Tag Archives: Moral Relativism

Do moral dilemmas undermine objective moral absolutes?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

One reason why some people reject the existence of objective morality is because moral absolutes can conflict.

Canadian philosopher Michael Horner to explains the problem.

He writes:

You may have been confronted with the story of the Nazi soldier coming to the door of the family who are hiding some Jewish people in their home and asking them point blankly, “Are there any Jews here?” The person telling the story then asks you, “What would you say?” or more precisely, “What should you say?”

[…]I think for many people the term moral absolutes connotes ideas like inflexibility and rigidity, and that there can never be exemptions. I have also found that many people believe that holding to moral absolutes means that circumstances are not relevant in a moral evaluation and that moral absolutism cannot handle moral dilemmas. But in fact it is possible to believe in moral absolutes, or as I prefer to call them objective moral values, without adhering to these connotations I have mentioned.

For many people to believe in moral absolutes is to believe in rules that no other rules can ever trump. It follows from this that moral absolutes are all equal and there can never be any exemptions. But what if moral absolutes exist in a hierarchy?

We know from experience that very often more than one moral rule applies to a situation. This often leads to moral dilemmas. So in the ‘hiding the Jews example’ the moral rule of telling the truth seems to apply to the situation, but it would seem that the moral rule to protect innocent human life from torture and murder applies also.

If absolutes are all equal there is no way out of the dilemma. You can’t choose one absolute over another because in doing so you would be violating at least one absolute which, in their view, is supposed to be inviolable.

So, in this case, it seems as if the moral absolutist is stuck in a dilemma. If you lie to save the innocent life, then that would be wrong. But if you tell the truth and hand the innocent person over to murderers, then that would be wrong. Does this really disprove objective moral absolutes?

This problem annoys me, because I know this is the kind of objection to objective morality that annoying philosophy lecturers like to push onto freshmen in order to convince them that morality is nonsense.  But does the moral dilemma objection really work?

More Horner:

[…][I]f moral absolutes exist in a hierarchy and the circumstances or the situation were relevant in determining which absolute takes precedent, then there may be a solution to the moral dilemma. That is exactly what I think is the case in the example. I for one have no difficulty knowing that the morally right thing to do in that situation is to protect the life of innocent people from torture and murder rather than tell the truth to a person who has torture and murder in their plans. My moral intuitions are very clear about this.

If someone objects and says, “No, you must always tell the truth. After all it is an absolute, and absolutes by definition can never be violated,” I would point out that they are just using a different hierarchy, putting truth telling above protecting the life of innocent people from torture and murder. There is no way to avoid making a judgment like that since more than one absolute does apply to the situation. I would just ask them to think it through again, and once they see that they have to make a judgment based on some sort of hierarchy in that situation, then I think most people’s moral intuitions will affirm that protecting the lives of innocent people from torture and murder, in that situation, trumps truth telling. There is no way to avoid choosing one over the other.

But isn’t this moral relativism? After all, we are deciding what to do based on the situation! It’s relativism, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t, because there is always one right thing to do in every situation. In every situation, you always follow the weightiest moral rule. The right thing to do does not depend on your subjective state of mind. It is an objective moral duty, and it is the same for everyone, across all times and in all places. That’s what objective morality means -what is right and wrong is not determined by personal preferences or cultural conventions, which vary by time and place.

And of course, God is the ground of this hierarchy of objective moral absolutes. They existed through him before human beings even appeared, as part of his design for us, his creatures. How we ought to behave is grounded ontologically in God’s design for us.

To protect children, we need to tell women to choose conservative, traditional men

Women need to learn to choose a man who is prepared to be a father and husband
Women need to learn to choose men who are prepared to be a father and husband

Yesterday, I blogged about the hook-up culture, and how many young women were freely choosing to participate in it.  In their own words, the young, unmarried women explained how they wanted to have fun and get “acceptance” from men who were good-looking by having sex with them within minutes of meeting them. I argued that we needed to tell young, unmarried women not to be seeking fun and thrills, and that we need to oppose radical feminism and selfishness in the culture.

Well, a woman who had an irresponsible mom read that post and left a comment telling her story.

Here is the first comment from Mysterious M. in full:

I was born to a woman who fits a very similar description to what you describe here in your post, WK, so perhaps it would be apropos for me to share my experience being raised by her.

