Last July, I was contacted by Brandon McGuire telling me about his new film. I ordered a copy and watched it to see how good a resource it would be for my Ratio Christi chapter or any other apologetics classes I teach. The problem I had when I watched it is that having recently completed a Masters Degree in Christian Apologetics, the material in the movie was too familiar. I wasn’t sure if it was too technical for a lay audience, or interesting enough. (Even your favorite song gets old after a while.) So I asked one of my Sunday School students to watch it with her family and let me know if it was helpful. She and her husband have several unbelieving children and relatives whom they invited to see it as well. Her nephew, an atheist, wrote the following review. I thought it was so even-handed and well written that I would share it here, with a few comments at the end.
“MINING FOR GOD” Documentary Review by John Regina
While being the first documentary of this sort that I have watched (at least in recent years), I found myself quite familiar with a good portion of the information and opinions presented, in particular the apologetics that were interspersed throughout. I rather enjoyed the seemingly random interviews conducted in public with (“non-expert”) Americans mainly during the first ten minutes of the film, and in relatively short order was under the impression that one of the film’s primary objectives is an attempt to clarify what it means to be a practicing Christian, as opposed to the many Americans that select their religious and/or spiritual beliefs a la carte (the term “cafeteria style” is used in the film) or have a misapprehension or otherwise vague interpretation of Christianity. I would have liked to see more of these interviews, or at least a more thorough investigation of the “70%” of Americans cited by the film that identify as being Christian.
Directly following the interviews the film’s narrative veers sharply into apologetics, sometimes for the better and other times not. I would consider the information presented in the film to be an entry-level, beginners’ introduction to Christian apologetics, because it covers much ground, including a cursory (although not detailed nor expansive) examination of most of the core claims that I am aware of. I felt that some arguments, as with some of the commentators, were more convincing than others. For instance, I felt that the ‘cosmological, “first cause” argument’ (for God) was summarized brilliantly, mainly by William Lane Craig- although he failed to address the opposing problem of “infinite regression” often cited by skeptics. However, I did not like the manner in which the “teleological argument (or hypothesis of intelligent design)” was presented, due to the Creationist/anti-evolution viewpoint that was briefly expounded upon (by the commentator Donald Williams). I feel that the “argument from morality” was perhaps the strongest, most persuasive argument for the existence of God that was presented, but am also of the opinion that too much time was devoted to the sub-topic of personal sin. Lastly, I found the viewpoints expressed within a couple parts of the film relating to pluralism to be intolerant and at odds with American culture. After all, our country was primarily founded on secular values, and however Christian our nation may be, we should hold firm to our established right to religious freedom, even in rhetoric. Overall I found the film to be informative, well put together and great as an introduction to apologetics.
I really appreciate the tone of this review. I would just like to respond to a few things the author says. In response to the cosmological argument, Regina says “… he failed to address the opposing problem of “infinite regression” often cited by skeptics.” Note that in the argument from first cause, the first premise is “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” God, by definition, never “begins” to exist. For God to begin to exist, he would have to have a cause, which is greater than him. However, if there were anything greater than God, than IT would be God. As Regina noted, the film is a beginners introduction to apologetics. The discussion on the impossibility of actual infinites can be technical, and making it accessible would be lengthy. I discussion of this can be found here.
Regina thought too much of the discussion of the moral argument focused on personal sin. But the whole point of noting the existence of objective morality is that personal sin is a real problem, for which Christ is a real solution.
Finally, Regina seems to conflate the ideas of religious pluralism with civic pluralism. Religious pluralism is the claim that all religions are equally true and valid. However, logically the only way this could be true is if they are all false, since they make contradictory truth claims. Christianity claims to accurately describe reality. If it does, then religions that contradict Christianity are necessarily false inasmuch as they contradict it. Likewise, if any religion that contradicts Christianity accurately describes reality, then Christianity is false. Civic pluralism, on the other hand, is the view that each citizen has the right to believe what he wants without fear of government interference. Christianity is only “intolerant” in the way the word has been redefined to mean disagreement. That it is at odds with American culture, well so what? As for religious freedom, that too is a Christian idea. We share the Gospel with people. We do not try to force it on them. As to the “secular” values that America was founded on, even letting the claim pass, the values America was founded upon result from the impact Christianity has had on Western Civilization. More on that can be found in Glenn Sunshine’s fine book Why You Think the Way You Do, a review of which can be found here.
Once again I want to say how much I appreciate the thought Regina put into his review. Too often reviews of films like this from an opposing view tend to come from trolls. (I know, we have our share too.)
34 thoughts on “Mining For God: a Review and Response”
It’s very refreshing to see such an objective review from someone who disagrees with the ideas which he is reviewing! There seems to be a common belief that if you disagree with someone, you automatically have to be “hostile” towards them, which is just wrong
Thank you for posting my review of MINING FOR GOD and for your well though out response and kind comments. Please find my remarks or counter points to some of your critiques of my review below.
