Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dr. William Lane Craig Defeated - No God is Required for Objective Morality

Yesterday, at NCU, William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss took it upon themselves to debate the possible evidence for God. Dr. Craig lists 5 premises which he believes points to the existence of a god, with #5 pointing to the existence of his particular god.  These premises are:

1. The existence of contingent beings.
2. The origin of the universe.
3. Objective moral values and duties in the world.
4. The fine tuning of the universe.
5. The historical "facts" of Jesus' resurrection.

For this post, I am concentrating on number 3, although I would like to mention that Dr. Krauss is wise enough to admit that science does not understand the beginning or the cause of the universe, just that it did begin, and it began with a bang, and he claims that using god as explanation for that which we do not understand is "intellectually lazy"--which I fully agree with.  I myself do not claim to understand how the universe came into existence.

This is Dr. Craig's argument for morality in the world:

P1.  If god does not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.
P2.  Objective moral values and duties do exist.
C.   Therefore, god exists.

This argument commits the fallacy of necessity as it assumes that objective moral values are contingent on a god existing, when this is not necessarily so.  No gods or goddesses for that matter are required for morality to exist, as ethics and morals in reality come from Normative Ethical Theories such as Utilitiarianism--which means doing what is right for the overall good.

One can make any wild claim as Dr. Craig does in his argument.  Let me make a substitution in Dr. Craig's argument to illustrate:

P1.  If humans do not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.
P2.  Objective moral values and duties do exist.
C.   Therefore, humans exist.

Just like William Craig's argument, there is no proof for P1.  The argument is valid, but whether it is sound or not is questionable.  In the case of Craig's argument, as I have already shown, we have another viable option for objective moral values, and that is the use of Normative Ethical Theories.

On another note, my argument is valid, but is contingent on humans existing, so it too commits the fallacy of necessity, as we have no way of knowing whether or not morality and duty is dependent on the existence of humans.  Many animals have exhibited moral behaviors, so it is not necessarily so that morality only exists in the realm of humanity.

For the sake of argument, let's assume his argument works.  Dr. Craig himself admits that this argument alone does not prove the Christian god. The reason for this is that every non-Christian culture, has/had their own standards and moral guidelines that they follow, and therefore their morals and duties are not contingent on the christian god Yahweh existing.   Hindu's have a moral code.  Sumerians had a moral code. The Native Americans had moral codes long before the White Christians came along, and many Christian missionaries made note of the fact the Indians had "no sin. " Orthodox Buddhists do not even posit a god, but they too have a moral code/standard etc. William Lane Craig uses premise #5 as being the "best" explanation for the Christian god being the one true god.--I will refute this below.

As I already mentioned, we use Normative Ethical Theories (NET's), which are devices used to produce specific moral judgments.  One of these NET's is the Divine Command Theory, which  in ethics states that whatever god says is right is right.  This seems to be the NET that Craig says is necessary for objectivity and morality.  As I have already shown, this is not the case as we have many competing NET's.  In fact, the Divine Command Theory is one of the weakest NET's because it has an epistemological problem as we have no way of knowing what a god has said, if he has said anything at all.  For example, in the case of Hinduism, Manu was given the Dharma which was given to him by the god Vishnu, and it gives instructions which uphold private and public life, and establishes social, moral, and religious order.  So who are we to believe; Moses or Manu?  How do we know whether a god told Moses, or a god told Manu, or a god told any other human anything at all for that matter?
The answer is that we do not; hence we have an epistemological problem.

Dr. Craig provides premise 5 to distinguish his god as the one true god as opposed to all the others. Number 5 however, also fails, as there are multiple gods who are claimed to have been resurrected from the dead.  In fact, numerous gods such as Bacchus, Hercules were said to have been resurrected from the dead.  Also,  Asclepius, was killed by Zeus only to be resurrected and transformed into a major deity. Achilles, after being killed, was taken from his funeral pyre by his divine mother Thetis, and resurrected, brought to an immortal existence in either Leuce, the Elysian plains, or the Islands of the Blessed. Memnon, who was killed by Achilles, was said have experienced  a similar fate. Alcmene, Castor, Heracles, and Melicertes were also among the figures sometimes considered to have been resurrected to physical immortality.  Quetzalcoatl, a South American god, is also claimed to be resurrected; and in Hinduism Krishna was resurrected, and in fact, according to Hinduism, EVERYONE is claimed to be resurrected. The concept of resurrection is found in the writings of some ancient non-Abrahamic religions in the Middle East. Some Egyptian and Canaanite writings claim there are dying and rising gods such as Osiris and Baal.  Therefore, premise 5 does not provide sufficient evidence for the Christian god, as opposed to any other gods or goddesses.  The fact that the bible CLAIMS there were "eyewitness" accounts is no more proof of the fact than the claims made by other non-Christian sources for their gods and goddesses.  The other religions could also "cherry pick" their scriptures in a similar fashion.

