Tag Archives: Hedonist

What does the end of the universe tell us about the meaning of life?

Details of a recent scientific discovery from the Canberra Times.

Excerpt:

The universe is running out of usable energy and the end is nearer than expected, according to Australian National University astronomers.

[…]PhD student Chas Egan and his supervisor Charley Lineweaver from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics calculated how run-down the universe was and found it was 30 times more dilapidated than previously thought.

In doing so they measured the universe’s entropy a gauge of how ”disorderly” the cosmos is and how close it is to its cold, lifeless end.

[…]Mr Egan said all the processes that occurred in the universe increased its entropy.

”When you leave any isolated system it gets more and more disorderly,” he said.

[…]Scientists believe that end will take the form of a ”heat death”.

”All the matter currently in stars and planets will be spread out homogenously through space and it will be cold and dark and nothing will be able to live and no processes will go on.

More details of the discovery from the Australian newspaper The Age.

Excerpt:

The findings, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, have implications not just for Earthlings but for any extraterrestrial life as well.

”We’re not just talking about our solar system or our galaxy, we’re talking about our universe,” he said.

”These constraints apply to all life forms that might be in the universe.”

What implications does this discovery have on the question of meaning and purpose in life? If nothing that we do now will survive the end of the universe, then what reason do we have to do anything?

Atheist and Christian responses to the end of the universe

We can get BOTH SIDES of the question from this clip of a formal debate featuring Christian scholar William Lane Craig and atheist writer Christopher Hitchens.

The question being debated is: “Is there objective meaning and purpose in life without God?”. Hitchens and Craig agree that without God, the universe will cool down and all life will die. And they both agree that if there is no God, then there is no objective meaning and purpose in life.

Hitchens says that he can arbitrarily choose a purpose for his life that makes him happy and fulfilled. But notice that this purpose is an arbitrary personal preference. Someone who chooses mass murder or slavery, and has the power to carry it out with impunity, has as much right to choose that purpose as Hitchens does to choose his.

What can we conclude from the atheist view of purpose and meaning?

What does it say about atheism that there is no way to distinguish between William Wilberforce and Josef Stalin? They were both just doing what made them happy, and there is no way either of them ought to have acted, and no objective moral standard by which to praise or condemn them. Some people admire Wilberforce. Some people admire Stalin. No one is right or wrong, because the choice of life purpose is arbitrary, on atheism. So long as you are happy, and the majority of people in your time and place applaud you, anything is permissible.

What would you think of a person whose every action is designed to maximize their pleasurable feelings in this life? What would you make of a person who believed that other people were just bags of atoms, with no human rights and no free will? What would you make of a person who thought that other people were just objects to be used (or dispersed) in whatever way made them feel happiest? What does a selfish attitude do to enterprises like marriage and parenting?

Is it any surprise that we have killed 50 million unborn babies as a result of our own irresponsible search for pleasure? Sex is fun, but taking responsibility for the decision to have sex is not fun. So we kill innocent people who are weaker than us in order to maximize our pleasure in this life. And why not? On atheism, there is no objective meaning in life, no objective purpose to life, and no objective moral standard of right and wrong.

Is the murder of abortion-performing doctors like George Tiller morally wrong?

The Wintery Knight Blog strongly condemns all abortion-related violence, whether it’s committed against the born or the unborn.

The news story is linked here by Stop the ACLU, Sweetness and Light, Patterico’s Pontifications, Michelle Malkin, Hot Air and Gateway Pundit.

Can Christians condemn the murder of George Tiller?

Yes, Christians can, and yes, Christians do, condemn any and all violence against abortion doctors. And so do I. I believe that murder is objectively wrong, whether it is performed against born or unborn victims.

Morality is rational on Christianity because Christianity grounds the minimal requirements for meaningful morality. (The post also contains arguments and evidence for Christian theism and responses to the arguments against Christian theism)

The Bible says: “You shall not murder”.

So, anyone who murders the born or the unborn is not a Christian and is not being moral. I am a Christian, and therefore I strongly condemn any violence against doctors who perform abortions, including George Tiller. The murderer of George Tiller was wrong, had no justification for what he did, and he should get the death penalty.

UPDATE: My pro-life friend Neil from 4Simpsons reacts:

I subscribe to over 100 blogs.  Well over a dozen have commented on this.  I’ve yet to see one that didn’t condemn the murder, though I’m sure the MSM will ignore the clear and consistent principles of the pro-live movement and try to demonize and broad-brush us with this.

Now let’s see whether murder is wrong on the atheist worldview…

Can atheists condemn the murder of George Tiller?

The goal is to see whether humans ought to adopt the moral point of view, on atheism. Does atheism ground the the minimal requirements for morality? Is it rational to do the right thing on atheism?

Requirement 1) Objective moral values: NOT GROUNDED

On atheism, moral values have no mind-independent existence. In other words, they are purely subjective. Either you invent your own personal standard or you adopt the standards of the majority of your herd, in the time and place in which you live. Those herd standards change over time and in different places, of course. They are arbitrary conventions. And there is no reason why your preferences are better than anyone else’s preferences, even a murderer’s. On atheism, a murderer and a non-murderer just have different preferences.

