Posts Tagged ‘ craig ’

Dalai Lama Denounces Chapel Hill Murders

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In a statement today the Dalai Lama announced to Chinese state radio that

I am aghast at these murders and want the families to know Buddhists deplore this kind of action by a fellow non-believer. This is not the way of Buddhism.

He announced condolences as only the Dalai Lama can and also said

“Although violence and the use of force may appear powerful and decisive, their benefits are short-lived. Violence can never bring a lasting and long term resolution to any problem, because it is unpredictable and for every problem it seems to solve, others are created. On the other hand, truth remains constant and will ultimately prevail.”

In this, Mr Craig Stephen Hicks shares some traits with the religious.

 

‘Nuff said

 

 

 

At least this is what I imagined

There Is No Explanation For God

… or my recent absence. Now some might be wont to say I’ve equated myself with god but let me assure you that I have a much higher opinion of myself. For a start I’ve never claimed to be omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. Nor have I ever claimed to love everyone. Perhaps gods are like me and just don’t want to talk about it but in any case I can be coerced to explain my absence… primarily because I can prove I exist. Before your philosophy senses start twitching, just stop. I’m as real as anything that questions the reality of a god and more real than the hopes of a championship ring for some sports clubs.

If there is a god and it was not absent this would be a pretty stupid post but it is not a stupid post for one simple reason: not one theist can demonstrate that their god exists.

 

 

Even the most famous of theological apologists cannot demonstrate that their god exists. There is a natural conclusion that can be drawn from this simple fact: Theists are delusional and any influence that they have on society is detrimental. Perhaps their charity or other seemingly benign activities might be seen as neutral if not positive but the net effect of their influence remains negative because it teaches superstition and fear… at least in the case of monotheism. (my favorite targets)

Some of you might still want to ask why I’ve been gone lately or even demand it. Odd that we only expect such of entities we believe are real. Why don’t believers demand to know why their god has not been present? Shouldn’t their prayers end with questions like “why can’t you heal amputees?” or similar? Perhaps I expect too much but when I hear that I’m bound for hell I always loudly opine that the speaker isn’t going to heaven. Think about that for a second or two.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The never ending discussion on the compatibility between science and religion asks if they can get along and coexist. The argument, no matter how it is stated, comes down to this: Science has facts, religion has faith. As long as religion has faith it will remain incompatible with both science and reality. Believers might argue that their faith is compatible with science yet they will not allow for someone else’s faith being compatible with their own. When believers can’t even get their ‘faith’ coherent but decide to disagree with the best method we have of knowing the world around us then it is completely incompatible with science.

A religion that is not incompatible with science would be one that requires no faith. Would that be a religion?

Can’t we all just get along?

NO, we can’t as long as you are unwilling to be a full participant in reality.

Before anyone thinks I’m calling all believers stupid, just stop. This is a reaction to the discussion of compatibility and not simply your particular point of view. That said, if you want to feel offended, that is your prerogative, just don’t expect an apology.

 

 

William Lane Craig: Debunked … Again

If you have been reading along for a while you should probably already know that I think William Lane Craig is a crank. A well educated and vociferous crank, but a crank just the same. His debate tactic is that annoying kind of style where he throws out everything he can so there is no time to reply to all of it then declares his opponent offered no evidence and did not speak to all his points. He is truly annoying so it is with some manner of glee that I present this video of his argument on animal pain being taken apart with surgical skill. This is probably the only way to address his speeches, one point at a time with great pains over the details. He is a dangerous idiot because he misleads a lot of people with his rhetoric and lies.

 

As recommended in the comments, here is another debate with WLC where his technique is not able to overcome the failures of his arguments.

 

What Is The Kalam Cosmological Argument

or more specifically, ‘Why I Think The Kalam Cosmological Argument Is profoundly wrong’ and other thoughts.

Defining Moment

I like to review some definitions when I think about the meaning of something that has been said. In this case it is the definition of the words used by William Lane Craig ( let’s just call him Bill ) to state his contemporary format of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Contemporary argument

William Lane Craig has formulated the argument as follows:[20]

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
  4. This cause is the God of Classical Theism, and is a personal being, because He chose to create the universe.

Whatever: Merriam-Webster defines it as ‘anything or everything’

Begins: Merriam-Webster gives –2 a : to come into existence : arise b : to have a starting point 

Exist: Merriam-Webster says:

1 a : to have real being whether material or spiritual [did unicorns exist] [the largest galaxy known to exist] b : to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions [strange ideas existed in his mind] 2     : to continue to be [racism still exists in society] 3 a : to have life or the functions of vitality <we cannot exist without oxygen b : to live at an inferior level or under adverse circumstances [the hungry existing from day to day]

Cause: Merriam-Webster says:

1    a : a reason for an action or condition : motive      b : something that brings about an effect or a result      c : a person or thing that is the occasion of an action or state; especially : an agent that brings something about      d : sufficient reason [discharged for cause] 2    a  a ground of legal action     b : case 3     : a matter or question to be decided 4  a : a principle or movement militantly defended or supported     b : a charitable undertaking [for a good cause]

