31 January 2010

I wrote another letter to William Lane Craig

After my last post, I bopped over to Craig's website Reasonablefaith.org, and used his Q&A box to send him a question challenging his views on objective morality. If I get a response, I'll publish it on this blog, though I doubt I will. Here's the text of the letter:


Dr. Craig,

My question concerns your argument for objective morality. Your argument is as follows:

1. If God does not exist, objective morality does not exist
2. Objective morality exists
3. Therefor, God exists.

If we assume that morality is "objective", why must its objectivity be necessarily derived from "God"? Why couldn't morality be intrinsically objective, or, if it need derive its objectivity from some extrinsic source, can its objectivity not be derived from a natural cause, or from one of any infinite number of arbitrary supernatural causes?

Secondly, your assumption that morality is "objective" seems rooted in the idea that we have shared intuitions about what is right and wrong. However, intuitions, even those we share with others, are by definition subjective experiences. Objectivity implies the ability to verify something independently of subjective experience.

Surely our intuitions give us a great deal of invaluable information about the world. But anyone who's studied the weirdness of quantum mechanics or general relativity knows that intuition alone is insufficient to objectively acquire knowledge – which is why we have science, which is the systematic acquisition of knowledge through observation, measurement and experimentation.

If morality is objective and derived from God, then it should be absolute – fixed and unchanging. But that is not what we observe throughout human culture, and it's not even what we observe in the Bible.

In the Bible, God commands genocide, condones slavery, and commands that women be stoned to death if they don't have a hymen on their wedding night or they do not cry out for help when they are raped (Deut 22). Are there any *easier* moral questions than "should people own people", "should people systematically slaughter other people", or "should we execute women for having a torn hymen or for being  raped"? And yet, the God of the Bible gets the answers to these questions completely backwards.

In your critique on the slaughter of the Canaanites in a previous Q&A, you provide what you believe to be ample circumstantial justification for God commanding the Isrealites to commit genocide and child murder. Well, you can't have it both ways; you cannot claim God's morality is absolute, then paradoxically assert that such atrocities of inhumanity as genocide, slavery and the barbaric execution of rape victims are circumstantially justified. Most tellingly, when you assume that position, you invalidate your argument that our moral intuitions can be objectively reliable; for if God can command us to do things that are intrinsically *counter* to our moral intuitions – like stone rape victims and slaughter children – then we must assume that either God is wrong, or that our moral intuitions are objectively unreliable.

Why cannot morality be better explained as a sociocultural manifestation of behaviors that are evolutionarily hard-wired, particularly traits that are not unique to humans, such as empathy and altruism? We are, as a species, innately bonded and interdependent. If we fail to cooperate, we die. Cooperative group living is, for us, not a choice, but a survival strategy. We implicitly recognize the value of human solidarity: that if we do not respect the needs and interests of others, others have no need to respect our own needs and interests.

Such a view of morality is wholly consistent with scientific observation, and avoids both the paradoxical absolutism you espouse and the nihilism you erroneously associate with moral relativism.

I understand you will not likely have the time or inclination to respond, but I do appreciate that you provide a forum for inquiry on your website, and for giving me the opportunity to challenge you.

Sincerely,

Mike D

1 comment:

  1. Excellent questions, and written respectfully. I really enjoyed reading this.

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