Tag Archives: Morality

Dr. William Lane Craig interviewed on the Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special

Dr. William Lane Craig on the Ben Shapiro Sunday special
Dr. William Lane Craig on the Ben Shapiro Sunday special

The episode of the Ben Shapiro show that we’ve all been waiting for is here! They discuss arguments for God’s existence in the first 25 minutes. The spend the first 26 minutes on arguments for God,and  the next 16 minutes on Christian distinctives. They spend a bunch more time responding to common arguments for atheism, and finally Ben asks Dr. Craig how he became a Christian.

Summary:

William Lane Craig, philosopher, theologian, and best selling author of numerous books including “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision,” joins Ben to discuss the hard sciences vs. philosophy, the cosmological and ontological arguments, Jesus, slavery, gay marriage, and much more.

Video:

The MP3 file is here.

Topics:

  • Why are we seeing such a decline in religious belief in America?
  • Why are mainline denominations in Christianity and Judaism emptying out?
  • What was the driver behind the move away from religion starting in the 1960s?
  • Why is their a gap in the university and in the broader culture between reason and religious belief?
  • What is the strongest argument for God’s existence?
  • What is the most compelling argument for God’s existence for this culture?
  • Respond to Richard Dawkins’ challenge that God needs a cause.
  • Why does the universe have to have a cause?
  • Does Darwinian evolution provide grounds for our awareness of objective moral values and duties?
  • What is the strongest objection to the cosmological argument?
  • What is the strongest objection to the moral argument?
  • What about the objection that the existence of the universe is just a “brute fact” and doesn’t need an explanation for it’s existence?
  • What about David Hume’s objection to the law of causality?
  • What about objections to the cause of the universe from apparently uncaused events in quantum mechanics?
  • What is the ontological argument, and why is it frequently dismissed?
  • How do we get from an unmoved mover to a moral God?
  • Which arguments show that God is a mind?
  • How do you show that God is present and active in time now?
  • How do you move from God as Creator, Designer and moral lawgiver to a God who has revealed himself to human beings?
  • Who does Jesus claim to be in the gospels, and what is the evidence that his claims were correct?
  • From the Jewish perspective, this narrative has some  problems. First, merely declaring yourself as the Messiah is not seen as a punishable offense.
  • Second, the real problem is that Jesus vision of himself as the Messiah is completely different than how Jews have understood the Messiah. The Messiah in Judaism has always been a political figure who is destined to restore the Kingdom of Israel, bringing more Jews back to Israel, etc.  Claiming to be God, though would be blasphemy and a punishable offense.
  • Why is resurrection proof of divinity? Wasn’t Lazarus also raised from the dead?
  • The gospels were written decades after the events they claim to describe. Should we still see them as reliable enough to infer that the resurrection really happened?
  • Couldn’t legends have been introduced in the gap between the events and the time that the events were recorded?
  • Is it enough for us to have a Creator God, or is there a reason for God to reveal himself to us?
  • Tell us about your experience debating atheist scholars on university campuses.
  • Has any an atheist ever caused you to doubt your arguments?
  • The problem of human evil is easy to respond to, but how do you respond to the problem of natural evil, i.e. – suffering from events in the natural world, such as birth defects or natural disasters.
  • Atheists like to bring up specific disagreements they have with the Bible, e.g. – same-sex marriage, abortion, slavery, genocide. How would you respond to those?
  • Regarding slavery in the Bible, isn’t it the case that people sometimes do things that are not prescribed by God, and the Bible merely records that?
  • How would you respond then to people who push for same-sex marriage by arguing that this is a case where God wanted same-sex marriage, but couldn’t press for it because the people were not capable at that time and in that culture?
  • When discussing specific issues of morality, do you try to argue from a natural law perspective or from the morality in the Bible?
  • How would you respond to someone like Jordan Peterson who approaches religion teachings pragmatically, focusing on behaviors rather than the rational grounding of those behaviors?
  • How do you speak to young people about God without them losing interest?
  • How did you become a Christian?
  • As the influence of Judeo-Christian religion recedes, what do you see filling the void, and how do you see that affecting Western civilization going forward?

New study: belief in free will linked to ability to behave morally and to help others

Is it possible to choose to be moral if we are machines made out of meat?
Is it possible to choose to be moral if we are machines made out of meat?