The KCA Breakdown

Whatever includes both the universe and gods and … well, everything. The word ‘begins’  seems straightforward as well, though the word existence gives some wiggle room to argue that it does not really apply well to the thing Christians describe as their god, that point can be taken up later in this post. For now let’s get mired in the definition of exist. It’s the last of the four words of interest in the first premise that is most troubling. All of the defined uses of the word ’cause’ imply or specify intention as though the word is short for ‘intentional cause’ or ‘intended cause’. On this point I do not think that Bill will argue even though I think he should. Imagine you are hovering over the ocean on a dark and starless night. A wind blows and causes a wave to rise. As this waves crests and crashes back to the ocean body it causes a splash. From that splash there are several drops of water that go flying off in varying directions. Each of those flying drops of water has begun to exist, but none of them began to exist as a result of an intentional cause, nor due to the intentional action of some agent. The water itself gave rise to the beginning of existence of the water drops. It may be argued in some circles that gravity gave rise to the existence of the water drops but that argument takes a lot of time and physics to explain, and does not include provisions for intention or independent agents so really doesn’t have to be made. I refute the first premise in this way – it is not always true and therefore cannot be cleanly applied to ‘anything and everything’. The first premise is false.

Wait! What if the water drops are not considered to have come into existence? There would be no need of an intentional cause or intentional action by some independent agent. Lets cover that a bit as we talk about premise number two.

Bill is off to a not-so-good start. When he moves on to the second premise we are witness to more folly. He will claim that science proves that the universe began to exist, quoting some scientist or other who talks about the big bang event. The trouble is that we don’t know that the universe and all it’s ‘information’ did not exist prior to the big bang event. He is misunderstanding scientists and seems to presume that scientific theorems cannot change in light of new evidence. So the second premise might or might not be true. Which is it? We don’t know yet. If the water drops above existed before the big splash event, the second premise is false if the universe was created in similar way from an ocean of ‘space’. If they only began to exist after the big splash event then perhaps the second premise is true but it still leaves us with the problem of intentional action by an independent agent. Simply put, the doubt here makes this a weak premise. Bill says that he has spent a great deal of time studying philosophy. This argument, so far, does not look like it was made by an ardent and capable philosopher. If the statement is not known to be true, it is a false premise. That is strike two. If this were baseball, Bill’s team would be getting ready to ‘take to the field’.

Lets look at the third and  stronger premise. Oh, wait…. oops!

This argument is based on just two premises. One is false and the other is not known to be true. Of course you can say that the water drops did not begin to exist so the first premise stands but you cannot say that the universe did not come to be as it is in a similar manner to those water drops, so premise two still fails. In either case the two premises do not make a good argument. You most certainly cannot in good faith and honesty arrive at the conclusions which Bill does using these two premises as he has. Yes, I know that Bill did not originate this argument, however he did revive it from an almost certain philosophical death and has been making a living by talking about it for several decades. He removed the fallacy of special pleading to make it sound more reasonable and almost acceptable… at least if you’re not thinking critically of his argument.

With a false or very shaky set of premises, the deduction that the existence of this universe had a cause is incorrect, false, or otherwise not true. Everything else from this point in the argument is objectionable. It is objectionable because there are no facts to support the deductions. That is how this deductive logic thing works. If any of the premises are wrong then the argument fails because we cannot make the deductions that lead to the conclusion based on fantasy or imagination. It must be based on fact. If you want to then say “well, some universes may have an intentional cause through the intentional action of an independent agent” I will reply that this does not show that the only universe we know of had such a cause. The argument still fails to be true.

Step four in Bil’s argument is a bridge too far.

This cause [of the universe] is the God of Classical Theism, and is a personal being, because He chose to create the universe.

There are three conclusions here that cannot be supported:

  1. The unproven or maybe unprovable cause is the god of classical theism
  2. That god is a personal being
  3. He chose to create the only universe that we know of

Not one thing in the argument supports the first conclusion here. Despite the argument that such a god does not exist, there is nothing here that says such a being would intentionally cause the only universe that we know of to exist. If there was a cause it might have been entirely accidental… we do not yet know and cannot know with the information currently available to us.

Absolutely nothing in the argument describes any god. To say that this supposed god is a personal god is just wishful thinking. Even if this argument strongly argued for a god that is the cause of the existence of the only universe that we know of this argument does not show, prove, or hint at the idea that such a god doesn’t hate this universe and regret its very existence. Concluding that we know  something about this god other than it created the universe in some way is profoundly wrong.

It’s not bad enough to be profoundly wrong in the second conclusion, Bill has to go on and opine that this supposed god ‘chose’ to create the only universe that we know of. The universe in which we live might well have been an accident while this god was working to create the universe that he actually wanted. To conclude that you know the mind of god based on this argument is fallacious in the highest degree. Lets leave the argument of whether a god is perfect so would not make mistakes for another post, one that is not talking about proof that such a god exists rather than the qualities of such a god. IE, the aesthetic beauty of a flower does nothing to prove that it exists, for no flower is needed to talk about aesthetic beauty of a flower, it can be an abstract idea.

I used the phrase ‘the universe that we know of’ several times for an important reason: We cannot yet know if there is more than one universe or if this is the smallest of many nested universes. This argument of Bill’s only speaks of this one, not any of the other possible universes. Even though we don’t yet know the origin of this universe it is worth mentioning because Bill’s snake oil pitch assumes only one, and further that he knows how it was created … or at least who is responsible. Clearly these are not things that we can yet know. This argument is ardently preached by Bill, to the point that it has to be called a lie. At the moment I rather favor the water drop hypothesis of universe origin.

