Michael Shermer is Confused

I’m watching a live debate between Frank Turek (a Christian) and Michael Shermer (an atheist). Before the debate, Shermer was peddling (he retweeted it) the photo in this blog post.  

 

The problem is that Shermer thinks this is a good argument against God. Thinking Christians will actually agree with the statement in the photo! Indeed, no one needs religion to be moral or to determine right from wrong. I don’t know of a single person who would argue such a silly position. 

A person can be far away from God and be a good, moral person. 

The difference is that they have no way to ground a standard of morality without stealing it from God. 

An atheist has no way to justify the fact that lying or stealing is actually wrong. On an atheistic worldview, these things are based on social constructs and mere opinions. What if opinions change? 

I’m surprised someone like Shermer would be so shallow in his thinking to not realize this kind of silliness. I have written in more depth on this subject on this website if you want to read more on it. 

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Quick thoughts…

On morals: People who believe in Darwinism cannot adequately explain why anyone should obey any kind of moral law. On Darwinism, why shouldn’t the strong prey on the weak to get what they want? If nothing exists beyond this world and beyond this life, why not rape, steal, and kill to get what you want? Why should the powerful stand up for the weak and poor among us? It’s a noble thing to do, but on Darwinism it’s senseless. On Darwinism, there is no ultimate standard, but the Darwinists go on acting like there is. 

On love: Darwinists obviously believe in natural selection and macroevolution. It is widely known that on this view, love is merely a chemical reaction in the brain. It’s a way to describe the devolpment of these chemical reactions in order for us to survive. If a Darwinist is to be consistent in his worldview, he should be ready to say his love for his wife and children are illusions. He should be prepared to tell them that the love isn’t actual; the love is merely a means that helps his own genes survive. That’s it. Nothing more. 

Let’s see some examples of how Darwinists should be living and acting if they truly are consistent. There does exist consistent Darwinian atheists. Their views are alarming, as follows.

On the value of life: There is a Darwinist named James Rachels who you should know about. In his book, Created From Animals, he says that retarded people are nothing more than animals. He says they should be used the way humans use non-human animals—as lab subjects or possibly for food.  Another Darwinist, Peter Singer, thinks parents should be allowed to abort their children after they have been alive outside of the womb for up to 28 days! He also says newborn human babies are of less value than the life of a pig!

The bottom line is that if only material things exist, then horrible behaviors espoused by some Darwinists and some atheists such as baby killing and eating retarded people, really aren’t wrong. They’re simply chemical reactions in the brain. None of these things can be objectively wrong because on a view of natural selection there are no moral laws if our brains are reacting to chemicals. In fact, our governmental laws could not be enforced if the world operated on Darwinism. Raping and murdering would simply be considered unfashionable at most. Fortunately, all rule of law is based on a transcendent moral law, just like the transcendent morality cited in order to convict the Nazi’s at the Nuremberg trials. 

Human Rights Come From God

I came across a video today where the Alabama Chief Justice, Roy Moore, was debating CNN morning anchor Chris Cuomo, who is the son of former NY governor Mario Cuomo, and the brother of current NY governor, Andrew Cuomo. In the video which I have posted below, Justice Moore contends that rights come from God.  Cuomo objects to the justice’s position rather strongly.  Not only does he wrongly object, but he constantly confuses rights and laws, which are not the same thing.  But in any case, whether Cuomo is using the word rights or the word laws, he is trying to argue that rights are not given by God, but that they “come from collective agreement and compromise.”  The nearby image I posted contains words from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, in which the founders of the United States clearly affirm that human rights are endowed to us by the Creator, God. Moreover, those words were written by the very liberal Thomas Jefferson, who was merely a deist and not a monotheist in the historical Christian sense…and even he recognized our God-given unalienable rights.

Following that sentence in the Declaration, it says that the purpose of government’s existence is to secure these rights. The government can do this only if the people consent to it.

