Subjective morality.

More and more, people are accepting a subjective view of morality. This isn’t necessarily a trend that is confined to atheism or to new age ideas, but has also found it’s way into the world view of many Christians, reflected in statements like, “that’s obviously right for you, but it isn’t right for me,” that I often get from people when confronted with the fact that I’m a Sabbatarian.

For this discussion, I’ll ignore the fundamentalist Christian framework, and stick with an atheist/agnostic naturalistic framework. Please note that this isn’t an ad hominum attack on a naturalistic framework, I am fully aware that moral interpretations of things don’t necessarily speak for the fact value of those things.

Natural selection is defined by science as survival of the fittest. Who are the fittest? Since that is a very vague classification. I have worked with animals for most of my life, the ones who survive the best, are those who get the best food. The ones who are aggressive enough to enforce their right to eat the best food get the best food. Cattle and horses are great examples. Not all grasses are equal, and with there being limited really good grass, the most aggressive in the heard generally get to eat the good patches of grass by chasing any other animals away should they come near, thus they will have the best chance of survival, and be classified the fittest, such is the tautology.

So, if I want something, and someone else has it, I have every right, under natural law, to take it, and they have every right to defend what they have, even unto death. So, if morality is merely subjective, the most reasonable way to approach life is to show no regard for anybody else, for that will immediately increase your chance of survival. By this reasoning, that one percent we hear so much about actually have a greater right to survive than the starving kids in Somalia, because they are willing to take as much of the world’s resources as they can to ensure their, and their offspring’s, survival. While the kids in Somalia have parents who aren’t capable of feeding them, and are likely, should they defy the odds and survive, to continue the cycle of poverty. It could even be argued that it is in the best interests of the human race to allow for these people to die in order that they don’t use up resources so imperative to the survival of the members of the human race who are best at maintaining their dominance.

That’s basic natural law, but there’s a further problem. In a world where morality is subjective, there is no immorality. Adolf Hitler; the crusaders and Osama bin Laden are all great examples of people who had deluded themselves into believing their actions were fully justified, and morally sound. In a world where morality is subjective, these people are, by their own view of morality, perfectly vindicated. In fact, they are people with high moral standing, since they were willing to stick by their moral lifestyle regardless of pressure from the rest of the world.

In a society where morals are subjective, it can be seen, immorality essentially does not exist, for then it wouldn’t be subjective. If immorality doesn’t exist, how can it’s opposite exist? It’s really tough at this level of abstraction, but then I’m not sure people who believe morality is subjective, have really thought it through. It just seems to me that any paradigm that accepts a subjective morality essentially omits immorality, and so is an amoral paradigm, in which there are no real morals at all.

Either murder; rape and theft is wrong, or it isn’t, to make it subjective seems to embrace the ideals of people like Hitler as ok, because, after all, he was doing what he thought was right. In fact, Hitler’s racism was justified in Mein Kampf by his view of natural selection. We could justify the crusades; the inquisition or pretty much any violence perpetrated by people misguided enough to believe committing atrocities is morally sound. In fact, they would be morally right.


52 thoughts on “Subjective morality.”

  1. “Either murder; rape and theft is wrong, or it isn’t, to make it subjective seems to embrace the ideals of people like Hitler as ok, because, after all, he was doing what he thought was right. ”

    Murder… or self defence that will have to be decided. Granted you should know the difference or do you always? That’s a tough call.

    Rape… well, define that? Because in some parts of the world it is justifiable with a means to an end.

    And while theft is always an issue… You can condone someone making off with a loaf of bread when they obviously need it.

    You go a long way to pointing out how morals can be and often are corrupt, yet you don’t actually define them. Morality is subjective until defined absolutely. Who gets to make that call?

    1. Self defence, my favourite, I love this reasoning, if my life is in danger, the ONLY option I have is to kill the person endangering it, is that really the attitude we should have? When my brother had a gun to his head, he defended himself, without killing the other person. As for a definition of self defence, see Crime pays in many ways., which shows that we could extend self defence to just about anything we like. If you want an explanation of why I don’t think the Bible actually supports the self defence argument, but really, where do you draw the line if morality is subjective?

      Rape, you can keep telling yourself that rape can be justified as a means to an end, but I’d be interested to hear if you willing to tell a rape victim that her rapist wasn’t wrong, he was right within his own subjective view of morality. Mean time, I will not apologise for believing that nobody has a right to rape anybody, and that this isn’t subjective.

      Theft, hmmm, so stealing a loaf of bread because without it you will starve is ok. What about stealing a Bentley, and selling it so that your children can get an education that would equal that of the person you stole the Bentley from. Frankly I think that it is immoral to have that kind of display of material wealth (a Bentley) in a world where people starve, but I also think it is immoral to steal, and I don’t believe two wrongs make a right. This again comes down to, at what point do you draw the line in a world of subjective morality?

      Obviously, as a Christian, I believe God has the right to draw the line, but in a purely naturalistic world, nobody would have the right, but no morality at all would make the most sense, as I pointed out.

      1. Which god… where is the line.

        Same god that says there is a time to kill? The same one that condemed so many others?

        I never tried to justify anything, so your question “I’d be interested to hear if you willing to tell a rape victim that her rapist wasn’t wrong” can only be answered I won’t be.

        You’d rather die starving that steal some bread. That’s really rich… 😉

        What exactly was your point?

        My statement stands, “Morality is subjective until defined absolutely. Who gets to make that call?” Because if a Christian god gets to make that call… well… see the point on killing.

      2. “Because in some parts of the world it is justifiable with a means to an end.”
        You did say rape is justifiable, if you want to stick with that, then start telling rape victims. Me, I don’t think it’s ever justifiable.