A while back I finished reading “God’s Crime Scene”, the new book by J. Warner Wallace. I wanted to post something about some studies he mentioned in Chapter 6, on free will. This is one of the places where he found evidence in a surprising area.

Wallace says that free will makes more sense if theism is true, because we have non-material souls that interact with our bodies, but are not causally determined by them. On atheism, only matter exists, and you can’t get free will (or consciousness) from matter. So atheists like Sam Harris and Alex Rosenberg, for example, deny free will, because they are materialists and atheists.

Anyway, here’s what he writes on p. 256:

In 2008, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia conducted experiments highlighting the relationship between a belief in determinism and immoral behavior. They found students who were exposed to deterministic literature prior to taking a test were more likely to cheat on the test than students who were not exposed to literature advocating determinism. The researchers concluded those who deny free will are more inclined to believe their efforts to act morally are futile and are, therefore, less likely to do so.

In addition, a study conducted by researchers from Florida State University and the University of Kentucky found participants who were exposed to deterministic literature were more likely to act aggressively and less likely to be helpful toward others.” Even determinist Michael Gazzaniga conceded: “It seems that not only do we believe we control our actions, but it is good for everyone to believe it.”” The existence of free will is a common characteristic of our experience, and when we deny we have this sort of free agency, there are detrimental consequences.

I decided to look up these studies.

Here’s the abstract for first study: (2008)

Does moral behavior draw on a belief in free will? Two experiments examined whether inducing participants to believe that human behavior is predetermined would encourage cheating. In Experiment 1, participants read either text that encouraged a belief in determinism (i.e., that portrayed behavior as the consequence of environmental and genetic factors) or neutral text. Exposure to the deterministic message increased cheating on a task in which participants could passively allow a flawed computer program to reveal answers to mathematical problems that they had been instructed to solve themselves. Moreover, increased cheating behavior was mediated by decreased belief in free will. In Experiment 2, participants who read deterministic statements cheated by overpaying themselves for performance on a cognitive task; participants who read statements endorsing free will did not. These findings suggest that the debate over free will has societal, as well as scientific and theoretical, implications.

And the abstract for the second study: (2009)

Laypersons’ belief in free will may foster a sense of thoughtful reflection and willingness to exert energy, thereby promoting helpfulness and reducing aggression, and so disbelief in free will may make behavior more reliant on selfish, automatic impulses and therefore less socially desirable. Three studies tested the hypothesis that disbelief in free will would be linked with decreased helping and increased aggression. In Experiment 1, induced disbelief in free will reduced willingness to help others. Experiment 2 showed that chronic disbelief in free will was associated with reduced helping behavior. In Experiment 3, participants induced disbelief in free will caused participants to act more aggressively than others. Although the findings do not speak to the existence of free will, the current results suggest that disbelief in free will reduces helping and increases aggression.

So what to make of this?

If you’re an atheist, then you are a physical object. And like every other physical object in the universe, your behavior is determined by genetic programming (if you’re alive) and external inputs. Material objects do not have the ability to make free choices, including moral choices.

Here’s prominent atheist Jerry Coyne’s editorial in USA Today to explain why atheists can’t ground free will.

Excerpt:

And that’s what neurobiology is telling us: Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output. Recent experiments involving brain scans show that when a subject “decides” to push a button on the left or right side of a computer, the choice can be predicted by brain activity at least seven seconds before the subject is consciously aware of having made it. (These studies use crude imaging techniques based on blood flow, and I suspect that future understanding of the brain will allow us to predict many of our decisions far earlier than seven seconds in advance.) “Decisions” made like that aren’t conscious ones. And if our choices are unconscious, with some determined well before the moment we think we’ve made them, then we don’t have free will in any meaningful sense.

Atheist William Provine says atheists have no free will, no moral accountability and no moral significance:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

(Source)

If you don’t have free will, then you can’t make moral choices, and you can’t be held morally responsible. No free will means no morality. Can you imagine trying to get into any sort of enterprise with someone who has this view of moral choices? A marriage, or a business arrangement, etc? It would be crazy to expect them to behave morally, when they don’t even think that moral choices is possible. It just excuses all sorts of bad behavior, because no one is responsible for choosing to do the right thing.

