Friday, August 16, 2013

Rom 1 reply, 38h: Of origins, rights and Creation order rooted morality (a further response to Patrick White's July 1 2013 Gleaner article promoting homosexualism and atheism while denigrating the Christian faith)

It is quite obvious from his July 1st article that Mr White despises the concept of our world being a creation with ourselves, creatures made in God's image and accountable to him. 

For, he speaks of Genesis as mythical, and of the Biblical account of creation being billions of years off the mark -- evidently he does not realise that there are responsible old earth, old cosmos understandings of the teachings of Genesis so that it is not enough to simply dismiss Young Earth Creationism (which is not without informed defenders either).  Nor, does he seem to realise that the evidence decisively pointing to design of the cosmos and of the world of life is independent of the real or estimated age of the universe and our home planet.

Likewise, he plainly views Biblically rooted objections to homosexual behaviour as in effect prejudice and dogmatism rooted in ill informed anti-science superstition. 

It seems that, for him, homosexuality is a genetically stamped orientation -- failing to observe that this claim is exactly what has not been properly grounded (cf. here earlier in this series and the reference here) -- and therefore he believes this behaviour is a scientifically grounded right. (To those locked up in scientism, science defines reason and knowledge; they do not understand that the notion that science defines the bounds of knowledge is an epistemological, thus philosophical claim, and the notion of scientism is therefore self refuting. There are aspects of genuine knowledge that go far beyond the limits of science, as was discussed earlier in this series.)

That puts the issue, what is a right, at the pivot of our discussions.

Right next to, what grounds such rights.

As usual, before we further take up that response to Mr White's skeptical rhetoric, let us briefly review where we have been so far:

1: Exposed and rebutted the agenda of willful defiance of God, his creation order for sexuality and consequential sound principles of morality under false colours of law and "rights."
2: Corrected the misleading historical myth that Christian sexual ethics are part of an inevitably losing war of irrational religion against science and reason.
3: Addressed the issue of grounding ethics and morality in the teeth of the rise of evolutionary materialist scientism, which cloaks atheism and amorality in the lab coat, demanding genuflection.
4: Raised the question that the gospel naturally leads to reformation of lives, communities and nations.

5: Rebutted the "right wing Christofascist, theocratic tyrants" talking point.

6: Provided some pointers on building capacity for reformation.

7: Addressed the attempt to strawmannise and knock over the empirical evidence in our natural world that points to design as a pivotal cause of the observable universe and the world of life, including ourselves.

8: Addressed the attempt to undermine the credibility of the Bible based on assertions by minimalist archaeologists such as Israel Finkelstein et al.

Now, on the question of rights, immediately we can see that -- once we remove the confusion between genuine liberty and destructive licence that imagines it can do as it pleases without limits -- rights are binding moral expectations that demand that our lives, persons, reputations, possessions and so forth be treated with respect. That is, if I have a right to my life, liberty, innocent reputation and the fruit of my labour, it is because you owe me duties of care to respect my life, liberty, reputation etc.

On what basis?

Our inherent dignity and value as human beings.

And, what gives us such a dignity or value?

That is where evolutionary materialist scientism falls down flat.

For, if we have a pattern of mutual duties to one another -- things that we OUGHT to do, that is simply another way of saying that we are morally governed creatures, beyond the mere law of the jungle "might and manipulation make 'right' . . . "

Where does that come from?

Hume, for all his errors, put his finger on something here: we face an IS-OUGHT gap

For ought to be real, there has to be a ground for it, and if such a basis is not in the very roots of reality we don't. For instance, the evolutionary materialistic view imagines that the world has blindly developed from hydrogen to humans, by chance and necessity acting on matter and energy in space and time. But, in such, there simply is nothing that grounds ought, above might makes 'right.' As Plato pointed out 2,350 years ago, in The Laws Bk X.

That is an excellent reason to see such a worldview as failing to address absolutely foundational facts: that we have rights and are morally governed, and so it is reduced to absurdity. 

(If you doubt this, kindly explain how it is not self evidently true that it is wrong to kidnap, rape and torture an innocent little girl to death. Ought is real, and no worldview that fails to properly ground it can be true. It fails the test of vital facts. Thus, already, we know that evolutionary materialism -- for all its scientific pretensions -- has stumbled fatally coming out the starting gates.)

Cutting to the chase scene, the only effective basis for morality, is a worldview foundational IS -- a root of being -- that entails OUGHT.

There is precisely one viable candidate for such: the inherently good and just God, our Creator and Lord.