        Yes, there was a time to kill in the Bible, if people violated moral law, they were stoned to death, or swallowed into a crevice at least on one occasion. Let me point out that Jesus then said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” essentially ending all times to kill, so your argument is invalid because you fail to acknowledge the bigger picture, you just use little bits here and there, stripped from the overall context, probably because if you look at the overall context it wouldn’t prove your point.

        Perhaps you shouldn’t be arguing if you’ve missed the point, if morality is subjective, it essentially ceases to exist, and natural law takes over as the most reasonable approach. The sum would be, if someone wanted to rob; rape and murder you, there would be nothing wrong with that. Nice worldview you’re proposing.

      3. So… you feel it is justifiable that if a “man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death”?

        Think carefully now… is that moral? Carefully… now!

      4. The Bible says I shouldn’t Judge, that would be immoral, but God might have an issue with that. I find it interesting that you trying to box me into a corner over homosexuality when you’ve said rape is justifiable.

      5. By the way, some Christian denominations support the gay rights movement and will perform gay marriages. One of the texts used is, Matt 19:12. Who is right, I don’t know, I do support freedom of choice, and the idea that people shouldn’t ostracised homosexuals. There is enough in the Bible that directly concerns my moral well being that I’m really not going to get involved in a debate about something that may be questionable, when I’m not directly affected by it, I’m not gay. I don’t eat meat, so frankly, I don’t really see the pork issue as being relevant to me, this is my approach. I do believe God loves everybody, and will bring them the guidance they need should they sincerely seek it.

  2. Actually came across this gem:

    “…but I must say it’s a very benevolent gesture to condemn people because of something there ancestors did. Let’s kill everybody whose ancestors were colonists, or anybody whose ancestors fought in the crusades. Hey, let’s do in anybody whose ancestors ever fought in a war.”

    Or condemn anyone to hell because one person in the past ate the forbiden fruit?

    Thats not freedom that’s tyranny! Of course… you’d justify it in gods name? Then claim a whole moral compass or morality isn’t subjective? Hitler condems everybody and you seem to argue against him.

    Subjective? Or just picky? Or heck use any words you like. Ultimately I’m calling that inconsistent and I’m asking you to define morality and define it all as evil.

    1. Hello, the Bible is the guide to salvation, you have the same option as those who ate the fruit, obey God, and salvation is yours, don’t and well, hell isn’t a place, it’s an event. So your argument is invalid, because people are condemned by their own actions, not by Adam and Eve’s actions. You can construct false ideas about the Bible, or you can actually read it, but don’t pretend you know what you are talking about if you come with such ridiculous arguments.

      1. But everyone has already been damned due to original sin? Which I certainly didn’t do. Now I need to be saved? Saved from what? I’ve done nothing…!

        Seriously… You really are just picking and choosing how to interperate the info. Was not ALL mankind cast from heaven due to an ancestors actions?

        Seriously you prove to be very inconsistent as to how you apply your literal story.

      2. Uhm, when were people in Heaven? when were you cast otu of Heaven? Please go read a Bible if you want to criticise it.

      3. Cast from Eden? Really? You were there!?

        As far as I know damnation comes after judgment, which hasn’t happened yet, so no, you aren’t damned. You really are great at just making stuff up, I ask again, please go read the whole Bible, try to understand it as a complete, and the we can talk, until then, you are really just grasping at, non-existent, straws.

      4. Robert, your whole line of reasoning here is based on attacking Christianity, we could quite easily have this debate without Christianity being part of it. Am I to take this a you conceding that you cannot rationally support a subjective morality.

        Sure, you gonna say I said God decided on what morality is, but I also believe God decided how gravity would work, so are you going to reject that a subjective?

        If you can’t support you beliefs, change them, or do some thinking, but don’t change the subject to pretend that you are actually smart enough to embrace it.

      5. Peter… no, I wasn’t however I can’t get there due to “original sin” right? All mankind forever cast out of eden because of Adam and Eve? Or does that part not translate, literally? Honestly you can’t pick and choose what you want. You’re far too inconsistent.

        No not just attacking Christianity… just your line of VERY flawed thinking that it’s either your way or nothing. Again, define a list of ABSOLUTE morals?

        Until that is done, we have to agree that it’s all very much subjective… oh wait we can’t because we can’t have that… but we also don’t have an absolute rule book… so… um…

        Seriously you need to calm down and actually refer the points I’m making not running off basically crying because you don’t have a valid counter-argument.

      6. Let’s take Eden literally, two people were there, two were cast out. Let’s look at all the times you’ve openly admitted you don’t claim to be moral, so you admit you don’t deserve to be there, by your own reasoning.

        If I can or can’t give a list of objective morals is irrelevant, that would not immediately presuppose subjective morality, again, please offer support for your standpoint. By using the word absolute, you are changing the argument to suit you, again, because you can’t come up with a support for subjective morality.

        And that is a valid counter argument, since you aren’t arguing the point, which is subjective morality, not Christianity.

        Of course you defence is that rape is justifiable, you’ll argue you never said that, but how could it be justifiable in some cultures, yet not be justifiable, that’s just a poor argument. So I say, that rape has observable negative effects on society, regardless of what the disposition of the rapist is, therefore it isn’t subjective, just like the apple will fall whether it believes in gravity or not.