My mom was brought up in a Christian home but allowed herself to be influenced by the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s after she left home. She spent one year in college, got a job, got married and then divorced within a few years (no kids). She met my dad in a bar after her divorce. She celebrated her divorce by going out drinking, btw. My dad was married at the time they met and had been previously married, as well, and had a slew of kids scattered across the country. His current wife was also pregnant. My half sister was born 3 weeks before me, in the same hospital.

Once she found out she was pregnant, she realized that I’d be better off without him around and told him to leave, which he did without any argument, unsurprisingly. I asked her once what she saw in him and she said, “Well, he was funny.” So she slept with him. No matter that he had a wife, ex-wives, kids, etc. Those things aren’t important when you’re out looking for a good time for yourself.

I was a teenager before I knew who my dad was and how I came into being. After I was born she did start to attend church and put me in Christian school and attempted to raise me in a Christian home. However, she never once told me that she thought she’d done anything wrong or that she was sorry for the pain that her decisions caused me. I went through years of anguish, depression, an eating disorder that almost killed me and other behavioral problems clearly stemming from the feelings of abandonment I experienced and her continuously irresponsible behavior, but never once did it appear to cross her mind that she might be responsible for any of this.

Although my mom appeared from the outside to have changed her ways, in hindsight I see that the reckless independence she acquired from her years away from family and church never really left. They switched from outwardly rebellious behavior, like dating married men, to more private bad habits to fulfill her desire for fun and excitement, like internet gambling and reckless spending on credit cards (to the tune of 70K at last count). I think these were also attempts to distract and comfort herself when she was lonely. When she got older, she resented that she didn’t have a husband to take care of her and enjoy a simple life with, but never seemed to put it together that her choices pretty much precluded her from that opportunity.

Although she’s faithfully attended church since my childhood and read her Bible, etc, I have never, ever once heard her admit that she sinned by doing any of these things, or that they were bad decisions that caused unnecessary hurt and harm to her child or herself. If anything, she still seems to think that it’s kind of funny or cute that she, an otherwise quiet, reserved, seemingly respectable woman, has a torrid past that resulted in an affair with a married man and a child to commemorate the event. I almost sense she’s proud of it, to this day, and that makes me very sad and scared for her.

She’s dying now and her mind is going. She says she’s ready to meet the Lord, and I can only hope that between herself and Him, she’s made things right, although I’ve seen very little fruit speaking to that possibility. She talks the talk, but seeing her walk up close and in person, I’m left with more questions than answers about whether she really ever submitted to Christ. It just doesn’t show to me, and I probably know her better than anyone else. She’s left an enormous mess financially for my husband and I to cope with and she can no longer distract herself with spending sprees, so the bitterness caused by her life decisions have finally caught up with her and there’s no avoiding them now.

I guess from my perspective, when I see young woman who claim to be Christian but are living the most important aspects of their lives out in the way the rest of the world says is acceptable, it makes me very confused about what they really believe. I purposely waited for sex until marriage, chose a man with good morals and a good job and did everything in power to stay as far away from the hook-up culture as possible. I know the pain that comes from such foolish living. I can’t fathom why any Christian woman would engage in such foolish and selfish behavior as the ones I see doing this very thing today. They do not know what it means to know, serve and love Christ. They are too busy loving and serving themselves to see what a dangerous path they are traveling.

There are a couple more comments now.

Here’s an excerpt from one:

My mom was raised in a loving home with Christian parents and grew up very involved in church. My grandmother ran the Sunday school program for years. My other aunts and uncles led decent, moral, Christian lives. My mom wanted to do something more exciting. She was rebellious, plain and simple. She thought it was funny. If she had been raised in a situation that was equally as bad as the one she created, I could feel more sympathy. But she was raised differently than what she chose. I don’t understand it but I watched my own Christian friends do the same thing as a teen and young adult. It’s so perplexing to me. They’re raised in a stable Christian household and then choose the most unstable and reckless men because of the feelings those men inspired. I was the product of those feelings and knew from a young age I’d rather stay single and chaste the rest of my life than end up repeating the choices that my parents made.