1) the premise of the “first cause” argument has itself been challenged, in particular (and quite entertainingly) by noted theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, as outlined in the book A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING (published 2012, see link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Universe_from_Nothing). Secondly, we could use the same logic that you apply to GOD (creating him/her/oneself) to the universe.
2) as far as personal sins is concerned, I do not think that the doctrine of vicarious redemption by human sacrifice is a moral teaching, never mind believing that we are all conceived and born in sin- which I do not. This is why it is my preference not to hear much about it.
3) this country was founded by secularists foremost, who believed in religious plurality and a separation of church and state (this is clearly shown by the many contradictory forms of Christianity and multitudes of other religions that thrive in America). Lastly, I believe that the innate morality that we possess, which has enabled our survival, has influenced religion and not the other way around.
And yes, I agree with the poster Harrison Jennings, we can disagree AND be civil. Would not have it any other way.
Thanks for commenting.
1. In his book God’s Crime Scene, J. Warner Wallace points out that faulty counter arguments generally fall under three categories:
1 Lack of evidential support
2 Critical aspects of the data are illegitimately redefined
3 Contain logical contradictions.
In the case of Krauss, he redefines “nothing” which in the first cause argument means the universal negation, or as Aristotle has said, “What rocks dream about.” For Krauss, “nothing” means empty space and quantum vacuums. That isn’t nothing. Empty space and quantum vacuums are features of the universe, so to say they are responsible for the universe coming into existence is like saying I gave birth to my grandmother.
Secondly, NO ONE says God created himself, so no the same logic does not apply here.
2. When you say, “I do not think that the doctrine of vicarious redemption by human sacrifice is a moral teaching” do you mean it is an immoral teaching, or that it is not a teaching about morals?
3. Not sure how this is relevant or controversial. It is not in dispute in the film or my review. As for the survival value of moral intuitions, that could in principle explain how we came to sense them, but nothing about their truth value.
I look forward to your reply at least to 2.
1) summarizing Krauss’ theory as you do is very reductionist in my opinion. The onus is on those making the claim to prove it is true. We claim that we do not know, but posit theories.
2) I believe that it is an immoral doctrine that negates personal responsibility.
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How would you characterize Krauss’ view?
As a theory, based on some of our most modern and best scientific understandings, of how the cosmos came into being, that does not include any supernatural being or prime mover.
Ok, but how is my description of his view “reductionist?” Moreover, how does his view eliminate the need to explain the beginning of the existence of time, space and matter?
I do not believe that you described his theory, thoughts or quantum vacuums in an intellectually honest way (by dramatically and incorrectly oversimplifying them for your benefit). This would include your analogy. I, myself, would be being dishonest if I said I had the expertise and/or aptitude to explain his theory or ideas, so I will not make an attempt to. We can agree to disagree on this Dan, as I will not be compelled to try my hand at detailing “quantum” anything, but do suggest that you (if you have not already) and others give his book a read- as Krauss is very adept at somewhat simplifying incredibly complex information from the fields of Cosmology and Theoretical Physics (among others). Thank you for the pleasant conversation and flr introducing me to your blog. Have a nice evening.
Here is a quote that I found in the opening paragraph of the link I noted above (the wiki page for A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING)
The main theme of the book is how “we have discovered that all signs suggest a universe that could and plausibly did arise from a deeper nothing – involving the absence of space itself – and which may one day return to nothing via processes that may not only be comprehensible but also processes that do not require any external control or direction.”
Here is a more salient quote from the same wiki page:
“The book has been widely panned by physicists and philosophers alike, despite being a popular success. Philosopher of science and physicist David Albert, in a review for The New York Times, said the book failed to live up to its title, and he criticized Krauss for dismissing concerns about his misuse of the term nothing.  Commenting on the philosophical debate sparked by (and largely ignored in) the book, physicist Sean M. Carroll asks “Do advances in modern physics and cosmology help us address these underlying questions, of why there is something called the universe at all, and why there are things called ‘the laws of physics,’ and why those laws seem to take the form of quantum mechanics, and why some particular wave function and Hamiltonian? In a word: no. I don’t see how they could.””
Yes, I acknowledge the above information but do not agree that it is “more salient”. His theory is a “challenge” to the first cause argument, as I stated; whether it is proved or disproved in the future remains to be seen. Science and theories are made to be argued against, and scientists often do not agree…
If you would like to hear Mr Krauss responsd to the critique leveled above in the quote – regarding the title of his book- which he regards as a semantical argument (re: philosophical nothing), please listen to a portion (from 4:45 on for 5 minutes or so) of the following interview. The back and forth between himself and the fellow he is debating also (to me) clearly illustrates why these types of arguments and explanations should take place between those with an understanding in the given area of expertise:
I would agree that understanding the relevant issues is critical and Krauss displays ignorance of the philosophical issues in his alleged “refutation.” Incidentally, Craig’s argument stands independently of the standard Big Bang model, even though he cites it in support of the second premise.
