After writing my blog post titled “The Kalam Cosmological Argument NOT Debunked – A Response to YouTuber Rationality Rules”, one of my Facebook friends commented in one of the various places I had posted that blog post on Facebook and in the comment, he asked if I would respond to his video dealing with The Moral Argument. I agreed to it because (1) he asked me to, and (2) Rationality Rules (RR) is a very popular atheist YouTuber whose videos get thousands of views and who makes thousands of dollars per creation on Patreon. Lots of people are being exposed to his bad arguments against Christian theism, and therefore, we Christian Apologists who create online content need to interact with his work. If you’d like to watch the video for yourself before reading the article, click “The Argument From Morality – Debunked (William Lane Craig’s Moral Argument Refuted)”
For the uninitiated, The Moral Argument for God’s Existence is as follows
1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3: Therefore, God exists.
I have defended this argument in several blog posts on this site as well as in my recent book The Case For The One True God: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Case For The God Of Christianity.
Let’s tackle each of Rationality Rules’ objections one by one.
Objection 1: The Argument Commits The Non-Sequitor Fallacy
Rationality Rules (RR) says “The first flaw I’d like to raise is that first premise is unsubstantiated, making the entire argument a non-sequitur. It in no way logically follows that only a a specific god could be responsible for objective moral values, unless the defender of the moral arguments is defining moral values to mean ‘moral values, principles, and duties that are declared by god’ and if they are doing this then they including the claim of their argument within the premise which is begging the question. To illustrate this further, simply replace ‘God’ with ‘Cthulu’ and you’ll quickly appreciate how absurd this argument is.”
First off, I would like to point out that RR doesn’t appear to understand what the non-sequitur fallacy is. The Non-Sequitur Fallacy (Latin for “does not follow”) is a formal fallacy, not an informal fallacy. This means that a syllogism’s conclusion does not follow from the premises even if all of the premises were conceded as true. For example, consider the following syllogism
1: If it rained today, the ground will be wet.
2: It did not rain today.
3: Therefore, the ground will not be wet.
This conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises because it commits the “Denying The Antecedent Fallacy”. If P, then Q. Not P. Therefore, Not Q. This is logically fallacious. Just because it didn’t rain today (premise 2), that doesn’t mean the ground won’t be wet (the conclusion). The ground might be wet for other reasons. Perhaps a wild animal tore up the swimming pool, causing the backyard to be flooded. Maybe your wife installed a sprinkler system yesterday without your knowledge. While “the ground will be wet” would logically follow from “If it rains today, the ground will be wet” and “It rained today”, (modus ponens), it does not follow that “If it rains today, the ground will be wet”, “It did not rain today”, “therefore the ground will not be wet”. It’s a Non-Sequitur because the conclusion doesn’t follow even if both premises are true.
By contrast, the conclusion of The Moral Argument does follow from the 2 premises because the argument is in the form of modus tollens.
1: If P, then Q.
2: Not Q.
3: Therefore, not P.
1: If God does not exist (if P), objective moral values and duties do not exist (then Q)
2: Objective moral values and duties do exist (not Q).
3: Therefore, God exists (not P).
Now, if what RR means by saying that it’s a non-sequitur is that the conclusion doesn’t follow because one of the premises is false, then he’s got to show which premise he thinks is false and why. Otherwise by saying it is a non-sequitur is merely an assertion.
Secondly, I think a specific God does need to exist to ground objective moral values and duties. I’ve explained this in my book. Though I don’t fault RR for not knowing this because he is interacting with Craig’s defense of the argument and not my own. But even in Craig’s material, he argues that a morally perfect, necessarily existent, personal being must be the grounds of morality. I unpack which religion has a god meeting these criteria in my book The Case For The One True God. So, I would deny that you could replace Yahweh with Cthulu. Cthulu could not exist and this wouldn’t entail moral nihilism. However, if the God of The Bible doesn’t exist, then moral nihilism (or relativism, or any non-objective version of morality) would follow.
Let me defend this claim.
*Defense Of Premise 1
First off, if theism is not true, then what reason remains for thinking that human beings are intrinsically valuable? On atheism, man is just a biological organism. There are other biological organisms on the planet. What makes humans more valuable than the life of say, a cockroach, or a tree? Most people don’t believe you’re committing murder when you stomp on a cockroach or cut down a tree, but they do think you’re committing murder if you end the life of another human being. Why is it that the life of a man is of more value than that of a roach or a tree? Why is it murder to cut down a man, but not murder to cut down a tree? Both are living organisms. They’re both considered life.
