The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

God is a Sound Moral Basis

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/13/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,295 times Debate No: 29120
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (2)




Our argument will largely revolve around the Craig vs Harris debate:

*R1 for acceptance, argument presentation, definitions only.


Sound Moral Ontology: the more plausible and least arbitrary foundation of objective morals. Morals which can be gradually discovered rather than invented. Ontology is the study of what is the case, as opposed to the study of how we know what is the case (epistemology).

: Valid and binding apart from human opinion.

Moral Value
: Concerns what"s good and evil, things like justice, faithfulness, love, compassion, etc.

Moral Duty
: Concerns what"s right and wrong and what obligation or what you ought to do in certain circumstances.

: God is a being worthy of worship. Any being that is not worthy of
worship is not God. And therefore God must be perfectly good and essentially good. Also God is the greatest conceivable being, and therefore the very paradigm of goodness itself. He is the greatest good. So once you understand the concept of God, you can see that asking, "Well, why is God good?" is sort of like asking, "Why are all bachelors unmarried?" It"s the very concept of the greatest conceivable being, of being worthy of worship, that entails the essential goodness of God.

Law of Identity: an object is the same as itself: A → A (if you have A, then you have A), a tautology: a necessary relation. There is no possible world in which some entity A is not identical to A. So if there’s any possible world in which A is not identical to B, then it follows that A is not in fact identical to B.


Con and I both agree that there are objective moral values and duties. The question before us, then, is,

"what is the most plausible and least arbitrary ontological foundation for the existence of objective moral values and duties?"

In bearing my BoP in answering this, I"m going to defend 2 contentions:

1) Theism provides a more plausible and less arbitrary objective moral ontology

2) Atheism provides a less plausible and more arbitrary objective moral ontology

Now these are conditional claims. I won"t argue that God exists. Maybe Con is right that atheism is true. That wouldn"t affect the truth of my 2 contentions.

Also, we"re not debating moral semantics, which asks, "What is the meaning of moral terms?" But rather moral ontology, which asks, "What is the foundation of objective moral values and duties?"

The issue before us isn"t whether we must believe in God to have moral lives, or if we can we formulate an ethics system without reference to God, and nor is the question can we recognize the existence of moral reality without reference to God? Moral ontology shouldn't be confused with our moral epistemology. I"m concerned with the former of these. See here for a logical distinction,

Lastly, the supposed atrocities in the Hebrew Bible are irrelevant to this debate, Divine Command Morality places no stock whatsoever in the Bible. But for those interested in biblical ethics, I refer Copan"s "Is God a Moral Monster?"

Burden of Proof

Pro: defend my two contentions

Con: to give a more plausible and less arbitrary explanation of what bestows moral dignity, worth, and imperatives on humans apart from God

Much thanks Con for debating this with me, I hope we learn much from eachother! :-)



I do not wish to have a formal, point-by-point debate. I feel that bores the audience too much, and the most important part of a debate is what the audience takes from it. So, if you ever ask yourself why I don't organize my arguments as much as Pro does, that is why.

I will be presenting my case for ethical naturalism. Ethical naturalism is against the idea of objective moral values from a supernatural entity such as god. Since ethical naturalism's conclusions are against the resolution, Pro has to uphold his burden of proof and refute ethical naturalism at the same time. Failure to do both would negate the resolution.

My particular form of ethical naturalism is called the 'science of morality'. I will be arguing for the science of morality as presented by Sam Harris (The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values) and Joseph Daleiden (The Science of Morality: The Individual Community and Future Generations). Both of these books are excellent reads for anybody interested in the topic, and I believe that Pro is informed about Dr. Harris's book.

The premises of the science of morality are the following:

P1: Moral questions are about the well-being of conscious creatures.
P2: When faced with two or more solutions, the most moral solution is the one that maximizes the well-being of conscious creatures.
P3: Science can objectively tell us what maximizes well-being.
C1: Harming well-being is objectively wrong. Maximizing well-being is objectively moral.
C2: Science can determine right and wrong

Well-being: a good or satisfactory condition of existence
Maximizing well-being: improving the well-being of the largest amount of conscious creatures
Science: systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

It is important to make a distinction between A and B.

A) The status of moral truth.
B) The implications that this moral truth has on our lives.

I am only making an argument for A. Questions like 'How does your moral system determine X to be wrong?' fall under the B category, so I will not address such questions beyond dismissing them.

