The Instigator
KristophKP
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
Contradiction
Con (against)
Winning
22 Points

Objective Morality is not God's Work

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after 6 votes the winner is...
Contradiction
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/20/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,613 times Debate No: 17593
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (23)
Votes (6)

 

KristophKP

Pro

This is a topic that never ceases to thrill me and I would love to share it with someone with an equally interested mind. I'm sure you've been through the run of the mill with the subjective v. objective debate and so this should offer a new look at things.

My argument: Objective morality exists as our means of determining that which is best for our survival.

God: an undefinable entity.

Morality: a sense of duty in distinguishing between good actions and bad actions, where a good action is anything that promotes the individual's interests and the bad anything that goes against

I suspect that my definitions may not sit well with most people and your R1 response should thus include any concerns that you may have. Any further clarifications that you would like to make should be made in R1 as well.

I've categorized the question as one of philosophy but religious inquiries are more than welcome.
Contradiction

Con

To begin with, I'd like to than KristophKP for participating in this debate. I look forward to a thoughtful exchange!

In this debate, I will defend the following argument:

1. If objective moral facts exist, then God exists.
2. Objective moral facts exist [Not in dispute]
3. Therefore, God exists.

Seeing how both myself and my opponent hold to moral objectivism, the second premise is not up for dispute. Instead, the central issue is over the truth of P1 and whether or not God adequately explains the existence of objective moral facts. As such, I will argue for the truth of the first premise by showing that God is the best explanation for morality.

First, some preliminaries. By "objective," I refer to the idea that moral facts are true independent of human opinion. That is, moral facts are not grounded in our thinking or deciding them. By "moral facts," I refer to moral values and moral duties. Values refer to what is good and bad. Duties, by contrast, refer to what is obligatory. As such, I will argue that God is the best explanation of moral values and duties. My arguments will also incorporate responses to Pro's position, which is that moral facts are grounded in evolutionary naturalism. Finally, when I refer to God, I am not referring to the deity of any specific religious tradition, but rather a generalized conception of deity which is thought of as being maximally great.

Moral Values

1. God best explains the existence of moral values

Consider the following values: love, joy, peace, kindness, and patience (Substitute whatever value you please). What grounds their existence? Suppose, as Pro does, that we ground them in evolution such that we can reduce these values to something like "Peace is good because it is advantageous to our survival." On this understanding, something is good insofar as it has survival value, which is itself good. However, this ends up explaining nothing -- one can simply ask "Why is survival value good, and what grounds that?" Simply explaining moral values in terms of evolutionary concepts does not remove the need for an ultimate explanation of the good. Evolution can only give us a proximate grounding of morality -- not an ultimate grounding. We can see that Pro's position -- even if true -- does not in any way remove the need for a theistic explanation of morality.

What then ultimately grounds the existence of moral values? It would seem that the best candidate is a mind, as moral values seem to be properties of persons. What would love and joy even mean apart from persons who embody these values? It seems wholly implausible to say that moral values exist as platonic forms. Writes John Rist:

"Plato's account of the 'Forms' as moral exemplars leaves them in metaphysical limbo. They would exist as essentially intelligible ideas even if there were no mind, human or divine, to recognize them: as objects of thought, not mere constructs or concepts. But, as Augustine learned... the notion of an eternal objection of thought without a ceaseless thinking subject is unintelligible." [1]

The most plausible option is to therefore ground the existence of moral values in the character of God, a supreme person who serves as a moral exemplar and the very paradigm of goodness.

2. God best explains human dignity and rights

Not only must an adequate moral theory explain the existence of moral values, it must also provide an explanation of how these values are instantiated in human beings. Consider human diginity and rights -- how can an atheistic framework account for such a phenomenon? As Paul Copan points out: "Intrinsically valuable, thinking persons do not come from impersonal, nonconscious, unguided, valueless processes over time." [2] How can valuable rights-bearing persons come to emerge from a process which is intrinisically valueless and amoral?

Theism offers a ready explanation for both human diginity and rights: they were created in the image of a supremely valuable being and were endowed with intrinsic value.

