Morality is given by the biblical God
Debate Rounds (3)
They will show that morality cannot be achieved in absence of a supreme law giver, namely the God of Christianity
As Con, I will argue that morality is a symptom of evolution and social development.
Morality: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.
Thank you CON, for putting on this debate. I hope all the best to the both of us, and to a fruitful conversation.
My opening argument can be summarized in the following syllogism:
P1: Objective moral values exist.
P2: In a world without God, objective moral values do not exist.
C: Therefore, God exists.
And then lastly, I will argue that it is the Christian God that provides a sound foundation for objective morality.
P1: Objective Moral Values Exists
Objective means “independent of people’s (including one’s own) opinion.” Subjective, on the other hand, means “just a matter of personal opinion.” If we do have objective moral values, then in the various circumstances in which we find ourselves we are either obligated or forbidden to do some particular actions, regardless of what we think. So the question is, are those moral values objective or subjective? I will give several reason as to why we should believe moral values are objective rather than subjective.
1. We all have an intuitive perception of objective moral values.
Intuitively, we all know that objective moral values exist. Many proponents of a subjective morality might say that is not true, but the second you do something immoral against them, they don't brush it off and say "I suppose for him, that was morally right", instead they will want to affirm that they have been truly wronged. Actions such as rape, torture, or child abuse aren't merely social conventions or preferences that help to make a better society, they really are objectively wrong. They are moral abominations. While on the other hand, things like love, equality, and self-sacrifice we affirm to be morally good. Not merely because they are socially acceptable, but because they really are good whether anyone thinks them to be good or not. We affirm this intuitive belief every day when people fight for human rights concerning gender or racial equality.
2. If we can affirm one moral action that is objectively wrong, then objective moral values exist.
In order to show that objective moral values exist, all I have to do is show at least one thing that is objectively wrong. Here I will quote Michael Ruse, an atheistic philosopher of science, who says "The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5."  Raping a little child is wrong independently to what anyone thinks, and I eagerly invite you to argue against such a notion. If however, you concede that raping a child is wrong whether anyone thinks it to be so or not, you are conceding that objective moral values do exist.
3. Ontology vs Epistemology
Often, proponents of a subjective morality will defend their position by stating that moraltiy is a biological adaptation, no less than our hands or feet. On this view, any moral value is essentially illusory - nothing more than a byproduct of evolution. The problem is, this view fails to recognize the difference between Ontology - the nature of something, with Epistemology - how we come to know something. It seems rather obvious that we could have come to know or become aware of moral values through evolutionary processes, while its nature still being objective. Just because we come to know something through evolution, doesn't mean we should ignore the arguments and intuitive perceptions we have in favor of objective morality. That would be what many call, the genetic fallacy - to conclude something based on the source in which it came from. William Lane Craig, a philosopher at Talbot School of Theology, gives us great insight on this topic when he says "...if moral values are gradually discovered, not invented, then such a gradual and fallible apprehension of the moral realm no more undermines the objective reality of that realm than our gradual, fallible perception of the physical world undermines the objectivity of that realm."  Craig's point is, the way in which we come to know something doesn't dictate the nature of it. To confuse ontology and epistemology is therefore a grave mistake.
P2: In a world without God, objective moral values do not exist.
I will try not to spend too much time on this premise, in that it is my assumption that you will actually concede this point. In a world absent of God, in which morality has emerged among us through evolutionary processes, would be a world in which those moral values are merely social conventions - preferences and nothing more. As Christopher Hitchens himself admits, moral values are just "innate predispositions" ingrained into us by evolution.  On this view, an action like rape is not necessarily wrong, its simply not socially advantageous, and therefore has become morally taboo. But this does nothing to prove that rape is morally wrong in any objective sense. On an atheistic view, one where God does not exist, nothing is truly morally wrong with raping someone. Moral values, on this view, do not exist in any further capacity than our preferences concerning foods we like to eat - they are entirely subjective without God.
C: Therefore, God exists.
In order to deny this conclusion, you must show why one or both of my two premises are not more plausibly true than false. If you can't, this conclusion logically follows from those premises.
