Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thoughts on Having a Biblical Attitude Towards Environmentalism

Oh no it's Al Gore!
The issue of how we as Christian's should act in regard to the environment has been popping up to me more and more lately. Perhaps this is due to the popularity of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" which has earned him a Nobel prize. My main question I want to pose is: "As Christians what should be our attitude toward environmental issues?"

Reactionary Hostility?

What I have seen in most of my fellow Christians upon hearing of environmental issues is a reaction of scorn followed by a complete dismissal of the issues altogether. A person will bring up an issue like saving the Redwoods or Global Warming only to be dismissed by evangelicals. Why is this?

Well I think the most foundational explanation for this dismissal is the association of environmental attitudes with a radical Liberalism, the same guys who support killing babies as a medical procedure which we are against. So when a man like Al Gore (a representation of Liberalism) says there is a problem we need to address called global warming our reaction (because he has a D next to his name when it appears on Fox News) is to have an attitude that if leftists support environmental causes we should not. This is simply guilt by association.

I actually called into a Christian talk show recently addressing environmental issues, by that I mean they were trying to explain that global warming isn't happening an Al Gore doesn't know what he's is talking about. What prompted me to call in was one of the guests comments that taking care of the environment was NOT a moral issue, so I called in saying:
"That taking care of the environment IS a moral issue because as Christians our view should be that we as men are stewards over a world which God has made. And we shouldn't just write these issues off just because people on the left have taken them under their wing."

The response was a standard guilt by association from the guests who basically said that when you start getting into the environmental movement you have people who think that we evolved and are no better than the trees they are trying to save etc. He of course right, there are people who really think that in the environmental movement. BUT that does not change the fact that they are addressing a real issue even though their worldview is skewed.

I have personally spent some time with tree sitters in Northern California bringing food to them and emptying their toilets. Now these were people who were not Christians and were almost all New Agers, and honestly most of them were astonished that Christians actually gave a rip about the planet. A little background into this tree sit is a story of corruption and bribery between the Lumber company and the CA Dept of Forestry (who are supposed to regulate tree cutting when really they just take bribes from the lumber companies) allowing Just a wacked out leftist? Or does this person have something legitimate to say?clear cutting of old growth Redwood trees. Clear cutting as a practice causes massive runoff resulting in a buildup of sediment in rivers and streams where salmon go to breed. This buildup of sediment basically does not allow them to spawn, this is why the fishing industry in Northern California is practically non-existant. The timber havest plan was a scenario that was dirty from top to bottom and these young people who were sitting in the trees were doing something that was noble although they may have been very wrong headed in it.

That is a brief synopsis of an environmental scenario: corruption, bribery, bad environmental practices, and the eco-system gets trashed while people get rich. What bothers me is that as evangelicals we are so quick to dismiss these issues as leftist and radical, frankly because they are the only ones who have bothered to seriously address them. Again, most of the people are New Age or have some screwball evolution based philosophy of human and animal dignity. These views are wrong, however it is simply guilt by association to say THEREFORE we as Christians will not get involved with environmental issues.

What is the Biblical Perspective On These Matters?

What has really surprises me when I look to the Bible on environmental issues is really how much it in fact has to say. This is why I called in to the radio show and said that this IS a moral issue because God in His word has called us to care about these matters. In addition to the guilt by association reply I also got a response saying God has given us dominion to subdue the earth, it is here for us to do what we want to with basically. Well, I would say dominion yes, but the guest (and I think many evangelicals) leaves out responsibility. The dominion the Bible speaks of is not God giving an autonomous do what you want to this world I gave you to man. The dominion is one of man being set above all the rest of creation (being made in God's image) and given stewardship, I say stewardship because God still owns the world He made, He has chosen to give it into the hands of stewards (men).

"The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. " (Lev 25:24)

This is in the context of laws on the year of Jubilee and giving the land a sabbath rest. The sabbath rest for the land was to be taken every seven years, basically if you were a farmer you would not plant in the land every seventh year. You were not to overwork the soil that is the purpose of giving the land a sabbath rest, we do a similar thing today called crop rotation, it is simply what is best for the soil.