Moral Duties

1. God best explains moral duties

Moral duties have to do with obligation: what we should or should not do. Obligations are imposed upon us by a system of social relationships. Moral duties therefore are based on commands from persons -- there is no such thing as a duty in isolation, nor are there such things to duties to abstract objects. The existence of objective moral duties therefore rests on the fact that there is a supremely authoritative person (God) who issues binding moral commands upon us. The fact that this person is supreme explains why moral duties are objective, and the fact that this person is authoritative explains why moral duties have their obligatory nature. Put another way, moral duties are commands, and commands come from minds. The ground of objective moral duties must therefore be a supremely authoritative mind.

Grounding moral duties in terms of evolution is inadequate, for it shares similar problems with attempting to ground moral values in evolution.. As Greg Koukl and Frank Beckwith note:

"One question really needs to be answered: Why shouldn't the chimp (or a human, for that matter) be selfish? The evolutionary answer might be that when we're selfish, we hurt the group. That answer, however, presumes another moral value, that we ought to be concerned about the welfare of the group. But why should that concern us? They would say beause if the group doesn't survive, then the species doesn't survive. But why should we care about the survival of the species? Here's the problem. The responses intended to explain morality ultimately depend on some prior moral notion to hold them together." [3]

2. God best explains moral responsibility

In order to be able to act in a morally significant way, one must have genuine freedom of the will. As Immanuel Kant put it, "ought" implies "can." We cannot be held responsible for acts which are not under our control. When a rock falls down a cliff and crushes a hiker, we do not hold the rock morally blameworthy because the rock had no control over whether or not it was going to fall. It did not "decide" to fall. Moral responsibility therefore presupposes the existence of free will. Yet how can such a thing exist in the atheistic framework? On the atheistic picture, we are no different from rocks -- our actions are governed not by an immaterial self which is genuinely free, but by prior natural conditions governed by natural laws. Thus, when someone murders another, he does not "choose" to murder any more than a rock "chooses" to fall down a cliff. We cannot be held responsible for any of our actions, however virtuous or blameworthy. On atheism, the universe "might be a moral place, but how can human beings be morally free creatures, free either to obey or disregard the moral law... Moral facts have no purchase unless we have moral freedom." [4]

By contrast, moral responsibility is best explained by positing the existence of a supreme being who created the world and endowed its inhabitants with the necessary freedm to act in a morally significant way. Moral responsibility, therefore, is most at home within a theistic framework.

Conclusion

In light of the arguments presented above, it seems that theism is the superior explanation. It explains moral facts in a manner which is more plausible than atheism. God is thus the best explanation of objective morality.
_________

Sources

1. John Rist, Real Ethics (Cambridge University Press: 2002)
2. Paul Copan, "The Moral Argument for God's Existence" in William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God (Baker: 2010)
3. Gregory Koukl and Francis J. Beckwith, Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly in Mid-Air (Baker: 1998) 163
4. David Baggett and Jerry Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (OUP: 2011) 23
Debate Round No. 1
KristophKP

Pro

It is indeed my opponent’s P1 that is in question. Unfortunately my opponent and I differ in one regard of his preliminary assessment. It is by no means a grand difference but it will be up to the audience to decide which of us presented the fairer epistemological representation. By objective I refer to the idea that moral facts are true independent of varying opinions, but that only through humans are they defined. An objective moral code, for the purposes of the naturalist, describes actions that promote his survival as being good, while actions that go against his survival as being bad.

A warning to our audience: Con has anticipated my argument and countered it, thereby seeking to weaken the framework of my argument before it has even been presented. “Peace is good because it is advantageous to our survival” are not my words and are his own interpretation of what he has doubtlessly faced before in this subject. Please keep an open eye for any such further attempts at debasing my yet to be formed arguments.

It must also be noted that my opponent often uses the word atheism to cloud my position.
Let me clear: This is not an argument about God’s existence. This is an argument about whether or not moral standards are God’s creations. For all we know God threw a set of die and let the odds decide on the parameters of our world. For all we know God itself is subject to these laws. For all we know...who are we kidding? We know nothing about God and basing morality on something that we know nothing about is treason against the human mind. My opponent has cast his argument against the faceless scruples of atheism, something that was never part of my stance.

1. The individual is his own ultimate end

Man is the highest of values—to nothing else can be attributed a higher measure of worth. Love, joy, peace, kindness and patience cannot be valued for their own sake. I ask of my audience to consider what force of nature could best explain our valuing of ourselves? Is it because some intrinsic external force has instructed us of our own importance, the same external force that my opponent has agreed is an unknowable entity? Or would it be more rational to explain that we as humans have reasoned our own importance because pleasure is good and pain is bad, and that we are its recipients? Or, to put it another way, that we are the measure of this universe? The latter puts an emphasis on the individual’s need to survive.

