The Instigator
kohai
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Contradiction
Pro (for)
Winning
30 Points

God is the best explanation for morality

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
Contradiction
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/17/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,063 times Debate No: 16552
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (52)
Votes (7)

 

kohai

Con

In this debate, I will be arguing that God is NOT the best explanation of morality My opponent, on the other hand, will be arguing that God IS the ultimate source for morality.I ask that my opponent is a Christian and that (s)he believes that God is the ultimate sources for our sense of right and wrong.Good luck. May the best debate win.I will kindly allow my opponent to start the opening arguments in the first round.
Contradiction

Pro

My thanks to kohai for initiating this debate challenge. Ethical philosophy is one of my favourite subjects, and as such it's a pleasure to be participating in this debate.

In this debate I will be arguing for one major contention: God is the best explanation of morality. By that, I mean that the existence of objective moral facts is best explained by positing the existence of a supreme being. By "best explanation." I mean it is superior to competing theories in terms of its explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, less ad hocness, accord with already accepted beliefs, and comparative superiority. [1] In order to win this debate, Con must argue the negative of the resolution, namely, that God is not the best explanation for morality. It is therefore not enough that Con just refute my arguments -- he has to show how a competing explanation is better than the theistic explanation.

I will be defending the following argument:

1. If objective moral facts exist, then God exists.
2. Objective moral facs exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

By "objective," I refer to the state of being true regardless of human opinion. For example, to say that X (Say, torturing babies for fun) is wrong is to say that "it is wrong for anyone to do X, that X is universally undesirable, that it is wrong to do X even if a person finds pleasure in doing it, and that everyone ought to refrain from doing X." [2] By "moral facts," I refer to both values and duties.

Defense of Premise 1

According to the first premise, if there are objective moral facts, then these moral facts have their foundation in the nature of God. This is a conditional statement which describes the entailment relationship between objective morality and God.

Morality is prescriptive and is expressed to us in the form of statements such as “Do not lie” and “Do not murder." These statements carry with them a degree of incumbency – that is to say, they communicate commands to us. Both commands and communication, however, can only originate from an intelligent mind. This mind must additionally be a competent authority in order for its objective commands to be binding on us. Therefore, moral facts require the existence of a supreme legislator who issues these commands to us. As Richard Taylor writes:

"A duty is something that is owed... But something can be owed only to some person or persons. There can be no such thing as a duty in isolation.... the concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone." [3]

If objective moral facts exist, it therefore seems plausible to think that God serves as their ground.

Defense of Premise 2

The second premise of the moral argument is often the premise of choice that detractors of the moral argument criticize. Though it seems perfectly reasonable to affirm that objective moral facts exist, many go to great lengths to deny their existence. The existence of objective moral facts are what philosophers call a "properly basic truth." Paul Copan writes:

"[O]bjective moral values are properly basic and undeniable; those who reject them are failing to function properly. There are some beliefs that (a) we are justified in holding (we are doing our epistemic duty with respect to these beliefs) and (b) are not based on or inferred from other beliefs... To reject such basic beliefs would do serious damage to our noetric structure. Such beliefs are properly basic." [4] In other words, moral truths are basic truths which are discovered, as opposed to invented.

Consider the statement "It is wrong to torture babies for fun." Is that an objectively true statement? If it's not, then why not? Consider the following popular skeptical counterargument:

"People hold different moral viewpoints. Therefore, morality is relative."

This does nothing to show the subjectivity of morality anymore than the fact that people hold different scientific viewpoints shows that science is relative. Simply because people disagree about an issue doesn't mean that said issue is itself relative.

Moreover, most moral disagreement arises not in the area of values, butthe underlying facts. Consider the abortion debate for instance. Both sides affirm the principle “Do not murder an innocent human being” to be true. The point of disagreement is thus not over moral principles, but the factual issue of what constitutes a human being.

Underlying this objection is an ethical philosophy known as normative moral relativism. According to NMR, moral facts are relative to an individual/culture. Ther are no objective moral truths. Unfortunately, this ethical philosophy faces a number of serious problems.

