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March 25, 2014

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Notice how contradictory and assuming the video is:

"We have to respect the rights and wishes of others involved" (where do rights come from? why should they be respected?)

"do the least harm" (on what objective basis is harm bad?)

"we shouldn't take any rule for granted" (like the rules the video talks about?)

"All values are human inventions" (So are airplanes. Just because people invented airplanes does not compel me to fly in them. Why then should the invention of moral rules be any more or less compulsive?)

It's hard to know where to begin criticizing the video, because it's just so terrible. It eschews morality from any god, says that morality comes from inside us, but provides no reason as to WHY that morality is correct, is binding, and should be followed. It's just a bunch of atheists using the christian morality they like and trying to justify it in such a way that ties them in to the christian morality they don't like.

Other problems in the video:

Why should we assume that iterations over human morality over time make morality better (whatever that can mean without an objective standard)? If morality is changing, and will keep changing, why should we obey today's morality?

The humanists, while not stated in the video, are assuming the existence of metaphysical standards (whether or not they want to admit it). They are assuming that human beings have rights and values that should be respected. However, if those rights and values are the result of random chance and the emergent behavior of unthinking rules of nature, then there is no possible avenue for the rights and values to be binding or important.

If you think about it, they are arguing that our human instincts for moral behavior should be followed (with the limits the humanists want, of course), but they offer no way to distinguish between the moral instinct and the immoral instincts. It's an assumption that our instinct to restrict our behavior is somehow "better" than other instincts.

The human instinct to gain material goods, or sex, or any other pleasure exists right alongside moral instincts. Why does the moral instinct to avoid rape supersede an instinct to rape? Again, this requires an assumption about the relative quality and value of human instincts that the humanists don't mention!

Frankly, they cannot mention it, because that's clearly a metaphysical assumption, and anything beyond nature can't exist, so they must ignore it.

The "Too long; didn't read" is:

Humanists hijack Christian morality because it's obvious to the human heart that many aspects of it are true. In this way, they are partially aligned with a correct moral epistemology. However, the humanist position cannot sustain any moral ontology due to their rejection of the supernatural.

Instead of addressing that, they will simply make an emotional appeal that "we can all be good without god, so look at how moral we are because we behave well even without god." One is tempted to respond that they are incredibly illogical to follow rules or behaviors that have no grounding or binding nature.

There was actually not one argument given in that video...maybe there was a hint of an argument from evolution...where the chimps are sharing a banana. The move from there to the pinnacle of morality, self-sacrificial love, is supposed to be obvious.

But for the most part it was a catalog of moral behaviors followed by the bald assertion that we did that...not God.

As if our faculties for moral reflection, empathy, planning and universal instantiation were not gifts of God.

As if theists believe that morality involves following a set of God-given rules that short circuit those faculties. Rather than a set of God-given rules that only work with beings where those faculties are assumed.

Well, that convinced me!!!

Not of humanism so much as that we are still up to our old tricks. Thinking that our eyes are opened, and we are as gods, knowing good and evil.

I had an error in my post. I said:

"It's just a bunch of atheists using the christian morality they like and trying to justify it in such a way that ties them in to the christian morality they don't like."

I meant to say:

"It's just a bunch of atheists using the christian morality they like and trying to justify it in such a way that *doesn't tie* them in to the christian morality they don't like."

I think James covered most of the issues here, but I may as well out in my two cents.

There's an important distinction to make between sociology and morality. Sociology is how we are observed to behave, morality is how we ought to behave, independent of how we actually behave in reality.

We can observe that monkeys will sometimes share bananas each other. We can also observe that monkeys will sometime form gangs and literally hunt down and murder another monkey for no apparent reason. The British Humanist Society has taken the liberty of deciding that the first behavior, rather than the latter, is how we ought to live. But why?