Lastly, I shall now defend the position that the Christian God is a sound foundation for these objective moral values in which I affirm. On the Christian view, objective moral values are rooted in God's nature. God's nature, therefore, is the absolute standard by which all moral actions are measured. On the Christian view, God is by his very nature loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so on. Furhermore, we can know God's nature by his moral commands. In the Christian Bible, the entirety of man's moral duty can be summed up in two commandments: (1) 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 (2) You shall love your neighbor as yourself. With these two commands in mind, we can induce that things like generosity, self-sacrifice, and equality are objectively good, while things like selfishness, hatred, abuse, discrimination, and opression would go against these two core commandments and therefore are objectively wrong and should be condemned. 
Therefore, it is my contention that objective moral values do exist, and that the Christian God of the Bible is a sound foundation for those objective moral values.
(3) Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson, Is Christianity Good for the World? (Moscow, ID: Cannon Press, 2008), 52.
Through my inexperience, and even with caution from Pro, I have limited myself by failing to use my first round as intended. Therefore, I will state my main argument here, in the second round.
I will try to mime my opponents structure because I am not fully versed on proper format. Hopefully this will be informative and a learning experience.
P1: Morality is a result of the evolution of social creatures.
P2: What is moral varies across many cultures and populations, even seemingly affecting other species.
C: Objective morality does not exist
For my arguments, when relevant and referring to "God" I am generally assuming the Christian God.
P1: Morality is a result of the evolution of social creatures.
Evolution is dependent on survival. Survival of a population is largely dependent upon reproductive success. With social populations there is a general reliance on other members of the population. To put it simply, the well-being of one can directly affect the well-being of another, and even of the group. There is a necessity for survival that individuals function in a manner that is beneficial, or at least neutral to others in the group.
This simple concept is a basis for what we understand as morality, or moral behavior. This is not objective, but based on situations that lead to survival; so subjective. The behaviors that benefit the group are not static, as they change as the environment changes, as pressures on the population change. It is not a far reach to understand that conditions that influence our behavior, influence our perception. The evolution of consciousness, of mind lends voice or image to these perceptions.
If a wolf pack relied on the pack to stalk and take down their prey, it could be understood how an under performer, or even an outcast would be a serious liability to the group. If one wolf rushed out, teeth barred and howling; well the prey would have a great chance to escape, and the pack would suffer from hunger. Similarly, if a member of a small society did not participate, or if they out right infringed on the well-being of others, through murder, rape, theft, etc... It is natural to think of this leading to a moral stance. Eventually an accepted behavior, eventually even a law. The process would be similar to different populations but with different stresses, different behaviors would be expected. In various societies we see differences in these "moral" stances. Some cultures engage in relations with children, some are pro incest, in some situations it can even be understood why rape would be an acceptable behavior in a group if the desire to survive was pitted against the available breeding population or lack there of, necessitating a visit to a neighbor, a competing culture. Today this type of behavior is unacceptable, and "wrong", yet that is a developmental moral, and one not accepted by all populations.
P2: What is moral varies across many cultures and populations.
I would assume that Pro would not argue for objective morality for animals, yet we have witnessed animals working together, helping each other and even exhibiting what appears to be altruistic behavior. Certainly animals cannot have objective morality? But if they could, you would be hard pressed to define what those objective morals were. Rape and incest are common in many species, in fact I'm sure we could say in many situations it seems that anything goes. The fact is, we see developed behaviors in humans and animals. We see a varying sense of right and wrong, just as would be expected if morals evolved alongside various cultures.
But you may ask 'Isn't there anything that we would consider a moral truth? Something that is objectively moral? Well, pro advised us in his main argument that "objective" is independent of peoples opinion. So it doesn't matter what you think, it's just right, or it's just wrong. But ask yourself why we would even think that? Right and wrong are entirely, and necessarily based on what we think. If not at the individual level, than at the group level. Why do we have laws? What good to they serve? These questions, I suggest, have roots in what is beneficial to our survival. I believe it is obvious that my descriptions through P1 and P2 are merely an outline. A basis, or an idea that are not the entirety of our source for morals. Individually we develop gradually more sophisticated morals based on our experiences and the way we process them and the way they affect us.
