“Objective” or “Absolute” Moral Values?

Hello Dr. Craig,

As always, I want to thank you for your continued commitment to defending the faith and equipping the church to meet the challenges of this increasingly secular age that we live in. I myself have been deeply influenced by your work and am in the final stages of completing my requirements to be a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director in West Texas.

My question to you today is about the difference between absolute vs. objective when speaking about morality.

I have heard you address this question in one of your Q&A sessions while doing your tour through Europe. You stated that you were very committed to stating the moral argument in terms of "objective" morality, rather than "absolute" morality. However, I do not believe there was further explanation on the subject.

In your debate with Sam Harris, you refuted the notion that you were advocating for a position that asserted a "universal" system of morality, but maintained that objective moral values and duties are what you were declaring to be evidence for God's existence. In both Reasonable Faith and On Guard, I've noticed you define "Objective" by stating that something is objective if it does not depend on human opinion or knowledge. It is simply valid and binding, regardless of human opinion.

While chaperoning an Apologetics mission trip to a local college campus, the moral argument was addressed and one of the atheists made the statement that went something like this:

"When you say absolute, I don't know what that means. What I hear most Christians say when they speak of 'Absolute Truth' or 'Absolute Morality' is really the same thing as speaking in terms of Objectivity. Most of the time the words 'Absolute' and 'Objective' are used interchangeable with no meaningful distinction".

Since you've spoken extensively about the moral argument, and given your educational background, I'm sure that this is a question that you have thought about and resolved yourself. My hope is that you can shed some light on this subject for myself and the rest of us. Thank you very much, once again, for all that you do in the name of Jesus. God Bless!

Joshua

United States

Click HERE to read Dr. Craig's answer

A Powerful Apologetic Method: ABDUCTIVE Reasoning!

"What in the world is 'Abductive Reasoing'?" Well, abductive reasoning is employed by crime scene detectives, car mechanics, and your medical doctor.  Abductive reasoning is when you look at all the known facts, and seek to form the best explanation to explain the data.  Abductive reasoning seeks to find the "inference to the best explanation" for the known facts.   

This is a vital way of thinking and investigating that all serious Christians should be engaged in....

 - Pastor J. 

Once More: The Slaughter of the Canaanites

Dear Dr. Craig,

First allow me to add my voice to the chorus of praise for your work and ministry. In my own case, I had recently been drifting in a decidedly liberal direction, willing to merely accept skeptical criticisms of the bible and Christian theology rather than seeking to formulate a genuinely robust defense for beliefs which I had held to be true. I was conquered by their arguments simply because I was ignorant to the reasoned alternative.

I have since joined a Reasonable Faith Chapter in Melbourne and have become a avid listener of your podcasts. You have helped to propel me toward a more orthodox and sound approach to issues such as the reliability of the Gospels and the historicity of the Resurrection. It is very exciting and rewarding, and I thank you for that.

Read More

Atheist PhD & World Famous Geneticist now believes in GOD!

What led Dr. Francis Collins, head of the "Human Genome Project", to become a believer in the Christian God?

In this short CNN interview, he details his attempts to validate and 'prove' his atheistic arguments and beliefs.  He admits that some of the arguments he had simply "cooked them up" in his own mind. 

Later he decided to study Medicine, and he came face-to-face with the reality of human suffering and death. This caused him to reflect upon what he truly thought about the

possibility of God's existence, and the human hunger for life beyond the grave.

All the while, he was coming to grips with reality of the pre-installed program of "Moral Law" that operates within humanity, which functions as a sign-post to point towards the

Moral Law Giver - GOD.

Interesting insights from one of the most highly qualified scientific minds of our time. Listen to his own words of how science, philosophy, and the awareness of human mortality led him to give his life to the GOD of Christianity.

- Pastor J.

Can God Ground Necessary Moral Truths?

Dear Dr. Craig,
There have been a lot questions recently asked about grounding the existence of morality in God, and I have one as well. The Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne rejects the Moral Argument for God because, he thinks, moral truths are necessarily true, and so the existence of God cannot have an effect on their truth.
He comes to the conclusion that moral truths are necessary because certain events are thought to be morally good or bad; more than that, the moral goodness or badness of an event is inseparable from the state of affairs itself. So, Swinburne claims, there is no possible world in which the exact same things occur as occurred during the holocaust, and in which the holocaust is not morally abominable. It is the same with other events that are considered morally good or bad. There is no possible world in which the event is the same as in the actual world and in which the moral judgement of the event is different than in the actual world. Thus Swinburne concludes that the moral judgement of an event is necessary to the event itself. And this leads naturally to his conclusion that the existence or non-existence of God is irrelevant to the existence of the moral judgement since the moral judgement is necessary given the event.
Swinburne's argument would thus undercut one of the premises to your moral argument. I am a Christian philosophy student at a secular university where many of my professors take a view similar to Swinburne, holding that the objectivity of moral values does not depend on God's existence. I have read and heard your arguments about the absurdity of life without God, and I am currently undecided. What would be your response to Swinburne's argument?
Robert
Canada

click HERE to read Dr. Craig's answer

The Plausibility of Grounding Moral Values in God, Question of the week by Dr. Craig