I expect Pro to give me an extremely tough time during this debate, and my personal communication with him suggests that he has more experience and qualifications than I do. I have no problem admitting that he'll likely slaughter me when the debate begins. However, I believe that I should not shy away from debates on my ideas, and I will debate everything I believe no matter the strength of my opponent. I do not wish to be the type of DDO member who makes claims and refuses to debate them when they are called out.

With that, I leave Round 2 to Pro. If you made it to the end of this, then I thank you for reading.

Debate Round No. 1


Correction, B is logically valid if we're discussing the falsehood of A because the implications of a supposed truth help determine it's falsehood. For instance, determinism implies fatalism; fatalism is false; therefore determinism is false. This is a valid argument. I'll therefore present implications for A to help solidify my case.

*Mary Scenario: Mary willingly took a drug that made her black out unexpectedly at a party so her friends put her upstairs to sleep it off. Minutes later Bob, with a condom, sneaks into the room and rapes her while she's completely unaware. She was never harmed. Nobody knows of this except for Bob.


1: Theism provides a more plausible and less arbitrary objective moral ontology

Value (Good / Evil)

Theism views objective moral values as grounded in God, the greatest conceivable being and therefore the very standard of Good. For a being who is the paradigm of goodness is greater than one who merely exemplifies it. And unless we are nihilists, we must recognize some ultimate standard of value, and God seems to be the least arbitrary stopping point.

Duty (Right / Wrong)
Theism views objective moral duties as constituted by imperatives issued from a competent authority; God. For since objective moral prescriptions requires an objective moral prescriber, then it follows that God’s moral nature is expressed in relation to us in the form of divine commandments which constitute our moral obligations. God is therefore uniquely qualified to issue commands which reflect his good nature.

Jesus summed all divine commands in the two commandments: First, you shall love the Lord your God with all your strength and with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your mind, and, second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On this foundation we can affirm a persons’ God-given dignity and duty to one another. For orienting the ‘self’ to God, the infinite source of all love, then we have an endless supply of love for God and others. What could be a more sound foundation if God exists?

*Mary Scenario: Raping her would be wrong because of the God-given dignity she has as a human being, and also because Bob would be diminishing his dignity, regardless of the "well-being" he might momentarily enjoy.

2: Atheism provides a less plausible and more arbitrary objective moral ontology

What bestows moral dignity and worth on humans apart from God? Human beings are simply evolved accidents doomed to a short life and long death. Why think conscious well-being is objectively good, anymore than less conscious beings? What grounds can we affirm the reality of morals? The great atheists Russell, Sartre and Nietzsche, have warned that with the death of God there are “altogether no moral truths.” Moral truths would not exist and so there would be no basis for affirming or denying true moral worth or obligation. But as the philosopher of science Michael Ruse reports,

"The position of the modern evolutionist … is that humans have an awareness of morality … because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. …Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. … Nevertheless, … such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, … and any deeper meaning is illusory..” [1]

A vastly different set of morals might well have evolved if evolutionary history were started over. Darwin wrote,

“If … men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering.” [2]

To think conscious human’s morality is true is to be guilty of species-ism. Dawkins 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” [3]

It will be interesting to see how Con does away with all the other problems concerning the failed moral system of utilitarianism since he defines maximizing well-being as "improving the well-being of the largest amount of conscious creatures." But the widely rejected aggregate hedonistic utilitarianism isn't even close to being the correct moral theory. For there is always critical point where the value of hedonistic properties is affected by a law of diminishing returns of well-being at the expense of others. Nietzsche even sneers, "well-being as you understand it - that is no goal, that seems to us an end, a state that soon makes man ridiculous and contemptible" (BGE:225).

Value Problem (Contra-P1)

Con must justify why, on atheism, moral values would objectively exist at all. But Con simply re-defines what he means by “good” in non-moral terms, as that which supports the well-being of conscious creatures. So to ask, “Why is maximizing creatures’ well-being good?” is the same as asking, “Why does maximizing creatures’ well-being maximize creatures’ well-being?” ... This is a tautology.

So of course science can show us what contributes to human flourishing just as much as it can tell us about the flourishing of corn, bacteria or flies...this is hardly controversial. What Con must do is show that moral truths are the same as truths of well-being in every possible world.

Duty Problem (Contra-P2)

Moral obligations or prohibitions arise in response to imperatives from a competent authority. For example, if a policeman tells you to pull over, then because of his authority, who he is, you are legally obligated to pull over. But if some random stranger tells you to pull over, you’re not legally obligated to do so. Now, in the absence of God, what authority is there to issue moral commands or prohibitions? There is none on atheism, and therefore there are no moral imperatives for us to obey. In the absence of God there just isn’t any sort of moral obligation or prohibition that characterizes our lives. In particular, we’re not morally obligated to promote the flourishing of conscious creatures.

