, test them and advance theories which are again tested or validated by mapping against reality. At no time does the natural/supernatural question come up.

    Now, advancing a personal ideology or prejudice as a theory and saying that can’t be tested and therefore has to be accepted “because I said so” – that is rejected. In science this is dishonest and unethical to say the least.

    The fact remains, of course, that science is investigating questions related to morality and ethics. I think the findings are intriguing and are going a long way to help us understand the sources of our morality. This understanding is vast improvement on the superstitious “explanations” of Christianity and other religions. Those have got us nowhere.

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  12. “the superstitious “explanations” of Christianity and other religions. Those have got us nowhere.

    Selective criticism…

    Cheers,

    -d-

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  13. Ken—

    Could you elaborate on how a non-physical explanation for a non-physical phenomenon is “superstitious” and has “got us nowhere”, and how a physical explanation for that same non-physical phenomenon is not superstitious, and how it will get us “somewhere”? To where are we trying to get, and how has the religious explanation failed to get us there? And how is referring to religious explanations (I confine myself, really, to the Christian explanation) as “superstitious” anything more than poisoning the well? You recall that in the combox of your more recent article on ID you accused me of “effectively slandering science” for merely pointing out that scientists, like Christians, operate according to philosophical presuppositions. Yet it seems to me that you are certainly slandering Christianity by calling it superstitious. Consider some definitions of “superstition”:

    1. An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.
    2. a. A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.

    1 a: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
    2: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary

    By these definitions, Christianity is certainly not a superstition; and neither is its explanation for morality a superstitious one. I do not believe irrationally that God is logically related to morality. Yet I can show that it is irrational to believe that he is not logically related to morality (since he is, in fact, its precondition). Or, put another way, I can show that it is irrational to believe that morality is logically related solely to natural processes, which is what you appear to maintain. So, I can show that the secular scientific view is superstitious according to this definition; while the Christian view is not.

    Similarly, my belief is not maintained in ignorance of the laws of nature. I am by no means an expert in the various scientific disciplines, but I am not utterly ignorant of neurophysiology, archeology, history, and so on. Neither is my belief maintained by faith in magic or chance. I do not believe in either (at least by their normal definitions). Yet you believe in the latter, and that morality arose from it. Once again, it is possible to show that this belief is irrational. So again, the secular scientific view can be argued to be superstitious, while the Christian view cannot.

    Or take Merriam-Webster’s definition. Again we see chance involved, “or a false conception of causation”. This is one of the primary philosophical batteries which might be brought to bear in an argument from reason, which can be couched as an argument from morality. The naturalistic view, which supposes morality to have arisen via (be caused through) natural processes, can be shown to have a false conception of causation—it is impossible and irrational. So again, the scientific view can be regarded as superstition, while the Christian view cannot.

    Finally, “a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary” is certainly an apt description of your view of morality, provided you accept philosophical argumentation such as the argument from reason as evidence. Yet again, scientism can be regarded as superstitious, while Christianity cannot. All that said, however, you will notice that good Christian apologists don’t simply say that science is superstitious and look how much better Christianity is. That is really rather pointless. No one is convinced by that. They provide arguments for believing the Christian view, and disbelieving the scientific one. (I would be happy to provide such arguments, although I don’t think this combox is really the place to do it; a structured debate would be more appropriate.) Good apologists don’t just say that believing science is like believing just-so stories. Yet that is effectively what you have done. I’m curious about what the purpose of this article actually is.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  14. My apologies; I incorrectly assumed that the cite= string of the blockquote element had been defined to display, so my definitions do not have visible sources. The first is from American Heritage as cited by Answers.com; the second is from Merriam-Webster Online.

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  15. Bnonn, you are lapsing into the use of physical, etc., again. I don’t think these terms really help.
    My point is that scientific investigation is helping us understand why we are moral and why we have certain moral feeling and intuitions.

    Now, religions make claims about their exclusive role in this area. But religion has not been able to provide that information. Nor has it been able to convincingly demonstrate, despite its claims, a special role in deciding just what is right or wrong (and I am not claiming science has any specific role in this). Historically religions have been all over the place on these issues – no doubt for good reasons, more to do with political power than anything divine.

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  16. My point is that scientific investigation is helping us understand why we are moral and why we have certain moral feeling and intuitions.

    Now, religions make claims about their exclusive role in this area. But religion has not been able to provide that information.

    How is scientific investigation helping us to understand why we are moral, and why we have certain moral feelings and intuitions? Give specific examples. And how have the claims of Christianity failed to provide this information? What specific information has it failed to provide?