That is why, in Ch 2 sect 5 of his second treatise on civil government, when John Locke wanted to ground rights as the foundation of liberty and justice in the state and community, this is what he quoted from "the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker":

. . . 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, 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 . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

That is, morality is rooted in creation order, and in particular in the order impressed on us by our Creator at the beginning. So, it is no surprise that we can see the -- naturally obvious -- order for sexuality and marriage plainly, from Jesus' teaching:
Matt 19:4 . . . “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” [ESV]
It is as simple as that. 

So simple, in fact, that we have no excuse to wrench this order out of its proper course, whether by perverted behaviour and twisted rhetoric or by imposing such inherently and inescapably disordered practices under false colours of law. Which, can only be sustained by willfully falsely accusing those who have Creation order rooted principled objections to such behaviours of bigotry and hate speech comparable to racism and nazism, and the linked abuse of the force of law to intimidate or crush. 

As, sadly, we are already beginning to see.

No wonder the apostle Paul remarks:
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [--> Whether idolatrous images in pagan temples or images in museums, textbooks, etc presented as scientific "proofs" of evolutionary materialism -- in fact the materialism is routinely imposed on the interpretation of the reconstructions, begging questions -- makes little difference.]

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [ESV]
Similarly, in the book of Job we read:
Job 38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action[a] like a man;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors
    when it burst out from the womb,
when I made clouds its garment
    and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed limits for it
    and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
    and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? [ESV]
We simply were not present at the Creation, nor do we have any ability to observe the remote past of origins. 

We are forced to build models of the past based on its traces and the forces that we think were at work. 

We should therefore have the humility to accept that such reconstructions are inevitably provisional and are not to be equated to facts of direct observation such as the roundness of the earth or the orbiting of planets around the sun. (Unfortunately, such over-claiming of certainty is far too common, and is routinely made worse by imposing ideological materialism, sometimes even into the definition of science taught to impressionable pupils in school.)

The fire tetrahedron, showing the four needed
enabling factors for a fire (HT: Wiki)
Likewise, we need to follow the logic of what we see in the world around us, starting with what a burning match can teach us about cause and effect.

In steps of thought:

1 --> For a fire to begin or to continue, we need (1) fuel, (2) heat, (3) an oxidiser [usually oxygen] and (4) an un- interfered- with heat-generating chain reaction mechanism. (For, Halon fire extinguishers work by breaking up the chain reaction.) 
2 --> Each of the four factors is necessary for, and the set of four are jointly sufficient to begin and sustain a fire. We thus see four contributory factors, each of which is necessary [knock it out and you block or kill the fire], and together they are sufficient for the fire. 

A burning Match -- cause in action

3 --> This may be studied by lighting a match. For instance, strike one, and let it half burn. Then, tilt the head up. Watch the flame fade out for want of an ON/OFF enabling factor, fuel. 

4 --> Similarly, if one pulls a second match and instead of wiping on the friction-strike strip, moves it rapidly through the air -- much lower friction -- it will not light for want of heat. If we were to try to strike a match in pure Nitrogen instead of air, it might flare at first (depending on what is in the head) but the main fuel, wood will not burn for want of a good oxidiser. And so forth. As a similar exercise, one may set a candle stub in a tray of water and light it. Then, put a jar over the candle, such that water can be drawn up into it. After a little while, the candle will go out for want of the oxidiser in air, Oxygen. (One should do the actual experiment, at least to the stage of making a match fade out. Many of us will have done this or the like in school.)

5 --> We thus see by definite and instructive example, the principle of cause and effect. That is, 

  if something has a beginning or may cease from being -- or, generally it is contingent -- it has a cause.
  6 --> Common-sense rationality, decision-making and science alike are founded on this principle of right reason: if an event happens, why -- and, how? If something begins or ceases to exist, why and how? If something is sustained in existence, what factors contribute to, promote or constrain that effect or process, how?  The answers to these questions are causes.
7 --> Without the reality behind the concept of cause the very idea of laws of nature would make no sense: events would happen anywhere, anytime, with no intelligible reason or constraint.  

8 --> As a direct result, neither rationality nor responsibility would be possible; all would be a confused, unintelligible, unpredictable, uncontrollable chaos with nothing having a stable existence or identity.   

