Against Subjectivism

Essential to the moral argument is affirming the existance of objective moral values and duties. If narualrism is true then there are no objective moral values and duties, and therefore all moral values and duties are merely subjective. But this brand of ethical theory, called Subjectivism, we find inadequate for the following reasons.

For one it does not adequately explain our shared moral experience. If a subjectivist were to see a woman being abused, victimised and raped, saying “this is wrong” is saying noting more profound that “Hey, such action is not acceptable to me.” He cannot rightly condemn the rapist for the rapist is only doing what feels right for him. But surely that doesn’t make sense. Such an action is morally reprehensible no matter how one feels about it. Rape is wrong for all people at all times, because it is an invasion of something sacred. But how can it be sacred if it is pure matter? The only way it could be sacred is if it is as the Bible says: the body is the temple of the living God. 

If morals are not objective then one would have to say that Hitler’s extermination of the Jews (dissenting Christians, homosexuals and disabled) was only wrong in the sense that it was unpalatable – a mere preference of taste. If subjectivism is true, then Hitler was only acting unfashionably, doing nothing more serious than breaking another social convention like belching at the table, or driving on the right hand side of the road instead of the left.

But if you want to affirm that Hitler was really wrong, and that rape is wrong, and that other virtues like kindness, generosity and love are truly right whether believed or not, then it follows that there are some moral obligations that are objective, and subjectivism is false.

Secondly, it does not adequately explain how we live. Day to day we assume morals really are more than mere subjective expressions of taste. We praise good sportsmanship and deplore game-fixing. We object to be being treated unfairly and we cry out for justice as if it really is a right of ours. We declare acts of terrorism evil and we applaud fire-fighters who run into burning buildings to save lives. Like Princess Di we give to charity because we think it is right, and that not giving when we are capable is somehow wrong. We cherish people like Ghandi, who acted honourable in response to British Imperialism. 

Examples are manifold. Everyday we face a thousand decisions and at every decision we understand that there is a standard of right and wrong that supersedes all opinions and judges each appropriately. 

Bertrand Russell espoused subjectivism in his writings but could not live consistently with it. He was involved in protests for nuclear proliferation, animal rights campaigns and even spent a number of months in jail for refusing to pay the war tax. In other words he lived like there were moral obligations, and that these moral obligations were valid and binding for all people at all times, and not merely expressions of preference.

Richard Dawkins, the popular evolutionary biologist says “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference. . . we are machines for propagating DNA” and yet his latest book is full of moralising. He has shown he does believe that some things that are evil, some things are good, and these not merely right and wrong for him, but wrong for everyone. He is at bottom a walking talking self-contradiction.

Such a moral awareness can be described as basic and bedrock, as the atheist philosopher Kai Neilson puts it:

“It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [as wife beating and child abuse] to be evil that to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot reasonably believe any of these thongs to be evil. . . I firmly believe that this is bedrock an right and tha anyone who does not believe it cannot have probes deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs.”

We have more reason to deny the physical worl is objective, lthan we do to deny the objectivity of moral values and obligation. Though modification may be necessary on further reflection we have no reaso. To distrust our basic intuitions. Indeed, the atheist moral philosopher David O. Brink considers it the default possision. He says;

“There might be no objective moral standards. . . But this would be a revisionary conclusion, to be accepted only as the result of extended and compelling argument that the commitments of ethical objectivity are unsustainable.”

The objectivity of moral values and duties should be considered what philosophers call properly basic beliefs: something that is perfectly acceptable to believe on the basis of your own experience, only to be abandoned if successful defeaters are found. People who fail to see that moral obligation is objective are simply morally handicapped and there is no reason for their impaired vision to call into question what we clearly see. 

Finally, personal subjectivism and cultural relativism are inadequate to explain moral debate and moral reform. These are two correlatives of the above considerations. If all there is to right and wrong is a factual claim about the likes and dislikes of a particular person or culture, then what sense is there in protesting for the civil rights of black American’s in the 50′s and 60′s? There wasn’t anything objectively wrong about racism and apartheid, just like there wasn’t anything ultimately praise worthy about the abolition of slavery. These were just the changing winds of fashion. A fad that was in one day, and could quite possibly be out the next.