Do you want data with that?

If the only universe that we know of began to exist in a similar way to how the water drops above began to exist then what Bill has presented here is no argument at all. I’m not saying that because ‘if I can imagine a thing then it must be true’. Lets look at some of the reasons that a person might agree with me.

The Water Drop Hypothesis

Disclaimer: I am not a physicist, professional scientist, or think tank member etc.

Edwin Hubble‘s work led to the realization that the universe is expanding rather than holding still in a steady state as much of religion had believed up to that time.There is quite a bit of chatter about what the shape of the universe is. The “global shape” of the universe and what effects dark energy and dark matter actually have are unclear. They are given as explanations for observations of the universe. Then you get string theory involved. Explaining string theory to an ape is like trying to tell a tropical fish that air is not nothing or emptiness. Yes, I know the meme, if you think you know string theory then you don’t know string theory.

The current statement of my Water Drop Hypothesis is this: While we can imagine an ocean of quanta vibrating to create the four dimensions of the only universe we know, we cannot quite imagine what might be outside that ocean (the only universe we know). If a drop of quanta were to be separated from the larger “ocean” it previously belonged to, and the perturbations of it’s shape causes fluctuations in the material of the drop so that we can see the 4 dimensions we believe we see today, I think several things might be possible;

  • Time is the effect of dilution of the coherence of the vibrations. The faster you move through space (the more energetic the coherent wave is), the less time you experience.
  • The point of separation of the drop from the ocean may have caused a strong reaction in the energy field(s), which in turn created the disturbances within the center of the drop to form the 3 dimensions of space.
  • As the drop expands the ‘space’ of our universe expands while the properties of dilution of energetic coherent waves remains the same… the speed of light then appears to slow down.

There should be lots of math and use of scientific data for this, which I have not done. It’s an idea that occurs to me rather than an explanation for the data observed. It’s an idea that makes human apes even more inconsequential than any previous idea to my knowledge. Our entire universe is but a drop of quanta briefly separated from a puddle or ocean of it in a much larger existence. Clearly I have no scientific case to say that this is even close to possible but it is just as plausible and more useful than the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I’m willing to accept new data, new information and change my hypothesis. Once you say ‘my god did it’ you are done. Revising your ideas after that is to admit defeat.

If you know exactly why this hypothesis cannot be true please let me know in the comments. It will save me time searching.

Why William Lane Craig Is Like A Cancer On Society

Yes, I’m going to explain that headline, but it will take a bit. Get a drink or smoke ’em if you got ’em. Here we go. Lets start 2012 as we mean to finish.

I’m not insinuating anything here, but in the USA we only really give three names to convicted felons, murderers, and heinous people who broke the law.Yes, I know we give three names to presidents too. I guess that joke wasn’t funny as it was in my head.

I don’t think that three names adds profundity, nor do I feel that titles add authority or guarantee rightness. So from here on out I’m just going to call him Bill. Despite all the time he wasted in divinity school his title offers no authority in my opinion. If you get someone to offer you a title for spending 8 years of your life studying the tooth fairy and all the arguments for and against its existence and other bits, you are not deserving of  respect based solely on that. It is wise for the reader to remember that Bill makes his living spouting the stuff that he does. The more he spouts it in public the more money he makes. That is more or less the Hollywood business model, the crack pipe-dream of using more than  your Warholean 15. Philosophy is an odd thing. As important as it might be it is rather useless to the normal person just trying to pay bills on a day to day basis. Even Bill has not figured out how to make philosophical thinking a useful tool for those who would rather know where their next meal is coming from or have some clean drinking water.

Even having said that, most probably all of us ponder the great questions of why do we exist and what is our purpose. Bill has added some to this questioning by championing the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It’s a god of the gaps argument that will eventually be put to rest, but it is his big thing. I won’t tell you that Bill is not well spoken nor well read, but I will tell you he is just an ape in a nice suit. Nice suits don’t make your argument more true. You see, to believe as I do you have to believe that we humans are apes. Apes with grand skills and abilities, but apes nonetheless. So, that puts some perspective on this post. We’re talking about an ape in a suit who very strongly believes the Kalam Cosmological Argument proves his deity exists.

One of the things that really stands the hairs on the back of my neck straight up about this guy is his thoughts on animals. I’m not a PETA member, those folk are a bit nuts. I do believe that we have more in common with other mammals than we don’t have in common with them. The basics of our brains are the same. Anyone that can tell you that animals do not feel pain the way that we do is an evil person. There is no room for argument on this, they are simply evil. Their bigotry and racism is without question. Animals do have morality and you can see examples here and here and here and here and there are many more examples. We are slowly learning how little the difference is between humans and other animals. If you simply take the science stories in the news about human children and animals you will begin to see that there is very little difference. If human children can know about their pains so can other animals. Bill is lying to everyone and he knows it. How can he claim to be a top class intellectual and make such bold assertions? He’s a philosopher, not a doctor of neurobiology. His ideas about animals comes from a dusty old book written by people who practiced ritual sacrifice of humans and animals alike in their past. His holy text is demonstrably easy to show as full of contradictions, corrections, changes. It is generally easy to show that it is not inerrant. Kosher and Halal ritual killing should be banned in every country, as should ‘stoning to death’ and beheading among the many objectionable religious practices in the world. Many of these are taught as law in the holy text that Bill wants you to believe is the inerrant truth of his chosen deity.

