Peter Singer, The Euthyphro Dilemma & Divine Commands Part III

My first post in this series, Peter Singer, The Euthyphro Dilemma & Divine Commands Part I, I examined Peter Singer’s version of the Euthyphro argument and demonstrated that it relies upon a strawman. In Part II I criticised Singer’s utilisation of the arbitrariness objection against divine command theory. Singer’s last objection comes as a rejoinder to the line of response sketched.

Some modern theists have attempted to extricate themselves from this type of dilemma by maintaining that God is good and so could not possibly approve of torture; but these theists are caught in a trap of their own making, for what can they possibly mean by the assertion that God is good? That God is approved by God?[i]

The problems with this response have already been demonstrated. Singer suggests that the modern theists who propose this response hold that ‘good’ means approved by God. However, this is not what they propose. Some, like Quinn and Weirenga, suggest that what makes actions right or wrong are the commands of God. Adams holds that wrongness is the property of being contrary to God’s commands. Neither of these views entails that ‘God is good’ means ‘God is approved’ by God.

In order for Singer’s objection to be something other than a straw man, it needs to be reformulated to deal with theories like the ones actually proposed by defenders of divine command theory. One such formulation is suggested, though not endorsed, by Edward Weirenga.

[I]f to be morally good is to do no wrong, and if what is wrong is what is forbidden by God, then to say that God is good is just to say that he never does what he forbids himself to do. But there is no moral value in never doing what one forbids oneself to do.[ii]

This objection is problematic. Firstly, the last premise affirms that there is no moral value in never doing what one forbids oneself to do; i.e. there is no moral value in living by the standards you set yourself, so to speak. This is false. There very clearly is moral value in avoiding hypocrisy and hypocrisy involves, in part, not following the standards one lays down for one’s own behaviour. Moreover, the very notion at the heart of much contemporary, ethical theory is that of autonomy. Autonomy refers to the act of regulating one’s own behaviour in light of the laws or principles of which one approves.

Finally, note that Weirenga’s objection begins with “if to be morally good is to do no wrong … then”. [Emphasis added]. The argument assumes that goodness is defined purely in terms of doing one’s duty. This was not claimed in the theory proposed and this assumption is at best controversial. Many ethical theories define ‘right’ in terms of a relationship to what is good and others see rightness as involving side constraints upon the quest for good. At best, what is needed is an argument as to why a theist must accept such a definition and none has been offered.

Paul Faber notes that within Presbyterian tradition there are strong precedents for not characterising goodness this way. He notes how God’s goodness is characterised in the Westminster Confession.[iii]

[M]ost loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.[iv]

Here God’s goodness is not defined so much in terms of conformity to duties but in terms of various character traits or excellence. Virtues such as being loving, truthful, forgiving, etc, hating actions that are wrong, praising and rewarding what is right. Nothing in divine command theory entails that God cannot have such attributes. The theory might have this implication if it also maintained that God has such traits because he is required to or if the virtues mentioned cannot be attributed to God without defining them in terms of various commands he has issued. However, none of this is necessary. God does not have to have a duty to have something in order to have it and such things as being loving, truthful, forgiving, etc. can all be understood without specifying any divine command.

[i] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 3-4.
[ii] Edward Weirenga,
The Nature of God, 222.
[iii] Paul Faber, “The Euthyphro Objection to Divine Normative Theories: A Response”
Religious Studies 21 (1985): 564-567.
[iv] Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 2, Article 1, 145.

Cross Posted at MandM

34 replies
  1. Matt_flannagan
    Matt_flannagan says:

    Simon, my view is that what makes something good is that God desires it. Where God refers to a omniscient, omnipotent, being with certain character traits such as being just, loving merciful, impartial etc.

  2. Matt_flannagan
    Matt_flannagan says:

    Simon, I would say God has certain attributes essentially, such as being just, loving , merciful and so on. That is he has these attributes in all possible worlds in which he exists. In that sense I would say God is necessarily good. Some analogues might help here, a person has the property of not being number essentially. There is no possible world in which a number is a person. Similarly, water has the property of being H20 essentially; any thing that is not H20 is not water and so on. I have the property of being identical with myself essentially, and so on.When I say that something is made good by God desiring it, I mean something X is good for P if God, understood to have the aforementioned attributes essentially, desires that X have P.

  3. Matt_flannagan
    Matt_flannagan says:

    Simon I note you use the word, come from, this suggests you think goodness had an origin, there once was a time when there was no goodness know and now there is. Questions of origin only apply to beings that are not everlasting or eternal. To ask where an eternal thing comes from is like asking a 7 foot basket ball player why he is 4 foot tall and then getting annoyed he does not give your question a direct answer.

  4. originalsimon
    originalsimon says:

    Matt,

    That is he has these attributes in all possible worlds in which he exists.

    Hmmn!Are you saying that worlds are possible in which he doesn't exist? How could a world be possible without a god?

    Some analogues might help here, a person has the property of not being number essentially. There is no possible world in which a number is a person. Similarly, water has the property of being H20 essentially; any thing that is not H20 is not water and so on. I have the property of being identical with myself essentially, and so on.