Just listened and Krauss doesn’t address the first cause argument. He asserts an eternal multiverse and dismisses philosophical problems with it.
Maybe it would be helpful for this discussion if you would tell me what your understanding of the first cause argument is.
Correction: for 10 minutes or so, not 5
I did not say that he addresses the first cause argument within the segment, I said that he addresses the critique regarding his use (or misuse) of the word “nothing”. Did you miss his answer to the critique or find it irrelevant or uninteresting? I do not think he shows an ignorance of the philosophical issues, but does show a lack of patience and respect for them. The first cause argument varies and I wouldn’t want to try to summarize it here, but it basically asserts that the universe and everything within in was “caused” by a supernatural being or entity. “Nothing comes from nothing” is the more precise assertion that Krauss has targeted in his title and theory. Like I said earlier, the onus is on the person(s) making the claim to prove the claim is valid. We claim that we do not know but are trying to figure it all out by “standing on the shoulders of giants” with ever evolving understandings. You claim that you already have the answers, and to that we say: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. It is on the theists to provide the evidence and prove their varying and contradictory claims are correct. Me, I just find all that we have discovered and will continue to discover about the nature of the cosmos and life to be truly fascinating. I do not purport to have an advanced grasp of cosmogony.
” and to that we say: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”” That’s an extraordinary claim, what’s your evidence? Seriously, though, what counts as an extraodrinary claim? Who decides?
This whole discussion started with your appeal to Krauss as showing how the problem of something from nothing is not a problem. Krauss has redefined nothing at some points at at others he simply denies there there ever was a state of affairs in which nothing existed. Okay, leave aside the redefinition (saying “nothing” is unstable assumes a redefinition.)
Krauss showed a lack of understanding of philosophical issues in his response to the question of “why these laws” by appealing to other laws. Maybe the question was too vague, but his response suggests at least he didn’t understand that philosopher.
Your dismissal of the first cause argument suggests further discussion of this aspect of the film would be fruitless. I am not interested in defending every claim people make with respect to first causes, but I think in particular the Kalam Cosmological Arguement is sound. If you want to interact with that, fine.
With respect to your response to the question of the morality of the Christian doctrine of atonement, if your view (which seems to be naturalism, but feel free to correct me) is true, then no such “human sacrifice” took place. However, if Christianity is true, then it seems to me the standard by which one determines whether it is moral is Christian theism. If all morality is is a set of feelings with which we have evolved because they confer some survival advantage, then there is no real moral standard, only preferences that we happen to share in common. But again, if this is the case, all you have, if there is any historicity to the crucifixian account, is a man executed for political expediency. In other words, if naturalism is true, your critique is incoherent.
I believe that most extraordinary claims can be identified a priori. For example: (1) If I were to say that I am a prophet of the real GOD, who has revealed himself to me and has instructed me to relay a message to mankind that all religions proposed and practiced thus far are entirely man made myths, you (and practitioners of all faiths- if any bothered to pay attention to me) would undoubtedly view my statement as an extraordinary claim for which I have no evidence for. (2) If I were to pen an article stating that I have discovered the cure for all cancers, the medical community (again if they paid me any attention) would say the same. The reason I mentioned that I may not be paid any attention is because in practice, most intellectually or scientifically serious communities or people utilize Hitchens Razor in practice, which says “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.
There is no final arbiter, hence the reason arguments such as ours (today) persist, but professional peer-reviewed journals (such as ones in medicine, neurology, oncology and so on) can be helpful in determining good or bad theories.
I did not state that Krauss’s theory solved the problem (of something from nothing), just that it challenged it. Science and reason have more than begun to make inroads into discovering the origin of the cosmos, just as they already have dramatically narrowed the gaps within human knowledge in which GOD has been traditionally inserted by theists over the last few hundred years, and will continue to do so. I am vaguely aware of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, but would have to read up on it. Does it appear in any scientific peer-reviewed journals?
I was not speaking to the historicity of Jesus or whether or not he was crucified (or sacrificed), I was judging the doctrine itself as being an immoral one. A doctrine similar to the primitive practice of “scapegoating”, in which “(in the Bible) a goat is sent into the wilderness after the Jewish chief priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it (Lev. 16)”, presumably to die (and certainly to die in practice). Especially given the fact that this doctrine is one in which we had no choice in, but were born convicted of. I believe that human being’s propensity for wishful thinking underlies it all to be honest, if only we could pile our failures and sins on someone or something else… As far as us deriving our morals from religion- I think that it is obvious that we provided the morality we had at the time into religion (and, in a way, continue to, by mitigating literal interpretations of the text through metaphor, etc.). I do not think that the threat of burning in hell for eternity (for any reason) is a moral one, nor do I think that coveting a neighbors wife should be punishable by death, nor should it be for being caught working on the Sabbath. The one thing that is plain to me, is there could be a whole lot more morality in the Bible (and that we have come a long way since it was written).
“…you (and practitioners of all faiths- if any bothered to pay attention to me) would undoubtedly view my statement as an extraordinary claim for which I have no evidence for.”
