Of course, all of this is in service to evolutionary materialist atheism, which is severely challenged to ground either mind or morality. (And, as a relativistic, irrational, amoral system of thought, it then "enables' resort to habitually imomral behaviour. Pretty much as we are warned in Rom 1 and Eph 4:17 - 19.)
In the past few days, an exchange has developed on this subject at the blog UD, so it is worth putting up some key excerpts here; to help equip us to handle the accusation when -- not if -- we meet it. Similarly, Glenn Miller of the Christian thinktank has put up some fairly serious and thoughtful studies here and here, on the specific accusation.
EXCERPT 1: The challenge to ground morality on evolutionary materialism, from Hawthorne:
Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.) Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action. Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action. (This is just the standard inferential scheme for formal deontic logic.) We’ve conformed to standard principles and inference rules of logic and we’ve started out with assumptions that atheists have conceded in print. And yet we reach the absurd conclusion: therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’. For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.Commenting:
Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit. Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from ‘is’.
1 –> The key issue here is that while evolutionary materialistic atheists [and their fellow travellers] are often fond of direct or indirect arguments from evil against God [e.g. the moral monster thesis of Dawkins et al], their own worldview is inescapably incoherent at this point: assuming and using the reality of objective morality, even as they hold to a worldview that entails amorality (and often thus enables immorality).
2 –> So, onward, we need to look at the issue of that incoherence as it seems a global consensus that human beings are morally mutually obligated: we all quarrel by in effect claiming “you unfair me.” (That is, we imply that we have rights that must be respected, based in the end on our dignity as persons . . .
3 –> . . . and so, materialists: what inherent dignity accrues to a bit of jumped up pond slime and its perceptions of emotions of outrage or sensations of pain — which are in any case inevitable to one degree or another?
4 –> In short, we have a global consensus that we are morally bound and hold some dignity, a dignity incompatible with our being jumped up pond slime.
5 –> We also have a global consensus that at least some of the time we think, reason and know objectively and even correctly.
6 –> But if we are jumped up pond slime, so-called thought is nothing but electro-chemical activity in neurons, which are in turn partly programmed genetically and partly programmed by whatever accidents of environment we encounter; in the end tracing to mental activity being produced and controlled by chance circumstances and mechanical material forces, however mediated. So, what controls our thought life has nothing whatsoever to do with (especially abstract) logical validity or truth.
7 –> Bn short the objectivity of morality and the credibility of mind both turn out to be facts that are not well accounted for by evolutionary materialist thought [and please notice my specificity, as is so for Mr Hawthorne too].
8 –> But, such thought and its zealous promotion by its true believers depend implicitly on the credibility of what it cannot account for as a theory and worldview of origins. In short, we see self-referential incoherence of an evidently inescapable kind. Reductio ad absurdum, unless a reasonable solution is forthcoming . . . and the burden of rebuttal is on the side of the evidently incoherent position.
EXCERPT 2: The challenge of the problem of evil:
9 –> But, does that not equally point to the need for Judaeo-Christian theists to rebut the problem of evil? Precisely: DONE, ever since Plantinga blew away the deductive dofrom and tamed the inductive form as a the turn of the 1970’s. (The existential/pastoral form is a matter for counselling not debate; go find yourself a good pastor or priest or rabbi, not a circle of Job’s false comforters.) For those who came in late:
a --> The Defense approach is more logically powerful than the theodicy approach, for it relies on mere validity to disestablish a contradiction, not truthfulness of premises. (And those who try to read it as a theodicy show their misunderstanding.)
b --> The classic posed and claimed contradictory theistic set is demonstrably not contradictory, and there are reasonable grounds on which a world in which there is significant suffering experienced by creatures, is morally justifiable, given inter alia that morality itself is premised on the power of choice. In short, a world in which love is possible is one that necessarily has hate — and worse, indifference [in the bad sense] — as possible too.
c --> Thence, the point that the lesser of evils may be a relative moral good; e.g. wars may be just and homicide excusable; in a further context where death of an “innocent” (even that is relative . . . ) is a tragedy but may in context offset far greater losses in both time and eternity.
