Why Dawkins’ “God Delusion” is a Delusion

“New Atheism is, in fact, a pop-cultural phenomenon lacking in intellectual rigor and blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American Philosophy” (Craig, 2017a).

Highly educated atheists have begun to attract the attention of the innocent by using well-articulated, yet philosophically deficient theories to explain their positions. Among these “New Atheists,” Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins are (or in the late Hitchens’ case, was) arguably the most vocal and published. The present blog will offer a brief explanation of New Atheism, along with a rebuttal to some of the theories proposed by Richard Dawkins in his book, “The God Delusion.”

Moral Relativism

New Atheism explicitly endorses moral relativism and adheres closely to a belief in materialism. Moral relativism is the belief that all morals are culturally contingent and culturally determined, so people operate according to the acceptable norms within their societies. Moral relativism suggests there is no objective moral standard against which morals can be judged for societies as a whole. Accordingly, Nazis who acted in conformity with the skewed values of other Nazis in the death camps were simply being “normal.” In contrast, if an objective moral standard exists, Nazis would be judged against a greater sense of justice, which applies across all societies.

The reason atheists subscribe to moral relativism is because they believe the explanation for creation lies in evolution. To them, evolution takes the place of God. Since evolution cannot explain an objective moral standard (which can only be explained by an external moral agent and lawgiver), atheists must adhere to a relative moral standard.

Why doesn’t evolution explain an objective moral standard? Let me provide an example. Animals do not “murder” other animals. They kill them. And animals do not hold one another accountable for killing innocent prey. If a bass fish decided to chase and kill a tadpole because she was bored, the “crime” would likely go unnoticed by other fish and frogs. Humans would not accuse the bass fish of murder. Yet if a man decided to chase and murder a child because he was bored, society would hold him accountable. Such accountability crosses cultures and eras because it is a part of our objective moral standard. This example demonstrates that if we evolved from animals, the explanation for our innate sense of justice is unexplained by evolution.

So where did this sense of justice come from? If the universe is merely an accident and we are products of luck, why should we care about justice at all? Without a divine guide, we could have just as easily developed no moral sense of justice, killing and forcibly copulating our peers as animals do.

C.S. Lewis (1952, pp. 41) puts it this way: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? …Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist –  in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense.”

Atheist Materialism

Atheist materialism is the belief that everything in the world can be explained by its physical properties, within the confines of physical science. As Dawkins (1998, pp. 215) says: “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference. … We are machines for propagating DNA. … It is every living object’s sole reason for being.”

According to this belief, humans are “accidental byproducts of nature who have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust called planet Earth – lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe – and are doomed to perish individually and collectively in relatively short time” (Craig, 2017b).

Dawkins (2006, pp. 196) states, “Genes ‘collaborate’ with hundreds of other genes in programming the developmental processes that culminate in a body, in the same kind of way as the words of a recipe collaborate in a cookery process that culminates in a dish…Genes then cooperate in cartels to build bodies…There is a butcher and a baker, but perhaps a gap in the market for the candlestick maker. The invisible hand of natural selection fills the gap. That is different from having a central planner who favors the troika of butcher + baker + candlestick maker. The idea of cooperating cartels assembled by the invisible hand will turn out to be central to our understanding of religious memes and how they work.”

In other words, Dawkins replaces God with “the invisible hand of natural selection.” Natural selection is God to Dawkins.

To further develop these theories, Dawkins published the “God Delusion” in 2006. According to Dawkins (pp.  157 – 158), the “central argument” of his book is as follows.

Dawkins’ Central Argument:

  1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
  2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artifact, such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.
  3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a ‘crane’, not a ‘skyhook’, for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.
  4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, graduate degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that – an illusion.
  5. We don’t have an equivalent crane for physics. Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.
  6. We should not give up the hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.

Rebuttal to Dawkins’ Central Argument

In summary, Dawkins’ Central Argument makes these points: (1) humans are driven to find explanations of the world surrounding them (true); (2) humans have a natural tendency to attribute the appearance of a design to design (or a creator) (true); (3) however, we must ignore #2 because a Creator requires a Creator (false); and (4) Darwinian evolution is a substitute for God (false).

  1. How did we get here? And even more importantly, why are we here?

What distinguishes humans from other life forms is we have an innate desire to find purpose in our lives. Purpose leads to fulfillment and is an important component of human life. Without purpose, we suffer tremendous psychological consequences (Taylor, 2013). For this reason, Dawkins’ assertion that humans are driven to find explanations is reasonable.  We are innately driven to find explanations and this has been part of our nature since the beginning of humanity.