And an excerpt from a later one:

I know it’s popular to say that any time someone makes bad choices, it’s because they are hurting and are acting out. But once you reach adulthood and have a child, you forfeit your right to make excuses for your behavior. You either change or you risk damaging the children you’ve been entrusted with.

Regarding WK’s comment about condoning her recklessness, I will say this. To my mom, any relationship that involved conflict was disposable. I know that other Christians tried to confront her, and she rejected them. She cut them out, no holds barred. If you didn’t agree, you were not a part of her circle. For those who were close, she was very adept at keeping secrets. Even I didn’t know the breadth of the destructiveness of certain aspects of her life until recently, I was her closest confidant. People who are desperate to keep secrets are typically fairly adept at doing so, at least for a while. Eventually it catches up, but often it’s far too late to do any real remediation. At that point it’s just a matter of salvaging what you can and trying to cope with the rest as best as possible.

[…]Bottom line: excuses or not, bad decisions create bad consequences and are generally pretty avoidable if you’re willing to be humble and submit to Christ, regardless of the circumstances. Helping people identify excuses does not help them avoid these consequences. Only by pointing out the truth, no matter the friction it might cause, can we help people on a bad path see the error of their ways and offer them any real hope.

That is a situation (text in bold) that I have experienced myself.

Is the root cause of crime poverty or fatherlessness?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

If we were really serious about stopping crime, then we should go after the root cause of crime. So what is that root cause? The answer might surprise you.

Here is Dr. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation to explain:

Census data and the Fragile Families survey show that marriage can be extremely effective in reducing child poverty. But the positive effects of married fathers are not limited to income alone. Children raised by married parents have substantially better life outcomes compared to similar children raised in single-parent homes.

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.[19] Many of these negative outcomes are associated with the higher poverty rates of single mothers. In many cases, however, the improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income. This indicates that the father brings more to his home than just a paycheck.

The effect of married fathers on child outcomes can be quite pronounced. For example, examination of families with the same race and same parental education shows that, when compared to intact married families, children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime;[20]
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems;[21]
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school;[22] and
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.[23]

The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood. Comparing families of the same race and similar incomes, children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised in intact married families. [24] Compared to girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.[25]

Finally, the decline of marriage generates poverty in future generations. Children living in single-parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact married homes. This intergenerational poverty effect persists even after adjusting for the original differences in family income and poverty during childhood.[26]

People on the left claim that poverty causes crime, but they don’t look for the root cause of poverty. The root cause of poverty is the decline of marriage, which produces fatherless children. Unfortunately, some people promote the decline of marriage because they do not like the “unequal gender roles” inherent in marriage. So what is the main tool that the anti-marriage people use to increase the number of fatherless children?

Dr. Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute explains one of the causes of fatherlessness in his testimony to Congress:

Welfare contributes to crime in several ways. First, children from single-parent families are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. According to one study, children raised in single-parent families are one-third more likely to exhibit anti-social behavior.(3) Moreover, O’Neill found that, holding other variables constant, black children from single- parent households are twice as likely to commit crimes as black children from a family where the father is present. Nearly 70 percent of juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes, as do 43 percent of prison inmates.(4) Research indicates a direct correlation between crime rates and the number of single-parent families in a neighborhood.(5)

As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead noted in her seminal article for The Atlantic Monthly:

The relationship [between single-parent families and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature. The nation’s mayors, as well as police officers, social workers, probation officers, and court officials, consistently point to family break up as the most important source of rising rates of crime.(6)

At the same time, the evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is overwhelming. There have been 13 major studies of the relationship between the availability of welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock birth. Of these, 11 found a statistically significant correlation. Among the best of these studies is the work done by June O’Neill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Holding constant a wide range of variables, including income, education, and urban vs. suburban setting, the study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.(7) Likewise, research by Shelley Lundberg and Robert Plotnick of the University of Washington showed that an increase in welfare benefits of $200 per month per family increased the rate of out-of-wedlock births among teenagers by 150 percent.(8)

The same results can be seen from welfare systems in other countries. For example, a recent study of the impact of Canada’s social-welfare system on family structure concluded that “providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women.”(9)

The poverty that everyone complains about is not the root cause of crime. The poverty is caused by fatherlessness. The fatherlessness is caused by welfare. Fatherlessness is also caused by laws and policies that make it easier for people to divorce, e.g. – no-fault divorce laws. Again, it’s people on the left who push for no-fault divorce laws. So the left is pushing two policies, welfare and no-fault divorce, which cause crime.