      7. My disdain for athiests grows every time you use arguments against Christianity to make out like that would vindicate an atheist viewpoint. You can’t come up with a good argument for evolution, so you equivocate and affirm the consequent. You can’t answer valid criticisms on Big Bang, so you attack me by saying I warp the facts, really, the laws of motion; the properties of gases, these aren’t the facts as we know them. You use the argument by absence of evidence, the Hittites; Belshazzar & David were all ruled out and used as criticisms of the Bible on the grounds of absence of evidence. Evidence has subsequently been found, so the argument is invalid because it’s based on the assumption that you know enough to make that assumption, refer to all your I don’t knows regarding my criticisms of evolution and Big Bang. You claim that your disbelief in any deity is the same as my disbelief in non-Christian deities, which, as I pointed out, I can conceive that these figures may have existed, and may even have been supernatural beings, I’m not willing to rule each one out as completely non-existent without examining each one on it’s own merits. You choose to throw things out as possibilities with little or no knowledge of what the real story is. Is there a rational logical line of reasoning in there.

        Above all you have done is attacked Christianity, but that wasn’t what the post was about, it was about subjective morality. Whether Eden existed or not wouldn’t change the subject of subjective morality. Whether God invented morality or not wouldn’t change whether it was subjective or not. The way we got onto this is by you asking who would choose an objective morality, which is completely moronic, since if someone (a person) chose it, it wouldn’t be subjective, duh. So, please stick to the subject, or is the great rational atheist way of thinking really just as useless, riddled with poor logic, bad science & a crappy understanding of maths, as you’ve proved time and time again. Simple question, can you come up with any good arguments to support subjective morality?

        And don’t try the ad hominum accusing me of crying argument, since that would only prove that you still haven’t got a logical reason to support subjective morality, so you chickening out. And on homosexuality, I don’t know if it’s immoral or not, so can you drop it, what the Bible says, which we could sit and argue about the reasons all day, isn’t going to alter that you can’t support a subjective morality, so it’s just another atheist viewpoint (hat is logically unsupportable.

      8. You’re grasping at straws.

        I “picked on” Christianity because I was able to point to a single example how YOU were subjective in condoning homosexuality even when it goes against what should be the “Christian code”.

        Again, you contradict yourself on the gounds that you refuse to actually address the point made but it is YOU who is now picking on the point of Christianity.

        Pick a scenario that’s not related. You allow children to starve in somalia… that’s immoral…

        The list can go on. Again it’s all very subjective.

        If you can’t give a list of rules, then really… there are none! Please… deal with it 😉

        K tnx 🙂

      9. I wasn’t being subjective on homosexuality, I just can’t answer whether it is indeed immoral or not. By this reasoning, you are subjective on evolution, because there is stuff you don’t know. There you go, how the people came to be is completely subjective, therefore Biblical creation and evolution are both correct. Seriously, the fact that people have different views, doesn’t make something subjective, someone is probably wrong, you’re just saying that nothing is wrong.

        Again me not being able to give a complete list, is a result of me not having a complete knowledge, it is not evidence that in reality morality is subjective. I’ll provide a post on objective morality.

        You are grasping at straws. Your argument is based on:

        me not being able to provide a list, which just means I don’t know, it doesn’t offer any evidence of subjectivity,
        people having different views, which just means someone could be wrong. Still not evidence that it is subjective.

        You are a big fan of the argument from absence of evidence, so by your reasoning, subjective morality is false because there is no evidence it is true.

        Try again. 😛

  3. Robert… Your argument seems as though it has no base to work from… Seems there is less defence of your “faith” and more trying to prove everyone else wrong…

  4. Scott not at all… My arguement vs Chrstianity is on the grounds that there is no proof, no base to work from in a maner of speaking.

    My point on homosexuality remains valid as it is a prime example of how people pick and choose their morals proving my point on morals being subjective.

    Of course if you’re willing to say your way is the only way…

    Who am I to argue, right?

    1. Actually, any argument against Christainity is invalid here, it is ignoring the post, which was an argument against subjective morality, Sam Harris is an atheist who argues for objective morality, please stick to defending subjective morality, or arguing against objective morality. An argument against one religion doesn’t prove anything on this subject.

      1. “My point on homosexuality remains valid as it is a prime example of how people pick and choose their morals proving my point on morals being subjective.”

        um… forget Christianty here.

        Moral rule says it’s wrong, you condone it… um… subjective much?

        You’re grasping at straws. Seriously.

      2. You excluding the possibility that I could be wrong. I never condoned homosexuality, I said I don’t know, and it isn’t my place to judge, another straw man?

        If morality is subjective, you could never claim that it is wrong to stone people for homosexuality, but if morality is not subjective, then you would be able to explore the claim.

        What you are doing is saying that morality can’t be objectively explored, thus people can always just make it up as they go along. You also claiming that this can’t be challenged, since it’s subjective.

        In short, you are defending your position that rape is justifiable, and ruling out that the justification could be wrong. Only in an objective framework that could it be wrong.

        Christianity could actually be subjected to moral scrutiny, if morality were objective, but according to you, stoning homosexuals; raping; mass murder and so on are all justifiable.

    2. Let’s take god out of this and say christianity is just a system of beliefs with followers who read a pointless book for moral guidance…
      What book do you read? where do you aim your moral compass?

  5. Nature does not care about morality so yes according to nature hitler is neither right nor wrong he just is . according to nature murder , theft or rape is neither right or wrong it just it just exists because of how we evolved .

    1. Yes Jacques, I made that point, but nature really doesn’t care where it came from either, but people try to study origins. The point I’m trying to make is that doesn’t mean that morality is necessarily subjective. In a follow up post, is that we can potentially measure the effects of moral issues, which would mean we could make moral decisions based on objective observations, essentially a objective morality. I am aware there are problems that need addressing, but that’s why I feel it should be given an entire post, not just a footnote. I can email you when that post come out, if you like. Many issues have come up in discussions on Facebook, so I have a lot to address.

