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Moral Argument-An Example

You are walking through a park in your neighborhood.   It is your normal route. On your right is an open field and to your left is a creek.  The water is  high and moving faster than normal due to recent rain.  As you travel along you notice a young child at the edge of the creek.  You look for a parent and none is seen.  You watch the child when suddenly he falls into the creek.  And you walk away,  leaving the child to drown, because going into the creek would be a risk to your own life.

Would you do that?  How would you feel about someone who did that?  I mean they might say, it wasn’t my child.  I was busy.  I was making record time on my mile.  Would those excuses sound hollow to you?

They do to me and in fact I think they do to all of us.  But, why?  An animal does not see another animal drowning (of which it has no instinctual connection to, such as mother to child) and feel obligated to help.  But we do.

The reason you do is because there is a God who has placed within us a sense of right and wrong.  It is proven anytime we make a moral judgment on something.  Nothing in our natural world can explain this.  Therefore we must look outside of nature to the supernatural.  Thus, we must believe in a God.

Next post will deal with the atheists counter-argument and what this teaches us about God’s nature.

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  1. Great thoughts Wes!
    I had never thought about it that way before. But it totally makes sense. Keep up the great work! I am so proud of you.

  2. Wesley

    September 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    If I had a reward for prettiest commenter, then you would win. In case the rest are wondering that is my wife.

  3. I have heard plenty of stories of animals rescuing both humans and other animals from both drowning and fires at great risk to their own health, and I’m guessing you probably have too. To your second point, that the reason that humans act in a way that can be considered moral and animals don’t (even though I disagree with that premise) I have to ask why you think that it’s a god, which can’t be connected in any observable way to this sense of ‘morality,’ and not our particularly large and powerful brains, which have been connected to moral decisions. A rat doesn’t have the brain power a human does, how could you expect it to see another rat drowning and process the decision to save it? Even for very intelligent creatures, like cats, their brains have nothing on ours. A cat’s brain makes up about .9% of its entire body mass. A human’s brain makes up 2% or more. That’s a big difference. Most mammalian mothers put themselves at risk everyday just by being around their young. They fight to protect them. They keep them fed. I’m guessing if a more intelligent animal, like an ape or a bear were able to swim they would be willing to risk their lives for their young, perhaps even young that wasn’t theirs. There have been fascinating tales of apes protecting wounded smaller animals like dogs and cats.

    I’m sorry, but your moral argument isn’t very convincing. It opens up way more questions than it even attempts to answer. For instance, if there were a god who made humans moral and not cats, why didn’t he make cats moral? Why would he make humans so bad at morality? There are vicious acts of immorality everyday. Humans have existed for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, and certainly were not moral right off the bat. There’s thousands of starving child, much worse off than your drowning child, across Darfur and Sudan while you and I sit here and debate across computers built with metals some of them were perhaps enslaved to mine. What kind of god would call you and I moral while we fund slave drivers? Why would a god who even wanted to be worshiped be so well hidden? If I wanted to be worshiped, I’d at least start by showing up. Believing in god is like dating someone exclusively the Internet. You get to set the tone and imagine how they are and you like to assume it’s all true, but deep in your heart you know that it could very well all be an illusion. That you could be chatting and sweet talking to some balding, pot-bellied, 46-year-old man named Ron when you think it’s a 24-year-old blonde lifeguard named Tina.

  4. Just to clear up, cobalt is a precious metal which is used in computer chips and has been found to have been sometimes mined by slave labors. I realize I wasn’t totally clear on what I meant by that, so instead of sounding like a rambling nut, I thought I’d explain.

  5. Wesley

    September 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for stopping in Good Reason News. I went to your site and it is clear that you and I have some major differences (namely the existence of God).

    Let’s for a moment throw out the whole example of animals (I would argue that animals do not help others out of a sense of “oughtness” but rather because of instincts). And get to the heart of this argument.

    Do you believe there is a standard of right and wrong?

    Your post implies that you do. For instance you judge Christians as being immoral, in fact you say you and I are immoral because of using computers that have mined parts from slaves (I know little about this). So you are admitting that there is a standard of morality. That certain things are right and that certain things are wrong. And if you are admitting that, then you are proving my biggest premise, which is mankind has a moral “oughtness” about them. We believe certain things are right and certain things are wrong. Where did this belief come from?

    My conviction is that God explains this phenomenon more than any of the other theories. I will deal with those theories in my next post.

    Once again thanks for stopping by. I hope you take the time to read often.