In his debate with Frank Turek, David Silverman (President of American Atheists) was at least honest enough to admit that, on the atheistic/humanistic view, there is no objective basis from which we can declare that the Nazis were really wrong by essentially forming a giant gang and hunting down and murdering fellow human beings for no apparent reason. But monkeys do this, so why not us?

Also, their statement that morality can be based in reason (which by the way, where does reason even come from in the humanist worldview?) conflicts with what other atheistic thinkers such as Kai Nielsen have expressed, namely that pure reason will not take us to morality, there is no reason why rational men and women should do certain things and not do other things simply because of their intellect.

Finally, if we are simply somewhat evolved primates who are here without an ultimate purpose, as the video suggests, one ironically begins to question what it even means to be human, let alone how human beings should behave. I think that this entire humanism project ultimately backfires when carful scrutiny is applied.

I guess I should clarify that it's not exactly correct to say monkeys murder each other, since that implies it was wrong for them to do so, but rather that they simply kill each other. But in any case, this brings up another point, which is that on the humanistic worldview, words like "murder" become meaningless, monkeys kill each other and humans kill each other. There is no murder, or unjust killing.

My two cents -

It is not a defense of a humanist moral philosophy. It is simply saying, "Religious people believe X, humanists believe Y." Also, the narrator refers to our natural rights, which were originally defended by theists (e.g. Adam Smith, John Locke, Hugo Grotius).

“Humanists think carefully, for themselves, about what might be the best way to live”.

This was mentioned right out of the gate - at around 25 seconds in. The narrator then went on, in great detail, to describe why one is only allowed to think carefully for themselves if they arrive at “reason, experience, empathy, and respect for others”. In other words, so long as you arrive at his conclusion.

The narrator went on further to say that most people do morality without even thinking about it. Yet no mention of how we do immorality even better. Immorality can be so very natural. Again, we have a “humanist” trying to explain away morality by our ease in doing the moral.

I noticed 4 people received recognition in the closing credits. Nice work guys.

"We have to always be empathetic" Hmmmm? sounds objective to me! Bless their hearts they try so hard. The really want to be seen as "good people" without believing in any objective standard of good, but they just can't do it!

One thing I've noticed very early on in this video is that the narrator says humanists decide for themselves what may be the best way to live, not looking to a reference beyond oneself. He then follows this up by saying "we have always to be empathetic, and think about the effects of our choices". I've determined three immediate problems with this:

Firstly, he has just prescribed a standard of empathy for others, when someone else may not consider empathy the best way for them to live.

He also makes the assumption that things like empathy are desirable states. Again, if that is purely his subjective ideology with no bearing on another person, then we are free to disregard everything he says.

The third problem is with the word "best" when he talks about the best way to live. By saying this, he is implying that there is a way of living that is superior to others, which implies that there is some sort of overall standard by which lives are measured; for without an ideal there is no way to compare one thing to another to say one is better or the best. It can only be preferable to the individual, and nothing more. Yet according to him, there is no objective standard, so he has no basis for judging the lifestyle of any other person, which is essentially what this whole video is about.

One more thing. I encourage anyone posting a comment on this page to repost it in the comments section under this video on Youtube. After all, we can discuss it in the safety of STR all day long, but what will be most effective is when we engage with people in the "outside world" who do not share our viewpoint!

Dr. Del Tackett handles this in session 2 of The Truth Project. This is simply an outflow of "The Cosmic Cube" argument, which simply says in the words of Carl Sagan, "The cosmos is all there is, ever was, and ever will be."

That leads to a host of problems: In this case, answers to morality (right and wrong) can't be found inside the cosmos, because they don't exist. The fact that someone might invent their own version of what's right and wrong doesn't make something right (or wrong); both rational thinking and the historical record show us that this type of construct leads down a path of destruction.

So the only real answer is that morality doesn't come from us. True morality, what's right and wrong, comes from the nature and being of God, who exists outside the cosmos.

