Sunday, July 12, 2015

The moral argument for the existence of gods

It's Sunday. I assume that most of you are at church but here's something for the rest of you. It's a sermon by William Lane Craig on The Moral Argument for the Existence of Gods. I found the link on Evolution News & Views (sic) a blog that's devoted to the "science" of Intelligent Design Creationism [Watch: Three from William Lane Craig]. I'm not sure what this has to do with evolution except that the word is mentioned a few times in the videos.

I'm also not sure what this has to do with intelligent design since, as we all know, the "science" of intelligent design has nothing to do with gods.

Allow me to introduce the video with a brief introduction to how societies form rules of behavior. The general rule is that certain actions are proscribed because making some actions illegal or unethical makes for a happier and safer society. Some of the rules are almost universal—don't kill people, for example. But even these rules have exceptions; kings, queens, and nobles in medieval Europe could get away with murder and it was okay to kill slaves and witches.

The rules (ethics) of a particular society change over time. Many modern societies have abolished capital punishment and are moving toward rehabilitating lawbreakers rather than punishing them. Abortion is permissible in many societies and so is gay marriage. We try to treat men and women equally in modern advanced societies.

The rules are very different in those societies that are dominated by religion. As a general rule, gods don't like freedom and democracy and they demand severe punishment for all kinds of transgressions. Ancient societies used to be very childish by our standards and they embraced all kinds of stupid rules that we now recognize as evil. Perhaps there was a time when those rules made sense.

Those societies created gods and, naturally, those gods advocated exactly the same rules that the society had independently developed over time. Eventually, the members of those societies became confused about what came first, the rules or the gods. Many of them came to believe that treating women as inferiors, for example, was exactly what the gods wanted them to do.

As we put away childish things, it became obvious that societies could do better by ignoring the wishes of the gods and making up better, kinder, and fairer rules of behavior. That's where we are right now. We don't try to live by the standards of Zeus, Apollo, Hades, and Hera or any of the other gods that were paradigms of morality in the past.

William Lane Craig thinks that gods are the source of all morality and he wants us to return to the kind of society that's described in the Bible. Not only that, he still thinks that all the rules depend on the existence of gods for, without gods, a society cannot possibly decide which rules are better than others. A secular society, for example, might decide that torturing, burning, and hanging witches and infidels might be wrong but religion and the gods teach us that it's okay.

Craig goes even further, he thinks that the existence of some common societal rules actually proves the existence of gods! [Moral Argument] Two thousand years ago everyone believed that men were superior to women; ergo, gods exist.



37 comments :

  1. I have never been able to wrap my head around this one -- a brief look at human history (and relatively recent history is quite sufficient for that purpose) should be enough for everyone to give up trying to even claim that there is real innate morality of the kind the Christians imagine. All it takes is for people to divide others into an in-group and an out-group and for a conflict over resources to develop, and after that there isn't much difference between how they treat the out-group and how they treat cockroaches (or maybe there is - we tend to just kill the latter without elaborately torturing them first).

    If anything, the blind belief in handed-down-by-god innate morality is ensuring that such things will keep happening, as it prevents us from understanding our animal nature and our proper place in the environment, knowledge of which is the best foundation on which to consciously deal with that problem.

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    1. It's basically a logical fallacy based on an argument from consequences:

      - If gods don't exist then there wouldn't exist objective moral values

      - It would be horrible if objective moral values didn't exist

      - Therefore I must conclude that gods exist

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    2. Actually there are two different arguments here (both fallacious, of course).

      The first one is the argument from consequences, which is that without God society will fall apart, because there is no source of morality. Which is first, empirically falsified by the situation in countries like Sweden, and second, has nothing to do with whether gods exist or not, as is true for all arguments from consequences, One can then argue that we should just give them time and they will eventually fall apart, after all it has only been a couple of generations since they became majority atheist. But then there have been a number of traditional atheistic religions in Asia, and those societies persisted quite well for a long time (which is not to say that they were just societies and nice places to live, but neither were Christian societies until fairly recently). So you definitely don't need gods for morality.

      I don't think WLC is making that argument in this particular case (although he is definitely making it in general).

      The second morality argument is that innate morality exists in human beings, which contradicts the theory of evolution (and in some versions of the argument is unique to humans), therefore it could have only been inserted in our souls by God. This is also silly because it completely ignores kin selection, and it also ignores some well known facts of human history and even current behavior, explicitly demonstrating that we cannot talk of anything like a innate objective morality, because humans do all sorts of horrible things to each other all the time, and while they do that unpredictably some of the time (in which case one can wave it off as an effect of free will), that sort of behavior shows up very predictably in certain situations.

