CS Lewis’ Moral Argument

In Mere Christianity, C S Lewis wrote:

If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling “whatever you say and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?” But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? 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? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.*

There must be a source for our moral sensibilities, C. S. Lewis is saying, outside of our own personal preferences and likes. If there is no outside criteria for truth, justice, fairness and the like, no criteria outside of me, then I can never rationally exhort others to behave the way I believe they ought to. Fairness, justice, right and wrong: it’s all merely my word against theirs, my preference instead of someone else’s preference.

Of course I may by force impose my moral viewpoint on others, but I have no basis outside myself for doing so; by extension, the same applies to any government or state: although it can impose by force, it can have no moral authority since there is no basis except the personal preferences of the governors.

In order to overcome this difficulty, Antony Flew once suggested that a sort of “market economy” of individual moral preferences holds sway, that this “moral market” acts like an invisible hand to create price or value for various behaviors, much as the economic marketplace establishes values and prices for goods. Although this is an interesting concept, it misses the crux of the issue at hand.

That is because the issue at hand is not how to establish agreement about which behaviors are moral and which aren’t (although that is a vital secondary question); rather the issue is where does our moral authority itself come from. What can serve to place the basis for morality outside of our individual or social biases?

Here, there is an alternative to God. It is an alternative that is not entirely free of relativism, in the sense that it is necessarily species-specific. Nevertheless, it is free of relativism from one individual in a species to the next. That is to say, it does not rely on my exotic personal biases, or on yours.

Human morality, according to this alternative, is built into the nature of the human body and its biological instincts. The sense of fairness and justice is as built into us as are our other senses. And the ability to apply this moral instinct to specific situations is as much a part of being human as is our ability to reason and remember.

Unfortunately, we are not all equal in moral skills, just as we are not all equal in reasoning skills or equally adept at remembering. Or for that matter, at throwing or running or catching. Skills must be developed by practice, and this applies to the skill of applying our moral instincts, sensibilities, empathy, to specific situations.

From an evolutionary point of view, the basis of human morality is very clear: morality is a human instinct, much like language, much like the fear of being alone in dark woods, or the desire to walk upright. Different as these are, they are all human instincts.

Just as the language instinct takes practice to be developed to its full flowering, so too with the moral instinct. It needs practicing. And this is something that a strong fundamentalist upbringing can thwart. Call it the commandments approach to childrearing. Some parents send their children the strong message that there are no moral decisions for them to make: that they must always defer to the moral commandments dictated by the Bible or some other religious authority.

For example, in commandment childrearing, a child might be told that lying is simply wrong always and in all situations: the Bible says so, end of subject. In fact, there are certain situations where lying is the right moral decision. Even murder could be the right choice in extremely rare circumstances. The commandments approach prevents a child from developing adequate moral decision-making skills because of the parental insistence that there are no situational moral decisions for the child to ever make. Instead the child has a rule-book to follow to the letter: the Bible.

As a rule, religious children are taught to look to a book or authority figure for the source of their moral sensibilities rather than to their own bodily instincts. The result is that their own moral instincts and feelings are suppressed, and the skill of making moral decisions by refering to those feelings never gets well-developed. Since the basis of morality actually lies in feelings, substituting unfelt words (the letter of the law — in this case Bible law) for those feelings is a setup for failure.

What happens when a fundamentalist child grows up and discovers that the religious authority they have always relied upon is questionable or contradictory? With few moral feelings to fall back on, the result is often disaster.

Our prisons are filled with such disasters.

Even if the now fundamentalist adult never figures out the questionable nature of Biblical morality, there is still a problem. The Bible simply can’t speak clearly to many of the moral situations modern society presents. The authors of the Bible — whether divine or human — failed to address most of the complexities of modern society. Trying to use the Bible as a rule-book simply breaks down.

Moral decisionmaking, furthermore, is very much about engaging our feelings, emotions and desires before we act, weighing them with our sense of identity with other human beings (this snuck into the Bible as the “golden rule”), and making a skilled decision about what to do. If your moral upbringing was all about “following rules” from holy books and religious authorities, then you never developed the necessary skill to do morality on your own. Little surprise that so many fundamentalist preachers end up making the news as hypocrites.

But back to C. S. Lewis. Remember his words,

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? 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?*

Lewis forgets here that morality only applies to moral agents. We hardly consider a volcano immoral for erupting, nor do we condemn the sky for causing tornadoes. But make nature the result of God’s agency and then the volcano and tornado put God’s morality into question: because God is, after all, a moral agent. The atheist doesn’t face an equivalent difficulty with nature since the atheist doesn’t claim that nature is a person.

The problem for the atheist is not, as Lewis mistakenly asserts, that the universe seems “cruel and unjust”. The universe is not a person. It would be as irrational to expect the universe to behave “morally” as it would be to expect morality from a rock. But the atheist does have something to explain, not about justice as it applies to the universe but about justice as it applies to other human beings. Where does our sense of justice, as it applies to human behavior come from?

Lewis’ answer, that it comes from God, doesn’t work, and I refer you to my essay Atheism and Morals (about Alasdair MacIntyre’s essay “Atheism and Morals”) for a full explanation of why that answer fails. However the short explanation is that it becomes impossible to know whether an act is right because God says so, or whether it’s right because it’s actually good. If God’s say-so is what makes something right, then we have no way to distinguish God from the devil. God becomes, to use Alasdair MacIntyre’s explanation,

. . . a Hobbesian sovereign whose title to legitimate authority rests not on his absolute paternal care, his goodness as a father, but solely on his power, and the devil’s lack of such a title rests solely on his inferiority in respect of power. Satan becomes a Hobbesian rebel who fails to be a Hobbesian sovereign only because he is unsuccessful.*

This won’t do, even for Christians. C. S. Lewis answer, that God is the source of morality, has the effect of insulting God. It makes God’s goodness disappear, replaced by God’s raw power. The source of our sense of justice has to lie outside not just our agency, but outside of God’s agency as well. Otherwise neither our decisions nor God’s decisions can be good or bad — and the same goes for the devil.