: Sean Carroll, an outspoken atheist against Harris, affirms that science can only get you to what is the case, not what ought to be the case. First he says there's no single definition of well-being, nor is it self-evident that maximizing well-being, however defined, is the proper goal of morality, and finally he says there's no simple way to aggregate well-being over different individuals. He expands on these arguments,

I've already charged Con's argument as such, but it will be interesting to see how Con gets around the naturalistic fallacy,

Ought-Can: The capacity to be responsible entails the ability to choose freely, “ought” implies “can.” But if there is no free will, then no one is morally responsible for anything! Con’s determinism spells the end of any hope or possibility of objective moral duties because on his worldview we have no control over what we do.

*Mary Scenario: +1 for Bob's well-being ya'll!


We saw that that on theism we have a more plausible and less arbitrary objective moral ontology; but on atheism, we have a less plausible and more arbitrary objective moral ontology.


1. Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9

2. Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2nd edition (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1909), p. 100




Well, I think it's interesting that Christian apologists like Ravi Zacharias and William Lane Craig always point to atheistic philosophers who denied objective moral values. I've always wondered what they're trying to prove with such remarks. I wouldn't expect Pro to answer for Saint Augustine's view on torturing heretics. Atheism has no content, and atheists can think whatever they want about any topic, like morality. The only unifying idea is the lack of belief in the existence of god. I do not believe that I have to account for Nietzsche ideas on morality. It's a pointless observation.

Michael Ruse used a term that I don't like. There is no such thing as an evolutionist. It's an outdated term that is now only used by Young Earth Creationist's and ID advocates. As to what he said, I think it's a case of confusing epistemology with ontology, as Pro might say. Perhaps humans have evolved a sense of morality from our need to survive and reproduce. That is an issue of how we came to know morality, or epistemology. That does not tell us anything about the actual foundation of moral values, or ontology. The same is more or less true for the Darwin quote.

I think that the Richard Dawkins quote is interesting in this context. I'll quote from an article about Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins had openly stated that science has little to say directly about morality. He has since said, about science of morality as friend and colleague Harris presents it in The Moral Landscape, that it "changed all that for me". In an online interview, Dawkins reiterated that he believes that Harris makes relevant points, and that, once one defines the moral goal as maximizing the wellbeing of creatures, science has much to say about what is actually morally good.

I can agree with portions of Richard Dawkins's quote. There is no design in the universe, and there is no objective purpose to life. Yet, the fact that we are machines for propagating DNA is not relevant to the existence of objective moral values. You can't quote Dawkins without any argumentation, and the problem with this is that Dawkins provides us no reason to think that objective moral values do not exist (bearing in mind that he changed his position after Dr. Harris's book was published).

Pro argues that premise one is a tautology. I feel that this is irrelevant to whether or not premise one is actually true. Pro and I both know that tautological statements can be true. Consider the law of identity, which states that an object is the same as itself, or A=A. This is a complete and utter tautology. Yet, we know that this tautology is true. Would Pro deny that A=A because it's a tautology? Not at all. So why should premise one be denied if I grant Pro his tautology argument?

Pro is also changing some terms around. He talks about corn, bacteria, and flies. Those three things are not conscious beings (perhaps the third is an issue of debate). He's just changed the terms around to something the science of morality does not use.

Pro suggests that there is no singular definition of well-being, so therefore, the science of morality fails. I believe that this is a false suggestion. By analogy, consider food. There are many healthy foods that one can eat. On any day, you could eat brocolli, carrots, or celery, and they would all be healthy foods. However, there is a clear difference between healthy food and poison, and the fact that there are many healthy foods to eat does not tempt us to say that there is no poison. To put this analogy in real terms, we have many ways of pursuing well-being, but this does not mean there are not ways to harm well-being. It's not just my subjective opinion that setting your child on fire is bad for well-being.

Caroll brings up the issue of zero-sum conflict. Perhaps zero-sum conflicts are completely unsolvable. However, we all know that most moral issues are not zero-sum. It's almost never the case where we have a moral issue that's either ' lose and you win, or I win ad you lose'. In fact, I would go far as to say that beyond thought experiment, there has never been an actual case of a truly zero-sum conflict. From that, it's pointless to find a way for the science of morality (or any moral system) to solve a zero-sum conflict.

