Is Morality eternal and unchanging?

An atheistic counter-argument to the moral argument for the existence of God:

“If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?”

The premise of the question is faulted first off. When the argument begins “If God were absolutely moral, because morality is absolute” it begins with a conceptual misunderstanding.

God’s nature is unchangeable and eternal. What is argued by theistic apologists concerning morality is not that morality cannot exist without God, but that the foundations upon which morality is built cannot exist without God; and that the good and necessary consequences of this is a denigration of morality to mere preference.

Second, morals are not unchangeable or absolute. Moral judgements must account for many different variables. Killing someone may or may not have been in self-defense; depending on this the act could have been moral or not. In some cases an action can be morally permissible, and in others not. What is crucial is the need to see that someone like the apostle Paul say to one person “you can eat meat offered to idols” but say to another person “you shouldn’t eat meat.” This, Paul does, as he accounts for variables for which is he is cognizant that differ in each party.

What is countered by theists on this point is actually different than what the original argument proposes: the foundation for all morality; namely, the nature of God, is eternally unchangeable. Therefore the objective standard by which morality is determined is unchanged. If God, the eternal and unchanging foundation for all morality, gave a specific moral standard, in a given context, for given purposes, and he gives a set of instructions to a particular time, at a particular place, that doesn’t mean that all people, at all times are somehow included. It still means that it was binding on them, and the argument goes, that it was a proper expression of God’s nature in the given context. The moral standard is not eternal and unchanging, but rather its foundation is; God. This leads to the third point.

Finally, something can be wrong for a two year old, and not necessarily wrong for a 21 year old (obviously enough). The change of standard is mainly due, not to some ontological deficiency in the rule itself, but rather is a concession of something that could be good (sex, or a beer) due to some immaturity (a necessary and proper immaturity I might add) in the child.

If Jesus Christ is the climax of the earlier stages of moral development in which Israel found herself throughout the Scriptures; and he himself was appointed to bring God’s eternal and unchanging character more fully to bare through his life, death, and resurrection; and this watershed moment in history radically affected the entire context in which humanity found itself; then, the objective foundation for morality established by the eternal character of God is hardly undermined by changes Jesus Christ may effect with regard to specific rules given to a people in relative immature stages that God was intending to transcend.
If Israel is understood as “the people through which God’s to promise Abraham for the world” would be accomplished; and that this promise would be climactically fulfilled by Christ and carried forward to the intended era God has planned for humanity; then changes in moral rules once the all-important Messiah arrives are not somehow undermining God’s eternal and unchanging nature, nor is he undermining the rules that were fitting for the immature stage in which Israel lived. God is their Father, and Fathers must do things like that with their children. [They may say its ok for an infant to cry every time she wants something; and turn around and get on to a 12 year old who attempts the same behavior.]

[I will probably return to draw this third point out much further at a later date]

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Short Video illustrating some of my arguments

Reason’s Reliability: Naturalism PT 4

Reason’s Reliability

On what basis does a naturalist/materialist believe that the ability to reason is reliable? When you hear a sound, why should you believe the ear is detecting actual vibrations, and how can one be sure that every noise is not “tinnitus” (an inner ear malfunction that causes you to hear ringing in your hear when no real noise exists). After this, why should one rely on the mind to interpret these vibrations? The reliability of human reasoning is based on an assumption.

If the brain exists due to purely unguided processes, and is now the result of random motions of particles; why is it reliable? If nature itself is created by completely unguided processes, and there are no laws outside of it, governing it, why should one believe that it exists in a systematic way? On what basis is our reason reliable? What grounds are there that our thoughts are accurate insights into realities as they exist outside of us?

It seems that naturalists have argued that there are no arguments. Naturalist work for years relying on their reasoning skills, assuming that the thoughts they have are accurate insights into reality. Then they develop a theory of reality that completely discredits their ability to reason itself, and by extension they destroy their own theory.

If someone responds by saying that their thoughts are something that has demonstrated reliability in the past up to this point, and therefore are reliable: for example, when they see a person they can speak and communicate with that person or feel and touch that person and so on. And they say they can do this because that person is actually there; and by a uniform and repeated experience they have an adequate proof that their sense perception and their ability to reason are reliable.
My response to this is: Are you saying the only proof that your ability to reason is reliable is reached by your reason which appears to have been reliable up to this point? Your reason’s ability to accurately perceive reality was never grounded in the first place. That is an assumption reached by your current reasoning. Why do you believe that your reasoning has ever accurately perceived reality? If you say, “because it has worked before”. How do you know that it worked? Didn’t Your reason deduce that? You see, making an argument for the reliability of your rational faculties is impossible.

Let’s continue:
According to Naturalism, consciousness is a late comer in nature. Therefore, reason was also a late comer. “Your ability to reason was not designed to produce a mental behavior that can find or identify truth”. In fact, until there were thinkers, there was no such thing as truth or falsehood. [Lewis].