    I have always found this kind of speak very problematic. Even statements – any statement – such as "There is no possible world in which a number is a person" are hopelessly dependant on this world. Every word in that sentence is a word and an abstract concept in this world. Furthermore, and importantly, every relation between the words in that sentence is of this world. To claim certain things apply to all worlds seems to me an extraordinary claim! Unless we have access to the 'super-world'.These thoughts mirror the 'grounding problems' I have with 'god' and 'good':

  5. originalsimon
    originalsimon says:

    Questions of origin only apply to beings that are not everlasting or eternal.

    I can see the advantage of claiming that god is eternal – it silences questions. That is its job, I think. But nothing has been found to evade causality. The only reason to believe in the eternal is to do exactly that, I think. To evade causality; to evade reality.

  6. Matt_flannagan
    Matt_flannagan says:

    Simon it seems to me you don't understand how possible worlds semantics works in modal logic. Not sure how I can explain this to you in a short com box. As to the "evade causality" problem, here you seem to be saying that we know that everything has a cause, simply because one has never observed anything not being caused, is that your position?

  7. originalsimon
    originalsimon says:

    That is he has these attributes in all possible worlds in which he exists.

    Are you saying that worlds are possible in which he doesn't exist?

    This one seems like a simple yes/no to me.It is my experience that "all possible worlds" talk is about worlds which are "logically possible". I don't buy this. For where does the logic sit such that possible worlds are subject to it? It must form some super-structure; some super-world, the rules of which govern possible worlds. Where did this super-world come from, and why can't I ask if it might have been different?Also, I see no demarcation between 'laws'. Why is it okay to imagine gravity being different but not logic? By what right does anyone have to imagine gravity being different??!!

    evade causality

    Yes, it is my position that it would be horrendously silly to posit that anything is uncaused since we have never observed anything uncaused. I mean, I can understand the psychological aversion to unending causes, but it is far more insane to just invent a category which fits your needs, and then say "there is a thing which is uncaused", when all you've actually done is fabricated the category.But if I'm way off somewhere – entirely possible – let me know.

  8. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Well, there must be 'something' that is uncaused. ie Eternal and without beginning. Simon, your own claim that nothing evades causality encapsulates the concept that we cannot get something from nothing. (That would be uncaused -> if something popped into existence from nothing) If we have something now (you exist, don't you?) then there could never have been nothing. If there has never been nothing, then there must have always been something. If there has always been something … then you have found your uncaused item – something. It follows that your statement is therefore self-contradictory. As such, it is perfectly reasonable to say that an uncaused 'something' exists.

  9. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    PS: Just in case you missed it, your uncaused 'something' is an eternal chain of unending causes. See, you do believe there is something that is uncaused.

  10. Matt_flannagan
    Matt_flannagan says:

    Are you saying that worlds are possible in which he doesn't exist? To say a person has a property in all worlds in which he exists, is not to say there are some worlds where he does not exist. That does not follow. If God exists in all possible worlds then God has his essential properties in those worlds in which he exists, which is all of them. It is my experience that "all possible worlds" talk is about worlds which are "logically possible".Its normal for possible world to refer to a maximal state of affairs which is logically or metaphysically possible. I don't buy this. For where does the logic sit such that possible worlds are subject to it?All possible worlds are ‘subject’ to logic, that’s why they are called possible (i.e logically possible) worlds. It must form some super-structure; some super-world, the rules of which govern possible worlds.This does not follow, the fact that certain rules hold in all possible worlds does not mean the rules themselves are a world. Where did this super-world come from, and why can't I ask if it might have been different?Not, applicable because your suggestion that such a world exists does not follow. I would ask you however, when you say logic must come from this super world, and you assume this world must come from somewhere. What is the force of must, here you seem to be assuming somekind of necessity holds, but that of course was what you were attacking.Also, I see no demarcation between 'laws'. Why is it okay to imagine gravity being different but not logic? By what right does anyone have to imagine gravity being different??!!Well the fact you see no “demarcation” is neither hear nor there because vast majority do see a difference between contingent truths such as “John Key is the prime minister” which though true could have been false ( Clark could have one it was not logically impossible for her to do so, and necessary truths such as “the colour blue is not a person” . The prime minister is not a prime number. To most the difference is intuitively quite obvious, which is why for centuries people have written about a prori knowledge. Yes, it is my position that it would be horrendously silly to posit that anything is uncaused since we have never observed anything uncaused.Ok so your position is as follows [1]If one has never observed X occurring its silly to believe X is true [2] no one has ever observed something uncaused existing. Therefore, its silly to believe that uncaused things exist. The problem here is that I see no reason to accept [1], certainly I have never observed empirically the truth of this or any other epistemological claim, and even if I had to appeal to such factors and no others would be to assume its truth from the outset and hence be circular. So it seems to me that [1] is either silly or based on a circular argument. I mean, I can understand the psychological aversion to unending causes, but it is far more insane to just invent a category which fits your needs, and then say "there is a thing which is uncaused", when all you've actually done is fabricated the category.That’s hardly compelling, here you simply assume people postulate things for psychological needs and attack them for doing so. On what basis do you assume this, have you observed every person who does this and discovered they have done so empirically on the basis of such a need, if not this assumption is by your logical silly and obviously based on your own psychological needs.