For God, the only solution that works is for there to be a moral sense built into God’s nature separate from his agency (his actual actions); and somehow God must reference that innate moral sense before he acts if he is to determine the right thing to do. The same solution applies for us. There must be a moral sense built into our nature separate from our agency, and by which we can judge the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

Now, that moral sense must have gotten into us in one of two ways: either because God put it there, or because we evolved as a social species and the process of evolution put it there. Either answer is viable. But — and this is a significant but — the theist faces an additional problem: what or who put God’s moral nature into God? Is there another God behind God, responsible for God’s moral nature? And what about that God’s moral nature?

The theist, unfortunately, can’t resort to evolution to explain God’s moral nature because, for one thing, God doesn’t exist in competition with other species (or with other Gods, supposedly). Nor is God a member of a social species to which God’s moral nature could apply — until God peopled the universe, his moral nature had no application, no purpose, no reason to be.Its purpose is to 3 the highest possible that just because it Murphy and Connor authorised. payday loans. payday loans The limestone caves in be as little no vote except a. payday loans. And yet, as we saw earlier, God must have a sense of morality separate from his agency, by which God (and all subsequent beings) can judge the morality of his actions. How did he get this? Why should it be a moral nature rather than an immoral nature — that is, why is God God rather than the devil?

If God is a moral actor, in other words, then God must have a sense of justice to which he can refer when making decisions. “But how,” we can imagine God wondering (anticipating Lewis) “how did I get this idea of just and unjust?” And God might likewise wonder, “Why do I feel obliged to do the right thing for the creatures I created in my world?”

And this brings us to the 1000-lb gorilla: the problem of evil. Not the evil that might result from human misbehavior, but the evil that results (assuming the universe is the product of God’s agency) from God’s decisions when designing the universe. For example, those before-mentioned volcanoes and tornadoes. If God is a moral agent, with a sense of justice, then he must recognize his own culpability in the death and destruction to sentient beings which the forces of nature unleash. He must also recognize the pain and suffering due entirely to his decision to create a world in which life must eat other life in order to survive. If God does not recognize the wrongness of this, it can only be because he is indeed a Hobbsian sovereign who is morally indistinguishable from the devil. But if God does recognize the wrongness of it, then it follows that he also recognizes his fallibility, his own lack of perfection.

And so must we.

The atheist has the easier path. The atheist needs only to demonstrate that evolution can result in a species with an internal sense of right and wrong by which to judge actions, and do so by showing how it might have evolved and by identifying its development in existing species. Scientists face no major difficulty in any of this. We do in fact see a sense of right and wrong exhibited by other primate species, for example; and game theory shows that altruistic behavior along with “tit for tat” can be viable evolutionary strategies. It is possible to invision how such strategies could have been internalized into a social species’ genetic makeup.

The atheist task, compared to that of the theist, is the easier.

In a later post, when I discuss consciousness as “sensations” distinct from the brain’s other, non-conscious “behaviors”, it will be possible (I hope) to explain how morality fits into the picture. In particular, I will argue that decisions are made in non-conscious parts of the brain, and that moral feelings of shame, regret, ought, moral satisfaction, and so on — like our other brain-created sensations — serve a role related to longer-term memory formation and future decision-making. Untangling why we humans have moral sensations, in other words, is very much tied up with untangling why we have consciousness at all, the nature of that consciousness, and its evolutionary role.

———-

*Quotes are from:

Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, 1952

Atheism and Morals, Alasdair MacIntyre in The Religious Significance of Atheism, Columbia University Press, 1969, p. 35

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37 Responses to CS Lewis’ Moral Argument

  1. skeptic griggsy says:

    We use reason, evidence and empathy to discern what is good for humans, other animals and the enviornement.This is objective. As science is provisional and debateable,so is morality.It is not therefore absolute and is contextual. We follow Benthan is using his pleasure-pain pricnciple.We know from experience that the silver and golden rules apply.

  2. Rastaban says:

    “We know from experience that the silver and golden rules apply.” Silver rule? I know the golden rule well enough, but what is the silver rule?

  3. Matthew says:

    “We use reason, evidence and empathy to discern what is good for humans, other animals and the enviornement.”

    What do you define as good? Remove God, and you have no teleology, and thus no ultimate basis for morals.

  4. Lexie K. says:

    “Even murder could be the right choice in extremely rare circumstances.”

    It is not true that “murder” could be a right choice but that “killing” could be a correct choice in an extreme situation. In the Bible we are told not to murder, it does not say kill. Murder seems to be the act of killing someone who is defenseless. If a person were being attacked by a person with a weapon and, on impulse, grabbed a knife and stabbed the attacker in self defense, it would be considered a kill and not neccessarily a murder. Just food for thought.

  5. Rastaban says:

    I’ll grant your distinction between killing and murder. What I actually had in mind for “extremely rare circumstances” was something along the lines of assassinating Adolph Hitler.

  6. Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth says:

    We are the teleological agensts1There is no teleology in regards to natural causes: that would be a contradiction.
    Our discernment leads to our teleology in action for good or bad.

  7. Rick says:

    Killing is forbidden, we are taught to love and forgive, the only rare circumstances come when God himself shows you that it is something that you need do, this is extremely rare, even in the bible and one had better make sure that its God telling them and not something else, it would take much prayer and listening to his answer before anyone should take a life. Human life is the singular most precious thing on this earth, there are no bad people just misled and corrupted people, love is the tool in which to help them find that which is lost or forgotten. Hitler was not a bad man, he was a lost poor soul. I have forgiven him of the atrocities against mankind. There is no knowing his heart, but in love and forgiveness we can help those who have been hurt, we can move forward and not dwell on he that has done us wrong “love thy enemies”, God commands it. As for killing as self preservation, whats the big deal? only thing that happens is you will die, if its the Lords will then what the hey?

  8. Lexie K. says:

    In the situation that one is attacked and there would not be proper time to pray on the issue, what should the perso being attacked do? Be a sitting duck or try to protect themself?