In his best-selling book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Nazi death camp survivor Viktor Frankl states, “This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”

It is the human sense of purpose that distinguishes us from other life forms, along with our self-awareness (consciousness) and intentionality. Natural selection does not explain these as we have no scientific evidence for how life forms suddenly became aware of their surroundings. Daniel Dennett asserts that our consciousness is merely an illusion, which begs the question of whether he was conscious when he made such an assertion! We further have no scientific evidence for why we are innately wired to seek purpose and an explanation for our lives.

“The root of this present waywardness is always the same – the attempt of physicists to overstep the legitimate boundaries of science. The questions they most lust to solve are actually bound up with the issues of life and consciousness. But it’s a Sisyphusian task: physics can furnish no true answers for them” (Lanza, 2009, pp. 15).

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10.

  1. Designers design and creators create

Dawkins asserts that we have a natural tendency to attribute the appearance of a design to design. He points out that intelligent engineers design man-made objects, such as watches or iPhones or cars.  Yet he stops short of allowing the same attribution to be made for spiders, eyes, and other forms of life by suggesting that the presence of what he considers to be a larger problem (Who designed the designer?) eliminates the question of design altogether.  But the elimination of the question is premature. We have all been witnesses to the creation of life, whether from seeds, caterpillars, puppies, or fetuses. In all cases, a source created life. There is always a source from which designs and creations are derived.

Physical life cycles on earth cycle back to the beginning of the earth and before that to the beginning of the universe. And before that? Is the process never ending? In other words, do we have an infinite regression of physical causes?

Scientists have overwhelmingly supported the Big Bang Theory, which validates a start date for time, space, and matter. Accordingly, nothing physical or bounded by time could have existed prior to the Big Bang so the infinite regression of physical causes is ruled out. What could have existed prior to the Big Bang requires qualities outside of time, space, and matter. Thomas Aquinas offers an answer via his “First Mover Theory for God.”

1. Our senses tell us that there is some motion in the world.
2. All things moving must be moved by something else.
3. Motion is the change from potentiality to actuality.
4. It is not possible to be potential and actual in the same respect.
5. Therefore, the mover cannot also be the moved.
6. There cannot be an infinite regression of movers.
7. Therefore, there must be a first, unmoved mover.

NASA astronomer Robert Jastrow (1992) states, “I suppose the idea of a beginning of time annoyed Einstein because of its theological implications… There is a kind of religion in science… Every effect must have its cause; there is no First Cause…This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of products of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring its implications – in science this is known as ‘refusing to speculate’ – or trivializing the origin of the world by calling it the Big Bang, as if the Universe were a firecracker.”

“Today’s preoccupation with unprovable physical ‘theories of everything’ is a sacrilege to science itself, a strange detour from the purpose of the scientific method, whose bible has always decreed that we must question everything relentlessly and not worship what Bacon called ‘The Idols of the Mind.’” (Lanza, 2009, pp. 14).

  1. Is Darwinian Evolution a Substitute for God?

In his book, “Signature in the Cell,” Stephen Meyer details significant events in the origins of the first life and the origin of the first forms of animal life, which is referred to as “the Cambrian Explosion.” He notes that only intelligence can explain the origin of the biological information necessary to build the first forms of life and new forms of life.

Processes of natural selection build upon and explain existing life forms, not the origin of the first form of life. And the first form of life, as with all life, contained deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. According to Meyer, the code expressed in DNA cannot be explained naturally. DNA code supports the existence of a designing intelligence.

“Indeed, Richard Dawkins admits that the amount of information in a one-celled life (like an amoeba) has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 Encyclopaedia Britannicas. Now, believing that 1,000 encyclopedias came into existence without any intelligent intervention is like believing that an entire bookstore resulted from an explosion in a printing shop. I don’t have enough faith to believe that!” (Turek, 2014, pp. 59). Human DNA contains genetic material that is over three billion characters long and each of those characters must be correctly ordered for humans to survive. According to Microsoft founder Bill Gates (1996, pp. 228), “Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.”

An excellent peer-reviewed article on evolutionary biology and teleology from biologist Dr. Sy Garte can be accessed here: https://naturalphilo.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/pscf3-17garte1.pdf

Therefore, God exists.

Thank you for your time.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29: 11-13.

