Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven
where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hard To Defend

I've said in other places that when someone does something to hurt us, we know in an instant that what they've done is wrong – objectively wrong. We don't have to think for even one second if this is something that society approves of or if it is sanctioned by the law. We know experientially that objective morals, values, obligations and duties exist. Yet atheists struggle with this concept because if the universe arose by natural means then objective morality simply cannot exist. The reality of Objective Morality makes atheism hard to defend. For example:
I think there is a certain degree of plausibility among atheists in the view that without some kind of transcendental intelligence in the universe there can be no objective moral laws. Moral laws are maxims which tell sentient beings that certain actions are to be deemed moral or immoral. But how could such laws exist in the absence of a mind or sentience in the universe at all? Are moral laws objective in the way that laws of nature are? They don't seen to be, for few would argue that the law “murder is wrong” existed in some Platonic realm of ideas when galaxies were forming over ten billion years ago and there was no sign of consciousness anywhere in the universe.
The use of the word “law” implies and objective existence of unchanging moral maxims independently of sentience. Yet it appears that there can be nothing objective about so-called “moral laws”, because it seems absurd on its face to say that maxims which tell sentient beings that certain actions of sentient beings are moral or immoral could exist in the absence of an even greater sentience.
It seems to me that all ethical codes must ultimately be man-made, and thus there could be no objective criteria for determining if human actions are right or wrong. Admitting that moral laws are man-made is equivalent to acknowledging that ethical rules are arbitrary and therefore human beings are not obligated to follow them.
But ethics does not come into play in the history of the universe until very recently – when Homo sapiens appeared. It is possible that moral laws have existed since the Big Bang, but that they could not manifest themselves until sentient beings arose. However, such a view implies that there is some element of purposefulness in the universe – that the universe was created with the evolution of sentient being “in mind” in the mind of a Creator. To accept the existence of objective moral laws that have existed since the beginning of time is to believe that the evolution of sentient beings capable of moral reasoning (such as human beings) has somehow been predetermined or is inevitable, a belief that is contrary to naturalistic explanations of origins which maintain that sentient beings came into existence due to contingent accidental circumstances.
If moral laws are part of the natural universe then the universe cannot be unconscious – it must be, in some unknown sense sentient.”
Keith Augustine in Defending Moral Subjectivism

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