The Instigator
Claritas
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
Wallstreetatheist
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Objective morality makes atheism improbable

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Wallstreetatheist
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/17/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,033 times Debate No: 25164
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (23)
Votes (3)

 

Claritas

Pro

Contention: that objective morality makes atheism improbable.

Essentially, this is the moral argument for the existence of God, albeit construed in a negative way.

Rounds: (1) acceptance + defn's, (2) opening arguments; (3) rebuttals; (4) closing arguments.

Objective morality: facts about norms and what should be done,—inc. moral judgments (right/wrong, good/bad) and human duties,—which are independent of what individuals believe/perceive them to be.

Atheism: a worldview such that there is no transcendent cause existing outside the natural universe.

Both sides have the burden of proof; I will attempt to give reasons for, I hope for my opponent to give reasons against.
Wallstreetatheist

Con

I accept. I ask pro to post quickly, as I live in the United States and need to sleep soon. These 60 minute rounds are going to cause me to FF.
Debate Round No. 1
Claritas

Pro

In arguing for the contention I want to defend two basic props: Firstly,



(1) Objective morality exists;



and secondly,



(2) If atheism is true, then objective morality does not exist.



If there is reason for these two, then there is reason for



(3) Atheism is improbable



Reasons for (1)


To reiterate, I understand objective morality to include facts about what people should do, and facts about what is right/wrong, good/bad, which are independent of what people believe them to be.


As such, I think there many good reasons to be made for considering (1) to be true.


Reason A: universal judgments presuppose objective morality


By 'universal judgment' I mean a judgment about what is good or bad, that holds for more than the speaker and his community. Universal judgments are made when we claim that moral progress occurs, e.g. when we claim that the abolition of slave trade is a good thing simpliciter. Given that such a judgment is prima facie true, there is prima facie reason to think that objective morality is true.


Reason B: indefeasible duties presuppose objective morality


By an indefeasible duty I mean a duty that can't be excused in any circumstances absolutely. It would be always and everywhere absolutely wrong to gratuitously harm another person, for instance (e.g. torturing a child for fun). Rejecting that such indefeasible duties hold, amounts to allowing for the possibility that torturing a child for fun is permissible in some circumstances (because the duty not to is defeasible). This is not right. Thus, there is prima facie reason to think that objective morality is true.


Reason C: Rational discourse presupposes some objective moral norms


In order for there to be a rational conversation, there is the presupposition that there is an objective norm about how we should think—namely, that accepting truthful rational argumentation is desirable, and vice versa. I.e., it is good to think in a certain way (truthfully and rationally) and bad to think another way (untruthfully or irrationally). It is impossible to engage in rational discourse without this presupposition because the rejection of an argument presupposes the objective duty not to be convinced by bad arguments! The rejection of such a norm amounts to the rejection of the right to consider an irrational person with false beliefs having a duty to think otherwise. But this is undesirable. Again, another prima facie reason to think that objective morality is true.



Reasons for (2)


If atheism is true, I presume that there is no transcendent cause of the universe (intentional or otherwise), and hence, there is no underlying purpose to physical reality. In light of this, reality seems (in theory) capable of complete description via natural scientific methods. That is to say—reality can be reduced to descriptive facts. However, objective morality is fundamentally normative.


In light of this, what objective fact about the world corresponds to objective moral facts?


Evolution? Biological human desires? The community in which we live? The legal system? Our interior conscience?


I take it that it that there is prima facie reason to believe that norms cannot be derived from facts (Cf. Moore, Hume), and that hence, there is prima facie reason for atheism being unable to account for the existence of moral facts. To my mind, the most plausible account of objective morality given atheism is error theory—i.e. Recognising that moral facts appear to exist, (because so many parts of human discourse and behaviour presuppose it), but considering them to be false, due to their not corresponding to any objective reality. However, error theory is likewise highly implausible, because it requires a drastic revision of our fundamental human intuitions about our moral discourse. (I.e. I assume here that there is good reason to think that fundamental human intuitions are analogous to sense-perception; the burden of proof is on the skeptic to show that there is sufficient reason to reject such intuitions and perceptions as being truthful/veridical).