There are several links to Bill’s website above. Go and read a bit about his thoughts on animal pain. Remember, he’s just an ape in a suit. While you are reading try this fun word game: substitute the word ‘animal’ and its various forms with a word like ‘homosexual’ or ‘black’ or ‘indian’ and see how bigoted and racist he sounds. It was not long ago that social Darwinists used the same kind of arguments for unethical treatment of other humans.

Bill gets a lot of respect. Far more than I think he is deserving of. He uses that undeserved respect to add weight or value to the ideas he spews onto the social conscience of society. Without proof that his deity exists he insists that it does and further that this deity wants you to live this way or that. Along the way he justifies some very nasty things. His thoughts on animals is simply one of them. So prolific is his fount of ‘thoughts’ that it cannot be helped that some unfortunate among us will be duped into believing as he does. This is how cancer works, generally. It does not take over all the cells of your body but slowly, just one or two at a time. In time it will take over many cells in your body. Finally it will have taken over enough to kill you.

Bill is not advocating that we seek knowledge and truth. He is certain that he has the truth already. He has no proof of course, but he is certain anyway. Bill is a snake oil salesman, and a good one at that. He makes his living from the pockets of those he dupes.

By the way, Bill’s belief that the Kalam Cosmological Argument proves the existence of god does not prove that there is a god. Even if it did, it does not prove his god is the one. Even if it did prove his god exists, it does not prove another deity did not create this existence. All that you will find on Bill’s website is bullshit argument from a bullshit artist. Because he is able to convince others to think like him he is a cancer on society.

Objective Morality – Part 2

I was contacted by Neil Shenvi in part because I linked to his article regarding Objective Moral Values. He has esquired on my thoughts on his post. I had used it originally as an example of how the topic is treated in several basic ways. Neil makes a thoughtful case for the existence of objective morality. His comment and challenge to me can be found in the comments on my first post.

His is not a short post nor haphazardly written so I will attempt to give the reply at least as much care in return, in a point by point manner. Neil will probably think me a nihilist. I don’t claim the title. I only know what has come to make sense to me as I question what I’ve been told about the world and life. If you think I’m misrepresenting some ?-ists world view you are wrong. Here I represent only my world view. I’m not representing the atheist community, humanists, nihilists etc. I guess I’m a Z-ist. I don’t care to wear a label even though I understand how important they can be for conveying a lot of information quickly. Here we go….

In the first section Neil describes what he understands is the meaning of the second premise of the deductive form of ‘the moral argument‘. I don’t really have any problem with the definition of ‘objective’ as he describes it but there are a couple of nitpicks I’ll put forward as a premise to some of my later statements.

What we missed here is the definition of a ‘moral value’ so lets dive into that for a minute:

  • merriam-webster.com – defines value as: something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable
  • dictionary.reference.com – defines value as: Ethics . any object or quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself.

We might well then conclude that a value is some quality that is intrinsically desirable, or which is an end to itself.

The first major relativist philosopher was Protagoras (c.490 – c.420 BCE). His book Truth contains his most famous statement; “Humans are the measure of all things.” To measure something is to give it a value and Protagoras regarded all values – truth, good, beauty, even existence – as dependent upon the human observer. That is, the value of everything is relative to the observer. (Edit: forgot where I grabbed this statement from … mea culpa, but it is written well)

The moral relativist’s view matches up with a general definition of ‘value’ as we understand it. It is a quality of desirableness or worthiness of something as assigned by an observer, in as much as one can observe moral qualities. To be certain, the word value has many uses, and thus many contextual meanings. I’ve tried to stay focused on the context of morality here. I do not think that Neil is attempting to redefine ‘value’ in his post. That leaves us with: objective moral (subjective desired quality) going once again to the dictionaries we find that ‘moral’ is an adjective with the meaning of ‘relating to the principles of right and wrong in behavior. That might leave us with: objective principle of right/wrong behavior with a subjective desired quality. Objective and value are not words that fit well together. So lets just expand ‘moral value’ as a modifier of value: subjective desired quality. That leaves us with objective subjective desired quality. They don’t fit well that way either. I will state that the discussion is off to a bad start. We have a problem with definitions before the gun is fired. It troubles me but I think this is what Neil actually means: there is a subset of desired subjective qualities which are actually objective in nature. This is troubling for two reasons mainly. First, what tools do we have to separate subjective quality from objective quality? Second, if such a tool existed we would not be having this discussion. I believe that more aptly defines the framework for this discussion, so lets get on with it.

Neil’s first section: I. What are “objective moral values”?

Paragraph one jumps straight to Hitler. How awesome is that? Here he also discusses objective value as objective fact and uses some examples. Note that this is meant to be equal to the idea that 2+2=4 is an objective fact regardless of who does the addition, where they do it, or what they do it with. There is no contextual modifiers which will change this objective fact. Consequently we are now talking about an ‘objective subjective desired quality’ which is either always true or always false regardless of context. We can also note that ‘murder is evil’ is not such a thing. Context changes its evaluation. Murder is evil unless done in self defense, in which case it’s good unless you are defending yourself from police shooters because you robbed a bank. Murder is evil unless you are wanting steak for dinner. Context changes it. So we are looking for “objective subjective desired qualities” which do not change depending on context. Lets say ‘giving to charity is good’ and see how that pans out. Well, it is good unless you are giving away your rent money. Okay, context changes  that. We begin to see the depth of the issue here because the only tools we have to judge with are subjective by their very nature. In paragraph 3 of section 1 Neil basically states that we don’t have any reliable tools to determine objective from subjective. I agree.