  11. Godlessons
    Godlessons says:

    Ok so your position is as follows [1]If one has never observed X occurring its silly to believe X is true [2] no one has ever observed something uncaused existing. Therefore, its silly to believe that uncaused things exist.

    Pot, meet kettle.The reasoning behind getting to an "uncaused cause" is simply because nobody has ever observed an infinite number of things also. Just because you haven't seen it, and you can't conceive of it, does that mean it's true?Now, I'm not saying that causality isn't a problem, but I would say that the idea of an infinitely complex being just happening to be the first thing in existence is rather insane. As for the causality problem though, you may consider taking a look at this page: <a http = "http://arxiv.org/abs/1007.1750&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://arxiv.org/abs/1007.1750;http://arxiv.org/abs/1007.1750<br />We see no evidence of things coming from more complex things. The fact is, we see overwhelming evidence that all things come from less and less complex things as you roll back the clock. We see overwhelming evidence that modern plant and animal life evolved from less and less complex organisms as you dig deeper into the fossil record. We see how stars form, and the complexity of a burning ball of gas is much higher than the complexity of the gas itself. Roll the clock back 13.5 billion years, and we have nothing but hydrogen gas, which is the most simple element we have. If there was ever a singularity, that hydrogen would cease to exist as well, being stripped into its constituent particles.So, to say that if you roll the clock back, you get to an omnipotent, omniscient being that commands arbitrary things like that women leave the village when they have their period and likes to watch people in the shower, is quite the leap of logic.As to the Euthyphro dilemma, which was the topic of the post after all, the essential argument by theists is that God is good by nature, and therefore must be good. That has always seemed like me saying, I am good by nature, and therefore everything I do must be good. Its an arbitrary position to take. How do you know I'm good? Because I say so? You must look at my actions, and Yehweh has quite a problem there too.Who defines this "good"? We have certainly seen odd things spoken about in the name of the God of Abraham at least. Were these things good merely because it's God doing them? If God is good by nature, everything he did must be unquestionably good.I don't know why this is the first one that comes to mind, but one is him getting angry because angels were having sex with humans and giving birth to giants, and that in part being reason for the flood, yet later saying that spirit can't sin, only flesh can sin. Does this mean that those angels were not sinning by going against God, and sleeping with human women, but the humans women were?Also, forget about all the babies and innocent children that died in that flood, and Noah didn't even offer to take a couple of them on his magic boat. What about all the cute cuddly little kittens. ;)Was it not evil for God to put Jephtheh in a position where he would have to sacrifice his daughter, and not stopping him like he did with Abraham? Was it not evil for God to lie and go against his word that he would not help Israel, just so he could take a human sacrifice? He certainly could have told Jephtheh NO!, but he didn't, so a group of people were wiped out, God's word is shown to mean nothing, and a young girl is put to death for no other reason than God wanted to let Jephtheh know that making certain deals was wrong. It's funny that's never mentioned in the bible by the way, it's just assumed by apologists.Even closer to home, is it not evil for someone that has the ability to prevent evil to not do so? If I saw you unconscious in the middle of the road, but I not only didn't help you, but I guided cars to a point where they had to run over you, would that be evil of me? That is how the God of the bible is portrayed to anyone that actually looks.Anyway, it is highly arguable that the person spoken about in the bible is moral, and even if we just say that there is a generic being, not necessarily the one in the bible, that was always there, we can't say it is necessarily good. We know evil exists, so if evil exists, this god certainly could have been evil. What prevents God from being evil? How do you know God isn't evil?Eventually it all boils down to how strongly you believe something. There are no good answers to any of these questions. There are only fabricated answers, that the already converted eat up for fear that their belief system will crumble around them.

  12. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    The reasoning behind getting to an "uncaused cause" is simply because nobody has ever observed an infinite number of things also. . .

    Not at all.The problem of actual infinities is not just that we can't see how they can be so. It is because their existence result in absurdities that we can see how they can't be so. The difference is crucial.

    I would say that the idea of an infinitely complex being just happening to be the first thing in existence is rather insane.

    Asserting your contrary opinion is not refutation. (Cosmological arguments need to be dismantled by giving reasons to believe the premises are false.) Is God really complex? Classical Theism conceives God as Simple. Ok, so deny God exists. What do you have then? An infinitely complex being (i.e. the universe) which is the first thing in existence – your definition of insane.

    We see no evidence of things coming from more complex things.

    The world is full of examples to the contrary. Next when you are in your car, or riding your bike, or see a painting, or lick an ice-cream, contemplate the complexity of the one who it put it together.

  13. Godlessons
    Godlessons says:

    I thought the OP was about the Euthyphro dilemma. Why did you not address a single thing I said about why it is valid?You can say that God is just good by nature, but how can you know? I gave plenty of examples why I would not consider God to be good. Who makes the decision as to whether or not God is good?What dictated God's good nature? Why is his nature good and not evil?All of these things, if followed to their conclusion, get us straight back to the Euthyphro dilemma. I see no way around it.

    Not at all.The problem of actual infinities is not just that we can't see how they can be so. It is because their existence result in absurdities that we can see how they can't be so. The difference is crucial.