 9 --> We can see as well, that there is an underlying principle, called the principle of sufficient reason. In weak form:
[PSR, weak form:] Of any thing A that is, we may ask, why it is, and expect -- or at least hope -- to find a reasonable answer.
10 --> Moreover, if something A is possible, its defining attributes must be coherent, unlike the contradictions between requisites of squarishness and circularity that render a square circle impossible:

A square circle is impossible
11 --> Also, since it often comes up, yes: a necessary, ON/OFF enabling causal factor like those in the fire tetrahedron  is a causal factor -- if there is no fuel, the car cannot go because there is no energy source for the engine. Similarly, without an unstable nucleus or particle, there can be no radioactive decay and without a photon of sufficient energy, there can be no photo-electric emission of electrons: that is, contrary to a common error, quantum mechanical events or effects, strictly speaking, are not cause-less. (By the way, the concept of a miracle -- something out of the ordinary that is a sign that points to a cause beyond the natural order -- in fact depends on there being such a general order in the world. In an unintelligible chaos, there can be no extra-ordinary signposts, as nothing will be ordinary or regular!)
12 --> However, there is a subtle facet to this, one that brings out the other side of  the principle of sufficient reason. Namely, that there is a possible class of being that does not have a beginning, and cannot go out of existence; such necessary beings are self-sufficient, have no enabling, ON/OFF external necessary causal factors, and as such cannot be blocked from existing. 

13 --> And it is seriously held (on good reason) that once there is a serious candidate to be such a necessary being, if the candidate is not contradictory in itself [i.e. if it is not impossible . . . as a square circle is contradictory as the necessary attributes for something to be squarish and those required for it to be circular stand in mutual contradiction], it will be actual.   [--> The truth reported in "2 + 3 = 5" is a simple case in point; it could not fail without self-contradiction.] 

14 --> That is, since there is no external ON/OFF enabling causal factor, a successful candidate necessary being will exist without a beginning, and cannot cease from existing as one cannot "switch off" a sustaining external factor. Another possibility of course is that such a candidate being is impossible: it cannot be so as there is the sort of inescapable contradiction  of defining attributes as is involved in being a proposed square circle. 

The flying spaghetti monster (intended to mock God)
15 --> Of course, something like "a flying spaghetti monster" -- which would be built of components and depends on their particular arrangement to be what it would be, is not a serious candidate to be a necessary being. (NB: Such has been suggested in dismissive parody of the iconic creation of Adam that appears in Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel painting. God, of course is symbolised in that painting as an Old Man, the Ancient of Days, but that is just a representation. God is a serious  -- nay, the most serious -- candidate to be a necessary being.)
16 --> In addition, since matter as we know it (such as what goes into spaghetti and noodles as well as eye-stalks and eyes) is contingent, a necessary being will not be material

17 --> The likely candidates are: numbers such as 2, abstract, necessarily true propositions and an eternal mind, often brought together by suggesting that such abstract truths or entities are held in and eternally contemplated by such a mind.

 18 --> In addition, we have good reason to see that the observed universe -- the ONLY universe we actually observe -- has a beginning. Indeed, that is the point of Big Bang cosmology, which points to a beginning some 13.7 BYA. The physics of the observed universe is also evidently fine tuned in ways that support Carbon Chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life. This points to a cause that is capable of building a universe and arranging it towards hosting such cell based life. As the famous astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle put it:
From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has "monkeyed" with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.Cited, Bradley, in "Is There Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God? How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe". Emphasis added.]

19 --> Thus, we are now looking at -- as the root of being -- a necessary being who is an eternal mind. As, evident from what we now need to call "the things that have been made."

20 --> An eternal mind that is all-knowing and capable of such contemplation and creation etc, is of course one way of describing God.
21 --> This also brings up a perhaps surprising corollary: 
[Cor:] IF God is a serious candidate necessary being [which is generally granted] THEN, if God is possible, he is actual. That is, the denial of the existence of God [which can be by rhetorical dismissal] in fact implies that one considers God an impossible being. Atheists should note that warranting such a stringent claim entails a pretty serious intellectual responsibility.
22 --> Where, it is a fearsome -- and almost certainly futile -- challenge indeed to try to prove that God is impossible. (Especially, after the free will defense of Plantinga has irretrievably shattered the idea that God as conceived by theists is incoherent.)

23 --> Which brings us full circle to the principle that the only serious candidate IS to be the ground of OUGHT, is the inherently good Creator God.

24 --> From which we can readily see how the attempt to dismiss God in the name of science instead ends in amorality and an unmet challenge to ground the claim that God is impossible.

25 --> Which brings us right back to where Paul went next: men who dismiss and turn their backs on God, making up God substitutes are in a state of debased thinking that opens the door to debased behaviour, including in sexual forms.

I think we need to reflect on these things deeply, given how Mr White's article shows exactly this same Romans 1 pattern. Are we sure we want our civilisation to to go down THAT road to where it predictably ends? END