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  17. Here are some introductory links to some of the scientific investigations, Bnonn. (Pinker’s articleThe Moral Instinct; Pascal Boyer’s books; Jonathan Haidt’s paper The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology and Edge article Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion).

    Christianity has failed with so many moral claims slavery, racism, apartheid, sexual identity, position of women, etc., etc.

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  18. I haven’t looked at your links, Ken, but understanding ‘why we are moral’ and/or ‘why we have moral feelings’, etc. don’t give us rationale for meaningfully discerning what is moral – and therefore doesn’t give us any meaningful way to guide human choice…

    As for the failures of Christianity, I don’t know how we can meaningfully say/demonstrate how the most basic instructive teaching of its central figure has ‘failed’ – ‘Love one another.’

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  19. No, Dale, but I think our moral intuitions, moral emotions and moral reasoning are a starting point for a moral logic which helps us decide what is right and wrong. Yes, we need to go beyond our intuitions is most things today – in other words we need to use brain in more conscious way.

    “Love one another” is not unique to Christianity (perhaps indicating its basis in our own evolution) and one can certainly derive this as a moral stance, whatever ones religious beliefs. But we do have to derive that ourselves – just as we do with any other moral position. No one has a right to claim a special moral knowledge because of their beliefs.

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  20. I’m all for using the brains we’ve got, :) but I’m still not grasping a) how we can arrive at or observe ‘our moral intuitions’, etc., and b) how this ‘helps us decide what is right and wrong’…

    Yes, other teachers from other worldviews have adopted the ‘Love one another’ idea, and of course, anyone is able to adopt such a basic idea whatever their religious or non-religious views… An interesting question would be why some adopt it and others don’t?

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  21. Our intuitions are just that, intuitions. We arrive at them spontaneously. We instinctively react to situations in a moral way, without thinking. Obviously a lot goes on in our brains to do this. We just aren’t aware of the processes. But the inference systems can be studied, and they can be understood as arising naturally during the evolution of our species. Haidt, Boyer and (I think) Pinker discuss this.

    These intuitions can act as starting points for conscious reasoning. Hence we get moral reasoning and moral logic. We may arrive at different decisions to those instinctive and emotional intuitions we started with. But that is the advantage of intelligence. (Haidt, I think, discusses use of simple stories which evoke strong emotional moral responses [based on things like purity, disgust, etc.] but when thought about could possibly be accepted because reasoning shows the actions do no harm to anyone).

    We can see the morality of ‘Love one another’ idea in this light. To some degree this is instinctive when applied to our own “in” group – kin, etc. (A corollary is that we treat people outside the “in” group as enemies – we hate them.) This happens instinctively – we just have to divide people into any two groups (hair colour for example) and before long we develop an “in” group, “out” group attitude with all the horrible consequences if allowed to develop unchecked. Phillip Zimbardo’s work showed that. However, by applying reason, logic, and modern knowledge we can expand our “in” group to include everybody in our village, town, nation and eventually species (and even today to other species).

    I am thinking of trends. Like any species there is human variability so moral ideas are not going to be uniform. (Then there are others who are pathologically immoral – sometimes through brain damage or defect).

    I don’t think there is any objective code of right and wrong – some people seem to think they need this otherwise we could never be moral. But I do think we can arrive at reliable working moral codes by applying reasons and logic. In a sense there is a moral logic just as there is an arithmetic logic. Hence we can develop systems of ethics and law.

    In our modern society we will continually be confronted with moral and ethical questions. We have to apply our reason and logic to work out acceptable decisions. But I think there are two things we should try to overcome.

    1). Our initial emotional, intuitive response – a useful starting point but in social discourse we need to get beyond that.
    2). Appeal to some sort of objective moral code without justification of reason and logic. In the US Obama made this point to religious organisations – they need to develop inclusive secular arguments for policy rather that relying on minority exclusive religious justifications (biblical quotes, for example). I think the current argument by the Anglican Church against liberalisation of Easter trading laws shows this sort of failure.

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  22. Ken, you said:

    Christianity has failed with so many moral claims slavery, racism, apartheid, sexual identity, position of women, etc., etc.