    Absurdities are not necessarily impossibilities. It is impossible for a square not to be a square, although it can also be other things, like rectangles. I found that to be an absurd notion when I was 7, but it still doesn't make it impossible.Now, do I believe that an actual infinity is possible outside of set theory? I believe it's highly unlikely, but I can't show it's impossible logically.All I was doing was showing that you arguing that there is no infinity is just as much of an argument from incredulity as his argument for causality.

    Asserting your contrary opinion is not refutation. (Cosmological arguments need to be dismantled by giving reasons to believe the premises are false.)

    I actually did that in my post. Nobody can say with certainty that the universe began to exist. In fact the big bang theory has many problems besides the fact that math breaks down at a singularity. That's why we have cosmological models without a big bang.

    Is God really complex? Classical Theism conceives God as Simple.Ok, so deny God exists. What do you have then? An infinitely complex being (i.e. the universe) which is the first thing in existence – your definition of insane.

    I'm sorry, but you're talking about God as not being complex has never been demonstrated. I have never heard how something that is an omnimax can possibly be simple. The more functions something has, the more complex it is.As for the universe being infinitely complex, I don't see where you're coming from. The elementary particles that compose the universe are not complex. Just because complex things arise out of them doesn't mean that they are complex in themselves.

    The world is full of examples to the contrary. Next when you are in your car, or riding your bike, or see a painting, or lick an ice-cream, contemplate the complexity of the one who it put it together.

    A car is much more complex in certain ways than a human is. A bicycle is more complex in some ways than a human, an ice cream cone, a computer, an airplane. Can a human ingest gasoline and convert it into energy that would propel people at hundreds of miles an hour like a car? Can a human convert the power of another person's feet into a locomotive force that is able to propel that person at a faster speed than they would be able to run?In other words, it's all a matter of opinion as to what is complex. I could show you a pile of rocks, and you would possibly think it's not complex at all, but to an insect, it would be a perfectly complex home.Now, I still don't see how your statement refutes what I have said in any manner. I never said that less complex things couldn't be created by more complex things. I was speaking to the idea that there must be some almighty creator in order that less complex things came about.

  14. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Sorry Godless-on(e). You have thrown out a hodgepodge of concepts and biblical misunderstanding. You use some arbitrary, ungrounded flavour of 'good' to try and judge a non-matter, eternal, Spirit. Please tell us your definition of what is ‘good’ is grounded in something other than your own desire before casting it around as an objective truth. You mistake interpretation for fact when you claim the fossil record shows less complex life becoming more complex. You pose strawmen when you claim (a) arbitrary commands from God (b) God likes to watch people in the shower (c) the spirit can’t sin, but only the flesh can. You miss the fundamental connection between God allowing us free choice and God preventing every single evil action from occurring. And finally you contort the word 'complex' so that it loses all meaning. This briefest of reviews indicates why it would be pointless to converse. Nevertheless, source your “good” in something objective – ground it on an anchor – and then it would be fruitful to continue. Cheers.Stuart/Matt – If something is eternal, does it matter at all how complex it is? I am of the opinion that complexity is a non-issue for that just-existing, unsourced thing. I do not think it needs to be defended at all. If the universe was thought to be eternal (like it once was), the complexity of the universe means very little. It was when we decided that the universe would come to end and it must have had a beginning, that its source and intricate complexity took on meaning. As far as God goes, if He is eternal and unsourced (as I take Him to be – since he told us that), however complex He is – is irrelevant. Please share your thoughts?

  15. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    Godlessons,

    I thought the OP was about the Euthyphro dilemma. Why did you not address a single thing I said about why it is valid

    Because I chose to only respond to your misunderstandings regarding uncaused causes and erroneous criticisms of the cosmological argument.

    Absurdities are not necessarily impossibilities. . .

    You are correct in that the arguments against actual infinities are Reductio ad absurdum. But you are wrong in that the absurdities arrived are logical contradictions and therefore necessarily impossibilities.

    I'm sorry, but you're talking about God as not being complex has never been demonstrated.

    Well that depends on your opinion of Natural Theology, specifically the cosmological argument from existential causality. In any case, we are not arguing here that God exists. I am addressing your conception of God as a complex being. And that is false according to Classical Theism, much of traditional Christian Theology, though I don't think the Bible commits itself to such an idea.And framing complexity according to function is shifting the goal posts.

    I never said that less complex things couldn't be created by more complex things. I was speaking to the idea that there must be some almighty creator in order that less complex things came about.

    Yes you did – I quoted you. In any case, your argument that everything goes from simple to complex is (1) begging the question, (2) is at most based on your observation of the natural world, and cannot be extend to spiritual realities, (3) is a false observation anyway.

  16. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    If something is eternal, does it matter at all how complex it is? . . .

    I'm not defending God's Simplicity. Only pointing out that his specific criticism is erroneous for it is based on a misconception of God being necessarily complex. Whether God is or is not is irrelevant for this discussion, as it wouldn't matter either way. God's creative decree is not restricted by how complex he is or the thing that he is making. But there are dovetailing considerations of a theological nature, surrounding things like divine eternity and immutability, which may be of interest to a Christian audience.