If cultural relativism is true, then there was nothing wrong about lashing a run-away slave to within inches of his life during the heydays of slavery in the south, for that was an acceptable practice for that culture. Though unacceptable now, there is nothing incoherent given cultural relativism that slavery may, in 50 years time, be acceptable again. But if you disagree and think that slavery can never again be acceptable, and if you think that moral progress has been made: if you think that mankind has grown up in his thought and that a deterioration of the collective moral conscience would be abominable, then you are pre-supposing a standard of right and wrong outside of your own feelings and culture, and it follows that there is an objective frame of reference for moral debate and reform. 

In summary then, (1) our experience assumes and confirms to us a realm of objective moral obligations beyond social convention, emotional preference, or adaptive mechanism. (2) We all take moral duties to be properly basic, bedrock intuitions that we can’t not know to be true. (3) Moral debate and moral progress presupposes an objective, external standard. It is for these reasons that we take subjectivism to be false, and that therefore there are some moral obligations that are objective features of the world.

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  1. Andrew W says:

    Hi Jonathan, you’re more than welcome to join in, it’s probably pretty obvious that this isn’t going anywhere and Stuart and I are getting a bit frustrated. Almost certainly this debate will never be resolved as the ideological considerations are too strong in Stuart (OK both sides :-) ) to overcome the weaknesses in the evidence.

    Why won’t Stuart steal?

    1, Stuart has been raised to believe that stealing is bad, this is a deeply imprinted psychological belief he has, this imprinting is so strong that in his mind it has become a law of nature.

    2, Humans are social animals, we have empathy for our fellow social animals, Stuart is unlikely to steal from someone he instinctively feels is inside his social group.

    3, What would the cost to Stuart be if he was caught out? Ostracism by his peers, humiliation, even if he wasn’t caught, and was pretty sure he wouldn’t be caught, the fear of the possibility would provide a far stronger motivation not to steal than any realistic joy derived from the possession of the booty.

    4, It’s against the law, so if caught he’d be facing not just the informal censure and condemnation of his peers, but also the formal wrath of the judicial system.

    5, as I’ve said above, there’s nothing he could steal that fits his requirements, especially as in Stuart’s case he is satisfied with his material wealth, so for him there can be no huge benefit for no risk.

    And why would other people do so?

    1, They haven’t been raised with such a strict taboo against stealing. They usually know it’s “wrong” but to them it’s more an academic “wrong”, not a law of nature as it is for Stuart.

    2, Some people have far weaker emotional ties to their wider social group, they feel society has not been fair to them, they feel excluded from all the best opportunities, if they’re in a minority they’ll often blame racism by society for their problems. These people will naturally gravitate towards other people with similar feelings, this group will form a clique with a group animosity towards the wider society, thus not seeing members of the wider society as their social group.

    3, Because theft from people who are outside their immediate peer group is acceptable to their immediate peers there is no peer pressure not to steal.

    4, For those more likely to steal the judicial system holds little fear, in fact being put through the system can actually raise a persons status amongst their peers.

    5, If you have little materially, modest potential gains through theft become more attractive.

  2. Andrew W says:

    Jonathan,

    The identification that people think a standard actually exists is the basis for concluding objective morality.

    What exactly do you mean here? Are you saying this is a proof of objective morality, that because people believe it exists and provides a standard it therefore exists? Or are you saying that some people conclude it exists because they think it exists?

  3. Andrew W says:

    Jonathan

    Providing reasons on why one person might think it is wrong to steal does not create a standard that can be imputed to another. This is the lack of a prescriptive factor that Stuart is highlighting.

    I think I deal with that reasoning in my example in 51, and throughout this entire discussion. The social instinct provides the foundation for this prescriptive factor, it is (usually) re-enforced with peer, and the law is created by this peer pressure (popular vote) to further support it against those in society who are not subject to the peer pressure of the wider communities.

    Now if stealing is objectively amoral, why do so many people practice it, the exact same people whose proclivity to steal I can explain as consistent with a theory of subjective morality?

    (As an after thought), when commenting on most blogs it’s not generally required etiquette to address people personally, the reason I do so here is because it appears to be the practice here, I’m complying to what I perceived as the correct etiquette of this social group, my most basic social instincts compels me to “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” an example of subjective morality, how is this covered by objective morality?