If one were to make such a claim, on your view what would count as evidence?
The KCA does not appear in any scientific journal because it is not a scientific argument. It is a philosophical one. On this, “According to atheist philosopher Quentin Smith, “a count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about Craig’s defense of the Kalam argument than have been published about any other philosopher’s contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence.”” (Not a fan of wikipedia but this page seems to do a reaonable job of explaining the discussion.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument
I realize you were not commenting on the historicity of Jesus. My question is on your view, by what standard to you judge the morailty of the doctrine of atonement? For that matter, how do you judge the morality of anything? What makes good things good and bad things bad? Also, what makes it “obvious that we provided th morality…?”
1) empirical evidence for starters
2) I will have to check it out
3) there are many standards of “good” and “bad”, not that I am any type of guru… But, for instance, we know of many different types/varieties of healthy diets, foods and activities that contribute to human well being. The American Heart Association can inform one on how to maintain or increase heart health. We have many fields of expertise within sociology that assist us in treating ourselves and others in a more humane manner. The list goes on and on. Within progressive countries and on a whole we have dramatically evolved on our treatment of the most vulnerable within our societies, to include women. Are you of the opinion that this happened because of the monotheistic religions? I am of the opinion that this happened in spite of them.
How would you, based on your worldview, account for sociopaths (who lack empathy) and for psychopaths (who enjoy inflicting pain on other human beings)?
1) Can you give an example of what would count as empirical evidence of a claim of religious authority?
3) With respect to things that contribute to human well-being (diet, etc) these are not moral goods, but prudential goods. Moreover, the question is not about why one tries to live up to some standard and another does not. The question is what grounds the standard? What is it that makes those countries that help the vulnerable “progressive?” Progress toward what? Assume for the sake of discussion that we agree on particular goods like compassion, empathy, etc. My question is where does the idea come from that these are good? What is the measuring stick?
As for my view, it is not that these things happen because of monotheistic religions (though sometimes they do,) but because (on my monotheistic view) humans are made in the image of God, which means they are capable of things like empathy, compassion, generosity, etc. They are also fundamentally broken, as evidenced by not only psycopaths and sociopaths, but also the inconsistent behavior of the empathetic, and generous.
1) the verified observation of the laws of nature being broken or suspended in a religion’s favor
3) I was merely establishing that science can tell us more about human well being than the religious and others give it credit for. I think that, to many, science is not thought to be able to answer the “ought” questions, but this is not true. There are sciences that study morality in evolutionary, psychological and neurobiological terms. We continue to expand our knowledge in these areas. Just because we cannot answer all of the “whys” and the “oughts” yet, does not mean that we will not or cannot. Science is in the business of uncovering moral truths. In am not incredibly well versed in these areas, but I recommend the following book: “THE MORAL LANDSCAPE, How Science Can Determine Human Values” (by Sam Harris, published 2010)
Do you honestly think that without Christianity you and your fellow Christians would not have the morals that you do or any at all? And if so, what accounts for the people on this planet that have never been exposed to your religion but still live a highly moral life? I give you and your fellow Christians more credit than you give yourself.
There have been countless studies that have shown the quality of life in any given state/country improves when women are treated equitably (example: http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/07/01/gender-equality/
How do you reconcile pychopaths being born in GOD’s image, as they are not merely “broken”, but have differences at the brain level that limit or completely reduce their ability to have empathy for others?
1) And how often would this have to happen? And for how many people?
1a) What makes you think you wouln’t dismiss it as a hallucination?
2) It looks like you don’t even fully understand the ought question. Harris (like you) confuses moral goods with prudential goods. We are in full agreement that empathy and such improve the quality of life. What I am trying to get at is why should any one human care about another human’s quality of life? Why only humans? Why humans over, say, cockroaches? Why should humans flourish and not cockroaches?Yes the “ought” question. It is not a scientific question. Science can tell us a lot about what kinds of behaviors and such can facilitate and improve conditions, but it cannot tell us why we ought to try to improve conditions for others.
As for whether we would have morals without Christianity, sure. As I said, on our view, man is made in the image of God. Part of what that means is we have moral intuitions. I also think Scripture teaches us some of the details of morals. But that is not my point. I do not claim that, for example, murder is wrong just because “the Bible says…” On my view, murder was wrong, and known to be so, looooong before Moses wrote Exodus. My question is what grounds the idea that murder is wrong? If there is not transcendent standard, then we just evolved to mostly agree that we don’t like murder, but there is nothing, strictly speaking, wrong with it.
As for the psychopath, the description you offer sure sounds like he’s broken to me. I’m not sure what your question is. If a brain is not functioning as it should (and on my view, there is a should) then something is broken. How is that a problem for my view?
