Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What Is Love?

Christians believe in what we might call a "top-down" picture of love. That is, love comes down from the top, because God is love:

1 John 4:7-12—Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Naturalism (the view that the natural world is all that exists) rules out such a lofty view of love. Indeed, when we consider the explanatory resources available to the naturalist, we realize that if Naturalism were true, love could only be another feature of organisms that helps us pass on our genetic material. This is what keeps everyone's favorite six-year-old awake at night:

Something to think about.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Evolutionary Morality: Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal, a prominent psychologist and animal behaviorist, has written a new book called The Bonobo and the Atheist in which he argues that morality exists because of evolution.

His main thesis is that young children, chimps, and bonobos all express empathy and compassion--this shows that morality is not something that is learned or given to us by 'religion'.

The main problem with his thesis is that if we know that our morality is simply a survival aid, why should we follow it? I can't see any reason why we would be obligated to follow this morality that is built into our DNA, especially if we come across opportunities to better ourselves by not following it. Evolutionary morality cannot provide a basis for justified obligations.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Good Without God: Is God Necessary for Morality? Kile Jones vs. David Wood

Anyone can perform actions that we normally regard as "moral." In this sense, anyone can be moral, whether God exists or not. But in a deeper sense, we recognize that claims such as "Bob is a good person" and "You ought to help that woman" presuppose objective moral values, moral duties, and responsibility for our actions. Without objective moral values, moral duties, and responsibility for our actions, most of what we mean by "morality" is meaningless or illusory. Hence, only a worldview that is capable of supporting objective moral values can make sense of morality.

Can Atheism support such values? I don't see how, but not everyone agrees with me. In order to stimulate thought on this topic, two student groups at Columbia University (Columbia Faith and Action and the Columbia Humanist Society) hosted a short debate between me and Kile Jones, an atheist with a strong background in theology. Though time was short, we were able to lay out our basic positions. Here's the discussion:

The most interesting aspect of the debate for me was Kile's insistence, in his conclusion, that we shouldn't even ask where morality comes from. In my opening statement, I had pointed out that people often shift their levels of skepticism (I think all human beings do this) in order to reject certain beliefs while retaining others. Kile said that his skepticism level is high, and he is certainly correct when it comes to God, Christianity, etc. But if we can't even ask where morality comes from, how skeptical are we concerning morality? It seems, then, that we must accept the existence of objective moral values by faith, even though we demand hard evidence for the existence of other things.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Do Objective Moral Values Exist?

Many of the 'internet atheists' like to deny the existence of objective morality in order to circumvent the idea of a necessary 'Law-Giver' (God).

The problem is that unless the skeptic can provide an argument against the existence of objective morality, theists (and all who believe in the reality of objective moral values) are justified in their convictions about the existence of objective morality.

In this short clip William Lane Craig argues that any argument made against objective morality can also be used against the reality of the external world. If a skeptic denies the reality of the moral realm, then why not also deny the reality of the physical world? After all, we could just be brains in a giant vat or living in the matrix. If we can't trust our moral experience which leads us to conclude that objective morals exist, then why should we trust our sensory experience which leads us to believe that the external world is real?