As for the is-ought gap, I will quote fellow DDO user Center for Rationality:

What constitutes a good knife? One that cuts well obviously. What constitutes a bad knife? One that does not cut well. An agent that performs its function well or telos is a good agent. For example, In order for agent A to accomplish B, A must reasonably do C. The function of human agents as a whole is act rationally according to Aristotle. The function of the mind is to produce rational thoughts a mind that doesn't is considered a bad mind. Anything can be considered on basis of telos can find it"s good. What is right depends on the goal. But as Aristotle defined men, in order to be moral must act rationally. Morality is rationality. My opponent seems to think that because rationality is objective and non-changing in cannot be based on function. As Contradiction once said "Given a teleological account of human nature, there is no fact-value distinction, for value is built into fact from the very beginning. If the purpose of eyes is that they see, then it follows straightforwardly given their telos that eyes which see well are good eyes. Nature is not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive. "Ought" claims are not derived from "is" claims, but present to begin with".

A deterministic universe is one where our thoughts and actions are decided by past events. If our actions are decided by past events, then I think we have a reasonable case for punishing people, or in other words, holding them to moral responsibility. If a person begins to associate a certain action with a negative response, then it will prevent them from performing that action again. In a deterministic universe, we would punish people in order to steer their future actions towards promoting well-being rather than harming it. That is the deterministic justification for moral responsibility.

Finally, I make my way to the Mary hypothetical. We know that Bob is immoral because he is harming well-being. How can Bob harm the well-being of conscious creatures if he raped something that is not conscious? Simple. A society that allows an unconscious creature to get raped is not promoting well-being, as conscious creatures do not want to get raped when they are temporary unconscious. It refers more to the thoughts and desires of people (in this case, the desire is not to get raped when one is unconscious) rather than the actual act of rape.

That concludes my argumentation for this round. If Pro is interested, he can post five questions. If he does so, I will post five questions. We should both answer these five questions in round five with no argumentation other than our answers. Of course, my request is not mandatory, it's simply a suggestion.

I bid you all Vale.
Debate Round No. 2



1: Theism provides a more plausible and less arbitrary objective moral ontology

Value & Duty & Mary Scenario: Extended arguments

2: Atheism provides a less plausible and more arbitrary objective moral ontology

Con inconsistently asserts both that we have no purpose on atheism and that we have moral truths,

"the fact that we are machines for propagating DNA is not relevant to the existence of objective moral values."

Camus has been rightly criticized for inconsistently holding to the absurdity of life and to ethics. As Dostoyevsky said, if God doesn't exist, then "All things are permitted." So if atheism is true and there's no purpose or afterlife, then all the evil acts of men go unpunished, the good unrewarded. Cardinal Newman once remarked that if he believed that all the evils and injustices of life throughout history weren't made right by God in the end, "Why I think I should go mad." Rightly so.

The same applies to altruism and self-sacrifice, for on atheism the stupidest thing is to sacrifice your well-being for some stranger, but this is exactly what we consider good, and exactly what Christ has preached and has done!

Recall that I asked why conscious creatures are somehow worthy of flourishing and that unconscious creatures are not, on atheism. This is blatant species-ism unless Con can justify why humans are definitive for flourishing, and not corn. What gives us our dignity on atheism? How does Con carry his BoP in solving the Value and Duty problems?

Value Problem (Contra-P1)

Con failed to show that this so-called “moral landscape”, which features the highs and lows of human flourishing is really a moral landscape at all. I agree that, all things being equal, flourishing of conscious creatures is good. The question is rather, if atheism were true, what would make the flourishing of conscious creatures objectively good? Conscious creatures might like to flourish, but there’s no reason on atheism to think that it would really be objectively good. I also agree that science can study subjective facts, but is the wrongness of an action a subjective fact?

Hence the property of being good must be shown as identical with the property of creaturely flourishing. If it can’t, then Con’s view is logically incoherent since it violates the Law of Identity. Consider Craig's knock down argument,

1) If there exists some possible world where the continuum of well-being is not identical to the moral landscape, then there is no possible world in which the continuum of well-being is identical to the moral landscape

^Support: Law of Identity

2) There exists some possible world where the peaks of well-being are occupied by evil psychopaths who take pleasure and flourish in harming others (Nazi torture camps too).
^Support: 3 million Americans are psychopathic [4]

3) Therefore, the continuum of well-being is not identical to the moral landscape

So since it’s possible that human well-being and moral goodness are not identical, it follows necessarily that human well-being and goodness are not the same. Con's argument therefore is logically impossible to be true. It can't be true.

This is why I say that Con's redefinition of morals to well-being in light of what science can study, is a tautology. Of course science can study morals if it's redefined like that! .. But we're still left wondering if morals truly are identical to well-being. Which, as the knock-down argument shows above, they're not identical.