References

Craig, W.L. (2017)a. Does God exist? Accessed July 22, 2017 at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/popular-articles-does-god-exist

Craig, W.L. (2017)b. Navigating Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape. Accessed July 22, 2017 at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/navigating-sam-harris-the-moral-landscape

Dawkins, R. (1998). Unweaving the Rainbow. London: Allen Lane, cited in Lewis Wolpert, Six Impossible Things before Breakfast (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), 215.

Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. London. Bantam Press.

Frankl, V.E. (1946). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston, MA. Beacon Press.

Gates, B. (1996). The Road Ahead. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Jastrow, R. (1992). God and the Astronomers. Toronto: W.W. Norton.

Lanza, R. and Berman, B. (2009). Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books.

Lewis, C.S. (1952). Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd.

Meyer, S. (2009). Signature in the Cell. USA: Harper One.

Taylor, S. (2013). The power of purpose: Why is a sense of purpose essential for our well-being? Psychology Today. Accessed July 22, 2017 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-darkness/201307/the-power-purpose

Turek, F. (2014). Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make their Case. Colorado Springs, CO.

 

32 Replies to “Why Dawkins’ “God Delusion” is a Delusion”

  1. Another very disappointing entry. First, there are over 4 centuries of moral philosophy that you ignore. These have neither an objective form, nor do they employ a divine agent. I doubt a Rawlsian Contractarian for instance, would be unable condemn Nazi genocide. In fact, I don’t think any moral philosophy since the Age of Reason would have difficulty making a case against the Holocaust. Your moral relativism argument is shockingly dishonest, and a repugnant slur against atheists. Given your deity has allegedly enacted and commanded genocide, and Christians for centuries have exterminated first nations/indigenous cultures round the world, your argument reeks of hypocrisy.

    Meyer isn’t a molecular biologist or geneticist. In fact he’s not even a biologist. Nor is Bill Gates. The fact that Meyer could infamously confuse viruses and bacteria (page 66, Signature in the Cell) shows your “authority” has no standing as a scientist. His sweeping assertions exist to mask his poor knowledge. DNA isn’t information. It’s a stable molecular template that can be used to organise the self-assembly of amino acids into peptides. It is not like a computer code or anything else. There is no analogy that accurately describes what DNA does. Code comes close in the metaphorical sense, but not literal.

    We do know that DNA and RNA nucleotides (and sugars) form naturally in abiotic conditions as per the predictions of a natural origin of life. There are *no* experiments to show that a divine agent can conjure them. And this is a crucial point. Exaggerating the complexity of life and finding gaps in our scientific knowledge, is not positive evidence of a deity. It’s not even intellectually honest.

    Nobody, aside from scientifically illiterate creationists, argue that the first forms of life on the planet were of similar morphology to modern one-celled organisms. The minimal set of genes for life is about 200. That’s a lot less than today’s micro-organisms. With mechanisms like gene-duplications, horizontal gene-transfer and endosymbiosis, this set of 200 is readily expandable. There’s a reason why many amobea have more DNA per cell than humans. DNA is good at accumulating stuff. Large chunks of our own DNA are given over to the relics of ancient endogenous retroviruses.

    You pretend to know moral philosophy to attack our morals. Your pretend to know biology to attack biologists. I’m comforted that your willingness to bear false-witness means you probably don’t believe your god exists either.

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  2. Thank you for your comments Kaimatai. I have a couple of comments in response.

    Rawlsian Contractarianism is a social contract theory, which posits that rational people act to maximize their own self-interests and that the maximization of self-interests leads them to act morally. The theory assumes a lack of uncertainty, a lack of ignorance, and that rational, self-interested people will act to maximize joint interests for the greater good of society.

    Interestingly, this theory stands in stark contrast to agency theory, which posits that when people act in their own self-interests, the interests of the organizations for which they work are compromised. In other words, self-interests, according to agency theory, lead to decisions that harm the greater good of society and/or shared interests, while contractarianism posits that the decisions made under such considerations benefit the greater good of society and/or shared interests.

    With the benefit of the internet, one could easily find examples in which one theory or the other explains human behaviors. We have all witnessed examples in which humans have acted in the best interests of society and examples in which they have acted in their own self-interests to the detriment of the greater good. Examples of the latter abounded during the 2007 financial crisis in the United States, thanks to the actions of bankers, insurers, realtors, and others involved in the collapse of the housing market.