My opponent claims that there must be some ultimate explanation for the distinction between the good and the evil. However, when does an explanation become an ultimate one? When my opponent says so? Why doesn’t it suffice to say that humans are capable of deriving a moral objective code that depends on their survival? Our need for survival is observable—God isn’t.

My opponent brings into the fold the discussion of Plato’s ‘Forms’. I would have thought that my opponent could stand upon his own reasoning skills to strengthen his argument. How am I to defend myself against the insertion of a multitude of other individuals? For example, I believe that all knowledge is derived empirically—Plato’s Forms by necessity cannot apply to my understanding of knowledge. However, this is an issue for an entirely different debate, and I would hope that my opponent rescinds this as an argument so that we may focus on the issue at hand.

2. God best explains human dignity and rights

It appears that I must argue against Mr. Copan in this debate as well as my intended opponent. Intrinsic value can indeed come from a random, non-guided process. Our slow, gradual, grinding evolution from a mere atomic soup gave forth to our cognitive realization that we are our own end. Why must our intrinsic value come from an external source? Why can it not be something that exists due to our coming of age? Our need to survive defines the objective good and has given us our system of values because it necessitated them. We cannot survive unless we value our own existence.

3. Our survival is our moral duty

This is my opponent’s train of thought: Duty is a social responsibility to others. Duty arrives to us in form of commands from others. Therefore the existence of objective moral duties rests on the existence of God, because duty only arrives to us by commands. But can duty really only be assigned to the responsibilities we have towards others? Do we not have a duty to ourselves, that duty being the need to survive? My opponent then claimed that “the fact that this person is supreme explains why moral duties are objective, and the fact that this person is authoritative explains why moral duties have their obligatory nature.” Basically, my opponent uses a defining characteristic of God to explain that moral duties are objective. Have we not already outlined that God is an enigmatic entity?

The introduction of Koukl and Beckwith’s inquiry against naturalism is one of those examples where my opponent has anticipated the nature of my naturalistic argument. Have I claimed that individuals of a species cannot be selfish for fear of harming the species? Of course not, it is yet again another anticipatory attack. To be fair, however, this is indeed a strong objection against naturalism. Why indeed should an individual care for the survival for his species? There’s a simple answer: because the individual fares better if he cooperates with the rest of his species. The individual’s own survival is dramatically affected by his species’ survival, hence why the individual would shy away from bringing injury to others of his species.

4. Moral responsibility—to whom?

If my opponent and our audience have Microsoft Word then I would recommend that they type into it the word duty, right-click the word, and then search the available synonyms—responsibility is the first match. Regardless of this, I will counter my opponent’s argument via responsibility.

Again my opponent attacks my argument by attacking atheism—an egregious tactic that has been his staple thus far. But my opponent is right when he says that moral responsibility does apply to an inanimate object, and I would add that he’s likely okay with extending that to most animals as well. But why does free will prove that God is the reason for objective morality? Again, my opponent says that it is because a supreme being gave us such powers. I would like to contend, however, that free will came along with the realization that we are our own end, which has been shown to be in accordance with our need to survive. Knowing the difference between good and bad for our own survival necessitates our understanding that we can choose between the two.

Conclusion

Recall my earlier definition of God: an entity that is without definition. My opponent did not deny it, and so our audience must thus choose between my opponent’s ‘because I said God said so’ or ‘because the individual is his own end, that end being survival.’ Note that my opponent went from attacking atheism and his own interpretation of what naturalism is to saying that God exists, it’s a fact, and you might as well accept it.
Contradiction

Con

Pro's response, while grandiose, is short on substance. As we will see, he doesn't actually respond to any of the arguments I offered. Rather, he dodges most of my criticisms and engages in unnecessary nit-picking.

Some Preliminary Comments About the Debate

My opponent begins with two nit-picks. First, he seems irked with my pre-emptive rebuttal to his position (Which grounds ethics in evolutionary considerations). Yet what exactly is problematic with this? He outlined his position in R1 when he defined morality, and as such I responded in kind. Moreover, given that this is a debate setting in which one is supposed to respond to the claims of the other side, Pro's claim is simply unwarranted.