Requirement 2) Objective moral duties: NOT GROUNDED

On atheism, there is no such thing as objective moral values, and so there can be no objective moral duties either. Atheism is committed to materialism, and objective moral values and moral duties are non-material. Atheists can only ground subjective moral values and moral duties. But a duty owed to oneself can be canceled when things get difficult. Even a social contract is arbitrary. There is no reason to limit your happiness because of an arbitrary social contract, so long as you can escape the social consequences of disobedience.

Requirement 3) Moral accountability: NOT GROUNDED

On atheism, there is no accountability after death for the decisions we make in life. So long as we can avoid the consequences for violating the arbitrary fashions of the time and place where we live, nothing will happen to us if we put our happiness above the needs of our feelings of “empathy” for others.

Requirement 4) Free will: NOT GROUNDED

On atheism, there are no minds or souls independent of the material that makes up the body. Therefore, everything that humans do is fully determined by the genetic programming and the sensory inputs. To expect moral choices or moral responsibility on atheism is like expecting the same from a computer. Physical systems don’t have free will. There is no “ought to do” for lumps of matter that are not designed by anyone for any specific purpose.

Requirement 5) Ultimate significance: NOT GROUNDED

On atheism, life ends in the grave for them. Scientists have discovered that in the future, the amount of usable energy, such as the heat and light emitted by stars, will run down to zero, the “heat death of the universe”. What this means is that the entire universe will become cold and lifeless at some point. Humans are therefore doomed to extinction. It doesn’t matter ultimately how an atheist acts – they end up the same no matter what they do. The only action that is rational on atheism is the selfish pursuit of pleasure and happiness.

Can atheist scholars ground morality rationally?

Let me cite the views of atheist scholars from a previous post. These are the people who are the most committed, authentic atheists, and who have thought through what it means to be an atheist at the highest level.

The idea of political or legal obligation is clear enough… Similarly, the idea of an obligation higher than this, referred to as moral obligation, is clear enough, provided reference to some lawgiver higher…than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can…be understood as those that are imposed by God…. But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of moral obligation…still make sense? …The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone. (Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), p. 83-84)

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Source: Richard Dawkins)

The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory. (Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

The late atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie said that moral properties are “queer” given naturalism “if there are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.”

Conclusion

In my survey of atheist views, none of the ten respondents could oppose slavery on rational grounds, none of the ten respondents could perform self-sacrificial acts on rational grounds, and none of the ten respondents could explain why murder was wrong, on rational grounds. They may have chosen the right alternative, but only based on emotion, not on reason. Morality is not rational on atheism and there is no way to condemn immorality in others.

So long as an person can escape the consequences of his actions, there is nothing wrong with murder, on an atheistic worldview. Atheists can express what they personally like and don’t like, or what the customs are in their society in a certain time and place. There is no “moral ought” on atheism, no principled reason to act any particular way except to be “happy” and to avoid social disapproval from acting unconventionally. So, keep that in mind in the coming days as you discuss the George Tiller story with atheists.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here. A post examining other ways that the secular-left kills millions of people is here.

The Wintery Knight Blog strongly condemns all abortion-related violence, whether it’s committed against the born or the unborn.

Is morality rational, on Christian theism?

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. We got 10 responses to the questions. On Monday, we took a look at the minimal requirements for robust, prescriptive morality. On Tuesday, we evaluated whether the minimal requirements are rationally grounded on atheism. Today, we’ll evaluate Christianity.

The case for Christian theism

Christian morality is based on the objective truth of the Christian faith. So, let’s recall how people argue for Christianity.

Arguments for theism:

And then there are arguments for Christianity in particular:

And here are the rebuttals and refutations to the arguments against Christian theism:

So, let’s assume Christian theism is true, and go on to see if it rationally grounds the minimal requirements for morality.

Evaluation

1) Objective moral values: GROUNDED

Objective moral values are grounded in God’s unchanging nature. His own character is the standard for what counts as good and evil. The standard is not variable, but fixed, by God’s unchanging nature.

2) Objective moral duties: GROUNDED

Objective moral duties are grounded in God’s commands, which flow from the values in his nature and become duties for his creatures.

3) Moral accountability: GROUNDED

On Christian theism, there is a final judgment after death in which good will be rewarded and evil will be punished, proportionally.

4) Free will: GROUNDED

On Christian theism, each person is a union of a material body and a non-material mind / soul. The actions of the non-material mind / soul are not determined by material processes, and humans are therefore able to make real choices.

5) Ultimate significance: GROUNDED

On Christian theism, death is not the end of the story. Each moral action performed is part of on ongoing relationships with God, and people. So, no action is meaningless, because all your actions relate to God, who exists eternally, or to other people, who also exist eternally into the future.

Conclusion

Christian theism grounds all of the minimal requirements needed for rational morality. In Christian theism, we see the fusion of prudence (Acting morally is what I am designed to do in order to flourish, i.e. – “eudaimonia”) and submission to a loving God (I will act morally to respect God, because he loves me the most). More to come on the latter point!

