Friday, August 5, 2011

Jerry Coyne can be damn good. Without God.

Jerry Coyne, in USA Today:

As atheists know, you can be good without God

One cold Chicago day last February, I watched a Federal Express delivery man carry an armful of boxes to his truck. In the middle of the icy street, he slipped, scattering the boxes and exposing himself to traffic. Without thinking, I ran into the street, stopped cars, hoisted the man up and helped him recover his load. Pondering this afterward, I realized that my tiny act of altruism had been completely instinctive; there was no time for calculation.

Coyne, predictably, starts off with a peon to himself.

We see the instinctive nature of moral acts and judgments in many ways: in the automatic repugnance we feel when someone such as Bernie Madoff bilks the gullible and trusting, in our disapproval of the person who steals food from the office refrigerator, in our admiration for someone who risks his life to save a drowning child. And although some morality comes from reason and persuasion — we must learn, for example, to share our toys — much of it seems intuitive and inborn.
Coyne seems to be unaware of the 2000 year-old Christian doctrine that the Moral Law is written in our hearts (Romans 2:14-15), regardless of our faith.

Many Americans, including Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and an evangelical Christian, see instinctive morality as both a gift from God and strong evidence for His existence.
Objective morality must have a source outside of man-- that's what 'objective' means. Subjective morality isn't morality. It's opinion.

Coyne seems to think that the issue is whether morality is instinctual or not. All agree that morality is instinctual. The disagreement is whether it's objective (originated outside of man) or subjective (originated within man).
As a biologist, I see belief in God-given morality as American's [sic] biggest impediment to accepting the fact of evolution.
I see reason as Americans' biggest impediment to accepting the fact of evolution.
"Evolution," many argue, "could never have given us feelings of kindness, altruism and morality. For if we were merely evolved beasts, we would act like beasts. Surely our good behavior, and the moral sentiments that promote it, reflect impulses that God instilled in our soul."
Americans understand that moral law is objective. It is not mere opinion. It is not subjective. It has an Origin outside of man.

So while morality supposedly comes from God, immorality is laid at the door of Charles Darwin, who has been blamed for everything from Nazism to the shootings in Columbine.
Immorality is from man's choice to disobey God. Coyne needs to brush up on Genesis 2.

Darwinism is just another in a long string of man's conceits and mistakes.

Why it couldn't be God

But though both moral and immoral behaviors can be promoted by religions, morality itself — either in individual behavior or social codes — simply cannot come from the will or commands of a God. This has been recognized by philosophers since the time of Plato.

Religious people can appreciate this by considering Plato's question: Do actions become moral simply because they're dictated by God, or are they dictated by God because they are moral?
The Euthyphro dilemma. Coyne's error is to assume that there are only two answers to it.

There is a third answer, the Christian answer:

God is Goodness. His acts are Good because that is Who He is. God is not a moral actor, pincered in a dilemma. The Euthyphro dilemma is a category error. God transcends moral action. He is Goodness.

Coyne seems unaware of this ancient Christian resolution of the Euthyphro dilemma.
It doesn't take much thought to see that the right answer is the second one.

The right answer is the third one, Jerry, the one you don't know.
Why? Because if God commanded us to do something obviously immoral, such as kill our children or steal, it wouldn't automatically become OK. Of course, you can argue that God would never sanction something like that because he's a completely moral being, but then you're still using some idea of morality that is independent of God. Either way, it's clear that even for the faithful, God cannot be the source of morality but at best a transmitter of some human-generated morality.
Coyne is a better biologist than a theologian. In what sense is God "at best a transmitter of some human-generated morality". Like a call-in radio show?
This isn't just philosophical rumination, because God — at least the God of Christians and Jews — repeatedly sanctioned or ordered immoral acts in the Old Testament. These include slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46), genocide (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; 20:16-18), the slaying of adulterers and homosexuals, and the stoning of non-virgin brides (Leviticus 20:10, 20:13, Deuteronomy 22:20-21).
The Israelites were a barbaric people and the Levitical code was God's first step in teaching them His Law. It was a long process. The Prophets pleaded for justice and mercy (why do atheists always quote Leviticus and not Isaiah?).

Finally, God came Himself the set things right.

The mistake atheists make in attributing immorality to God by quoting the historical books of the Pentateuch is that they forget that God created man with free will, and He had to work with very hard hearts and very unruly people.