"but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard." (Lev 25:4)

Other laws regulate the use of animals for the sake of the animal population, which of course would effect the food supply for the people. This is a principle of insuring that there would be food for future generations of people:

"If you come across a bird's nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long." (Deut 22:6-7)

Biblically it is sin (greediness) that causes the environmental problems, when the people are disobedient the land will stop producing. One of the direct results of a disobedient and self seeking people will be a land that can no longer provide.

"Covenants are broken; cities are despised; there is no regard for man. The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away; Sharon is like a desert, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves." (Isa 33:8-9)

God's promised blessing upon the land is directly related to a people's obedience to Him.

"If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;" (Isa 1:19)

"And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you." (Deut 28:11)

Closing:

To wrap up these are just some brief thoughts on this issue. All I am advocating is for us to think Biblically not in the Liberal vs. Conservative boxes that we are so accustomed to engaging issues in. It really is disappointing to me that many evangelicals care more about their "right" to own semi automatic weapons ("conservative" issue) than we do about the corruption and bribery in big business practices and its effect on the environment in which we live.

I am not saying that global warming is in fact true and the world is going to end if we don't do something, I don't know all the science into the greenhouse theory. But what I do know is that we should seriously think about the impact our actions have on the world around us.

Lastly, I am not saying we should think environmental because the poor squirrels have feelings and they are people too. What I am saying is that as Christians we know who made the world, we know whose glory is being attested to in the sunsets, the ocean waves, the eagle's flight and in the Redwoods grandeur. So I would say that being environmentally conscious IS a moral issue not because of the poor dolphins, and not primarily because of the children's future. I think this is a moral issue because we are stewards in a world which God has made for His glory. We know that it is God who made these things for His glory, how can we be complacent to the destruction of that which testifies to the glory of the God we love?

The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers. He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.
There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.

(Psalm 104)

14 comments:

Melissa said...

hallelujah, bob. A good word. As for Al Gore: shoot, I will take some Balaam's ass any day of the week, especially when Christians aren't picking up the torch. A few other resources (which you may already know about): Richard Cizik from the National Association of Evangelicals (he recently spoke Gordon!), "God is Green," the PBS Bill Moyer's special and the Evangelical Climate Change initiative that was recently signed by a ton of evangelicals.

I think this is going to be ground Christians rally behind. "The earth is God's and all that is in it." Thanks for the words.

Melissa said...

Oh, and I forgot to add this lovely bit from Augustine. He says that beauty of creation is God's "engagement ring" to us. All the good on earth points the way to the father but without the beauty of creation we would have nothing to long for in the redeemed City of God.

Ubersehen said...

Again, most of the people are New Age or have some screwball evolution based philosophy of human and animal dignity.

Oh come, now. Tired of arguing the point, but can't resist the odd disparaging remarks?

Bob said...

Melissa,
Hey thanks, as for Gore being a Balaam's ass I don't know, I haven't even seen the movie yet. Every time I have tried to rent it it was all rented out at the video store...probably the Republicans. hehe.

Lately I have really been touched by the work of Francis Schaeffer, he wrote a book on Christianity and environmentalism "Polution the Death of Man" back in the 70's. He simply was way ahead of his time as an evangelical.

Uber-
Hey good to hear from you, well as for my comment perhaps I could have been a bit less crude in how I stated the relationship between man and nature based upon a naturalist assumption. All I am saying is that I have met many people who based upon evolutionary naturalist assumptions really think that human lives are of no greater value than whales and wolves, and trees. We all really have the same dignity and "rights" they argue. I am not saying you believe that as a naturalist, but I do think that it is the logical conclusion.

thenderson said...

You might want to look at the wonderful and prayerful work that the Christian conservation organization A Rocha has been doing now for some years: http://en.arocha.org/home/

It is very inspirational work.

Thanks for bringning awareness to these issues.

Ubersehen said...

I have met many people who based upon evolutionary naturalist assumptions really think that human lives are of no greater value than whales and wolves, and trees. We all really have the same dignity and "rights" they argue. I am not saying you believe that as a naturalist, but I do think that it is the logical conclusion.

Well, that all depends on what way you feel it's a logical conclusion.

It really comes back to the difference between our subjective perception of things and the objective, universal significance of those same things. In other words, in what context are we/they/whoever talking about this?

But really, right or wrong, the entire movement can't be characterized by the opinions of a single subcategory of people who hold a particular opinion.

Bob said...