  4. Andrew W says:

    Gentlemen,
    I see a continuum in moral behaviour from the little things like correct etiquette,right up to the big things like genocide, I see morality change from one society to the next and within any given society over time but I also see moral principles based in instinct I see consistency, the same principles across cultures and over time, I see moral principles based in social and cultural factors differ across cultures and change with changing technology and with changing wealth.
    I short, I see nothing in the way we behave that is at odds with subjective morality. Objective morality, as has been defined, becomes redundant.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for the warm responses Andrew.

    (1) RE: The prescriptive factor

    In Post 51, you did exactly what I commended you for doing.

    (50)
    Yes, you have given reasons that you think are adequate for providing a “Do not steal” ideal. Truly, you can be correct.

    That was my acknowledgment that you could reasonably explain why a person might hold the idea that it is morally “wrong” to steal. And “Well done!”, on compiling the list. It is a pretty good analysis on why a person might not steal. It gives a number of reasons for “why”. What you have not done, is justify “do not steal” as a moral standard. You have explained the activity (not stealing) as a result of other circumstances or activities and noted why a person may prefer to engage in the said activity. You were even kind enough to explain why a person may not prefer to engage in the same activity. If you will step back for a moment, you might see that all this explaining has taken the moral character right out of the activity.

    What I was not asking for, was an explanation of why a person might not steal. I know you can do that in naturalism. (And you did) I also was not asking for an explanation on why a person might think that it is a moral thing to not steal. I know you can do that as well. I was asking for something different. What I wanted to know is

    from (50)
    the reason why he (personally) should not steal

    I was after the “ought” behind the activity. It is also what Stuart was asking for. Morality has an “ought” to it. Stuart may have good reasons or beliefs for engaging in naturalistic stealing. How can a person step up and say, “Stuart, you should not steal”? How can the preference that one person has (or a general society), be justified in prescribing it onto another person (who does not agree)? You say (in 53) that you dealt with this concept in 51. Yet you didn’t, unless you simply inferred that such a thing does not exist. By this, I mean the justification does not exist. People do think they can prescribe their standards onto other and people do this. You could once again explain why people end up doing this, but this misses the point. You may have thought that you provided a reason in:

    Andrew W wrote: (53)
    The social instinct provides the foundation for this prescriptive factor, it is (usually) re-enforced with peer, and the law is created by this peer pressure (popular vote) to further support it against those in society who are not subject to the peer pressure of the wider communities.

    Now here you explain a “why”(again), on people thinking that they can prescribe the common society values to the non-adherents. But you have not justified this activity. You have only explained why it may occur. It almost looks like you are claiming that every activity undertaken is valid, just because it is undertaken. This is what Glenn so profoundly expounded back in (10)

    Glenn wrote: (10)
    I actually think that naturalists can and do make observations of objective facts and call those facts moral facts. However they just end up being things that aren’t moral facts after all. There are objective facts about what is harmful to people and what is not, and there are objective facts about what is good for our survival. But at the end of the day, that is all they are – natural descriptive facts about what is good for this purpose or that. It tells us nothing about whether those purposes should be pursued at all, so the appeals lose their moral character.

    In all the explaining that naturalism does, morality loses its morality.

    Getting back on track. Under naturalism Andrew, you continue to provide the ‘why’ behind any given activity. You have never provided an “ought”. You have provided a ‘why’, on people thinking that they ought. But this is different from actually providing the “ought”. The existence of this “ought” in morality is what ties it to being objective.

    (2) RE: The “so-called” morality

    Andrew W wrote: (53)
    Now if stealing is objectively amoral, why do so many people practice it, the exact same people whose proclivity to steal I can explain as consistent with a theory of subjective morality?

    If there ever was a single, short sentence, that proposed subjective morality, yet totally defeated the concept of morality at the same time, this would be it.

    The beauty of morality is that something can still be wrong, even if everybody in the whole world were practising it. If this is not the case, we are not talking about morality at all. With subjective morality, you have successfully confirmed that such a thing is not really morality after all. (See quote from of Glenn). It is just descriptive facts on what people prefer or how people behave. Yes, you can explain your descriptive facts, and you do it well. These descriptions are only masquerading as moral statements. There is no right and wrong. It is where the phrase, “so-called morality” comes from.

    (3) RE: Addressing people personally

    Well Andrew, I do not think anyone here minds if you address people personally or not. I do it when I want to make clear whom I was intending to talk to. Whatever you prefer is fine.

  6. Andrew W says:

    Thank you for your helpful comments Jonathan, but given that you (or Stuart at least) don’t know what the “ought” is, how can you claim your actions have any relationship to the “ought”? Especially given that morality as practiced changes so quickly.