It is an extreme danger to think the way Cuomo thinks about human rights. In fact, it’s so dangerous we should be teaching our children from a very early age that human rights are not subjective to individuals or a community of people. For these very reasons are exactly how the Nazi’s and other murderous people attempted to excuse their evil, murderous acts.

Several months ago, I wrote about the subject of human rights and where they originate. I think this is an appropriate time to re-publish that article. I’m posting it below, just under the video clip of Justice Moore and Mr. Cuomo.  Please watch the short exchange before reading the re-post of my earlier article.

http://www.mrctv.org/embed/132978


From October 17, 2014

No kind of human “rights” can be created. True rights are always discovered. Think about it: if rights are simply created by majorities in the populace or majorities in legislative bodies or high and mighty judges, then we are admitting that human rights are subjective.

On this view, what happens to those “rights” when someday they are legislated out of existence by a new majority? What one generation considers a “right,” another generation may consider illegal, and vice versa.

It’s ridiculous to believe this way. Why? Because humans abide by objective, moral human rights in our daily lives. We know it’s wrong to torture babies for fun. Babies have a right to live free from torture and everyone knows it. No one has to legislate the immorality of that kind of behavior. But if rights and morality are simply created, then it may be ok for some other cultures to torture babies. Even if some strange people group adopts a culture of torturing babies, is it still objectively wrong? Of course it is.

What if in Nazi Germany, the majority of Nazis desired the right to eliminate the Jews? (Which they did!) Did the will of the majority make their actions commendable? Of course not. That’s not a true human “right.” It’s a desire to do what you please. Likewise, no matter what a specific individual may think about killing Jews or torturing babies, it’s still objectively wrong. Every. Single. Time.

Rights and morality are not something that came about by natural forces. For instance, take members of the animal kingdom. Is it wrong for them to kill to survive? No, it’s not wrong. Animals are amoral beings that do not have the ability to submit to obligations of “rights” and “morals.” But why do humans not follow the same “natural” behaviors like animals do? Why do humans have a sense of morality, altruism, and justice? It’s because we are a higher being made by God, in his image. These obligations to morality and rights can only be explained fully through the teachings in the Christian Bible. They make no rational sense whatsoever based on a naturalistic worldview.

Rights and morality are based on something far greater than the cultural trends of our time. True rights are not arbitrarily created based on current, trendy volitions. True rights and morality do not conform to human desire because human desire is flimsy. Instead, humans should conform to the objective morals and rights we know to be solid and true.

It’s important to think about the origination of true rights and morality before we can understand how to respond to laws imposed on us against our will. Christians need to know how to formulate rational positions for their worldview. Going around telling people they’re going to Hell isn’t always the best way to reach people with the truth. But having a rational, coherent reason (given in love) for the hope that is in you can be very effective.

Altruism and the Existence of God

Altruism is a behavior and feelings that show a desire to help others and show a lack of selfishness.  The reality of altruism is a huge problem for atheism and Darwinian evolution.  We know altruistic behavior has existed for as long as knowable human history.  An example of why this creates major problems for Darwinian evolutionists can be understood in the following examples.  A newspaper runs a story at Christmastime detailing the difficulties of a less fortunate family that is very needy.  A man reading the story is compelled to anonymously donate a large portion of money to this needy family to help them get through winter, to have necessities, and gives them the ability to provide some extra Christmas gifts to the children of the family.  This anonymous, altruistic action offers absolutely no kind of evolutionary advantage yet things like this happen all the time.  It stands to reason that, since this kind of behavior offers no evolutionary advantage, the trait of altruism should have disappeared long ago, if Darwinian evolution were true.

