Friday, July 18, 2008

Philosophy: God is not dead yet - but some haven't gotten the memo

Here's a really interesting article in Christianity Today by philosopher William Lane Craig on the revitalized debate over the existence of God.

The revitalization owes something, to be sure, to Antony Flew's conversion from atheism to theism, but there is more, as Craig explains,

You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.
Actually, some of us had sort of noticed that. Of particular interest to readers of this blog would be the "moral argument" for God's existence,

A number of ethicists, such as Robert Adams, William Alston, Mark Linville, Paul Copan, John Hare, Stephen Evans, and others have defended "divine command" theories of ethics, which support various moral arguments for God's existence. One such argument:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

By objective values and duties, one means values and duties that are valid and binding independent of human opinion. A good many atheists and theists alike concur with premise (1). For given a naturalistic worldview, human beings are just animals, and activity that we count as murder, torture, and rape is natural and morally neutral in the animal kingdom. Moreover, if there is no one to command or prohibit certain actions, how can we have moral obligations or prohibitions?

Premise (2) might seem more disputable, but it will probably come as a surprise to most laypeople to learn that (2) is widely accepted among philosophers. For any argument against objective morals will tend to be based on premises that are less evident than the reality of moral values themselves, as apprehended in our moral experience. Most philosophers therefore do recognize objective moral distinctions.
One of my favourite books, actually, has always been C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man, which demonstrates the existence of an objective moral order that human moral orders very imperfectly imitate.

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