If morality is a human invention then why are the moral principles specified in the video necessarily good? Why aren't killing off potential competitors or eating our young for example good things? After all, these behaviors are found in nature in other species as well as some humans. it sure seems natural to do what we consider bad things. Could we not simply invent a different system that opposes the principles specified in the video and call them good?

Perhaps it's all about survival? Why is that a good thing? Why is reason a good thing? Why is respect a good thing? There is no fundamental principle in humanism that can account for its own goodness.

There's a fair share of the "Golden Rule" intertwined in that vid. But it is what Scripture calls the Law written in the heart. It not only serves as a "natural" guide, but also serves to condemn everyone. No one can fully measure up to it.

Everyone outside of Christ is under God's Law. And they do nothing but sin continuously, even in their best works.

Those in Christ are no longer under the Law, but still need His atonement for sin, to make even their best works acceptable to God.

If Christians fall terribly short of actual personal righteousness, where does that leave the rest, but under the wrath of God, even for giving it "their best".

Ryan and KWM are correct in their point that the humanist vision of morality seems to sidestep the concept of immorality. In the other three BHA presentations dealing with Truth, Death, and How to be Happy, there is an unbridled (maybe better to say ungrounded) optimism in the human pursuit of life. We seek to do what is right, but our methods do not work. We are forced to confront the realities of extreme wickedness throughout history. The Holocaust is exemplary of such human cruelty, but even today one can find websites that would minimize the event, reducing it to so much Zionist propaganda in quest of sympathy.

Humanist morality does try to extract Christian consciousness of morality without invocations to deity. But in the history of humanity, there has been constant legislations, attempting to find the best possible code of conduct. History may advance, and cultures adapt, but there is a definite core of right and wrong.

This could well be the divine aspect of the moral question. Slavery has been a blight in history, but its waning in the nineteenth century was sparked by the Wilberforces and Stowes of the time. Slavery under the Hammurabi Code and the Mosaic Law was contrasts in the institution. Slaves were chattel in Babylon, indentured servants under voluntary commitments to service. In Paul's letter to Philemon slaves were brothers in the faith, worthy of better treatment if not manumission. If morality advances with the times, it is best to advance with a code that ennobles the person. Murder, theft, rape, and other behaviors would have their uses in a situational ethic. No such rationalizations of bad behavior in a divine morality.

And this is simply what the BHA cannot offer.

A missing point. Revise: Slaves were chattel in Babylon, indentured servants under voluntary commitments to service under the Mosaic ordinance.

He claims that morality (the absolute measure of right and wrong) is measured by the action which causes the least amount of "suffering". Any action which causes more suffering is "bad", and any action which causes less suffering is "good". This sounds very nice, but when you try to apply this principle in the real world, this ultimately fails. In fact this is the principal definition of Euthanasia. His view that each moral action should also be subjectively chosen based on our own experiences and reasons also makes him a relativist. Every moral choice is relative to each person's experiences and reasons. Under a relativistic point of view, he can't complain about fairness or justice. Everything is just a matter of personal preference. The humanistic view in this video is self-defeating.

Preface: I haven't read any of the comments, but will attempt to answer the video as an exercise in using what STR has taught me. I will give a longer answer addressing several different angles, realizing that tactically it would be best in conversation to maybe choose one point as the focus.

This video explains to us how humanists make moral decisions in contrast to how they believe that religious believers make moral decisions. The video seems to address the question of, "How do people decide what is the right thing to do morally in any given situation?" The video explains how people make decisions that cause the least harm or most good, or that promote positive ideals like justice and respect.

Part 1: Grounding of Morality
My question for those that espouse this view is: What makes harm a bad thing? What makes justice a good thing? Why is it better to do something that benefits another rather than harms another? The humanist might say, these choices lead to human thriving. To that I say, if we are really just molecules in motion, what makes human thriving "good"? How can anything be good in a completely materialist view? With rocks there is no good. The rocks exist or they get destroyed and it's not good or bad in and of itself. In a choice between one person's thriving over another's or a group's, what makes selfishness bad and selflessness or "the greater good" positive?