Second, he takes issue of my use of the term "atheism" to describe his position. But this is entirely warranted. Given that my opponent's position is that God is not required to ground objective moral facts, my describing his position as being an atheistic one is perfectly warranted. "Atheistic" in this context is synonymous to "Naturalistic." But, since my opponent has complained, I will go ahead and use the term "naturalistic" to describe his ethic.

God Best Explains Moral Values

Pro never responds to my argument here. He begins by asserting that man is the highest of values. Yet this glances over the main problem. First, why think that values exist to begin with? What grounds these values? Saying that man is the highest of values doesn't account for why values themselves exist.

My criticism of evolutionary ethics is likewise completely ignored. Recall earlier that in response to evolutionary ethics, I stated that could simply ask: "Why is survival value good, and what grounds that?" Simply explaining moral values in terms of evolutionary concepts does not remove the need for an ultimate explanation of the good. Evolution can only give us a proximate grounding of morality -- not an ultimate grounding. We can see that Pro's position -- even if true -- does not in any way remove the need for a theistic explanation of morality."

Moreover, Pro misconstrues my position. My mention of Plato's forms was only done in the context of an argument against moral platonism. I do not myself hold that view, but was merely giving a pre-emptive response. Even worse, Pro appeals to a self-defeating standard in response to my argument. He writes "I believe that all knowledge is derived empirically." How does Pro know this? That very claim to knowledge itself cannot be an empirical statement about empirical reality, but a philosophical claim about reality. Pro's claim therefore undermines itself. This is a patently self-defeating argument.

God Best Explains Human Dignity and Rights

Once again, Pro completely fails to engage the argument here. He writes: "Intrinsic value can indeed come from a random, non-guided process." But this is absurd! How can value come from valueless processes? Unless value is already present from the get-go, then to say that intrinsic value and diginity can arise from such a process is to say that one can get something from nothing. To claim this is worse than magic. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least there is the hat. Pro's claim, however, reduces to the idea that intrinsic moral value can come out of thin air.

Just as something cannot come from nothing, value cannot come from non-value. Thus, if humans have equal value and dignity, there must be a further wellspring of value from which our value is derived from.

God Best Explains Moral Duties

Pro's response to this argument boils down to two points: Duty can arise out of responsibilities we have toward ourselves, and God cannot be the ground of duties because God is undefinable (See R1 for how he defines God). The second argument is simply self-refuting. To define God as undefinable is to engage in an act of definition, and hence God cannot be defined as undefinable.

His second argument can be easily dismissed. His first argument also faces grave problems. He asks "Do we not have a duty to ourselves, that duty being the need to survive?" This is inadequate as a ground of objective moral duties. This may be an acceptable ground for duties toward oneself, but it utterly fails as a ground for duties toward others. Moreover, this fails to satisfy the criteria for an objective ethic, for if the ground of moral duties are self-issued commands, then this reduces to nothing more to moral relativism.

My opponent acknowledges Koukl and Beckwith's criticism as "indeed a strong objection against naturalism" -- yet he doesn't respond to it at all. Why should someone care about the survival fo the species? Pro answers "Because the individual fares better if the cooperates with the rest of his species." But why should one care about his own survival? What makes survival good? As Koukl and Beckwith write: "The responses intended to explain morality ultimately depend on some prior moral notion to hold them together. [Emphasis mine]" [1] Whatever response Pro gives, we could simply respond with a Moorerean open-question argument. Hence, all Pro can ever do is give a proximate grounding of morality as opposed to an ultimate grounding.

God is the Best Explanation of Moral Responsibility

Pro goes off on a tangent here and completely ignores my argument. Recall that I argued that metaphysical naturalism could not provide the adequate pre-conditions for a meaningful framework of objective morality. Pro's response simply nit-picks the term I used. Atheism or naturalism aside, my argument applies to both. The only thing that closely resembles a response to my argument is when my opponent said that "free will came along with the realization that we are our own end." This is obviously incoherent. If we are determined beings, then free will does not "emerge" at a certain level of intelligence. Recall earlier that I argued that on naturalism, " we are no different from rocks -- our actions are governed not by an immaterial self which is genuinely free, but by prior natural conditions governed by natural laws." If we are purely physical beings goverened by natural laws, then how can we be free in any meaningful sense? But since moral responsibility requires freedom, we are unable to act in any morally significant way given naturalism.