d --> Such a world is one in which reformation is also possible — and important. So is containment of evil [a la Cold War], and if necessary, removal of otherwise virulently spreading and destructive contagion (of which Nazism is an excellent recent case in point) through just war that inescapably will kill significant numbers of innocents given the means available a the relevant time.
e --> And note the current resort of the Islamist terrorists and their fifth columnist friends in our civilisation, who make much of the inevitable loss of innocents in a war of containment or defense against attack, as if those who resist contagious and aggressive evils are to be equated to those who spread such while intentionally targetting civilians etc to terrorise and paralyse their intended victims, and inter alia binding generations to come into a blood feud to carry out the aggression as long as their culture endures as an entity holding significant power.
f --> If that sounds familiar, it should: this is materially the same dilemma faced by those confronting the Amorites c. 1,300 BC and who drove them out, breaking up the power centres and destroying the hard core who insisted on defending the indefensible to the bitter end. (And indeed, nearly 1,000 years later, a descendant-survivor of the elites of the Amorites sought to destroy all Jews in the Persian empire: Haman.)
g --> It is also the same dilemma that confronted the Spanish monarchs c. 1491 and impelled them to forcibly convert or exile what they viewed with some justification as an utterly irreconcilable and blood feud prone population descended from invaders. (NB: I am not defending Ferdinand and Isabella [much less, the notorious Inquisition . . . ], I am asking us to understand their dilemmas and ask ourselves whether we have reliably better solutions that we can present as at least the credibly lesser of evils. . . )
h --> It is not without relevance to note that after WW I, the German populace in certain key parts, denied the reality of military defeat . . . a defeat bought at ruinous cost by the Allies. 20 years later, we paid an even worse price, but after the utter devastation of Germany, the centuries long feud between germans and franks finally came to an end, after three wars in 70 years.
i --> History has some very sobering lessons for us . . .
Sobering and saddening lessons. but on pain of repeating utterly grim history, we dare not neglect such lessons.
EXCERPT 3: The very existence of evil has implications . . .
10 –> But also, there is the issue that the mere known existence of evil as an objectionable entity has implications, as Koukl pointed out:
Evil is real . . . That’s why people object to it. Therefore, objective moral standards must exist as well [i.e. as that which evil offends and violates] . . . . The first thing we observe about [such] moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties. We won’t bump into them in the dark. They don’t extend into space. They have no weight. They have no chemical characteristics. Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of our five senses . . . .
We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real. Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws. This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe. If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false.
There seem to be many other things that populate the world, things like propositions, numbers, and the laws of logic. Values like happiness, friendship, and faithfulness are there, too, along with meanings and language. There may even be persons–souls, angels, and other divine beings.
Our discovery also tells us some things really exist that science has no access to, even in principle. Some things are not governed by natural laws. Science, therefore, is not the only discipline giving us true information about the world. It follows, then, that naturalism as a world view is also false.
Our discovery of moral rules forces us to expand our understanding of the nature of reality and open our minds to the possibility of a host of new things that populate the world in the invisible realm.
11 –> Thus, evil is now reduced to proper scope: a painful difficulty within the general face-validity of a theistic view. And, as Job’s case shows, it may be painful and hard to understand — perhaps even in part beyond our capacity to understand — but that does not give us leave to pretend to knowledge beyond our capacity, and to dismiss what we can otherwise know of God through personal encounter and/or from the characteristics of creation etc [Cf Job 38!]
EXCERPT 4: Euthryphro's dilemma:
12 –> Someone has raised that hoary, long past sell-date objection, the Euthryphro dilemma. But, it is fatally flawed: for, it inescapably depends for its rhetorical force on a long since discredited Greek concept of gods, i.e. in a context of the independent reality of the material and ideational worlds. (It is on that implicit base that it becomes persuasive to ask whether the gods command the good because they are good [a reference to the platonic Form of the Good], or because of their power, i.e arbitrarily.)
