Saturday, May 23, 2015

Is God Necessary for Morality? - William Lane Craig and Shelly Kagan Discuss

Kagan was talking ethics and rationality theory. Craig was talking moral ontology and existentialism. Kagan was being dishonest because he knows on moral ontology and existentialism there is a lot more than what he is just talking about.

1. Why would human existence even have moral value & worth to begin with?

2. Why not live according to self interest if this is the one and only life that you have?

3. If all life ends at the grave, then ones destiny of the grave its totally unrelated to ones behaviour in life. Therefore, it does not really matter how one lives their life as it all ends up the same.

4. Who or what is laying any real moral oughts or shoulds upon anyone if there really are none?

So, Craig was addressing these questions where Kagan was not. Craig won the debate. Therefore, Kagan bluffed his way through and because many people don't know about moral ontology and existentialism -- then they thought Kagan won when he didn't at all.-from the comments

I’m convinced that keeping the distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology clear is the most important task in formulating and defending a moral argument for God’s existence of the type I defend. A proponent of that argument will agree quite readily (and even insist) that we do not need to know or even believe that God exists in order to discern objective moral values or to recognize our moral duties. Affirming the ontological foundations of objective moral values and duties in God similarly says nothing about how we come to know those values and duties. The theist can be genuinely open to whatever epistemological theories his secular counterpart proposes for how we come to know objective values and duties.-William Lane Craig

Shelly Kagan

William Lane Craig

I do want to make a comment of my own on Craig's committing the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. It gets off on the wrong track for Craig when he says that in Christianity it's the "bad guys" who go to heaven, that is it Christ who "bears the penalty for sin". The response was easy enough for Kagan (or anyone) to make: I can do any evil I want, even of the very worst sort, and as long as I recognize Jesus as savior in time (a few seconds before I breath my last breathe?) I will be "saved" and won't have to have any personal accountability or make any personal payment for my crimes and wrongdoing.

Craig's weak reply: "No genuine Christian would think like that"! He doesn't even address Kagan's point about ultimate accountability of the individual.

The problem for Kagan is that his point only applies to some religions (in this case a specific version of Christianity) but not to theism in general. After all, the supposed question was "Is God necessary for morality", not "Is Christianity necessary for morality" (maybe we need Philosophical Theists instead of Christians defending God in these debates).

If it is reasonable for me to believe that if God is good and just, then evil people will be punished in some way for their evil, and the good will be rewarded. Certainly people can change their ways, and if such change is genuine, no matter how late in life it occurs, God's mercy is always there. If God loves us all, he will treat us justly in the life to come. But punishment and direct payment for our shortcomings and harm to others does not contradict that.

Craig is right of course when it comes to the "heat death of the universe" rendering everything ultimately pointless and meaningless. Kagan simply doesn't get it (or pretends not to in his fantasy world of atheism).

Finally, a brief point about the discussion on animals. Kagan proclaims himself a vegetarian and non-user of leather products. Why? Because morality boils down to "don't harm and do help". He asks "can animals be harmed", answers yes, and concludes we shouldn't therefore eat them or kill them. He thinks, somehow, this makes his position on animals the morally superior one, which it isn't.

Would he conclude, as PETA does, that the killing of chickens on chicken farms is equivalent to the Holocaust? That there is no moral difference between the two? It is hard to avoid that that is the logical conclusion of assuming that creatures without reason and moral agency have rights just as humans do. Would he believe that if a dog and a human being were both drowning that it would be just as moral to rescue (assuming you could only have time to come to the aid of one or the other) the dog over the person?

And what of the "rights" then of the zebra to not be harmed by the lion? Should we patrol Africa with the purpose of protecting zebras from lions? Can a lion be charged with murder if our efforts to protect the zebra fail? Atheists often charge God with the crime of not preventing evil, so it logically follows that if we should not kill animals, we should not also allow animals to kill other animals, if it is in our power to stop it. I doubt though that Shelly Kagan would subscribe to the idea of creating of a police force to prevent one animal from killing another.

Atheism and the denial of the special place that human beings have in the universe leads to such absurdities. How about pests and vermin such as rats and mice? Is it evil to exterminate them?

If even vegetarianism alone were a requirement to be an atheist, there would be very few atheists. Which only goes to show that most atheists don't follow their worldview to its logical conclusion.

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