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    3. Georgi, where "innate morality" is concerned, we have to remind them that social animals like dogs and primates have compassion, empathy, and a sense of fairness. The religious claim is that morality proves 1. We're created in the image of God, and that 2. These properties could never evolve, so they must have been injected into humans by a miracle.

      But then 2 says there must have been many miracles, for primates, dogs, etc. And as for 1, were dogs and ptimates also created in the image of God, thus explaining their empathy and sense of fairness?

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  2. The general rule is that certain actions are proscribed because they make for a happier and safer society.

    Sorry to be a nitpicker, but I'm sure you mean prescribed (= recommended), not proscribed (= forbidden, banished).

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    1. No, I meant proscribed (forbidden). Rules such as "thou shall not kill" are far more common that rules like "be nice to one another."

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    2. In that case the phrasing is wrong. They in your sentence can only refer to those "certain actions" that are proscribed (such as killing other humans), and those actions surely don't make for a happier and safer society; their proscription arguably does. "They make" should read "this makes", don't you agree?

      Anyway, I've never been able to understand why some people think WLC is a fine and original thinker.

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    3. But because 'they' is plural, it appears to refer to the actions, not the proscription. Replacing proscribed' with 'prescribed' would correct this, as would changing 'they' to 'this'.

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    4. I think you're quibbling but I changed it anyway.

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  3. Getting all your information on what's happening in ID "science" from sources like Evolution News & Views is like getting all your information on evolutionary theory from BioLogos then demanding it be thrown out of science because of being a religion.



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    1. Don't you worry about it Gary. We know you're a kook in search for recognition as yet another species of IDiot, so we'll remember to give you proper credit for that.

      We hereby acknowledge that Gary Gaulin is a kook and yet another species of IDiot. Not least stupid as any other IDiot, but yet another species nonetheless.

      See? I gave you credit. Now be happy. :)

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  4. The argument basically goes like this:

    Objective morals, therefore God

    What does William Lame Craig have to say when presented with the Euthypro dilemma?

    If something is good or bad because of god, it's not really objective, it's relative to god, he could potentially change his mind so there's nothing absolute or objective about morality

    On the contrary, if things are good or bad independently of god, truly, objectively good or bad, he can't be the source of morality. Objective morals apply to god just like they apply to you and me. Since objective morals stand on their own, no god is necessary for them to exist if they do

    He retorts and claims that God is goodness. Let's completely ignore the fact that morality includes bad things too, where does that leave his initial argument?

    Now he identifies his premise (objective good - and bad I guess) with his conclusion, god, rendering his argument useless and tautological.

    A: You can't have "good" without god
    B: God IS good and good IS god
    From A & B, you can't have god without god

    Pure brilliance!

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  5. From A & B, you can't have god without god

    In a confused and ham-handed way, this is probably consistent with most theology. Surely god didn't evolve through natural processes from simpler, non-omnipotent things inside or oustside of this universe, did he?

    Of all the thing that might interest the theologian, it should be the origin of god. But for the most part it seems that this question is off-limits, or merely washed away by the assertion that god has always existed, and has no definable origin.

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    1. Of all the thing that might interest the theologian, it should be the origin of god. But for the most part it seems that this question is off-limits

      Problematic stuff like this is of no concern to them because they have an unlimited supply of fallacious arguments. Just look at Craig's video about the cosmological argument for a classic example of question begging and special pleading to claim that everything began to exist, except for god, of course.

      Note that the line of reasoning of the cosmological argument, even if one was to buy all the premises, doesn't exclude the possibility that the cause of the universe itself had a cause and ceased to exist. In other words, even with all the special pleading needed to conclude that there must be an uncaused cause, nothing in the argument proves it must have been the creator of the universe.

      Meanwhile, our dead creator's grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-father is busy causing much more competent creators of other universes where his apologists, unlike WLC, actually do understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics

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    2. In other words, even with all the special pleading needed to conclude that there must be an uncaused cause, nothing in the argument proves it must have been the creator of the universe.

      Yes, and not to mention the ridiculous concept that the uncaused cause would have the slightest in common with the childish and cartoonic Abrahamic God concept.

      The uncaused cause would be truly inscrutable to humans, but inscrutable doesnt put people in the churches (though it is a useful concept when questions become uncomfortable).

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    3. Inscrutable God is not a moneymaker. No theologian who ever taught an inscrutable God ever got a private jet.

      If you teach your flock of sheep that God condemns those who have more sex than you do, or who have sex in a different position; if you preach that God knows you really want a BMW car and God knows you deserve that BMW and is pulling for you... you'll get that private jet.

      Scrutable God is a moneymaker.

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    4. In American news, about 17 Republicans have announced they are running for President.

      Abouut 4 or 5 have said God told them to run. The latest is Scott Walker whom God told to run.