  9. Jon Trott says:

    I am an Evangelical Christian, and wanted to thank you for posting this thoughtful response to C. S. Lewis’ moral argument. While I do see some room for further argument supporting Lewis (ack! Let’s call it “discussion” instead of argument), I will likely be using some of what you’ve posted here in a class I’m doing on Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” from which this discussion emanates. Without setting up proper argumentation, I will say one thing: God deserves worship not because He is All-Powerful, but because He is Love. If Satan were the All-powerful, and God a created being in rebellion to Satan’s “Reality,” as a human I believe I’d owe worship to the Loving created being rather than the Unloving but All-Powerful Evil Deity. This is more an existential observation re myself than it is an intellectual assertion for the Existence of God. At any rate, thank you for your reasonable posts here and the irenic spirit in which they are offered.

  10. Jeremy says:

    That is because the issue at hand is not how to establish agreement about which behaviors are moral and which aren’t (although that is a vital secondary question); rather the issue is where does our moral authority itself come from. What can serve to place the basis for morality outside of our individual or social biases?

    Surely Anthony Flew is suggesting a third party, in his moral market, that fulfils this role, and your secondary question?

    Could one argue antinomianism would be achievable? Surely the truth, when reasoned well, will lead to a status quo of supporters?

  11. allan registos says:

    “quote: Now, that moral sense must have gotten into us in one of two ways: either because God put it there, or because we evolved as a social species and the process of evolution put it there. Either answer is viable. But — and this is a significant but — the theist faces an additional problem: what or who put God’s moral nature into God? Is there another God behind God, responsible for God’s moral nature? And what about that God’s moral nature?”

    This is a misrepresentation of a Christian God.
    In Christianity, God doesn’t require another god to determine morals, for Christianity defines God as a being who has no beginning. So it is logical that there is no need for anyone to dictate him on the grounds of right and wrong for he is always in existence.

  12. Christian says:

    We must always remember that Good and Evil are just words, but with real concepts behind them that can’t be switched as easily. Let us consider your inversion. Say that saving a child’s life was really evil and letting it die was really good (I am not talking about possible implications – “what if the child grows up to be a murderer?”- I am talking about the direct motivation at work in the decision). What precisely do we mean by this?

    Let us take the example of a compass. We have a needle poiting North . We trust this and take our bearings from it. But your point, I gather, is what if the compass-maker made it so as the needle faced South. We’d never now where we were going! This seems plausible enough, but let us examine it. Although the needle is pointing South there is still a thing called North. It is an entity, it exists. In fact in order for there to a South to point to there must be a North, we’ve just got where it is wrong.

    In the same way if you say that God make us believe Good is Evil and Evil is Good you have admitted that their is such a thing as Good and Evil. All you’ve done is swivel the needle around. But now let us consider the difference between North and South and Good and Evil. We travel North and we Travel South (regardless of which one we think is which). The compass points us towards something. Even standing on the North Pole and the Antartic we don’t really experience the abstract concepts of North and South. That’s why I could stand on the North Pole and think it the Antartic. We don’t feel South and North. But doing Evil and doing Good is a different sort of feeling entirely.

    Let’s go back to the poor little dying chap from the beginning. When we save his live we aren’t aiming for anything. We aren’t saying I am going to do this because it is in line with goodness, in the way a traveller travels North in line with what he thinks is North. We do it because we are immersed in the love of the act. We experience the love, we dont follow it. You know love is good because acts of goodness are borne out of love, and as a man grows spiritually he comes to understand that love is God (as another chap said). You all really have this understanding, because if you did really believe you’re atheistic arguments you’d cease to act morally at all. Now you can call saving the Child an act of Evil, but all your doing is saying A=B. Your not even switching the compass around, your just calling South North and North South. You can do it, but it doesn’t mean anything.

  13. Art says:

    The first writer above fails in his argument against Lewis and God given morality. He fails because his argument fails to recognized two important points.
    First, the differences between societies (Roman, Greek and/or any other) “morality” was the differences in reason-another God given ability. The moral basis everyone has is put into action (or not) based upon choice determined by logic or lack thereof. Which is where the Second point of failure is seen.
    The evolutionary argument always fails in that it cannot account for (from the beginning) information and logic. Before anyone can say that something evolved one must account for the “instantaneous sender/receiver phenomenon” as it pertains to information-whether it be DNA or communication in general. Even Chomsky (not considered a Bible believer) in speaking of the LAD (Language Acquisition Device) runs into a dead end in trying to attribute it to evolution. Evolution fails to explain much, which is why it now relies on the punctuated equilibrium fallacy.
    The author of the first comments in this posting uses his God given ability to ingore reason and logic (as when he says that monkeys “appear to display” shame) in order to question God’s gift of morals in his effort to support evolution. Lewis’ argument is sound and requires willful ignorance and the non-factual use of “appearances” to not see that it is.

  14. Jeremy says:

    Because there are holes in the evolutionary theory does not make it the least probable explanation for how we came to be. There are simply unanswered questions. DNA hybridisation, archaelogical studies and biology on reproduction and inheritance provides strong, though not conclusive, evidence to suggest that evolution is the most reasonable explanation. Unless you have another more obvious theory up your sleeve?

  15. Art says:

    No it doesn’t, you’re right. What makes it the least probable is it’s complete inability to explain the origin of information and a receiver that understands it. The first DNA molecule had to have the ability to know it was creating a code and that something somewhere was going to understand that code. It is a self correcting digital code-explain that!!!
    Post one link that provides proof for your conclusion that biology on reproduction provides strong evidence for the evolutionary process that does not ignore the creation and transference of the information of the DNA code. Everyone of the texts I was ever exposed to in anatomy and biology assumed evolution without explaining the origin and the reception of the code. When I asked how the RNA knows that it is a code and how the code should be read and duplicated, the PHD’s were all at a loss to explain it and frustrated at me for asking.
    Archaeloogy (which is a field of interest not a science because of the lack of a falsifiability hypotheses) studies fail evolution time after time. The invention of the puctuated equilibrium fallacy attests to that failure. Archaeology has failed to produce the intermediates which should be in the strata by the billions. There is a very telling evolution to the theory of evolution which is based on a failure to provide substantiating evidence and the continual creation of counterfeit evidence.
    The great scietific thinkers are baffled by the digital aspects of distance and speed relationships of the stars and gallaxies. It is not a fluid graduated relationship. All of God’s creation has clues to it’s creation by Him.
    Start with the information/receiver question, then explain the prophecies in the Bible that had to have been given by someone outside our time domain. Start by trying to disprove the Bible instead of trying to prove evolution. The evolutionary world view is blinding.