In paragraph 4 of section 1 Neil confirms that even if objective moral values do exist, they are not necessary for us to live our lives. We can be good without them, or choose to be bad even if we believe they exist. We both agree that if they do exist, they are not necessary for life or even for human happiness. At this point it would be easy to argue that it is difficult to then see what purpose such objective moral values would have. They are clearly superfluous to human existence if subjective values can over-ride them, or replace them. Please note that this is not practical for objective facts. We cannot replace 2+2=4 with something else at a whim or personal preference.If you are confused at this point, don’t worry. I don’t think there is any good understanding. Those claiming the existence of objective moral values don’t seem to make themselves clear on what they are, never mind if they exist.

On to section 2: II. Evidence that objective moral values exist

In this section Neil starts out by admitting that he will not prove the existence of objective moral values, but will instead attempt to show them more likely to exist than the evidence that shows them likely to not exist. This is a flee-flicker play. We do not have credible evidence for the existence of objective moral values, therefore those claiming that they exist bear the burden of proof. Neil himself admits this lack of credible evidence. I’m not responsible to prove they do not exist. I can only state my reasons for not believing his evidence that they do exist. If his evidence isn’t credible, then his claim fails. I do not have to do anything. The burden of proof is on the claimant.

Keeping these issues in mind, let’s look at the five pieces of evidence that objective moral values exist.

  1. The existence of objective moral values explains the near-universal existence of basic standards of morality, even those that disfavor personal or genetic benefit.
  2. The existence of objective moral values explains why those who explicitly deny the existence of objective morality still act as if objective morality exists
  3. The existence of objective moral values explains the nearly universal human intuition that certain things are objectively right or wrong.
  4. The existence of objective moral values explains why the majority of philosophers recognize the existence of objective moral facts.
  5. The existence of objective moral values explains why naturalists (e.g. Sam Harris ot Shelley Kagan) affirm the existence of objective moral facts, despite the problems inherent in grounding these facts in the natural world.

Oh, fun! Lets look at evidence #1 – The existence of objective moral values explains the near-universal existence of basic standards of morality, even those that disfavor personal or genetic benefit.

It doesn’t take super intelligence to observe that seemingly all cultures across the globe seem to adhere to a basic set of moral values. Neil expresses this with gusto but then goes on to talk about altruism as some special aspect of morality that is only human and is further special because it is found in all populations.

What puzzles me most is why –on this view– true altruism persists in the human race. Shouldn’t altruistic acts like self-sacrifice or adoption have been weeded out of the human population by natural selection eons ago? How could the pressures of natural selection have tuned the eye to detect single photons yet have failed to prevent people from rushing into burning buildings or diving into icy water to save others?

Well, clearly this is a question that many have asked or thought about. Neil seems unable to understand how evolution could have created such a situation. This also indicates that Neil is not arguing against evolution here. The evidence shows that all human populations and cultures are derived from a single human population and culture. It is not difficult to then understand that any useful and dependable value, tradition, action, or behavior would follow on to all other cultures and populations, being passed down from generation to generation without interruption. It befuddles me that altruism is such a difficult concept for Neil to understand. Defense of one’s ‘in-group’ does infer genetic self interest. Protecting your offspring is a biological imperative. It is easy to infer protecting the weak to ensure their survival. You should already know where I’m going with this. Protecting the weak is biologically programmed. The ‘accident’ part is transferring this from offspring to in-group members. Once that is done it’s easy to transfer it to other beings. From there we can now go to the Google: Lets see what the other animals on this planet have to say about altruism, shall we? Oh, there it is: Wild Animal Heroes! Altruistic behavior is not the sole purview of humans. This would give reason to hypothesize that such behavior is genetically derived via evolution.

Lets take Occam’s razor to this one. On the one hand we have an argument from ignorance and on the other we have a fact based process which shows evidence of producing this behavior in many populations derived from a much earlier one.  Oh, wait for it… there is news about this. Scientists have discovered what might actually be the mechanism for passing on altruistic behaviors.

Lets look at evidence #2 – The existence of objective moral values explains why those who explicitly deny the existence of objective morality still act as if objective morality exists

Hold on, we started this discussion saying that objective moral values must be some subset of subjective moral values that are also objective, and that they are superfluous to human existence and happiness. That is to say that humans can live life as they do whether objective moral values exist or not, and they do live so. This point contradicts Neil’s earlier statements without reasonable justification. That many people choose to act a certain way does not mean they are compelled to do so. If it compelled them to do so, it should also compel all others to do so and this simply is not the case.This is not evidence. I don’t even think it qualifies as argument.

Lets look at evidence #3 – The existence of objective moral values explains the nearly universal human intuition that certain things are objectively right or wrong

Seriously? We covered this in evidence #1. Ok, we’ll do it again.