Hey Uber, what you said is right on, and really was what I was trying to convey in this post when you state:

"But really, right or wrong, the entire movement can't be characterized by the opinions of a single subcategory of people who hold a particular opinion."

As for the logical end of Materialist assumption being the blending of man and nature, I really don't think you can escape it rationally. When we assume naturalism man becomes a biological machine produced by time plus chance in a universe of other life forms produced by time plus chance, how if this is your presupposition can man have any dignity that distinguishes him from the dignity of trees and bacteria and caterpillars?

This is why a lot of the impotece for the enviro movement is naturalistic, the animals and other forms of life really are just as valuable as humans. This is the reasoning behind many vegetarians, and people who refuse antibiotics, they think those viruses have just as much right to live as they do so they will not take any drugs to help fight them, to do so would make one guilty of "speciesism".

So I guess my question for you, since you seem to think that what I said above is just some sort of subjective opinion of mine, is for you to give an argument for the dignity and worth of human life based upon your Materialist presuppositions. I assume that you are still in enough contact with the real world to scorn such notions that hold human dignity as just a facade and that the life of humans has more value than spiders and dogs...but why?

I think it is they who hold that human worth is on the same level as cats and trees and broccoli that have carried the conclusions of evolutionary naturalism to their logical conclusion in this area because if we assume that presupposition you realize that all forms of life really are related and in this together, and it is a sort of inter-species chauvenism to say one is "better" then the other.

Ubersehen said...

how if this is your presupposition can man have any dignity that distinguishes him from the dignity of trees and bacteria and caterpillars?

I find this need you have for human dignity to be externally generated a little curious.

This is why a lot of the impotece for the enviro movement is naturalistic

Impotece? Do you mean impetus or impotence? I think the former makes more sense, so I'm going to go with that one.

the animals and other forms of life really are just as valuable as humans. This is the reasoning behind many vegetarians, and people who refuse antibiotics, they think those viruses have just as much right to live as they do so they will not take any drugs to help fight them, to do so would make one guilty of "speciesism".

Well, I wouldn't say that that particular group of people makes up the majority, or even a significant percentage of the "enviro" movement. I'd be just as hesitant to hold them up as a representative of environmentalist thinking as I would holding up Christians who refuse medical treatment for their dying children because they feel that every illness or disorder is part of their god's plan as representatives of Christianity.

So I guess my question for you, since you seem to think that what I said above is just some sort of subjective opinion of mine, is for you to give an argument for the dignity and worth of human life based upon your Materialist presuppositions.

Hm... let me see if I can sum this up properly. You feel that, because we are clearly not on the level of caterpillars and trees and such, that our lives possess more dignity and worth. Is that about right? Because I certainly don't know, or have heard of, too many who subscribe to the notion that all instances of life on Earth are equal, necessarily. The "logical conclusion" you mention naturalism leading to, I think, is not quite representative of nature. I think that what you are mistaking for "dignity" and "worth", in this case, is quite simply power. As a species, we are extremely powerful. Through our increasingly refined abilities, developed intellect, and overwhelming numbers, we've set ourselves up far higher than the cats, trees and broccoli ever could.

As a result, I would suggest that "dignity" is most certainly a human construct, and that "worth" only applies so much as we contribute to our ecosystems. A huge deciduous forest certainly does more for maintaining life on Earth than we ever have... in my books, that makes a strong argument for trees possessing a superior "worth" than that of humans. So, given that, your approach to worth begs the question as to whether or not our existence or ecosystem is a good thing at all, universally speaking. A tall, proud oak tree seems to have a certain kind of dignity to me, but I recognize that that is merely my perception of things, and is entirely dependent on what I, personally, consider dignified. Likewise, I'm fairly confident that human dignity is dependent entirely on the human perception of what dignity is.

So I honestly can't say that humans are necessarily "better" than any other form of life on this planet, because the notion of "better" requires some sort of human-determined criteria by which we can evaluate in what way we are better. In terms of criteria, I can confidently say that we are the most powerful. This power gives us considerable influence over our surroundings; certainly enough to breed a belief in a superior human dignity and worth. But whether or not power translates into a qualitative judgment, one way or the other, is really just another subjective opinion.

Bob said...