Consider the following story, which is true.  In May 2012, several groups of people were attempting to climb Mt. Everest as they do every year.  A young Israeli climber was nearing the summit when he came across another climber who had run into trouble.  This Turkish climber had fallen and lost most of his equipment, including his oxygen tank and his face mask.  He was clearly going to die very soon. The Israeli halted his ascent and spent several hours helping the distressed Turk back down Everest.  He saved the Turks life and lost three of his own fingers and four toes to frostbite.  He also lost his lifetime dream of reaching Everest’s summit.

In addition to all that, since May 2010, Turkey and Israel have been political enemies.  There is no love lost between these two countries.  So why did the Israeli risk his own life and give up his own dreams for such a self-less act?  It’s possible that he could have gained a better standing in the mating world had he had he been able to place “Everest Conqueror” on his dating resume.  The act did not do a thing to save and propagate his own DNA.  He did not save one of his relatives or even someone of his own ethnicity.  These are things that atheism cannot adequately answer.

What does atheism and Darwinian evolution have to say about this subject?  Natural selection tells the evolutionist that all humans strive to propagate their genes through future generations.  Some evolutionists claim that altruistic prestige that goes along with say, being a fireman, attracts healthy, beautiful females to altruistic males who, if they survive the risk of dying, have the ability to better propagate their genes over men who are less willing to risk their lives.  This is a flimsy argument on its own merit.  Oftentimes, complete slobs who are lazy and cowardly can attract beautiful women.  Maybe the slob has huge amounts of money from an inheritance or lottery winnings, as “luck” would have it.  Moreover, based on Darwinian evolution, it seems strange to me that any woman would want to reproduce with a man who consistently risks the gene pool by tempting death or giving away his family’s money to help others.  Let me be clear.  I understand things like this happen, it just doesn’t make sense based on Darwinian evolution.

Evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton has another explanation to the problem of altruism.  He claims that an altruistic person will still save his genes because he is more likely to rescue or die for his own kin.  He says you can save two of your children at the expense of your own life.  But if you’re saving cousins, your one life would have to save four cousins to make it worthwhile.  Or if you’re saving second cousins, you would have to sacrifice your one life for eight of your second cousins in order for the statistical formula to work and for your genes to be properly propagated.  These genetic computations seem very, very questionable.  Who would really be ready and willing to calculate these formulas in preparation for an altruistic action?

Geneticist E. O. Wilson has recently shied away from his lifelong belief that evolutionary processes could account for altruism.  He has begun to use an example that compares people to ants.  Ants will “choose” to assume roles that will shorten their own lives to enhance the colony.  But, as mathematician and the history of science research fellow at Boston University Amir Aczel asks, what is analogous to the human “colony?”  Is it one’s family, race, community, nation, etc.?  Aczel reminds us of examples of people jumping in icy water to save a dog or firemen rushing into a fiery building to save a cat.  Neither act will be beneficial to the “colony.”

People all over the world are paid modest wages to fight as soldiers and to serve as policemen and first responders. They do altruistic acts for people of different races, ethnicities, languages, religions, etc. European Christians risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.  Soldiers form brotherly bonds that cause one another to fight to their death to save their comrades.  As Aczel (who is agnostic) points out, “To claim that these are acts that propagate one’s own genes would seem preposterous.”

So what could be the cause of this kind of behavior?  The answer to me is very simple.  It is caused by decency and goodness that is rooted in a decent and good God who upholds all of creation (Col 1:17, Psalm 100:5).  Christians have a great deal of evidences for objective morals rooted in God such as goodness, selflessness, kindness, and generosity.  We are friends of a good God (James 2:23) and friends and helpers to one another (Matt 5:42).  Christians have very good evidence for God’s existence, the truth and authenticity of the Bible, and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.  If we follow the evidence where it leads without a presupposed worldview, we can find the answers to many, if not all, of our questions.

 

(Some of the material in this article has been adapted from the book by Amir D. Aczel, Why Science Does Not Disprove God (New York: HarperCollins, 2014).

 

 

Can Atheists Be Moral?