The Prophets observed that the Israelites were far from God's heart, and that justice and mercy were the core of God's Law. Ultimately, God set it right, Himself.
Was God being moral when, after some children made fun of the prophet Elisha's bald head, he made bears rip 42 of them to pieces (2 Kings 2:23-24)?

The "children" were youths (in Hebrew the same word was used to describe Joseph when he was 28 years old), which in this context means young men, not little kids. There were many of them, a mob, most likely more than just 42. Their mockery of Elisha's baldness is mockery of his status as a prophet (prophets often shaved their head and a shaved head was considered a mark of a prophet). The term "go up" refers to Elijah's (Elisha's teacher) going up to heaven.

This was a gang of young men ganging up on and mocking God's prophet, an old man. The implication was that mob violence against Elisha was in the offing.

Coyne doesn't let Biblical scholarship get in the way of a talking point.
Even in the New Testament, Jesus preaches principles of questionable morality, barring heaven to the wealthy (Matthew 19:24), approving the beating of slaves (Luke 12:47-48), and damning sinners to the torments of hell (Mark 9:47-48). Similar sentiments appear in the Quran.
There are straightforward understandings of these parables and teachings that have nothing to do with Coyne's grammar school interpretations.
Now, few of us see genocide or stoning as moral, so Christians and Jews pass over those parts of the Bible with judicious silence.
Stoning is often discussed by Christians. John 7:53-8:11 is the text. This beautiful pericope is the paradigm for resistance to violent retribution.
But that's just the point. There is something else — some other source of morality — that supersedes biblical commands. When religious people pick and choose their morality from Scripture, they clearly do so based on extrareligious notions of what's moral.
Coyne attacks a caricature. "Religious people" as a rule don't "pick and choose" morality from Scripture. Morality is discerned through conscience, prayer, and thoughtful contemplation of Biblical teaching, in context, including all of the Bible, not just isolated passages out of context.

Ironically, Coyne and other evolutionary biologists protest furiously when people cherry-pick evolutionary writings to make evolution look ridiculous. As a system of thought, both Christianity and Darwinism need to be understood in totality and context.
Further, the idea that morality is divinely inspired doesn't jibe with the fact that religiously based ethics have changed profoundly over time. Slavery was once defended by churches on scriptural grounds; now it's seen as grossly immoral. Mormons barred blacks from the priesthood, also on religious grounds, until church leaders had a convenient "revelation" to the contrary in 1978. Catholics once had a list of books considered immoral to read; they did away with that in 1966. Did these adjustments occur because God changed His mind? No, they came from secular improvements in morality that forced religion to clean up its act.
Slavery was never defensible, and anyone that did defend it was wrong. It was the Christian understanding of man-- as a spiritual being created in God's image-- that ended slavery. Abolition movements-- from the Catholic church to William Wilberforce to the antebellum American abolitionist movement-- were deeply Christian movements.

And it's ironic that Coyne attributes moral progress to the rising secular tide that brought us Nazism and Communism.
...So where does morality come from, if not from God? Two places: evolution and secular reasoning.

"Evolution and secular reasoning" are the source of morality". How did I guess?
Despite the notion that beasts behave bestially, scientists studying our primate relatives, such as chimpanzees, see evolutionary rudiments of morality: behaviors that look for all the world like altruism, sympathy, moral disapproval, sharing — even notions of fairness. This is exactly what we'd expect if human morality, like many other behaviors, is built partly on the genes of our ancestors.
Exactly how is the observation that animals do some kind things (doesn't Coyne have a dog?) inconsistent with Christianity?
And the conditions under which humans evolved are precisely those that would favor the evolution of moral codes: small social groups of big-brained animals. When individuals in a group can get to know, recognize and remember each other, this gives an advantage to genes that make you behave nicely towards others in the group, reward those who cooperate and punish those who cheat. That's how natural selection can build morality.

Natural selection: Struggle for survival. Behave nicely. Survival of the fittest. Reward those who cooperate. Selfish genes. Build morality.