    Which theory is correct? It doesn’t matter. The point is that both are theories established to explain human actions. Neither establishes an objective moral standard against which one can judge such actions as either morally “right” or “wrong.” In other words, contractarianism in no way mitigates the need for the standard against which to judge the actions of humanity as right or wrong.

    Kaimatai next attempts an ad hominem to discredit the work of Dr. Stephen Meyer before tossing his work and the words of Bill Gates under the proverbial bus. The basic premise made is that neither Meyer or Gates accurately depicted DNA when the term “code” was used. Kaimatai states that DNA is instead a template that can be used to organize the self-assembly of amino acids into peptides. Either way, whether code or a template, DNA is complex, which is the point both Meyer and Gates made.

    Kaimatai also asserts that there are “no experiments to show that a divine agent” can conjure the formation of DNA and RNA nucleotides and sugars. He states that this “is a crucial point.”

    This is not a crucial point, but an almost comical one. We cannot call on God to show up in a science lab to “conjure” up DNA and RNA. We are witnesses to the magnificent and miraculous outcomes of His work in the universe each day.

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    1. First, the overly simplistic treatment of contractarianism does not mask the point. Contractarianism, nor any other moral philosophy since the Age of Reason, has a problem with condemning Nazi genocide. Your moral relativity argument remains wrong, dishonest and offensive. Agency theory isn’t a moral philosophy so is irrelevant. What Contractarianism does do, is give us a rational basis to evaluate ethical issues. Your objective moral standard is a chimera.

      Second, it is not an ad hominem to point out that Meyer is not a biologist, nor is he qualified to be treated as one. It is not an ad hominem to give examples of his appalling ignorance. Your experts aren’t experts. Using modern micro-organisms as the model of earliest life is wrong and dishonest. Meyer does it. Turek does it. This is the tactic of charlatans.

      Third, DNA is not complex. It’s a big molecule. But it’s based on a simple modular system of *just* 4 nucleotides and a sugar. Big doesn’t mean complex. Meyer is not an expert on DNA. He makes basic errors no biologist would. You can’t resurrect him or his argument by this charade. And finally, you’re forced to concede the Creationist/ID thesis that your deity (not nature) conjured DNA has not *one iota* of experimental evidence backing it. Dawkins isn’t going to be troubled by this.

      You have merely underlined my points. That your blogpost is a sham, whereby you pretend to be knowledgeable about philosophy and biology.

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      1. Kaimatai- No matter how you dress the pig, the pig is still a pig. In other words, social contract theory does not offer a standard against which we can judge whether an action is morally right or wrong.

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      2. Let me explain. Saying we judge against what is for the greater good of society begs the questions of (1) who makes this judgment? (2) what standard is applied? and (3) when is the judgment made? Should we judge immediately or give it time to reap the benefits of hindsight?

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  3. Ah, excellent. I see you’ve decided to ignore that whole, embarrassing DNA topic. Did you know that originally many biologists doubted that DNA was the molecule of inheritance precisely because it was too simple? It’s funny how creationists have decided its now too complex, by the expedient of not studying it…

    I love the pig metaphor and the outright bluff that Contractarianism can’t produce moral rules. You’re so shamelessly ignorant of moral philosophy (oddly mirroring your forays into biology). It’s a great look for a blog post on morality.

    Let’s try this one. In a hypothetical original position, a group of people have to decide whether its moral to kill Jews. They have to make the decision behind a veil of ignorance, not knowing whether they could be the victim of this rule later, when ignorance is lifted. Your assertion boils down this was a rule they *would* adopt. You’re arguing people would be willing to take the chance on suffering a violent and heinous death and agree to this rule. That’s completely unreasonable.

    You’ve asserted that atheists as a group, with their moral relativism, would be more inclined to accept this rule. As I’ve already pointed out, that’s wrong and offensive. Especially when your religion invented the pogrom.

    Until you can demonstrate the equilibrium outcome for the contract under the OP, is to ‘kill Jews’, then your argument has no reasonable basis.

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  4. And as an addendum, your second post simply reveals your ignorance of Contractarianism and in no way defends your original claim atheist moral relativism leaves them unable to condemn Nazi genocide. For instance, the metric in Contractarianism isn’t the ‘greater good of society’, but the potential effects of a moral rule on each person involved in the contracting process. Heck, the whole point of Rawl’s Theory of Justice was to argue the greater good (utilitarianism) was an *inadequate* metric!