After a tough fight to take Ramadi, Obama hands it back to Islamic State

Control of Iraq (click for larger image)
Control of Iraq (click for larger image)

(Source: Political Geography Now)

First, let’s start with and article from Breitbart News about Obama’s retreat from Iraq:

There is no commitment to America’s fighting men and women that President Barack Obama has not broken. When he ran for office in 2008, he promised to leave a residual force in Iraq to secure that country against external meddling and internal collapse. When he took office, President George W. Bush handed over a relatively stable and secure Iraq, thanks to the “surge” Obama opposed, and thanks to the sacrifices made by thousands of Americans, killed and wounded in battle.

Yet in 2011, Obama withdrew all combat troops–which is likely what he intended to do all along–and left Iraq before the job was done, allowing terrorists to regroup and sectarian rivalries to re-emerge. By pulling out troops, he also removed the only remaining strategic threat to the Iranian regime. Today, ISIS is running rampant across the region, and he and his sycophants assure the American people that they are winning the war against the “junior varsity” terrorist caliphate.

[…]“I don’t think we’re losing,” Obama says. That is because he has won, politically. But our troops paid the price.

Now an article from famous war journalist Michael Fumento, in Investors Business Daily.

He writes:

Ramadi is a city of vast importance, both strategic and symbolic. It’s the city that al-Qaida in Iraq chose as its headquarters, and it became the most fiercely contested area in the country. It’s why SEAL Team 3 of “American Sniper” fame was stationed there and became the most decorated SEAL unit since Vietnam.

Many experts consider the Battle of Ramadi and the “Anbar Awakening,” engineered by Capt. Travis Patriquin, the actual turning point of the war. Patriquin — who a few months after briefing me on his brilliant plan was killed in Ramadi — got the Sunni chieftains to join the Americans and Iraqi security forces to defeat al-Qaida.

Yet, bizarrely, the Obama administration wrote off Ramadi last month, declaring that defense of an oil refinery took precedence — as if we couldn’t do both. (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey claimed, “It has no symbolic meaning.” Now Dempsey says Islamic State “gains in Ramadi are a serious setback for its long-suffering inhabitants.”)

In any event, within days the refinery was out of danger. Yet, the administration still refused to defend Ramadi.

[…]…[O]n no day previously did the U.S. launch more than a handful of sorties in defense of Ramadi, and on many days it flew none.

Yet, area assets include hundreds of strike aircraft, most of which can fly several sorties a day. These comprise F-16s, F-15s, F-22s, A-10s, B-1 heavy bombers, helicopters, and Reaper and Predator drones among U.S. forces, plus aircraft of 11 other coalition nations.

A single Reaper can carry a mix of 14 bombs and missiles, meaning it’s capable of that many airstrikes. Cruise missiles are also in theater, and the U.S. can hit with heavy B-52 and B-2 bombers from anywhere in the world.

Yet with this massive armada and with assets on the ground to help identify targets, the administration seems unable to find and strike more than a handful of targets daily. A machine gun here, a truck there. By comparison, during the 1968 siege of Khe Sanh, American aircraft dropped roughly 1,300 tons of bombs daily — five tons each day for every North Vietnamese soldier besieging the base.

But it’s not just Ramadi that Obama has neglected. Fact is, the so-called air war against IS is a fraud. Rarely are more than a couple of dozen targets struck in a day throughout both Iraq and Syria.

Obama is simply keeping U.S. air power grounded.

[…]…[G]enerally, Obama seems simply clueless when it comes to prosecuting war, stuck at pre-school level. (Even grade-schoolers know that bombs are worthless unless you actually drop them.)

This is as bewildering as Obama’s trading the top five Taliban in captivity for one American deserter, as I wrote in these pages last June.

It’s time for Congress and the presidential candidates to make this an issue. Alas, for Ramadi it’s too late. IS has scored a huge coup and the slaughter of our allies already has begun.