"Hm... let me see if I can sum this up properly. You feel that, because we are clearly not on the level of caterpillars and trees and such, that our lives possess more dignity and worth. Is that about right?"

No, I am a Christian, based upon Christian theistic presuppositions I know that man has more dignity and worth than slugs cats and caterpillars because man is made in the image of God.

"Because I certainly don't know, or have heard of, too many who subscribe to the notion that all instances of life on Earth are equal, necessarily. The "logical conclusion" you mention naturalism leading to, I think, is not quite representative of nature. I think that what you are mistaking for "dignity" and "worth", in this case, is quite simply power. As a species, we are extremely powerful. Through our increasingly refined abilities, developed intellect, and overwhelming numbers, we've set ourselves up far higher than the cats, trees and broccoli ever could."

No not at all, by the dignity and worth of man I refering to a destinction between man from the rest of creation. A distinction between man and nature is what I am asking for, why is it more reasonable to dive in front of a car to push a baby out of the way from getting hit than it is to do the same thing for a caterpillar based upon Materialism. It seems like you've really beat around the bush on this one Uber.

"As a result, I would suggest that "dignity" is most certainly a human construct, and that "worth" only applies so much as we contribute to our ecosystems."

Well, there you have it. That really is what I was arguing for Uber, based upon Materialism human dignity really is destroyed, it's just a made up meaningless catagory which we have arbitrarily (and as the more consistant materialists say) arrogantly ascribe to man.

"So I honestly can't say that humans are necessarily "better" than any other form of life on this planet, because the notion of "better" requires some sort of human-determined criteria by which we can evaluate in what way we are better. In terms of criteria, I can confidently say that we are the most powerful."

Well, again this is what I was saying is the logical end of Materialist presuppositions, you simply can NOT give a rational answer as to why human beings lives have more worth than dogs or mosquitos. So I just wonder why you had a bone to pick with my original comment to begin with because you seem quite in agreement with it now. "Powerful" is a rather ill-thought concept, so because one animal is stronger (able to exert it's will over another) that gives it more dignity?

Why is slavery wrong Uber?

If we assume your analysis of "power" then those who are the powerful can either choose to bestow or strip the title of dignity upon or from the controlled.

I just don't know bro, when I talk to you guys you get all upset about links between Materialism and Auchswitz are made. But I can't see it any other way based upon all of our conversations. Why was the stripping of dignity from the Jewish people unacceptable based upon your worldview?

I as a Christian have answers to all these questions. Man is distinct from the animal world because man is made in the image of God and as such his life has more worth than cats and broccoli. As such dignity and worth is upon all men, because all are made in God's image. Therefore to strip any people of this concept of worth in any way is wrong (whether it be slavery, verbal abuse, or eugenics projects).

Ubersehen said...

No, I am a Christian, based upon Christian theistic presuppositions I know that man has more dignity and worth than slugs cats and caterpillars because man is made in the image of God.

That's sort of the deal-closer, isn't it? If you've assumed the conclusion before examining the process, then there's not really much to discuss, and all your talk of logical inconsistencies is just so much breath in the wind.

A distinction between man and nature is what I am asking for, why is it more reasonable to dive in front of a car to push a baby out of the way from getting hit than it is to do the same thing for a caterpillar based upon Materialism.

I think that you have failed to draw a very important distinction in all this talk of dignity and worth: The distinction between our objective universal separateness and our subjective perception of separateness. And what I've said is that, in a universal sense, we are just as much a part of nature as the caterpillars, polar bears, and rare sea-fungus. What sets us apart from the rest of nature, universally speaking, is approached in the same way that one might approach what sets the flu virus apart from the rest of nature: Details. We are more powerful through our superior adaptability and increased numbers, and as such have developed complex social systems to manage our increasingly complex everyday lives. With your Creationist presuppositions in place, unfortunately, you are naturally unable/unwilling/prevented somehow from considering this as an option. You are unable to consider that, in the grand scheme of things, we might have no universal objective value above that of the "lowly" rodents that roam the Earth, and that the worth that we ascribe to ourselves subjectively out of pure biological necessity (survival of the species) is likely all that you're feeling here. Developmentally speaking, we needed the feelings of "worth" to justify saving ourselves above other natural entities so that our species could continue to thrive.

