MUST-HEAR: Glenn Peoples debates Arif Ahmed on God and morality

Another good Unbelievable debate between theist Glenn Peoples and atheist Arif Ahmed.

Details:

Torturing children for fun – is that absolutely wrong?

The Moral Argument for God states that there are such things as objective moral facts, and that objective moral facts must have an immaterial source – namely God.  Therefore God Exists… Simple right?

However, atheist Cambridge Philosopher Arif Ahmed disagrees with the first two premises.  He debates with New Zealand’s Christian philosopher Glenn People’s on whether the argument proves the existence of God.

So, are moral beliefs nothing more than our “preferences”? What do we do with the intuition that certain things are absolutely wrong?  Are atheists who affirm moral facts but deny God, being inconsistent?

The MP3 file is here.

I would not really characterize Glenn as an orthodox “Christian” philosopher, although he claims to be – because he doesn’t hold to some beliefs that are essential. E-mail me if you want more info and links to his statements. But he makes good arguments for theism.

Summary

Are there moral facts?

Glenn Peoples:

  • Here is my argument:
  1. If there are moral facts, then they have a basis that is either supernatural or natural
  2. If there are moral facts, then there basis is not natural
  3. Therefore, if there are moral facts, then there basis is supernatural
  4. A supernatural person is the most plausible way to think of the the basis of moral facts
  5. If there are moral facts, then the best way to think about their basis is that they are grounded by a supernatural person

Arif Ahmed:

  • There are no moral facts
  • There is no sensory evidence for moral facts
  • I would only accept sensory evidence for the existence of moral facts
  • Each person has preferences for how to treat other people
  • I campaign for things I personally prefer
  • So morality for me is doing whatever I want

Glenn Peoples:

  • Well, that is not moral conduct, that’s “satisfaction conduct”
  • You are doing what satisfies you, but it’s not normative
  • There is no ought there
  • It’s not prescriptive of what you should do, it’s just descriptive of what you do

Arif Ahmed:

  • I would interfere with other people’s preferences if I didn’t prefer them

Glenn Peoples:

  • What do you mean you “ought to” impose your preferences on other people

Arif Ahmed:

  • I do this thing I prefer and this thing I prefer and this thing I prefer
  • I do certain things because I like the way I feel when I do them
  • Nothing defines moral standards because there are no moral standards

Glenn Peoples:

  • On Arif’s view, it is impossible that anyone’s preference could be “wrong”
  • Each person’s preferences are supreme and cannot be judged on Arif’s view
  • On his view, someone who tortures people for fun is as justified as someone who doesn’t because both act on the basis of preferences

Arif Ahmed:

  • We can’t prove the existence of moral facts because only things that can be perceived with the senses are real

Glenn Peoples:

  • But even sensory inputs cannot be proven to be reliable using the senses

Is Glenn’s argument valid?

Arif Ahmed

  • Well, what if I arbitrarily assert that harm is morally wrong without sensory evidence for that moral fact, thus breaking my own rule about what counts as true
  • that makes me look like less of sociopath than before, right?
  • so how about that?
  • even if there were moral facts, God doesn’t have to be the cause of them

Glenn Peoples:

  • If there are moral obligations, they must be owed to a person, not to a state of affairs

Arif Ahmed:

  • Human beings don’t have any proper function, no way we ought to be
  • Each person just decides what they want

Glenn Peoples:

  • What about purpose, is there any reason why we are here?
  • On atheism, you would have to say no

Arif Ahmed:

  • An atheist could have a purpose for your life in an accidental universe without a designer
  • I don’t believe there is a purpose to life though
  • But you can choose social justice, or yoga, or vegetarianism, or video games and have meaning in life
  • And an arbitrary, narcissistic, illusory purpose is just as valid as an objectively true purpose (and as healthy!)
  • It’s very liberating to be able to make up your own arbitrary purpose and arbitrary preferences
  • You can even pretend they are significant and meaningful and that you are a good person (but they aren’t!)