      In the last election, none of the god-commissioned candidates won.

      But that God is quite clever: if he keeps telling dozens of Republicans to run, eventually one might win.

      God's like a guy in a singles bar telling every other lady, "You're the one for me, baby." It's about quantity, not quality.

      It's when God tells them to start wars that we're in trouble... Ah, that Christian morality.

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  6. @Larry,

    Cartoons of this type are so cheesy and can be easily made by creationists....

    The reason why they don't mock you is because they have some kind of respect for other beliefs like yours....

    It's too bad you have no evidence to support your beliefs.... If you had any evidence, it would be in our face....

    You must be suffering a lot from " the atheistic red face syndrome" ....

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    1. The reason why they don't mock you is because they have some kind of respect for other beliefs like yours....

      That is patently untrue. In past times the cartoonist (and Larry for that matter) could be imprisoned or burned alive by christians for such blasphemy. The only reason this will not happen now is because the church has been effectively stripped of its power to kill people at will. However, his cartoons could easily be grounds for murder by some modern muslim.

      Stop lying you ignorant asshole.

      Furthermore, people who are deluded themselves never make good comedians. Ever notice that conservative/republican types in the U.S. can never pull off comedy along the likes of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher (despite an abortive attempt every once and awhile)? There are reasons for this... will let you ponder why.

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    2. KevNick,

      You could not possibly know if there's any evidence for our position, since you don't care when answers and explanations go your way. Do you really think that your stupidity and hypocrisy favor your position?

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    3. SRM,

      That' why we have the freedom of speech now , but unfortunately, it only applies to the other type of faith. It is called now the scientific faith. So, if one dares to question the scientific faith, he will not be burned alive, but he might as well be if he is a biology teacher who doesn't agree with Darwinism. This is the new reality. Do you think that your faith is better than mine? Give me one reason.

      BTW: People who claimed to be Christian and did burn people alive only pretended to be Christian. "Because the Christ said that "that's is how thay are going to recognize you as my followers, if you love one another like I loved you."

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    4. It doesn't matter whether the teacher agrees with Evolutionary Theory or not, or whether she thinks the earth is 6,000 years old, or older. She will teach the scientific consensus that is arrived at through the human conduct of science - not based upon what she heard about biology or geology while in church, or in her parents lap.

      My faith in the usefullness of science is better than your faith in invisible gods and miracles because scientific ideas can be tested and verified and are based either directly or indirectly on reproducible observations. None of this is true of your faith.

      Finally, I don't suppose it matters much to a person on a burning heap of branches whether their murderers are pretend christians or pretend muslims. Every time theocracy is tested, it leads to the grossest violations of human rights and violence imaginable. Yes, I know, religion is not the only source of violence in this world - but that is slim praise indeed.

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    5. QuesDick says: Cartoons of this type are so cheesy and can be easily made by creationi;sts....

      So make one then. Since it's easy.

      The creationists tried. Ken Ham's website has a running cartoon called "After Eden." It is crushingly unfunny, a moronic mini-sermon from the joyless.

      Creation/Evolution Headlines is run by David Coppedge, who was laid off from JPL and claimed discrimination. He has running cartoons where he portrays Dawkins, Eugenie Scott of the NCSE, and scientists in general as grotesques and lying charlatans. The main character is a rabid, creationist dog who ends each cartoon by baring his fangs in rage and pointing an accusatory dog-finger at the lying scientist/heretic. Like the ending of the remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The pod-people have identified the last freethinker for elimination.

      Creationists were never funny, but after thousands of repetitions going back decades, it's all they've got. Sermons, hate, grotesquerie.

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    6. SRM,


      My faith in the usefullness of science is better than your faith in invisible gods and miracles because scientific ideas can be tested and verified and are based either directly or indirectly on reproducible observations. None of this is true of your faith.

      This has nothing to do with the lack of evidence that the science you so believe in is based on. Until you can prove or test some of the ideas you so believe in, it still remains faith.

      Your faith can only be better if the science you believe in provides experimental evidence. Until then, it is just a claim that what you think is better what I think. Nothing else.

      Finally, I don't suppose it matters much to a person on a burning heap of branches whether their murderers are pretend christians or pretend muslims. Every time theocracy is tested, it leads to the grossest violations of human rights and violence imaginable. Yes, I know, religion is not the only source of violence in this world - but that is slim praise indeed.

      You can blame everyone and every religion for anything but that doesn't make your faith true, unless you can prove it or tested to be true.

      So, stop with the childish blaming process because this makes you appear desperate due to lack of evidence. It is pitiful and not even laughable

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    7. Haha. oh Kevnick, you are just like Quest. Mimicking the criticisms you hear directed at religion, as if they are novel and legitimate responses on your part.