Dear Dr. Craig,
Thank you so much for your faithfulness, zeal, and integrity in serving the Lord. I'm one of the Reasonable Faith Chapter Directors, and I recently have been discussing the ontological ground of morality with the President of my university's philosophy honors society, Phi Sigma Tau.
My friend is a moral realist, but he isn't persuaded that God's nature can sufficiently constitute the Good. He's recently advocated the position of G.E. Moore, the British ethicist who held to ethical non-naturalism.
The crux of Moore's argument is that "Good" is ineffable, beyond definition. He gives the following "open-question" argument:
If God's nature is the Good, then saying "The Good is God's nature" is equivalent to saying "God's nature is God's nature", which isn't saying much.
I've proposed the following answer to define/understand what and why the Good is in God's nature, and I'd love your help and feedback.
1) Are qualities like 'compassion', 'love', 'justice' good because they are found in God's nature, or good independently of God?
2) To claim they are good independently of God is to propose Platonism.
3) Platonism fails.
4) Therefore, they are Good because they are found in God's nature.
But why should they be Good because they are found in God's nature? Put in other words, why is God's nature good?
6) That which is good is intrinsically valuable, and ought to be valued, appreciated, or pursued.
7) God is, by definition, the Greatest Possible Being.
8) The Greatest Possible Being is that which is most valuable, worthy of appreciation, and pursuit. <== This is the crucial premise.
9) Therefore,God is that which is perfectly valuable, worthy of appreciation and pursuit.
10) From (6), (7), (8), and (9), God's nature is the Good.
My question back to him: If God does not exist, what is intrinsically valuable and ought to be valued, appreciated, or pursued?
1) If God does not exist, then there is nothing transcendent in the universe.

2) Everything in the universe is fundamentally the same stuff (quarks & waves)
3) Therefore, nothing in the universe is qualitatively different from something else, and therefore does not lay claim to valuing anything more than anything else.
4) No composite thing is more valuable than anything else.
5) Everything is of the same value.
6) We ought to value everything (atoms, plants, planets, people (made of brains, carbon, etc.), volcanoes, dogs, etc.) the same.
7) It is irrational to value people more than rocks.
8) Therefore, it is not true that we ought to value people more than rocks--they're the same.
But, if we bring the GPB back into the picture, there is now something transcendent to, and greater, than everything else. This thing therefore deserves to be valued more than everything else. And once again we have a grounding for valuing things in accordance with God (such as love, compassion, etc.) more than other things.
I'll actually be debating this person on campus in about a month's time, and so would love your help on this.
Thank you again Dr. Craig. You're an inspiration to me for the need and example of Godly Christian scholars.
Sincerely,
Devin
Click HERE to read Dr. Craig's answer

Monkey Morality: Can Evolution Explain Ethics?

By: Gregory Koukl

This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 20, number 04 (1998). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal

 go to: http://www.equip.org

SYNOPSIS

Some people argue that morality is the result of blind evolutionary forces rather than an omnipotent Creator. This view is flawed because (1) it assumes a morality that transcends evolutionary “morality,” (2) it cannot explain motive and intent, (3) it denies rather than explains morality, and (4) it cannot account for the “oughtness” of morality. Given the existence of morality as well as the nature of moral claims, the existence of God seems to be the best explanation for morality.

Bongo is a chimp. He’s being punished by other members of the chimpanzee band for not sharing his bananas. Bongo is selfish. Bad Bongo. Moral rule: Chimps shouldn’t be selfish.

One of the strongest evidences for the existence of God is man’s unique moral nature. C. S. Lewis argues in Mere Christianity that there is a persistent moral law that represents the ethical foundation of all human cultures. This, he says, is evidence for the God who is the author of the moral law.

Not everyone agrees. Scenarios like that of Bongo the chimp have been offered as evidence for rudimentary forms of morality among animals, especially the “higher” primates like chimpanzees. This suggests that morality in humans is not unique and can be explained by the natural process of evolution without appeal to a divine Lawgiver.

This view of morality is one of the conclusions of the new science of evolutionary psychology. Its adherents advance a simple premise: The mind, just like every part of the physical body, is a product of evolution. Everything about human personality — marital relationships, parental love, friendships, dynamics among siblings, social climbing, even office politics — can be explained by the forces of neo-Darwinian evolution.

Even the moral threads that make up the fabric of society are said to be the product of natural selection. Morality can be reduced to chemical relationships in the genes chosen by different evolutionary needs in the physical environment. Love and hate; feelings of guilt and remorse; gratitude and envy; even the virtues of kindness, faithfulness, and self-control can all be explained mechanistically through the cause and effect of chance genetic mutations and natural selection.

One notable example of this challenge to the transcendent nature of morality comes from the book 

The Moral Animal — Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology 

, by Robert Wright.