Believers in materialism are going to struggle with prescriptive morality, including self-sacrificial care and concern for others. Their worldview undermines the rationality of the moral point of view. You might find atheists acting morally for their own purposes, but their worldview doesn’t rationally ground it. This is a big problem for people who can see objective morality woven into the universe – and themselves – because they have the awareness of objective right and wrong.

Choosing to do the right thing

I think what atheists like to say is “I can be moral, too”. That’s not interesting. What is interesting is whether it is rational for you to be moral when doing the right thing sets you back. When I look at the adultery of Dawkins, the polyamory of Carrier, the divorces of Shermer and Atkins, etc. I am not seeing anything that really wows me about their ability to do the right thing when it was hard for them to do it. They all deny free will of course, and think that trying to resist temptation is a waste of time.

Wallace explains how the awareness of free will and moral choices caused him to turn away from atheism, in this blog post.

He writes:

As an atheist, I chose to cling to naturalism, in spite of the fact that I lived each day as though I was capable of using my mind to make moral choices based on more than my own opinion. In addition, I sought meaning and purpose beyond my own hedonistic preferences, as though meaning was to be discovered, rather than created. I called myself a naturalist while embracing three characteristics of reality that simply cannot be explained by naturalism. As a Christian, I’m now able to acknowledge the “grounding” for these features of reality. My philosophical worldview is consistent with my practical experience of the world.

I think atheists who want to be honest about their own experience of first-person consciousness, free will, moral realism, etc. will do well to just accept that theism rationally grounds all of these things, and so you should accept theism. Theism is real. If you like morality, and want to be a virtuous person, then you should accept theism.

The seven fatal flaws of moral relativism

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

Moral relativism is the view that moral values and moral duties do not exist in reality, but only exist as opinions in people’s minds. When you ask a moral relativist where the belief that stealing is wrong comes from, he may tell you that it is his opinion, or that it is the opinion of most people in his society. But he cannot tell you that stealing is wrong independent of what people think, because morality (on moral relativism) is just personal preference.

So what’s wrong with it?

I found this list of the seven flaws of moral relativism at the Salvo magazine web site.

Here’s the summary:

  1. Moral relativists can’t accuse others of wrongdoing.
  2. Relativists can’t complain about the problem of evil.
  3. Relativists can’t place blame or accept praise.
  4. Relativists can’t make charges of unfairness or injustice.
  5. Relativists can’t improve their morality.
  6. Relativists can’t hold meaningful moral discussions.
  7. Relativists can’t promote the obligation of tolerance.

Here’s my favorite flaw of relativism (#6):

Relativists can’t hold meaningful moral discussions. What’s there to talk about? If morals are entirely relative and all views are equal, then no way of thinking is better than another. No moral position can be judged as adequate or deficient, unreasonable, acceptable, or even barbaric. If ethical disputes make sense only when morals are objective, then relativism can only be consistently lived out in silence. For this reason, it is rare to meet a rational and consistent relativist, as most are quick to impose their own moral rules like “It’s wrong to push your own morality on others”. This puts relativists in an untenable position – if they speak up about moral issues, they surrender their relativism; if they do not speak up, they surrender their humanity. If the notion of moral discourse makes sense intuitively, then moral relativism is false.

I sometimes get a lot of flack from atheists who complain that I don’t let them make any moral statements without asking them first to ground morality on their worldview. And that’s because on atheism morality IS NOT rationally grounded, so they can’t answer. In an accidental universe, you can only describe people’s personal preferences or social customs, that vary by time and place. It’s all arbitrary – like having discussions about what food is best or what clothing is best. The answer is always going to be “it depends”. It depends on the person who is speaking because it’s a subjective claim, not an objective claim. There is no objective way we ought to behave.

So, practically speaking, everyone has to decide whether right and wrong are real – objectively real. If they are objectively real, that means that there is a right way for human beings to behave, and a wrong way for human beings to behave. It means that things that are really objectively wrong like rape are wrong for all times and all places, regardless of what individuals and societies might think of it. In order to rationally ground that kind of morality, you have to have a foundation for it – a cosmic Designer who decides for all times and places what the conduct of his creatures ought to be. And then our moral duties are duties that are owed to this Designer. It is like playing football or playing a boardgame – the person who invents the game decides the rules. But if there is no designer of the game, then there are no rules.