  6. Can you give your thoughts on Romans 2 where it talks about the things of the law that Gentiles did instinctually without ever receiving the law? What is your opinion on that and does it relate? I know I’m kind of jumping into a context that spans the entire book of Romans, but any thoughts would be appreciated. I’m intrigued by the thought of “their conscience bearing witness”

  7. Wesley

    September 24, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I think Romans 2 gives credence to the moral argument (i.e. since human beings believe in right and wrong, something had to place that within our conscientiousness, and the best answer is God). The reason I believe this is because Paul’s basic argument in Romans 2 is that the Gentiles had law within them. By law, Paul means a standard of right and wrong. They were given that by God and if they violated that standard (which all men do), then they were lost and in need of salvation from Christ (Romans 4 and 5).

  8. As to the moral “oughtness” of an individual… how is it explained that I “ought” to do one thing and you “ought” to do another? If we do not possess free moral agency (to choose right from wrong), then we can let the baby drown or not let the baby drown and it doesn’t really matter. However, since we have free moral obligation, we are responsible for our actions (yes, even the wrong ones performed).

    As to the body/brain analogy (hence “brain power”)… isn’t it true that the elephant has the largest ratio? Yet I have seen on those “wild kingdom” shows that an elephant “gave up” on the young calf captured by a crocodile. I wonder if you could say the animal used instinct when “choosing” to abandon it’s young? Did the mother elephant know anything about misconstrued idea of “survival of the fittest?”

    As an aside, I would hazard a guess that an elephant cares not that the bible was even written as a guide for moral objectiveness… especially anything written in the book of Romans (which an elephant can’t read anyway).

    Just a thought or two 😉

  9. Wesley

    September 25, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments Kevin.

    The point of the moral argument is not that we all have the same morals, but rather that we all have some sense of “right” and “wrong.” Once someone claims something is right or something is wrong, then they must answer where the idea of a moral standard comes from. That search will lead them to God.

  10. Wesley, thanks for stopping by my humble blog. I first want to respond to the reiteration of your claim that an animal would not help another animal, except out of an instinctual connection. I was wondering what you thought about instances of primates caring for smaller mammals or this recent NYT article:

    That’s not to say that those things aren’t a form of ‘instinct,’ I just think it’s a mistake to separate instinct from morality. Lets say that a wolf society has a few rules. They seem to be that the alpha wolf is the one who decides where to hunt and sleep for the night. He also has first choice of the ladies. Now, imagine one day while the alpha wolf is out, a challenger tries to take his lady and lead some younger wolfs down a different path. It’s been shown that the wolf society will not accept this and they attack the challenger, perhaps casting him out of their society. However, if the wolf had challenged the alpha wolf in a sort of face-to-face situation, wolf society allows this and, if he’s successful, will accept the challenger as their new leader.

    The point is that animal society has rules, perhaps they seem rudimentary to us with our very large and powerful brains, but to a wolf, there is a moral standard, just as there is one for us. Society deems it so. As the wolves determine what is best for their society without bowing down and praying to a wolf god, we humans determine what is best in our society ourselves.

    Imagine if those wolves evolved larger brains with thinking power similar to ours. They’d no doubt refine their culture to eventually eliminate what they may one day consider to be barbaric activities like fights to the death and replace them with more civilized general elections, or something close to that.

    My moral standard has nothing to do with any bibles or signs or interpreted dreams. It’s easy to see that people were against murder and theft long before anyone wrote a story about ten commandments. It’s easy to see that our society today has developed better morals than any religious text has presented us yet. Slavery, rape, child abuse, exploitation, racial injustice, gender inequality, hardly any of this is addressed in the Bible or the Qur’an or Dianetics, yet these issues are almost universally accepted now as extremely immoral. I propose that at the time of the writing of the Bible and of the Qur’an, these issues were not at the forefront of culture. Because, those people were mostly ignorant, because those sorts of things were accepted, because that’s what culture was like back then.

    But, having seen the negative effects and wanting to live up to pledges we’ve made about freedom and equality, humanity has started correcting these issues.

    I don’t understand where god enters into the equation. If a god existed and didn’t want us to own slaves or rape then why would he not of explicit about this? If I’m to believe the bible, there are rules about how severely I can beat my slave. So why would that change? Why would god want us to be a little moral 2,000 years ago and more moral now, in that most of society has banned the practice of slavery altogether? Are our morals better than gods or did god simply change his mind about owning a human being as property and using him to work for you? Wouldn’t god have been able to predict the outcome of such an obvious injustice would be bad?