  6. Yes you can email me. I have brushed over the forum, and all I know is that morality is completely subjective. A trees opinion on witnessing a murder is different to a lion witnessing the same murder and the same with the human being. The tree will not have an opinion as it has no brain. The lion will not have an opinion as it has not evolved to a point where it be able to form an opinion and therefore a response to whether the murder was moral or not. A human brain will have an opinion on whether the murder was morally right or wrong. Their subjective opinions are all based on their environmental and genetic makeups. There is no way in a millions years morality is objective as it is us humans that decide if murdering is right or wrong.

    You say:

    ” if morality is merely subjective, the most reasonable way to approach life is to show no regard for anybody else, for that will immediately increase your chance of survival ” — this is not neccesarily true. It is true and it is not true depending on the situation within a species. I can go and kill everyone in my clan and eat the deer we hunted together all to myself but then after I am full I will not have a group to help me kill the next deer. I will also not have sexual partners to mate with and continue my species. These social developments play an important part in some animals and others it does not. So in the long run having no regard for anyone will be a disadvantage to me and I will die. But in the same breathe the cow must scare off the other cows to get the best grass to be the stronger animal. It can get very complex and in this post you are trying to win the argument by stabbing straw men by only stating one fact (survival of the fitest) and disregarding the other (socioculture evolution). An animal has every right to just take, but, it may cost them!

    You state:
    “By this reasoning, that one percent we hear so much about actually have a greater right to survive than the starving kids in Somalia” — here you are with god words again, right , wrong , you go to hell if you gay, sacrific your eldest to show me your love, there is no greater right or wrong in nature. These people that are taking from the world more then they should, will likely survive more then the starving kids in somalia. Its not their right or wrong, its just is. These people along with their environmental advantage, genetic makeup and social dynamics are more successful then the starving somalian kids. The kids if they cannot crack the cruel ways of nature, will die and their offspring will not be passed as they are not the fittest, they unable to survive in their environment and so on. No right, no wrong, not morality, no god, nothing just is.

    “It could even be argued that it is in the best interests of the human race to allow for these people to die in order that they don’t use up resources so imperative to the survival of the members of the human race who are best at maintaining their dominance.” — it may be in the best interest of the human race if they require the resources the somalians are taking, then yes they must take those resources. But nature doesnt care what happens to the rich people or the poor people. nature does not care if everyone on the planet died. An individual animal cares if it dies or not. Some non human animals will care about the group indirectly for its survival (sociaculture evolution) and a human group will care about their group as a whole for survival. Everyone and everything has the right to do whatever it wants. Nature does not care. It has no direction.

    “In a world where morality is subjective, these people are, by their own view of morality, perfectly vindicated. In fact, they are people with high moral standing, since they were willing to stick by their moral lifestyle regardless of pressure from the rest of the world.” — yes they fine with them. Nature does not care. The universe does not care? Christians care! Americans care. tree does not care. Lion does not care. Humans care. They care because that is how they evolved. At one point in time there where aparantly 600 or so humans left on earth. All hanging on a thread from the ice age around the regions of hermanus. They found it easier to eat muscles from the sea. These muscles was rich in omega oils which may possibly be brilliant for brain development. Once they ate their muscles they sat in the caves and thought about things. They were full and had nothing to worry about. Their food was plentiful. They spoke, they painted, they laughed, they made up god, they became cleverer their group grew, they dominated they went up as far as europe (thats where they invented your god in the bible as we know it), they developed societies , civilisations, internet and finally this post. What a journey to take and then to totally spit in his face and say no i here because of god. but like i said nature doesnt care, i care because i am human and defending our heritage you care because you need to defend your god that gambles with the devil to see if his human follwer will still love him after he kills off his family, destroys his farm and riddles everything with disease and still his follower loves him. Nature does not care. You need it to care so you can have objective morality so you can find things to prove your god. I can go on a killing rampage because i think its morally right and in my mind I am right, in your mind I am wrong. In the trees mind I am nothing because it has no mind. Nature does not care if I am right or wrong. Subjective.
    (Please try not take offence to my writings. I believe relgion plays a wonderful role in making the mind believe everything is going to be ok which the body follows and is good for healing and also psycological helps people through their lives. I am simply having an evolutionary argument here, and I do not intend on offending you or any christian that reads this. I am simply defending my belief as you are defending yours. )

    1. “all I know is that morality is completely subjective.”
      No, you believe it is, there is a difference. Your examples are somewhat invalid. All the things mentioned are unaware of gravity, which isn’t someone’s subjective opinion, so their lack of awareness, is simply proof of lack of awareness, the rest is interpretation.

      You refer to evolution, but we all know that evolution would fall apart without the similarity argument, which is not logical, and so proves nothing. But I can make my argument work within an evolutionary framework, you can’t make yours work in a fundamentalist Christian framework, so I’ll be kind enough to allow you this concession.

      The argument against my saying “if morality is merely subjective, the most reasonable way to approach life is to show no regard for anybody else, for that will immediately increase your chance of survival” is valid, but to be fair, a little nit picky since I did provide an example.

      “No right, no wrong, not morality, no god, nothing just is.”
      This entire paragraph just assumes this statement. I am willing to argue on naturalistic grounds, but you need to be willing to acknowledge there is a right or wrong, otherwise the discussion, at least in your mind, is over before it began, I’m keeping my religious dogma out of this, perhaps you could do the same.

      The rest of you argument can pretty much be covered by the above points, since they are based on the same premises.