1) lets go back to the story that I mentioned earlier, the one about me being the prophet of the real GOD. Lets say that I state as my proof the following: I will be found deceased, with my head severed from my body, only to be resurrected 10 days after my burial. We live in the age of autopsies, DNA, forensic identification… not to mention video and the fact that most people carry with them a smart phone capable of recording in high definition. If I were to be buried sans my head, which was donated to medical research as per my request, only to be publically resurrected 10 days later with my head intact (and, of course, verified to be myself), I think just once would be enough.
2) There are several reasons why science can and should answer the ought questions. The best reason is to maximize well being. For example, say that you found out that having an certain type of “prescribed” (an understanding and educated) approach to discovering that your 16 year old son is sexually attracted to the same sex will help him in becoming socially adjusted, as opposed to becoming clinically depressed if you were to have the opposite (beat the gay out of him) reaction. This would be a step in maximizing his, and in turn your well being, as you would be, at the very least, responsible for his well being until he is a legal adult. Another would be human cooperation. Say that science can tell us that providing the women of a neighboring state with a means to control thier reproductive cycles will eventually lead to improving their quality of life to the extent that the previous hostilities (in which would have certainly lead to war) between our states has subsided over to peaceful relations and trade. There are more examples of why certain ethical or moral actions can be recommended as something we “ought” to do, to improve both our own well being and future prospects and those of the recipient’s (of the action) as well.
3) to me it seems to be a cruel and pointless thing to do, to create a person that desires to inflict pain on his neighbor (through no fault of his own, as his condition is hereditary) and demand that the person love his neighbor. Doesn’t strike me as a god-like thing to do is all.
1) You say all this would satisfy you and once would be enough. What makes you think that you would not simply say “With all this technology, these videos can easily be faked.” Moreover, even if you do accept it, why should your kids? You are presenting an event in your lifetime. Why should future generations believe it? As you know, a similar incident was recorded using the technology of the day, and you dismiss it.
2) I think we are talking past each other on this. We are in full agreement that once we determine what is good that science can be a huge benefit in helping us achieve those goods. In other words, science can point us to prudential goods. Something is good prudentially if it helps us acheive some end, such as human flourishing. The following quote from Stokes might be helpful in explaining the distinction:
To be sure, prudential value has some of the earmarks of moral value, which is why the two types are easily conflated. For one thing, as Murphy points out, prudential value is objective in that it is not “determined by the subject’s own judgments of well-being.” 368 (It is good for you to brush your teeth.) Moreover, prudential value is universal in that “we can give a general account of what makes all humans well-off,” an account that applies to everyone. 369 (Brushing your teeth is good for us all.) Not only that, but prudential value is normative: there are reasons to pursue health, for example; there are reasons you ought to seek it. (Brushing your teeth can give you a winning smile.) Despite the similarities between prudential and moral value, there are important differences. For one thing, even though prudential and moral values are objective, universal, and normative, prudential values appear to be conditional rather than absolute. That is, the ought in the prudential case— for example, you ought to brush your teeth— depends on your desires (as well as what the world is like). That is, if you wish to avoid unneeded trips to the dentist, and want a winning smile that will someday attract a mate, and want to avoid debilitating pain and even death, then you ought to brush your teeth.
Stokes, Mitch (2016-02-12). How to Be an Atheist (Foreword by J. P. Moreland): Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough (p. 159). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
Moral goods, duties, obligations, etc if they exist, exist apart from such considerations. Stokes goes on to point out that prudential goods are “me/us” centered while moral goods are “others” centered.
I would add to this that prudential goods have no authority. If goods and oughts are merely prudential, then no one has the right to tell someone else to cooperate in a prudential good. I am not in this post defending the existence of moral value (that will come later.) I just want to clarify the terminology because they way you are arguing you seem to be defending prudential value, which we largely agree on.
3) First I want to say that it is not my view that God specially creates each and every individual. On my view, God created the first two with the ability to reproduce, and the rest of us are products of that. Second, if it is true that a person lacks any ability to obey, I think the case could be made that they are not held responsible. Third, it doesn’t seem to follow that the inability to follow a law makes the law invalid.
1) “Moreover, even if you do accept it, why should your kids? You are presenting an event in your lifetime. Why should future generations believe it? As you know, a similar incident was recorded using the technology of the day, and you dismiss it”
That example was the best I could do. It may be lacking. Science has reasonably proven why some natural phenomenon occurs- such as why the tides operate in the way that they do, why we have daytime and nighttime, etc. We have also reasonably proven some features of the cosmos- such as the earth being round and our solar system being heliocentric. We now teach these reasonably proven “facts” to our children. Please provide me with similar miracle or supernatural event that has occurred that you feel we can now safely teach to our children.
2) “I think we are talking past each other on this.”