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      1. The topic isn’t what I believe. Either show that the equilibrium outcome to the OP I supplied is to agree to ‘kill Jews’, or retract your repugnant argument I would condone these atrocities under a moral relativism rubric.

        There are also 4 different ‘types’ of Contractarianism- explicit, implicit, tacit and hypothetical. You’re not going to repair your ignorance of moral philosophy by spending a few minutes at the University of Google.

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      2. Kaimatai – the point is I know you and other atheists like you would never condone what Hitler and the Nazis did. Neither do I. We both adhere to an objective moral standard. What Hitler did was morally wrong, regardless of his cultural context or societal contractual obligations to enhance personal welfare and the greater good of society.

        As for Google, I merely provided you a link to a Stanford webpage. I realize it’s easier to poke fun at that than read and comment on the content of the link. That’s okay. Have a good day Kaimatai.

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  5. Actually Stephanie, your claim was “atheists must adhere to a relative moral standard”. So did you lie in your blogpost, or did you lie in your comment to me? Interesting you’ve decided to drop your criticism of Contractarianism now you have to justify your assertions in terms of the OP I gave too…

    The problem with your Nazi example is that it is so extreme, (nearly) all moral philosophies would condemn it. It is *incapable* of sorting an objective from a subjective moral philosophy. If you want to establish that morality is objective, try a less extreme case. Take slavery. A “hypothetical Contractarian” musing over an original position, would find it immoral. Nonetheless, on my blog you defended slavery (http://kaimatai.blogspot.co.nz/2017/03/whip-it-good-sjt-takes-on-slavery.html). Apparently my “objective moral standard” sic is defective and I can’t see its ethical basis. Could you please repair this and explain why it was moral to own people as chattels?

    The real problem is none of your sources are moral philosophers, and as your fumbling with Contractarianism showed, you’re largely ignorant of this field too. Morality isn’t about *standards*. Morality is a *process* subjects employ to resolve dilemmas that have an ethical aspect. The locus of morality is the subject. This after all, is where the ‘subject’ comes in with word ‘subjective’.

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    1. Kaimatai – No: I didn’t lie about my assertion that you are adhering to an objective moral standard. My point is that we all are adhering to an objective moral standard, though some refuse to admit same because you and they know the theological implications of such a standard. Those of you who refuse to acknowledge the objective moral standard lean upon various relative moral standards. Social contract theories are among same. Yet, as detailed earlier, such theories do not set the standard against which ALL societies of ALL times can judge whether actions are morally right or wrong.

      As you noted, contractarianism is subjective. I wouldn’t want the judgment of a man who had brutally raped and bludgeoned my 6 year old daughter to be based on someone’s subjective assessment here in the United States or there in New Zealand – let alone in a society such as Afghanistan. Neither would you.

      I stand by my example using Nazis, simply because no one of sound mind denies what the Nazis did was wrong. Slavery, on the other hand, requires an interpretation within its cultural context. The sort of slavery the Africans endured in the early centuries of the United States was egregious and morally atrocious. Thank God for the Christians who condemned and ended it. The sort of slavery described in various cultures in the Bible appears to have been different: oftentimes the time period of the slavery was confined to 6 years; masters were held to certain moral obligations; and some slaves chose to be slaves freely. In summary, I cannot use slavery to explain to you our objective moral standard.

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  6. 1) You lied. You can’t have it both ways.
    2) There’s no such thing as an objective moral standard. You’re not going to conjure it into existence by repeating the same assertion. The locus of the moral decision is the subject.
    3) The point is not to set standards but to have a *process* that generates appropriate moral evaluations.
    4) Oh please, you couldn’t show that (hypothetical) Contractarianism would condone Nazi genocide, and you can’t show it would condone the rape of 6 year old girls. You LOST the argument against Contractarianism when you FAILED to show how the original-position would lead to abhorrent rules. You were given the opportunity to prove you claim, and showed your knowledge of moral philosophy was infantile instead.
    5) Stubbornness is not a substitute for valid argument. Your definition of objective reduces to an appeal to agreement. Not the locus of morality in an object. Examples that can’t separate different forms of morality aren’t useful.
    6) The kind and gentle slavery you wish the ancient Judaeans and Christians practiced is a myth. It is still about treating a person as property. You’re pretending the rules on foreigners was the same as native Israelites. You’re actually arguing that treating people as a chattel is ok. You don’t have an objective moral standard Stephanie. You don’t have much morality at all. It’s been twisted and warped by the weight of your faith to accept the atrocities associated with your religion.