I have recently seen first-hand evidence of this fact in interacting with my two-and-a-half year old son. As parents, we have to teach him to share, to be kind, to be gentle, and to do what is good. Often, teaching him to do what is good is a difficult task. But he has not once asked me what I mean by “good”. Indeed, he takes it perfectly for granted that some things are objectively good and some things are objectively bad. He does not occasionally confuse “good” with “whatever Mommy and Daddy impose on me by force” or “what will eventually lead to my own benefit.”

The human brain is a decision making machine, taking in all available information, sensory data, and knowledge to make decisions which benefit the self. A child of 2.5 years has only two main sources of information and knowledge: self discovery and observation of those around them – normally only its parents. The child’s brain has not yet formed the neural pathways which could lead to questioning the truth or value of what the parents say. Another argument from ignorance. Childhood development and learning are well studied. The human mind progresses through steps to get to adult qualification. Neil’s supposition that a 2.5 year old child is equivalent to an adult brain is fallacious and misleading.

Another equally important point is that I can’t even begin to conceive of how a true moral relativist would raise a child. If a child asks his parent why he should not hit his sister, I find it hard to believe that the moral relativist would answer “Because of self-interest. If you hit her, then she might hit you back.” Nor would the parent say “Because I am bigger than you and will punish you if you disobey.” Even the most committed moral relativist will find himself answering “Hitting is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Love and generosity and kindness are good.” Now the moral relativist might console himself with the thought that he is merely introducing a fictional short-hand to be replaced with the bracing truth of moral relativism once the child is old enough to understand. But I find it extremely interesting that thinking in objective moral terms is nearly unavoidable for both children and parents.

The emphasis above is mine. I find it unthinkable that a parent might scold a child with threats from an invisible sky daddy to produce desired behaviors, or worse, resort to biblical child rearing techniques. In any case, “because I don’t want you to” or “it’s nicer to be kind” are better than “god doesn’t want you to do it” etc.  Furthermore, neither child nor parent has to resort to thinking in objective moral terms. Remember, just a few short paragraphs ago we were in agreement that objective moral values are superfluous to human existence and happiness. They are also superfluous to child rearing. This evidence is neither evidence or credible argument. It was a non-starter.

Lets look at evidence #4 – The existence of objective moral values explains why the majority of philosophers recognize the existence of objective moral facts

This too is a fallacious argument. What constitutes a “majority of philosophers” ? Where is the score board? What does recognize mean in this case. If more than half of the US population believes in UFO’s does that mean they exist? That many people share a common value does not mean such a value is sourced from outside the human mind. Again, refer to my comments about evidence #1. Clearly evolution has a method to pass on biologically bound behaviors. Occam’s razor shreds this evidence #4 quite quickly as well.  If the reader will remember, Occam’s razor is basically what Neil said was the test for the evidence to be believable. He did not mention Occam or the razor, but explained it in an equivalent manner, at least to my mind.

Lets look at evidence #5 – The existence of objective moral values explains why naturalists (e.g. Sam Harris ot Shelley Kagan) affirm the existence of objective moral facts, despite the problems inherent in grounding these facts in the natural world

Wow! Just because naturalists seem to agree with your hypothesis does not mean that they agree with your conclusion nor that your hypothesis is right. Another fallacious argument.

The conclusion:

Here Neil asks the reader to question all the ‘evidence’ provided and think about and determine which possibility is more probable for each of the five presented evidences.

What I’ve seen here is not evidence. It’s nothing but rhetoric and fallacious argument. There is nothing in Neil’s arguments that seems credible never mind it being enough to make me think that he might be right about objective subjective desirable qualities. Sam Harris is wrong too. There are no moral values which are always true or always false regardless of context. Find one of those and Neil might have something to work with. This is just wishful thinking as far as I can tell.

Further, even if someone agrees with Neil, this does not posit authority to assume his argument proves the existence of a god. Even if it did prove the existence of a god, it does not posit that the god it proves is the one Neil believes in. Even if it did posit that Neil’s deity existed, it does not posit what that deity says is moral. Even if I give Neil a pass on all five points, there is no link between the supposed objective moral values and his deity of choice, nor that his deity is responsible for them.

What Neil has presented in his post is just wishful thinking. It fails to get anywhere near his stated objective. In fact, such argument augments my list of reasons to further doubt such argument from others. One bad apple may not spoil the whole basket, but if you see the bad apple before choosing one to eat,  you’ll move on to another basket for your food.

Objective Morality And The Hitler Problem

Every now and then I run across an article or post that offer an opinion that i personally feel is jaw droppingly stupid. One such article is a post by Richard Weikart about his work or more specifically the fall out from his studies and books. Faye Flam at http://www.philly.com attempts to take him to task, but I think she also missed the point.

I’ll use some context from both posts below but you should read both posts. Neither are very long.

The reason that I think this entire thing is jaw droppingly stupid is that Weikart is working on the false presumption that objective morality exists. Lets start with why some folk believe there is objective morality.

  • strongatheism.net takes the position that there is objective morality: First, it is important to understand that the skeptic answer can be seen as simply absurd and hypocrite. Most atheists would not accept subjectivist answers in any other area (except perhaps some nihilists), especially things like science. We rightly blame many Christians for holding Creationist positions on faith and subjective appreciation, because their position is not based on reality. But we must put the same blame on the shoulders of the subjectivist position in morality. To argue that morality is not knowledge and that therefore any belief or whim is acceptable, is not any more acceptable than saying that biology is not knowledge and that Creationist is true by default.
  • Neil Shenvi goes to some lengths to propose that objective moral values do exist and are proof of the existence of god.
  • TaylorX04 has a fun youtube video titled Why Objective Morality is a Farce (Part 1) I recommend all three of the videos in thsi series.