C: There is no Objective Morality
So, if you would consider... We do not have objective morality and therefore conclude god exists, we conclude god exists and then need to postulate an objective morality. The inconsistency in this is the possibility that we do not have objective morality. Claiming such is like claiming a god. You believe it therefore it is true. But just as objective is independent of peoples opinions, without opinion there would be no designation. To be good or bad, right or wrong, you need a method to measure such. Postulating god as a measure is illogical as the only data to add to this ruler comes from what believers opined was the mind and method of god. It is a much less complex idea, and simplistic argument to assume that our behaviors which are the foundation for our morals are descended from a basic need of survival in a social animal. The resulting "morality" is further developed through our experiences both personal and in society. This is further strengthened by witnessing the behavior in other social animals and that of not to distant related species.
If a god is needed for objective morality, Pro would need to demonstrate an objective source for god. If there is no objective truth of god, then objective morality is unfathomable. Any claim of god must come from a believer in that god and therefore is subjective. It is opinion of the believer. God is not a fact, and therefore not a good reason to propose objective morality.
CON, I thank you for a speedy response.
It pleases me to see that you tried to use the same structure in which I have laid out my own opening argument. Not only does this structure make it easy for my opponent to understand, but also helps with organization. However, the reason I use this structure is because in a syllogism (consisting of two premises and a conclusion), in order for it to be a valid one, the conclusion must logically follow from the premises. A simple example would be “All dogs can bark. Fido is a dog. Fido can bark.”  Notice how the conclusion necessarily is true as long as the premises are true. It is valid on the shear force of reason. The argument that I presented, is indeed a valid argument because if you accept the premises, the conclusion that must be true.
So this is where your first problem is, your syllogism is not valid. The shear force of reason does not necessitate that your conclusion "Objective morality does not exist" follow from your two premises. One can easily accept P1 and P2 yet still deny your conclusion. There is nothing at all that logically necessitates one to reach your conclusion by accepting your premises. Therefore, your argument from the start is an invalid one and no one needs to accept it.
You do, however, admit that this is a learning experience, as it is for me too. Therefore, I shall address your arguments in order and I hope to show that someone could easily accept your two premises but still deny your conclusion. Furthermore, I will reinforce my own opening argument, and show that one can also easily accept your two premises while at the same time find my argument a sound one.
Response To P1: Morality is a result of the evolution of social creatures.
I made a distinction in my opening argument between epistemology - how we come to know something, and ontology - the nature of something. I made this distinction in preparation that CON would indeed fail to distinguish the two. I can grant that the way in which we come to know moral values is done so through the evolutionary process, but that says nothing about the nature of those moral values. In CON's argument called "Morals Survive", CON shows that adopting certain moral values can increases survival. But then in "Moral Grounding", without even realizing CON's own mistake, has concluded that because most or even all of our moral values are ingrained into us by evolution, they must therefore be subjective. This is a false conclusion in that it fails, as I predicted, to distinguish between moral epistemology and moral ontology.
In order to demonstrate why CON's argument fails here, I will requote and expound William Lane Craig when he says "...if moral values are gradually discovered, not invented, then such a gradual and fallible apprehension of the moral realm no more undermines the objective reality of that realm than our gradual, fallible perception of the physical world undermines the objectivity of that realm." 
Here is the analogy he is making. Craig is pointing out that we come to know moral values through evolutionary processes just as we come to know the more about the physical world through processes such as observation or science. On both of these fronts, we are fallible and often get things wrong. But wouldn't it be ridiculous to then conclude that there is no objective reality in which we are subjectively perceiving, just because we come to know about the natural world in different ways and sometimes disagree? Indeed it would be. In the same way, just because we come to know moral values through evolutionary processes, doesn't mean we should deny their objective reality. Therefore, CON's argument is a fallacious one.