Maybe humans are more valuable than these things because they’re more advanced. A man, unlike a roach or a tree, can walk, talk, and do complex mathematical equations. A person can build a rocket and fly it to the moon, build houses, and can do many things lower animals cannot do, and this is certainly something trees cannot do. But if you were to say that this is what makes a man intrinsically valuable, another question immediately arises; why is complexity a criterion for objective worth? Why is a human more valuable than any other organism just because he’s higher up on the evolutionary tree? Why isn’t it the case that simpler organisms have the most worth like an amoeba? Why is the advanced-ness of man a criterion for his objective worth?
It doesn’t seem that there is any intrinsic worth of human life on the atheistic worldview. On atheism, man is just a bag of chemicals on bones who, because of the electrochemical processes in his brain, neurons firing, and molecules going about in motion, goes about his day thinking that his life is valuable. This, despite the fact that he was thrust into existence from a blind process which did not have him in mind, despite the fact that he’s a tiny speck on a somewhat less tiny speck of dust called Planet Earth in a massive universe that cares not whether he lives or dies.
On atheism, there is nothing but matter, energy, space and time. Why is one bag of chemicals on bones so sacred, but other bags of chemicals on bones not so much?
It is true though, that humans can have subjective value. After all, many people have other people who care about them. A man loves his wife, his kids, and his parents. Given that many people have other people who care about them, it may be said that they really do have value after all. But this isn’t objective value, it’s subjective. What that means is that your worth is dependent on how many people love you. This type of value that a detractor of my argument may refer to seems akin to sentimental value. A man may cherish a toy because it reminds him of the happy times he had back in his childhood. There may be thousands of toys exactly like it, but this one is special to him because it is this one that he grew up with. Replacing it is out of the question. However, the toy doesn’t have objective value (that is to say, the value in and of itself). Its value is wholly dependent upon the man cherishing it. Human beings, on atheism, seem to have that kind of value. We have sentimental value to those around us, but there doesn’t seem to be any value to the man in and of himself.
I can’t see how human life can have any objective worth on the atheistic view. It seems that the first premise of the Moral Argument is correct. If God does not exist, there are no objective moral values. Man is just a bag of chemicals on bones. He is nothing but a speck of dust in a hostile and mindless universe and is doomed to perish in a relatively short time. Without God, wherein lies the objective worth of a man’s life? What makes human life sacred? I don’t see any reason to think that there is objective worth on the atheistic worldview.
If atheism is true, it would seem that moral values go out the window. The life of human beings is no more worth protecting than the life of insects. If moral values go out the window, then moral duties go with it. Why? Because if man has the same value as a flea, then you have as much of an obligation towards your fellow man as you do a flea. Since atheism robs human life of objective, intrinsic worth, why is it morally wrong to murder someone on that worldview? Why is it wrong to mistreat a person on atheism? If humans have no moral value, then it seems that we have no moral duties towards one another either. To reject moral values is to reject moral duties. The denial of the former entails a denial of the latter. If human life is worthless, it seems like it wouldn’t be much of a crime to end it. Why is it an atrocity to kill six million Jews but not an atrocity to exterminate an entire hill of ants? What reason is there to think that there is a real moral difference between these two situations? Not only do we not have any moral obligations on the naturalistic worldview but it seems like there are no moral prohibitions either. If human life has no objective value, then discarding it isn’t a moral abomination. How ghastly it is to say such a thing, but, this is the logical implication of the atheistic worldview!
In his talk “Arguments For God’s Existence” at the Truth For A New Generation conference in Spartanburg South Carolina in 2012, J.P Moreland gives another way to think about this. Dr. Moreland explained that we can tell what is right and wrong because there’s a prescription of how something ought to behave. Dr. Moreland asked the audience at Truth For A New Generation how we can tell the difference between a good carburetor and a bad carburetor? We can tell the difference because there is a way a carburetor ought to function. It ought to make the car run. If it doesn’t, Moreland says, we conclude that it’s defective. It doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. It’s not behaving the way it was designed to work. It’s not working the way that its creator intended it to work.