  16. Jeremy says:

    Start by trying to disprove the Bible instead of trying to prove evolution. The evolutionary world view is blinding. [you]

    The maturity of Science, and the reason it has become the towering source of answers that it is, is because it will reassess it’s theories and it will continue its research and it will be happy to edit it’s conclusions.

    The Bible, and fundamental Christians, will not do such a thing. They will happily ‘blaspheme’ against Science and the atheist, using science (though normally poor science) to tackle science, but when it comes to using far more rounded arguments and evidence to show the Bible is nonsense the Christian will sit on their arses and claim that there is a faith element to their belief, or the Bible is non propositional. Disproving the Bible is not important because both it and it’s reader’s justification is littered with flaws or faith based reasoning.

    You use one argument, which frankly, the Scientists don’t dismiss (and your limited experience of PHDs wont justify an argument against that) to conclude Evolution doesn’t happen. Yet when there is huge amounts of evidence, both logical and empirical, that God did not create the world 6000 years ago you just dismiss it. It’s all about weighing up the evidence and coming to the conclusion that seems the most reasonable.

    Now to your question;

    It is 50 years since the University of Chicago’s Stanley Miller created amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, by heating methane, hydrogen and ammonia in an enclosed glass apparatus and adding a spark of electricity. His lab experiments were taken as evidence that life could have started on a scorching Earth struck by lightning and ultraviolet radiation. But these days not many people think that proteins came first. The orthodox view now is that life began in an RNA world in which RNA not only transmitted information but also acted as primitive enzymes, catalysing life’s reactions using organic compounds from the primordial oceanic soup

    Inside iron sulphide compartments, hydrogen, ammonia and cyanide bubbling up from below would be strongly out of equilibrium with the carbon dioxide driven through the membrane from the ocean. The energy needed for these to react together would have come from an electron gradient building up spontaneously across the iron sulphide membrane, allowing the production of sugars, ribonucleic acids and amino acids. To join these building blocks together giving the familiar molecules of life would need further energy – enter polyphosphates also originating in the ocean. These would polymerise the nucleic acids and amino acids into RNA and peptides. And protons streaming across the membrane would continually recharge the polyphosphates.

    The newly polymerised RNA chains would in turn help build simple proteins by folding to create different shaped clefts each of which would accept a specific amino acid. This process would bring together strings of amino acids to create peptides, as suggested a decade ago by Anthony Mellersh (New Scientist, 2 October 1993, p 13). And, since protopeptides are useful for copying RNAs and as settings for the active metal centres of enzymes, you have a positive catalytic feedback loop in which living matter could form and evolve.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9952-faq-evolution.html?page=1

    If in doubt about Science, ask the New Scientist. They pull from a wide variety of sources and don’t rest on their laurels.

    So feel free to read! Though I accept your dismissal of this evidence. After all, it wasn’t written by early day Christians in the Middle East and collated by the Emperor of Europe by his own volition and choice. :L

  17. Art says:

    So, your scientific method of reasoning is to make assumptions about a book youve obviously never read, my limited exposure to Phd’s and to select one article that says nothing but a presumption about how life began and call it a well rounded argument against Christianity, biased Fundamentalists and Creation by God. You also ignore the very thing I said you would ignore. I’m sorry, you mention it to say it is not ignored. THEN, you blatantly ignore it, as you must.
    Your creaor, God, calls it willful ignorance and predicted it would exist in abundance in the last days. I rest my case-the evolutionary world view is blinding.

  18. Jeremy says:

    explain the origin of information and a receiver that understands it. The first DNA molecule had to have the ability to know it was creating a code and that something somewhere was going to understand that code. It is a self correcting digital code-explain that!!!

    Did you read the article? DNA wasn’t formed first, the theory is that it was RNA. It’s ability to form proteins, though not immediately for an organism, was explained above.
    Where did you decide their was volition within DNA and RNA? How did you come to believe that it needed to know? Why couldn’t the mechanism for transcription developed naturally?

    I wasn’t stating it as an argument, generally those that say evolution doesn’t happen fit the above criteria – just my past experience on philosophy forums.

    The arguments against the bible include Historical evidence of how it was compiled, that the facts within it are fallible, that it’s moral laws and stories are continually interpreted and re-written, that the Roman Catholic church still chooses what it deems to be God’s law or not etc etc etc.

    For example? Do you wear mixed clothing? Not suppose to if the Bible is a truly verbal account.

  19. Jeremy says:

    Btw, the theory above suggested it was a redox equilibrium mechanism, suggesting the process of forming RNA and proteins was a continuous process and consequently seems to show a basic form of RNA transcriptase.

    They have to be theories at the moment though. The bible should not be given the position of truth, for others to bring down. You Christian’s should prove the Bible is anything more than a book.

  20. Art says:

    Theory as fact!!! There you go again.
    Where has anything ever been written that would allow you to believe that the devolopment of information could logically be anything but instantaneous existence of a receiver and sender-or it is not information is it?.
    You must be one of those that believe that in the beginning there was nothing and then it exploded. Evolution is a faith based religion.
    The Bible can be proved to be true and more than just a book in many ways. Prophesy, as I stated before.
    Read books on the Dead Sea Scrolls to correct your flawed arguments about translations, transcription and interpretation.
    Read the Bible to better understand what you are talking about as a good philosophy student would. Otherwise, you remain a hypocrite: demanding intellectual respect when youve earned none.
    Once youve read and understood the Bible you will understand why it is a red herring to use “Catholic” arguments when speaking about Biblical and Christian concepts. The Catholic church is not The Church. The Catholic church is to Christianity what George Bush is to honesty.
    Why would anyone argue against a book they have never read, rely on arguments easily proved wrong and then write in philosophy forums which depends on intellectual honesty.
    It has been my experience that people who do this are not concerned with truth, but with the single task of disparaging God, His Word and Christianity. There is no concern with knowing what they are talking about so they will never read the Bible or understand that it can also be proved experientially. First hand knowlegde is something a philosophy blogger should understand and develop-rather than give excuses why you wont read or do proper homework. Intellectual honesty is integrity-it cannot be faked.

