The Existence of God and Objective Morality

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Spiral
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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Spiral » May 18th, 2018, 6:50 am

Eduk wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 5:13 am
Spiral you are I think conflating ideas of what objectivity means.
Yes. I do think the definition of objectivity is what causes all the confusion.

I am sort of taking Sam Harris's ideas about morality and calling them objective. In Sam Harris's book, "The Moral Landscape," morality is all about minimizing human misery-suffering and maximizing human happiness-bliss.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Eduk » May 18th, 2018, 10:40 am

I'm undecided on Sam's claims. Let's assume that measurement was possible (which it isn't now). You still have to define misery and happiness.
For example who is happier the happy pig or unhappy human.
Currently I can't think of a scientific way of answering that question.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by LuckyR » May 18th, 2018, 11:16 am

chewybrian wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 6:35 am
LuckyR wrote:
May 17th, 2018, 12:59 pm
Let's stipulate that there is a "best" morality. Simple ones are easy to understand: Murder is wrong, for example. We all agree here. Let's call it Objective morality. Great. Did it come from a god? Some say yes, others no. Was it determined by the Universe at the Big Bang? Again, folks disagree. From a practical matter, it is true that a consensus of lay people made such a decision and codified it in the legal system (separately from philosophy). This would be a statistical grouping of subjective morality, much more powerful (and more likely to "correct") than simple individual subjective morality.
Yes, I very much want to stipulate that best is out there, and I agree that we don't know it, and can't lay claim to it through any of these methods. I want to give the consensus method a slight edge, while acknowledging that it is tragically flawed. Like democracy, it could be great if each of us were great, and we simply may not have anything better.
LuckyR wrote:
May 17th, 2018, 12:59 pm
The only way to justify the label of objectivity in a conversation among the subjective, would be to acknowledge that Objective morality is a quasi-mythical ideal that exists... somewhere out there and is of no practical value for rule making here on planet earth since none of us subjective observers can ever know it.
That's what I've been trying to say. You might say it has no value, or I might say that it reminds us that there is something to strive for, and to stay humble and remember we can always be wrong. This feels like more than a weird footnote to me. Do we throw up our hands and say we can't be perfect, or dig in because we believe perfect is out there, and can be approached through effort?
Glad to hear we basically agree. The reason I said it is of no practical value is that, the act of the group trying their best to reach the unattainable goal of Objective morality is... grouped subjective morality, as I mentioned earlier, which does not depend on the acknowledgement of the existence of Objective morality to be performed.

So basically you're saying, try for Objective morality and I'm saying the process you are describing is grouped subjective morality, which is optimal, from a practical perspective. Yay.
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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Eduk » May 18th, 2018, 11:29 am

I can think of many immoral things which are accepted by groups.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Gertie » May 18th, 2018, 12:06 pm

Spiral wrote:
April 28th, 2018, 9:54 pm
I have watched a multitude of debates where the Christian William Lane Craig has argued that one of the pieces of evidence supporting the existence of God is the existence of objective morality.

Craig's argument goes like this:

[1] If God does not exist, objective morality does not exist.

[2] Objective morality exists.

Therefore, God exists.

Premise [1] is a little confusing because of the two negatives. So, if one were to remove both negatives in premise [1], Craig's argument would look like this:

[1] If objective morality exists, God exists.

[2] Objective morality exists.

Therefore, God exists.

Craig goes on to argue that objective morality exists because all of us know right from wrong in our hearts. Has Craig made his case? I think not. Craig seems to think that saying something makes it a fact, saying that it is in God's nature to be good, just and merciful. Also, it is often asserted that God is perfectly knowledgeable about morality.

But is this really the best explanation for the morality that Craig describes? When Craig says that all of us know right from wrong in our hearts, this raises some questions:

How do we know that all of us know in our hearts right from wrong?

Do we know right from wrong in all situations or just the easy cases (like whether or not it's right or wrong to torture children for sport)?

If all of us in our hearts know right from wrong, why is there so much human behavior that most people would classify as being clearly wrong?

Why is there no consensus on the rightness or wrongness of certain human behaviors, such as engaging in non-marital sex, or hunting animals or basing college admissions partially based on the applicant's ethnic/racial background or male genital mutilation (circumcision)?

What say you on the issue of God and objective morality? Does any God provide objective morality, even a God that simply created all matter within the universe and then took early retirement? Or do we need an "active God" to provide us objective morality, a God that roots for good human behavior and roots against bad human behavior?
The whole argument is really based on the notion that for our moral intuitions to be called Objective, there has to be some external, axiomatic grounding for them. And The Moral Argument for God posits God as that Objective grounding. That's it, that's the argument. It comes from a time when we didn't understand how our moral/social (caring/cooperative) predispositions could have come about, and seemed inexplicable without invoking a good god - a god of the gaps argument. Now we have an evolutionary explanation, so the argument has shifted to being about Objective Morality.