Anyone that ends up on the opposite side of a question from William Lane Craig is okay in my book. To be up front, I basically agree with TaylorX04. He manages to get to the point by asking at the 1:45 mark where is the evidence that objective moral values exist? That _IS_ the only argument here. Where is the evidence for objective morality?

Weikart writes:

Flam, however, tries to take a different approach. First, she seems to imply that since we don’t suppose that Galileo or Newton or Einstein should provide us with any moral guidance, neither should we expect it from Darwin. However, she (like many other Darwinists I’ve talked with) fails to make a crucial distinction here. Most scientists, including Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, did not ever claim to explain anything about morality. Einstein correctly rejected the idea that his theory of relativity had moral implications. On the other hand, Darwin devoted quite a few pages of Descent of Man to explaining the evolutionary origins of morality. Applying Darwinian insights to morality is not distorting the theory at all (as it would be for someone to draw moral implications from relativity theory). Rather, it is explicitly part and parcel of Darwin’s own theory of human evolution.

The use of ethical values in making judgments about the world around us and what actions we will take or not take do derive, at least in part, from the results of the evolutionary processes. Darwin, in his time, was not aware of the knowledge that we now have about biology, neurology, and many other bodies of knowledge which were at least partly based on his own work.We now have more information to work with. Using Darwin as the basis for criticism of current bodies of thought is often problematic.

The argument that there are objective moral values is not congruent with how we understand the world around us. We do not look at moral or ethical values in black and white terms. We see them in a wide range of variations. We rarely ever agree completely on how good or bad a thing or action is.  Examples include:

  • Lies: lie, bald-faced lie, white lie, big lie, little lie etc.
  • Person: good, very good, angelic, bad, evil etc.

It is in fact bizarre that anyone would even suggest that there are objective good and bad values. There is no other part of our lives where we make judgements about the world around us where we insist on objective values. We don’t have objective values for music, clothing, food or anything else where we use judgement about the world around us. That most of us seem to think Hitler was bad does not infer objective moral values. While you might find it objectionable, we do not require that people who like music that we do not be punished and it is incorrect in my opinion to, for example, want to punish people who do not hold the same moral values as we do. Those that believe Hitler was not wrong are not wrong to think so, though they may violate some other moral values in their actions. The point is that the differing views of moral value where Hitler or other such examples are concerned are all correct. There is no objective moral value to say what is right or wrong. To want someone to die is not the same thing as killing them. There is no need to have equal moral judgements on any given action. Was Hitler wrong? I think so, but you don’t have to agree with me. There is nothing that requires you to agree with me to be an ethical person. Is telling lies bad? Does this dress make my ass look fat? Is murder always bad? Do you eat meat? The Hitler problem imbues the argument with passion, but does not change the issue. What is true for the Hitler question is true for the ‘Is murder always wrong’ question.

Almost all  of us believe that murder is good in some situations, but not all situations. It is not objectively wrong. Narrowing the question down to whether the murderous Hitler was right or wrong does not demonstrate objective moral values. The best it can do is show that most of us agree that Hitler was not good. This is far from establishing anything like objective moral values.

Your behavior and actions will determine how I  personally view your moral value against my own moral value system, no matter what anyone else thinks of you. This is almost always true everywhere in the world, for all people.

Flam writes:

Weikart’s view that evolution’s proponents lack the moral grounds to criticize Hitler raises this question: Why should we hold evolution responsible for providing a complete moral framework? We don’t ask that of Galileo or Newton or Einstein. Weikert replies that evolution is different because various thinkers have applied it to morality.

This is a mis-step. Evolution can be applied to a great many topics. In fact evolution has some input on the question of why modern architecture is what it is today… in a 6 degrees kind of way. It is as it is because of human aesthetics, which is derived by neurological processes which were shaped in part by evolution.  In the same way, evolution has helped shape morality among humans.

The premise that there is objective moral values is simply without evidence or proof. No matter what argument is used in favor of believing this, there is no evidence. Murder is not always bad. Giving to charities is not always good. Lies are not always bad… round and round. If we can not see moral or ethical values in a clear-cut black and white manner, then it is not a valid premise. To make it a valid premise requires evidence. There is none. Just like the lack of evidence for gods, in this case absence of evidence is evidence of absence. We can look at the many groups over time claiming objective morality and failing miserably to show it.

Is there objective moral values? I have never encountered credible evidence in support of  it. I have encountered plenty of evidence which suggest there are no objective moral or ethical values. Here in the USA Christians will tell you that stoning gays to death is bad, yet their holy books says it is the moral thing to do… among other things they will tell you are bad.

The question of lesser and higher humans broached in the two linked posts is also not the issue that it is made out to be. Darwin’s ideas were misused by a lot of people and social darwinists. The argument is countered by positing that violent fundamentalists are not abusing their holy books ideas, though that is not a perfect analogy. Just look at dogs. They make friends with other dogs regardless of breed, size, color etc. Behavior drives their acceptance of one another.  Evolution has driven humans to behave in various ways to survive, or rather in the process of surviving some humans passed on certain behavior  traits.