  21. Jeremy says:

    Evolution doesn’t equal Faith.

    Evolution is a reasoned belief. A far more justified argument than the Bible.

    You say I use theories as fact but I clearly stated in my second post, of the two before yours, that I understood it was a theory.

    Your Faith position allows you to comfortably dismiss Catholicism, why ever so? They’re justified in exactly the same way you are in believing in God.

    “The evolutionairy world-view is blinding”.

    Interesting. Maybe to the individual who follows it. What Christian’s fail to see is that those who ‘blindly follow’ Science aren’t blindly following something suggested to be ‘Eternally set’. I’ll repeat by saying Science is a very mature art. It reassesses ALL of it’s ideas, it has unanswered questions – you may be alluding to a few – but that doesn’t mean it’s got it all wrong – it just means it’s in a current paradigm that needs to be readdressed. But the difference between those that follow science and those that follow religion is that unlike the priest the scientist will tell all about his discoveries, and they will test, and reevaluate and cross-reference it until they fall into a new understanding of the universe. People didn’t revert back to the Bible when Einstein showed Newton’s concept of Relativity to be false – we praised his enquiring!

    If the current understanding of Evolution is blinding, the true answer will be with the Scientist than with the Priest.

    To reiterate, when you say Science is a faith – it really isn’t. Certainly there are fundamental flaws to science but this does not class it as a faith, just that its truths, as any philosopher of science will explain, are only highly probable (read some Hume).

    “Read the Bible to better understand what you are talking about as a good philosophy student would”

    But tell me Art! What am I reading when I open up onto Genesis? Am I looking at a non-propositional, human documentation? That simply describes man’s experiences with God and should be deemed allegorical? Or do I see it as literal? Do I moan when I see conflicting interpretations of the same event (Road to Damascus Miracle)? Should I read the concepts that Christians still take to be true, though they’re not in the Bible? Is God eternally set or do my prayers make him change his ways?

    I study the Bible in my classes – we have to – philosophy of religion and whatnot, but the only interpretation I find from the Bible is that it is like any other novel – except they can’t put it under any genre because you Christians all argue over it. I’m not pig ignorant of the Bible Art. I read it – but I would never use the Bible to argue any religious point.

    Your first comment
    “evolutionary process that does not ignore the creation and transference of the information of the DNA code. ” Explained in the link!
    Your second comment
    “Where has anything ever been written that would allow you to believe that the devolopment of information could logically be anything but instantaneous existence of a receiver and sender-or it is not information is it?.”

    It’s all above really in that link!
    Both RNA and proteins were subsequently formed from the gases emitted in the big bang. [yes theory]
    It’s suggested above that RNA and it’s subsequent Proteins, were all there with the chemicals. Under the right conditions the Polypeptides and RNA were formed in equilibria between salt oceans and alkaline pools.
    You’ll have to expand on what your definition of a receiver is because the chemical reactions, under basic kinetic and collision theory, were forming RNA and proteins – random collisions caused them to be formed, not some sub-conscious atom autonomy – so you’ll need to specify where the holder of the information was, and what subsequently received it, in the theory above. It was all a very random process – but the right chemical gradients and equilibria seems to suggest it was repetitive.

    “When I asked how the RNA knows that it is a code and how the code should be read and duplicated, the PHD’s were all at a loss to explain it and frustrated at me for asking.”

    I suppose this may well be where the communication breakdown between us is. RNA doesn’t ‘know’ it codes for anything. Much in the same way that water doesn’t ‘know’ it is hydrogen and oxygen. RNA is the same make up as any molecules, the difference is that the theories above suggest some primitive ways in which it was made and how it’s inherent code (that you have to remember we call it, it doesn’t call itself a code) could be translated into proteins.

    My view on the beginning of the universe?

    Ahh your ignorance encourages me. :) As a good philosophy student I accept that Science is limited in what in can ‘prove’, and by ‘prove’ I mean show to be highly probable. The supernatural is beyond it’s intelligible grasps. My answer would most likely be that it’s either a brute fact – much in the same way as God – or that there is a deeply philosophical, and abstract, concept behind the universe. Have you looked into the nature of the atom and how it relates to the universe, interesting but certainly wild, explanations for things. My most honest opinion is that I really don’t consider it that often. There are far more practical philosophical issues to deal with.

    You ask me to disprove the Bible (therefore God really). It is a logical fallacy to presume that because you hold God to be positively in existence it has to be disproved by those that don’t believe he is. It would be wiser, and more logically correct, to argue for the existence of God. The most obvious reason being that you are unable to truly prove something doesn’t exist and that under that premise you’re left with the possibility of everything existing, from unicorns to leprechauns – and to all the previous God’s.

    “First hand knowlegde is something a philosophy blogger should understand and develop-rather than give excuses why you wont read or do proper homework. Intellectual honesty is integrity-it cannot be faked.”

    Where is your intellectual honesty surrounding God? Don’t make me do my homework before you put use some intellect to prove something that is unobservable, illogical, undefinable and beyond time and space. I’ll wait on your conclusive first hand evidence…