Possibly, but I blame myself for this. I have not clearly articulated or explained my viewpoint on moral truths in a way that you or anyone can understand it. I understand that you hold the view that the “is-ought” philosophical problem is completely valid; that it is not possible to obtain an “ought” from an “is” and that science and reason are not suited to answer the “ought” questions? That science can only help us in finding what you call prudential good (adj. meaning: involving or showing care and forethought, typically in business) and in principle cannot determine the reasoning or basis for moral behavior? I disagree with your premise and believe that moral and ethical decisions and behavior are explicitly linked to the well-being of conscience creatures. The only context in which words like good, evil, right, wrong have any meaning at all is within consciousness. The word “bad” can at least mean the worst possible misery and suffering for all conscience creatures (and move up from there). The definition of “well being” of conscience creatures is an ever evolving term that will continue to change as we learn more, as will our definitions of “right”, “wrong”, “good” and “bad”. I assume that you believe that God has given us our morals and that the canon of Christianity provides us a guide for morality? I believe that our beliefs on what is good or bad, right or wrong formed from our social emotions, through evolution, and have been modulated by culture. I assume that you believe that “facts” and “values” are distinct and separate from one another? I believe that they equate with one another. So, it is not that we are talking past each other, as much as we do not hold the same views (or even definitions of words). I will give you yet another example: it is a FACT that Polio is not “good” (if you know of any reasoning in which Polio can be called “good” please let me know) and that it is thereby “bad” for humanity and our moral obligation to eradicate it. It is our moral obligation because it does not maximize the well-being of conscience creatures. I do not think this is a conditional nor subjective statement. It is both “good” and “right” to lessen human suffering. WHY we (the whole of humanity) would do such a moral, ethical and/or “right” action is: because it increases the overall well being of conscience creatures. Just because we happen to benefit from maximizing the well being of conscience creatures does not mean it is a business move (or prudential good). The same would apply in the examples I previously posted. A Dad, who may or may not find his Son’s sexuality agreeable, makes the moral decision to base the way he treats his son on a modern understanding of science, so that his son does not needlessly suffer; our morals evolve as our awareness and scientific understanding does, and always with the same objective.
3) Okay. Do you believe in evolution by natural selection?
1) I think I can safely teach the miraculous creation of the universe and the resurrection of Jesus Christ safely to children, but I don’t expect you will agree on that. It is not a god-of-the-gaps claim. It is an inference from the evidence (the existence of a universe that began, granted that is controversial, and the historical evidence for the resurrection.)
2)We are still at odds in what I mean by “prudential.” I don’t mean in the sense of the definition you offer. The following paragraph from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/happiness/#SciHap may be helpful since it directly speaks to the “well being” question:
In the second case, our subject matter is a kind of value, namely what philosophers nowadays tend to call prudential value—or, more commonly, well-being, welfare, utility or flourishing. (For further discussion, see the entry on well-being. Whether these terms are really equivalent remains a matter of dispute, but this article will usually treat them as interchangeable.) “Happiness” in this sense concerns what benefits a person, is good for her, makes her better off, serves her interests, or is desirable for her for her sake. To be high in well-being is to be faring well, doing well, fortunate, or in an enviable condition. Ill-being, or doing badly, may call for sympathy or pity, whereas we envy or rejoice in the good fortune of others, and feel gratitude for our own. Being good for someone differs from simply being good, period: perhaps it is always good, period, for you to be honest; yet it may not always be good for you, as when it entails self-sacrifice. Not coincidentally, the word ‘happiness’ derives from the term for good fortune, or “good hap,” and indeed the terms used to translate it in other languages have similar roots. In this sense of the term—call it the “well-being sense”—happiness refers to a life of well-being or flourishing: a life that goes well for you.
This is distinct from moral goods and oughts. Now, it may be that prudential goods and oughts are the only kind you acknowledge. If that is the case, then we have a starting point where even if we don’t agree we will be talking about the same thing.I agree that there are connections (I would have to think about whether it is always the case, but for now I will grant it) between morality and well being.
I believe God instructs us on morals by our conscience and in written text. However, when I say that, and you say “our beliefs on what is good or bad, right or wrong formed from our social emotions, through evolution” we are only talking about how we come to know morality. Let us assume, for the sake of discussion, that the “conscience/revelation” and “evolutionary social emotions” models are really both/and rather than either/or. (It is logically possible.) IF Scripture is truly divine revelation, then we can infer that what is written there bears authority as it would show the morality revealed there to be grounded in what God values. In other words, while science can show how particular prudetial goods enhance well-being, what needs to be grounded is why enhancing well being is a good in and of itself, and why only concious creatures?
I also agree that facts and values are not separate categories. If something is good, it is a fact that it is good. If it is a prudential good to not allow people to torture babies for fun because it does not maximize well being, this is an objective fact. Likewise, if it is a moral truth that torturing babies for fun is just wrong even if it enhances well-being of someone else or even a group, it is an objective fact.
3) I am skeptical of the neo-darwinian sythesis. It is a useful model but I think there are better theories that explain the data better.
Which raises another point that will sooner or later (and already has) influence the discussion. Evidence NEVER speaks for itself. Evidence is one thing, hypotheses and theories formulated to explain the evidence are something else. For example, I think the existence of the universe is evidence that God exists. You may disagree with my inference, and think that there is a better explanation. FIne we can talk about that, but it would not be accurate to say there is no evidence. The question is what is the best explanation for the evidence.