So the modern evidence-based ground up argument would be -


Human's have an innate sense of Right and Wrong

Our intuitions about Right and Wrong evolved for Utility.

For Morality to be Objective (existing independently of our subjective evolved intuitions based in utility), it must have some other external source/existence.

That source is a perfectly good God.


Put that way, we can see the argument really relies on an additional supernatural explanation for the Objectivity of our sense of Right and Wrong, not its existence. And Objective in the sense of having an external (redundant) source, which has Moral Authority. So it's actually saying -


If there is an additional/redundant Objective source/authority for our evolved intuitions about Right and Wrong --> Then that additional Source exists (a tautology). And this God I happen to believe in fits the bill.


Its power is really as an emotional appeal, we instinctively feel it's objectively Wrong to murder an innocent child (not just a subjective opinion), to say otherwise is appalling, so we instinctively want to defend it as objectively wrong. Then Craig can say, but on what basis is it Objectively wrong. I have this God over here to explain its objectivity, what do you have but evolution which says these intuitions evolved for utility?


And that is a fair point, worthy of philosophical discussion.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by LuckyR » May 18th, 2018, 12:17 pm

Eduk wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 11:29 am
I can think of many immoral things which are accepted by groups.
So can everyone. Your point?
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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Eduk » May 18th, 2018, 4:20 pm

My point is that groups aren't a good solution. For example a group of experts would be great, no though still not beyond an individual in all things. But picking the experts and picking when an individual is even more right is currently impossible.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Spiral » May 18th, 2018, 8:32 pm

Gertie wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 12:06 pm
Its power is really as an emotional appeal, we instinctively feel it's objectively Wrong to murder an innocent child (not just a subjective opinion), to say otherwise is appalling, so we instinctively want to defend it as objectively wrong. Then Craig can say, but on what basis is it Objectively wrong. I have this God over here to explain its objectivity, what do you have but evolution which says these intuitions evolved for utility?
[*] "I have this God over here to explain its objectivity."

If you ask 5 different believers in God about God's views on moral questions, you could easily get 5 different answers. In reality, when someone says, "I have this God over here," all they are really saying is, "I have my own subjective beliefs about God over here and I will pretend that these beliefs are objective."

[*] Then Craig can say, but on what basis is it Objectively wrong.

Some people think that the God of the Bible is objectively wrong in numerous situations.

Perhaps God was wrong to drown the entire world except for a handful of human beings led by Noah and a handful of animals. Perhaps God was wrong to command the Israelites to commit genocide.

Craig has argued that killing infants can be good because the infants go directly to heaven. These views are Craig's personal opinions. Are they objective opinions or personal religious biases?

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Spiral » May 18th, 2018, 8:51 pm

Eduk wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 10:40 am
I'm undecided on Sam's claims. Let's assume that measurement was possible (which it isn't now). You still have to define misery and happiness.
For example who is happier the happy pig or unhappy human.
Currently I can't think of a scientific way of answering that question.
There is a difference between not currently knowing the answer to a moral question and there being no possible answer to that question.

Also, it's possible for someone to stake out a position on a moral issue and get the issue wrong. For example, someone might sincerely think that the United States should intervene in the Syrian Civil War in order to reduce the human misery. But once US troops enter the battlefield, conditions get worse, not better.

This means that the limitations of human knowledge occasionally prevent us from being happier than we are currently.

Sam Harris has responded to the accusation that "well-being" is too vague a concept to be meaningful by mentioning health as another concept that is vague. Being at a "normal" weight is healthier than being overweight, unless one reaches this "normal" weight by intentionally vomiting up food after each meal. Still, Harris argues, no one says that medicine isn't a science that can be used to improve human health in many circumstances.

And so it seems to be in morality. We might not have all the answers when it comes to every possible moral question. But it does seem that the low hanging fruit from the morality tree has been picked. As we learn more about what contributes to happiness and what contributes to suffering, we might be able to pick more items off of the morality tree.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by LuckyR » May 19th, 2018, 2:22 am

Eduk wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 4:20 pm
My point is that groups aren't a good solution. For example a group of experts would be great, no though still not beyond an individual in all things. But picking the experts and picking when an individual is even more right is currently impossible.
Okay. But you haven't come up with a better option,if I am reading your post correctly.