  17. Godlessons
    Godlessons says:

    Well, I guess you won't address the Euthyphro dilemma.As for actual infinities being logical contradictions, I have seen no contradiction, I have only seen things like Hilbert's hotel paradox, which isn't a paradox because of a contradiction, it is a paradox because it is nothing like we have ever seen, and seems outrageous. Not being something we've ever seen or seeming outrageous doesn't make it a contradiction.As for what I said about less complex things becoming more complex, you can't seriously tell me that you take that literally about everything. I'm speaking of cosmology and evolution, and you bring up ice cream. That's about as close to a nonsequitur as you can get without actually being one.As for it being question begging, I don't see how pointing out what the evidence shows us is question begging. I didn't say it absolutely is, I said it appears to be that way, since there is no evidence to support it happening the other way around.Further, as for question begging. What is this "spiritual reality" you speak of? You assume it's real before it being proven.Anyway, if you're not going to address my critique of the OP, I don't have much else to deal with here. I didn't bring up cosmology to debate cosmology, I brought it up in support of my arguments against your post, and because it led logically there when you spoke of infinities being impossible. Cosmological arguments bore me. It's too easy to refute. I only have to ask you to support one thing, and that's the place where you must say the universe began to exist. It's not scientific, it's speculation, and speculation does not a good premise make.

  18. Godlessons
    Godlessons says:

    Please tell us your definition of what is ‘good’ is grounded in something other than your own desire before casting it around as an objective truth.

    I don't need to show what my morality is grounded in. I know of nobody that can say that killing people that have done nothing to deserve it is good. What moral system do you live by that you can justify it? If your world view is correct, there must be an objective moral standard, and that is the reason for the ubiquitous nature of our feelings about murder, rape, torture etc.If we were talking about a king that had done all the things that the Bible says God did, would you revere him or revile him? Not including the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the first born in Egypt, since there are no numbers given, God killed 2,391,421 people in the bible alone. How many more were killed in his name, and he didn't stop it? Needless to say, if I were to kill that many people, you would never find it okay to forgive me, no matter how much good I did.

    You pose strawmen when you claim (a) arbitrary commands from God (b) God likes to watch people in the shower (c) the spirit can’t sin, but only the flesh can.

    Show how God's commands aren't arbitrary? I showed how they were. According to your book, a person born of the spirit can't sin. In order to be spirit, one must be born of the spirit, because in John 3, flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit. So, you have 3 choices. Angels aren't spirits, Angels having sex with humans is okay, but humans having sex with angels is sinning, or Jesus lied.

    You miss the fundamental connection between God allowing us free choice and God preventing every single evil action from occurring.

    How about the evil done by natural disasters. That certainly has nothing to do with free will. If God created the earth, and he couldn't create it so there were no natural disasters, he isn't all powerful. If God could have created it so there were no natural disasters, but he didn't, God is evil. The free will excuse has so many flaws, and that's just one of them.

  19. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    Godlessons, Actually its Matt's post, not mine. Hilbert's Hotel is a study in the contradictions that arise if there were such a thing as actual infinities. The illustration reveals that there can be no such thing – not just that we can't imagine such a thing.

    I'm speaking of cosmology and evolution,

    You were speaking of a being creating the universe, saying that this is contra to the observation of complex things arising form simple things. The making of ice-cream, cars and the like by persons therefore has an appropriate analogue.

    Cosmological arguments bore me. It's too easy to refute. I only have to ask you to support one thing, and that's the place where you must say the universe began to exist. It's not scientific, it's speculation, and speculation does not a good premise make.

    Yet you have failed to refute it. Actually, a good premise only requires it to be true. That you know the premises to be true is not a necessary condition for a good argument. They only needs to be more plausible than their contrary. And you have already admitted that actual infinities are highly unlikely. In any case, if the universe beginning to exist is speculation, then so is most of science and history, including the neo-darwinian evolutionary synthesis.

  20. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Thanks for the reply. Your proclamations on what is good an evil (while appearing heartfelt), are still ungrounded. Refusing to ground them, they remain floating in your own personal opinion. There is no point in arguing against your opinion because you are actually allowed to believe whatever you want. That, of course, means it has no bearing on truth.There is a point in correcting your misrepresentation of God and the bible though.

    If your world view is correct, there must be an objective moral standard, and that is the reason for the ubiquitous nature of our feelings about murder, rape, torture etc.

    Fantastic summary! And so what is your particular reason when you eliminate God from the equation? But more to the point, how does your reason make these feelings valid? In other words, if someone does want to murder, rape and torture … why would they even be wrong?

    If we were talking about a king that had done all the things that the Bible says God did, would you revere him or revile him?

    Undoubtedly revile. What right would a King have to do such things? Did the King create everything? No. Does the King have rights to own everything? No. Can the King give justice after people die? No. If the King himself made a bunch of pottery soldiers to play with then I would say that he does have the right to do whatever he wants with those clay dolls. Conversely, God as the right to effect judgement over us or use us in a manner that He deems appropriate … because He has ownership rights.

    Not including the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the first born in Egypt, since there are no numbers given, God killed 2,391,421 people in the bible alone.