BTW, I didn’t watch much of the Krauss video yet. Is there something in particular he said that you think blew Craig away?
1) “I don’t expect you will agree on that”
You are right on this point. I think that the only basis upon which children should be taught religion in public school is from within a wider context, one containing teachings of all the world’s major beliefs, past and present, to include atheism and agnosticism. Luckily, we live in a nation in which a separation between church and state is enshrined in our founding documents, and court cases argued over the merger of religion and science have mostly gone in the favor of science (which opposes it).
2) “We are still at odds in what I mean by “prudential.””
Yes, it appears that we are. The term “prudential value” seems to me to be a philosophical one used in describing differing meanings of the “psychological sense of happiness”. I was speaking of the well-being notion of happiness. I believe that they both have individual merit and explanatory value, but I do not have the background or experience to discuss the topic of psychological happiness, to be honest… I can barely get by when talking of well-being without the conversation going way over my head.
An excerpt from the article you cited, which also notes that the “revival” of philosophical inquiry into the topic of psychological happiness was spurred in part by advances in the “science of happiness”:
“the psychological notion is undergoing a revival as a major focus of philosophical inquiry, following on recent developments in the science of happiness. This entry focuses on the psychological sense of happiness (for the well-being notion, see the entry on well-being)”
It appears that science is delving into to all aspects of happiness, morality (including its origins) and the like, with most of the new findings emerging from more recently developed disciplines. Here is an excerpt from a review of a book that is on my reading list, JUST BABIES: THE ORIGINS OF GOOD AND EVIL:
“Paul Bloom draws from his research at the Yale Infant Cognition Center to argue that “certain moral foundations are not acquired through learning. . . . They are instead the products of biological evolution.”
*see full review- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/books/review/just-babies-the-origins-of-good-and-evil-by-paul-bloom.html?_r=0
Asserting that any scripture answers all of our questions concerning the origins of morality is another “God of the Gaps” argument in my opinion. Science is obviously working vigorously on expanding our knowledge of human morality, happiness and well-being, and will eventually yield better results than any other presently available source.
Why only conscious creatures? Because conscious creatures are the only entities that the notions of “good”, “bad”, “evil” “happiness” and other such words or ideas make any sense to. They are the ideas and words of conscious creatures. It may turn out that in order to provide or maintain the well-being of conscious creatures, the protection of non-conscious entities must also take place; non-conscious entities (such as trees) that contribute to or make up the Earths environment would be an example of some.
3) “I think the existence of the universe is evidence that God exists”
This reminds me of the words immortally uttered by Donald Rumsfeld: the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, which may be true but in scientific terms the “absence of evidence” for divine creation of the universe does bolster its case. I think that science and religion do not consist of “non-overlapping magisteria”, but nonetheless cannot be reconciled, as they do not speak the same language in examining the cosmos. The problem is, there is no way of evading conflict between the two, as both make material claims; although, throughout its history, the advance of science has caused religions to lose ground and grow evermore defensive (or creative, or elastic) while science has become more and more unfazed by religion. This is why I think that Craig was beaten badly in his debate with Krauss… one was well-versed in Theoretical Physics (Krauss), one in Theology and Philosophy (Craig); I do not think that theology and philosophy are the best tools we have to describe the cosmos.
“I think that the only basis upon which children should be taught religion in public school is from within a wider context, one containing teachings of all the world’s major beliefs, past and present, to include atheism and agnosticism.”
Hey! A point we can agree on! Who’da thunk it? lol
“Luckily, we live in a nation in which a separation between church and state is enshrined in our founding documents, and court cases argued over the merger of religion and science have mostly gone in the favor of science (which opposes it).”
This is an issue that could be a conversation all by itself. Let’s just say I think good science will at least take a non-dismissive not of the controversy. Both sides need to stop mischaracterizing the other. (God-of-the gaps, they’re all young-earth creationists, darwinists are Hitlers in the making, etc.) It is not only religious people who find Darwinism unconvincing. See Nagel’s “Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False” (http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Cosmos-Materialist-Neo-Darwinian-Conception/dp/0199919755/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464732879&sr=1-1&keywords=nagel+mind+and+cosmos)
I read the review, and both agree and disagree with the reviewer’s take. It is well known that genetics do not determine every aspect of an organism, especially conscious ones. However, this goes back to something I said earlier. Even if I grant, for the sake of discussion, a Darwinian account of how we came to feel the way we do about morality, that tells us nothing about whether those feelings are correct. They may turn out to “work,” and coincide with prudential goods, but that, it turns out, is a different question. It also raises the question, if moral intuitions are fully innate, why do we have to teach children not to be selfish? (That is a rhetorical question. You don’t have to respond to it at this point.)