      Say Kevnick, let us compare faiths: I have no idea how the universe arose nor what led to the event...what about you?

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  7. "The reason why they don't mock you is because they have some kind of respect for other beliefs like yours...."

    Um., so, you've never actually read much of anything written by, say, Klinghoffer?

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  8. I cannot understand why WLC is so adored by so many evangelicals. His repetitive, 'do as god says, not as god does' schtick is so utterly illogical and silly that I do not get how adults can find it so satisfying. And that pathetic cosmological argument.... Ugh...

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  9. "Craig goes even further, he thinks that the existence of some common societal rules actually proves the existence of gods!"

    As far as I know, all the paleoanthropological evidence indicates that Homo sapiens, our hominid ancestors, and perhaps even our pre-hominid ancestors, evolved as social species. This would imply an innate sense of cooperation and understanding. Evolution can account for morality quite nicely, Mr. Craig.

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  10. Pretty strong argument. Except, your evolution of society is a little bit incomplete. As we moved away from doing things the gods said we increased the divorce rate. As a direct consequence the fertility rate in the West has dropped below replacement. In modern compassionate societies we immigrate from underdeveloped countries to compensate. After all, who is going to pay for those retirement benefits if the population keeps on shrinking.

    So anyway, as it turns out the immigrants are largely god believing Muslims. There's an irony here, but I just can't put my finger on it.

    So your evolution of society more completely should say after we discarded the gods all of Western civilization will go extinct and be replaced by other societies who keep their belief in the gods. It does seem a shame to loose all those Western values of democracy and freedoms. But that's evolution for you. Survival of the fittest, not the free-est.

    I know this is too much to expect you to comprehend, let along absorb. But one can always hope I think. You don't need to believe in gods to have hope do you?

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    1. Peter Wadeck writes: "it turns out the immigrants are largely god believing Muslims" fleeing from countries ruined by religion.

      Well, that explains why the percentage of atheists is shrinking in the USA.

      Oh wait...

      So Peter's "solution" is that we should make our country to be like the religious, violent, theocratic, dictatorial hellholes from which these immigrants are fleeing in terror.

      Wadeck's point is based on the same "observations" as the perennial "auto-genocide of the white race" argument. They've been around for ~105 years. Prior to that the conservative argument was that the Native Americans, Africans, Chinese etc. would go extinct soon, according to God's law, since they were wicked. About 1910 some right wing genius figured out "wow, there are a lot of Chinese" and then it became whitey who would auto-genocide.

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    2. Try to get your facts straight. I was not offering a solution at all, merely correcting the data so anyone can make an informed conclusion.

      Mistake number two - most immigrants are not refugees. They are people looking for a better life in a shrinking society.

      Final mistake, the correct term is more like liberal atheistic genocide against their own people.
      Like a true believer you spout off when you know nothing. You are totally ignorant of the current below replacement fertility rate across all of Western society. Just google a country and fertility rate. It is real, unlike the gibberish you mentioned. Whites are a minority in California when they used to be 80%. Muslims will be a majority in most European countries in less than 100 years. I see no reason why this trend won't continue either. Especially with ignorant cheerleaders of mass extinction as yourself.

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    3. Religion bad, bad. Therefore life created itself and evolution just did the rest.
      Can't argue with that.

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  11. "A secular society, for example, might decide that torturing, burning, and hanging witches and infidels might be wrong but religion and the gods teach us that it's okay."

    Best sentence!

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  12. The bible says its written on all mens hearts a moral code. Otherwise god could not condemn men who never heard the moral code from the bible!
    Its not Christianity that makes mankind struggle for right and wrong.
    its that, in a curve on the graph, the most christian people groups will ne the most moral.
    Thats what history shows in great or small matters.
    The false faiths led to less morality and a lesser society.

    the struggle continues always as in the abortion, gay, crime problems and others.
    My city Toronto was once called toronto the good because of its very protestant culture.
    Today it reaps the reward from the old folks but is not as hood in some areas and possibly a portent of rough decades ahead.
    Of coarse its all relative between humans.
    By the way TODAY everyone invokes morality for thier causes. right and wrong is very stressed and enforced but from a left wing establishment at the moment.
    its about who is the moral boss and not a disbelief in morality.

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  13. Robert Byers

    Are you sure you are talking about the bible I have? I don't mean to offend you because you seem like a very sincere fellow. I just find it a bit confusing reading your comments, which seem heartfelt, and the bible text I have available. Would it be too much trouble for you to support your thoughts on the theme?

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  14. I propose a new formulation of the moral argument for God's existence!
    http://en.apologet.net/the-moral-argument-a-modern-approach/

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