Explains everything. Explains nothing.
Secular reason adds another layer atop these evolved behaviors, helping us extend our moral sentiments far beyond our small group of friends and relatives — even to animals.
What does secular reason (is) have to do with morality (ought)?
Should we be afraid that a morality based on our genes and our brains is somehow inferior to one handed down from above? Not at all. In fact, it's far better, because secular morality has a flexibility and responsiveness to social change that no God-given morality could ever have.
The 20th century was the century of secular morality in Europe.

World War I. World War II. Nazism. Vichy France. Quisling Norway. Communism. The Holocaust. The Holodomor. The Armenian Genocide. Londonistan. The self-immolation, enfeeblement and decline of European civilization.

Secular morality is what pushes religion to improve its own dogma on issues such as slavery and the treatment of women.

One of the reasons for the rapid spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire was the enormously improved status it gave to women. If you want a good example of secular morality's take on women, think Larry Flint and Marquis deSade.

And abolition of slavery was a Christian movement. Name the atheists who ended slavery.
Secular morality is what prevents ethically irrelevant matters — what we eat, read or wear, when we work, or whom we have sex with — from being grouped with matters of genuine moral concern, like rape and child abuse.
This point was made, emphatically, by the Hebrew Prophets 2500 years ago, and was the central point of Christ's ethical teaching.

Secular moralists are finally coming around.
And really, isn't it better to be moral because you've worked out for yourself — in conjunction with your group — the right thing to do, rather than because you want to propitiate a god or avoid punishment in the hereafter?
I'm always comforted when I'm dealing with a guy who makes up his own morals. How about you?
Nor should we worry that a society based on secular morality will degenerate into lawlessness.
Please ignore the 20th century.
That experiment has already been done — in countries such as Sweden and Denmark that are largely filled with non-believers and atheists.
Both nations have 1000-year Christian traditions, and still have Established State Churches.

Notice that Coyne didn't include atheist showcases like North Korea or the Soviet Union as secular morality "experiments".
I can vouch from experience that secular European nations are full of well-behaved and well-meaning citizens, not criminals and sociopaths running amok.

World War I. World War II. Cold War. 20th century secular Europe. Criminals and sociopaths running amok.

Coyne arrived late for his European vacation and missed the bad guys.
In fact, you can make a good case that those countries, with their liberal social views and extensive aid for the sick, old and disadvantaged, are even more moral than America.
Socialism = morality. Until you run out of other people's money.

Clearly, you can be good without God.

Jerry Coyne can be good, by his own lights, without God.

Not me. I can't be good even with God. I think Coyne and I understand "good" in different ways. Jesus told a parable about this, about the publican and the sinner (Luke 18:9-14). I'm a sinner to the core, struggling every day. I ask the Lord for His mercy, and for His strength. I accept His sacrifice for me.

I've learned this much: I can't make it on my own. I'm not even close to good. For a Christian, that's where real morality begins.


  1. Michael,

    The same argument that you're making against evolution, it explains everything and therefore explains nothing, can be turned against you.

    Your hypothesis that religion explains all the good things that humans do and free will explains all the bad things explains everything and hence explains nothing.

    Sorry, World War I was not an atheistic secular war. It was started by the believers Kaiser Wilhelm II and Emperor Franz Josef against Christian states. And the bastardry of Kaiser Wilhelm II in having Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries transported across German territory to Petrograd led to Soviet Communism. And the mistakes made by the Christian winners at Versailles led to Hitler and WWII.

    Japan was a religious country with its variant of Buddhism, Shintoism, when it waged its war.

    And if you're talking about death tolls, the Thirty Years War, fought wholly about which flavor of Christianity was to prevail, managed to kill 20-30% of the population in the German states, a much higher percentage than in any subsequent war, with the exception of the German massacre in Nambia before the WWI, which killed 80% of the native population. But that was a genocide perpetrated by a theistic regime too.