    I know instinctively why I ought not steal, I find the reasons (51) I give above ample motivation not to, for me they’re all the “ought” required.

    Also it strikes me that you’re using circular reasoning, you believe in objective morality, therefore there must be an “ought” (as opposed to the subjective moral “oughts” I’ve covered), as there must be an “ought” there must be objective morality.
    It seems to me that you’re using a self-serving definition of “morality” designed to exclude subjective morality.

    As I said earlier, my moral principles are as real to me as yours are to you, if you claim some sort of moral superiority (not necessarily saying you do, though Stuart has) based on different beliefs as to the origin of morality, I think that would be self serving.

    As I said above, I can understand how morality works without the need for it to have an origin outside of humanity, in my opinion you’ve presented no evidence to the contrary.

  7. Andrew W says:

    How is the “ought” answered in a situation in which two parties feel a deep religious motivation over a particular issue, lets say one side feels strongly that God demands the punishment of a person for a religious and moral transgression, the opposing side equally strongly feels that there was no transgression, but that the would be punishers are acting over a personal vendetta, and therefore to them the proposed punishment is against Gods will.
    Each side feels the burden of upholding some objective moral principles, each believes the “ought” is on their side. Whose “ought” is right?

    The solution is obvious, they should have a war to resolve their differences.

    Alternatively they could accept that neither side is correct in any objective sense, even though in a subjective sense, both sides positions are correct to them.

  8. Andrew W says:

    As you are unable to demonstrate any evidence of objective morality, or point to any effects of objective morality, two questions arise.

    1. How would the world be different with as opposed to without objective morality?
    2. How would you know that your interpretation of what was morally correct is in fact correct? For instance if it was objectively morally correct for the Nazi’s to murder six million Jew’s, rather than your assumption that it was wrong, how would you know? how would the world be different today?

  9. Jonathan says:

    Interesting. I was trying to be helpful. So cheers. In relation to the issues you raise, I (and the others) have not been trying to claim anything about our own actions. Heaven help me! I am not trying to justify myself in the least. It turns out to be the exact opposite if we go there.

    Here are the real points:
    (a) I (and the others) have been claiming that the prescriptive attribute in morality indicates an objective morality.
    (b) We have also pointed out that when morality is made subjective, it loses all the characteristics of morality. It loses the standard of right and wrong. There are only personal standards. Emphasis here is on the personal. There is no actual right standard. Your explanation with the example in (57) highlights this. If there was only subjective morality, both sides are incorrect in dealing with others you say, and both sides are correct for themselves. What does this tell us about the validity of each moral standard? Nothing at all. Can it be right for them but not necessarily right for others? Such a claim allows everything to be right, even murder. (See Stuart’s blog) The problem with your conclusion is that you have inadvertently appealed to an objective moral standard that says, “You can not force your moral standard onto others.” (You have demonstrated some evidence of objective morality for us) If subjective morality is actually correct, then you actually can force your moral standards onto others. One just has to have this in their moral standard. This standard that you appealed to is not your own subjective standard. If you are claiming that it is, you become a hypocrite because the very statement itself is one of forcing a standard onto others. I am not trying to be cute here. Such an appeal is an indicator that there is an objective moral standard.

    On the red-herrings:
    (c) The circular accusation; no one has done the loop. We did not start with objective morality. We have said that the prescriptive attribute we find in morality indicates an objective morality. See (a) If there is an objective morality, something outside of naturalism is required. Further investigation is required to confirm or deny such. Of course, if you decide to cling to naturalism, there is no further options available to you. Objective morality can not be confirmed without this investigation.

    (d) The stated conclusion for the example in 57 lacked the obvious option that there is a true objective moral standard, and both religious parties are in violation of this objective moral standard.

  10. Andrew W says:

    There are only personal standards.

    If you mean there are only the standards created by biological, psychological and social conditions I agree.

    There is no actual right standard.

    As in objective moral standard, yep.

    The problem with your conclusion is that you have inadvertently appealed to an objective moral standard that says, “You can not force your moral standard onto others.”

    No I haven’t, I make no moral judgment in the example I gave in 57.

    If there is an objective morality, something outside of naturalism is required. Further investigation is required to confirm or deny such.

    I’d be interested in the nature of such an investigation.