Now, let’s switch the analogy from carburetors to leaves from an autumn tree. These leaves fell from an autumn tree and just so happened to land on my front porch because the wind randomly blew them up there. Given that there was no design involved, there’s really no prescription of how the leaves should have landed. Moreland said that he couldn’t point to one particular lead and say “You see that leaf? That’s a bad leaf! That’s a really bad leaf!” He can’t say that because there’s no purpose to the formation of the leaves on his porch. There’s no design involved. But with the carburetors, everyone knows there’s a way that they ought to perform, and we can look at one functioning carburetor and call it “good” while looking at a non-functioning carburetor and call it “bad”. Now, on atheism, we are like those leaves. There’s no purpose. There’s no design. We’re just here by chance + nature. So, if atheism is true, it’s really odd to say that there’s a way we ought to behave since we were not made by anyone who intended us to behave as such. If theism is true, we’re like the carburetors. We were made on purpose and for a purpose, and when people don’t function according to that intended purpose we say that they’re “bad” people. But if atheism is true, we’re kind of like the leaves on the porch. We just blew up there through blind, undirected processes. There’s really no way that we’re supposed to behave.
So if there is an oughtness, there must be a personal being who prescribed this sense of obligation within ourselves (as Romans 2:14-15 says). This is because only a personal being can give purpose to a system. Blind forces don’t care how you behave; only a person would.
I think that affirming the truth of the first premise is far more reasonable than denying it.
Now, if premise 2 is true, that “objective moral values and duties do exist”, then it follows that God exists. the conclusion follows; God exists. But, what type of God Could the god of The Moral Argument be Zeus or Thor or Athena, or as Rationality Rules contends, Cthuhlu? I make the case in my book The Case For The One True God that only the uniquely Christian conception of God can be the standard of morality. This is because the type of God needed to ground objective moral values and duties must be morally perfect, necessarily existent, and sovereign over all creation to enforce His moral standards. The God of The Moral Argument must be morally perfect (or perfectly good) because if any evil being were the standard of morality, then Adolf Hitler would be closer to the moral standard than Mother Theresa, which is absurd. He must be necessarily existent because moral truths seem to be necessary truths. Now, for the sake of brevity, I won’t unpack this in detail, but I will say this: The Moral Argument shows us a God that is morally perfect. Being all loving is a part of good morality. But before the creation of humans, God had no one to love, so how could He be loving? He couldn’t be. And if He isn’t loving, He isn’t morally perfect. How do we resolve this? The doctrine of The Trinity provides the answer. God must be a triune being in order to be love. This is because love requires three things: 1; a lover 2; a beloved, and 3; a relationship between them.
On the Trinitarian view, God was loving even before any people existed, because there was a loving relationship within Himself, between the persons of The Trinity. Christianity is the only religion in the world that has a God who is 1 entity that consists of 3 distinct persons. Look at all the religious texts that you want and you won’t find any other deity that is one divine essence consisting of multiple persons! So, therefore, The Moral Argument gets us to the Christian God!
Objection 2: The Fallacy Of Equivocation
Rationality Rules said “A second flaw that Craig’s moral argument commits and one that is subtle but completely devastating is an equivocation fallacy. … During his first premise, Craig and his argument uses a definition of ‘objective moral values’ that is for all intents and purposes, the definition of absolute moral values. That is, ‘moral values, principles, and duties, that are universally valid and true unconditionally and under all circumstance’. But during his second premise, he uses a definition of the term of objective moral values that is ‘moral values, principles, and duties that exist independently of human opinion, but may vary according to context and circumstance’. Hence, Craig’s moral argument is incoherent or invalid.”
This is patently false. For one thing, even if Craig made this mistake, it would not be a flaw of the argument, but of his presentation of it. One could, and I myself certainly do, use the same definition when speaking of objective moral values and duties in both premises. But not even Craig makes this mistake. Craig is explicit. Watch the video below
Craig is clear that he specifically chooses the word “objective” and avoids the word “absolute” because he doesn’t want people to think he’s advocating moral absolutes. Both Craig and my self, who also uses this version of The Moral Argument, are clear that we mean the same thing in both premises. If God does not exist, then moral values and duties would not be truly independent of human opinion, but moral values and duties would be rooted in human opinion, governmental laws, society, etc. But, moral values are not rooted in human opinions, government, society, etc. They are true regardless of what anyone thinks. Therefore, it follows that God exists.
Now, Craig and I would agree that some moral duties are absolute. It’s objectively evil to blaspheme God, for example, or to rape a little child, regardless of what circumstance you’re in. But, if Nazi’s came to your door, it would be objectively wrong to tell the truth in that circumstance since doing so would send innocent Jews to their deaths. It would be objectively right to tell the truth in most other circumstances.