  2. Mike,
    Coyne seems to think 'good' means 'good for me'.
    His piece is typical of atheist detractions.
    No new ideas only observations meant to call into question the foundations of the beliefs of others. His target, predictably, are those tell tale Jews and 'even Jesus'.
    The Koran gets a one liner. No surprise there! Muslims might DO something (think Theo Van Gogh, or the Muhammed cartoons), while Christians and Jews will only SAY something. Coyne sees the relative dangers. So, not only is he subjective in his morality, but in his views of intellectual courage as well. He will only strike the cheek that turns away. Such a warrior for truth, eh?
    Here's a free hint, Jerry: People do not believe in evolution because it is banal and an obviously over simplistic form of scientific tunnel vision. It has nothing to do with morality or fear of death - those are the ATHEIST weaknesses. You would do well to stop projecting them and seek some sort of reconciliation with your own doubts. Fix your own position, before you attack your enemy's.
    If you actually buy the idea that the 30 years war fought for God, the propaganda of the period is still working on YOU. It was an excuse for violence - a tool. The war was fought between political blocs, God was a motivator for the populace. Also, to compare the deaths of any conflict from earlier periods with ww2 or even the present is insane. Just LOOPY.
    Such a defence belies the weakness of your position. It smacks of desperation and (once again) an attempt at straw man issues.
    Hot blooded maniacs fighting for power cannot be compared to cold, blooded, calculated and CLINICAL slaughter of MILLIONS in the name of a 'brave new world'.
    The (Darwinian) racialism and Godlessness of these new Regimes cannot be discounted out of convenience, and their ambitions were unlike ANY seen before.'Naturalistic' and Atheistic (doctrinally in Marxism) powers have outdone even the Atzec blood Priests; forget the Muslims, Christians, or Buddhists. AND! The materialists did it in a SINGLE CENTURY.
    There is no escaping that fact.
    Crusades, the Caste wars, the 30 year war, the Conquest, etc etc....add it ALL up if you like. You wont beat ONE year of the 20th century's conflicts, and that is without the MILLIONS in Eugenics and Infanticide.
    Besides, Bach - I think you miss the thrust here. This is not about proving evolution is behind these evil acts, but rather monistic materialism and a a lack of moral constraints provides fertile ground for such horrors.
    Your argument (Atheism is not a religion/ideology, rather a lack of one) is the one at issue here. It is a vacuum. Evolution (or any scientific conjecture/theory) will not fill that vacuum.

  3. @bachfiend:

    Beginning with the 18th century, the influence of Christianity has been waning steadily. If Christianity is the source of violence, the waning of its influence should correlate with waning violence.

    However, violence increased astronomically when European secularity began to max out in the 20th century.

    Regarding the 30 years' War, it was indeed a bloodbath. The reasons for it were very complex, and religions obviously played a role. But it was the breaking away from the Catholic Church-- breaking away from centralized Christian authority-- that was a central motive.

    It was in many ways a revolt against the Catholic Church. It's not clear that that motive should be accounted to the "religious" side of the ledger.

  4. Ah, no true Scotsman... Anyone can play that game. A socialist at the local farmers market told me last weekend that Soviet Union had the wrong brand of communism. Such arguments are pathetic.

  5. Mike: Objective morality must have a source outside of man-- that's what 'objective' means. Subjective morality isn't morality. It's opinion.

    "Objective morality" has a nice ring to it, Mike, but I am afraid it is fiction. Where do you find this objective morality? In the Bible? Perhaps it's there, but modern Christians and Jews don't seem to follow all of those rules. I have given many examples before. How about stoning homosexuals, Mike?

    Perhaps objective morality is written in our hearts? Well, even that seems to change with time. Five hundred years ago, it was completely moral to marry off girls as young as 12. Three thousand years ago, it was normal to have many wives. Try doing that today.

    And don't even get me started on genocide. It was perfectly acceptable in the good old times and even sanctioned by God. Canaan, anyone?

  6. @oleg:

    Objective morality has a simple meaning. It means that moral law exists independently of human beings.

    The test for it is simple: is it possible for something to be wrong, even if all human beings thought it was right?

    If so, then morality has a source (Source) outside of man.

    Now, our ability to discern objective moral law is another matter entirely. But that is irrelevant to the question that objective moral law exists.

    The existence of objective moral law -- its wrong to kill innocents, etc-- is strong evidence against atheism.

    It was one of the things that I never accepted about Ayn Rand's Objectivism, which, as an atheist philosophy, precluded objective morality. Rand claimed that objective morality could still exist in an atheist framework, but that is nonsense.

    Objective law presupposes an objective Lawgiver.

  7. Michael,

    You've sort of addressed the last of the points I made. What about the others?