    Care to address my questions in 59?

    Jonathan, it seems to me we’re on different wavelengths, you believe only with objective morality can there be actual morality, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that what you call “so-called” morality IS morality as humans experience it, morality does change so it is subjective. The world wouldn’t end without the existence of “objective morality, in fact if “objective morality” existed yesterday and was gone today, the world would go on exactly the same and no one would notice any difference.

    Best wishes, and thanks again.

  11. Andrew W says:

    It sorta looks like I’m taking the first 2 quotes out of context (that you’re advocating the reverse of what you actually are), if so, that’s not my intent.

  12. Stuart says:

    morality does change so it is subjective

    What guff is that? The evidence of moral standards changing is equally (if not better explained) on an objectivist’s perspective. Perhaps you agree that slavery is morally wrong. Do you think that is was ever right? Do you think that is could be right in ten years time? If you are really a subjectivist then the answer is “I can’t say definitively as my feelings might change.” This is obviously an inadequate ethical theory.

    It seems you want to argue that if there is objective moral values and duties then what we call morality would not change. But that would only be the case if we had perfect comprehension of them, which is not the case. Nevertheless, there are, on reflection, some objective moral values at least that are unchanging.

    Your questions in 58:
    1) How would the world be different with as opposed to without objective morality?
    Answer: I don’t know. I can’t conceive a world without any objective moral standards. I think the question is ill-conceived as we both live in the same world, with near parity of moral intuitions, and both are trying to find the best explanation for our observations.
    2) How would you know that your interpretation of what was morally correct is in fact correct?
    Answer: The answer is obviously irrelevant to the discussion as this is a epistemological consideration. But to answer – on the Divine Command ethical theory that I think most likely it would be from part conscience, part logic, and part revelation.

  13. Jonathan says:

    Well Andrew, not trying to gang up on you.

    Yes, we are on different wavelengths. That has been agreed upon before you even stated it. The way we have tried to point it out is to question whether subjective morality can actually be called morality. Obviously Stuart and I hold that morality requires there to be a real right and a wrong. Moral improvement is when a personal morality becomes more in line with the objective morality. Moral decay is when one moves away from the objective morality. Such concepts lose their meaning without an objective morality. Subjective morality can wander around, but it cannot get better or worse. It can get more undesirable or more desirable, but there is nothing that can objectively impart improvement or decay.

    Stuart is spot-on and I was going to point out the same. Objective morality does not have the requirement that people actually follow it. People can be wrong. And they can only be wrong under objective morality, not under subjective morality. That there are people following a variety of moral standards is no evidence for subjective morality.

    I will care to give you my answer to your questions from (58) as well:
    1) I do not think the world would exist without objective morality. But this statement rests on far, far more evidence than what we have discussed here, so it probably will be rejected by you.
    2) One could only know if their moral standard is correct by revelation or imputation from the source of objective morality.

    If you actually are interested in the nature of an investigation to whether something outside of naturalism exists, I would suggest the following for your consideration:

    - We agreed that objective morality could not come from naturalism.
    - Objective morality indicates the possibility of an absolute intelligence
    - It also infers that we must be dual creatures. If we cease to exist at our physical death, then an external objective morality is going to be irrelevant to our internal physical existence.
    - A safe place to start would be with scientific investigations of life after death. There are a number of studies from emergency rooms where dead people have been revived and been able to give extremely accurate descriptions of what the staff did to their dead body, from a perspective of being above the people in the room. They could relay the conversation in depth and provide immediate knowledge of objects beyond their possible comprehension – on top of cabinets and the like. You can look for near-death-experiences as well.
    - I would suggest the next step to be a study of the only person in history who has claimed to be God and backed it up. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are good starting points. Both were written for non-Jews and both can be handily found together in an anthology called the Bible.
    - Such a journey would lead you to the definition of the objective moral standard. It is not a list of rules. Not surprising really as it can only come from outside of naturalism.

    Thanks for your best wishes. Right back at you. If you want to look into such things, let us know and we can point you to a number of resources. Otherwise, thanks for sharing your naturalistic moral view. It has been enlightening.

  14. Andrew W says:

    If you are really a subjectivist then the answer is “I can’t say definitively as my feelings might change.”

    Not quite, as a subjectivist the answer is closer to “I can’t say definitively as society might change.” As there would need to be a reason for my opinion to change, and a change in society might provide such a reason.