“Asserting that any scripture answers all of our questions concerning the origins of morality is another “God of the Gaps” …”
I never said, and no one I know who has taken time to study the issue believes, that any Scripture answers ALL our questions concerning the origins of morality. Calling it “god of the gaps” is beneath you. This is a common dismissal. If we believed “I have no idea why this is wrong, therefore God must have made it so.” it would be GOTG. However, people who believe, for a variety of reasons, that God has revealed his will and character in Scripture, and wish to align their views of morality with that of God look to that Scripture for it. If a God exists that created the universe, it is entirely reasonable to think he had a purpose in mind, and morality would be tied to that purpose. I could just as easily say that the view that science will one day answer all these questions is materialism of the gaps, but that would be equally intellectually lazy.
The “Why conscious creatures” question was getting ahead of ourselves since as long as we were miscommunicating on what we meant by “good, bad, should, ought” etc, it made no sense.
So just to summarize, if I understand you correctly, on your view, morality just IS prudential goods, shoulds, and oughts. A thing is good, or an action is right, just in case it contributes to human flourishing. Is that accurate?
” The problem is, there is no way of evading conflict between the two, as both make material claims; although, throughout its history, the advance of science has caused religions to lose ground and grow evermore defensive (or creative, or elastic) while science has become more and more unfazed by religion. ”
How do you come to this “conflict” conclusion? I suppose you could cherry-pick the internet for dogmatic statements by young-earth creationists, especially non-scientist types like Ken Ham, but what have you read by people who actually study this stuff?
“This is why I think that Craig was beaten badly in his debate with Krauss…” How was he beaten? By misquoting Guth? Check out this discussion Craig has with Vilenkin regarding the use of the BGV theorems in support of the universe having a beginning. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/honesty-transparency-full-disclosure-and-bgv-theorem
While philosophy may not be the best tool for studying the cosmos, you can’t even do proper science without a basic understanding of philosophy. Even the very question “What is science?” is a philosophical question. With respect to Krauss and Craig, it is clear Craig makes far more effort to understand physics than Krauss does to understand philosophy.
Have to looked at that wiki page on the Kalam Argument yet? It is relevant to this issue in that Craig’s argument, if it is sound, makes the question of quantum physics moot with respect to the origin of the universe, especially since the BGV theorem notes the necessity of a beginning even for a multiverse.
1) “Even if I grant, for the sake of discussion, a Darwinian account of how we came to feel the way we do about morality, that tells us nothing about whether those feelings are correct. They may turn out to “work,” and coincide with prudential goods, but that, it turns out, is a different question. It also raises the question, if moral intuitions are fully innate, why do we have to teach children not to be selfish?”
Because something is natural, learned or inherited through evolution, does not make it good or moral. Most of the so-called morals or ideas we picked up naturally are those that we are trying to liberate ourselves from with the assistance of facts (or values). Rape occurs in the natural world, that does not mean that it is a good idea, in line with the facts as we know them pertaining to human well-being.
I did not mean to imply that our moral intuitions are fully innate, I was just attempting to illustrate that there is continuing research being done on many levels and in many diciplines, that are and will continue to help us understand where and how we obtain our morality. We have to teach our children many ideas, meanings, morals and values. Children are not born understanding that slavery or sexism are bad things. Our species has had our struggles with both of these issues, and still does. Science has helped us in these matters, by reasonably proving that both slavery and sexism have negative results on human flourishing and well being.
2) “I never said, and no one I know who has taken time to study the issue believes, that any Scripture answers ALL our questions concerning the origins of morality.”
Sorry, I did not mean to mischaracterize your views. Actually, I can appreciate that you value evidence and back-up your views with empirical facts and philosophical understandings. I admit it was intellectually lazy on my part to invoke the GOTG dismissal.
3) “So just to summarize, if I understand you correctly, on your view, morality just IS prudential goods, shoulds, and oughts. A thing is good, or an action is right, just in case it contributes to human flourishing. Is that accurate?”
I can say that I do not believe that our morals or values were instilled in us by any supernatural being or force. I agree with Sam Harris, who wrote the following: “Meanings, values, morality and the good life must relate to facts about the well being of conscious creatures – and in our case, must lawfully depend on events in the world and upon states of the human brain.”
I cannot say that I believe that everything and anything that leads to human flourishing is necessarily a good thing.
4) “How do you come to this “conflict” conclusion?”
I come to it for (what I believe to be) well thought out reasons. I will respond when I have the time to summarize my reasoning (and the facts that have persuaded my reasoning) intelligibly. I will also read the Kalum Argument. Right now, and for the next few weeks, I have very little free time and will most likely not be able to keep up with our discussion. If you wish to resume in a few weeks I would be happy to continue it then.
I have heard Dr. Craig lecture on most known apologetic arguments, so (if he is a proponent of the Kalum argument) I may have heard it before. Craig speaks very eloquently and persuasively, and I would not want to debate him as he is a fierce opponent in debate. I would agree that Krauss does not have an inclination or respect for Theology or Philosophy, and does not attempt to adapt his teaching in a way that is communicable with someone of that background.
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I look forward to picking it up again then.
Please note the following correction:
*does NOT bolster its case