1. Moral judgement becomes impossible

Consider the following moral judgements: "It's wrong to deny civil rights to African Americans," "Nazi Germany was wrong in perpetrating the Holocaust," "Mother Teresa was a virtious woman." All of these are moral judgements, they make a claim on the morality of some action of person. However, moral relativism renders all of these to be false in the objective sense. On relativism, it's not really wrong to lynch homosexuals, it's just your opinion, or your culture's opinion. On relativism, the culture which engages in ethnic cleansing is morally equivalent to a culture which recognizes the civil rights of minorities. But this is absurd. If we are to make sense of our everyday moral judgements, then we must abandon relativism.

2. Moral discourse becomes impossible

If moral statements were the equivalent of preference claims such as “I like vanilla ice cream,” then moral discourse becomes impossible. Suppose that two people have a disagreement over some issue. Since relativism alleges that moral utterances do nothing more than express one's person opinion on a specific issue, then said persons are doing nothing but informing each other of their opinions. There is thus no substantive discourse going on. Statements such as “Murder is wrong” are translated to mean “I don't like murder” are neither true or false in a moral way. Moral discourse is thus reduced to a shouting match

3. Moral relativism is counterintuitive

The idea that morality is dependent on either the person or the subject leads to a variety of counterintuitive positions. For instance, the statement “Torturing babies for fun is wrong” is not not a moral fact, neither is “Be kind to one another.” These propositions, however, seem to express true moral facts. Why should we accept relativism when it leads to conclusions that we know to be false? As Tim Keller puts it, “"If a premise ('There is no God') leads to a conclusion you know isn't true ('Napalming babies is culturally relative'), then why not change the premise?" [5]

So why think moral objectivism is superior? Well, it affirms all three facts of our moral experience which relativism must deny. It allows us to make meaningful moral judgements, moral comparisions, and it allows us to engage in legitimate moral discourse. This is because objectivism recognizes that right and wrong really do exist, and that people and their actions can be judged according to a standard. This is best in accords with what we observe to be true about our moral experience, and hence moral objectivism is the best explanation for morality.

With that, I turn it over to my opponent for his counterarguments.

________

Sources

1. J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers, Grove, IL: Intervarsity. 2003) 62
2. Hadley Arkes, First Things (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1986) p.24
3. Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Pentice-Hall, 1985) 83
4. Paul Copan, "Hume and the Moral Argument" in James F. Sennett and Douglas Groothius (eds), In Defense of Natural Theology (Downers Grove, IL: 2005) 213
5. Timothy J. Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York, NY: Dutton. 2008) 156
Debate Round No. 1
kohai

Con

I would like to appologize for the long time to reply. I've been rather busy and not feeling well. Therefore, I have not had the time to debate/post my arguments.

I shall start with my opening thesis.

Thesis: The best explanation for morality is that our morals have evolved from time. (1)

Examples:

1. Wind back the clock a few hundred years ago, and you will see that slavery was evident in early America. African-Americans were forced to labour for no money and had horrifying working conditions. Now, we can see that very few, if no-one, in America supports Slavery. How can this be? Our morals have changed. If you were to ask a slave owner back in the colonial days if slavery was okay, they would say, “Sure” but if you ask someone today, they would be horrified at the question. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that our morals have changed.

Was it wrong back then for one to own slaves? Well, in today’s standards, yes. However, in their eyes it was perfectly acceptable.

Sources:
(1) http://www.evolutionaryethics.com...

Attack on opening argument

In the opening thesis, you claim the following

1. If objective moral facts exist, then God exists.
2. Objective moral facts exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

This is a weak argument because you need to prove the very first statement. If you cannot prove that "If moral facts exist, then God exists," then your argument and opening "logic" goes out the window.

However, if you can prove the 1st statement, then you won the debate.

Attack of Premise 1

Morality is prescriptive and is expressed to us in the form of statements such as “Do not lie” and “Do not murder." These statements carry with them a degree of incumbency – that is to say, they communicate commands to us.