      As for the idea that morality being objective is a religious question, ask yourself why one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, Sam Harris also argues for a scientifically testable morality, he believes science can objectively tell us what is right and wrong, so again, don’t assume I’m putting a religious dogma on this, which is exactly what you are doing. I’m sure you can’t provide a single rational argument for why I should accept odds that are infinitely against nothing creating the universe. So, your belief there is no God, is just that, a belief, it may be a fact, just as the Christian God may factually exist, we actually don’t know, I have faith in God, you have faith that there isn’t one. The assumption that man invented God, is just that, an assumption, on top of that, it is an assumption that has nothing to do with whether morality is subjective or not. If there is a God, morality probably isn’t subjective, if there isn’t a God, morality might not be subjective. If you are going to bring dogma like this into the discussion, perhaps you should back it up with some facts.

      I find it interesting that you think that objective morality would be evidence of a deity, I would agree that it would be. If this is why you don’t want to enter the discussion with an open mind, would you revise your beliefs, if I could provide a sound argument for objective morality from a naturalistic point of view? I’m just curious.

  7. Yes but the difference between gravity and morality is the latter is defined in our minds and is the ONLY place it exists. If every single human mind in the universe was destroyed so would morality. Gravity will continue to exist. We could test this in a room with an audience of animals including a human being observing a murder take place. We could measure all their heart rates, blood pressure and mind activity. The human beings heart rate will rise and the animals will stay the same. We can through another test link the question of morality to these measurements and prove with the human being removed no such activity will rise from the animals. (try not focus too much on my made up example here and try focus on my point I made above the example).

    Unfortunately I can only acknowledge there is a right or wrong in the presence of a human mind. If all human minds were destroyed (assuming there are no aliens that have brains at our level or above of intelligence) then the concept of right or wrong would be destroyed as well. Morality is completely man made because nothing else on would be able to create the concept without a human being so therefore it is mind created and therefore subjective.

    “science can objectively tell us what is right and wrong” — this is impossible because on planet XENON murder may be right. I am assuming this “science test” he did proved something such as murder to be wrong, or rape to be wrong. THis would contractdict with XENONS science test of murder being right.
    Because wrong here maybe its hurting someone which is wrong, but in XENON its prolonging the life of the group for example which may be right. How can you not see these are all subjective things? Can you give me a better example than gravity because that is ridiculous.

    “I’m sure you can’t provide a single rational argument for why I should accept odds that are infinitely against nothing creating the universe.” — Firstly it was not nothing it was a singularity, but even it was nothing or something we comprehend as nothing does not mean its not possible. Because we cant comprehend the creation of the universe does not mean it was not created from what we percieve as nothing or from a singularity. Just as a dog cannot understand math, maybe we cannot understand universe creation. But we trying to figure it out, instead of spending our days on our knees in the church and trying to disprove evolution and the big bang theory we trying to figure it out.

    I use evolution as an example in this subjective argument because we all know this is where you heading at, that God exists!

    1. Only vertebrates bleed, so if all the vertebrates in the universe stopped existing, then nothing would bleed, so, by your reasoning, bleeding is subjective. You go on about how morality is created in the mind, which is a fresh approach from the, “it’s just in your culture” argument. The problem is, either way, I can use the same argument, is it not natural to be moral, if morality isn’t a natural impulse, then what is it? Where does it come from? This leads more to god questions than my argument. In fact, religious people would tend to shy away from this argument, since, if we could get a measurable reality, they’d loose the argument that atheism doesn’t give one a moral compass. I don’t mind loosing this argument, simply because I can see that within religion people are overly fluid about there morals even though the religious claim is to an absolute morality. The “moral compass argument is a bad one anyway.

      Let’s just get this straight, I don’t think an objective morality can prove God, and within a religious paradigm, morality is absolute, which has been my argument at no point. Again, I’ll use the example of Sam Harris, who is one of the most vocal people for finding an objective scientific basis for morality, doesn’t believe that there is a god. The main difference is, that people who are willing to look at it objectively, are willing to be wrong, people who insist on writing morality off as subjective, are omitting the possibility that they may be wrong on moral issues, since nobody can be wrong on moral issues. This all said, I do need an objective morality to make a point about why people believe on a benevolent God, but if that is your only reason for rejecting it, or even a reason at all, then you’re being somewhat disingenuous. In fact, Robert using the subjective morality argument here, shows that there is no attempt to understand the reasons why people believe in a benevolent deity, and is using it as an argument while displaying no objectivity at all, since if he was, he’d try to argue on the grounds of why people believe, not on the grounds of a unbeliever. It strikes me as somewhat amusing to see that the religious person has to be objective and view his/her own beliefs from the perspective of the unbeliever, because the unbeliever is too dogmatic to be objective. This amuses me, since the accusation most often thrown at religious people, I can now validly throw at atheists. I’ll gladly argue on your grounds, do you know how many atheist beliefs I could render null and void if I just used the poor reasoning of the absence of evidence argument?

      On the Big Bang one I actually don’t need to prove it wrong, the onus is on people proposing it to prove it right. I simply have to say that within our current knowledge of gases, there would have been no stars, and within our current knowledge of the laws of motion many visible aspects of the universe make big bang somewhat less than likely. This is another debate though, I was simply pointing out that you believe there is no deity, this is not a fact, you can’t say you know it, just as I can’t say there is a God, just that I believe in one. As for your singularity, it is where the universe supposedly came from, but the singularity didn’t have a consciousness, so couldn’t create. Atheism still comes down to nothing making the universe, it just came from a singularity no body knows anything about, and nobody knows where it came from. But let me reiterate the point here, you do not know there is no god, this is a belief, an act of faith in disbelief. My argument on the logic of similarity as an argument against evolution is just to remind people that it isn’t a fact, since without similarity it looses any connections between different organisms. In fact I could take that argument a step further, and use it as evidence against evolution.

      The first in the objective morality posts can be found here.