    Your propensity to just invent things, like a number that God killed, is a trait that is rife through your objections. But really, why stop there? If God is responsible for creating every single person that ever lived, and everyone is going to die, wouldn’t that make God responsible for killing everyone? You could do a lot better it you tried.Of course, the concept that you intentionally avoid is how our time here is temporary and we move on to a different form of life after we die. If physical death was the end of our existence, then yes, God could be called horrific and unfair. The good die young and suffer while the evil prosper and live in luxury. It is unfair and wrong. Yet the promise of God is that eternal justice will be meted out for everything we have done and not done. Unfortunately, you and I are both on the wrong side of that account.

    If God could have created it so there were no natural disasters, but he didn't, God is evil. The free will excuse has so many flaws, and that's just one of them.

    The bible clearly says that God did not create the world like it is today. It was built to be free of death but our choice to disregard God brought destruction. Note that God wanted it one way and we choose the other. Yes, I do know that you think this is ridiculous but you were condemning God for something He did not do. And you called natural disasters evil, with no foundation. There is no basis for calling them evil without God. Yet with God, He didn’t even design it that way.

    Show how God's commands aren't arbitrary? I showed how they were. According to your book, a person born of the spirit can't sin. In order to be spirit, one must be born of the spirit.

    You are like Nicodemus who could not comprehend what Jesus was talking about. We have a spirit. It is separated from God – and that is what is meant by ‘dead in the spirit’. To be born of the Spirit means to be made spiritually alive by God’s Spirit coming to reside with yours. Gods Spirit cannot sin because it is part of God and defines what good is. Your spirit can certainly sin and has the choice to follow your own will, or submit to Gods will. The flesh (your physical body) is continually giving you physical signals enticing you to please yourself. To do what you want, to be your own master! That is what sin is – placing yourself as King and refusing to submit to God. God’s commands are not arbitrary because they reside in His non-physical domain. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbour as yourself. As Jesus plainly said, every physical implementation is based on this. Different physical situations may require different responses, different implementations, but the standard of God is unchanging and eternal. It is good.

  21. Godlessons
    Godlessons says:

    Actually, a good premise only requires it to be true. That you know the premises to be true is not a necessary condition for a good argument.

    How about the first law of thermodynamics? If energy can't be created, that means the universe was always here in some form. So, if you can't show that the universe began to exist, it's simply pure fabrication.Your premise isn't just unsupported, it is wrong.

    In any case, if the universe beginning to exist is speculation, then so is most of science and history, including the neo-darwinian evolutionary synthesis.

    Excuse me? Cosmology is nothing like any of those things.First of all, evolution has overwhelming evidence as well as predictive power. We have DNA evidence that is overwhelming, we have fossil evidence that is overwhelming.History is something that has a bit of speculation to it, but not near what we get into if we try to work out the origins of the universe. At least we have evidence to go from.The huge difference between those things and cosmology is that we can see the before and after. With cosmology we have to guess what happened during a period that there is essentially no evidence of whatsoever. If you believe in the big bang theory for instance, which is what theists rely on to say the universe began to exist, you have to deal with dark matter. There are models that bypass the big bang and also avoid all the problems the big bang has.Now, if you want to take pure speculation as a premise, my premise is that my coffee pot stops time and steals socks and converts them to coat hangers. The evidence is the fact that everyone seems to lose socks, and get extra hangers. That's the kind of story you're telling here, and it just doesn't work. There's not enough evidence for your position to accept it.

  22. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    First of all, evolution has overwhelming evidence as well as predictive power. We have DNA evidence that is overwhelming, we have fossil evidence that is overwhelming.

    As I pointed out earlier. Does the fossil evidence show an animal turning into another animal? No it doesn't. Such a view is an interpretation, built from the fact that lifeforms were buried and fossilised. The interpretation stems from the worldview of naturalism. This view can only assume one thing turned into another because it certainly is not contained in the fossil record. What is in the fossil record is sudden appearance of a lifeform, stasis (ie it does not change) and sudden extinction. The same point applies to DNA interpretation. It is joining dots based upon the worldview of naturalism (which absolutely requires evolution to be true). In other words, this is an inherently biased way to do science. The outcome is not based on the evidence, it is based on the worldview.Take for example, all observed changes in DNA. These occur in the downward direction. Information is lost and change occurs. Something changing does not prove molecules-to-man evolution. What is required is numerous changes that actually build new, highly specific, interactive functionality … from nowhere. This we do not observe. So please note that changes which destroy functionality fit very well into the concept that God created various lifeforms perfect, which are now changing in the information-losing direction. It is exactly what we observe.

    If you believe in the big bang theory for instance, which is what theists rely on to say the universe began to exist, you have to deal with dark matter.

    Theists rely on God and His revelation to us that He actually made the universe. How He did it, is unknown. The Big Bang has some similarities but is a fundamentally different process from what is in God’s revelation.

  23. Godlessons
    Godlessons says:

    As I pointed out earlier. Does the fossil evidence show an animal turning into another animal?

    This is where people don't understand evolution, either intentionally or because they don't pay attention. You won't see one species giving birth to a new species in one generation. A dog will always give birth to a dog. What happens though, is that the species will change slightly every generation, until it is hardly recognizable as a descendant from predecessors many generations prior. In fact, we have so many hominid fossils at the moment, it is next to impossible to tell where one species ends and the next begins.