Duty Problems (Contra-P2)

: Con can’t provide a sound naturalistic account of moral obligation. First, natural science tells us only what is the case. It cannot tell us that we have a moral obligation to take actions which are conducive to human flourishing. As the philosopher Jerry Fodor has written, “Science is about facts, not norms; it might tell us how we are, but it wouldn’t tell us what is wrong with how we are.” [5]

Duty has no basis on atheism, for human beings are just animals, and animals have no moral obligation to one another. When a lion kills a zebra, it kills the zebra, but it doesn’t murder the zebra. When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female, it doesn’t actually rape her. There is no moral dimension to these actions.

All Con has to say in answering this problem is to quote a DDO user regarding human function as a way to measure what's right and wrong.

First, Con has just contradicted himself yet again, earlier he affirmed there is no purpose to life, now all of a sudden there is, which are we to believe on atheism? Notice he can't say humans have a self-derived purpose, for that would be subjective morals, and the only other alternative is a transcendent purpose bestowed on human rational, but that's affirming theism and its teleology- Con's moving from one story to another in order to sway his flopped case here.

Second, Con's quote has yet to show how it's probable on atheism, that creatures would blindly evolve to correspond to abstract moral realms through their naturalistically geared rationality. It’s almost as though the moral realm knew we were coming. And since darwinism shows that since evolution is geared towards survival value and not truth value, then nature doesn't give a wit whether well-being is objectively right or not. So on atheism, we have a defeater for not only reliable cognitive faculties, but also then, a defeater for the belief that morals are in fact objective. Con has undercut his case here.

Third, at best, the objectivity of morals gives us reason to think that if moral properties supervene on natural states, they do so necessarily. But then there’s no reason to think on atheism that there are any moral properties, or that they do supervene on natural states. For why on atheism would strange non-physical morals supervene on someone? Why do moral properties supervene on certain natural states? Why on atheism are such principles true? It's insufficient for Con to just say we apprehend objective moral values and duties, for this affirms what we've already agreed is true. Con must give a more plausible foundation that's also less arbitrary for moral truths.

Ought-Can: In the absence of the ability to do otherwise, there is no moral responsibility. In the absence of freedom of the will, we are just puppets or electro-chemical machines. And puppets do not have moral responsibilities. Machines are not moral agents. But on Con’’s view, there is no freedom of the will- and therefore, there is no moral responsibility. So there isn’t even the possibility of moral duty on his view.

Con simply says here that just because there's a causal chain of events, then therefore we can reasonably punish people for what they had no choice in doing. But how is this even remotely reasonable? Con's outlandish reply is so that we can "steer" such determined folks in a state of well-being.

But this is another contradiction, for if a person can be steered by other determined people, then that implies that we can choose to go contrary to what's already determined. But that's not determinism!

If a person is therefore fated to choose something contrary to well-being, then why think it's morally right to stop him if he had no other choice? Indeed this is the one area where Con's case emerges as almost as unsound as the value problem.

*Mary Scenario: Con's answer is wholly inadequate. First, he equivocates again, desire with well-being this time. Second, he forgets that Bob's desire was more realized than was Mary's desire at the time of rape. Utopia worlds are nice, but Con's case has no practial basis towards one.


Your "choice" is either Con's logically incoherent & absurd foundation for moral truths, or a true choice of a sound theistic foundation for the morals we all hold dear. Afterall, Nietzsche was right when he complained, “They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality.”


4. Harris, Moral Landscape, p.12

5. Ibid, p.97


Dr. Craig, whom Pro uses verbatim, has an interesting definition of objective morality. He defines objective morality as right and wrong independent of human opinion. However, this definition can be used to prove that objective moral values do not have to come from god. What if I were to base the foundation of objective moral values in a bonobo named Joe? Would this be 'objective morality' under Craig's definition? After all, I'm not basing anything in human opinion. His idea of objective morality is clearly absurd. Craig could define objective morality as right and wrong independent of any conscious entity, but that raises the question of whether god is conscious

Pro argues that we need an afterlife in order to punish wrongs that were never righted during our human life. This view is irrelevant to moral ontology. Indeed, we are only discussing a deistic god at most. There is nothing about a deistic god that implies afterlife, or an afterlife where god makes right, as Cardinal Newman said. In this debate, we have defined god as a being worthy of worship. How, exactly, does Pro invoke the existence of an afterlife? That is merely an assumption about the 'being worthy of worship', and a wholly unjustified one.