-


Having given reasons for (1) and (2), I take it that there is reason to believe (3).




Wallstreetatheist

Con


Atheism is Consonant with Objective Morality

I will assume he’s never read atheist philosopher Sam Harris’s recent book on objective morality through objective facts entitled The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. [1] He also fails to take into account that the most influential moral objectivists in history have been general skeptics on religion and arguments for god such as Immanuel Kant who wrote Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and introduced the famous ethical concept of the categorical imperative; there is also Friedrich Nietzsche’s Transvaluation of Values, which divides all morality into Master-Morality and Slave-Morality. Furthermore, the philosophical history of atheism can be traced back to the rationalism of the Milesian philosophers of Ancient Greece that emphasizes more than the rejection of myth, but the replacement of myth. What replaces myth is rationality. “A rational account is broadly one which confines itself to reasons, evidence and arguments that are open to scrutiny, assessment, acceptance or rejection, on the basis of principles and facts which are available to all. An optimally rational account is one in which we don’t have to plug any gaps with speculation, opinion, or any other ungrounded beliefs.” [2] Furthering this, Aristotle’s Law of Identity is that reality is absolute and can be understood through inductive and deductive reasoning. Because reality is absolute, and reasoning is the means by which we understand reality, it follows that reasoning is equally absolute. Once we have this rational foundation, we move on applying reasoning and understanding to morality. Therefore, atheism and objective morality are both derived from the same rich rational philosophical background.


Responding to Pro

Pro spends a rather unnecessary amount of characters on proving objective morality’s existence for his flawed syllogism. However, according to the resolution, Pro’s BOP is to prove that Objective Morality is a causal factor making atheism improbable, rendering his effort in Proposition 1 unnecessary. Proposition 2 is the only necessary step, as it is supposed to link Objective Morality and Atheism.

He then makes a fatal flaw in his reasoning by introducing the non sequitur: “If atheism is true, I presume that there is no transcendent cause of the universe (intentional or otherwise), and hence, there is no underlying purpose to physical reality.”

Despite the many flaws incurred in that one sentence, the basic non sequitur is that removing a transcendent cause of the universe does not, therefore, make life lose its purpose. Simply insisting, as the religious do, that a supernatural being has a purpose for their lives, does not magically imbue their lives with purpose and meaning. So God or no God, if life is to be really meaningful it must be so in a way which speaks to our own projects, needs, or desires and not just the purposes of whatever or whoever created us. The ability we possess to choose our own purposes and goals, to become the authors of our own meaning, and to do so in a limited human life make the process in and of itself meaningful, even more meaningful than thinking your purpose is delegated from a top-down directive which is the essence of totalitarianism. Earthly North Korea has led to the misfortunes of millions and a destruction in the meaning of life, so a Celestial North Korea doesn’t logically produce meaning or purpose either. Choosing one’s destiny is what brings purpose to one’s life. Amateurs may construe this as a subjective morality, but in the case of purpose and meaning, matters of morality need not enter. An Objective Morality that governs rational persons does not require a homogeneous populace complying with top down directives. And conflating objective morality with one’s purpose is bound to encounter fallacious and erroneous reasoning.

After spending a great deal of time in Proposition 1 telling us that “I understand objective morality to include facts about what people should do, and facts about what is right/wrong, good/bad, which are independent of what people believe them to be” and giving us prima facie reasons why that is true, Pro then states “there is prima facie reason for atheism being unable to account for the existence of moral facts.” He arrived at facts-based morality through secular means, now claims that secular beliefs cannot jive with Objective Morality. This is an inherent contradiction in my opponent’s case. As I have stated, the background for Objective Morality and atheism is philosophical rationalism, allowing them to peacefully coexist. Furthermore, science has started to unlock ways to determine human values (moral facts), which transition toward Objective Morality as mentioned in The Moral Landscape.


