The Great Debate On Morality, Post Mortem

  1. See the recording of the debate here. Comments were preserved from the chat!
    1. I was unable to see the chat during the debate. Dan and I ended up asking each other questions instead of taking audience questions.
    2. Here is a written outline of my planned opening remarks. I think the written outline is clearer than what I actually said.
  2. Dan seemed to agree with my definitions of Christianity, morality, and secularism.
  3. There was some confusion on the thesis. Dan granted the proposition that I was arguing for, “Christian morality is rationally preferred to secular morality,” either could be true or actually is true.
    1. I argued that if God exists then his morality is preferred, but that even if God doesn’t exist the Christian ethic might cause flourishing and therefore be preferred even on the secular view.
  4. Dan’s view of my thesis, which I proceeded to also attempt to defend, was as follows: “Morality comes from God.”
    1. Dan didn’t refute any of my arguments for God’s existence.
    2. argued that I don’t need to know how morality comes from God to know that it comes from God, but that God may have provided morality into our mind through evolutionary biology.
    3. Dan admitted that Moses might have directly received morals from God on Mount Sinai.
  5. Dan argued that the God of the Bible might be an evil God because of the sacrifice of Christ, the binding of Isaac, Noah’s flood, the slaughtering of the worshipers of the golden calf, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and more.
    1. I argued that if God is evil then he must exist, and that some objective standard of morality must therefore exist, but also that God can’t be evil by definition because I define good as God’s nature. Dan called this cheating, but I effectively criticized the moral standard he put forward as an alternative.
    2. I pointed out that scripture says Noah’s flood came because people, except for Noah, were evil, and that killing evil people could be a good. I asked why Isaac’s death would be bad if Isaac were to grow up to be a serial killer. Dan responded by saying the future is uncertain, but I noted that the future was not uncertain to God, God can reveal with certainty, and only a revelation from God would provide a good reason for Abraham to do such a thing.
    3. I defended the point that sacrifice can be a good, and even that the use of force can sometimes be a good. Dan disagreed with my definition of sacrifice.
  6. Dan turns out to be a moral objectivist and moral realist. He seemed to agree with the Harrisian idea of the moral landscape, even while acknowledging criticisms of it. This view indicates that human flourishing is identical with moral good. I criticized this view four ways:
    1. Referring to the William Lane Craig knock-down argument against Sam Harris on the basis of psychopathy.
      1. I didn’t do this argument justice, but I did mention it. I think a similar argument can be made using rape:
        1. Define flourishing as optimal human growth rate
        2. Rape does or might increase the birth rate and thus the human growth rate
        3. Rape does or might be morally good on the Harrisonian view, but it’s clearly evil
        4. Therefore, the Harrisonian view cannot establish a preferred moral framework
    2. Even on the flourishing view, people plausibly prefer Christianity because it currently and historically causes flourishing to a greater degree than secularism at the individual and social levels. Dan seemed to accept this.
    3. Reductio ad absurdum: The Breeding Machine. If maximizing population growth is morally optimal, should we not prefer quantity of life to quality of life? It seems like a non-preferred world where the world is full of people with quality of life marginally above 0.
    4. Reductio ad absurdum: Death by Drugs. If maximizing happiness is morally optimal, we should all do drugs until we die. Clearly this is absurd.
  7. Dan criticized the New Atheists and indicated that he believes free will exists because he detects it in a properly basic / phenomenally conservative way. Dan agreed that the is-ought problem is a problem for the Harrisian view of flourishing-as-good. Dan also agreed that the pure materialist seems to lack access to important sources of truth like mathematical truth, and that the scientific method can’t justify itself. I think Dan may have been referring to William Lane Craig in stating this.
  8. I clarified that whether I should do something because it is good or because God desires it is a false dichotomy in my view. I think God wills human flourishing, and also makes human flourishing possible and coherent by providing a purpose to human life. In my view human flourishing is maximal attainment of human purpose, but this depends on the existence of human purpose which depends on an intelligent creator. A mindless, naturalist origin would seem to imply the lack of any purpose.

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