    The Thirty Years War was a conflict between the Protestant (itself a reaction to the corruption of the Catholic Church) and Catholic Churches. Its death toll is pretty impressive considering that weapons of mass destruction weren't invented till the 20th century and the troops on both sides in World War One went off to battle with religious fervor thinking that they were fighting for 'God, King and Country' and that the war would be short and relatively bloodless.

    Again, Stalin was an odious character. But any suppression of churches in the Soviet Union was not in support of atheism, it was because orthodox religion was interfering with the state run religion of communism and worship of Stalin. Stalin had his false prophet in Trotsky murdered and his role in setting up the Red Army and winning the Civil War expunged from the records as if he never existed.

  8. 'No true Scotsman' writes Oleg? Where does he read that? Is it in Mike's response to nonsensical comparison of the Thirty Year war with the 20th Centuy's 'modern warfare'?
    If so, I could only suggest Oleg reads it again. He seems to somehow have misinterpreted it.
    I would only add that Mike is being charitable to the idea of religious motivation on the parts of the powers at work, who regularly hired opposing mercenaries, switched sides etc.
    I see the Thirty Years war as a Machiavellian style struggle for political power via Religious pretensions. Religion appears to me a tool in this war, not constant or true motive for the Elites in control. I am not suggesting there were no 'belivers' in this war, or trying to dodge the roles of the various Churches, but I think the real motive lies well within the material world.
    In fact, I find it strange that Atheists try to forward such a metaphysical argument in the first place. A non existent God and a bunch of deluded cretins to blame for the Thirty Year war? How superstitious of them!
    This is why I really enjoye Oleg's comments. They are such food for thought; so juxtaposed to my own in so many ways...

    I will concede, as a historian and student of history, that Religion has been used as a mass-motivator and bent to suite warlords through out all of our recorded ages. Entire heretical cults formed to wrestle or usurp power from established religions and so on.
    These realities I will not dispute. But, I will ADD that the reason for these repeated attempts at control (and resistances / counters) relates to the extreme importance of these issues, such as objective morality.
    If a leader or Cabal of men can control the tennets of morality and render them subjective, they have ULTIMATE control. There is two apparent ways to attain that level of control:
    1) Assume the mantle of religious orthodoxy and bend scripture/holy writ to your purposes with political means (carrots / canes). "God given right to rule ABSOLUTELY'
    2)Destroy ALL objectivity by denying ANY transcendent (IE Objective Morality) power beyond that of the _____ (insert: leader, state, party, Academe etc)

    So, as a student of history I see it like this: tell that you ARE/SENT BY God;
    OR that there is NO God, and I am IMMEDIATELY suspicious of the motives of the speaker, regardless of their almost universal promises of 'liberation' and 'freedom'.
    'Work sets you Free' (Arbeit macht frei) being one that I reluctantly recall from the 20th century.

  9. *sorry for any syntax etc. Reduced to a TINY screen once again :@

  10. Mike: Objective morality has a simple meaning. It means that moral law exists independently of human beings.

    The test for it is simple: is it possible for something to be wrong, even if all human beings thought it was right?

    If so, then morality has a source (Source) outside of man.

    If only that were as simple as you suggest, Mike. You and I can imagine that an objective morality exists out there. Testing that hypothesis is a whole 'nother story.

    I see a nice parallel with Newton's concept of absolute space. Newtonian mechanics was built on it. However, the resulting laws were consistent with the Galilean principle of relativity: Newton's laws apply equally well in frames moving steadily relative to absolute space. In fact, that made it impossible to detect which inertial frame was stationary relative to absolute space. So absolute space was abandoned.

    Absolute space was later resurrected as the frame of the aether. If light is waves propagating in a medium (the aether) then, according to classical physics, one should be able to observe the motion relative to the aether through the Doppler effect. Alas, all attempts to detect that failed. After some period of turmoil, physicists came up with theory of relativity, in which no aether is necessary.

    So it is with objective morality. Sure, you can come up with a theory that relies on it, but that is not the same as actually learning what it is.

    Furthermore, numerous examples show that human morality evolves in time. That can hardly be squared with the existence of an absolute moral standard. Unless, of course, it evolved along with humans. This reminds me of an old Soviet joke. One of the questions in an official form asks "Did you ever vacillate toward the party line?" Answer: "I have vacillated in accordance with the party line."

