Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

William Lane Craig lectures on the moral argument at Georgia Tech

This video has 3 parts, as well as questions and answers in individual clips.

For those who cannot watch the video, you can grab the MP3 file of the lecture, or read this essay by Dr. Craig which covers exactly the same ground as the video. The essay is for Christians already familiar with basic apologetics.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

If you want to show this lecture and Q&A to your apologetics group, you can find the DVD here.

You can also read a debate transcript where Dr. Craig puts his ideas to the test, against Dr. Richard Taylor.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chad Meister: can atheists rationally ground morality?

Philosopher Chad Meister takes a look at the attempts of some prominent atheists to make rational sense of morality within their worldviews.

Here is the abstract:

Atheists often argue that they can make moral claims and live good moral lives without believing in God. Many theists agree, but the real issue is whether atheism can provide a justification for morality. A number of leading atheists currently writing on this issue are opposed to moral relativism, given its obvious and horrific ramifications, and have attempted to provide a justification for a nonrelative morality. Three such attempts are discussed in this article: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s position that objective morality simply “is”; Richard Dawkins’s position that morality is based on the selfish gene; and Michael Ruse and Edward Wilson’s position that morality is an evolutionary illusion. Each of these positions, it turns out, is problematic. Sinnott-Armstrong affirms an objective morality, but affirming something and justifying it are two very different matters. Dawkins spells out his selfish gene approach by including four fundamental criteria, but his approach has virtually nothing to do with morality—with real right and wrong, good and evil. Finally, Ruse and Wilson disagree with Dawkins and maintain that belief in morality is just an adaptation put in place by evolution to further our reproductive ends. On their view, morality is simply an illusion foisted on us by our genes to get us to cooperate and to advance the species. But have they considered the ramifications of such a view? Each of these positions fails to provide the justification necessary for a universal, objective morality—the kind of morality in which good and evil are clearly understood and delineated.

[...]We can get to the heart of the atheist’s dilemma with a graphic but true example. Some years ago serial killer Ted Bundy, who confessed to over thirty murders, was interviewed about his gruesome activities. Consider the frightening words to his victim as he describes them:

Then I learned that all moral judgments are “value judgments,” that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either “right” or “wrong”….I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable “value judgment” that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these “others”? Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as “moral” or “good” and others as “immoral” or “bad”? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me—after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.5

While I am in no way accusing atheists in general of being Ted Bundy-like, the question I have for the atheist is simply this: On what moral grounds can you provide a response to Bundy? The atheistic options are limited. If morality has nothing to do with God, as atheists suppose, what does it have to do with? One response the atheist could offer is moral relativism, either personal or cultural. The personal moral relativist affirms that morality is an individual matter; you decide for yourself what is morally right and wrong. But on this view, what could one say to Bundy? Not much, other than “I don’t like what you believe; it offends me how you brutalize women.” For the personal relativist, however, who really cares (other than you) that you are offended by someone else’s actions? On this view we each decide our own morality, and when my morality clashes with yours, there is no final arbiter other than perhaps that the stronger of us forces the other to agree. But this kind of Nietzschean “might makes right” ethic has horrific consequences, and one need only be reminded of the Nazi reign of terror to see it in full bloom. This is one reason why thoughtful atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and others don’t go there.6

But what about cultural moral relativism—the view that moral claims are the inventions of a given culture? Most thoughtful atheists don’t tread here either, and this is one reason why: If right and wrong are cultural inventions, then it would always be wrong for someone within that culture to speak out against them. If culture defines right and wrong, then who are you to challenge it? For example, to speak out against slavery in Great Britain in the seventeenth century would have been morally wrong, for it was culturally acceptable. But surely it was a morally good thing for William Wilberforce and others to strive against the prevailing currents of their time and place to abolish the slave trade. For the cultural moral relativist, all moral reformers—Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr., even Jesus and Gandhi, to name a few—would be in the wrong. But who would agree with this conclusion? Thankfully, most leading atheists agree that moral relativism is doomed.7

So what do they affirm? Here are three accounts that recent atheists have defended: (1) objective morality simply “is,” (2) morality is based on the selfish gene, and (3) morality is an evolutionary illusion.8 Let’s take a brief look at each of them.

Have you ever heard any of these three categories of objections? If so, click on through and see Chad Meister’s responses.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should we be mentoring women about how to make important life decisions?

In response to Lindsay’s post about why women are so interested in “50 Shades of Grey”, I thought I would post some other really strange stories how some women make decisions.

But first this recent study reported in Newsweek. (H/T Levene)

Excerpt:

Scientifically, nice (heterosexual) guys might actually finish last. A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin recently found that while men were attracted to nice-seeming women upon meeting them, women did not feel the same way about men.

[...]While the studies shed some light on why men find responsive women more sexually desirable, Birnbaum explains that researchers are still unsure why women are less sexually attracted to responsive strangers than men.

“Women may perceive a responsive stranger as less desirable for different reasons,” said Birnbaum in a press release. “Women may perceive this person as inappropriately nice and manipulative (i.e., trying to obtain sexual favors) or eager to please, perhaps even as desperate, and therefore less sexually appealing. Alternatively, women may perceive a responsive man as vulnerable and less dominant.”

That comports with a previous story I wrote about showing that women decide whether they like a man or not based primarily on first impressions.

From the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

It takes a woman just three minutes to make up her mind about whether she likes a man or not, a study has revealed.

The average female spends the time sizing up looks, physique and dress-sense as well as taking in scent, accent and eloquence of a potential suitor.

Women also quickly judge how he interacts with her friends and whether he is successful or ambitious.

It also emerged most women believe 180 seconds is long enough to gauge whether or not he is Mr Right, or Mr Wrong.