    You haven’t answered my question at all. How has Christianity failed with these claims? How do you recognize a failure? And how is secular science “getting us somewhere” in a way which Christianity is not? You have simply presupposed that scientific explanations are valuable while Christian ones are not, which of course is hardly compelling to someone who doesn’t hold the same assumptions. The links you have given are a fascinating read, but only in the sense that internally inconsistent fantasy stories are fascinating. For example, citing the example of the siblings making love, the first article says—

    Most people immediately declare that these acts are wrong and then grope to justify why they are wrong. It’s not so easy. In the case of Julie and Mark, people raise the possibility of children with birth defects, but they are reminded that the couple were diligent about contraception. They suggest that the siblings will be emotionally hurt, but the story makes it clear that they weren’t. They submit that the act would offend the community, but then recall that it was kept a secret. Eventually many people admit, “I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I just know it’s wrong.” People don’t generally engage in moral reasoning, Haidt argues, but moral rationalization: they begin with the conclusion, coughed up by an unconscious emotion, and then work backward to a plausible justification.

    This begs the question by assuming that moral rationalization is intrinsically unjustified if not validated by practical outcomes. But this, of course, assumes an ideology of moral pragmatism which has not itself been justified or even acknowledged. There is no difficulty justifying the moral judgments of these examples, from a Christian point of view, since we understand that morality is not dictated by what is most beneficial to other people, or to ourselves, but rather is defined in relationship with God’s law. Furthermore, the fact that people do intrinsically have a sense of what is right and what is wrong is ample evidence of the truth of the Christian position—”They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15). Even if people are unable to explain why they believe something to be wrong, it remains that justification may exist, and indeed does exist by merit of the fact that the existence of morality entails moral realism, which in turn entails moral objectivism. Of course, the latter examples given in the article, of cutting up a flag, and of eating a dog, are not morally wrong since neither actually contravene God’s law. However, many people would consider them wrong because they do not acknowledge or know God’s law in the propositional sense (that is, in its inscripturated form), and so are easily confused between what is culturally unacceptable or reflexively disgusting, and what is morally abhorrent.

    Still from the article:

    Here is the worry. The scientific outlook has taught us that some parts of our subjective experience are products of our biological makeup and have no objective counterpart in the world. The qualitative difference between red and green, the tastiness of fruit and foulness of carrion, the scariness of heights and prettiness of flowers are design features of our common nervous system, and if our species had evolved in a different ecosystem or if we were missing a few genes, our reactions could go the other way. Now, if the distinction between right and wrong is also a product of brain wiring, why should we believe it is any more real than the distinction between red and green? And if it is just a collective hallucination, how could we argue that evils like genocide and slavery are wrong for everyone, rather than just distasteful to us?

    This is an excellent description of the limitations of science, but certainly not of the lack of objective grounding for qualia. Again, this is simply question-begging. It is assumed that since qualia are subjective and cannot be measured by science, that they therefore cannot be “real” in an objective sense. But why? An argument from reason can easily demonstrate that this is absurd, and ultimately reduces down to a denial of rational inference. Again, scientists simply presuppose philosophical naturalism, and thereby imagine that they have a corner on the market of truth. This is hardly very convincing in the face of the numerous insurmountable problems with philosophical naturalism itself.

    Putting God in charge of morality is one way to solve the problem, of course, but Plato made short work of it 2,400 years ago. Does God have a good reason for designating certain acts as moral and others as immoral? If not — if his dictates are divine whims — why should we take them seriously?

    That’s quite a statement. Plato “made short work of it”? Because Socrates asked Euthyphro a question he couldn’t answer from within his pagan Greek worldview, it must be the case that Christians have difficulty with the same question? Remarkable…

    Anyway, getting back to your own comments, Ken—

    No one has a right to claim a special moral knowledge because of their beliefs.

    Really? No one has a right to do this? How do you know? It sounds like you are, in fact, claiming the special moral knowledge that “no one has a right to claim special moral knowledge”. How do you get around this obvious contradiction?

    These intuitions can act as starting points for conscious reasoning. Hence we get moral reasoning and moral logic. We may arrive at different decisions to those instinctive and emotional intuitions we started with. But that is the advantage of intelligence. (Haidt, I think, discusses use of simple stories which evoke strong emotional moral responses [based on things like purity, disgust, etc.] but when thought about could possibly be accepted because reasoning shows the actions do no harm to anyone).

    So, in other words, it is implicitly supposed that moral pragmatism is true. That is, that it is good to not harm people? But how do you know? On what basis do you say this? Is it simply that you have been biologically and socially conditioned to not want to harm people? If that is the case, then it is actually meaningless to say that it is “good” to not harm people. Good is simply a subjective qualia; there is no reason that you ought to pay any attention to it.

    I don’t think there is any objective code of right and wrong – some people seem to think they need this otherwise we could never be moral. But I do think we can arrive at reliable working moral codes by applying reasons and logic. In a sense there is a moral logic just as there is an arithmetic logic. Hence we can develop systems of ethics and law.