Pro asserts that on atheism, altruism and self sacrifice are 'stupid'. Pro never does anything to justify this claim, and instead goes on to proselytize about Jesus Christ. We can consider this a bare assertion, and we can dismiss it.

Corn does not have any range of experience. Corn cannot feel sad, lonely, happy, angry, joy, content, satisfaction, etc. Our actions cannot possibly alter the state of corn. Ergo, we are justified in ignoring any questions about the morality of our actions in regards to corn. The question is simply a non-starter.

Craig's 'knockdown' argument is logically valid, but it can be used against moral ontology from god as well.

P1) If there exists some possible world where god is not identical to good, then there is no possible world where god is identical to good.
P2) There exists a possible world in which god is not good, but evil.
C) God is not identical to good.

I've already answered Pro's objection about tautologies. My argument was that tautologies can be correct, so even if P1 was a tautology, you have not disproved it. Pro did not answer these assertions.

The first part of Pro's statements on the is-ought gap is really just a rehash of his last round. Pro more or less argues that we can not get an is from an ought, and then name-drops in his usual WLC style. There's nothing new in that paragraph. It's just the same song and dance, so I won't say anything more on it than that.

Duty has no basis in atheism? This is a positive claim made by Pro. If he had said 'Con did not prove duty can have a basis without god', then I would have to make a positive case. However, Pro does not do that. He made a positive claim, and positive claims require evidence. Unfortunately for Pro, no evidence is given at all. This positive claim is unjustified and unproven.

Human beings are animals irrelevant of whether god provides a sound moral ontology. Homo saipens saipens will be classified as part of the animal kingdom no matter what. Human beings are 'just animals' even if only one of us is right, so what's the point of Pro saying this?

I did not state that there is no purpose to life. I stated that there is no objective purpose to life. I did not exclude subjective purposes for the purpose of life, as Pro suggests.

The is-ought distinction is false, as is statements and ought statemens can be easily connected through thought experiments. For the sake of this thought experiment, let's say that getting from Point A to Point B in the fastest way possible is a moral value. 'The fastest way from point to another is in a straight line' is an 'is' statement.

Moral value: Getting from A to be B in the fastest way possible.
Is statement: The fastest way from A to B is in a straight line.
Ought statement: You ought to travel in a straight line.

Therefore, 'is' statements can be connected with 'ought' statements.

Ultimately, the is-ought gap refutes theistic ontology. Is god an is, or an ought? God is an 'is', as he exists. Pro argues that we ought to do something because god says it to be moral. Ergo, Pro gets moral values (oughts) from an is (god), closing the supposed gap between the two.

A 'knockdown argument' as Dr. Craig might say, eh?

Pro calls my reconciliation of determinism and moral responsibility 'outlandish', but he never actually shows anything about the particular claim to be false. Rather, he only claims that it is inconsistent with my worldview (inconsistent ≠ false), so we should dismiss it. I will address these apparent contradictions.

Pro wonders how I can assert that thoughts and actions are not free, while suggesting at the same time that we can change the thoughts and actions of other people. When I say that we can change the thoughts and actions of other people, I am not suggesting that we can choose to change the thoughts and actions of other people. I am stating that we, by our actions (determined by past events), can change other's actions (also determined by past events). It is possible for me, in an action determined by past events, to do things to other people that would change their future behavior, as my action would become a past event that influences their future choices.

Perhaps the person had no other choice. This still does not prevent us from doing things to that person that would influence their future actions for well-being. Sure, it could seem strange to impose consequences when no other choice was possible. Yet, from a determinists perspective, that's the history of punishment for you.

Desire is an aspect of well-being. It is reasonable to talk about desire when well-being is discussed, as whether or not desires are fufilled contributes to our sense of well-being. Pro asserts that I am 'equivocating', but this claim goes without any argumentation behind it. It's safe to ignore that claim, then.

The rapists desires were most fufilled *at the time*, but it ignores the larger well-being that is at play. We know from our third-person, narrative perspective that it is not good to live in a world where Bob can rape Mary, regardless of whether or not she was conscious. I've already explained why such a world would not be good, but that explanation went untouched.

Here are my five questions for Pro to answer in R4, if he accepts. 1: If god is the moral ontology, what is the moral epistomology? Essentially, I am asking how we come to know what god wants. 2: Is something god because god says so, or does god say so because it's good? 3: How do you know that god is not evil? 4: How do non-existant beings provide a basis for anything? 5: What is the ontology of ontology?