But we're back to prescription vs. description yet again. You confuse the matter by asking me why we "should" do anything, when the system I describe only tells us why we already do. Do you understand the difference between the two?

you simply can NOT give a rational answer as to why human beings lives have more worth than dogs or mosquitos.

The stipulation to this issue that you've been avoiding is to whom human beings' lives have more worth than dogs or mosquitos. In the objective universal sense, I have never once tried to give "a rational answer" to this issue, and have stated numerous times that I don't believe one is possible/exists. In the subjective biological sense, I think I've provided ample reasons. Again, you're failing to make any distinction between the two, which is what is leading to your misconceptions regarding my position.

"Powerful" is a rather ill-thought concept, so because one animal is stronger (able to exert it's will over another) that gives it more dignity?

Of course not, when did I say that? I think that I stated that what you perceived to be dignity and worth did not exist outside of subjective human perception, and that in the objective universal sense the properties you felt they possessed were actually reflected in the power that humans possess. How is that an ill-thought concept?

Why is slavery wrong Uber?

Universally speaking, I doubt there is any right or wrong considering slavery or any other horrific and atrocious act. Even in the subjective human sense, not all of humanity agrees that slavery wrong. Our society certainly believes it is, and has a number of very persuasive reasons for anybody who lives with and abides by our rules. I'm sure you could rhyme them off for me quite easily.

Now, I know you'd probably jump all over this, claiming that this point of view logically leads to a moral vacuum, and that I'm of the position that anything goes because every point of view is made valid through it. But that approach mistakenly presupposes two things:

1. That there is some sort of higher authority dictating what is and isn't valid, and

2. That subjective socio-biological human beliefs are somehow rendered ineffective or unconvincing because the system through which they occur has been explained.

The heart of this point is that simply because we recognize that human feelings regarding dignity and worth and such are subjective they are not rendered any less significant or binding in our collective psyches, just as analyzing a piece of great literature does not make it any less compelling or understanding the workings of the human body does not make it function any differently.

If we assume your analysis of "power" then those who are the powerful can either choose to bestow or strip the title of dignity upon or from the controlled.

And have we not seen that reflected throughout history? This is an excellent example of the workings of subective human concepts of dignity.

Why was the stripping of dignity from the Jewish people unacceptable based upon your worldview?

I could answer this one, but I'd just be repeating what I've said a couple times already in this post alone. Instead, I'd like to bounce this question back to you and use it as a diagnostic tool to see if you understand the distinction I've been talking about regarding the different between objective universal things and subjective human constructs. Doesn't matter if you agree with it or not, I'm only interested in seeing whether or not you understand. So, why was the stripping of dignity from the Jewish people unacceptable based upon my worldview?

I as a Christian have answers to all these questions.

That's lovely, really. But the issue at hand is whether or not atheists (or similarly thinking individuals) can rationally account for their worldviews. But I'm happy that Christianity has provided you with answers that satisfy your curiosity regarding the workings of the world.

Therefore to strip any people of this concept of worth in any way is wrong (whether it be slavery, verbal abuse, or eugenics projects).

I think I've shown pretty consistently how and why, according to my worldview, our society rejects things like slavery, verbal abuse, or eugenics projects. My little diagnostic question above should show whether I've adequately communicated what I'm trying to say, or whether I need to explain further.

Bob said...

"That's sort of the deal-closer, isn't it? If you've assumed the conclusion before examining the process, then there's not really much to discuss, and all your talk of logical inconsistencies is just so much breath in the wind."

Well, my argument is simply this: We all operate upon presuppositions, and Christianity is a properly basic presupposition. By that I mean that without presupposing the Christian worldview you end up with inconsistancies logically with what really is, because we live in a universe made by God.

One basic principle since you brought it up is the laws of logic. Based upon a Materialist presupposition (that the universe is a closed system and there is no God) you simply can not give an adequate base for the laws of logic to be universal and binding. Therefore, all debate/communication is really reduced to a fragmented meaningless chatter. Many existentialist philosophers have argued this case convincingly.

However, that simply does not reflect the human condition. We (you and I) communicate and I think we both assume that we are having real dialogue and getting one another's ideas from one head to another through our writing. We also both assume that concepts like illogical, or valid arguments exist. We both assume the law of non-contradiction applies to all discussion. But how can we justify assuming these things? My point is only with Christian theism. (I could explain why the other forms of theism are inadequate if you want to bring up the "Why not the Muslim God as properly basic?")