    When does a baby turn into a toddler? When does a teenager turn into an adult? If you were to see a picture from every single day of a person's life, you would never be able to pick the exact picture that delimits the transition. This is exactly what we have with hominid fossils right now.

    What is in the fossil record is sudden appearance of a lifeform, stasis (ie it does not change) and sudden extinction.

    That's what dishonest or ignorant people would tell you, but it's simply not true. The nautilus for example has so many fossils that we can see exactly how their eye developed. The human fossils alone prove that wrong.

    I imagine that the level of cognitive dissonance you would end up with would be insane, but you really should go and look at what we really do know about the fossil record and DNA before you make such uninformed statements. Go to talkorigins.org and see the information there for instance. If you only get your information from creationist websites and books, you're never going to be able to have an intelligent conversation about this subject.

    Then there's the DNA evidence, and I'm not just talking about our DNA being similar, I'm talking about things like retroviral DNA markers that can only have gotten there in the places they are if we had a common ancestor with the rest of modern apes. The HERV-K insertions alone are 16, which may not sound like much, until you realize that the chances of us NOT related to modern apes based on this evidence alone is (1/3000000000)^16 or a 1/(4.3 x 10^151) chance. To put that in perspective, the chances of you and I picking the same exact subatomic particle out of the entire visible universe are 1/(3×10^80).

    Take for example, all observed changes in DNA. These occur in the downward direction. Information is lost and change occurs. Something changing does not prove molecules-to-man evolution. What is required is numerous changes that actually build new, highly specific, interactive functionality … from nowhere. This we do not observe. So please note that changes which destroy functionality fit very well into the concept that God created various lifeforms perfect, which are now changing in the information-losing direction. It is exactly what we observe.

    Wow, what a total crock. The nautilus eye for instance shows you are wrong. I don't have time to get into it much now, but the reality is, when our DNA changes, we see how it can improve over time. It doesn't always have to be random, some of these process even co-opt viral DNA, such as in the growth of the placenta. Part of a retroviral DNA insertion is responsible for the human placenta.

    Anyway, based on what you have said, it is obvious that you have never once done a serious inquiry into evolution, and why we know what we know. It's no longer a question of if evolution happens, and hasn't been for over a century. The only question is how evolution happens.

    Now, if you don't want to sound foolish, you can go study up on it from places outside creationist circles and see for yourself why we know what we know, or you can continue to think you're informed because you read up on your Answers in Genesis, and remain laughable.

  24. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    Godlessons,

    How about the first law of thermodynamics?

    Absolutely irrelevant to the portion of text you quoted and are apparently directly addressing.

    If energy can't be created, that means the universe was always here in some form.

    That is a vacuous objection. Everyone agrees that the laws of nature (i.e. the first law of thermodynamics) can act only within nature, not upon it as would be the case in the beginning of the universe.

    So, if you can't show that the universe began to exist, it's simply pure fabrication.

    The premise in the KCA that the universe began to exist, as defended by Craig, is supported by two lines of scientific evidence and two lines of philosophical evidence. The one line you are currently objecting to is the beginning of the universe supported by Big Bang cosmology, which is currently scientific orthodoxy. Such rhetorical devices as name-calling (specifically, "Pure fabrication") are inept attempts at refutation.

    Your premise isn't just unsupported, it is wrong.

    Again, asserting the contrary is not good argumentation.

    First of all, evolution [as opposed to Big Bang Cosmology] has overwhelming evidence as well as predictive power. [brackets mine]

    Well, so does Big Bang Cosmology, which is my point. i.e. The microwave background radiation was predicted and eventually discovered in confirmation of the theory.

    History [as opposed to Big Bang Cosmology] is something that has a bit of speculation to it, but not near what we get into if we try to work out the origins of the universe. At least we have evidence to go from. [brackets mine]

    Well, so Big Bang Cosmology has evidence for it as well, which is my point. i.e. the expanding universe, together with the Borde, Guth and Vilenkin theorem that shows using [relatively] simple mathematical reasoning that any universe that has been on average in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have had an absolute beginning a finite time ago. In comparison to history, there are entire wars in ancient history thought to have occurred where the sum of evidence for them is some broken pottery found lying in a ditch in a desert. Wars whose occurrence no one contests.

    The huge difference between those things and cosmology is that we can see the before and after.

    You can't see before history. You can't see historical events. The things of the past are forever cast behind a curtain. Yet we do know of them because they leave traces of evidence behind them, that endure in the present. And it is these things that push Big Bang Cosmology (any cosmogony) beyond the realm of "pure speculation".

  25. Godlessons
    Godlessons says:

    Absolutely irrelevant to the portion of text you quoted and are apparently directly addressing.

    What are you talking about. I put forward the idea that cosmological arguments fail at the premise that the universe began to exist. In response, you said:

    Actually, a good premise only requires it to be true. That you know the premises to be true is not a necessary condition for a good argument.

    I brought up the first law of thermodynamics because the energy in the universe always existed. That means it didn't begin to exist. I don't see at all how that is irrelevant or how I am not addressing what you were talking about.

