I just checked the news. Ten years ago a California man kidnapped his girlfriend’s daughter and has held her against her will since that time. He mentally, physically and sexually abused her, forced her to marry him and she bore him a three-year-old daughter under duress. This is wrong. Two landscapers in New Jersey duct-taped the mouth and eyes of one of their clients, a 41 year-old mother of two, and then buried her alive. So wrong! A rich, important man was recorded making distressingly racist remarks. He was wrong to hold such views, whether or not he expressed them. Finally, a woman’s dog went missing, but it turns out someone stole it. She found it for sale the next day in an ad on Craigslist. This is all sad – and simply wrong.
These are not preferences. It’s not only that we don’t like stealing, murder and various kinds of abuse. It is wrong to do these things. This is not merely cultural, decided by society. The genocides of Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were wrong, even though many in those societies had actually learned to view them as necessary. Getting a certain critical mass of people to favor genocide will not make it morally right.
Black widows can eat their mates and presumably feel no twinge of conscience. Wolves and hyenas have been known to eat their young. It may be repulsive to us, but that’s just what they do.
Jeffrey Dahmer, sexual predator, serial killer and prominent Milwaukee cannibal, might only have been guilty of violating a number of elaborate herd instincts, products of natural selection, kept for their survival value. In that case, his behavior may have even been the result of a positive genetic mutation. He did, after all, outlive every one of his victims.
But wait. We know that just isn’t true. What he did was bad. Period.
Of course, we most clearly feel the presence of a moral issue when we are the victims of an offense. Nonetheless, we can see one even if the case has zero impact on us. In the political realm we argue the fine points; we don’t question the basic assumption.
The existence of God and the possibility that we are made in his image does a lot to explain this. If he is, and is good and we are wired to reflect his character, then human guilt (or the lack of it) is not merely a feeling, but the result of actual moral knowledge. Such knowledge may need refining, but it is not our invention.
Interesting…I’m atheist and one of my reasons for leaving Christianity was my moral revulsion at the genocidal, drunk-with-blood, Christian god. I found substitutionary atonement to be a barbaric, disgusting, and vile preachment. “He-died-for-your-sins” is as disturbing as “he-took-a-blowtorch-to-his-nuts-for-your-mortgage.” If you read William Lane Craig’s defense of Yahweh’s psychotic episodes, they sound like the Nazi justifications for genocide. Getting a certain critical mass of people to favor Yahweh’s genocides will not make them morally right.There are natural explanations for the development of moral reasoning. You should never go to superstition to find answers.
Is it possible that your moral revulsion has a purely natural (i.e., amoral) explanation and is not due to the existence of objective morality at all?
… Yes. In fact it is necessary, ignoring the amoral redefinition. If knowledge of morality is granted by a morally perfect god, the feeling of moral disgust at his actions should not be possible. This necessitates an alternate method of attaining these feelings, perhaps social conditioning co-opting evolutionary responses. The question you have to ask yourself is, if your preferred paradigm necessitates a second paradigm to explain observed phenomena (others with differing moral opinions), and that second paradigm does not require your preferred, then will you be intellectually responsible and demote your preferred paradigm?
Dear IA, Thank you for this. I see at least three points in your comment that might generate a response and possible further discussion. Rather than one long comment, I would prefer to put them in several short posts, as they are all worthy topics taken separately. Much appreciated. Respectfully, DCK
Here is a part of a response I gave to a similar blog about how transcendental morality proves the existence of the christian god or a god in general:
“As for the transcendental nature of morality yes morality does to an extent transcend cultures, even isolated cultures that have not had contact in thousands of years are populated with people that share similar values and moral (and immoral) behaviors, and beyond that our basic behaviors and psychology and even our ability to nurture our children and put ourselves in harm’s way for a stranger etc are not even limited to our species – they seem to be common among mammals in general. So yes, I absolutely agree that there must be something which transcends cultures and even species to account for this. However it does not need to be a magic man in a particular religious book. It no more needs to be the god of the bible than the god of the koran or aliens from your favorite scifi novel. And today we actually know what it is that transcends cultures and accounts for similarities in behavior – the same thing that transcends cultures and accounts for the fact that you and your dog both have tongues and ears and kidneys – similar, commonly inherited DNA. And yes, unlike vague mystical forces we actually know for a fact that DNA is related to behavior, and have manipulated species’ behavior by modifying their genes.”
The original comment:
Thanks for the comment Agnophilo. A few things. I personally wouldn’t use the phrase “proves the existence of” God. A technicality perhaps, but not an insignificant one. A glance back at a couple of my previous posts might clarify what I’m doing or saying here. Nor am I saying that this or any other of the points I’m making in this particular series of posts is pointing directly to the Christian God or any other, whether from the Koran or a sci-fi book. The evidence is much too general in this one area to prompt such a specific conclusion. As for DNA, you make a great point that there is major explanatory power here. In fact, I had already decided to address that in a future post based on previous comments. It’s a rich topic for discussion. Again, thanks very much. Respectfully, DCK.
My attitude towards gods is the same as my attitude toward alien life – it’s perfectly valid and reasonable and sane to speculate about it’s existence, but when you claim to know particulars about either and can’t back it up, it’s tinfoil hat time.
Pingback: Honest Q & A: The Existence of God (3a) – Morals Exist (continued) | Palmer St. Parentheses ( )