      1. “Only vertebrates bleed, so if all the vertebrates in the universe stopped existing, then nothing would bleed, so, by your reasoning, bleeding is subjective” — If I removed all humans from the universe and brought back humans that has been in a coma since birth until 30 and awoke them and made them witness a murder or a rape, they may experience shock, they may be upset but they would not have built up a knowledge base of whether it is right or wrong morally, this gets developed through the environmental upbringing as well as general life learning. He will not know if it is right or wrong because he has nothing to compare it to. But if i brought back the vertebrates……………..they’d still bleed.

      2. Now you getting into the nature/nurture debate, I think we all pretty much agree, that it’s neither nature nor nurture, but some what of a combination of the two. Problem is nobody knows how much of each, so nobody knows if morality is or isn’t an inherited trait. But let me point a few things out, your claim above is not different from a religious claim. It can’t be tested, it’s an assumption and it’s based on belief – an act of faith. Furthermore, people don’t learn a language unless they are exposed to one. Thus if this scenario were to take place, the person wouldn’t actually be able to express how they felt, so it wouldn’t help you. This creates another problem for you, since one could argue that language is only a human condition; product of the mind and would cease to exist if we became extinct, which by your reasoning would make it subjective, in which case nobody would understand each other. Language is studied through objective enquiry, in fact, that is a crucial part of this issue, which will come up in a future post.

      3. you are putting human percieved constructs ( thoughts , morality etc.. ) in the same box as objective physical facts! you can’t compare gravity with morality!! a vertebrate will always bleed and different cultures will have different opinions. One is a physical fact and the other is based on the wiring connections of synapses in the brain.

        Zulus believe in many wives , Christian believe in one wife. subjective. you may reply scientist says earth is 4,5 millions years old and creationist believes its 10000 years old so therefore subjective . No!! If one day a magical device was agreed upon that measures the age of the earth we would have ONE value , if one day a magical device was discovered that measured the brains morals on the number of wives allowed from the Zulu and the Christian we would get two values !!!!!

        do you agree with this or not ???

        if I receive more then one value the it must be subjective. or do you honestly believe that the magically device will reveal only 1 value because it’s the rule god made up that sits in all our brains ?

      4. You see, the problem here is the either or reasoning, either it’s physically defined (nature) or it’s socially defined (nuture). I’ll continue with the language example, since you haven’t offered a counter to it. Language is, defined by culture, you’ll learn the one you grew up with. If we were to measure, which in fact we can, the way language is produced in different cultures, it would return multitudes of different values, which it does. It is something that isn’t learned spontaneously, exposure is essential. It is a universal human characteristic, even though it isn’t the same world wide. If everybody became extinct, there wouldn’t be any language, and your comatose person wouldn’t be able to talk. Some people are mute, and in some cases this is entirely due to psychological problems, or to something in their upbringing. Is some cases, these psychological issues can be measured by analysing brain activity.

        So, language can return different results according to ones upbringing, and psychological conditions. It is a product of our mental capabilities. It is fluid, although universal, yet it is the focus of an objective and empirical field of enquiry called linguistics, yet by all your reasoning, it should be subjective.

    2. your focus here on the language is irrelevant. to learn a language would require influence from the environment which in turn may poison our experiment with the comatosed human to develop an opinion on the morality of the murder he witnessed. it would be required that he was not influenced by any outside ideas which may allow him to form an opinion. Either we have a magical mind device that can read his thoughts or some form of communication training (drawing, yes no”s etc ) whereby after which we would get across to him the question of whether he believed the murder was right or wrong from which he would be unable to answer as he would have nothing to compare it with. he will not know if it is normal and right or wrong to murder as he is unaware of the normal workings of society. If for sample we raised him in an experiment where raping was taught him as normal and that is how it must be done he would rape , completely unaware that what he is doing is actually wrong.

      1. My focus on language is very relevant, since language has all the characteristics that you’ve used to argue for morality being subjective, so if we apply the same reasoning, language is subjective.

        Interesting the derogatory wording here, “magical.” The implication being that if there were some part of the brain that controlled moral processing, it would have to be magical. Again, I will return to language, since your only rebuttal was against the way I originally introduced it, but not against the way I have used it as an analogy. Chomsky’s Language Aquisition Device (LAD) was held to be “magical” by many linguists when it surfaced, but it has become a dominant paradigm in the study of Linguistics today, for a number of reasons. Progress in neuro-psychology has shown that there are certain parts of the brain that govern language. The brain undergoes certain changes during puberty, which is very important to the theory. Children who have reached puberty having not learned a language, have never been able to acquire a grasp of language. The evolution of language using the principles of Neo-Darwinian punctuated equilibrium and th LAD, although problematic, offers what seems to be a better explanation than the traditional gradualistic Darwinian approach.

        The attitude you have is actually a hinderance to scientific progress, since it could be that there is a part of the brain that governs morality, and is “switch” operated, much like the proposed LAD. If we assume that such a device would have to be magical, as many did with the idea that certain parts of the brain definitely control language, then we are saying it shouldn’t be examined as a possibility. It is quite possible that their is/are a part/parts of the brain that do influence morality, and that objective study can take place.

        A problem with your marriage argument is that an objective examination of moral issues could actually come out completely neutral on marriage, and therefore it wouldn’t be a moral issue. This is possibly one of the biggest objections some commentators have against the objective morality argument using violent crimes. Think about it, neither you nor Robert were willing to look at this objectively enough to work out that if morality is objective, it could be that rape or murder may actually turn out not only not to be immoral, but actually turn out to be moral imperatives. Although this is a gripe, it isn’t evidence against, it simply exposes a fear among people to discover an objective morality, only to discover we’ve been getting it all wrong.