By definition then, thoughts at one time were not rational. Natural selection doesn’t provide anything in the formation of this phenomenon, called reasoning. An example: an improved ability to hear may come out of natural selection; however, that is utterly distinct from a knowledge of sound. They are completely different. Knowledge of sound is achieved by inferences and experiments, not by noise. That would be like saying that people who hear really well know the most about sound. It’s not. It’s those who have studied and learned a lot about sound.

If thoughts at one time were not rational; i.e. they were not events that took place in the mind consisting of accurate insights into reality as reality; then, when did they become rational? Natural Selection doesn’t have the ability to produce this. Let me distinguish reason from Pavel’s experiment with the salivating dog. Stimulus and response repeated to the point where stimulus causes expectation is not the same as reason. Let me show this. A=B, B=C, therefore A=C is not something that I believe because of past experience.

One can use stimulus and response over a millennia to describe why we think the way we do. However, one cannot explain why we are justified in thinking this way by stimulus and response. “How can the evolutionary product you describe be a power of seeing truths”? “If the value of our reasoning is in doubt, you cannot establish it by reasoning.” Reasoning is our starting point. [Lewis]
Once you develop a system that undermines the validity of reason, you have cut yourself off from, not only reason, but also from the system that you developed by reason.
For the Theist, reason is not a rather recent development. Reason, God’s reason, is older than Nature and is the ground/cause of the orderliness of Nature, which alone enables us to know Nature because this ability is derived from this. For him, the human mind in the act of knowing is illuminated by divine reason. Our concept of nature depends on our reason. Our ability to reason depends on God’s reason in the way He established Nature and Our Reason.

A few presupposed Definitions for the interested reader:

A thought is an event. A true thought is an event that takes place in the mind as an accurate account of reality. A thought as an event is connected to previous thoughts. A brain has, as it were, a psychological history. Every thought that has ever passed through your mind would be a part of this history. [What we mean by a true event is actually referring to the truth of the “account” of the event, not the event itself.]
Truth and Falsehood are only possible when conscious beings exist. Until then, there are only events that are. [events that simply exist]
Knowledge is- a thought that defines/identifies a reality outside of itself. Knowledge is only possible if the thought concerning reality is a real insight to what reality actually is.
Are the noises that my ear hears noises that actually exist? Tinnitus is a case where the noises are actually malfunctions of the vestibulochochlear apparatus in the ear. The noises are not vibrations picked up by the ear. In this case, they have the illusion of noise.
A thought is an event in the mind that can be either true or false. If this event is true, this means the thought in the mind about reality is an accurate insight of reality. An event can’t be true or false. It either exists or it doesnt; it exists as a part of history or it does not exist as a part of history. A thought on the other hand, can be true or false.
Knowledge is only true if the thoughts about reality are accurate insights to reality. [unless knowledge is limited to our present sensations only, to which no naturalist I know agrees.]

Naturalism Pt. 3

Continuing on the question of naturalism:

My contention, so far, is that if naturalistic evolution is true, then the rational faculties of human beings are not equipped to produce true beliefs. Thus it follows that human beings are incapable producing rationally justified beliefs that constitute ‘knowledge’. Here is a definition from a leading philosopher at Notre Dame:

A belief is externally rational if it is produced by cognitive faculties that are functioning properly and successfully aimed at truth (i.e., aimed at the production of true belief)—as opposed, for example, to being the product of wish-fulfillment or cognitive malfunction. Now warrant, the property enough of which distinguishes knowledge from mere true belief, is a property or quantity had by a belief if and only if (so I say) that belief is produced by cognitive faculties functioning properly in a congenial epistemic environment according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth. [(Plantinga, Alvin Warranted Christian Belief (p. 202). Oxford University Press)]

The key phrase is “successfully aimed at truth” and “in a congenial epistemic environment according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth.” Now, conceivably, a naturalist could come up with a design plan that is more congenial than naturalistic evolution; they could say that very intelligent aliens placed us here in a congenial environment (the way the predators made the aliens). But, when you couple naturalism with evolution as a explanation for the existence of life and sentient beings, then you simultaneously undercut the rational faculty that produced the explanation to begin with.

R: “R” Represents the rational faculties possessed by human beings, specifically the faculty that is responsible for producing beliefs; which beliefs are normally thought of as being rational and true.
NE: “NE” represents naturalistic evolution.

I could put it like this: “R” produces the belief “NE”; “NE” undermines the efficiency of “R” especially when aiming to produce beliefs that are true; “NE” itself is a belief that claims to be true, which was produced by “R”, so that, if “NE” is true, then belief in “NE” is irrational; and, if “NE” is false, it is still irrational.

If “NE” undermines “R” then “NE” undermines everything that “R” produces, including the belief in “NE” itself.

I will post an essay in which I explore C.S. Lewis’s ideas about this further in “Is Reason Reliable.”

Naturalism is Self-Defeating PT 2

This will simplify my argument a bit, and may be helpful. The substantive argument, however, is the first post.

Consider a ancient tribe of people that lived near a lake that was infested with bacteria that in effect killed everyone who came near the lake or entered it. Envision the people developing all sorts of ideas about what is causing the death of their people. Let us imagine the people coming to believe that the evil god Dagon resides in the lake and unleashes wrath on everyone who enters the lake or even comes near it.