Conclusion

Even if my opponent proved that Objective Morality and Atheism don’t really go together (which he didn’t and is logically indefensible due to their philosophical backgrounds), he still wouldn’t have upheld his BOP that Objective Morality makes Atheism improbable.

My opponent set the rounds to 60 minutes, so this will be my last debate round as it is 4:08 am. Vote Pro on conduct and I urge you to vote Con on arguments for the previously stated reasons. Thank you :D


[1] http://books.google.com...
[2] Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, Julian Baggini, 2003
Debate Round No. 2
Claritas

Pro

The rest of Con’s argument is in the comments section (I urge you to read it—it is the initial part of his argument).

-

Some initial remarks of mine

Unfortunately, it appears that Con will not be contributing to rounds 3 and 4. However, I’m afraid that a three-round debate with 60 mins per round is what I stipulated, and what I in fact expected. (e.g. For that reason, the arguments I deployed in my opening were not quite as fleshed-out as I would indeed have fleshed them out in a ‘one-round debate’).

I won't continue the debate in the way I had originally stipulated, obviously, but I also don’t want to leave Con’s arguments un-rebutted, and I reserve my right do so (as I stipulated in the conditions of my debate). I will now provide some responses to Con’s points.

-

Is atheism really consonant with objective morality?

Con’s arguments in this section, from what I can tell, consist of the following claims:

1. There are atheist philosophers who claim to ground objective moral facts in objective non-moral facts about the world (e.g. Sam Harris).

2. There are moral objectivists who have been skeptical of religion, including Kant and Nietzsche, who have formed accounts of morality [grounded in an atheistic worldview]. NB: This is my attempt to interpret his claim charitably.

3. Aristotle’s philosophical worldview allows for morality. [Here I’ll just include his words: “Because [according to Aristotle] reality is absolute, and reasoning is the means by which we understand reality, it follows that reasoning is equally absolute. Once we have this rational foundation, we move on applying reasoning and understanding to morality. Therefore, atheism and objective morality are both derived from the same rich rational philosophical background.”

To me, claims (1) and (2) do not affect the reason I gave for my premise 2 (that if atheism is true, morality does not exist). This is because the fact that a philosopher believes a certain proposition, generally does not constitute even prima facie evidence for that proposition. (For example, eminent late philosopher David Lewis believed in a plurality of concrete worlds spatiotemporally separated from our own. Cf. His Plurality of Worlds (1984). Unfortunately, this does not constitute prima facie basis for believing in those worlds!)

I am confused about why Kant and Nietzsche were brought up, because (note: this isn’t an argument, just a comment on my part) many philosophers I know would not want to be associated with their respective views of morality, given their utter implausibility on both the theoretical and practical level.

With regard to claim (3): Aristotle was not an atheist; he was in fact a firm believer in teleology and the existence of an unmoved mover, who was the foundation of the purposeful universe. To me, this is utterly at odds with an atheistic worldview, and so, I don’t see this as even the beginning of evidence for atheism’s ability to accomodate objective morality.

Some comments on Pro’s counterarguments

Pro makes several claims here.

(1) My claim: “given atheism, physical reality has no underlying purpose,” is a non-sequitur.

He then seems to reinterpret what I say as being the following: “If atheism is not true, then God must magically imbue life with purpose and meaning. But that is an implausible view of why life has meaning. Therefore, atheism being true does not make the purposefulness of life any less explicable than theism being true.”

I can only say that this is an utter straw man. I did not claim that God must ‘cause’ meaning/purpose of any of the sort—I only claimed that if atheism is true, physical reality is (prima facie) purposeless.

To the rest of Con’s case: I must confess that I struggle to find any more counterexamples to my case. Con indeed makes several accusations about my premise 2 failing to follow (and indeed contradicting) my premise 1, but I’m not sure why he thinks this is so.

Some last remarks

I’m running out of time, so I’ll conclude. My case has been a negative one: namely, that on atheism, objective morality cannot be accounted for. This give us prima facie reason to consider atheism improbable.

My three reasons A, B and C for premise 1 were uncontested, and my reason for premise 2, namely that there is no prima facie reason to think that norms can be derived from facts, all remain unrebutted.