BTW, mere mortals have improved upon various edicts as proclaimed by ancient texts such as the Bible, which to an unbiased observer would invalidate it's authors as being the conduit of objective morality. Gods really should be superior to humans, otherwise they aren't really very good at the god thing.
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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Eduk » May 19th, 2018, 4:15 am

Spiral QM is a good analogy. It is an incredibly successful theory but no one knows what it tells us about the nature of reality. Indeed probably the most widely accepted answer is to shut up and calculate. Some go as far as saying that it is unscientific to even ask.
But 'shut up and calculate' is a philosophical position. And many of the alternatives are also philosophical positions. The advantage of philosophy is that it allows us to concentrate on what is important to us. Some interpretations may lead us to perform very different experiments.
One day, hopefully, some proofs will be found and what QM tells us about the nature of reality will hopefully be answered, at which point it will become scientific knowledge. Of course in reality picking apart exactly what is science and exactly what is philosophy is impossible.
So the point to all this is that I think Sam's claims are philosophical, not scientific. And one day they may be scientific but not today. In the meantime we have no option but to do the best we can with our philosophies and our science. The danger on assuming we can answer moral questions with science today is that we may end up coming to false conclusions. I currently trust my own innate moral judgement reasonably highly and would be prepared to veto some claims pretending to be logical or scientific.
LuckyR my best option, in my experience, is myself. Of course I am far from infallible but hopefully I have enough humility to listen when I am wrong and enough confidence to not listen when I am right. Fortunately real world trolley problems are impossible because the trolley problem requires being able to see into the future.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Gertie » May 19th, 2018, 8:57 pm

Spiral wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 8:32 pm
Gertie wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 12:06 pm
Its power is really as an emotional appeal, we instinctively feel it's objectively Wrong to murder an innocent child (not just a subjective opinion), to say otherwise is appalling, so we instinctively want to defend it as objectively wrong. Then Craig can say, but on what basis is it Objectively wrong. I have this God over here to explain its objectivity, what do you have but evolution which says these intuitions evolved for utility?
[*] "I have this God over here to explain its objectivity."

If you ask 5 different believers in God about God's views on moral questions, you could easily get 5 different answers. In reality, when someone says, "I have this God over here," all they are really saying is, "I have my own subjective beliefs about God over here and I will pretend that these beliefs are objective."

[*] Then Craig can say, but on what basis is it Objectively wrong.

Some people think that the God of the Bible is objectively wrong in numerous situations.

Perhaps God was wrong to drown the entire world except for a handful of human beings led by Noah and a handful of animals. Perhaps God was wrong to command the Israelites to commit genocide.

Craig has argued that killing infants can be good because the infants go directly to heaven. These views are Craig's personal opinions. Are they objective opinions or personal religious biases?
Craig is a disingenuous salesman who uses his philosophical skills to basically 'lie for Jesus', but it's a fair point that without some external moral grounding/authority, we're left with the reality that our moral intuitions about Right and Wrong are just evolutionarily useful traits in our social species. In other words if we invented God, then we also invented the notion that Right and Wrong has some objective existence beyond the happenstance of our evolved traits.


So there are two issues -

What is morality - which I think can be explained in evolutionary terms and we just came to think of it as having some objective existence.


And the more difficult question of how do you get an Ought from an Is in light of that knowledge. Can we come up with a different foundation than God which we can treat as 'objectve', axiomatic and foundational. A touchstone against which to test Oughts. I agree that the well-being of conscious creatures is such a foundational axiom. (Then once you have the foundation, you have the separate problem of how best to achieve the well-being of conscious creatures).


The problem with picking The Welfare of Conscious Creatures as your foundation, your grounding for Rights and Wrongs, is what makes that so special from any other other proposed foundation? Essentially it's treating one of our evolved social pre-dispositions, about care/harm, as something more than a useful evolutionary trait, as having its own justification. (Haidt's Moral Foundation Theory has come up with about 6 broad categories of universal evolved human 'moral intuitions', Care/Harm (aka well-being/suffering) is just one of them http://moralfoundations.org/ ). That's where you need a philosophical argument to make the case for Care/Harm, or The Welfare of Conscious Creatures, as your Foundational Principle. I think the case can be made, but it's not really an Objective vs Subjective case, it rests on the special qualiative nature of conscious experience - as Goldstein would say, the welfare of conscious creatures Matters regardless.


Then once you have that foundational basis of the welfare of conscious creatures Mattering, Goldstein treats the issue of how we go about putting that into practice in a similar way to Harris - she calls it The Mattering Map rather than The Moral Landscape. But it's the same sort of idea, and it makes sense because when you're dealing with the welfare of conscious subjects, some things will Matter to all of us, and some things will Matter more to me than you, and Mattering is difficult to quantify.