13 –> The Hebraic- Christian, revelationally anchored view of the Creator- Sustainer- Redeemer God is utterly different and is inherently not subject to such an objection.
14 –> For, we are contingent; it is in the Creator-God that we live, move and have our being, including that we live in a contingent cosmos, dependent for its origin on a necessary being, the Creator. And, that Creator — who is Reason Himself, Truth himself, Love Himself and Holiness Himself — by his necessary nature is both powerful and moral. So, he acts in ways that are both moral and moral in a context that they are also reasonable.
15 –> Thus morality is intelligible to us and we sense its compelling force as OUGHT, not just IS; i.e. we can understand core morality and see that its precepts are self-evident, on pain of hypocritically inconsistent absurdity on rejecting them. (Resemblance to the 2nd para of the 1776 US DOI is NOT coincidental.)
16 –> Indeed, let us see how Locke cites “the judicious [Richard] Hooker,” from that Anglican worthy’s Ecclesiastical Polity, when Locke set out to ground the natural law of liberty and justice for all — i.e Laws of [moral] nature and of nature’s God — in the 2nd chapter of his 2nd essay on civil govt:
. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature [which of course in both Hooker's and Locke's contexts traces to the equality of our creation in God's image], as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.
17 –> Thus we see articulated precisely the view of core morality that we find in Romans:
2: 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the [written Mosaic] law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .
RO 13:8b . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
18 –> In short, core morality — not the mores of any given place or time, which often fail to be consistent with core morality 9which is why we need repentance and reform, and to listen to the pleading ever so sweetly reasonable voice of both conscience and true prophet [note the modifier!]) — is just as deeply and indelibly imprinted in our inner life as is core intelligence.
19 –> That is how we find it an objective, consensus obligation, and how we find it reasonable as well. That is OUGHT is objective truth, in a world created and sustained by the inherently moral and inherently necessary, inherently truthful and loving Creator God.
20 –> Thus also, why we find the objectivity of such core morality is a compass needle pointing to its Source.
EXCERPT 5: On the implications for our worldviews:
j –> We also — as a matter of fact — find ourselves bound to respect the truth and to seek it, though we often fall short thereof; especially where the truth affects matters of justice. (Just think about what happens when we quarrel.)
k –> So, again per brute experienced and observed fact, we find ourselves morally bound to one another; leading to the issue of equality of nature and moral obligation as an inherent part of that nature.
l –> Such of course leads to the criterion of worldview choice that no view that is amoral or immoral is credible. (Thus, en passant, the force of Hawthorne’s argument, and Koukl’s argument, as well as the impact of the moral argument to God; as well as the significance of Plantinga’s successful blunting of the problem of evil per the Free Will Defense.)
m –> As well, by the very nature of virtue, virtues rest on choice: one loves only because one has made a choice. A programmed robot cannot LOVE, though it may be an instrument of someone’s loving care. (And notice how virtue is a property of persons, indeed of intelligent agents.)
n –> Thus also a world in which virtues based on love are possible, is also a world in which vices based on hate or indifference are possible. And in such a world, especially if the in-group vs out-group trans-generational vengeful blood feud is a cultural prospect, we face sometimes grim choices of the lesser of evils. (NB: I cited some cases earlier this morning. Until the objectors who would paint God as a moral monster engage these issues, they have no right to claim that such putting of God into the dock is a responsible position.)
o –> If you have the lesser problem of being troubles by such grim realities, welcome to the club.
p –> Only, let us be humble enough to understand that we cannot calculate the balance of evils better than God. And then try to imagine a world in which ONLY an eye for an eye and ONLY a tooth for a tooth was an IMPROVEMENT.
q –> Then join me in shuddering as we contemplate what lurks in the depths of our hearts.
r –> Then, understand the love of God who came and bled for us.
s –> Then, join us in the call to mutual repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation leading to discipleship under the Teacher of Love and reform based on love, that are at the heart of the gospel.
Grace be with us all . . . that we may unstintingly look into our own hearts, and find a way to turn from evil and vengefulness to the good. END