In order to account for libertarian free agency, Pro must introduce something akin to a soul which is able to perform undetermined actions. Yet this is anathema to naturalism, and thus it remains elusive as to how naturalism could account for moral responsibility.

Conclusion

Pro has utterly failed to show that naturalism can account for objective moral facts. An evolutionary-based ethic is fraught with problems, as it rests on prior moral notions which are not themselves grounded in natural facts. Moreover (and this is another argument against evolutionary ethics), it confuses an is with an ought. Mere facts of biology are descriptive -- one cannot derive moral conclusions from purely descriptive facts. The philosopher G. E. Moore referred to the these two criticisms as the open-question argument and the naturalistic fallacy. Evolutionary ethics falls victim to both.

His responses to my arguments have been found lacking. Most of his criticisms ignore or misunderstand my arguments completely. Additionally, several of his responses are patently self-defeating (ie: empiricism and defining God as "undefinable"). As such, Pro's case has been found wanting. I urge a vote for Con.

Sources

1. Gregory Koukl and Francis J. Beckwith, Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly in Mid-Air (Baker: 1998) 163
Debate Round No. 2
KristophKP

Pro

According to my opponent, there’s nothing wrong with slanting a debate by pre-emptively introducing your own extensions of your opponent’s argument. I would like my audience to understand the fallacy that lies behind attacking of a straw man. If my opponent cannot admit that this is indeed what he has done then he sacrifices his integrity for the sake of being in the right. I would not throw onto my opponent the views of C.S. Lewis, for example, and yet my opponent has done exactly that by throwing the stigmatized term atheism into the fray. I have not denied the existence of god(s) and atheism is thus inappropriate.

Moral Values—Naturalism Explained

My opponent’s claim that I have so far failed to provide a strong case for the origin of human values by naturalism is fair. He has rightfully asked me “What grounds these values?” and I will answer it to the best of my abilities. He also asks “Why is survival good” and I will address this query as well.

Existence is all we can know. We cannot understand a state of non-existence. Our functional understanding of survival is experience by sensation, namely via pain or pleasure. We cannot deny our natural aversion to pain or attraction to pleasure. How are these derived? Is it because a Creator decreed them as such, or because they have developed as measures of our livelihood? This is the core question at hand.

Why is it that eating food is good? Has God built as an inherit value that all humans should accept as their moral standard? Is God truly a satisfying answer to our need to eat and our enjoyment of it? I believe that it makes far more sense to say that there is a direct correlation between pleasure and survival based on the logic it merits. It makes sense that I’d enjoy doing something that furthers my life. It makes sense that I’d avoid doing anything harmful to my health. This leads me to my opponent’s second question, “Why is survival good.”

I must essentially explain that the slow, gradual coming of humanity gave birth to morality, a morality that has been versed in many forms but always come back to the human being as a starting point. How did we ever arrive at a concept of good and bad? Somehow a contrast evolved, one that differentiates between actions that are beneficial and those that are harmful. This is morality at its core—the distinction between pain and pleasure. My opponent’s question could also be phrased as ‘why is survival our standard of morality’, and I reason that it is so because we fear the alternative,

Epistemology—One Cannot Know Without Having First Sensed

How do I know that knowledge is derived empirically? How do I know anything? This may as well be our starting point. Everything I know stems from an initial observation. To claim that all knowledge is derived empirically is absolutely an empirical derivation. I would have zero concepts of epistemology had I been born without any senses. I wouldn’t even have a concept of self. The only manner in which we can establish knowledge is through the contrasting of ourselves from our environment. My opponent wouldn’t know what a god was if he’d been born without sight, hearing, touch, smell or taste. His mind would be much like a caterpillar’s cocoon, a shell from which he would never erupt. Our sense of self, and in fact, our sense of everything, depends entirely on the first realization that we are different than our environment.

In short, every belief we hold relies on prior premises, which rely on observations of our natural world. I look forward to reading my opponent’s rebuttal on this matter.


Blank Moral Check

Why is it so absurd to suggest that value can come from a valueless process? Why must a blueprint exist? Who conceived the idea of value? Man did. Who is continually re-writing the meanings of virtue and value? Man. Our morality is an ever-changing facet of human relations that has dynamically changed throughout the years. Some cultures of our past saw human sacrifice as the ultimate divine offering, something that I’m sure my opponent would agree as being despicable. Why can man continually re-vamp everything that we know to be good? The answer is because he has a blank slate to work with. The standards of morality that he ultimately should follow, however, are objective in that he cannot escape the necessity of his survival. This perspective doesn’t come out of thin air, but rather from our existence itself--it is the moral standard the objective ethics that I have outlined thus far.