The question is in the title, “Can Atheists Be Moral?”  The answer to that question is rather is easy to determine.  We have no reason to suspect that atheists cannot be moral individuals.  I personally know atheists who seem to act morally in their daily lives, despite their cursing at something they think does not exist.  So the short answer would be YES!  But, I’m interested in questions that goes deeper than that.

  1. Is morality relative?
  2. On what basis do humans place morality?

I am going to make the case for objective morality and that objective morality is based on God.  The most common objection that comes up in this argument is a misunderstanding of terms.  So first allow me to define the term objective morality.  To define the term, it must be broken down into its two parts.  To say that something is objective is to say that it is independent of what people think or perceive.  By contrast, to say that something is subjective is just to say that it is not objective; that is to say, it is dependent on what human persons think or perceive.[1]  To say that there is objective morality is to say that something is good or evil independently of whether any human being believes them to be so.[2]  An example of objective morality would be that torturing little babies for fun is wrong no matter what anyone believes about it.  Raping and beating women for sport is always wrong no matter what anyone believes about it.

To discover a basis of objective morality I want to show that this entire subject matter is completely outside the realm of science.  Science deals with only the physical world.  Science cannot tell us what ought to happen, it can only tell us what will probably happen under certain circumstances.  Objective morality on the other hand tells us how we ought to act.  To attempt to explain morality on a scientific, evolutionary basis is a fatal category error.  Morality is not physical.  You cannot weigh it or see what color it is.  If morality has its basis in Darwinian evolution, then morality cannot be objective.  If there is no God and we evolved from slime, then we have no higher moral status than slime because there is nothing beyond us to instill us with a sense of objective morality or dignity.[3]  If morality had its basis in the Darwinian evolutionary process, then raping women to propagate the DNA of men should be considered right.  Murder of the weak, invalid, and elderly should be the norm.  This is just nonsense that does not deserve any further treatment here.

Something further needs to be addressed before moving forward.  What I am not claiming is that belief in God is required to know and recognize objective morality.  Rather, I am making the claim that God’s existence is necessary for objective morality itself to exist.

Let’s answer some objections to objective morality before we make our case for God.

Moral relativism says that societies or individuals decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  There are three types of moral relativism: cultural relativism, conventionalism, and individual subjectivism.  Since this is a blog and not a book, I will not break these down.  Instead, I will try to cover them wholly with two examples.  First, for one to say, “all truth (including moral truth) is relative” is a self-refuting statement.  You should reply, “is that truth relative?”  You can see it is self-refuting.  Furthermore, if he is claiming all truth is relative, then why is he pushing his supposed “truth” on me?  I’m amazed there are people who believe this way but I see it nearly every single day.

A second way to dispel moral relativism is to use the Nazis as an example.  When they went to trial, their defense was that they were following the rule of law in their country.  They said they were simply following orders based on the views of their country’s government.  As we know, justice was served by appealing to a higher, objective moral standard.  This is important to remember when you hear an atheist make the claim that each society dictates the moral standard.  So which society is correct?  Hitler’s or Mother Teresa’s?  If it’s all based on the opinion of that particular society then it should have been right for the Nazis to murder millions of innocent people and wrong for the rest of the world to condemn them.  After all, it’s all based on subjective opinion.

So let’s cut to the chase.  If there is no God and no Heaven or Hell, then no ultimate justice will ever be served.  The baby torturer and the serial rapist will simply become worm food when they die.  The most well-known atheistic evangelist, Richard Dawkins, says, “Too bad.  Just because we wish there was ultimate justice doesn’t mean there is.”  Well, I don’t doubt that.  I don’t do much “wishful” thinking either.  But the point is this:  if there is no justice, then it follows that there is no injustice.  Something cannot be deemed wrong if there is no ultimate right.  C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”[4]  We strive to perfect our society, to reach for some unattainable utopia while presupposing that we somehow know we still need to progress.  How do we know this?  How do we know we still have room to improve ourselves?  Louis Markos put it nicely when he wrote that a supposed materialistic society can strive to be progressive, but without any fixed, transcendent standard of good and evil, right and wrong, how can we know that we have progressed?[5]

Speaking of Richard Dawkins, he made a remarkable admission about objective morality during an interview with Justin Brierley after he maintained that our sense of morality is an outcome of evolution.  The audio can be found here.  You may fast forward to the 5:29 mark.  Ill reproduce part of the statement here.