The scientific method is not a set of moral values but is a method to discover the truth of the world around us. It neither defines nor requires objective moral values. If they existed the scientific method would find them. Likewise, if objective moral values existed critical thinking would show them to exist. That neither of these two methods have discovered credible evidence for objective moral values it is just jaw droppingly stupid to state that they do exist as a premise of any argument, unless you are presenting credible proof of the existence of objective moral values.

When we are morally good, it is because we ourselves choose those actions in accordance with our own value system. Our own version of being moral is different from other people’s version. If there were objective moral values, all religions would claim them, as would humanists and others because they would be self-evident. That many world views share some similar or common moral values does not prove there is objective moral values. The cognitive feedback called guilt occurs when we know we have not lived up to our own moral values system. We don’t all feel guilty in an objective way.  The argument for objective moral values means that Christians should feel guilty for not stoning people who work on Sundays. Do they? There is no demonstrable credible evidence for the existence of objective moral values. To assert that there are is to be jaw droppingly stupid.

What is the evidence for the existence of god(s)?

Sticking with the current theme (suggestions for other themes are welcome) I found another gem in the RSS jungle. This time it was a video of William Lane Craig (I thought only convicted murderers were called by all three names?) who trying to offer evidence of his god. This comes from the reasonable faith blog, but I’m not linking to it. Search for it if you like; try reasonablefaith dot org.

He starts with the assertion that we can’t close our minds to the possibility of a transcendent being. I personally don’t think he is very good at this ‘explaining things’ thing. Of course we can close our minds to such. It gets even easier when every effort to prove the existence of such a being has been proven to be complete bullshit. The only thing that is not arguable is that we don’t have conclusive proof that such a being cannot exist. This of course does not mean that such a being does exist. That won’t stop him from arguing the opposite.

Moving on he argues the very tired and old argument that everything that exists has an explanation. Obviously he had never had to talk about bright pink spandex pants in XXX large sizes. The logic he uses is that the universe exists so it must have an explanation because the cause of the universe must be greater than the universe itself, and that means the cause must be beyond space and time. He then says there are ONLY two things that can fit that bill. It will remain completely unclear as to how he knows for certain that it can only be one of two things. Stupid knows know bounds.

At the point he argues that the existence of the universe HAS to be a result of a personal transcendent disembodied mind he is arguing from ignorance and you can stop watching the video right there. Well, unless you are all into the kind of masochism that is the act of listening to him. I hit the stop button at 9 minutes into a 50+ minute video.

Enough of that crap. I mention it because this guy makes a descent living selling this crap to gullible people. His evidence for the existence of his version of a deity is so full of gaping holes of logic that you wouldn’t be able to use it as a colander. In fact, every attempt by anyone ever in recorded history has failed as miserably to show evidence for the existence of gods. He knows it, I know it, you know it. His delusional mind lets him think that his bunk is not only better than the bunk of 2000 years, but that it is true. Wait, let that sink in. He believes his arguments are true. At this point you can safely conclude that he is not a genius. Not even close.

Why am I so harsh on this guy and others like him? Simple. They are arguing that their personal explanation is correct rather than debunking all the arguments against previous arguments for the existence of gods. Yes, let that sink in. He is not picking up the battle to defend those that came before, but arguing that he has a new take on things that is better and more true. He is not defending previous attempts to prove the existence of gods. You may well ask why this distinction is important. Think of it this way, you won’t find anyone arguing that they have a better general theory of relativity. They may well argue in support of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, but they will not argue they have a better general theory of relativity. Yes, I know the fuzzy edges of that example leave room for … discussion. Don’t do it. My point is still valid.

The reason that he won’t pick up someone else’s argument and assert it as true is simply because all arguments for the existence of supernatural beings have been debunked time and again. He can’t make money from doing that. Whether he gets money directly from your wallet or not, he is still stealing from you and your community. Nobody on the planet really cares if William Lane Craig is a complete and utter moron or not, however I’m willing to bet that you do not want the same to be true of your doctor, mayor, police and emergency services employees, judges, school teachers etc. Who do you think people like this guy are selling their crap to?

You should be angry. These morons are stealing from you, directly and indirectly. Their kind of stupid is not benign. In the first 20% of his talk you can tell by the logical fallacies that he has no clue what truth is. There is no need to fact check his work. It can be dismissed out of hand very quickly. If you want to fact check something, go fact check these videos about his religion:

The Truth About Religion Part 1 of 3

The Truth About Religion Part 2 of 3

The Truth About Religion Part 3 of 3

Those videos have been around awhile, but they are worth watching. If you find anything in them factually incorrect, please let me know.

If William Lane Craig wanted to prove something, he should be working on proving why these videos are wrong. My grandma used to say that birds of a feather flock together. Hollywood insiders will tell you that the most sincere form of flattery is mimicry. It would appear that astrology has a lot of admirers. My grandma used to also say something about putting lipstick on a pig. William Lane Craig and his ilk will tell you that Horus and Mithra were myths and not real. They will than also tell you that the Jesus story is absolutely true no matter how much it sounds like plagiarism of those other stories.

People like William Lane Craig deserve to be ridiculed loudly, publicly, and often. They are spreading dangerous ideas and filching the resources of your community. In my opinion such people and organizations are not deserving of special privilege from governments with regard to tax and speech.

So what is the evidence for the existence of gods? …. nonexistent!

A shout to grapplingignorance with this video.

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