On a side note, I personally agree that evolution has played a major role in what morals have been innately ingrained into us. But just because we come to know moral values through a process like evolution, doesn't mean those morals aren't grounded in something outside of that natural process. CON must show why this must be the case in order for this argument to succeed, and I challenge him to do so.
Response To P2: What is moral varies across many cultures and populations.
CON tries to show that because animals seem to have moral tendencies like our own, and because things like rape and incest are common among those in the animals kingdom, we should therefore consider morals values to be subjective. But again, CON fails to see the difference between epistemology and ontology. CON tries to point out that there can't be objective moral values by asserting that morals are "based on what we think". But that would be like saying that because we disagree and have different opinions about what the Universe is like, we must therefore conclude that the Universe isn't really there, its just a subjective illusion. Again, its fallacious to conclude something is not objective based on how we come to know about it - they call that the genetic fallacy.
Response To C: There is no Objective Morality
In this final section, CON seems to suggest that I simply "believe it therefore it is true", as if I have asserted that morals are objective without any good reasons. However, in my opening arguments, I gave several good reasons why morals are indeed objective. Furthermore, CON says "Postulating god as a measure is illogical as the only data to add to this ruler comes from what believers opined was the mind and method of god", however, this debate is titled "Morality is given by the biblical God", therefore, I do not have to give all my reasons for thinking God really does exist, I only have to show that the Christian God is a better foundation for morality than what CON has to offer. I think I have done that. CON says its simpler to just go with subjective morals, but I'm not really interested in what is simple, I want what is true. Hopefully CON can respect that.
CON then asks that I show an "objective source for god". In my opening argument I state that God's nature, on the Christian worldview, is the paradigm of moral goodness, and therefore is a perfect source for grounding objective moral values. CON also tries to deny my argument by saying "God is not a fact, and therefore not a good reason to propose objective morality." But if you notice, my argument did not presuppose the existence of God. In fact, I first argued for objective morality, and then my conclusion was that "God exists". So this rejection of my argument simply fails.
As I've stated several times throughout my response, CON fails to recognize the distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology. How we come to know moral value is an epistemological question, and I'm perfectly find conceding that evolutionary processes is the answer to that question. However, its fallacious to conclude that because we come to know moral values through evolutionary processes, they therefore are essentially illusions. The ontology of moral values is a different question, in order to deny the conclusion that morals are objective, CON is going to have to refute the arguments I gave in favor of them in my opening argument. CON tries to essentially show that because different people and animals disagree on moral values, that therefore they must be subjective. I have shown that this is fallacious logic by giving the example of the Universe and how with that too, we can disagree, but that doesn't mean the Universe is subjective. CON will have to show why this is not fallacious if he wants his argument to hold up.
And lastly, CON's opening syllogism is not a valid one, as even I agree with his first two premises, but that in no way binds me to his fallacious conclusion.
I look forward to seeing your response to my arguments.
I would now like to waste some room by trying to save face.
P1: Moral behavior is affected by selective pressures including environment and social.
I will not explain this much further as Pro has already accepted this premise. But let us acknowledge that it is possible to understand the origin and explanation of moral behavior. If we agree that morals indeed adapt and change and vary, any proposed objectivity is merely an opinion. Objective is void of opinion, but opinion is not void of objective assumptions.
P2: For objective morality to be true we would need to show either an Objective law giver, or an objective law.
Evidence for the "god", is inconclusive. We can measure effects on nature, but if the cause is beyond nature, all we are left with is subjective. The supernatural cannot be verified for if it were it would no longer be super, but just natural. A god, or a creator of objective morality is very difficult, bordering on impossible, to prove or disprove. It is merely an assumption or an opinion, no matter how widely it is believed or accepted. Any groups ultimate truth, to other groups is just faith based assertions. Any believer could say that it is true whether or not you believe, but is that true? Why? Is that not ultimately just opinion?
Nothing can be objectively moral without a perception and opinion that it is in fact objectively moral. In order for something to be RIGHT or WRONG, we must consider it. We must justify it. All consideration and justification is based on our minds, our experiences, our development. It is an epistemology in a sense, and not an ontology. There is no underwriter of the "truth" of a moral claim, there is only an explanation to how that claim may have arisen.