  11. Mike: "Religious people" as a rule don't "pick and choose" morality from Scripture. Morality is discerned through conscience, prayer, and thoughtful contemplation of Biblical teaching, in context, including all of the Bible, not just isolated passages out of context.

    Great. You agree then that the process of figuring out morality involves a heavy dose of human interpretation, which is of course a subjective element.

  12. @leg:

    [Great. You agree then that the process of figuring out morality involves a heavy dose of human interpretation, which is of course a subjective element.]

    Duh. Of course interpretation is subjective. But the Moral Law exists independently of human opinion. We have an instinctual sense of it, and we also have to learn the details.

    It's quite analogous to laws of nature. We can intuit them, to some extent, and we can do science and learn them in more detail. But those laws of nature exist independently of man. They aren't just figments of our imagination, mere opinion.

    Neither is Moral Law.

  13. Good. The question is then, Mike, how do you ascertain that absolute morality does, in fact, exist and is not a figment of imagination?

  14. @oleg:

    The same way you figure out most things. Common sense, reason, reflection, making assumptions and considering the implications of the assumptions... you know the drill.

    The easiest way for me is to consider this: is an atrocity (killing, raping, whatever) intrinsically evil, or is it just a matter of opinion? If everybody believed it was ok, would it really be ok.

    My commonsense tells me that the Moral Law is objective. If it's not objective, then ridiculous and obviously wrong consequences follow (e.g. that the Holocaust wasn't wrong in an objective sense, it was just a difference of opinion between us and Nazis).

    When you apply your philosophy to the real world and it produces obvious bullsh*t, then your philosophy is, to that extent, bullsh*t.

  15. Mike: The easiest way for me is to consider this: is an atrocity (killing, raping, whatever) intrinsically evil, or is it just a matter of opinion? If everybody believed it was ok, would it really be ok.

    Let's apply this to the killings at Jericho. Deuteronomy 20:17. Was that intrinsically evil? Justified? Thoughts?

  16. Given that they violate the Greatest Commandment by definition, then, no, atheists cannot be good.

    Even aside from that, they don't tend to be against abortion, "gay marriage", extramarital sex, contraception, masturbation, pornography, theft of their neighbor's property via socialism, and other such evils. Beyond that, the militant ones carry a burning hatred for just about everyone.

    The sum total of all this isn't something that should be named "good".

  17. I bet if I read the chapter... I will have a slightly different idea from Oleg about the phrase XD.

  18. Matteo,

    It's strange that of the 10 commandments, only 3 of them deal with things that atheists and Christians would all agree as being wrong, the other 7 being largely proscriptions as to how the believers have to respond to the deity.

    Of your list of 'evils' I'm certain that you'd find plenty of atheists who'd agree that certain items on your list are objectively bad (I'm using a conventional definition of 'objective' to mean that they predictably lead to bad results). Most people would think extramarital sex, if you mean adultery, is bad because it destroys trust in a marriage partnership. A lot of atheists are libertarians who disagree with forced appropriation of property even with compensation. I don't regard gay marriage as much of a need, so I don't have any opinions on it. You have a strange idea as to what evil is. I personally think contraception is good because it prevents children being born into poor circumstances to die miserable lives in poverty and also prevents large numbers of abortions. Pornography? Not much interested in it. It's about as interesting as watching racing cars doing laps on a track, although a lot of people find that fascinating too.

  19. Bachfiend,

    Extramarital sex would include any sex outside of marriage. Based on your writing here, I don't regard you as the type of militant atheist I am talking about. However, P.Z. Myers and his pack of know-nothing hyenas fit the description to a tee.

    I count at least six commandments that do not have to do with how one should respond to the deity.

  20. @Bachfiend: I'd be careful with your definition of "objectively bad". You have to show that "bad results" can be objectively defined.

    @Mike: I'm still waiting for the blog post proving the existence of objective morality. I'd be interested in a non-circular argument for objective morality without assuming the existence of god.

  21. Remus,
    The existence of Objective morality points toward a Divine (external) source. You may as well ask us to explain Attraction or Gravity while assuming there is no universal constant or laws of nature.Your little logic trap has no bait in it (or a spring). But seeing as we are asking philosophical questions here's a reciprocal one for you!