I allow my opponent to this statment as it is true and strong.

Both commands and communication, however, can only originate from an intelligent mind. This mind must additionally be a competent authority in order for its objective commands to be binding on us.

Again, you are correct. However, you then state that the intelligent mind has to be a supreme legislator (i.e. "God.")

Once again, you are under the BOP to show that it IS God. For all we know, the person who originated those commands could have been a ruler that lived long ago. You need to prove that the person has to be God.

Attack of Premise 2

I shall attack this in the next round.

I apologize to my opponent for the poor opening arguments from me. I have had very little time to discuss this and to research this.

Back to you, pro. I shall make a better opening argument in the next round.

Contradiction

Pro

Recall that the topic of this debate is "God is the best explanation for morality." Con attempts to negate this by arguing that an evolutionary origin of morality is more plausible than theistic morality. As an example, he cites the changing American attitude toward slavery. However, there are a number of problems with his counterargument.

1. It confuses facts with values

Why did Colonial Americans regard slavery as perfectly acceptable? Presumably, they didn't think slavery was acceptable for their particular race, but they did in regards to the African American race. Thus, while they held to the moral principle "It is wrong to enslave a person," they simply didn't view African-Americans as persons. Indeed, slaves were counted as 3/5ths of a person for census purposes. What this illustrates is thus not a changing ethic, but a difference of facts which influence how the ethic is applied. Both Americans now and then held to the principle "It is wrong to enslave a person." Their disagreement was not over that principle, but what constituted a person. Their disagreement, therefore, was descriptive, not prescriptive.

Thus, most moral disagreement arises not in the area of values, but
the underlying facts. Consider the abortion debate for instance. Both sides affirm the principle “Do not murder an innocent human being” to be true. The point of disagreement is thus not over moral principles, but the factual issue of what constitutes a human being.

2. This does not indicate a changing morality, only changing perceptions of it

Let us consider a parallel argument to Con's example. Hundreds of years ago, it was common knowledge that the sun revolved around the earth. However, with the advent of the astronomic theories of Galileo, Kepler, and Copernicus, the people came to gradually realize that this was false. However, simply because people's attitudes toward what is true have changed does not mean that truth itself changes. The earth revolved around the sun, regardless of whether or not anyone was there to recognize it. Similarly, people's changing perceptions on moral truth does not indicate that morality itself is changing. At best, it deals only with our perception of morality.

Attacks on Premise 1

Con argues, "However, you then state that the intelligent mind has to be a supreme legislator."

This is implied by my statement "Both commands and communication, however, can only originate from an intelligent mind. This mind must additionally be a competent authority in order for its objective commands to be binding on us. " The key word here is "objective." Recall earlier that objective was defined as the state of being true regardless of human opinion. Thus, this by definition precludes objective morality having a human source, since humans can only invent subjective morality. In order for objective morality to be objective, then it must have a source that is above human opinion -- otherwise, it wouldn't be objective (Since if the source isn't above human opinion, then it can't be objective). This is plain and simple.

Con has not attacked premise two. As such, I extend my arguments. I now turn it over to my opponent.
Debate Round No. 2
kohai

Con

I am in a lot of debates right now that are more serious and more important than this one.

I request to my opponent that either
a) No-one votes and it is a tie

or b) I'll concede this debate.

In addition, I am very busy at the moment.

When I am finished my more serious debates, we can resume this one and pick up right where we left off.

I appologize to my opponent for this inconvienence.
Contradiction

Pro

I'll take (B). I extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 3
kohai

Con

Good debate and vote pro.

I am very sorry. We shall finish this debate later.

Contradiction

Pro

No problem, though I'm rather bummed it had to end this way. Hopefully my opponent will do better in his other debates.
Debate Round No. 4
52 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Man-is-good
defining god is the same as expressing the ineffable
our concept of god is too broad for even human words to define and measure
therefore, attempts of logic or even definitions are useless
(Note: I am not a Christian)
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
Sure, he can define God's standards as what one ought to do - but I'm contesting the validity of that definition. I don't see how God could be the ground of normative values.