I haven’t made a positive case for any particular non-atheistic metaphysic or otherwise, because that is not what I am setting out to prove. To me, my conclusion—that atheism is improbable—is at least as strong as the reasons I gave in favour of premises 1 and 2.

In any case—I urge a vote for pro for whatever you think deserving. Thanks for taking your time to read and vote.

Wallstreetatheist

Con

Wallstreetatheist forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Claritas

Pro

Carry all points.
Wallstreetatheist

Con

Wallstreetatheist forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
23 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 5 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
16kadams functions on a different wavelength.
Posted by The_Fool_on_the_hill 5 years ago
The_Fool_on_the_hill
The Fool: he didn;t say anything about forfiet being a Lose.
Posted by The_Fool_on_the_hill 5 years ago
The_Fool_on_the_hill
The Fool: Its not even that. Not knowing what the obejective morals are. Don't suggest anything but not knowing what they are. It have zero barring on any other factor what so ever. It does connect to any other consequence.
Posted by The_Fool_on_the_hill 5 years ago
The_Fool_on_the_hill
The Fool: yeah I made a mistake LOL>
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 5 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
My argument was spazzing out. Here's the beginning:

Objective Morality is a right, universal code of conduct that all rational persons would put forward for governing the behavior of all moral agents. It is rationally and ethically defensible with procedural tests for identifying morally permissible actions. It's moral values exist independently of the feeling-states of individuals at particular times (beliefs/perceptions). Morality derives from values, and it is saliently important because it gives us the instructions for right action.

Resolutional Analysis

This topic is completely bizarre to me. Rather than the typical canards that atheists have no morals because they reject a particular religion's tome, my opponent presents the absurd resolution, which he calls contention (I assume because it's the point of contention), that objective morality makes atheism improbable. Since atheism is simply a lack of belief in god/s, or as Pro put it "a worldview such that there is no transcendent cause existing outside the natural universe," it does not offer any sort of philosophical position on morality and is thus, not affected in the slightest by subjective, objective, universal, descriptive, or normative moral theories. However, when we step back to observe the philosophical and historical backgrounds of atheism they are the same as shared with Objective Morality, as we will examine later.

Objective morality does not make atheism improbable for the same reason that a Cmaj7 chord does not make the Austrian Business Cycle Theory improbable: they are mutually exclusive ideas which have no effect on the veracity of their targets. In order for Pro's BOP to be achieved, a causal mechanism must be demonstrated between a) Objective Morality and b) Making Atheism Improbable. If Pro cannot do so, Con wins.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 5 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
I just accepted because of the title. I didn't read any of the specifics. N00bs will be n00bs.
Posted by Claritas 5 years ago
Claritas
With all due respect, my intention was never to cause my opponent 'disadvantage' by setting 60min rounds. I was in fact open to changing parameters (see my discussions with others in previous comments).
I'll do my best not to drag things out, but seriously—why are you complaining about your accepting, with full knowledge, a debate in which the parameters I stipulated would cause you some disadvantage?
Dude...

That said, for what it's worth I'm looking forward to the debate. Good luck!
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 5 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
It's 2:50 a.m. here. Just post what you have if you want a debate please.
Posted by Claritas 5 years ago
Claritas
Typing now. Patience!
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 5 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
Pro set it that way because
(1) He's a n00b, and is unaccustomed to debating norms on this site
(2) He was expecting someone to accept and forfeit his azz off for an easy Pro win
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 5 years ago
16kadams
ClaritasWallstreetatheistTied
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit
Vote Placed by The_Fool_on_the_hill 5 years ago
The_Fool_on_the_hill
ClaritasWallstreetatheistTied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: The Fool: In all honesty. There is nothing rational about the notion that any problem of objective morally making athiesm improbable.There was not even possible link to be made, that would even suggest that.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
ClaritasWallstreetatheistTied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro had to prove that deriving moraity could not be derived from observation, per Kant et al. He denied it, but didn't make the case. Religious people have no better consensus on what God says objective morality is. Con loses conduct for forfeit.