In which Passerby attempts to poke holes in the logical argument demonstrating the irrationality of his position concerning the simultaneous existence of evil and the nonexistence of God.
Well! I wasn’t expecting an entire fresh post devoted to my challenge
in that other thread. I’m so honored. Pardon my late arrival. Okay,
first off, VD, looks like you threw a gutter ball from your second
premise, as Riki-Tiki-Tavi already sensed. Let’s have a look at it:
The existent fact of wrongdoing necessarily requires that there is a
material universal standard of right and wrong by which actions can be
Incorrect. The existent fact of wrongdoing/evil
does not require a material universal standard of right and wrong. The
existent fact of wrongdoing is self-evident because the alternative is…
the nonexistence of wrongdoing. Good luck making a sound argument for
the nonexistence of wrongdoing. Think anyone can do it passably? I
don’t and I suspect you don’t either. So we should agree there. That’s
point number one.
Point number one is incorrect. Notice here that Passerby is not only taking exception to my point, but to entire philosophies such as nihilism, existentialism, and, ironically enough, rational materialism. His argument is surprisingly weak, based as it is on the self-evidence of wrongdoing. Is it self-evident that stealing is wrong? That not voting is wrong?
Consider how little sense his argument makes if we substitute a non-existent fact for wrongdoing/evil. The existent fact of unicorns
does not require a material universal standard of unicorns and not-unicorns. The
existent fact of unicorns is self-evident because the alternative is…
the nonexistence of unicorns.
If we cannot tell the difference between a unicorn and a not-unicorn, then we cannot possibly declare that unicorns do or do not exist. But if we have established the fact that unicorns do exist, we have necessarily established a material and universal standard for what a unicorn is and what a unicorn is not. Therefore, point number one fails and the second step in the logical argument remains standing.
Point number two. Another thing wrong
with this “necessary universal standard” claim of yours (I noticed you
used that word “standard” seventeen times in your post, so to continue
the bowling metaphor, it’s like your very bowling ball to bowl with,
without which… well, game over — but I’ll give you a dollar so you can
go play some Ms. PacMan) is that six billion people in the world could
have six billion different standards of wrongdoing, but everyone would
nonetheless agree that wrongdoing does exist in the world.
let’s imagine those six billion individuals’ six billion different
standards of wrongdoing can be each given a numerical value. I’m not
saying it can ever actually be done, but just go with me here. After
they’ve all been given a numerical value, they’re arranged in order on a
vertical meter with a red zone on the bottom and a green zone on the
top. Put the meter on the lowest setting of “1”. That setting belongs
to a guy who disagrees with all 5,999,999,999 people above him whom he
considers to be an increasing bunch of prissy Miss Manners types who see
wrongdoing in all kinds of ways he doesn’t. But he at least sees one
instance of wrongdoing in the world and everyone above him agrees that
he at least got one right. So it seems to me (I’m just now coming up
with this, but I’ll try to land this thing in one piece) that this
minimum setting of “1” is the standard, if anything, for the existence
of wrongdoing. Below that is “0” which represents nonexistence of
Point being, our subjectivity is flawed, but it’s far
from useless! There is, after all, communication and agreement. It’s
precisely because of our limitation as trapped individuals of
subjectivity that science is the best idea we’ve ever come up with (or
happened upon) to make gains on objectivity. To paraphrase Steven
Pinker, science is our highest, purest expression of reason.
Objectivity is perhaps an unattainable goal, but we’ve seemingly made
lots of progress toward it given our technological conquests, our
steadily decreasing rate of violence in ever larger, more complex
populations, etc. I say seemingly because a cosmic rug pulling could be
in store for us a la The Matrix at any time, but that caveat aside,
it’s our processes of communication, cooperation, record keeping,
rhetorical persuasion, experimentation, reason, science, etc. that we
arrive at standards of right and wrong be they amoral (e.g., math,
chemistry, physics) or moral. And we arrive at them, to the extent we
do, through our own shared reasoning, thank you very much. No divinity
needed or even evident.
Point number two is not so much incorrect as irrelevant, bordering on a category error. In this section, Passerby fails to grasp that an objective standard is more than the sum of six billion subjective opinions, and in fact, no number of subjective opinions can produce an objective standard, by definition. The more the standard is “influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice”, the less objective it can be, regardless of whether those competing feelings, interpretations, and prejudices are harmonious or not. Existent evil/wrongdoing requires a material and universal standard, even if our subjective experience of the objective reality is different in six billion different ways.
If the readers don’t mind indulging me in following Passerby on one of his tangents, I will add that Stephen Pinker is wrong about science as he is wrong about so many things. Science is most certainly not the highest and purest expression of reason. Not only is it not reason at all, it was specifically conceived, developed, and utilized to replace pure reason. This is why Science is so often at odds with Philosophy as well as Religion; Science is nothing more than the systematic codification of experience.