The humanist might say that there's a practical advantage to getting along with others. If we are selfless and respectful our lives will be better. There are a couple of possible responses there. One is, there are many instances where people would actually have a better situation if they were selfish and would have no repercussions from the group, like sometimes we have an opportunity to benefit ourselves and no one will ever know. If it's about pragmatics, the selfish act may be just as good. Why should the individual care about the group if there's not a consequence for putting oneself first? Second, you're still sneaking in moral terms. How do we know what kind of life is "better" if we are just molecules? Is there such thing as a better life for a rock?

Conclusion: The humanist can tell you how to make a moral choice, but can't tell you why that choice is moral. Morality and terms like good and bad have no place in a completely materialist system.

Part 2: Humanist vs. Religious Decision Making
The video says that humanists make moral decisions by wrestling with the choices and considering consequences and how our choices affect others. By contrast the video says that religious believers make moral decisions by consulting authoritative texts and doing what they say, with the same choices applying to all situations.

My question would be, do you think there are ever situations where a religious believer has to make a moral decision that is not explicitly addressed in the religious text? How do you think the religious believer makes a decision in those instances? As a member of that group I can assure you that this happens all the time, and in those cases the believer uses a combination of authoritative texts and the same decision making model explained as the humanist model in the video, though we add to it 2 pieces which I don't remember hearing in the video: seeking counsel from others (which humanists probably also do) and prayer.

The Bible actually teaches us to use reasoning to make our decisions, as evidenced by this verse which explains what it means to be wise. James 3:17 ESV: "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." In fact wisdom is such a focus in the Bible that there is a whole genre of Bible writing called Wisdom literature. And in contrast to the idea that people are the authors of morality the Bible tells us, Proverbs 14:12 ESV: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." While Scripture references probably are not going to be persuasive to a humanist, this rings true to me in my experience. Don't we often fool ourselves into doing what we want to do at others' expense? I know I have often done so! What's more, one person's judgment of what's "good" is not the same as another's. One judges abortion to be a moral evil while another judges it to be a moral good. Both have reasons for their opinions. Without a ruler to measure by, there's really no right choice other than the subjective choice that satisfies the individual's conscience, not differing to fit different situations but differing for different people in the same situation.

Summary: The religious model of decision making presented in the video is a straw man. Christians use a very similar model to the one presented as the humanist model, with objective standards and principles to guide our reasoning rather than just what one person subjectively judges to be "good."

I hope I have summarized the points Greg might make for this challenge! That was my goal!

It seems to me that promoting a basic societal code of public morality gives the humanist a way of appearing moral publicly while conveniently relieving them of any need to do so privately.

I think they recognize that without any moral framework, society would completely collapse, which they don't want. But they also don't want to be accountable to any higher authority, as they say in the video. Therefore, their philosophy enables them to live in a society that treats them how they want to be treated, while at the same time not having any higher power to worry about.

I'm not saying this is true or every humanist, but I've certainly found it to be true of many atheists and agnostics so I don't see why a similar motivation wouldn't be at work here as well.

The difficulty in refuting such well produced videos is that the responses seem cold, long winded, detailed, and complicated. Diving into a refutation makes the 'Christian' appear as though she is against all the good things the video calls for. The better approach perhaps is to agree with the worthy ideals or end goals (happiness, justice, equality, etc.,) as they are also Christian goals. The real question here is, "Why do these things?"

This question gives us a chance to turn the tables. For the humanist the 'Why' can only be for selfish reasons where for the Christian the 'Why' is focused on others -- it is a genuine altruism not selfishness masquerading as goodness.

It is very easy to demonstrate the goodness and love of God. With this light at our backs it will be much easier to expose the darkness underlying the humanist position.

Who decided that Fairness, Equality, Happiness, Justice, and Freedom were good moral qualities? If these qualities are not objectively good(you know, constant and unchanging commandments), then couldn't smart educated people disagree even on this list.

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