Glenn Peoples:

  • Just to be fair, the idea of objective meaning and objective purpose does require creativity and work – it’s not a cop out

14 thoughts on “MUST-HEAR: Glenn Peoples debates Arif Ahmed on God and morality”

  1. That was a very interesting debate, thanks for posting it!
    Your little commentaries also make me laugh, but they are also quite effective at pointing out how absurd a view is when you take away all the window dressing. I think Ahmed is a very critical, analytical thinker who is quite compelling and persuasive, but superficially so. I remember that when I listened to his debate again WLC i thought he actually did a pretty decent job when it came to how reasonable he soudned next to craig. I think it was a closer debate than you think, wk, because WLC seemed to let him off the hook on quite a few things which may have seemed obvious to him but for the impartial observer would have been quite important omissions.

    I think that Peoples actually does a pretty good job in this debate, it just made me think though how great it would be if he almost just read your little summaries of what Ahmed said each time Ahmed finished speaking!! Because of all the window dressing, it sounds vaguely plausible but when we spell out exactly what it’s saying then you really can see how absurd it is.
    I still like Ahmed though, he is reasonable, admits the necessity of relativism and nihilism without God, is pro-life, isn’t particular anti-theistic etc so i think he’s pretty good for an atheist ^^
    Though of course we cannot forgive for going to that terrible university- yuk! ;P

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        1. Not me! I would need to really prepare for it and maybe study these things at school first! It’s not as easy as these smart guys make it look – they are really well-educated and well-prepared.

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  2. I’m in the middle of listening to the debate and agree with Michael’s assessment for the most part. I think that Glenn missed an important point when he kind of fizzled out on the argument about whether logic has a moral component in it. This is one of the things I actually agree with pesuppositionalists on, the TAG is a pretty good argument. The fact that it is wrong to reason in a certain way implies that there is a moral component to logic; we ought not reason in a certain way. But why? Who says? I think only if there is a master logician who set the rules, or who is essentially the rules in His character, can there be a right and wrong way to reason.

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  3. Just going back to this for some weird reason ^^
    What is it about Glenn’s beliefs is it that makes you think he’s not an orthodox Christian?
    One quite point would be that just because someone is not evangelical (which even that Glenn would probably dispute) does not mean they are not an orthodox Christian. I am an evangelical, but evangelicalism is a very recent phenomenon. People can still be orthodox Christians without being evangelical i think.

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    1. Well, I have concerns about his annihilationism and his physicalist anthropology. But I sent him a book (the new Moreland book) to help him along. I mail lots of books to people to change their minds on stuff. I just mailed you one! Did it arrive yet? It’s for your graduation.

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      1. No not yet! It will come soon though probably, I’ll let you know when. I’m starting a blog up in the summer sometime, so when I read it I’ll blog about it too. Then we can discuss it!
        Thanks again for being so generous wk!

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  4. Just out of curiosity, is this really what you heard when you listened to the debate? I know your posts have a tendency for snark, but there lies in many of the objections raised by Ahmed a powerful counter that it seems you are ignoring. There is an internal consistency, with regards his rejection of intuition, that isn’t even mentioned, while his major points about empiricism and skepticism are glossed over to the point of sounding petulant.

    All the best,

    Lee.

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    1. Lee, Ahmed really did do that badly. I can tell you who the good atheist debaters are: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Paul Draper, Austin Dacey, James Crossley, etc. Arif Ahmed did not do well in this debate.

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      1. While I can certainly respect(though not agree with) your overall opinion, that doesn’t really answer my question. If the debate had gone according to your summary, I could agree that it went badly for Ahmed. However, to my mind, the things you left out (like his objections to intuitive knowledge, and an ‘ideal type’, for example) make large gaps in reasoning appear in your summary that did not exist(imo) in the debate. Perhaps it would be more elucidating if I just filled in the bits you left out in another comment or something.

        The question was: is that what you heard when you listened to the debate, or was this a playful characterization like in your other summaries.

        All the best,

        Lee.

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          1. I wouldn’t suggest that either, I just feel you left out some important bits of his argument, such that what you’ve written makes him sound far more foolish than he was (and could dissuade your readers from listening to a very interesting discussion as a result). I was only curious if those were his arguments as YOU heard them, or whether you had deliberately left bits out to give it a comically one-sided spin :)

            Lee.

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          2. Well, I hope people read your comments and decide for themselves. I think they would be better served by listening to someone like Walter-Sinnott Armstrong.

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