Tomorrow, I’ll post my own answers to the 13 questions, since Commenter ECM and moderate-leftist unitarian Rick demand that I do.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.

Is morality rational, on atheism?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. We got 10 responses to the questions. Yesterday, we took a look at the minimal requirements for robust, prescriptive morality. Today, we’ll evaluate atheism, as represented by the 10 respondents to the survey, to see whether the minimal requirements are rationally grounded by atheism.

1) Objective moral values: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents stated that moral values have no mind-independent existence. In other words, they are purely subjective. Eight of the respondents thought that each person should decide for themselves what is moral for them, and 2 thought that each person should act in accordance with the arbitrary social conventions of the culture where they lived. Those standards change over time and in different places, of course. They are arbitrary.

2) Objective moral duties: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents said that there was no such thing as objective moral values, and so there can be no objective moral duties either. Most people said that their own preferences were the source of subjective moral values. But a duty owed to oneself can be canceled when things get difficult. The best attempt was the social contract answer, but this fails because the social contract is arbitrary. There is no reason to limit your happiness because of an arbitrary social contract, so long as you can escape the social consequences of disobedience.

3) Moral accountability: NOT GROUNDED

Nine respondents did not believe in God. The one who did believe said that God did not care about our actions. Therefore, there is no accountability for the decisions we make. So long as we can avoid the consequences for violating the arbitrary fashions of the time and place where we live, nothing will happen to us if we put our happiness above the needs of our feelings of “empathy” for others.

4) Free will: NOT GROUNDED

All ten respondents were materialists, and therefore did not believe in minds or souls independent of the material that makes up the body. Therefore, everything that humans do is fully determined by the genetic programming and the sensory inputs. To expect moral choices or moral responsibility on atheism is like expecting the same from a computer. Physical systems don’t have free will. There is no “ought to do” for lumps of matter that are not designed by anyone for any specific purpose.

5) Ultimate significance: NOT GROUNDED

All ten of the respondents were materialists, so life ends in the grave for them. Scientists have discovered that in the future, the amount of usable energy, such as the heat and light emitted by stars, will run down to zero, the “heat death of the universe”. What this means is that the entire universe will become cold and lifeless at some point. Humans are therefore doomed to extinction no matter how they act.

Conclusion

On atheism, there is no reason for an atheist to constrain his pursuit of happiness. If he does take into account the needs of others because of feelings and emotions (“empathy”), he is acting irrationally. Feelings are not logical arguments. There is no such thing as a “moral” action on atheism, all actions are undertaken for pleasure or personal preference.

In the survey results, none of the ten respondents could oppose slavery on rational grounds, none of the ten respondents could perform self-sacrificial acts on rational grounds, and none of the ten respondents could explain why murder was wrong, on rational grounds. They may have chosen the right alternative, but only based on emotion, not on reason.

As Greg Koukl argues, morality is not rationally grounded on atheism. Now, it is true that atheists act inconsistently in ways that seem to be moral. This is because:

  1. Judeo-Christian morality is still floating around in out Western society, even though it is on the way out due to materialist persecution of public religious expression and the Judeo-Christian theology that grounded morality
  2. Regardless of what materialism says, God made the universe with objective moral values, and humans with free will, so even if people say that morality is relative and that they are machines, they may still act inconsistently to do the right thing, since their views are mistaken, especially if the costs are minimal

But when the heat is really on, they will cave in to their desires. Rational grounding is needed in order to do the right thing when there are consequences for doing the right thing.

Further study

You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.

Bill Maher mocks Carrie Prejean’s stand on marriage

Spotted this video over at Hot Air, posted by AllahPundit, who is an atheist. He is beginning to question whether atheism leads to great heights of moral behavior. You’ll recall that this is one of the factors that convinced A.N. Wilson, as well as the Wintery Knight himself.

Atheism maintains that the universe is an accident, that there is no objective moral standard, no free will, no accountability when you die, no ultimate significance to our actions, no after-life, and no one to whom moral duty is owed. Bill Maher is a committed atheist. Let’s see what counts as morality on atheism.

And here is an excerpt from AllahPundit’s comments:

A quickie from last night’s show displaying all the charm and subtlety we’ve come to expect, and surely the first time in his life that he’s had an unkind word to say about breast implants. There’s something cosmically apt about him attacking her: No one in American media better embodies the lefty paradox of libertinism paired with judgmentalism, therefore no one’s better qualified to prosecute her for the left’s capital crime of hypocrisy.

Why are atheists making moral judgments in an accidental universe, where their moral standards are just their own personal preferences, or at best the arbitrary conventions of their society? Why even attribute blame to Carrie Prejean if she doesn’t even have free will, which is an impossibility on atheism, since we are just mindless matter?

There are some things that other people do that I don’t like based on personal preferences. For example, I do not like people who spend a lot of time following sports or watching popular movies in the theater. But I don’t insult them for not complying with my preferences. And that’s all morality is, on atheism. Individual preferences and cultural conventions.

You can only judge others if there is an objective standard that is binding on this other person. What sense does it make to mock and deride people who have different preferences than you do? It seems as if atheists do believe in objective morality, however inconsistently. But only when judging others, never when judging themselves.