If I define morality as 'making money' that doesn't avoid the is-ought gap because morality is what one ought to do, because the further question can be asked - why ought one to make money? The statement doesn't appear to fit the definition.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"...how does that cross the gap from 'God commands X' to 'I ought to do X'?"

If God is defined such as it is the standard for morality then by definition God defines what one ought to do. Thus the answer to why should one obey the commands of God is that it is definitional as what you are asking is why should one do as one ought to do.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
I don't know what you mean.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
It appeared to me you were asking we should we do what we ought to do, that is definitional.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
It isn't simply definitional. One of the classic and most enduring problems for ethical philosophy has been David Hume's point that people often leap from an 'is' statement (such as 'slavery causes suffering') to an 'ought' statement (such as 'we ought to abolish slavery') without proper justification. If Contradiction can't provide a reason for why 'competence' somehow transforms an 'is' statement (God commands us to worship him) into an 'ought' statement (we ought to worship God) then his account of ethics fails.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
@Kinesis

"I'm contesting that God can assign moral duties because I'm contesting that God can be the ground for moral values (normative ones)."

Isn't that simply definitional.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
@pop

I didn't mean to suggest that there's a correct definition of objectivity and theism doesn't satisfy it - of course words only have instrumental value insofar as they clarify and communicate concepts. Obviously, on some accounts of objectivity God-centric theories are objective. Point taken.

@Contradiction

Even if we define duty in that way, you still haven't justified or even really addressed the leap from a descriptive state of affairs to a normative state of affairs. Why should I care if some policeman has been arbitrarily assigned to enforce laws that a government happens to institute? Why should I even care if that's my duty? I can state 'is's like that all day, and not get to an ought. You haven't shown a way in which that gap can be crossed.

No, I'm not confused. I'm contesting that God can assign moral duties because I'm contesting that God can be the ground for moral values (normative ones). If God can't, your theory doesn't even get off the ground.

popculture didn't say that. In fact, I suspect that pop would agree that WLC's ad hoc definition of objectivity is poor. There's no reason to define it that way unless you're specifically intending to characterize theistic morality as objective. Besides, on that definition an eternal monkey or alien mind could hypothetically be the ground of moral values, which is absurd.
Posted by Contradiction 5 years ago
Contradiction
"I'm asking what specific aspect of competence changes descriptive facts into normative facts."

Simply put, competence itself. The very idea of a duty arises out of an obligation to an authority figure who can legitimately issue such duties. Because a policeman is delegated powers by the state to express its authority, it has the ability to issue binding imperatives on us.

"I'm contending the whole concept of God as the ground of moral values, so assuming it to prove your point is begging the question."

No, this confuses moral *values* with moral *duties*. God can legitimately issue moral duties to us because he is the ground of moral values.

Regarding your final statement, I defer to what popculturepooka has said. Objectivity refers to the state of being independent of human or created minds.
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
Moral realism characterized by Richard Boyd:

1.Moral statements are the sorts of statements which are (or which express propositions which are) true or false (or approximately true, largely false, etc.);
2.The truth or falsity (approximate truth...) of moral statements is largely independent of our moral opinions, theories, etc.;
3.Ordinary canons of moral reasoning—together with ordinary canons of scientific and everyday factual reasoning—constitute, under many circumstances at least, a reliable method for obtaining and improving (approximate) moral knowledge.

There's nothing inconsistent with that characterization of moral objectivity/realism and God grounding morality.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by detachment345 5 years ago
detachment345
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Reasons for voting decision: con quit
Vote Placed by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con gave up.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con conceded.
Vote Placed by Raisor 5 years ago
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Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: "I am in a lot of debates right now that are more serious and more important than this one. - nice way to degrade the effort from Pro.
Vote Placed by mecap 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro wins because Con didn't finish the debate.
Vote Placed by XimenBao 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession