A Critique of William Lane Craig's Version of Objective Morality

 

This morning I read a blog entry written by William Lane Craig and shuddered. [http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767 ]

 

According to Craig, his god is not required to follow "objective" moral laws.  At the same time this god is defined as perfectly good.  If it is perfectly good not to follow objective moral laws then there is no reason why humans should do so, either.  Shouldn't we follow the example given by someone who is perfectly good?

 

I also have a problem with Craig's logical statement:

 

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

 

The first premise (1) is problematic.

 

If some objective moral laws do exist in some societies then evolutionary socialization could account for their development.  This function is not confined to humans. Animals have been observed to behave in ways that indicate a primitive moral code that fosters cohesion of the group and the protection of young and helpless members of that group. 

 

If there are objective moral laws that have been manufactured by a god, then which of the various gods worshiped by humans is primarily responsible for them?  There does not seem to be a good reason why these rules need to have been issued by any one god or by the god or gods that are favored by the proposer of the argument. 

 

If there was a god, or several gods, that provided "objective" moral laws then what evidence is there that this god is consistent and follows its own rules?  There appears to be nothing but hypothetical conjecture and bald assertion provided to "prove" that any particular god must be consistently perfectly good or superlatively moral.  What tools do humans have to measure this purported perfection if we are not ourselves perfect or not capable of understanding the supposedly superior mind of a god?

 

The second premise (2) is also problematic. 

There does not seem to be much agreement among anyone about which laws are "objective" across time, place and culture.  So what do we define as “moral laws” and why choose these particular ones?  If it is a purely subjective choice then what right do we have to call them “objective”?

 

 

Since both of the premises are problematic the argument that follows is invalid.  It amounts to saying that objective moral laws exist if and only if my version of god exists and since they do exist therefore my version of god also exists.  The truth of the premise is based on the truth of the conclusion. 

 

If we reverse this triad we get this:

 

1. My version of god exists.

2. There are objective moral laws.

3. My version of god invented objective moral laws and therefore he exists.

 

The fallacy is a little more obvious this way around. You cannot prove the existence of something which is conjectured to have certain properties by merely pointing to the existence of these properties.  You must first prove that your entity exists and then you must prove that your entity has these properties, 

 

Let’s try it without using the emotionally laden God of the West as an example

1a. My version of Ra makes the sun move across the sky in his chariot.

1b. If Ra does not exist then the sun does not move across the sky.

2. The sun moves across the sky.

3. Therefore my version of Ra exists.

 

What is illogical is the assertion made in 1b.  It is not self-evident.    In Craig’s version the assumption of the existence of properties of his version of god are implied in the first assertion, but hidden by not being explicitly stated. 

 

The logical version would go like this:

 

1a. My version of Ra makes the sun move across the sky in his chariot.
1b. If the sun does not ever move across the sky then my version of Ra does not exist.
2.   The sun moves across the sky every day.
3.   Therefore my version of Ra might exist, if there is no other explanation to explain the sun's movements.

 

The Craig Christian version would read:

 

1a. My version of god invented objective moral values.
1b. If there are no objective moral values then my version of god does not exist.
2.   There are objective moral values.
3.   Therefore my version of god might exist, if there is no other explanation to explain the existence of these objective values.

 

All that can be proved with absolute certainty is that a god with the claimed properties does not exist.  Proving that it does exist is not possible by these logical means.

 

This kind of error really should be obvious to someone with a high level of training in philosophy.  If this is doctoral level philosophy, and I can see the flaw without doctoral level training in this area, then something is wrong.  Which university granted this man a PhD?   Is there something wrong with the university or did it exclude Craig’s points of incompetence in its examination of his work?  If not, why not?

 

Perhaps there is a pecuniary problem here.

Perhaps Craig's philosophical objectivity is disturbed by the necessity to support the claim of biblical in-errancy or lose his job.  His appointment to the academic position he currently holds was dependent on his signing a paper that states that he agrees with the theological position of the university.  This necessarily restricts academic freedom to areas which support the institution’s faith claims.  

 

If that is the case then this man is following an expedient rather than an objective approach to the application of morality to intellectual rigor and integrity.   That makes him subjectively moral in the service of his version of god.  This fact creates a looping conundrum over the meaning of moral truth that cannot be solved without copious use of sophistry and semantic somersaults.

 

If Craig is dishonest in the service of his god then does he view this dishonesty as equivalent to the "objective" law of honesty?  If he and his version of god condone relative dishonesty than can either of them be trusted to tell the objective truth?   Of course, the question of how one defines what is meant by "honesty" and "dishonesty" is a mine-field all on its own. If a person has convinced themselves that what they are saying is true when the statements they make are false, then can they be said to be lying?  If they are capable of telling untruths while not lying then how can we define objective truth without recourse to the scientific method?  If something cannot be clearly defined and measured then can it ever be treated as “truth”?   

 

I think the bottom line is that Craig just cannot be trusted to be logical and truthful in any real sense when he is promoting his version of god.  Nor can we be certain that he and his like-minded theists are utilizing “objective” moral values when these values are subjectively dependent on what Craig and his fellow theists consider are the wishes of their particular version of “god”.

What a waste of a good intellect.

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Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on July 24, 2011 at 5:58pm

@Frank.  That's a very good question.  There does not seem to be a consistent morality through the ages, between nations and across communities.

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