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Friday, February 5, 2010

Response to Werleman Post on Morality

A quick response to a blog posted by Courtenay Werleman on his blog (http://rationalists.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/morality-is-subjective-done/):

First, his summation of the theistic argument (known as the transcendental argument) is a poor representation (if “representation” is even a proper description) of the actual argument. Though any of you who are actually familiar with Werleman and his argumentation style should not expect anything else since he more often than not degenerates to ad hominems or straw men where he “summarizes” his opponents arguments in such a manner that makes them less than they actually are in order to be able to easily dismiss them.

Second, he then goes on to make his own hypothetical argument (I call it “hypothetical” because his premises do not function as premises but as unsubstantiable claims). He says that “if God exists, then it would would be in God’s interest and within his capacity for all human beings to know his ethics perfectly.” While it is within His capabilities, it is not necessarily true that it is “in his best interest.” This is something that Werleman would find convenient, but it is not a necessity.

It is also interesting that God HAS actually made his ethics known to all humanity. The fact that we do not know “God’s ethics perfectly” is precisely what, in Christianity, is called sin. Werleman wants to affirm heads while denying tails. The problem is that one comes with the other. God HAS revealed His will to all humanity AND we don’t know perfectly his will because of our sin. Werleman wants to create a false dichotomy that it is either one or the other when in fact it seems likely to be both.

Thirdly, Werleman shows that he claims to be a rationalist but in fact does not even understand basic logical forms. How so? When his 1st premise plays no function in the syllogism and is thus, by Occam’s Razor, unnecessary. Also his syllogism is set up in the following modus tollens:

1. If p then q.
2. Not-q
3. Therefore Not-p.

The problem is that premise 2 (not-q) is actually not a direct negation of q. Notice q is “then it would be in God’s interest…” while in premise 2, God’s interest is not mentioned. In order for the syllogism to be valid, premise 2 would have to be altered to read “It is not in God’s interest…”. This, while it would make the syllogism valid, however would make it blatantly unsound. It would argue that if God exists, it would be in his interest to do q. But in order to negate q, one must presuppose God’s interest in order to deny God’s existence. It would be unsound because one would necessarily presuppose God’s existence in order to say what is/is not in his interest, within an argument to deny his existence.


Fourth, Werleman argues that God revealing something to some and not to others is unfair and in contradiction to God’s benevolence. This again does not seem necessary. Justice does not always require uniform application to all people. Imagine the ramifications of this in our every day life if we really believed this to be the case. This is only a stipulation that skeptics pull out when they think it will help their argument. (Yet here we should again point out that God HAS in fact revealed his “ethics” to all both in the imago dei and in his revelation. Werleman wants us to ignore the 500lb gorilla in the room.)

Werleman then poses several dilemmas. By doing so he shows that he has actually not thought deeply about these issues and does not know the difference between objective moral values and situational ethics, where we have the dilemma of reconciling several objective moral values when they collide. See, what Werleman seems to miss is that these dilemmas are only dilemmas within a system of objective morals. Lets look at the Trolly example. Why is it a dilemma? Because we recognize that two objective morals are conflicting. But one could ask Werleman, who believes that morality is relative, WHY this is a dilemma if either response would be equally moral since both would be the absolute correct decision relative to the person? Werleman PRESUPPOSES objective morality even when he attempts to dismantle it.

Finally, Werleman shows, yet again, that he not only cannot dismantle the theistic argument, but that he really does not even understand it. Is the argument that the basis for morality is the Bible? NO! The argument is that the basis for morality is the ontological nature of God Himself. Werleman reveals nothing about the theistic argument or the nature of God, but rather that he is a fundamentalist for anti-theism who is completely unable, or maybe even simply uninterested, in dealing with the logical arguments, evidence, and reality that is placed before him.

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