    Objective morality means that the locus of morals is in an object- like set out in a book or in a external authority. It doesn’t mean something horrible we all agree is bad.
    Subjective morality means that the locus of morals is in the subject. It doesn’t mean morals are a matter of personal whim. People who use rational processes to evaluate the moral dilemmas facing them, aren’t using whim.

    Your whole argument is wrong from start, down to the end, because you don’t understand this point.

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  7. It’s worth noting your defense of slavery refutes your entire argument. By conceding this is an issue that should be interpreted by the prevailing culture you can’t say that morals are objective anymore. You’ve conceded they’re mutable and a function of society.

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    1. Kaimatai – Let me explain our objective moral standard to you by using the two ultimate rules, or standards, with which God determines judgment. We are instructed to (1) love God and (2) love our neighbors as ourselves. So, when we judge whether slavery is acceptable in the eyes of the one who will hold us accountable, we ask whether the form of slavery is or was in compliance with loving our neighbors as ourselves. In the case of the enslavement of Africans in the United States, we know that the slaves were treated as less than human. Hence, slave owners violated God’s standard and slavery in this context was morally wrong. This standard can be applied across cultures and eras. That is the beauty of the objective moral standard.

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      1. You’re not explaining anything Stephanie. You’re preaching your religious beliefs. Exodus is quite clear that slaves are not people, but property, and can be beaten so hard that it risks their life. That is the ancient slavery you were defending above.

        Slavery persisted over 1800 years in the Christian world because it was “objectively moral”. Christians in ante-bellum USA appealed to the Curse of Ham (i.e. the bible- an objective guide) to justify black-slavery. Your moral standard is a sick joke, built on centuries of brutal slavery and destroyed lives. The slave-owners who invented your bloodgod back in the Bronze Age, normalised slavery. That has left an horrific legacy with Christianity. Christianity does not live up to the moral standards it pretends to espouse.

        You don’t have an objective moral standard. You have an incoherent belief based, not in reason, but the strength of your emotional response. That’s why you were flummoxed when you had to explain how a Contractarian original-position leading to abhorrent outcomes.

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      1. For centuries, Christians enslaved and killed millions of Africans. Slavery persisted because Christians had political power. Christians had the end slavery because they alone, had the political power. Taking over 1800 years to end slavery isn’t laudable. Forcing millions into miserable slavery then expecting their gratitude when it ends, is every colour of stupid.

        Abolitionists weren’t motivated to fight slavery because of their Christianity. It is clear from documents of this era that it was *awareness* of the horrible brutality of slavery that moved them. They were opposed by Christians (Mark Twain had some pithy comments about the pastors in the pulpits of the time). The armies of the Confederate army were largely Christian. Thousands of more lives were lost in battle, because Christians in your country believed they had the God-give right to own black people as slaves.

        How dare you assume I know little about the end of slavery. How dare you expect plaudits for ending slavery when it was your religion that transformed it into the terrible crime against humanity it was.

        Finally, the point remains you were defending ancient slavery, and that alone voids your argument we have an objective moral standard.

        PS. I don’t follow your links. Ever.

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      2. The only assumptions I’ve made about you are that you’ve had a very difficult life and you run and cycle to deal with your difficulties.

        It’s too bad you don’t follow my links. They’re quite helpful.

        I’ll write back on the slavery issues you’ve presented after gathering more data. Take care Kaimatai.

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  8. Let’s look at your argument against evolution.
    SJT “Why doesn’t evolution explain an objective moral standard?”

    First, you’re presuming an objective moral standard. This is putting the cart before the horse. You need to show it exists. Evolution does however provide strong explanations for altruistic behaviour, and these have testable (and sometimes quantitative) predictions.

    Nonetheless, rather than tackling evolutionary mechanisms like kin-selection or reciprocal altruism, you try an analogy instead. This is the sort of argument I’d expect from a student who stayed up all night sniffing glue instead of doing research.

    SJT “Let me provide an example. Animals do not “murder” other animals. They kill them. And animals do not hold one another accountable for killing innocent prey.”

    Clearly you have done absolutely no research at all if you can present this made up fact without blushing. To give one example, in Spring time here, fledgling native owls (ruru) are found on the ground, kicked out by native tui. The adult ruru eat tui fledglings. The tui respond by punishing the ruru by taking out their chicks. The tui are nectivores. They’re not attacking the fledgling owls for food. They’re retaliating for the deaths of their chicks. Eye for an eye.

