Friday, March 6, 2015

Are There Moral Facts?

The difference between fact, opinion and belief can get muddy:
Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

"A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found online were substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions.

So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?

First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.

But second, and worse, students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. For example, I asked my son about this distinction after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. We then had this conversation:

Me: “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?”

Him: “It’s a fact.”

Me: “But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.”

Him: “Yeah, but it’s true.”

Me: “So it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

The blank stare on his face said it all."
And there is this:
Do College Students Care About Truth?

"So after reading these tests for truth, [see link for those] what do I see out there?

Do I see college students who know about these tests for truth? Of course not. And which test for truth do I see the most when talking to students about the truth claims of Christianity? I will skip #2, #3, and #4. These tests for truth almost never come up.

The most popular view today seems to be #1 (a pragmatic view of truth) and then coming in second place is a tie between #5 and #6 (“Truth is what feels good” and “Truth is what is existentially relevant”).


So what about atheists?

The one bright spot is that since popular atheists started writing their books and we saw a more aggresive approach towards atheism on the campus, I so see some interest in the truth question. In other words, atheism has caused some people to ask whether a belief is objectively true and corresponds to reality. Ravi Zacharias once said,
“There is just enough of the modern worldview left so that reason still has a point of entry. But we have to use this knowledge wisely. We cannot give an overdose of argumentation.”- “An Ancient Message, Through Modern Means To the Postmodern Mind” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, 2002, p. 27
Many of our speakers at Ohio State appeal to modern (not post-modern) objections such as science, evidence, miracles, etc. So this is why our speakers like Frank Turek and William Lane Craig have had good turnouts for their events."
But there is more to it than that. There ARE moral facts, those which can be deduced with disciplined Aristotelian, grounded, valid deductive processes, and validated with Reductio Ad Absurdum.

For example, we might deduce that murder is bad, as a moral fact. Reductio would ask, how would our world be if that deduction were not true? We can observe that if murder were a perfectly moral activity, then the world would be a far worse place in which to live. (In fact, in Atheist totalitarian countries where government murder of its own peoples is de rigeur, life is indeed quite animalistic, and mere survival is the objective.)

Deduction, done legitimately, produces truth. It can and does produce the moral truths which apply at the universal level to human existence. Denial of this is rooted in the objection to any moral authority (or logical, intelligent existence) outside of the human individual. It is the arrogance accompanying the emotional need for personal deliverance from external moral law and the knowledge of higher authority than humans.

There are moral facts. Those who object to them, say in the pursuit of abortion or infanticide, have placed their personal moral authority over both received and deduced moral principles. These are moral dictators.

This process is clearly the result of evolution as Dawkins explains:
"An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
-- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (1986), page 6"

Under the moral and intellectual VOID of Atheism, any personal opinion can be substituted for moral fact. The moral and ethical crisis of western culture is due to the secularization of education to the point of Atheist moral voidism being installed and instilled in generations of western youth, who emerge with no moral compass whatsoever, other than their personal opinions. There is no such thing as an Atheist Moral Code.

Atheist morals start with consequentialist tactics (pragmatism) which immediately backfills the Atheist Void which is attained by rejectionism. They might then progress (or not) to presuming that their own behavioral proclivities are moral (aka: "Moral Without God"), because they have stayed out of prison (so far). And the use of their own behaviors as moral principles makes the Atheist moral-by-definition, i.e. tautologically moral. Thus being so completely moral and without even the ability to betray that sort of moral definition, the Atheist becomes a moral elite by his own lights.

Dawkins and Singer are examples of such moral eliteness. They pronounce moral principles for the morally defective herd, while also admitting that there are no objective moral facts in the Atheist universe (a logical non-coherence which never concerns them in the slightest). This extends to the inability to say that Hitler's extermination of classes of humans was morally wrong:
""What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question."
Richard Dawkins
When morality is left to secular government schools, this is what you get. The effluent from the Atheist void includes Moral Dictators, who prey on the totally amoral.


Stan said...

It's interesting that our universe comes pre-loaded with rational structure, which to the secular mind has no purpose whatsoever. Further that we can apprehend the fact of universal rationality, and further still we can investigate it using our own purposeless comprehension.

And finally, we can reject any perception of purpose or external rational causation, based merely on our self-perception of universal and personal purposelessness.

But that rejection is not based on any universal first principles or truths - which point to the opposite conclusion. That rejectionism is based solely without any empirical fact or logic to support it. This rejectionism is purely emotionally based, supporting an emotional neediness within a needy and weakened psyche, one which finds support in the pursuit of personal elitism without the work of producing actual elite thoughts or scientific accomplishment. It is produced purely by rejectionism first and followed then by self-anointings. It is, by its very process, self-delusional.

Steven Satak said...

In other words, Spiritual Pride and subsequent rebellion? It appears to have had the same effect all throughout recorded human history.

Robert Coble said...

"What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question."
Richard Dawkins

In the context of Dawkins's virulent hatred of religion in general and the Judeo-Christian religion in particular, perhaps there is a sense in which Dawkins's statement conforms to his moral view:

If Hitler was exterminating the religious, then more power to him! It is MORAL to exterminate those inferior "less than Bright" people who cling to their religion, in order to create the Atheist Utopia.

Seems like the only objection that Herr Dawkins would raise is that Herr Hitler just didn't get the job completed.

God help us if we have to depend on people like Dawkins to protect us from the ISIS hordes.