Without a designer of the universe, the question of how we ought to act is decided by people in different times and different places. It’s arbitrary and variable, and therefore it doesn’t do the job of prescribing behavior authoritatively. It’s very important not to get involved in any serious endeavor with another person or persons if they don’t have a sense of right and wrong being absolute and fixed. A belief in objective moral values is a necessary pre-requisite for integrity.

New study: same-sex attraction isn’t fixed

Young people seem to like gay marriage more than they like individual liberties

The Federalist reports on what researchers have found about the nature of same-sex attraction. Is it fixed? Or does it change over time? I think that gay activists would like everyone to believe that same-sex attraction is fixed, but to learn the truth, we should look at what the scientific research says.

Excerpt:

There is not only no scientific evidence that sexual orientation is immutable, there is conclusive scientific evidence that most people who experience exclusive same-sex attraction end up developing an interest in the opposite sex over time.

This is so well established by now that scholars are busy publishing methods to measure frequency of sexual orientation change in massive longitudinal studies of youth and young adults. (I.e., How many times in nine years can we expect a homosexual sexual orientation to change? Is the change associated with lifestyle habits? Who changes more frequently: males or females?)

That basic fact was already settled science when Obergefell  came before the Supreme Court. Half a dozen rigorous studies could be cited from the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the most noteworthy probably remains a Cornell-led study published in 2007.

In this study, Dr. Rich Savin-Williams examined a representative sample of more than 12,000 American youth, following each from the age of 16 to 22. Rather than rely on an individual’s reconstruction of his or her past based on current identity, researchers met with subjects three times throughout the six-year period. Each time, they asked individuals (via a computer, to protect privacy) whether they had had a romantic attraction to a member of the opposite or same sex since their last interview.

For instance, 17-year-old males were asked if, in the past year, they had had a romantic attraction to another male or female. About 1.5 percent reported only having a romantic attraction to other males. Five years later, when that 1.5 percent were asked about their romantic attractions since last interview, the overwhelming majority (70 percent) reported a 180-degree flip in their sexual orientation—they only had romantic feelings for women.

Similarly, among females, about 40 percent switched from exclusive same-sex attraction to exclusive opposite-sex attraction. Most of the rest (45 percent of the total) reported they had feelings for both men and women. Only 1 percent of women who, at 17, reported a full year of exclusive same-sex attraction reported a similar experience in the five years that followed.

This research is in agreement with previous research on identical twin studies reported by the prestigious science journal Nature:

When one identical twin is gay, there is about a 20% chance that the other will be as well. But because this rate is not 100%, it is thought that environmental factors play a role as well. One of the best characterized is the ‘older brother effect’: the chance of a man being gay increases by 33% for each older brother he has. The reason is not clear, although one hypothesis holds that the mother’s immune system begins to react against male antigens and alter the fetus’s development.

So, it turns out that homosexual behavior is a lot more related to free choices than it is to innate, fixed dispositions. That’s what the science says. It’s not what the politicians say. It’s not what the Supreme Court says. It’s not what Hollywood says. It’s not what journalists say. But it is what science has found to be true about the universe. We are in control of our behaviors, and we have to choose things that are likely to work out in the long-term – not just what feels good to us in the moment.

Whenever I hear gay activists complaining that they have no choice but to give in to their “innate, fixed, biological” sexual attractions, I always think about how I’ve never been married and have had to deal with sexual attraction to the opposite sex. As a Christian, there is simply no Biblical support for sex outside of marriage. So, that means that I’ve had to just live with not being allowed to act on my desires. In fact, this is the normal Christian life. There was a time when people had more skepticism about their feelings and desires, and they knew that self-control was a good thing. But now it seems as if everyone is so desperate to be liked that we tell everyone yes to everything that they feel like doing. We now consider every moral viewpoint as equal to any other – all the better to do what makes us feel happy. The important goal is that we all feel good right now, and who cares about the damage that our selfishness will cause down the road? We can just act surprised when that happens and pretend that there is no such thing as cause and effect. I can remember a time when Christians in particular had some suspicion about following your heart, because the heart was deceitful and selfish. I guess those days are over, and suddenly feelings are ruling over reason and self-control.