    By even accepting the idea that “we can be moral”, you are presupposing that morality is actually something. You are, in other words, implicitly accepting moral realism. You even admit as much by saying that moral logic exists, just as arithmetical logical exists. But this presupposes that morality is an objective thing, just as normal logic is an objective thing. And neither of these presuppositions work in a naturalistic worldview. They are impossible. They imply God; not atheism.

    Appeal to some sort of objective moral code without justification of reason and logic. In the US Obama made this point to religious organisations – they need to develop inclusive secular arguments for policy rather that relying on minority exclusive religious justifications (biblical quotes, for example).

    Interesting. So Obama is saying that people ought to develop inclusive secular arguments for policy, and that they ought not to rely on exclusive religious justifications? What is his justification for making these moral statements?

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  23. I didn’t think I needed to spell it out Bnonn. On each of these and many other issues Christians have taken up opposing positions – for and against slavery, for and against apartheid, for and against the rights to sexual identity, etc. They have justified their position by appealing to “God’s Law”, scripture, etc. Of course both sides aren’t right suggesting that they have come to their individual positions by a different method. They have been able to select or cherry pick those parts of “God’s Law” or scripture which they judge correct.

    The evidence suggests Christians come to their moral positions in the same way that non-Christians do. That of course brings us to investigating how we develop our moral and ethical beliefs. The scientific approach is providing us with the insights indicated in the articles I mentioned.

    Now, you have a problem with the scientific approach, Bnonn, because you have immunised yourself against it. You insist on “natural”/”supernatural” categories and rejection of scientific method (my fig 1) in favour of a truncated methodology enabling imposition of a preconceived idea free from validation (my fig 2). This means you will always have a way of avoiding, and attempting to discredit, knowledge humanity gains from proper investigation. It may work for you – but I think most people (whatever their religious beliefs) actually would prefer the fig. 1 approach.

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  24. Ken—

    What relevance does it have that people who profess to be Christians hold differing positions on various moral questions? Since the Bible holds a single position, and contradicts all others, these others are really irrelevant, even if people attempt to justify them using the Bible.

    The evidence suggests Christians come to their moral positions in the same way that non-Christians do. That of course brings us to investigating how we develop our moral and ethical beliefs. The scientific approach is providing us with the insights indicated in the articles I mentioned.

    Which evidence is this? Do you mean to say that Christians come to moral conclusions apart from Scripture, and then attempt to fit them into Scripture? I certainly agree that this can happen, but it is either an indication that the person in question is poorly schooled in his faith, or is not a genuine Christian at all. If you ask me a moral question, I will ground my answer on biblical moral principles, just as I did previously. To do otherwise would be inconsistent with my worldview. Now some questions are certainly more difficult than others, but that doesn’t mean that no answer exists, or that I will simply “go with my gut” in the case of hard questions, or questions I haven’t previously considered. But, even if I did, this proves only that I am inconsistent—not Christianity itself.

    Now, you have a problem with the scientific approach, Bnonn, because you have immunised yourself against it. You insist on “natural”/”supernatural” categories and rejection of scientific method (my fig 1) in favour of a truncated methodology enabling imposition of a preconceived idea free from validation (my fig 2). This means you will always have a way of avoiding, and attempting to discredit, knowledge humanity gains from proper investigation. It may work for you – but I think most people (whatever their religious beliefs) actually would prefer the fig. 1 approach.

    No Ken—on the contrary, you have immunized yourself against rational, supernatural explanations for moral or intellectual phenomena by insisting on purely natural, irrational categories, while rejecting supernatural explanations out of hand simply because they are “unscientific”. But there is no such thing as a natural explanation for morality, just as there is no such thing as a natural explanation for qualia. Physical objects, by definition, do not have subjective points of view. They do not have the property of being about other physical things. Etc etc.

    Furthermore, humanity does not gain knowledge of reality from scientific investigation. Knowledge is justified and true belief, and scientific investigation does not yield this in the sense you appear to suppose. Science is a useful discipline for manipulating reality and coming to operational knowledge of it—but it is not a discipline for arriving at true beliefs about its essential nature. You seem to think it is, which is unfortunately all too common of scientists, and leads to the very sorts of discussions we’re currently having.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

    Like

  25. You guys have fun – I’ve been too busy to keep up with the ever-increasing length of comments… I hate being busy! :/

    The long comments are good, however. There is a lot of detail to be worked out in these kinds of conversations…

    Cheers, blessings, prayers, nice thoughts, hugs and warm feelings…

    -d-

    Like

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