I told Pro that if he were to answer the questions I asked in R4, then neither of us could further any arguments. However, I want to allow him to answer some points that I brought up in this round. So, he can answer my questions and argue in R4, while I will simply answer his questions.


Debate Round No. 3



1: Theism provides a more plausible and less arbitrary objective moral ontology

Value (Good / Evil)

Con confuses 'objective' for subjective when he bases morals in a contingently existing animal, as opposed to a necessarily existing maximally great being (clearly this fails to parody). To say that morals aren't dependent upon human opinion, is to say that they're not dependent upon contingently existing opinion - 'humans' just fit better semantically.

Con then asserts that we're discussing deism, not theism. This ignores how I defined God in R1 and the terms of the debate. We are in fact talking about a maximally great, personal agent who is by definition worthy of worship. And it's in this classical view of God that makes an afterlife possible. As for atheism, an afterlife isn't even on the table! Hence the reason altruism is stupid on atheism is because it strictly goes contrary to ones well being in the face of absolute death, the great equalizer.

Con's parody of Craig's 'knockdown' argument actually supports my first contention! Consider his 2nd premise,

"There exists a possible world in which [G]od is not good, but evil"

What support has Con provided for this? Indeed there seems to be NO possible world in which God is evil, for that wouldn't be what we mean by God- for God by definition is a being worthy of worship, and evil beings are avoided. Hence an “evil-God” is a contradiction in terms since God is the maximally great being, and since it's greater to be all good rather than evil, then it follows that God is necessarily good by definition: a being worthy of worship. Therefore, God IS the Good, the very paradigm and locus of all moral value. What could be a more sound ontology? For asking can God be evil is like asking if the number 5 can be 0? ... it's a meaningless question.

Duty (Right / Wrong)
Con supposes the is-ought gap refutes a theistic moral ontology. Recall that on theism our moral duties are constituted by the commands of an essentially just and loving God. Now this does derive an “ought” from an “is,” but justifiably so—though not in the way Con imagines, and unlike his case. For just because God is the paradigm of goodness, it doesn't follow that because God is a certain way we ought to behave in certain ways.

No, our moral obligations and prohibitions arise as a result of God’s commands to us. God’s nature serves to establish values (good & bad) while God’s commands establish moral duties (right & wrong). Grounding moral values in God no more derives an “ought” from an “is” than does Plato’s grounding values in the form of the Good. The theist just has a more sound ontological ultimate than Plato, hence the theist's derivation of an “ought” from an “is,” far from being objectionable, captures a central feature of moral duty and plausibly grounds it.

Duty arises in response to an imperative from a competent authority- and in virtue of being the Good, He is uniquely qualified to issues such commands as expressions of His nature. Whereas on atheism, there just is no moral authority. Thus I welcome Con to derive an ought from an is- but it must be more justified than the theistic ontology of duty. And I don't see how he can do this without re-defining morals.

2: Atheism provides a less plausible and more arbitrary objective moral ontology

Value Problem (Contra-P1)

I agree that less-conscious beings don't have as full a range of experience, but then why pick ranges of experience as definitive for well-being? What makes this somehow more special than the range of pigs to thrive in it's limited range of experience as compared to us? This is more arbitrary.

Duty Problems (Contra-P2)

Is-Ought: On atheism, I said that "human beings are just animals, and animals have no moral obligation to one another." This entails that duty has no basis on atheism. Whereas on theism, humans are endowed with God-given rights and morality as we're "made in the image of God" and are indeed commanded by God to treat even our enemies with love. Yet on atheism does such duty arise? Where on atheism can we find a competent authority to issue such moral imperatives? Con hasn't provided a sufficient account. Craig says in the video,

“On atheism, rape and incest may not be biologically and socially advantageous, and so in the course of human development have become taboo, that is, socially unacceptable behavior. But, that does absolutely nothing to prove that such acts are really wrong. Such behavior goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. On the atheistic view the rapist who chooses to flout the “herd morality” is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably, the moral equivalent, if you will, of Lady Gaga. If there is no moral lawgiver, then there is no objective moral law, and if there is no objective moral law, then we have no objective moral duties.”

Con then asserts that the is-ought distinction is false by re-defining moral statements yet again. He equates the trivial statement, "Getting from A to be B in the fastest way possible" with moral value. But how in the world does the speed from A to B contain any moral content? Also, how is traveling in a straight line a moral obligation? The only way Con can show is statements are moral ought statements, is by redefining moral ought without moral content. But by moral ought, one doesn't mean that this is the most practical way to do a thing!

Ought-Can: A view that contradicts itself means that view is incoherent. And if incoherency is what Con is resorting to for his case, then the resolution is won.