    Moral improvement is when a personal morality becomes more in line with the objective morality. Moral decay is when one moves away from the objective morality.

    But you’ve been unable to demonstrate any objective moral standard, therefore you cannot know logically what change in morality is improvement and what is decay.
    For me moral improvement is when I think moral standards have changed to fit better with what I think are the needs of society, moral decay is when society changes and so no longer follows what in my opinion are more appropriate moral standards.
    When I say we’re on different wavelengths I mean our views are incommensurable, as I see it, that’s the relationship between Faith and Science (which is why I’m technically agnostic). Also to me all things are relative, there are no privileged frames of reference, so it’s like you’ve got a Ptolemaic worldview, I’ve got an Einsteinian world view.
    I’m now certain that your certainty that objective morality exists is based entirely in faith rather than logic, despite your claimed applications of logic.
    That’s all I have to say on the matter.
    Kind regards.

  15. Stuart says:

    Hi there,

    Actually, the reasons for believing objective morality are based on experience and moral reflection and the implausibility of the contradictory according to those experiences and moral reflections.

    Small point not really worth bringing up: the Ptolemaic worldview is more rightly contrasted with the Copernican worldview, not the Einsteinian.

    Medium sized point, also not really worth bringing up here as it is off topic: faith and science are not incommensurate with each other. Such a view assumes an article of faith and an article of science are contradictory, which is presumptuous. Certainly there are some type of faith and some types of science that are irreconcilable. But historically the conflict thesis has been dead since the 70′s. Epistemically, you may have a point that difficulties remain, but that needn’t necessarily be the case with further study and reflection on either science or what faith has to say.

    Stuart: If you are really a subjectivist then the answer is “I can’t say definitively as my feelings might change.”

    Andrew: Not quite, as a subjectivist the answer is closer to “I can’t say definitively as society might change.” As there would need to be a reason for my opinion to change, and a change in society might provide such a reason.

    You are dead wrong that the subjectivist would say, “I can’t say definitively as society might change.” For that is giving morality an objective frame of reference. You see, you have provided a standard that prescribes what is right and wrong, namely, one should act in accordance with what society agrees on. To remain a subjectivist perspective it would have to be “I can’t say definitively as the feelings of society might change.” But again, these responses are inadequate to explain what we perceive about right and wrong. They just increasing the size of the iceberg you’re floating on, still with no fixed reference. Thus it is entirely possible that slavery could be back-in, in ten years time, as slavery is neither right or wrong but merely the changing winds of fashion: a fad that is in one day and out the next. Do you really want say this? – that slavery could soon be right again. You ask what difference objective morality makes. One difference is gives the Judges at Nuremberg a right to condemn Nazi war-criminals who were using cultural relativism as a defence.

  16. Andrew W says:

    On topic, I’ll stick with my comments in 64,

    You are dead wrong that the subjectivist would say, “I can’t say definitively as society might change.” For that is giving morality an objective frame of reference.

    and:

    One difference is gives the Judges at Nuremberg a right to condemn Nazi war-criminals who were using cultural relativism as a defence.

    Did you miss this bit?

    biological, psychological and social conditions.

    Less on topic:

    Such a view assumes an article of faith and an article of science are contradictory,

    in·com·men·su·ra·ble (nk-mnsr–bl, -shr-)
    adj.
    1.
    a. Impossible to measure or compare.
    b. Lacking a common quality on which to make a comparison.

    Incommensurable does not mean in conflict, in fact it means conflict shouldn’t really be possible because two things can’t be compared, in my opinion this is how you can have good scientists who are Christians, in their minds the two issues are separate. Conflict appears to happen between faith and science because theologists step into scientific territory and start arguing (usually poor quality) science, rather than sticking to their faith based beliefs, or scientists start arguing issues of faith that have nothing to do with science. But when this happens the conflict isn’t between faith and science per se, it’s between the individuals. Admittedly there is a problem in interpreting religious books, “was such an such a literal description of what happened, or is it in part metaphoric or inaccurate?” but science can’t prove that this miracle or that miracle of 2000 years ago did or didn’t happen.

  17. Stuart says:

    On topic,

    No I didn’t miss that bit. For using cultural relativism as a defence is to appeal to their own biological, psychological and sociological conditions.

    Off topic,

    I agree with Brooke’s assessment: “general theses are difficult to sustain.
    John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991) p.5

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