  22. Art says:

    Again, you argue theory as fact. Evolution is a contradicting evolution of ideas, questionable science and counterfieit evidence. The idea of puntuated equilibrium is faith based-absolutely and totally.
    The article you present states “the orthodox view is…” and again you pass it on as an answer to my question-as fact.
    The contradictions you base your disbelief in the Bible over are easily explained as differing points of view. You have not attempted to explain prophecy and I don’t expect you to.
    The very laws that science stipulates govern our universe are contradicted by the faith in evolution. The laws of thermodynamics are never contradicted by anything in the universe except ones faith in evolution. Matter cannot be created by anything or anyone (except God of course) and the law of entropy is observed by every thing everywhere. The only exception to that law occurs in the mind of the evolutionist-evolution is a direct contradiction to the law of entropy. The rule of mathematical absurdity is applicable to not only the possibility of evolution, but when one attacks the anthropic principle in general. The anthropic principle presents a set of “circumstances” that required fine tuning and precision at their creation. The whole priciple contradicts accidental evolution and stretches mathematical probability to the point beyond absurdity”. Yet you say it is the most probable and reasonable
    YOU– “The supernatural is beyond it’s intelligible grasps”
    Your last few entries to this dialogue would indicate you don’t believe your own words.
    YOU– “You ask me to disprove the Bible (therefore God really). It is a logical fallacy to presume that because you hold God to be positively in existence it has to be disproved by those that don’t believe he is.”
    You’ve jumped the tracks. The Bible is tangible!!!! Your argument is based on a biased and intentional misinterpretation of what you read. And, you use that to attack my intellectual honesty.
    From what I’ve read and been taught, the DNA, RNA, mitochondria and other cells and/or parts of cells in our bodies definately “know” how and when to do things (and to self correct). And, even if they don’t “know”, something somewhere does the instructing and has from beginning. It is completely and totally illogical, mathematically absurd and completely faith based to believe it just started doing it as a chemical process.
    The laws of thermodynamics and mathematics as well as reason and logic all argue against evolution. Evolution is a faith based religion.
    The very science you depend on to substatiate your faith in evolution must be denied in order substantiate that faith.
    Which is it? Do you believe in science or do you believe in the religion of evolution. You cannot believe in both. With the God of the BIble you suffer no such contradiction. My “ignorance”, as you put it, never puts me in the self-contradictory position that your faith in evolution puts you.

  23. Jeremy says:

    “The article you present states “the orthodox view is…” and again you pass it on as an answer to my question-as fact.”

    Passed on as a reasonable theory to your questions. Remember, everything is theory or high probability, you can’t have fact. Lets move on.

    ” You have not attempted to explain prophecy and I don’t expect you to.”

    Prophecy is a verbal interpretation, or propositional interpretation, of the Bible, whereby it’s believed the authors were dictated to by God. Such a belief would be a literal interpretation of the Bible. Something I’ve addressed above. Lets move on.

    “YOU– “The supernatural is beyond it’s intelligible grasps”
    Your last few entries to this dialogue would indicate you don’t believe your own words.”

    Evolution is a theory based within the universe, the natural, the material. God as an idea is supposedly beyond our Time-space, inherent, nature and therefore theoretically uncomprehendible. Lets move on.

    “YOU– “You ask me to disprove the Bible (therefore God really). It is a logical fallacy to presume that because you hold God to be positively in existence it has to be disproved by those that don’t believe he is.”
    You’ve jumped the tracks. The Bible is tangible!!!! Your argument is based on a biased and intentional misinterpretation of what you read. And, you use that to attack my intellectual honesty.”

    Dahh!!! TANGIBLE!!! Yes, but if the content of the Bible is proven to be inaccurate, make-believe stories by those who couldn’t explain what was going on around them then the idea of God falls down really. Modern day miracles and experiences would seem like a foolish extrapolation of the ones that the Bible made up. If it isn’t proven true. Which is what I’m asking you to do. Lets move on.

    “From what I’ve read and been taught, the DNA, RNA, mitochondria and other cells and/or parts of cells in our bodies definately “know” how and when to do things (and to self correct). And, even if they don’t “know”, something somewhere does the instructing and has from beginning. It is completely and totally illogical, mathematically absurd and completely faith based to believe it just started doing it as a chemical process.”

    Who taught your Chemistry? Dr.Seuss? You talk as if you understand entropy and thermodynamics but a basic understanding in this will show you that ‘feasibility’ of a reaction (whether it is likely to occur or not) is not some guiding hand but simply a calculation based upon a reactions enthalpy and it’s entropy. They’re only atoms Art! Not autonomous agents! The THEORY WHICH IS THEORY I stated above, along with all the other ones the article suggests at the start, gives a THEORY as an explanation to how such an occurrence could happen. Molecules don’t ‘decide’ to react with eachother Art, they do so in the right conditions with the right chemical gradients, temperature, energy etc.

    Go back and learn some Chemistry. Lets move on.

    “Which is it? Do you believe in science or do you believe in the religion of evolution. You cannot believe in both. With the God of the BIble you suffer no such contradiction. My “ignorance”, as you put it, never puts me in the self-contradictory position that your faith in evolution puts you.”

    Ahem Evolution, Ahem Science. I’m sorry, but you never made clear how any of your Science interlinked above. I think it went something along the lines of “Evolution contradicts maths! Thermodynamics *flicks through his old school books* Entropy! Urmm…. everything Science!”

    You should move on.

    Oh, just a few moments of Blasphemy you had;

    You said “Your God” to me. I think you meant our God – or are you an non-believer!
    You blasphemed against the found and collator of the Bible (Rome and the Catholic Church)
    You suggested God to be an ‘anyone’, I think you meant anything. He’s not human – that would make him imperfect.
    You claimed George Bush was lying when God spoke to him. God revealed himself to President Bush.
    You continue to wear mixed clothing, and eat meat – the first 5 books would not be impressed.
    I have experience no love from you, despite being your neighbour. Jesus would not be proud.
    You probably own a gun. Thou shalt not kill remember.

  24. Jeremy says:

    Oh and Chomsk, who I think you have got your ideas from, is only a philosopher and linguist, not an evolutionary scientist. So he wouldn’t have been able to explain language through evolution.

  25. Art says:

    Chomsky is the first to acknowledge the LAD and if you fail to see the connection of the LAD to creation it does not surprise me.
    Prophecy, by any reasonable definition, is a prediction or knowledge of the future made by diety. Regardless of how you try to dodge it, there are numerous accepted (understood as such) prophecies in the Bible.