For the civilization that lives near this lake, this belief, though false, will improve survival. In this way, from the perspective of naturalistic evolution, the rational faculties of these ancient people, were functioning the way they were supposed to. Naturalistic evolution is concerned with whether or not beliefs enhance survival; not whether beliefs are consistent with the objective truth in reality.

The rational faculties of human beings then, on the account of Naturalistic evolution, is not disposed (or designed by evolution) to produce true beliefs, only useful beliefs that enhance survival.

If this is true, then, why isn’t the belief in naturalistic evolution itself recognized as virtually the same sort of belief as the belief in the evil god Dagon? The belief in Naturalistic evolution should be thought of, at best, as useful, and able to enhance survival; not as true. (since it is produced by the rational faculty under consideration, which on its own account is not formatted to produce true beliefs).

Naturalistic Evolution is Self-Referentially Incoherent

Naturalistic Evolution is self-referentially incoherent. It is self-defeating.

A couple of Premises:

First, naturalistic evolution is not merely belief in evolution, but specifically the belief in evolution as a purely unguided process; unguided by any form of intelligence especially from the ‘outside’. Second, naturalistic evolution is a belief, held by humans, that claims to be true.

Separately: What I am going to dispute is that human beings’ rational faculties are unreliable when their aim is the formation of true beliefs, if it is given that naturalistic evolution (NE) is true. So, concisely: The reliability of our rational faculties (call this R) is undermined by the belief in NE; specifically when the aim of R is true beliefs.

(Clarification) I am not saying: if given NE, our rational faculties are unreliable when forming beliefs which are aimed at enhancing survival, or the propagation of our species; only, I say again, only, that our rational faculties are unreliable when their aim is actually true beliefs.

Let me explain briefly:

According to NE, religious beliefs are the result of evolution. Societies with religious beliefs, according to NE, enjoyed a higher survival and reproduction rate, because those societies, created a more stable environment for human flourishing and therefore human survival; specifically where regard for fellow humans existed. In this way, religious beliefs came to be a widespread phenomenon across all cultures because those cultures survived precisely because of their religious beliefs and their entailments.

Now, according to modern proponents of NE, religious beliefs successfully accomplished their intended purpose (from the evolutionary perspective). These beliefs did increase the rate of survival (which is why all modern cultures have religious beliefs); and hence, in terms of NE, R (our rational faculties) fulfilled its purpose. Our epistemic (belief-forming) faculties fulfilled their evolutionary purpose in producing beliefs that enhanced survival.

Here is the kicker: the beliefs which NE produced were FALSE, according to modern proponents of NE. Every proponent of NE claims that the religious beliefs that enabled the survival of our species were false, untrue; but, these beliefs nevertheless fulfilled their intended purpose. In other words, as long as R produces beliefs that are beneficial for survival and advantageous for the propagation of our DNA, then, regardless of whether or not those beliefs are true, R successfully fulfilled its purpose.

This is a problem. NE can, in a way, provide a sensible way of accounting for R, if the aim of R is survival, and not truth. But when it comes to R as functioning to produce true beliefs, NE has no way of accounting for it. All NE is concerned with is survival. If NE was concerned with the formation of true beliefs, or if NE believed that it is only true beliefs and not false ones which accomplish this intended purpose, then according to NE, we should have never formed religious beliefs to begin with. Or, those false beliefs should not have enhanced our rate of survival. But, on the testimony of NE, the formation of false religious beliefs were actually successful, because they enhanced human survival. In this way, we see that NE’s goal for our rational faculties is the production of beliefs that influence our behaviors in ways to enhance survival, and that the question of truth is irrelevant for NE. If false beliefs enhance survival, then NE will move us in that direction.

Argument: However, the belief in NE itself, is a belief that NE is TRUE, and not merely advantageous for survival. Modern proponents of NE, then, use their rational faculties to produce beliefs that they claim to be true; even though, belief in NE undermines the reliability of the very faculties that they are employing.

So, proponents of NE, assume the reliability of R in producing true beliefs when forming their belief in NE; but the belief in NE undermines the reliability of the very faculty that led them to such a belief.

If you believe in naturalistic evolution, then you shouldn’t believe in R (in the relevant sense). But your R, is what produced belief in NE, and therefore, your belief in NE is itself unreliable. This is a classic case of sawing off the limb upon which you are sitting. Specifically you are sawing the limb that is holding up your weight and enabling you to do the sawing; once you succeed the result is hard fall.

Therefore, a proponent of NE, should be hesitant to employ his rational faculties to produce true beliefs, because, such functions were not, and are not, the aim of NE. The specific belief in question is the belief in NE itself. If you believe in NE, then you should doubt the reliability of R. But if you doubt the reliability of R, then you should doubt the belief in NE that is produced by R.

Simply: Given naturalistic evolution, your rational faculties are unreliable when forming beliefs that are aimed at truth. Naturalistic evolution is a belief that is aimed at truth, and therefore it is incompatible with R given NE. This is why Naturalistic Evolution is self-referentially incoherent and self-defeating.