    Why don't YOU explain the universal constants, Remus? No...not the 'whats' or even 'hows', we all get that, but rather the WHY.
    WHY do we have universal constants in a chaotic universe? WHY are there 'laws' of nature?
    Empirically PROVE your answer now. NO conjecture.

    Oh I forgot the foundation of all materialism and Atheism: 'Shit happens'.
    Oh the profundity! (non-illusory sarcasm)

  22. @Uncle Remus:

    "Proving the existence of objective morality?" Would you prefer modus ponens or a double-blinded study?

    There's a whiff of autism spectrum in atheism. You guys seem to lack a certain capacity to make human judgements.

    The reality of objective law is demonstrated by commonsense and by absurdity of its denial.

    When you have a chance, prove that you love your family. Modus ponens would be fine, or you could do a contolled experiment. Make sure your p value is <.05.

  23. Mike: The reality of objective law is demonstrated by commonsense and by absurdity of its denial.

    Common sense tells us that the sun goes around the earth, that it takes an effort to keep something in motion, and that time is absolute. It took some careful experimentation and a lot of thinking to establish the true state of affairs, which is otherwise.

    So your appeal to common sense does not strike me as a coherent argument.

  24. @oleg:

    "So your appeal to common sense does not strike me as a coherent argument.:

    Prove it, with careful experimentation.

  25. No need for experimentation, Mike. I pointed out examples where common sense failed badly. Back to the drawing board.

    And what about this, Mike?

  26. Would you prefer modus ponens or a double-blinded study?
    Anything beyond assertions, desperate ad-hominems and insults would be a start.

    When you have a chance, prove that you love your family. Modus ponens would be fine, or you could do a contolled experiment. Make sure your p value is <.05.

    What a weird challenge.

    If you define "love" as something objectively measureable like Oxytocin levels or willingness of self-sacrifice, we could find out if or how much love my family.

    You probably don't care how much I love my family, I assume you wanted to demonstrate that I can't objectively prove that I do or don't. But I didn't claim that I could.

    "So your appeal to common sense does not strike me as a coherent argument.:

    Prove it, with careful experimentation.

    If you were right, he wouldn't have to.

  27. Oleg wrote:
    'Common sense tells us that the sun goes around the earth.'

    I would suggest that common sense tells us the sun appears to cross the sky, roughly East to West. Common sense tells us it provides warmth, light, and thus food.
    As to what moves and goes 'around' what, there is required a lot of inference and speculation before EVER reaching that point.
    First we have to assume the sun is an object, not a hole, being, or entrance point for energy into 'the sky'. That it is physical and measurable. Then we must assume there is only one sun (the same one each day), then we must assume the sun (as an object) is either moving or we are....
    ALL these assumptions must be observed, recorded, tested and proven BEFORE they can be applied in the deductions Oleg has described as 'common sense'.

  28. Skeptical Philosophy would just say that there is no truth XD .... or somehting like that.

    But common sense sometimes is wrong alright. It can happen

  29. "If you were right, he wouldn't have to."
    What a strange leap of logic. Especially for a materialist!
    If something is correct - no science required. Apparently common sense is objective!

  30. @crusader

    Mike seems to have different standards of evidence for claims he is making and claims other people are making. If we want to have a fruitful discussion, we have to agree on a set of standards.

  31. Uncle Remus,

    Nah. I am happy to lower the threshold for Mike.

    OK, maybe not to the level of appeals to common sense. I hope he can do better than that. Unless he wants to achieve the hilarity of the sort featured at this web site: Common Sense Science.

  32. "If we want to have a fruitful discussion, we have to agree on a set of standards."

    Remus, how can we agree to a set of standards with materialists who have none (but the subjective - IE moving goal posts).
    You must apply your own shifting standards, I am afraid.
    We (the non-materialists) can agree on objective standards when it comes to morality and mind, but they will not fit into your paradigm; they are beyond it's scope.
    I understand your desire for common ground and some sort of intellectual consensus, but I do not feel it is realistic. The only way a materialist is going to gain common ground with those beyond their monistic world view, is to expand it - and thus no longer BE a materialistic. THAT is the common ground and standard to be met.
    The best we can hope for at this stage is some discourse. An exchange of ideas that hopefully broadens the perspective of all involved and leads to tolerance. Hope is the operative word here.
    There is always hope.
    I personally have much more hope, for example, for an objectivist than I do for a Neo-Marxist.