God Best Explains Moral Duties

“To define God as indefinable is to engage in an act of definition, and hence God cannot be defined as indefinable.” That’s quite true. Considering that this was a parting quaint comment of mine this should be ignored by our audience. I was hoping you’d assimilate it with Bertrand’s Paradox, and I’m sure that it has some philosophical appeal to you.

“This {the need to survive} is inadequate as a ground of objective moral duties.”

Why? You claim that it is sufficient for the individual, but not for our moral obligations/duties to others. However, I’ve already put forward the idea that our survival as individuals is bolstered by a harmonious society. Overpopulation will put an end to this. People already fight for scraps of food around the world, and it’s only going to worsen with time. When people become desperate—and I mean emaciated hulks of skin and bones—they will do anything for food. Even one’s mother is not safe in the direst of situations. As happy as we may be in a society with others when the supermarkets are open, we are ultimately guided by the moral standard of survival.

Koukl and Beckwith

Here is your prior moral notion: we exist. All that follows is a necessity of the continuation of that existence.


Morality and Free Will

Con has argued that naturalism does not allow for free will, and I will argue that it doesn’t matter for our purposes. I have put forth the notion that we do not get to choose the fact of our existence. I had no say in the matter of my creation. Everything else that comes after is the consequence of the pleasure/pain dichotomy. I do not mean to say that we are not free to act against our standard, but that this will almost always be unpleasant.

I understand the nature of my opponent’s free will dilemma and it seems he’s concerned with whether free will could have been derived without external influences. This should be addressed in a different debate. We don’t have the space to give it its proper due. If my opponent consents, I will construct such a debate next week and name him as the opponent.


Conclusion

I would like to thank my opponent for this debate. He has taught me much and I truly appreciate it. I hope that he hasn’t taken my inquisitive arguing as a portrayal of arrogance. I respect him for his ideas and will gladly engage him in further contests.

I urge our audience to use reason in their decision. My opponent uses an unknowable entity as his explanation for the existence of objective morality, but he is only fitting what he has observed to a construct that has no empirical worth. It’s akin to the watchmaker argument, to say that there must be a creator for the existing of morality. He cannot show you God, only his supposed work. I aimed to do better than this and it will be up to our audience to judge whether I succeeded. I argued that we should look at the facts of life and use them to establish a foundation for objective morality. That we are driven to survive cannot be refuted, and so this should be the standard for all morality. I have chosen to believe in what I have observed instead of using a maligned cause and effect approach that my opponent touted as his banner. He argues that our moral ends must have a creator, that they would be worthless to us if they didn’t. However, reason has paved my way to believing otherwise: the only standard that can ever be allowed is my own existence, for it is all that I have.

Contradiction

Con

My opponent charges me with attacking a strawman of his position, yet he provides absolutely no claims to support this baseless assertion. A strawman argument is a deliberate caricature of one's position that is attacked in place of his actual argument, yet I did no such thing in pre-emptively attacking his argument. Indeed, I simply followed his own definition of morality (As offered in R1) and showed why it is incoherent. As we will see, my opponent does not attempt to respond to most of the criticisms I offered last around. Let me start by bringing up two particularly devestating objections.

Self-Refutation

1. Empiricism

Pro espouses a form of empiricism to which all knowledge is empirical. Accordingly, terms like "God" are meaningless, since the only knowledge we can have is empirical. Yet this is patently self-refuting, the very claim that all knowledge is derived empirically (and can only be empirical) cannot be proven empirically. Indeed, this is a philosophical presupposition about reality. Moreover, it completely ignores the fact that we have many beliefs which are not empirical in nature. Beliefs such as "contradictions cannot be true," "1.5+1.5=3," or "Truth exists" are not and cannot be empirical by nature. Empirical investigation, by contrast, presupposes these beliefs as binding in its very methodology and thus cannot be their ground.

2. Defining God

Pro defines God as being undefinable and appeals to this as a defense against many of my criticisms. This is self-refuting, since by defining God as undefinable, one has engaged in an act of definition. It would be like uttering in English the sentence "I cannot speak a word of English." Pro attempted absolutely no response to this, aside from a snide remark to Bertrand's paradox (Which is simply a sophistic quip that has absolutely no relevence to this).