This is why it’s important when you elect a President that you elect one who understands the value of projecting military force and the threat of military force abroad. The next time we get attacked by terrorists trained in Iraq, maybe then we will realize the cost of abandoning the crossroads of the Middle East to the enemy. You can’t just end a war by unilaterally backing out of it, because it sounds nice. That’s how you lose a war. To win a war, you have to be decisive, use overwhelming force, and stay on until the region is stabilized.

Islamic State burns a woman alive for refusing to engage in extreme sex act

Jay Richards tweeted this appalling story from the leftist Washington Post.

It says:

Zainab Bangura, the U.N.’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, recently conducted a tour of refugee camps in the shadow of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, war-ravaged countries where the Islamic State commands swaths of territory. She heard a host of horror stories from victims and their families and recounted them in an interview earlier this week withthe Middle East Eye, an independent regional news site.

“They are institutionalizing sexual violence,” Bangura said of the Islamic State. “The brutalization of women and girls is central to their ideology.”

Bangura detailed the processes by which “pretty virgins” captured by the jihadists were bought and sold at auctions. Here’s a chilling excerpt:

After attacking a village, [the Islamic State] splits women from men and executes boys and men aged 14 and over. The women and mothers are separated; girls are stripped naked, tested for virginity and examined for breast size and prettiness. The youngest, and those considered the prettiest virgins fetch higher prices and are sent to Raqqa, the IS stronghold.

There is a hierarchy: sheikhs get first choice, then emirs, then fighters. They often take three or four girls each and keep them for a month or so, until they grow tired of a girl, when she goes back to market. At slave auctions, buyers haggle fiercely, driving down prices by disparaging girls as flat-chested or unattractive.

We heard about one girl who was traded 22 times, and another, who had escaped, told us that the sheikh who had captured her wrote his name on the back of her hand to show that she was his “property.”

Estimates vary, but there are believed to be somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 women enslaved by the Islamic State. Many are Yazidis, a persecuted minority sect that the extremist Islamic State considers to be apostate “devil-worshippers,” in part because of the Yazidis’ ancient connection to the region’s pre-Islamic past. The jihadists’ treatment of Yazidi women, in particular, has been marked out by its contempt and savagery.

Here’s Bangura again:

They commit rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and other acts of extreme brutality. We heard one case of a 20-year-old girl who was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sex act. We learned of many other sadistic sexual acts. We struggled to understand the mentality of people who commit such crimes.

Hundreds of Yazidi women and girls have escaped their captors, either by running away, or being ransomed and rescued by their families. Bangura has urged international assistance in providing proper medical and “psychosocial” support to the escaped women, who have experienced terrible trauma.

“It was painful for me. The countries I have worked on include Bosnia, Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Central African Republic,” says Bangura, a former former minister of Sierra Leone who is no stranger to conflicts. “I never saw anything like this. I cannot understand such inhumanity. I was sick, I couldn’t understand.”

Two points about this.

First, we have a Democrat administration now that apologizes for everything that Muslim terrorists do, and tries to remind Christians that they should not judge such crimes as we just heard about because of the Crusades. That literally came out of our pro-Muslim atheist President’s own mouth. He simply isn’t capable of moral reasoning – he wants to deny the reality of evil.

Second, the preceding administration was Republican, and it won the war in Iraq using a surge of forces. Then the Democrats came along and turned a war that had already been won into a lost war where crimes like this are happening. When Bush turned over Iraq to the Democrats, Al Qaeda in Iraq was annihilated, and there was no Islamic State terrorist group. Now, we hear stories like this all the time.

Here’s former deputy director of the CIA to explain how Islamic State came to be:

Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, Michael Morell said the rise of ISIS in Iraq was not an intelligence failure.

Morell argued in 2011 when U.S. forces completely pulled out “al Qaeda in Iraq was essentially defeated” and Morell continuing to defend the intelligence added “the intelligence community monitored the growth of al Qaeda post 2001 in great detail with intelligence reporting, with analysis, we made it very clear that this group was becoming more and more dangerous.”

The United States cannot pull out of wars leaving a vacuum for bad actors to step into. We won World War 2, and we stayed in Germany from the end of that war to the present day, in order to deter aggression into Germany by the Soviets. Similarly with North and South Korea. If you want to stop a war from happening, you remain in theater, in force, for decades after the war, until the country has recovered.