Friday, July 08, 2011

WL Craig vs Sam Harris

WL Craig/Harris/Notre Dame

WL Craig: ""First, natural science tells us only what is, not what ought to be, the case. As the philosopher Jerry Fodor has written, “Science is about facts, not norms; it might tell us how we are, but it wouldn’t tell us what is wrong with how we are.”[12] In particular it cannot tell us that we have a moral obligation to take actions which are conducive to human flourishing.

So, if there is no God, what foundation remains for objective moral duties? On the naturalistic view, human beings are just animals, and animals have no moral obligation to one another. When a lion kills a zebra, it kills the zebra, but it doesn’t murder the zebra. When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female, it forcibly copulates with her but it doesn’t rape her–for none of these actions is forbidden or obligatory. There is no moral dimension to these actions.

So if God does not exist, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes these obligations upon us? Where do they come from? It’s very hard to see why they would be anything more than a subjective impression ingrained into us by societal and parental conditioning.

On the atheistic view, certain actions such as rape and incest may not be biologically and socially advantageous, and so in the course of human development have become taboo, that is, socially unacceptable behavior. But, that does absolutely nothing to prove that such acts are really wrong. Such behavior goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. On the atheistic view the rapist who chooses to flout the “herd morality” is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably, the moral equivalent, if you will, of Lady Gaga. If there is no moral lawgiver, then there is no objective moral law, and if there is no objective moral law, then we have no objective moral duties.

Thus, Dr. Harris’s view lacks any source for objective moral duty.

Second problem: “ought” implies “can.” A person is not morally responsible for an action which he is unable to avoid. For example, if somebody shoves you into another person, you’re not responsible for bumping into him. You had no choice. But Sam Harris believes that all of our actions are causally determined and that there is no free will.[13] Dr. Harris rejects not only libertarian accounts of free will but also compatibilistic accounts of freedom. But, if there is no free will, then no one is morally responsible for anything! In the end, Dr. Harris admits this, though it’s tucked away in the endnotes of his volume. Moral responsibility, he says, and I quote, “is a social construct,” not an objective reality: I quote: “in neuroscientific terms no person is more or less responsible than any other” for the actions they perform.[14] His thoroughgoing determinism spells the end of any hope or possibility of objective moral duties because on his worldview we have no control over what we do."

"Thus, on Dr. Harris’ view there is no source of objective moral duties because there is no moral law-giver, and no possibility of objective moral duty, because there is no free will. Therefore, on his view, despite his protestations to the contrary, right and wrong do not really exist.

Thus, Dr. Harris’s naturalistic view fails to provide a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties. Hence, if God does not exist, we do not have a sound foundation for objective morality, which is my second contention.

In conclusion then, we’ve seen that if God exists, we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and objective moral duties, but that if God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties. Dr. Harris’ atheism thus sits very ill with his ethical theory.

What I’m offering Dr. Harris tonight is not a new set of moral values–I think by and large we share the same applied ethics–rather what I’m offering is a sound foundation for the objective moral values and duties that we both hold dear."""

The Sam-bot's response follows.  We don't care too much for WL Craig actually--he seems like another salesman for the Almighty-- but he does present the theist's POV effectively.  Many a-theists, including Sam-bot simply do not know what their reductionist views entail in regard to  what many of us call "Justice."   The sort of Trekkie-nerd skeptics who simply affirm Harris's determinist views do not really understand what's at stake, any more than some baptist blowhard such as Rev. Hagee understands the message of the New Testament.

Harris's recent rants on Huff-Po count as some of the worst pop-philosophy since like...Ayn Rand, but that doesn't stop the philistines and phonies and Maher fans from proclaiming him a great thinker, when really he's a sort of glib male nurse. Whether one believes or not, the G*d issue is not a merely true or false question. Instead of WL Craig, imagine and instantiate Dostoyevsky (that is, those who have bothered to read him) taking on Harris and Hitchens and the rest.


Moriarty said...

If there is no moral lawgiver, then there is no objective moral law, and if there is no objective moral law, then we have no objective moral duties.

Thus, Dr. Harris’s view lacks any source for objective moral duty.

WL Craig and his biblethumping ilk cannot prove that an "objective moral law" holds (aka "God"). They may suggest it, and claim that humans are better off believing that God exists, but that is not proof. Their argument becomes something like "an objective moral law holds, because humans are too wretched and immoral without it"--not so different than the Santa Claus meme when you think about it (ie, "you better be good, for goodness sakes").

In this case, Dr. Harris, whether one agrees with his determinist views or not, wins the match merely because there are no arguments which could prove the existence of God or an "objective moral law." One can understand your general point that skepticism, disbelief and ...a-theism need not imply agreeing to the likes of BF Skinner, though Harris at times does suggest, correctly IMO, that the real religious issues are psychological rather than metaphysical.

J said...

Have you read Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Mor.?
Raskolnikov believes with all his heart--and [spoiler] gets the girl (after a bit of down time in Siberia), and that belief has nothing to do with some eggheady argument or "neuroscience".

Now Im not an anti-rationalist and don't deny the ..skeptic has arguments, pretty good ones (at least in the hands of a master--Voltaire, or the wretched Hume for that matter). Darwin should be considered, at least for a few nano-seconds. But that's not the end of the matter, anymore than it was for Dostoyevsky. In brief.

Mo' on WL Craig vs Nerd-stein Harris forthcoming.

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