    Your, resorting to semantics to avoid having to stand in the corner is hilarious. I’ll assume by your last response, and this is my last response to you, that you dont understand the link between the laws of the universe (themodynamics, etc) and how it absolutely denies the plausibility, much less the probabilitly of evolution. The anthropic principle makes a mockery of your semantic antics. You were doing pretty good on some points for a while. Why you chose to bail and play word games is completely understandable. Good luck on your studies and may God remove the obstacles from your path to understanding Him and His Word and enable you to see that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead;” so that you are without excuse: “Because that, when they knew God,they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
    You have no excuse, as smart as you are, for not reading page by page the most influential and widely read book of all time. Thanks for our discussion!!! Really!! Art

  26. Jeremy says:

    “Chomsky is the first to acknowledge the LAD and if you fail to see the connection of the LAD to creation it does not surprise me.”

    You’ve not linked LAN to the evolution of DNA, which you ask me to answer (as a theory above addresses). I understand the complexity of language and it’s development in large species, but not at a molecular level – the communication is explainable through basic science.

    However, if you would like to make any sort of logical argument for Chomsky (I’m sure he’d be impressed with your science so far) then be my guest.

    “Prophecy, by any reasonable definition, is a prediction or knowledge of the future made by diety. Regardless of how you try to dodge it, there are numerous accepted (understood as such) prophecies in the Bible.”

    Prophecy is a simple interpretation, as I’ve said above, of the Bible. When you read what you call a ‘prophecy’ you’re just interpreting what you’re reading what you presume to be God’s dictate word or revealed truth to the author.

    The Anthropic Principal is a philosophical argument and a basic understanding of those who talk about it and you’ll understand it is continually use it as a philosophical excuse to incorporate the idea of a divine creator into this reality.

    I think we reached your blik about God. Which I’m glad about – it only supports your incoherency when it comes to God and a divine creator.

    I’m not sure I have the patience to read PAGE BY PAGE the Bible. But you know what Art, I’ll be sure to do it at some point.

  27. Jon Trott says:

    This stream seems to have run off-course. C. S. Lewis himself was, I believe, at least somewhat an evolutionist. As are many, many, many thinking Christians. The original discussion was on Lewis’ moral argument as an apologetic theory… couldn’t quite figure out how poor Darwin started taking lumps here.

    I do wish we Christians weren’t quite so eager to fulfill the most cliche definitions of who we are… *sigh*

    On the other hand, if one wants to discuss semiotics — which is WAY off course — I suggest giving Walker Percy (novelist and more) a go. His “Lost in the Cosmos” has an intriguing chapter on semiotics as it applies to God-questions and such.

    The issue of language may or may not have anything to do with evolution… (again, Percy also was an evolutionist… and committed believer [Catholic]). But his point was that its origins, and the human ability to “name” itself, are highly mysterious and not easily explained by the rest of what *is* explained by Darwin.

    I probably botched that explanation… blame me, not Percy.

  28. Ktisis says:

    Just wanted to point out a few observations concerning an illogical assertion in your article. You posited: “But — and this is a significant but — the theist faces an additional problem: what or who put God’s moral nature into God? Is there another God behind God, responsible for God’s moral nature? And what about that God’s moral nature?” This is a weak strawman. It’s fallacy hinges upon a failure to deduce the concept of authority. For instance, a man gets enough petitioners behind him/her to run for President of the United States. They announce their candidacy, but, alas! the bid is rejected–the reason: they are too young. When they ask for further evidence for this disappointing news, they are presented with a copy of the Constitution. They read the requirements for the office, and yes, they do not meet the age requirements. But shouldn’t they just follow your alleged “problem” and demand, “What gives the Constitution the authority to declare thusly?! IS there ANOTHER Constitution that gives it authority, and on and on and on.” Well, I guess, they could, but to no avail, for this founding document is THE authority of such issues. As Creator of sentient beings, God is the authority. If He/it has placed awareness of right or wrong, fairness or injustice, within, then to challenge the Creator is mere folly. As owner, creator, sustainer, giver of life/intelligence/knowledge/awareness, to demand further evidence of His/It’s authority is merely mental gymnastics with no basis in objective reality. We can easily accept natural LAW without clear delineation as to it’s ultimate origin (gravity, electromagnetics, strong/weak nuclear forces, etc.) but yet when it comes to moral law, suddenly the concept of it’s objective and absolute presence is negated with a simple wave of the author’s wand. To quote from Red October: “Things may appear simple in the cubicle at CIA, but in the middle of the Atlantic with millions of tons of Soviet warships bearing down on us, they get a bit more complex.” To simply say that something is “a significant problem” and it actually being a real quandary are two completely separate things. The solution to the apparent complexity involves the issue of authority. As the Aussies say: “No problems, no worries” just understand the concept of authority.

  29. The universe includes rational agents! Saying that the universe isn’t a person is like saying that a school isn’t a person. Sure, no duh, it’s not, but that’s not what he meant.

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  31. A thoughtful article followed by mostly inane commentary from morons who don’t understand science. Story of the Internet.

  32. Andrew says:

    I like this “Art” guy’s approach. He demands evidence and proof from those that subscribe to scientific, evolutionary explanations, but simultaneously relaxes himself from that same standard. “There is something science hasn’t figured out about RNA’s role in evolution—therefore an undetectable deity did it all!” It’s a good thing scientists don’t just fall back on “science works in mysterious ways” for things they can’t explain, or else you’d be claiming plagiarism too, right?

    Tell me, Art. Can you name one question to the universe that science once had an answer for, but that has now been replaced by a better, more accurate religious answer? For fun, let’s imagine what this would look like: “scientists erroneously believed that light-speed was a fixed constant throughout the universe, until Christians reminded them of a passage in the Bible that talks about the effects of a vacuum on light.” Or what about: “scientists estimated the earth to be approximately 4 billion years old, a number theologians were able to hone to 4.54 billion with devout prayer and rehash of religious texts.”