The laws of logic apply to all men because the laws of logic reflect the thinking of God and men are made in His image. Same with morality, and the uniformity of nature. So far from being a breath in the wind, my point is that unless you presuppose Christian theism you have no basis to call anything inconsistant because you have no basis on which to stand that makes the laws of logic universally applicable and unchanging. The best you can do is say they are man made conventions we invented, just like you do with morality. THIS IS BECAUSE YOU PRESUPPOSE MATERIALISM.

I write:
"Powerful" is a rather ill-thought concept, so because one animal is stronger (able to exert it's will over another) that gives it more dignity?

You reply:
Of course not, when did I say that? I think that I stated that what you perceived to be dignity and worth did not exist outside of subjective human perception, and that in the objective universal sense the properties you felt they possessed were actually reflected in the power that humans possess. How is that an ill-thought concept?

I was responding to this idea:

"So I honestly can't say that humans are necessarily "better" than any other form of life on this planet, because the notion of "better" requires some sort of human-determined criteria by which we can evaluate in what way we are better. In terms of criteria, I can confidently say that we are the most powerful."

It seemed like you were saying dignity was based upon power, (the ability to exert you will on other species) that is why man has dignity greater than slugs, he can step on them. Which brings up the issue in the eugenical realm, why not destroy human beings who have traits (say skin color) that the powerful (elites in a government) don't see as desireable?

Similarly I raised the issue of slavery, and ask why it is wrong you respond:

"Universally speaking, I doubt there is any right or wrong considering slavery or any other horrific and atrocious act."

My heart really goes out to you bro, but this is where your worldview leads. You simply can't give any strait answers saying that the capture and traffic and selling of human beings is wrong. This is in large part because you can't give a strait answer as to whether human beings have any dignity greater than cows. My question simply is this: Do you live this way?

Do you live as though you can not make any moral judgements at all because univeral morality does not exist? That is the conclusion, you can never in any case say "THAT IS WRONG?" once you embrace relativism. No right to object to Wars in Iraq, no right of say 9/11 was bad, you might feel that way but based on you words above as soon as you utter "X is wrong" you have uttered a meaningless sentence and are being inconsistant to your worldview. In short you if you are to be consistant to your materialism need to abandon moral language altogether.

You continue saying:

"The heart of this point is that simply because we recognize that human feelings regarding dignity and worth and such are subjective they are not rendered any less significant or binding in our collective psyches, just as analyzing a piece of great literature does not make it any less compelling or understanding the workings of the human body does not make it function any differently."

Most of what you said sounds like jibberish, I am not trying to be insulting just hones, sounds like you are just using technical sounding words jumbled together to give an air of authority here and a pseudo-sense of having an answer to the moral vacuum Materialism creates.

What I highlighted really is the issue I addressed above. When morality becomes completely subjectivized as you seem to be saying than a vacuum is unavoidable. Morality, and ethics when we presuppose Materialism is a human construct and really meaningless, and only has value in its pragmatic benefits of making society "work".

So you can't say "slavery is wrong" in any meaningful sense, just that "I feel that it is wrong" or maybe "Most people feel that it is wrong". That is all we are left with, moral words with no meaning, just pragmatic benefits.

In my asking why the extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany was wrong you write:

"I could answer this one, but I'd just be repeating what I've said a couple times already in this post alone."

Really?! Above you just said you couldn't give an up or down answer as to whether slavery was wrong, now you act as if you have answers. Maybe you are just refering to your ideas of psychological evolution and how moral "feelings" devoloped. (feelings that are ultimately meaningless in a Materialist universe)

"Instead, I'd like to bounce this question back to you and use it as a diagnostic tool to see if you understand the distinction I've been talking about regarding the different between objective universal things and subjective human constructs."

HUMAN DIGNITY: Well, I would say firstly that human beings have dignity because they are made in God's image (unlike slugs) man is great and is the chief of God's creation being made in His likeness. As such his life has intrinsic worth and value.
To strip man of this worth and value is really an act against the God that has elevated man to a place of worth.

MORALITY: Certain actions of men are right and others are wrong. The standard for this distinction is the character of the God who made man and the universe. We know God's character because we do not live in a closed system, He has spoken to us of Himself in propositional revelation (Bible).