Brierley:  When you make a value judgment, don’t you immediately step yourself outside  of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it’s good?  And you don’t have any way to stand on that statement.
DawkinsMy value judgment itself could come from my evolutionary past.
BrierleySo therefore it’s just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.
Dawkins:  You could say that….nothing about it makes it more probable than there is anything supernatural.
BrierleyUltimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.
DawkinsYou could say that, yeah.[6]

Wow!  So according to the atheistic evangelist, Dawkins believes that rape is simply socially unfashionable.  At least he is being a consistent atheist.  After all, without God, there are no objective moral standards.  Dawkins thinks all of our thoughts and behaviors are simply the blind results of molecules bouncing around in our brains.  In River out of Eden, Dawkins says,

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt,
and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the 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.[7]

So it’s very clear, the new atheists can not only determine a basis for objective morality, many of them deny its very existence!  In order for atheists to live with themselves in a purposeless universe they must steal from God.  That is to say, they borrow things from a theistic worldview such as peace, justice, ethics, etc. because they have no basis for these things on a purely physical, materialistic worldview.[8]

Another atheistic evangelist, Sam Harris, says he actually believes in objective morality.  He bases his position of morality on learning about the well-being of conscious creatures.  The problem with this position is that it merely shows us what method to use to discover what is moral, not what actually makes something moral.  If you didn’t get that last sentence, please re-read it.  It is very important to understand that I am not arguing an epistemological position about morality but rather an ontological position.  In other words, we aren’t talking about how we know morality.  We are talking about why it objectively exists.  Toddlers can know morality by how it makes them feel.  If a child steals a toy from another child then feelings are hurt.  What I am getting at is the deeper question:  why does having something stolen from us bring about a sense of injustice?  You can know morality exists while denying God.  I can know a book exists and at the same time deny its author.  But there would be no book unless an author existed.  Atheists pull this same nonsense with God and objective morality.  Many of them claim to know objective morality while denying God exists, but there would be no objective morality unless God exists.[9]

Another common objection to objective morality is the Euthyphro dilemma.  Euthyphro (a character of Plato) asks, “Does God do something because it is good or is it good because God does it?  The problem here is that Plato offers only two options when there is a third option that he left out.  The whole question assumes good exists wholly apart from God.  This is a solid misunderstanding of God (at least the Christian God).  For God does not look to a standard beyond himself.  If he were required to look to a standard beyond himself then he wouldn’t be God.  God is also not arbitrary.  So the third option left out is God’s very nature is the standard of an unchanging moral nature.  This so called “dilemma” was answered hundreds of years ago but for some reason the new atheists bring it up from time to time.

Let’s make the case for an objective moral law giver.

Again, this is a blog, not a book, so I cannot spell out every single piece of evidence.  There are so many subjects (such as altruism) I just don’t have time to touch at least at this moment.  But along with answering the objections above, I think I can give a quick summary to show that God is the most reasonable basis for objective morality.