    SJT” If a bass fish decided to chase and kill a tadpole because she was bored, the “crime” would likely go unnoticed by other fish and frogs. Humans would not accuse the bass fish of murder.”

    Wow. First, anthropomorphising the fish (it’s bored) is not a good start. Nor does your example involve social species (organisms that live in a society). That’s where evolution would ‘predict’ moral behaviour would emerge. Third, a fish and a frog aren’t the same species. Heck, we’re more closely related to a frog (we’re both part of the tetrapod clade) than to a bass fish.

    We don’t class killing animals outside our species as murder. I’m certain you eat meat. I’m also certain that you live in a society that is wealthy enough to make eating meat unnecessary for nourishment. You eat meat therefore, because you enjoy it. I doubt you would see that as morally wrong. And you are more closely related to many animals humans farm and eat, than your bass fish and tadpole example.

    SJT “Yet if a man decided to chase and murder a child because he was bored, society would hold him accountable.”

    You’ve jumped from two wildly different species who aren’t social, to a single species that is social. The extrapolation does not work. It is absurd.

    And yes, we would (try to) hold the man accountable. That doesn’t mean evolutionary explanations are wrong. You haven’t addressed the mechanisms I described above. Nor does it mean morals are objective. It is the outcome we’d reach from a Contractarian ethic.

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    1. Kaimatai- please answer this. Given that Adam Smith, Hobbes, Dawkins and others have noted humans are selfish, why don’t we revere selfishness? People are also prideful, so why don’t we revere being proud?

      Empathy for outsiders (e.g., orphans) can deplete resources for the “community.” So why do we revere those with humility and empathy? Why do we revere family members who adopt children? Why do we choose partners who are humble and giving over others? Why do we feel better when we give than when we receive? Why is it that the proud ALWAYS fall? The proud are ALWAYS humbled.

      In summary, why are humans and social animals hard wired for kindness when it goes against some of our instincts and depletes resources and may counter survival of the fittest/ most adaptable?

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      1. 1) What a stupid non-question. We also have 2 legs. We don’t revere 2 legs.
        2) Kin-selection is why we care for orphans. Evolution isn’t a mechanism to prevent resources being depleted. It’s a process whereby some genes get passed on more successfully than others. I mentioned a paper on squirrels adopting orphaned squirrels a while back to you. It’s not a social species but even there, kin-selection works. Squirrels adopt orphans they’re most closely related to. We have decades of research on kin-selection you haven’t researched or looked at. Your ignorance of biology (already revealed) doesn’t mean evolutionary biology doesn’t know how these things happen.
        3) Again, if you’re not going to research kin-selection or reciprocal altruism, you’re not in a position to declare that evolutionary biology doesn’t have answers to these questions.

        Specificially
        a) We’re not binary creatures (all kind vs all selfish). Maynard-Smith’s early work with evolutionary games like Hawk-Dove show that the Evolutionary-Stable-Strategy is to mix these. Diversity is the name of the game. There’s not a dominant strategy in this game.
        b) Why would it deplete resources and why does this matter? Clearly human societies benefits from cooperation as division of labour is more efficient. Ant societies with their different castes also benefit from division of labour. Early human tribes were more efficient at hunting (and child raising etc) by working together. Genes for cooperation are selected for.
        c) the point of kin-selection/reciprocal altruism is that it improves fitness. And by fitness, a biologist means genes in a population- not individual organism. The only metric of fitness is the frequency with which genes get passed on down generations. I think you’re making the mistake of thinking fitness is about individuals.
        And simulations- such as those undertaken first by Axelrod in the early 80s- shows that altruism can increase fitness. Altruism is a way social species increase their fitness.

        You haven’t researched this topic. You have made up facts. You conjured the most stupid analogy I think I’ve read. Yet you persist with this charade out of sheer arrogance that you’ve refuted evolutionary biology!

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      2. Kaimatai: I have never claimed to be a biologist. Nor have I attempted to refute evolutionary biology. I’ve said many times that if evolution is proven one day, I’ll only consider God that much greater for overseeing the process.

        My question is why empathy beats out selfishness. Being selfish is instinctive and far easier, so why do we attach such negative connotations to selfishness?

        Please answer.

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  9. Bertrand Russell had it just about right: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

    The author of this blog is clearly in the former camp.

    Like

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