God is the Best Explanation for Moral Values

Pro admits that it is fair charge that he has "failed to provide a strong case for the origin of human values by naturalism." His latest response reinforces this notion, as it is wholly inadquate. Recall Pro's attempt to ground morality in survival benefit. In response, once can simply say "But why is survival good?" The problem is that any attempt to ground morality in survival benefit rests on some prior notion of the good, and hence survival benefit cannot ground value.

Though he asks a lot of questions, Pro doesn't attempt to answer any of them. In essence, he has no response to my argument against evolutionary ethics. He writes, "My opponent’s question could also be phrased as ‘why is survival our standard of morality’, and I reason that it is so because we fear the alternative." Yet this provides absolutely no grounding for the existence of moral values. How exactly is "because we fear the alternative" supposed to ground the existence of objective value? Pro's position simply collapses into moral relativism.

He does attempt to distinguish between pain and pleasure, arguing that it makes better sense to say that we act the way we do because of these considerations. Yet this fails as a ground of moral values. Avoidance of plain and maximization of pleasure may be a fine reason why we act morally (Indeed, Pro connects it with survival), but it isn't sufficient as a ground of moral value. Moreover, simply saying that this is better than the theistic explanation does not make it so. Pro provided absolutely no reason why the theistic explanation is a bad one.

God Best Explains Equal Human Dignity and Rights

Pro's reasoning here is simply absurd. He writes: "Why is it so absurd to suggest that value can come from a valueless process?" The answer is simple: Something can't come from nothing. Contrary to what Pro suggests, if you have no money in your bank account, then writing a check for $100 will not magically create it from thin air. Once again, how can value emerge from pure valuelessness? Pro's "explanation" seems to be an appeal to moral relativism ("Why can man continually re-vamp everything that we know to be good?") -- yet the debate topic is over objective morality. It is therefore wholly inappropiate to appeal to moral relativism as a ground of moral objectivism. This is a laughable position if there ever was.

As I said in the previous around, Pro's position is worse than magic. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least there is the hat. Pro's claim, however, reduces to the idea that intrinsic moral value can come out of thin air. You can't get something from nothing.

Once again, how does naturalism ground equal human diginity and human rights? Pro provided nothing except an appeal to relativism. Moreover, Pro has not shown that God is not the best explanation.

God Best Explains Moral Duties

Pro provides absolutely no response to this point. He simply reiterates his claim that morality is based on survival. Yet he has not shown how this position can avoid the infamous open-question argument. Recall the quotation I gave from Greg Koukl and Frank Beckwith:

"One question really needs to be answered: Why shouldn't the chimp (or a human, for that matter) be selfish? The evolutionary answer might be that when we're selfish, we hurt the group. That answer, however, presumes another moral value, that we ought to be concerned about the welfare of the group. But why should that concern us? They would say because if the group doesn't survive, then the species doesn't survive. But why should we care about the survival of the species? Here's the problem. The responses intended to explain morality ultimately depend on some prior moral notion to hold them together." [1]

Pro still hasn't responded to this. His only attempt is to say "We exist." What? How does "We exist" ground morality? How do we derive duties from "We exist." Duties are commands, and commands are features of minds. "We exist" is simply a proposition that has no authoritative force to derive a command from. Moreover, why is our existence good? And what grounds that? Pro hasn't explained anything, he has merely appealed to proximate explanations when what we're looking for is an ultimate explanation.

Moreover, Pro has not shown that God is not the best explanation for moral duties.

God Best Explains Moral Responsibility

Remarkably, Pro seems to concede my argument, arguing that it "doesn't matter" that naturalism doesn't permit free will. However, without free will, then one cannot have moral responsibility. Without moral responsibility, then morality as we know it is meaningless in a naturalistic universe. Naturalism cannot account for meaningful moral action and moral punishment.

Conclusion: God is required for objective morality

It's important to note that alternate explanations are not refutations. What Pro has done was offer an alternate explanation -- he by no means even attempted to argue against any of the arguments I presented in favor of God's role in morality. He only offered rebuttals to my claims that evolutionary ethics were insufficient. But both of our positions can't be right, and hence it comes down to a matter of plausibility. As I have shown, it is much more plausible to suppose that God is required to make sense of morality. Naturalism, faces an extraordinary amount of problems and thus fails as a ground of morality.