        Although this doesn’t show evidence against my stance, it does invalidate any example you give using the “many values returned stance.” Since I can simply say, “maybe it isn’t a moral issue.” Another issue is, of course, if you want to offer this argument, I want to see your data, you can say it’ll return many values, great! You must be right.

      2. You can’t compare language with morality. Language is an objective exercise of naming things, morality is a feeling which is dependent on your view of the situation. everyone will agree that a chair is a chair not everyone will agree that a murder was right or wrong.

      3. “everyone will agree that a chair is a chair”

        Go ask a rural Russian farmer who has never spoken English, about a chair, see what he says.

        Language, like morality, is defined within a cultural situation, yet it’s universals make it an objectively examinable subject. A language example is the fact that the human vocal organs can produce a limited number of sounds, but universally, their are producable sounds that are never used, and that’s if you include the 83 odd clicks in the bushman language. Another example is that language always serves the same purpose, to communicate, I will be doing a post on how this translates to morality being objective.

  8. Jacques… give up. You’ll go round and round and then Peter will just start on… “but you don’t believe in god and how can everything come from nothing” and then lose the plot entirely.

    Agreed 100% morality is defined in OUR minds. Ultimately what you, Peter or I agree or disagree on is entirely OUR choice which remains subjective.

    1. Actually, on Facebook you stated that I was arguing for an absolute morality, which I had expressly stated was not what I was arguing for, another straw man. You alsoi stated that I only think in absolutes, so I had every right to point out the absolutes you believe in. It’s not my fault that your argument nullifies your argument. You went off topic, and when I gave you the same medicine now you jumping up and down like a spoiled child who knows he lost the argument when he acknowledged that morality was objective.

      1. “Jacques… give up. You’ll go round and round and then Peter will just start on… “but you don’t believe in god and how can everything come from nothing” and then lose the plot entirely.

        Agreed 100% morality is defined in OUR minds. Ultimately what you, Peter or I agree or disagree on is entirely OUR choice which remains subjective.”

        Um… 😉 off topic much. Point remains, Our choice… subjective.

      2. Another straw man, argument Robert, I have never used the everything came from nothing argument, I fact, I argue against it. I don stick by that atheists claim that nothing made everything, there is a difference, can you see it? This doesn’t alter the fact that in that Facebook discussion, you went off topic by saying I believe in absolutes, which was off topic. Whether I believe in a absolute morality or not, isn’t relevant to me arguing for an objective one that may prove my absolute wrong. My bringing up your beliefs was to show that you also believe in absolutes, since an atheist believes there is absolutely no supernatural, and you’ve argues that morality is absolutely subjective, so dogmatically that you’ve said you won’t change your mind. This really makes everything you say from now irrelevant, since it shows that even in the face of evidence, you’d not change your mind. So please stop with the ad hominum attack, since you were the one who brought in the unrelated things, and the idea backfired.

  9. Morality is a human invention. It is constantly molded, shifted and abused. It is generally defined by those who deem themselves to be in power of some sort, and use it by manipulating our weak emotions, fears and desires to maintain control over their ‘subjects’ lives. This power of course can be used to make people do the most horrific acts (also subjective). Hitler, Crusades are good examples.

    An animal, fighting for survival will not feel one ounce of guilt, shame, remorse if it harmed another creature to ensure its survival, or the survival of its family unit. Humans only feel these emotions so strongly because our behavior is programmed from birth.

    Nature, and all living organisms that make it up have only one primal purpose, and this includes humans, and that is to survive, and to ensure the survival of their genetic line. I refrained from saying survival of their species, because animals lack the ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ as we can. ie: If there were only 2 packs of lions left in the world, they would not join forces in an attempt to make sure their species survives. They would still compete aggressively trying to ensure the survival of their immediate family unit.

    A persons belief in whether or not their behavior is morally right or wrong, whether should cause harm or not is completely dependent the life they have lived. And in the same respect, if two people are put in that exact same situation, they may behave differently, because of the myriad of varying influences in their lives (life experience, religious indoctrination, political views etc) that would have molded their specific moral compass.

    An example was used that it may be considered morally Ok to steal food to ensure the survival of ones family. Can one really argue against that? But, its morally wrong to sit down at an expensive restaurant, eat a large meal and then walk out without paying. It is essentially the same thing, but with completely different motivations, and therefore two completely moral choices.

    To continue with the example used, it was said that to steal a Bentley to fund your child’s education is wrong, although the ‘forbidden’ act had to be done with a noble cause as the reasoning?
    What happens if you through another variable into the mix. The Bentley belongs to the leader of pedophile sex ring, who has made millions selling the suffering of hundreds of poor children… suddenly the theft doesn’t seem like such a crime?

    Bad things happening to bad people, possibly isn’t so bad? Where does it end?

    I could paint hundreds of different situations challenging ones moral stand point. And I believe the fact that every single action that takes place is never black and white.

    Sometimes things perceived as bad need to be done.

    The only moral law that I believe is valid is this… “Do your best not to cause unnecessary harm.”

    1. I’m gonna stick with the same example I used with Jacques. Substitute language into your first paragraph, where you had morality, and then see if it makes sense. Since all the things you said there could apply to language, and I’m pretty sure that isn’t subjective.

      Most of the rest of your argument seems to be based on the idea that two wrongs make a right, which isn’t valid. Even the example of someone stealing bread can be transposed under an objective model to the two wrongs make a right argument. I could, which I intend to do, in an upcoming post, argue that greed is objectively measurably immoral. Poverty is a result of greed, since there are well enough resources on the planet for more than the population, this unfortunately is another issue, but see this post.

      Before you decide that this is the end of the issue, just consider the up coming argument for objective morality. The first post on this is The moral saucepan.