Let's assume however, that Yahweh exists and that we received moral values from this particular god.  Let's say for example that a father murders his children because he claims god told him to in order to save them from Satan.  Most christians would claim that Yahweh would never tell anyone to do such a heinous thing, and the man who killed his children is just crazy.  The reasoning that concludes that it was not Yahweh who told the man to kill his children allows another conclusion to be drawn.  This would be a moral test in which the conclusion that was drawn came from our own moral knowledge, and not from what a god said. Yahweh has, after all, according to the bible, spoken through others, ordering them to slaughter the innocents, so it would be inductively valid to assume that Yahweh ordered the man to murder his children. (Hosea 13:16)
Are actions in any case right or wrong then because god says they are; or are they right or wrong because they are right or wrong?  The Divine Command theory in ethics states that whatever god says is right is right--in this case the Christian god Yahweh-- which would mean the slaughter of innocent children, pregnant women and their unborn fetuses would be considered right.  If this is the case then, there is no standard for good, as murder would be considered "good."  Therefore, true objective morality cannot come from such a god.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Death of the "Banana Man"

For those that may be unaware, the "Banana Man" aka Ray Comfort, is an evangelical Christian, who also happens to be a popular foil for many atheists on the web.  He recently participated in an on air interview with Matt Dillahunty on "The Atheist Experience," and I had difficulty restraining my laughter, but please watch and judge for yourself.

This blog post is not so much about that interview, but about Ray's blog post on "Atheist Central."  He seems to be expressing his dying wish for us heathens to "come to the lord" before it is too late, and we end up in the--as he says--"a very real and terrible Hell."  Oh Ray......again, you made me chuckle.  If Ray was aware of the history of his religion, he would know that "Hell" is a construct based on a conception the Zoroastrians thought up first.  Like almost everything else Ray claims to believe in, Hell was COPIED from beliefs of another group. He would also know the early Jews were wandering nomads who were either enslaved or ruled over by other groups, so quite naturally, they adopted the customs and behaviors of these groups as well.  Think of the African slaves, or the Native Americans who were forced to adopt Christianity or be tortured and killed.  Much the same thing happened to the Jews.  Hence, Christianity is a mish mash of beliefs from the Egyptians, Romans, Babylonians, Zoroastrians, etc.  Hell does not exist, except of course, in Ray's mind.

Now, onto one of my favorite quotes in Ray's diatribe:
"So, to be saved from death and Hell, you must have "knowledge of sin." Do you have it? Did the Law of God get through to you, or did your pride stop it from doing its incredible work? I trust you have been humbled by the Commandments, so that you can appropriate the further knowledge that the gospel brings, knowledge that can save you from death."

"Sin" again, is a Christian construct. I do not believe in sin.  I do however, believe in right and wrong, and I also believe that what we do is nothing but CHOICE--and we have the ability to choose to either do the right thing, or do the wrong thing.  We use Normative Ethical Theories to make ethical choices in our lives, but I will address this in a later posting.

 If we were created perfectly, by a perfect god, then how would we even have the ability to  make a mistake?  We cannot be "born sinners" as that would mean a perfect god created imperfect beings, which makes no logical sense, unless he planned it that way. Pelagius, a contemporary of Augustine, claimed we DO have the ability to choose, as he believed "responsibility implies ability."  The belief in original sin as set out by Augustine however,  implies that humans have no "free will" to make the correct choices. i.e. We DO NOT have the ability to choose right.  Augustine believed we are born in sin; but to believe that Jesus washed away our sins is to absolve ourselves from taking responsibility for our own actions--which has resulted in a society filled with people who continue to make poor choices, believing of course, that they can't help it--they were born that way.  Oh, how wrong Augustine was!!  Christians, what you do is nothing but CHOICE--and you CAN make the right choices!  I dare you. Go ahead.

The definition of pride has also be skewed by Christian dogma.  According to Aristotle, pride is nothing but self respect, and is the mean between being humble and arrogant.  One can never have too much pride, if pride is the proper amount of self respect.  I consider pride to be the highest virtue because if you have pride, then you will not disrespect yourself, and you will uphold all of the virtues.The confusion comes about because christians want to make humble a virtue instead of a vice. Humble is defined as:

1. having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.: In the presence of so many world-famous writers I felt very humble.
2. low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.; lowly: of humble origin; a humble home. 

So Ray, if you are listening, I just want you to know that I am not afraid of death.  Death is a part of life, and my energy when I die will, according to the First Law of Conservation of Energy, become something else, as energy cannot be created or destroyed.  What that is, I will never know, but I won't waste precious life worrying about it.