___________

Sources

1. Gregory Koukl and Francis J. Beckwith, Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly in Mid-Air (Baker: 1998) 163
Debate Round No. 3
23 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
" By "objective," I refer to the idea that moral facts are true independent of human opinion"

This seems like a tremendously loose definition of 'objective'. By this definition, morality grounded in the opinions of a group of chimpanzees or aliens or intelligent computers would all be objective.
Posted by KristophKP 6 years ago
KristophKP
@kohai

You should reconsider your remark on conduct. His denial of using a strawman shows his inability to admit fault and is a grave offence against the legitimacy of our debate. Atheism had no place in our argument and yet he used it to debase my stance.
Posted by kohai 6 years ago
kohai
Update: I misinterpreted con's argument. Sorry, conduct point is tied.
Posted by kohai 6 years ago
kohai
I have a few questions I'd like con to answer.

1. Is God's perspective of morality superior to ours?
2. If you say "no"; why do we need him?
3. If you say, "yes"; how is one suppose to interpret and know what god's moral sense is?
4. Which god? There are thousands of deities worshiped throught the ages. All of them are contradictory with morality ranging from cannibalism to human sacrifice!
Posted by kohai 6 years ago
kohai
RFD

Conduct: I have to give pro the conduct point. In round 1, con was anticipating arguments that pro never argued and did not know what he'll argue. It somewhat makes the readers confused. At least, that's my intake.

Arguments: I feel pro could have strengthened his arguments more and con adaqietly refited them and defended his case.

Sources: Con actually utilized sources and were from reliable books.

This was a great debate to read!
Posted by KristophKP 6 years ago
KristophKP
@popculturepooka

I'd like to hold off on it for now. I've overburdened myself with debate responsibilities and I wouldn't want to compromise our discussion. I'll provide the challenge when I'm ready.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
II'll debate you on epistemology, sure.
Posted by KristophKP 6 years ago
KristophKP
@Davididit

Yes, really. Unfortunately this debate isn't about epistemology. I'll gladly take on anyone's challenge again empiricism.

@popculturepooka

Perhaps I could help you understand it? If you'd like to debate the subject then please let me know.

@Contradiction

"This is going to be fun."

And here I was already amusing myself. Welcome to the party.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
"I believe that all knowledge is derived empirically..."

Never understood the appeal of that position. Of course, I'm one of those old school rationalists, but still....
Posted by Contradiction 6 years ago
Contradiction
What Dave said. This is going to be fun.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by jewgirl 5 years ago
jewgirl
KristophKPContradictionTied
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Reasons for voting decision: In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a preemptive strike.
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 6 years ago
Dimmitri.C
KristophKPContradictionTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con stuck to divine command ethics and defended his claims extensively. Pro misunderstood Contradiction's use of the word objective and failed to properly engage his arguments.
Vote Placed by InquireTruth 6 years ago
InquireTruth
KristophKPContradictionTied
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Total points awarded:16 
Reasons for voting decision: I gave PRO spelling and grammar because of his entertaining rhetoric (e.g. "basing morality on something that we know nothing about is treason against the human mind.") not because of a failure on CON's part. PRO had a skewed definition of "objective" and consequently very weak arguments. Moreover, PRO spent too much time complaining about preemptive rebuttals and the like. PRO strongly versed the contemporary philosophical defense of the DCT - with sources. Arguments, conduct and sources CON.
Vote Placed by Cerebral_Narcissist 6 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
KristophKPContradictionTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Neither poster really manages to post anything of value, they are both moral objectivists but appear to not understand the term objective morality. Pro's objective morality is clearly subjective morality. Con's fails to explain how God is the source of an objective morality, his arguments are empty and reveal that he too does not really understand what the term objective actually means. Both people appear to have some education of the subject, but no ability to understand it. Tied.
Vote Placed by larztheloser 6 years ago
larztheloser
KristophKPContradictionTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con was wrong to attempt to preempt Pro's argument, as you cannot respond to a claim that hasn't been made. Both sides did a good job explaining their positions. While con did not do a good job of convincing me objective morality was gods work, pro had to do more than show naturalism was the best explaination - his burden was to show Con's view impossible. Pro should have spent less characters on the defensive and more building his case. Neg win.
Vote Placed by kohai 6 years ago
kohai
KristophKPContradictionTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Reason in comment