Also, man being made in God's image inherently knows right and wrong, because he is made in the image of the God that all ethics are based upon. Due to this the moral "feelings" have a base.

Now I must say that there was a real fall, the man that exists today is not the man God had originially created, man is depraved, yet there remains still the image of God (worth and dignity) in every human being.

Finally you state:

"I think I've shown pretty consistently how and why, according to my worldview, our society rejects things like slavery, verbal abuse, or eugenics projects."

Sure, but you can't explain why we SHOULD reject these. You can not give a definite WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!" when faced with eugenics. You can just give some theories as to why you (subjectively) think our noetic structures dispose us to reject things.

Ubersehen said...

Working on a response. However, I'm in Mexico, so it may be a few days, since internet access is somewhat more limited.

Bob said...

No problem Uber. What are you in Mexico for anyway? Just vacation?

Ubersehen said...

Project for school, mainly, although the time-frame is luckily such that I can take a week at the end of it for vacation too.

In any case, here's what I've got so far:

We all operate upon presuppositions, and Christianity is a properly basic presupposition.

Ok, it's certainly fair to say that we all operate on presuppositions (the sun rising in the morning, gravity, etc), but I think that you're attempting to insinuate that all of the people you classify as Atheists automatically assume, absolutely, that no god exists. This is not the case. Some certainly do, but many others take what I feel is a more responsible approach and simply exercise reasonable skepticism until a god's existence is proven.

without presupposing the Christian worldview you end up with inconsistancies logically with what really is, because we live in a universe made by God.

I hope that that's not supposed to be a self-contained argument for the inaccuracy of my views. To me, it looks like you're saying that any brand of atheistic worldview must be false because Christianity is correct, and you know Christianity is correct because the universe was made by your god. Hopefully you'll clarify this one for me.

Based upon a Materialist presupposition (that the universe is a closed system and there is no God)...

I don't presuppose either of those things, first of all, but I do feel that the existence of the Christian god is unlikely.

you simply can not give an adequate base for the laws of logic to be universal and binding.

How so? I've never stated that universal truths don't exist, only that we, as fallible entities, are unable to perfectly perceive them. Simply because I can't tell you why the laws of logic exist doesn't mean they don't exist. It also doesn't give the possibility of your god's existence any more validity simply because you have an opinion about it.

We (you and I) communicate and I think we both assume that we are having real dialogue and getting one another's ideas from one head to another through our writing.

Of course, but how does this suggest anything other than that we are products of a society that has developed the means of communicating?

We also both assume that concepts like illogical, or valid arguments exist. We both assume the law of non-contradiction applies to all discussion. But how can we justify assuming these things? My point is only with Christian theism.

One way we justify assuming these things is through the same process we use to justify assuming that if we let go of an object suspended above the ground, it will fall. The mere manner in which it, through repeated use over the course of humanity's existence, has always been shown to occur is a pretty strong indicator.

Why must it be anything other than a natural state of the universe? Immediately declaring it the work of your particular brand of god seems like a big jump to conclusions. Inevitably this must lead to the question: How do you know for sure? How does presupposing this to be the work of your god lead to an educated, critical conclusion on the matter?

unless you presuppose Christian theism you have no basis to call anything inconsistant because you have no basis on which to stand that makes the laws of logic universally applicable and unchanging. The best you can do is say they are man made conventions we invented, just like you do with morality. THIS IS BECAUSE YOU PRESUPPOSE MATERIALISM.

You can only say if you presuppose your point of view. If no god exists, then the explanation is really quite simple: The laws of logic are a natural state of the universe (although we have no way of knowing if they're relative to our world/universe/dimension/whatever) that man has simply uncovered or explained, just like vectors and calculus. Could there be a god behind it? Sure, but, without any presuppositions, I'm at a loss as to why there must be.

It seemed like you were saying dignity was based upon power

No, I was saying that what you perceive to be dignity is actually power. I was not saying that dignity and power are the same thing, but that it is one instead of the other. Dignity comes prepackaged with qualitative notions of goodness. Power is merely a description, and I think is more appropriate for describing the reason humans are set apart from other species.

Similarly I raised the issue of slavery, and ask why it is wrong you respond:

"Universally speaking, I doubt there is any right or wrong considering slavery or any other horrific and atrocious act."

