Though I’m a Christian of some sort, I believe moral agnosticism is the only honest response to the question of whether or not objective moral values exist. On my worldview, objective moral values are nothing more than God’s decrees. Sure, as a theist, I believe God and His decrees exist, and in fact I can “test” the truth of their existence by noting the results when I follow them and when I don’t, but I’m of the opinion that the question is not empirically resolvable – in short because you need to know if the valuer exists before you can know if their values exist.
An evidential POE argument from Peter Hurford of Greatplay.net:
1. Needless suffering, by definition, is any suffering that doesn’t exist because of a higher good.
2. Needless suffering, by definition, could be eliminated with no consequences.
3. Any all-good entity desires to eliminate all needless suffering.
4. Any all-knowing entity would know of all needless suffering, if any needless suffering exists.
5. Any all-powerful entity would be capable of eliminating all needless suffering.
6. Our world contains needless suffering.
7. Therefore from 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and 6, an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing entity cannot exist.
8. God, as described by the major religions is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing.
9. Therefore from 7 and 8, God as described by the major religions does not exist.
I recently said that all the POE arguments I’ve heard reduce to arguments from incredulity, and this argument is no different. Inability to conceive of a higher good is the only thing grounding the claim that any given instance of suffering is needless. 6 is a naked assertion sustained only by incredulity. That alone invalidates the argument in my opinion, but I can make a stronger case.
So Matt DeStefano had asked me to comment on his article, Does Quantum Mechanics Revive Libertarian Free-Will?. Truth be told, and no offense to Matt, but I wasn’t very impressed. The main reason is because he pretends his treatment supports the conclusion, “free will is an illusion.” As far as particular gripes, well, first off… the classic materialist canard:
Traditional determinism has proclaimed that since there is causal closure, or there is no physical event which has a non-physical cause, events are wholly determined by their causes.
Aside from the standard allusion to cause-and-effect which we most all accept, this is meaningless tautology, made worse by the fact that no matter what physicists discover, it automatically falls under the rubric of “physical” in the minds of committed metaphysical naturalists.
Episode 14 of Luke and Alonzo’s oddly named Morality in the Real World is up, and despite its length, I don’t think it said much. Sure, it’s important and commendable to distinguish between the facts of reality vs. the words we use, but they could have accomplished that in a few short sentences. In the positive, the student is starting to surpass–or at least show genuine skepticism towards–the teacher. I find that very encouraging. Though one could argue that it has simply transferred to Yudkowsky, Luke’s infatuation with Alonzo Fyfe seems to be waning. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the episode, I suggest doing so, else my post might not make as much sense as it could.
A few months ago, John Loftus claimed that science debunks Christianity.
I’m not a fan of these types of claims, which are essentially sweeping generalizations that contain what I’ve referred to in the past as “the precision of 2×4.” Of course, any (a)theist who’s spent even in a minute in the trenches knows that both science and Christianity are often emotionally charged keywords that carry more baggage than a bellman at Luxor Grand. The author’s choice of words literally begs the reader to plunge headlong into a frenzy of racing and polarized analysis, fueled on reaction determined by the color of one’s glasses. Talk about fodder for the culture wars!
I kid you not, in no less than twenty minutes of posting my critique of his speech, Luke Muehlhauser fired off two admittedly hurried responses here and here, the former of which contains a personal attack. He labeled me a “troll” when all I did was write a critique of his speech on my own blog! Do those sound like acts a person with a desire for careful and rigorous philosophy would perform? To contrast, I took two hours crafting my critique, let it settle for three more, and then proofread it three times. Nonetheless, let’s see if we can refute some or all of Luke’s claims without resorting to the unprofessional insults and distortions he’s growing unusually fond of.
In his post In Defense of Radical Value Pluralism, Luke Muehlhauser attempts to falsify value monism. Before addressing his claims, I’d like to comment on a few lesser issues and get them out of the way. On value, Luke writes,
A cup of coffee has value when I desire it. Sunshine has value when I desire it. Sex has value because you desire it.
Come from someone who emphatically denies intrinsic value, I think imprecision with language invites confusion here. Luke’s language lends all too easily to the idea that coffee, sunshine and sex can “have” or possess value, as if value is some sort of object that can be possessed. He writes as if value were a noun, but the only way value can be a noun is if it’s a person, place or thing. Many will see this as trivial, semantic, or nitpicking, perhaps because they feel the language is accurate enough to get the point across. I agree the language is accurate enough to get the point across, but that’s too low of a standard for rigorous philosophy. I think using value as a verb would allow Luke to make his arguments with more clarity and less amenability to confusion. Nothing has value, ever: people value.
I recently discovered a blog called Unequally Yoked, maintained by Leah, a Yale student. In her post Your Faith Is Vain; Ye Are Yet In Your Sins, Leah invites believers to answer a few questions regarding their faith. Here are my initial offerings:
1. What earthly evidence could cause you to reject your faith (if any)?
I was just thinking about this [yet again] the other day, and while I'm hesitant to say any of the following would cause me to reject my faith, each would certainly cause me to have stronger doubts:
1.1 If recorded history could be reliably proven to extend back hundreds of thousands of years, as opposed to 6,000;
1.2 If scientists could prove that the universe always existed;
1.3 If there were no such thing as entropy;
1.4 If we had an absence of spiritual accounts instead of a consistent abundance of them spanning across multiple cultures in all times;
1.5 If the Jewish race had been exterminated or otherwise died off;
1.6 If humans lived to be significantly older than 120 years without the aid of science.
2. Have you researched these possible disproofs yourself/read the work of scholars in the field?
3. Does your faith make any empirical predictions about the earthly world? What are they?
I believe the Bible makes quite a few empirical statements about the future of the earthly world. Here are a few off the top of my head:
3.1 The writer of Hebrews states that the cosmos will "wear out like a garment." That's certainly an empirical statement, in fact, one that seems empirically verified [hence my 3 above];
3.2 The Bible states that the Jewish race would be extant up until the final hour;
3.3 In Revelation, John of Patmos describes a state of affairs where nobody will be able to buy or sell goods without the "mark of the beast."