It’s pretty clear that not everything that a person feels like doing is good for them. A lot of decisions that people make to feel good right now lead to outcomes where they or the people who are depending on them will be harmed. For example, lots of people feel like staying home from a school exam, or staying home from their jobs, or drinking alcohol all night, or taking drugs. We used to have more confidence about telling people that not everything they wanted was good for them, and to have more self-control, and to think of how their decisions would harm others. Today, society has drifted away from objective moral boundaries and self-control toward subjective feelings and moral relativism, we are all finding it more difficult to tell people that they should choose to adhere to moral standards. We always seem to be looking to big government to make our irresponsible, reckless choices to be happy in the moment “work out” somehow.

Today, when people make poor decisions that wreck their families, hurt their kids, damage their health, etc. we are more likely to tax the people who haven’t been selfish and reckless in order to pay for government programs that “fix” the outcomes of the selfish, reckless people. In some countries, you can get free single mother welfare, free taxpayer-funded abortions, free sex-changes, free treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases, free rounds of IVF, and so on. Just do whatever you want and someone else who had more self-control than you did will pay for it for you. That’s why we have a twenty-trillion dollar debt, which we never had during the time when we still had the courage to tell people not to do things that were risky, and would be expensive to fix when they blew up.

When did it become normal to think that cause and effect were so unpredictable that people shouldn’t be blamed and held accountable for making bad decisions? When did it become normal to think that doing what feels good for ourselves should be rewarded with other people’s money, through big government programs? When did it become normal to take people to court to force them to celebrate your self-centeredness, just because their disagreement with what you were doing made you feel bad?

What is the best introductory book about pro-life apologetics?

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this decision
I’m Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this message

Do you like to argue about controversial things? Of course you do. And so does Scheming Unborn Baby, (pictured above). But have you schemed as much as Scheming Unborn Baby does before he gets into controversial discussions?

Here’s an excellent book review of the best pro-life book for ordinary people. It’s written by famous pro-life debater Scott Klusendorf from the Life Training Institute.

Excerpt:

The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf is an absolutely outstanding defense of the pro-life position with regard to the abortion debate. Being familiar with Scott’s work through Stand to Reason I was looking forward to this book with much anticipation. Scott is one of the most able, articulate, persuasive, and winsome pro-life speakers in the country and his book does not fail to deliver.

He’s got chapter-by-chapter breakdowns, so let’s look at some of them:

In chapter five Scott addresses the nature of truth and the topic of moral relativism, a view of morality our culture is saturated with to the core. Addressing this topic becomes absolutely necessary given its prevalence and the fact that often the claims of pro-lifers are misunderstood. This is seen in such cliches as “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one!” or “I’m personally opposed to abortion but I think it should remain legal.” In short, pro-lifers are not making subjective preference claims when they say abortion is morally wrong but rather objective truth claims. Scott lays out some fundamental problems with moral relativism as well as a brief history outlining the move from moral realism to moral non-realism.

In chapter six Scott exposes the myth of moral neutrality. Both sides of the abortion debate have views they want to legislate and it is impossible for the state to remain neutral. However, it is often pro-lifers who are accused of trying to “legislate morality” while pro-abortion choice advocates get a free pass. In short, pro-lifers are dismissed as “religious” because of an unwillingness by pro-abortion choice advocates to address the issues. This is intellectually dishonest. How bout we stick with science?

And more:

In chapters ten through fifteen Scott addresses some of the most common arguments put forth by pro-abortion choice advocates. These include “Women will die from illegal abortions,” “You shouldn’t force your view on others,” “Pro-lifers should broaden their focus,” “Rape justifies abortion,” “Men can’t get pregnant,” and “It’s my body, I’ll decide.” The fundamental problem with most of these objections is that they beg the question. They assume the unborn is not a human person.

One more chapter – I’ve never seen chapters like this before:

In chapter sixteen Scott outlines four essential tasks that pastors concerned with biblical truth need to accomplish:

First, Christian pastors need to emphasize a biblical view of human value and ensure their congregation understands that abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. Second, they need to equip their congregation with pro-life apologetics so they can compete in the marketplace of ideas. Third, they need to emphasize the healing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and preach repentance and forgiveness for post-abortion men and women. Finally, Christian pastors need to overcome their fear that abortion is a distraction, their fear of driving people away who might otherwise hear the gospel, and their fear of offending people with abortion-related content.

If you want to see Scott speak, here’s a new-ish 42-minute lecture:

If you like that, consider getting the book. Scheming Unborn Baby recommends it, and so do I.