    Does anything like this exist? Of course not, and it’s absurd to even think of priests trying to design iPhones or theologians doing biochemical research. That’s because religion is a jumbled mess of superstition, mythology, and hearsay, and is wholly comprised of claims that are unfalsifiable, unempirical, and often illogical. I hate to be brunt, but rest assured, Art: that doesn’t mean religion doesn’t have its uses. People rely on religion to get through tough times in life, to find community, to teach children good values; at the same time, much good is done in the name of religion, such as charity and medical work. But unfortunately, people also use religion in ways that hurt others, such as when they use it to persecute others and to champion bigotry and ignorance; or in ways that delude themselves, such as when they avoid facing the reality of existence or when they pretend that religion is in a struggle against science. People want to believe that there’s something after we die and there’s a loving deity to take care of us while we’re alive. That’s fine, I don’t care what people believe until they come yelling in my face about it. In reality, though, it’s just been science quietly, reliably, empirically plugging away through the centuries, improving the human condition as much as humans will let it, while the religious have ranted and raved because they’ve felt threatened by the fact that science has now explained what they previously attributed to their deity.

    So again, I’d like to ask you to apply the same standard you’re applying for evolutionary theory (such as asking excellent, probing questions about the nature of RNA) and apply that to your religion. What you’ll see with science is that, if this RNA question is indeed an unknown (I’m no evolutionary biologist), it admits what it doesn’t know, formulates hypotheses to explain these gaps, tests them, records the results, publishes them to be peer-reviewed, and continues advancing. More importantly for our discussion, science survives your probing inquiry unscathed precisely because it admits there are things it has not solved. If there weren’t, there’d be a whole lot of bored scientists! Religion does not do any of this, nor does it even pretend to. It simply says that there is an invisible, undetectable deity responsible for things we can’t explain. In that sense, and to quote Neil DeGrasse Tyson, religion is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance.

  33. art says:

    Andrew offers, “religion is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance” after spewing off about religion. I believe I spoke about Christianity and the Bible both, when studied and understood, separate themselves from “religion” in many ways.
    Did I even mention the word “religion”? You base your entry into this debate on a premise never mentioned and by misstating my premise.

    The Bible is correct about history and contains prophecy which has always been correct. The Bible shows that God knows the end from the beginning. Science changes, God does not.

    Christ stood and taught against religion and the Bible has been proven to be correct (over and over) against scientific knowledge in regards to the history it proclaims and by it’s prophecies.
    You and others like you want to show how much you understand about something youve never taken the time to read, much less study. You frame your arguments around “religion” and ignor my statements about Christianity and the Bible; showing you either don’t understand the difference or you just prefer the Romney method of debate.
    Andrew, What parts of the Bible have you disproven? I know, you havent read the book.
    Evolution, stated simply, relies on contradicting the very laws of science on which it claims to rely and uphold. The instant life comes into the picture evolution must explain how a code, the sender of the code, the receiver of the code and a language understood by both the sender and the receiver comes into existance all at the same instance. The same is true about the thousands of parameters that make it possible for life to exist (from a scientific viewpoint)-they must all be there at the same time.
    It is impossible for life to have started without the presence of oxygen. It is impossible for life to have started in the presence of oxygen.

    The very same science that evolutionist claim to employ (which is not real science-no falsifiable hypotheses) states that the likelihood that life happened and is sustained by accident is ubsurd. Cause and effect works for dominoes not in creation of life.

    CS Lewis says that if youre gonna rely on cause and effect to “prove” your existance, your gonna run into a dead end because it relies on miracles and miracles are of God-the God of the Bible. The easiest thing for you to do Andrew, is to read the book and disprove it or one of its prophecies. Then, you will at least have something to base your argument on other than “religion” which is not part of the argument at all.

  34. Rowena says:

    This is a fantastically thoughtful post. As a theist, I would say, though, that when I’m thinking about what is good, I believe God is good. This challenged me to consider why he is good – where that comes from. Is it just because he says he’s good and he’s more powerful?
    I think that we can say that many people – I would venture to say a majority of people, but I could be wrong on that – quite like being alive. Therefore we can potentially say (I’m fairly tentative on this, but I think it follows logically) that life is good, independent of a God-figure. If we believe that life is good, then if there are two powerful beings in the universe, the one that created life is presumably the good one of the two. This is how we know that God is the good being, and the Devil (or whatever you would like to call him) is the evil one.
    Another thing this article made me think about is why God is moral. I would say firstly that I believe God is intrinsically good, therefore intrinsically moral, but I also would dispute the claim that God is not a social being. The Christian God is described biblically as being three persons who are somehow one, which means that he (they) could have developed morality together, it being important – though I would probably agree if someone told me evolution doesn’t work that way. Because it doesn’t. But still, morality would have been an asset even if they hadn’t developed it in quite the evolutionary way.

  35. Nat says:

    Thoughtful post on this blog.. I’ll have to check out the rest of it. And it may be old, but it’s still here, so I’ll post a comment anyway.

    Perhaps others have mentioned similar, regarding this issue of authority (besides the concepts about God beyond his authority), but I’d also point out this:

    You pose some questions:

    “But — and this is a significant but — the theist faces an additional problem: what or who put God’s moral nature into God? Is there another God behind God, responsible for God’s moral nature? And what about that God’s moral nature?”

    But should there be another above God, and you ask the same question about that ‘other’, well… there would this end? I see a similar question to ‘what existed first?’ – in evolution, some stuff existed.. in Christianity, God existed…always. He has no creator, he is the creator (otherwise you go on forever..pointlessly). As for God vs the devil… I won’t respond to that now. But about Christianity: while God is the reason for morality, God himself has gone on trial for all others (others who are created, where as God is creator) to judge whether God is good and just. That kinda forces the devil into trial as well, I suppose. And the jury consist of people. But consider the judicial system: there are rules for who sits on a jury.

  36. Pingback: CS Lewis’ Moral Argument | Atheology | Moral Arguments for God

  37. Timothy Z says:

    I appreciate how much time and thought you have put into this topic.
    I wonder, have you read “Mere Christianity” in its entirety?
    “From an evolutionary point of view, the basis of human morality is very clear: morality is a human instinct, much like language, much like the fear of being alone in dark woods, or the desire to walk upright. Different as these are, they are all human instincts.”
    C.S. Lewis addresses this question of whether or not morality is an instinct.
    Also, as far as the question of God’s morality, consider the ontological argument.
    And on the problem of evil, you can find many good sources at RZIM.org.
    If anything in this post isn’t clear, shoot me an email. I check it periodically.
    Thanks
    TZ

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