Objective morality contains a sense of obligation and oughtness that is universal, authoritative, and outweighs considerations of culture, time, and place.  Objective morality is always discovered and not invented. Objective morals are prescriptive to how we should act, not descriptive of the world.  But where did these objective morals originate?  Because morals cannot be scientifically tested, because they deal with purpose and will, because they are universal and transcend societies and time, their origination cannot be rooted in anything physical.  Because they universally and transcendently prescribe how we ought to act then we can conclude that something prescribed must have a prescriber.  This prescriber must also transcend societies, cultures, people, and time itself.  We can employ two simple syllogisms to help us think about God as the grounds for objective morals.  One of them goes like this:

  1. If a personal God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore, a personal God exists.

Most of this article has been devoted to proving the first two premises correct.  I have briefly shown that objective morals do exist, and I’ve shown that it would be more reasonable to ground them in a transcendent being (God) as opposed to grounding them in materialistic objects or processes.  Therefore, the conclusion follows.  Here is a simpler syllogism:

  1. Every law has a lawgiver.
  2. There is an objective moral law.
  3. Therefore, there is an objective moral law giver.

Let me summarize what we have briefly covered in this article:

  1. There exists objective morality.
  2. Objective morality holds that something is good or evil independently of human beliefs about it.
  3. Science is not the proper category for discussing morality.
  4. Belief in God is not required to know and recognize objective morals.
  5. Moral relativism is false.
  6. In a world based on materialism, we cannot justify good and evil, right and wrong, justice or injustice.
  7. Richard Dawkins thinks morality is arbitrary.
  8. God is a reasonable explanation for objective morality.

[1] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith 3rd Edition (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2008) p. 173.

[2] Craig, p. 173.

[3] Norman Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2004) p. 189.

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (New York: HarperCollins, 2007) p. 41.

[5] Louis Markos, Apologetics for the 21st Century (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2010) p. 76

[6] This interview was pointed out to me in the book by Frank Turek, Stealing from God, Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014) p. 90.

[7] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Basic Books, 1996) p. 133.

[8] I owe this idea to Frank Turek’s book, Stealing from God.

[9] Turek, p. 100.

A Brief Hiatus From the Three Part Series to Comment on Incest.

I was recently questioned by an atheist about Adam and Eve and their children committing incest.  We know that their children must have had relations with each other in order to multiply.  There are reasons why we believe this form of relations between close kin in early humanity would have not had devastating genetic effects.  As we all know and agree upon, it’s the copying of two bad genes (to state it simply) into children of incestual relationships that causes defects.  It’s possible that in the early years of humanity, shortly after the act of God creating a perfect universe, that the sinful effects upon genetics that were brought upon humanity as the result of sin had not been expounded enough to cause genetic mistakes, defects, and such.  While this notion is not provable beyond all doubt, it is believable beyond reasonable doubt.  Even anti-Christian science has tended to presume that genetic mistakes were less numerous in the early years of humanity.  Biblically speaking, incest wasn’t prohibited until the time of Moses.  This would seem to support the fact that it took several thousand years for harmful genetic mistakes to develop.  As such, God instituted rules against sexual activity with close kin.

But those things aren’t what concerns me.  Atheists create a great problem when they use the incest accusation to refute God’s creation of man.  Think about this from the atheist’s point of view.  There had to be a specific point in time where the first human “evolved” into being the first human.  There weren’t thousands or millions of humans that evolved at exactly the same time and traveled to differing regions so as to avoid incest.  No.  Even from an evolutionists point of view, incest had to have occurred among the earliest few humans.  There is no way to avoid this except flat out denial or false fabrications with ridiculous faith-based guesses.  So their fetish with invoking incest places them in a trap of their own making.

Moreover, while the Atheist will use the incest issue to refute the Genesis account, he will also say incest is simply taboo, and in reality there is nothing wrong with it.  Freud even taught that humans have an overwhelming natural desire to commit incest with their mothers and siblings.  That’s oddly contradictory.  Many of Richard Dawkins’ followers believe there should be no limits to one’s desire to commit incest. In fact, one of them posted this on Mr. Dawkins’ website.  Furthermore, Charles Darwin himself married his first cousin.  I believe three of their children passed early in life.

Pardon me for interrupting the next installment in which I am writing about Krauss.  It will be posted soon.  I felt the need to put this out there for my fellow believers in case someone attempts this silliness upon you.