C: Morality is subjective.
In absence of any way to prove the existence of an ultimate source for objective morality, or that any moral stance is indeed objective, there can be no objective morality save for a subjective opinion of the ontology of such.
If P1 is accepted, that morality or the source of such can arise through evolution and social development, we can conclude a logical and natural source for morality or moral behavior.
If P2 is true, and there is no way to identify either an objective morality or a giver of such morality, it is invalid to assume such morality exists.
Pro stated that objective morality is intuitively perceived. (P1-1) This seems like an indefensible claim. He is indicating that we all possess objective moral values and we are all aware of it. If these were objective; agreed or disagreed; we should all be able to share what those specific values were. And since they are perceived, if they did not line up with those of all others; the values are not objective! Would any line up across populations, or history?
In P1-2, Pro challenged that one objectively moral truth would prove objective morality. In his Ruse quote, it could follow that there are situations where 2+2=5, and conceivably where the heinous act committed to a child is indeed not "wrong". If it were something that were not possible in the first place, it wouldn't be morally wrong. It simply being a possibility is enough to turn it into a moral truth? What if it were required by every being in order to survive? Is it then objectively wrong? The only way we can label it objectively wrong is to first have an opinion on it. This can be further enforced by emotion. You can convince yourself that it must be objectively wrong because you do not want to consider a situation where it would be good. But not being wrong, does not make something right. Not being bad, does not make something good.
In P1-3, Pro quotes W.L.Craig regarding the gradual discovery of moral values not precluding their objectivity. What objectivity? If you desire to believe morals are objective, than so be it. What you chose to believe, or what your opinion is, has no bearing on what we can prove or substantiate. We can only postulate and opine objective morality through desire and philosophy. It can only exist as true within our personal thoughts. The nature of something and our assumption about what that nature is are different things, as is assuming that something necessarily has a "nature" that must be considered in explanation. The ontological argument assumes a metaphysical importance to a phenomena that is explained through nature. I can provide a metaphysical response to why we have morals, but the importance is in how they came to be; which can be understood regardless why. The why in this case is only important to the person who posits a purpose or god.
I can agree without contest to Pro in P2.
Pro drew up a comparison between the objectivity of scientific knowledge to that of morals. Science is a process of discovery. No truth is assumed to the absolute, even if assumed to exist. These scientific truths apply to the universe, our morality does not. Whether we think something is a morally corrupt behavior has no impact, aside from our perceived sense of right and wrong. Disagreeing in science can result in one being right, and one possibly being wrong. Disagreeing in a moral arena can lead to two different ideas of what is true. It is an illogical comparison.
Pro is not interested in what is simple, but rather what is true. Lets look at Occam's Razor. 'Among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.' Pros arguments may indeed work, but that does not make them more true. He presents a complicated argument to "prove" objective morality, which "proves" the existence of god, which is naturally the Christian god because that has a solid foundation. Even if this seemingly explains morality, it further complicates the problem.
Pro further states that: "God's nature... is the paradigm of moral goodness, and therefore is a perfect source for grounding objective moral values." The problem I have with this is "God's nature" is entirely left to assumptions. You must assume the sources are reliable, you must assume further that the sources are accurate, you must assume the sources are correct, you must then interpret which parts actually explain this god's nature. So every bit of this moral grounding is dependent on opinion, assumption, and faith. My argument was meant to indicate that whether you start with morality or end with god, or start with god and end with morality it makes no difference. It is circular, and you cannot seemingly have one without the other. Therefore, one cannot prove the other.
William Lane Craig wrote, in a response to a question posted, on reasonablefaith:
"I'm convinced that keeping the distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology clear is the most important task in formulating and defending a moral argument for god's existence of the type I defend." 
Is it apparent that even Craig sees a weakness in his argument?
Craig, in the same response, said "The salient point is that God"s commands constitute our moral duties. That is a claim of moral ontology. How we come to know our moral duties is a matter of moral epistemology and is irrelevant to the argument." 