RR himself acknowledges this 5:14 and 6:50 in the video. But he thinks Craig is contradicting himself in the two different clips he plays. I would have to watch the latter clip in its full context or ask Craig himself to know for certain what he himself means. However, what Craig is likely arguing in the second clip is that are indeed moral absolutes. However, not every objective moral duty is an absolute moral duty. Again, I think rape is morally wrong regardless of your circumstance, but lying could vary depending on whether you’re doing a job interview or trying to divert Nazis. Moreover, it is possible that by “unconditional” which RR emphasizes in the video 6 minutes in, Craig means moral truths unconditioned by human opinion or governmental law, not unconditioned by your circumstance. “Torturing little babies for fun” is unconditionally true regardless of opinion, law, or circumstance. “Lying” is unconditionally true in circumstances in which people deserve to know the truth (your family, your wife, your boss, your pastor, etc.). Of course, using “unconditional” synonymously with “objective” is a little misleading, but we are all prone to badly wording things sometimes. Charity demands that we don’t automatically assume Craig is flip-flopping on his definitions. Moreover, as I said at the beginning of this subsection, this issue would be an issue with how Craig defends the argument, not with the argument itself. RR could potentially be treading dangerously close to the ad hominem fallacy here.
Now, Rationality Rules goes on to say that if Craig does mean absolute moral values, “…there are many types of morality that are absolute, that don’t insist on his specific God’s existence”, but this merely begs the question against the first premise of the argument! In fact, it’s merely an assertion of the second, if absolute morality was the claim in both premises, that is. RR goes on (4:26 to 4:58 in the video) to mention other moral ontologies, but again, this begs the question in favor of these other moral ontologies and against the truth of the first premise. Indeed, in both my and Craig’s work on The Moral Argument, part of defending the truth of premise 1 is by showing how other moral philosophies (e.g Moral Platonism, Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape) fail at providing an ontological foundation of morality.
Now, RR can defend these alternative moral ontologies such as Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape, and if these succeed then premise 1 is not true. However, he cannot assert that the mere proposal of alternative moral ontologies automatically discredits premise 1.
Objection 3: The Argument From Ignorance
Yep, not even The Moral Argument is immune to the God Of The Gaps objection. I’m convinced that if God is the conclusion, atheists think it’s just a GOTG objection simply for that very reason.
Rationality Rules said
“It may be subtle but Craig and his audience often commit a very subtle argument from ignorance. They do this because they implicitly assert (and sometimes explicitly) that only their specific God could be the justification for objective moral values and duties without explicitly explaining why this is the case.”
Uhh….what? Was Rationality Rules sleeping in class again? Has he not read Craig’s defense of The Moral Argument? He probably hasn’t read mine, but if he sees my response, he most certainly will. In the very first subheader, I explicitly explain why the uniquely Christian concept of God must be the foundation for objective moral values and duties, using positive arguments, specific reasons, things that I DO know, to support that claim. That RR would make such an objection shows that he is just as ignorant of The Moral Argument as he is The Kalam.
Objection 4: Shifting The Burden Of Proof
When the proponent of The Moral Argument asks “If not God, then what?” we are not shifting the burden of proof. If you want to show that objective moral values and duties can exist in an atheistic framework, you’ve got to provide an ontological foundation. It is not enough for you to simply deny the first premise and think you’ve done your job.
Atheists are notorious for thinking someone is shifting the burden of proof when all we’re asking for is a substantiated rebuttal to the arguments we’re making. Asking for a rebuttal, and one backed up by evidence, is not an invalid tactic. It is the nature of the debate.
Person 1: *Makes a claim and backs it up with arguments*
Person 2: You’re wrong.
Person 3: Why?
Person 4: I don’t have anything to prove to you! You’re shifting the burden of proof!
The more I engage with internet atheists, the more I find that they don’t know how to logic.
Objection 5: It Doesn’t Support Monotheism
“And finally, as the last flaw I’ll raise in this video, we have the fact the Craig’s Moral Argument doesn’t support monotheism. Even if objective moral values existed in the way that Craig insists, this wouldn’t even suggest, let alone prove, that a single god is responsible… there is no reason to rule out the possibility that many gods are responsible, and in fact, there is no reason to rule out the possibility that many petulant and childish gods were responsible that have since died. The point being, Craig’s argument supports theism, not monotheism, and certainly not his specific monotheism.”
This is just ridiculous. I’ve already addressed why The Trinitarian Yahweh is needed for objective moral values and duties to exist so I won’t unpack this any further. One need only re-read the first subsection in this blog post to see why RR is wrong.
I was just as underwhelmed with Rationality Rules’ objections to The Moral Argument as I was his objections to The Kalam Cosmological Argument.
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Very well done, keep it coming !