That's a crude nutshell version, but I think it makes the point. It's not as satisfying and tidy as having a Perfect Parent Substitute to tell us what's naughty and nice, and it requires us to be sophisticated, responsible adults, so we'll have to see if such a post-god approach to morality will catch on... but philosophy is offering us a solution to Craig's challenge which we could cohere around.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by LuckyR » May 20th, 2018, 2:58 am

Eduk wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 4:15 am
LuckyR my best option, in my experience, is myself. Of course I am far from infallible but hopefully I have enough humility to listen when I am wrong and enough confidence to not listen when I am right. Fortunately real world trolley problems are impossible because the trolley problem requires being able to see into the future.
I don't disagree with you, however everyone else is unimpressed with our insights.
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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Spiral » May 20th, 2018, 8:36 am

Gertie wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 8:57 pm
The problem with picking The Welfare of Conscious Creatures as your foundation, your grounding for Rights and Wrongs, is what makes that so special from any other other proposed foundation?
One way to respond is as follows:

Let's say a child is told to slice up a pie into slices.

If the child is told that he will get to choose his slice last and he will receive the last slice, he will try to slice the pie into equal slices, minimizing the disadvantage in receiving the last slice.

However, if the child is told to slice up a pie into slices and is also told that he will receive the first slice, he will not be as well motivated to slice the pie equally.

So, getting back to your question: What makes "that" (the welfare of conscious creatures) so special as a proposed foundation?

I could argue for a different foundation. I could argue that the goal of society should be to maximize my well-being even if other conscious creatures suffer. However, others could easily describe my proposed foundation as one that is based on selfishness, not morality.

Many of us have been tempted to disobey rules/laws to advantage ourselves, even if we think the rule/law is a reasonable rule. So, when we discuss morality, we are not attempting to develop an ethical system that simply protects our own self interests. We are attempting to develop an ethical system that we would be most comforatable with without knowing our exact place within that ethical system.

I prefer Monarchy over representative democracy if I get to be the King. But if I know that my chances of being King are small, I prefer representative democracy.

It's easy to create a "foundation" for self-interest, since we evolved as partially self-interested creatures. But to be rational, one must attempt to develop an ethical system that transcends self-interest. The well-being of conscious creatures seesm to be the best foundation for an ethical society. It might not result in a society where I will be as happy as when I am King of the World, but it will have to do.

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Re: The Existence of God and Objective Morality

Post by Count Lucanor » May 20th, 2018, 6:48 pm

Spiral wrote:
April 28th, 2018, 9:54 pm
I have watched a multitude of debates where the Christian William Lane Craig has argued that one of the pieces of evidence supporting the existence of God is the existence of objective morality.

Craig's argument goes like this:

[1] If God does not exist, objective morality does not exist.

[2] Objective morality exists.

Therefore, God exists.

Premise [1] is a little confusing because of the two negatives. So, if one were to remove both negatives in premise [1], Craig's argument would look like this:

[1] If objective morality exists, God exists.

[2] Objective morality exists.

Therefore, God exists.

Craig goes on to argue that objective morality exists because all of us know right from wrong in our hearts. Has Craig made his case? I think not. Craig seems to think that saying something makes it a fact, saying that it is in God's nature to be good, just and merciful. Also, it is often asserted that God is perfectly knowledgeable about morality.

But is this really the best explanation for the morality that Craig describes? When Craig says that all of us know right from wrong in our hearts, this raises some questions:

How do we know that all of us know in our hearts right from wrong?

Do we know right from wrong in all situations or just the easy cases (like whether or not it's right or wrong to torture children for sport)?

If all of us in our hearts know right from wrong, why is there so much human behavior that most people would classify as being clearly wrong?

Why is there no consensus on the rightness or wrongness of certain human behaviors, such as engaging in non-marital sex, or hunting animals or basing college admissions partially based on the applicant's ethnic/racial background or male genital mutilation (circumcision)?

What say you on the issue of God and objective morality? Does any God provide objective morality, even a God that simply created all matter within the universe and then took early retirement? Or do we need an "active God" to provide us objective morality, a God that roots for good human behavior and roots against bad human behavior?
There seems to be an obvious flaw in Craig's argument. He calls objective morality one which is rooted in people's hearts, in other words, one which is innate to agency, to consciousness. By definition, that will make such morality subjective, not objective. In order for it being objective, it would have to come from an external source and be completely independent of the subjects. Craig might want to say that this is exactly what happened at the moment of creation, when morality was implanted in human beings. But there's no logical argument of empirical demonstration that Craig can offer in support of that view, while the problem of morality not being objective remains unsolved.

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