My heart really goes out to you bro, but this is where your worldview leads....


This is exactly what I predicted you'd say: "Now, I know you'd probably jump all over this, claiming that this point of view logically leads to a moral vacuum, and that I'm of the position that anything goes because every point of view is made valid through it" was my remark. I went on to describe a few problems with it afterwards. You should read it again.

Worse than that, however, is the fact that I've addressed criticisms like You simply can't give any strait answers saying that the capture and traffic and selling of human beings is wrong a number of times before this. I would like you to reread what I've said concerning the issue you describe above and tell me what I would say in response to it.

This is in large part because you can't give a strait answer as to whether human beings have any dignity greater than cows.

How have I not given a straight answer? I've pretty clearly stated that, from my perspective, dignity is a subjective human construct, and that what you perceive to be dignity is actually power. How can I simplify this more? Pleae indicate to me how this is not a straight answer.

Do you live as though you can not make any moral judgements at all ... you have uttered a meaningless sentence and are being inconsistant to your worldview.

The only inconsistency I see here is the one between the manner in which your responses are written in a tone that indicate you've understood what I'm saying but reflect no such thing in their content. I've addressed this already. See anything I've said in the past about subjective morality developed through biological human evolution and socialization.

In short you if you are to be consistant to your materialism need to abandon moral language altogether.

To be consistent with my "materialism", I need only provide a framework within which human morality can be explained without invoking a god. I have done this, but your presuppositions have not only forced you to reject this explanation outright, but they have also caused you to behave as though the alternative explanation didn't exist in the first place. Clearly, the only moral language I need to abandon is UNIVERSAL moral language. That is to say OBJECTIVE, UNIVERSALLY APPLICABLE MORALITY. As I've stated numerous times, I do not believe that such a thing exists, or that if it does, that we can have any knowledge of it at this point in time.

Most of what you said sounds like jibberish, I am not trying to be insulting just hones, sounds like you are just using technical sounding words jumbled together to give an air of authority here and a pseudo-sense of having an answer to the moral vacuum Materialism creates.

The let me try to be more clear, since they are far from just "technical sounding words". I am saying that morality and worth being subjective, not objective as you believe, does not render them meaningless in the society that experiences them. They have plenty of meaning relative to that society. Your difficulty, again, is comprehending the significance of something outside of the objective, universal sense. It seems to me that you feel that if it doesn't apply to everyone and everything everywhere, then it doesn't apply/exist.

So you can't say "slavery is wrong" in any meaningful sense

What you're really saying is that I can't say that slavery is wrong in a objective, universal sense. The underlying message that you are communicating here is that anything that is not objective and universal is not meaningful. Is that what you believe?

I stated "Instead, I'd like to bounce this question back to you and use it as a diagnostic tool to see if you understand the distinction I've been talking about regarding the different between objective universal things and subjective human constructs."

My desire was not to hear your beliefs on the matter. Those are pretty clearly being laid out in the other portions of our discussion. What I'm interested in, particularly after this last post, is to hear what you believe I think on the matter. Answer the question from my point of view. Further, I was hoping you'd apply my point of view to answer why and how I, as a "materialist" believe that the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust was wrong. Before this goes any further, it's important that you understand my perspective, otherwise we'll be continuously arguing things that aren't actually being said.

Sure, but you can't explain why we SHOULD reject these.

Nor have I ever tried to, from a universal, objective standpoint. You seem unable to distinguish between the prescriptive nature of your position and the descriptive nature of mine. As a result, this criticism continues to arise, despite it having been addressed numerous times. I will address it once more:

Your religion/god/bible tells you that you should do things a certain way. It tells you that certain things are wrong because your god has declared them so. This, therefore, is ostensibly a universal and objective approach to human morality. It describes how it should be, and anything that behaves differently is wrong.

The explanation I have provided for human morality is DEscriptive. The difference is that it describes how and why humans behave the way they do. It has no power to say why anyone SHOULD do anything, it merely states why they already DO the things they do. This is the context into which subjective human morality fits. A given society develops in such a way that it feels strongly about certain issue, and so this society behaves accordingly when confronted with something that goes against those developed feelings. It is a descriptive tool that explains a society's common feelings and beliefs.

I hope that this has made things clearer for you.