    That is a vacuous objection. Everyone agrees that the laws of nature (i.e. the first law of thermodynamics) can act only within nature, not upon it as would be the case in the beginning of the universe.

    "Everyone"? Who is everyone? I know that most people argue that prior to the big bang, the laws of nature had not been established yet, but that is argument and speculation, there is no actual testable evidence, and there are multiple alternative hypothesis and theories.

    The premise in the KCA that the universe began to exist, as defended by Craig, is supported by two lines of scientific evidence and two lines of philosophical evidence. The one line you are currently objecting to is the beginning of the universe supported by Big Bang cosmology, which is currently scientific orthodoxy. Such rhetorical devices as name-calling (specifically, "Pure fabrication") are inept attempts at refutation.

    It has never been scientific orthodoxy that the energy that created the cosmos didn't exist. If you are going to make such grand claims, please support your statement. I know of no cosmologist that even says such a thing. They have said that the matter that makes up our universe came out of a quantum fluctuation, and didn't exist prior to that, but the energy existed, otherwise what was there to fluctuate.M theory claims that branes can collide and create matter too, but the branes are another form of energy. The energy has always existed, and when I speak of universe, I mean universe as Aristotle and everyone meant it up until the last hundred years. I'm talking about all that exists, not just our cosmos.If the energy exists, that means it didn't begin to exist, and there is no necessity for a god, and Kalam fails, as does every cosmological argument.Now, since argument from authority does no good in showing a premise is true, and I have explained how it is false, I would like you to provide some evidence that the universe began to exist. You have claimed evidence. What evidence is there that the universe didn't exist at one time? Even the philosophical "evidence" you speak of relies on statements by scientists that are speculating on the origins of the universe.That is why I am saying it is a fabrication. Give me some evidence. I'm talking about real testable evidence that can validate the math. Why do you think that Einstein's theory took so long to be validated? He had math that said one thing, but he needed to test it. Why do you think physicists are so excited about the hadron colider just built in Europe, so they can test for graviton particles and show that M theory is correct.Needless to say, there are maths that compete with the maths you might bring up, and until there is an experiment that can validate one of them, it's not much but an interesting speculation. A pure fabrication, like it or not.

  26. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    Your latest comment makes me despair that communication is even possible. I thus have no desire to continue,I'll only say that dismissing all cosmological arguments on the basis you can't prove with certainty that there was a beginning to the universe is daft. For one, as I said, it doesn't need to be proved – It just needs to be more likely than not. Second, the Kalam Cosmological argument is the only cosmological argument that needs to defend the universe had a beginning.

  27. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    It is funny that you think I have not examined the evidence for evolution. I‘ve been through 21 years of atheistic schooling which included two science degrees and a masters. Been there, done that. I note that the “evidence” you presented is all interpretation or speculation. It certainly looks convincing if you first believe in naturalism, but then, it is the paradigm that makes it look compelling. Though, with God as creator, I find the evidence fits much more snugly. So I will just have to accept your ridicule and insults. Cheers!

  28. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    I don't know how that comment of Godlessons got approved. It was more ridicule than refutation, and just plain weird that he'd accuse you of ignorance.

  29. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Ah Stuart, it is no problem. I do encourage everyone to get right into the best evidence for evolution. So I agree with Godlessons that it is imperative to study it. I tell my kids to learn as much as they can, but not to believe something just because someone says so<i/>, or calls you stupid for not believing it. Examine what they are providing as evidence and determine whether it is fact or interpretation. They too have not been convinced yet (despite a bunch of pro-evolution atheistic teachers) … and my daughter was awarded a prize for excellence in science and my son was top in the state in a science competition. Nice that they are at least recognised as being able to think.So, going back a little way … do you think God is 'simple'? The characteristics of divine eternity and immutability provide some sort of aura of simplicity. Yet the ability to create the universe and maintain life, justice and love together are so confounding that they almost demand complexity. Or is it just a feature of something being well beyond our comprehension? So in some ways I am lead to think God must be unfathomably complex. Which causes me no issues as I see God as that eternal, self-existent, unchanging entity – the uncaused item that just is. The great I Am. Complexity is not an argument available to the unsourced entity.The comments may not be the best place to address this. If you want to make a blog on the complexity of God, I would be quite interested in it. Just an idea, if you were looking for something.

  30. Stuart001
    Stuart001 says:

    I haven't really researched Divine simplicity, but from what I currently understand there is a radical simplicity and not so radical simplicity which entail different things. I do think God would have to be at least one version of simple, for as an immaterial being he would have no physical or material parts to be divided. At the moment I'm researching divine eternity, which touches the issue of immutability and God's knowledge of tensed facts – the understanding of which will influence your view of whether God is or is not simple.

  31. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Thanks Stuart. I look forward to your articles as always.In reviewing the previous discussion, I have one misleading sentence I would like to clarify. I have three degrees. My tertiary qualifications are: Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and and a Masters of Information Technology. While the engineering degree did cover a lot of science, it is not strictly a science degree. My apologies. Nonetheless, my qualifications are irrelevant.We should always look to the arguments, evidence and reasoning for our belief.

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