This is incorrect. You cannot make an ontological claim and ignore the epistemology. He avoids the epistemology to his ontological claim that "God's commands constitute our moral duties." But how is that known? How is it justified?
So basically, without justification it cannot be used to root moral values to god, or used to prove the existence of god. This is what Pro has attempted to do, and therefore pros conclusion is refuted even without direct refutation of P1 or P2.
I hope this is understandable after my limit shortening.
I do think its a bit unfair to that I get an additional rebuttal, therefore I will try to make this rather brief.
CON asserts that "Evidence for the 'god' is inconclusive", yet CON fails to actually refute my argument for a God. Couldn't this argument be considered evidence? CON tries to simply hand-wave my entire argument by stating that the God conclusion is "bordering on impossible" and based merely on my "assumption or an opinion", yet no where in my entire argument do I merely state my opinion. I give reasons for each of my premises, and my conclusion logically follows from those premises.
CON seems to think that if there were objective moral values, we would be able to point out exactly which of those values are good, and which are bad. Ironically, I have pointed out specific values that humans generally agree on. We generally agree that things like murder and rape are bad, and things like selflessness and equality are good. So it seems to me that we can in fact point to certain things that are morally good and those that are morally bad. Furthermore, the fact that we disagree on some of these things does absolutely nothing to invalidate my argument. I tried to show an anology to how scientists disagree on the nature of the Universe, yet that doesn't mean we conclude that the Universe is a subjective illusion that only exists in the subjective minds of its observers. CON tries to show that this analogy fails by saying that "The nature of something and our assumption about what that nature is are different things", but that is exactly my point. Just because we have opinions about what the nature of something is, and we sometimes come to slightly different conclusions, doesn't mean we can make a conclusion about the actual nature of that thing. This hold true for the nature of morality as well. Our fallible perception of moral values doesn't mean those moral values are simply illusions and only exist in the mind of creatures. The fact that we hold each other to a certain standard in which we generally agree on and hold each other to is evidence to an objective set of moral values in which we are all appealing to. CON wants to deny an intuitive knowledge of an objective morality by giving obscure reasons like "we must first have an opinion on it" and emotions are in play, but I hardly see how this effects my argument.
Lastly, CON finishes the rebuttal by trying to show that Willaim Lane Craig himself points out a flaw in the moral argument similar to the one I've presented. The quote CON produces however is not an admission by Craig of a flaw in the argument, rather it is a warning to anyone defending the argument that knowing the difference between epistemology and ontology is crucial. He warns people of this because if they do not understand the difference, they will make the very mistake that CON has done in his argument which is to think that because evolution is the way in which we come to know moral values, we therefore must conclude that they are not objective. Craig is pleading with people not to make this mistake. He warns us that the question of moral ontology is a different question altogether and whether evolution or any other natural process plays a part in how we come to know it makes not the slightest bit of difference. CON tries to show Craig as being wrong about this by questioning Craig's statement that "God's commands constitute our moral duties", however CON fails to realize that Craig is not offering God's commands as the grounds for moral objectivity. As Craig says right before the quote CON brought forth:
“By saying [that objective moral duties are constituted by God's commands], is not one already providing an argument for Revealed Theology and thus making an argument for moral epistemology?” So saying will, indeed, imply that one of the ways we could come to know our moral duties is via a (scriptural) revelation of God’s commands. But that isn’t to say that the only way of coming to know our moral duties is through such a means." 
When Craig says that God's commands 'constitute' our moral duties, he is saying that we may come to know objective moral duties through his commands which are revealed to us in the Christian Bible. This therefore, is an epistemology. The reason Craig points out that this claim is an ontological one is because if the nature of morals are indeed objective, and they are grounded by God, then God's commands necessarily must consist of those moral values. CON simply doesn't understand Craigs point.
CON, I thank you very much for such a great debate. I hope to debate you again sometime, possibly on a different subject.
No votes have been placed for this debate.
You are not eligible to vote on this debate
This debate has been configured to only allow voters who meet the requirements set by the debaters. This debate either has an Elo score requirement or is to be voted on by a select panel of judges.