    God wouldn’t have to learn to develop greater morals, but humanity would. We can see that that’s exactly what has happened. As humanity moves forward, our morals become more finely tuned in the interest of making this a safe and pleasant society for all. Across the globe humans have different ideas about how to accomplish this, and I think it’s likely in another hundred years, we’ll be closer to an agreement than we are now, just as now we are closer to an agreement than 100 years ago.

    Thanks for reading.

  11. Wesley

    September 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for signing in again. I appreciate you stopping by. I hope you take some time to look at some of the other arguments presented for God’s existence. If this one is not convincing to you then it is far from the only evidence available.

    I also think it might be helpful for you to read the earlier posts on the moral argument.

    I think you have misunderstood the argument (this could be my own inability to present it). My point is not that the Bible is our standard (I will argue this as well, but that is not the point of the moral argument), but rather that man has moral conscientiousness. In your writings you admit as much. You admit that there is some sort of standard of morality. I guess I would ask from where does it come?

    You seem to indicate it comes from society. But that is a cop-out? Are you really ready to defend that standard? Are you ready to say that if a society deems that genocide is okay, or rape, or murder that it is so. You see if society is the standard then there is no absolute morality. Meaning we can never say that something is actually wrong. That just goes against reason. Whether my society deems it right or not, I think it is always wrong to rape.

    As to your claims about the Bible, I am getting there on this website so I hope you will come back and read them later.

    Thank you for your honest discussion. Feel free to stop in anytime (in fact often), and leave comments and questions.

  12. And to the point of elephant intelligence, elephants are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet. They’ve shown complex emotions such as grief, empathy and humor. They’ve also been known to go out of their way to avoid walking over humans, dogs and other animals in its path. The story you tell is sad, but without all the details, I can’t help but think a devastated human mother might do the same. I mean, I’d rescue the drowning child, but I don’t know if I could take on a crocodile.

    A couple other points: While I do keep saying ‘big brains,’ physical size of the brain is not necessarily an indicator of intelligence, although it does seem to help. In addition, elephants, while possessing larger brains than humans physically, have smaller brains in proportion to its body size than humans do. In fact, all other creatures seem to have a smaller brain than humans in proportion to body size. Lucky us.

  13. Thanks for being so welcoming Wesley and I apologize for filling up your comments page.

    My main worry is that you’re making a bit of a leap in logic. Believe in god or not, you have to admit that your argument is basically a refined version of ‘god of the gaps.’ In other words, you’re picking out something for which you don’t think there is an explanation and attributing that explanation to god. This is what early man thought about the mysterious movements of the sun and moon, what the ancient Greeks thought about lightening bolts and what dullards like Pat Robertson think about extreme weather patterns.

    Of course, I’m not comparing you to those people. It’s just that the logical flaw remains consistent. You can’t just point out something for which you don’t have an explanation and then attribute it to something you have no evidence for. That’s inductive reasoning (and if you keep following it, it becomes circular reasoning because if morality is evidence for god and god is the reason for morality which is evidenced by morality which is caused by god which is proved by morality, the train never stops) and doesn’t provide actual hard evidence.

    Thanks for your time, I won’t flood your comment box anymore right now.

  14. Wesley

    September 27, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    The “God of the Gap” fallacy applies when someone is arguing that since I can’t explain x, then I will use God as the explanation. My argument is not that God explains the stuff that science cannot explain, but rather that science and the constants in our universe point us to God.

    I hope you see the nuance. God of the gap says what we can’t explain points God. I’m arguing what we can explain points to God.

    Thanks for interacting on here. No offense taken by your number of comments, I welcome them. I hope you check in often and feel free to comment and ask questions.

  15. Through the bible we learn what sin and immorality really is. Removing God an that standard of morality has never benefit a society. People always say that religion has caused more deaths than anything else but nothing has rapidly killed more people than removing religion from peoples brain. Have you ever heard of Stalin? Maybe hitler? In few years they murdered the tens of millions of people. Maybe saying just the fact that morals point to God is not good enough. But removing God from a society definitely destroys the very morals that you defend. Removing God from morals leads to death and immorality. That’s not a fear of giving up my beliefs. That’s just historical truth.

  16. Wesley

    September 27, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks for commenting Ben.

    In later posts I hope to explain why I believe the Bible is God’s revelation to man and thus why I believe it provides the standard.

Comments are closed.