The study also found women rarely change their mind about a man after their initial reaction – and believe they are ‘always right’ in their assumptions and judgments.

The report which was commissioned among 3,000 adults to mark the release of Instinct, a new book by Ben Kay.

Kay said: ‘I think a lot of people believe in trusting their instincts when dating. It makes it seem more magical, like it’s coming from somewhere deeper.

That last sentence is key, I think, in understanding the problem. Some women feel no need to look at academic transcripts, resumes or balance sheets in order to evaluate a man – they think that they  can decide if a man is successful or ambitious based entirely on appearances. I think the culture is leading them to do that, too, because it never used to be like this before.

Now two older stories showing how wrong this can really go.

The first one is from 2010. It’s about a string of conversions to Islam by women in the UK.

Here’s an example story:

Women like Kristiane Backer, 43, a London-based former MTV presenter who had led the kind of liberal Western-style life that I yearned for as a teenager, yet who turned her back on it and embraced Islam instead. Her reason? The ‘anything goes’ permissive society that I coveted had proved to be a superficial void.

The turning point for Kristiane came when she met and briefly dated the former Pakistani cricketer and Muslim Imran Khan in 1992 during the height of her career. He took her to Pakistan where she says she was immediately touched by spirituality and the warmth of the people.

Kristiane says: ‘Though our relationship didn’t last, I began to study the Muslim faith and eventually converted. Because of the nature of my job, I’d been out interviewing rock stars, travelling all over the world and following every trend, yet I’d felt empty inside. Now, at last, I had contentment because Islam had given me a purpose in life.’

‘In the West, we are stressed for super­ficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system.

‘Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realised how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one god makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.

‘I grew up in Germany in a not very religious Protestant family. I drank and I partied, but I realised that we need to behave well now so we have a good after-life. We are responsible for our own actions.’

For a significant amount of women, their first contact with Islam comes from ­dating a Muslim boyfriend. Lynne Ali, 31, from Dagenham in Essex, freely admits to having been ‘a typical white hard-partying teenager’.

She says: ‘I would go out and get drunk with friends, wear tight and revealing clothing and date boys.

‘I also worked part-time as a DJ, so I was really into the club scene. I used to pray a bit as a Christian, but I used God as a sort of doctor, to fix things in my life. If anyone asked, I would’ve said that, generally, I was happy living life in the fast lane.’

But when she met her boyfriend, Zahid, at university, something dramatic happened.

She says: ‘His sister started talking to me about Islam, and it was as if ­everything in my life fitted into place. I think, underneath it all, I must have been searching for something, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my hard-drinking party lifestyle.’

So this is not a cognitive conversion, it’s about personal fulfillment.

And then a while back there was the legions of teen fangirls in love with this convicted terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The UK Daily Mail reported on it.

Excerpt:

A startling number of teen girls have admitted to having a schoolgirl crush on bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, proclaiming their love for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect on social media.

Its a disturbing trend on sites like Twitter and Facebook, where girls have admitted to finding Tsarnaev attractive, and herald him in the ranks of Justin Bieber and One Direction singer Harry Styles.

One Twitter user, a waitress who goes by the name Keepitblunted, has said she is looking to get a tattoo of a Tsarnaev quote. ‘If you have the knowledge and the inspiration all that’s left is to take action.’

[...]Another says she is considering becoming a Muslim to better related to Tsarnaev.

The FreeJahar97 Twitter account was created on April 25 – 10 days after the double bombing.

The first tweet reads: any other beliebers out there who want to see Jahar freed and believe he is innocent? feel like i’m all alone here.. #freejahar.’

I know I didn’t know Jahar and I shouldn’t be saying this but… I miss Jahar… Is that weird? Don’t think I’m weird. I just miss him.

Tsarnaev5ever tweeted: ‘Jahar is gonna go crazy in that cell alone with just a book… I wanna send money to him… Anyone have the address?’

‘Poor Jahar… He’s only 19. ONLY 19… No one deserves to be in a 10×10… No one…’

Shadowlilly1993 posted: ‘Yall can judge me as much as you want. I’m on his side.This kid needs people behind him. I hope to meet him one day he fascinates me @J_tsar.’

I guess my response to all this is that we ought to be talking to young women about how they are making big life decisions. Shouldn’t we be doing a better job of helping women to think through what their life goals ought to be rationally and then helping them to make practical plans to achieve them? It just seems to me that there is something inside them that attaches great confidence to their emotions. Without anyone sensible to talk to about how to reach a goal through a chain of sensible steps, they can really mess up their lives. And then very often, government grows to help them pick up the pieces – we all have to pay when that happens, you know.

It’s probably a good idea for women to be more careful about picking men – after all, the man you choose will father your daughters. He’d better be good at leading women before he gets thrust into that role.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Lane Craig explains the moral argument to Georgia Tech students and faculty

This video has 3 parts, as well as questions and answers in individual clips.

For those who cannot watch the video, you can grab the MP3 file of the lecture, or read this essay by Dr. Craig which covers exactly the same ground as the video. The essay is for Christians already familiar with basic apologetics.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

If you want to show this lecture and Q&A to your apologetics group, you can find the DVD here.

You can also read a debate transcript where Dr. Craig puts his ideas to the test, against Dr. Richard Taylor.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Lane Craig lectures on the moral argument at Georgia Tech

This video has 3 parts, as well as questions and answers in individual clips.

For those who cannot watch the video, you can grab the MP3 file of the lecture, or read this essay by Dr. Craig which covers exactly the same ground as the video.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

If you want to show this lecture and Q&A to your apologetics group, you can find the DVD here.

You can also read a debate transcript where Dr. Craig puts his ideas to the test, against Dr. Richard Taylor.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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