HOW MORALS EVOLVE 

In his popular defense of evolution, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins acknowledges that the biological world looks designed, but he asserts that this appearance is deceiving. The appearance of intelligent order is really the result of the workings of natural selection.

Robert Wright holds the same view regarding man’s psychological features, including morality. The strongest evidence for this analysis seems to be the explanatory power of the evolutionary paradigm when dealing with moral conduct. The argument rests on the nature of natural selection itself: “If within a species there is variation among individuals in their hereditary traits, and some traits are more conducive to survival and reproduction than others, then those traits will (obviously) become more widespread within the population. The result (obviously) is that the species’ aggregate pool of hereditary traits changes.”

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Wright argues from effect back to cause, asking what is the simplest, most elegant solution adequate to explain the effects we see. To Wright, the evolutionary explanation is “obvious.” In order to survive, animals must adapt to changing conditions. Through the process of natural selection, naturalistic forces “choose” certain behavior patterns that allow the species to continue to exist. We call those patterns “morality.”

Wired for Morality

An evolutionary explanation for all moral conduct requires that such conduct be genetically determined. Morality rides on the genes, as it were, and one generation passes on favorable morality to the next. Wright sees a genetic connection with a whole range of emotional capabilities. He talks about “genes inclining a male to love his offspring”

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 and romantic love that was not only invented by evolution, but corrupted by it.

3

 Consider these comments:

If a woman’s “fidelity gene” (or her “infidelity gene”) shapes her behavior in a way that helps get copies of itself into future generations in large numbers, then that gene will by definition flourish.4 (emphasis in original)
Beneath all the thoughts and feelings and temperamental differences that marriage counselors spend their time sensitively assessing are the stratagems of the genes — cold, hard equations composed of simple variables.5

Some mothers have a genetic predisposition to love their children, so the story goes, and this genetic predisposition to be loving is favored by natural selection. Consequently, there are more women who are “good” mothers.

What is the evidence, though, that moral virtues are genetic — a random combination of molecules? Is the fundamental difference between a Mother Theresa and an Adolph Hitler their chromosomal makeup? If so, then how could we ever praise Mother Theresa? How could a man like Hitler be truly guilty?

Wright offers no empirical evidence for his thesis. He seems to assume that moral qualities are in the genes because he must; his paradigm will not work otherwise.

WRIGHT’S DOUBLE STANDARD

In a public relations piece promoting his book, Robert Wright says, “My hope is that people will use the knowledge [in this book] not only to improve their lives — as a source of ‘self-help’ — but as cause to treat other people 

more decently

” (emphasis added).

This statement captures a major flaw in Wright’s analysis. His entire thesis is that chance evolution exhausts what it means to be moral. He sees morality as descriptive, a mere function of the environment selecting patterns of behavior that assist and benefit the growth and survival of the species. Yet he frequently lapses, unconsciously making reference to a morality that seems to transcend nature.

Take this comment as an example: “Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse

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 (emphases mine). Wright reflects on the moral equipment randomly given to us by nature, and then bemoans our immoral use of it with words like “tragic,” “pathetic,” and “misuse.”

He writes, “Go above and beyond the call of a smoothly functioning conscience; help those who aren’t likely to help you in return, and do so when nobody’s watching. This is one way to be a truly moral animal.”

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It’s almost as if there are two categories of morality, nature’s morality and a transcendent standard used to judge nature’s morality. But where did this transcendent standard come from? It’s precisely this higher moral law that needs explaining. If transcendent morality judges the “morality” that evolution is responsible for, then it can’t itself be accounted for by evolution.

Social Darwinism 

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DOES 'MORAL LAW' PROVE A 'MORAL LAW-GIVER'?

CAN OBJECTIVE MORALITY EXIST WITHOUT GOD?

WHY DO "GOOD" AND "BAD" HAVE MEANING TO US?

IS THERE AN ARGUMENT FOR GOD THAT IMPACTS EVERYONE'S DAILY LIFE?

(Pt.2) This is the second installation of our newest addition to our series "Good Arguments for God's Existence", and it goes by the name of the Axiological or Moral Argument.

The power of this particular argument from Natural Theology lies in the fact that is deals with something that every human being is in touch with on a daily basis, whether they are an atheist, agnostic, pantheist, or theist: our moral inclinations and perceptions concerning right and wrong, good or bad.

Some philosophers say that this can often be one of the most powerful arguments for God's existence for precisely that reason. I encourage you to listen to it, and decide for yourself if it's true. 

Ask yourself these questions, as you evaluate this deductive argument for God's existence:

- Are there any logical errors made in the progression of this argument?

- Does the conclusion follow necessarily if the premises are true?

- If God doesn't exist, what then is the ultimate foundation for objective morality?

- Is Morality truly objective, or is it relativistic? What impact should that have on our justice system, international law, or even personal interactions when we are wronged if there truly is no objective right or wrong?

- Would the non-existence of God logically result in "Moral Nihilism", the destruction of all moral value and duties in a society? Is that kind of a world liveable? 

Consider these questions and track with us as we progress through this argument.

- Pastor J