      1. Actually language is constantly reviewed and changed. I think we can all agree that language has change quite a bit in the past hundred years. I guess that’s fairly subjective.

        Sadly this means that we’ll eventually see, “txt spk” becoming regular occurence.

      2. Read Defining the terms for objective morality, it gives an explanation of how definitions of words change over time. This is not a subjective process, since it is based on many perspectives and observations of how real language works in the real world, it is very objective. Similar changes happen in other aspects of language, such as syntax (the split infinitive.) Objective does not mean fixed or absolute.

    2. I think that was a pretty weak response.

      Language is in fact not completely objective. You even wrote a post about equivocation. The exact same string of words, perfectly understood can be interpreted differently by different people, therefore it is not completely objective. But for argument sakes lets say its “relatively objective”.

      Language is a tool, created by nature in order for creatures to be able to communicate with one another.

      Language by itself is useless. A dictionary sitting on a table, even though it contains every bit of information about a language, by itself is useless. But that same dictionary, in the hands of a powerful communicator can be used in a very subjective way to control peoples minds. Good examples are obviously Hitler, Jesus etc.

      Hitler was able to convince an entire nation of hard working Christian folk that it was morally Ok to commit genocide.

      Communicate is completely subjective.

      On to your 2nd point.

      How can you, as a man of faith, say that “two wrongs make a right” is invalid.
      The entire basis of religious morality works on that principle. You believe that if a person wrongs your master, he then has the right to subject that person to an eternity of suffering. That to me seems like eye for an eye? So, if you believe in invisible men in the sky, then it is valid.

      My initial post had nothing to do with two wrongs make a right.

      I was using extreme examples to illustrate a point.

      I can see that you are leaning towards an absolute objective morality. Black and white, thought shall NOT… in your next article you going to ramble on and eventually try justify why everyone should live their lives strictly by the 10 commandments.

      You are going to go on about things like, in a perfect world, lets call it Magic Jesus fun land. This place is a wonderful little island, where there is enough food for everyone so no one ever goes hungry. There is enough land so everyone has a big house for all their children to grow up in. No one is lonely because everyone has met their perfect match. No one is stressed out or under pressure at work, because guess what, there is no greed so no one needs money so no one needs to work! Everyone still has to give to the Church though, obviously. In this magic place everyone lives by the strict doctrine handed down by thy master himself. Thought shall NOT…

      And everyone is happy. Beautiful. If that perfect little world existed, then an objective, absolute moral code would work. But you can’t create imaginary places to prove a point. It has to be based on reality, in reality.

      All morality, though out time has, and always will always be measured by its society of the time.

      The search or need for absolutes is flawed.

      1. Equivocation actually makes a case for language as objective. Since it’s the subjective approach that would fall for it. In fact, it’s banking on you thinking subjectively, since if you fail to be objective, you won’t see the other possible meaning. The fact that there are different angles makes it an objective issue, how you approach it won’t change that.

        A dictionary is a guide to certain aspects of a language, it is hardly a complete manual of language. Morality, outside of the hands of it’s users is, oddly enough, useless. Morality in the hands of a powerful communicator can be used to do great harm (the papacy and the crusades.) If people hadn’t accepted the Pope’s words, and had thought about it objectively, instead of from the subjective perspective of the papacy, they would likely have realised that this was not what Christ would do, it was not going to do them; their religion; their children; their society or the people they were attacking, any good. These multiple angles, if viewed objectively, would likely had lead to different outcomes, but on subjective view was the over riding factor. Hitler’s language use, was based on expressing his perspective of morality (genocide as an imperative of natural selection, the master race.) So both the Papacy and Hitler gained their power from expressing their subjective views of morality. If people had used objectivity in examining morality, and looked beyond their personal feelings of awe towards these figures, then history could have been very different.

        Communication is not subjective, it is objective, it’s people interpreting it unquestioningly that is subjective, and that is bad.

        “What happens if you through another variable into the mix. The Bentley belongs to the leader of pedophile sex ring, who has made millions selling the suffering of hundreds of poor children… suddenly the theft doesn’t seem like such a crime?”

        That sounds like two wrongs making it better, and this too:

        “Bad things happening to bad people, possibly isn’t so bad? Where does it end?”

        But to be fair to you, these were phrased as questions, I just assumed they were rhetorical.

        This is interesting:

        “You believe that if a person wrongs your master, he then has the right to subject that person to an eternity of suffering.”

        Really? do I? quote me please, I’m literate, I don’t believe that since it isn’t Biblically supportable. I don’t believe in divine retribution, but in divine consequence. The two wrongs make a right Old Testament principle was, so far as a can tell, an example.

        “I was using extreme examples to illustrate a point.”

        Extremes are often removed from statistical data as outliers, on that alone, I can reject them as a valid way of examining moral objectivity. But there’s more, these extremes, always begin from a society where basic (objective) morality has been violated, and can actually be used in my support for an objective morality, which if you keep following the blog, will become clear, then you’ll have something solid to argue against Instead of the straw man argument that makes up the rest of your comment. Calm down, and think carefully about what I’m saying, I have used language as an analogy for morality, as part of my counter argument to the criticisms levelled against me. In, Defining the terms for objective morality, I have acknowledged that language is fluid, not absolute, yet objective. Therefore, I can’t use moral objectivity as anything more than an argument against subjective morality, but definitely not as a proof for absolute morality. I have a great respect for the Ten Commandments, but would battle to use the upcoming argument to support the first four or five commandments so you can relax about the absolute morality thing, I’m not arguing for it, at least not here. My position on it is that I don’t see it as an unreasonable belief, but that doesn’t mean I can prove it.

        “The search or need for absolutes is flawed.”

        Are you absolutely sure of that? 😉

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