Now how does Con think that moral responsibility exists in a determined world? Here he simply says that the past actions can be used to "change" future actions. Of course that's true, and also irrelevant. The question isn't, "can a causal chain of events change" .. rather it's "how can a determined person be responsible for his actions?" And Con's only answer to this is that you're stuck with a history of punishment.

*Mary Scenario: Why isn't it good for Bob to rape Mary if it contributes to his well-being, and doesn't take away from the well being from anyone else? Here Con's answer is most telling of his incoherent equivocation of morals with well-being. He simply says "it ignores what's good in the world." Right, but then that's not what well-being is! Here's another case then of how Con's position is patently incoherent.

Practical Case

Darwinian Worry

There are immoral implications of calling "good" what allows a society to flourish reminds us of some leaders that have appealed to science dogmatically in order to justify certain moral claims. The results, like social Darwinism, have later come to be seen as undesirable, misguided, wrong or evil and this could be taken to imply that future attempts at a science of morality could very well be later seen in the same critical light. What’s stopping this science of morality that could produce an ethical system where everyone hedonistically pursues merely their own interests?

Lewisian Worry

C. S. Lewis predicted the effective end of the human race if human nature was changed "through eugenics, pre-natal conditioning, and an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology" so that all future generations will be involuntarily imprinted with its moral values (or lack thereof) which they would presumably justify through science. Lewis regarded God-givel natural law to be the essence of humanity, and that if this God-given law was ever modified, then it would dehumanize persons to objects to be manipulated by scientific technique, rather than fellow persons who use scientific techniques on objects. He says, "A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery." My challenge to Con is, on atheism, how is this solved by science?


I'll asnwer Cons' questions and pose mine on this debate on this thread,


No further arguments. Thanks to Pro for the debate.

Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
I don't see how that's worth any weight. Simply, your case - Pro's case = +pro's case, both in terms of content quality and quantity. Vale.
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago
The only problem with posting an argument in the last round is that it's unfair to your opponent, who cannot refute your new arguments due to the format. However, my last argument came in R3 of the debate, giving him space to answer my arguments. I'm not seeing the issue with it being in *my* last round, and not the last round of the *debate*.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
In your last round! And it was easily refuted anyhow...
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago
Of course you're going to continue to pretend like I never said anything about his ontology.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
Note the Resolution. And note my RFD regarding why I think Apeiron proved contention 1 over 2. You held a BoP to prove not only that your ontology was plausible and not arbitrary, but MORE plausible and LESS arbitrary.

All you did was simply argue for the plausibility of your ontology and attempt to rebut Apeiron's objection that it's more arbitrary. But even if you were successful in this I'm still left wondering if your ontology is MORE plausible and LESS arbitrary than Apeiron's case.
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago
I don't need to express arguments against it in order to tear it down. If I could prove the moral landscape true, then contention one is false automatically. By arguing for the landscape, I indirectly tore down contention 1. There was no need to refute contention 1 if I upheld the BOP I quoted.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
Yeah, your BoP was ALSO to tear down Apeiron's Contention 1. Otherwise we're left thinking the resolution is true, that God is in fact a sound moral basis. But Apeiron convinced me, in this debate, that your ontology was less plausible and more arbitrary. He carried this motion flawlessly. And the law of id alone was enough to win the debate for Apeiron. Just like it was enough for Craig to make Harris' ontology into a laughing stock at my university.
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago

My burden of proof was:

'Con: to give a more plausible and less arbitrary explanation of what bestows moral dignity, worth, and imperatives on humans apart from God'

I'm sure you read the debate. How did you forget all of the times we debated the science of morality that I was defending
Posted by Apeiron 4 years ago
I was wondering the same thing. Typhlo, why'd ya forfeit half of your BoP?
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
Uh.. did Typhlochactas totally miss what the resolution was or something?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by CIIReligion 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:24 
Reasons for voting decision: I have to give my votes to Con as you cannot state what the BoP of the opposition is. Pro makes the debate and poses the argument, so it is up to him to provide BoP. Also Pro decided to continue the debate in a forum instead of concluding the last round. The only reason Pro got 2 points from me, is because he did have more resources At least I am honest in my voting decisions.
Vote Placed by AnthraSight 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: An easy win for Pro, Con barely touched half of his BoP and the other half floundered when scrutinized by Apeiron's philosophical rigor. Everything came down to Con's inability to show how there's ultimately a good reason to think that well-being and morality are not only identical, but also free from the is-ought / ought can problem.