Old Testament Slavery—Not so Bad?

Does God exist?You’ve probably been there—you’ve read one too many articles claiming that slavery in the Bible is not a big deal, and that biblical slavery wasn’t at all like slavery in America.

That’s where I am, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to deal with my venting.

I listened to “Sex, Lies & Leviticus” (5/13/12), a podcast from apologetics.com (the second hour is the interesting part, with Lindsay Brooks and guest Arthur Daniels Jr.). It’s a diatribe against Dan Savage’s recent presentation to a group of high school students interested in journalism. Savage’s point, roughly stated, is that we discard lots of nutty stuff from the Old Testament (no shellfish, slavery, animal sacrifice, etc.), so let’s discard hatred of homosexuality as well.

The interview begins with the guest mocking Savage’s claim that the Bible is “radically pro-slavery.”

The Bible is pro-slavery in the same way that it’s pro-commerce. For example, the book of Proverbs says that God demands honest weights and measures—four times, in fact. Commerce is regulated, so it’s pretty clear that God has no problem with commerce. God is happy to set down prohibitions against wicked things, and there are none against honest commerce. By similar thinking (the regulation and the lack of prohibition), the Bible is pro-slavery.

But more on that later—let’s follow the arguments in the interview. Some of the arguments are truly ridiculous, but I include them for completeness and to give atheists a chance to become aware of them and Christians to realize what arguments need discarding.

The Bible prohibits lots of things, not just homosexuality. Dan Savage is happy with prohibitions against murder, rape, stealing, and so on. Why accept most of the Law but reject just the bits you don’t like?

Because no atheist goes to the Bible for moral guidance! No one, including Christians, know that murder, rape, and stealing are wrong because they read it in the Bible. They knew they were wrong first and saw that, coincidentally, the Bible rejects the same things. Our moral compass is internal, and from that we can critique the Bible to know what to keep (don’t murder) and what to reject (acceptance of slavery).

Dan Savage ridicules the kosher food laws (rejections of shellfish, for example), but Paul’s epistle of First Timothy (4:4–5) overturns these food restrictions.

In the first place, Pauline authorship for 1 Timothy is largely rejected by biblical scholars. Apparently, these guys want Christians to follow some random dude rather than Jesus himself, who never questioned the kosher laws and indeed demanded that they be upheld:

Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17–20)

And secondly, laws aren’t considered and rejected one by one. Do they have a counter-verse to reject death for adultery (Lev. 20:10), for sassing your parents (Lev. 20:9), and every other nutty Old Testament prohibition that no Christian follows? Christians more typically reject the Old Testament laws with a blanket claim that the sacrifice of Jesus made those laws unnecessary (for example, see Hebrews chapters 7, 8, and 10).

The problem there, of course, is that prohibitions against homosexual acts are discarded along with the rest. You don’t get to keep just the ones you’re fond of. I discuss this more here.

Dan Savage is speaking out of turn. Like other atheists, he simply doesn’t know his Bible well.

Or not. American atheists are famously better informed than any religious group. And we’ll see that Savage is on target about slavery.

Continue reading: Part 2

Americans treat the Bible
like a website Terms of Use agreement.
They don’t bother reading it; they just click “I agree.”
Unknown

Photo credit: Wikimedia

See the other posts in this series:

Related posts:

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95 thoughts on “Old Testament Slavery—Not so Bad?

  1. To Bob S,

    Yeah, it would be pretty distressing if people needed to read the Bible to learn that murder and rape are wrong. In case they ceased to believe in it, would it mean that they now believed that murder and rape are okay? It makes no sense.

  2. OT and Bob S.
    Wrong assumption. People did not have to read the Bible to know murder and rape are wrong. Before the 10 Commandments God wrote these moral laws on the hearts of all men. All men from Adam on Know Murder is wrong. From the first murder when Cain killed Able. These laws are transcendent and universal and invariant and apply to all human kind. Because they are from the Mind and Character of God.

    But in your worldview as you leader says :
    ” In the universe of blind and physical force and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt, and some people are going to get lucky. And you won’t find any rhyme or reason for it. Nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows or cares. DNA is, and we dance to its music.”

    So be consistent with your worldview. There is no evil or good just pitiless indifference. So stop complaining.

    Also Bob.S. Slavery under Jewish law is nothing like American slavery.. Do some research. Also Bob S. You to must be constituent with your worldview.
    In the blind universe of indifference some people are going to get hurt and are going to get lucky. So if some “white biological accidents want to own and sell some black biological accident who cares?

    But you and OT can not live in your contradictory relative worldview consistently. As no atheists can. You both borrow from the Christian world view when you bring up the “Ought’s and the Ought nots. ( 10 commandments) you can not account for the Ought and ought nots. As you Leader says ”

    “…the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows or cares. DNA is, and we dance to its music.”

    So you two please be consistent and “DANCE to the MUSIC of your DNA. And stop referring to Good and evil and right and wrong and ought and ought not. Those do not apply in your worldview of pitiless indifference.

    • Before the 10 Commandments God wrote these moral laws on the hearts of all men.

      Could be, but where’s the evidence? That is, why (besides wishful thinking) do you believe this? And why should I?

      Again: don’t confuse theology with evidence.

      There is no evil or good just pitiless indifference. So stop complaining.

      Just ignoring my rebuttals will save your argument from skewering? It doesn’t work that way. Putting your fingers in your ears doesn’t stop me from scuttling your argument.

      There is no absolute evil or good. That doesn’t mean there is no evil or good. Look up the words in the dictionary and you’ll see that I’m right.

      Don’t you get tired of repeating the same arguments? Why not actually read other ideas? Who knows–you might actually learn something. Or are you too proud to learn?

      Slavery under Jewish law is nothing like American slavery.

      Wrong. The next post (Saturday?) will clarify.

      Stay tuned!

      So if some “white biological accidents want to own and sell some black biological accident who cares?

      I care. And from my standpoint, that’s pretty much the most important authority!

    • To Bob C,

      Why should I submit to the laws of biology? I mean, it’s important to know them, but there is no need to always follow them. In some cases, it would even be folly and callousness to follow them.

      Ever heard of the NATURALISTIC FALLACY? You can’t derive an ought from an is.

      Bob S, this last remark is directed at you as well.

      • OT:

        I think the is-ought problem and the naturalistic fallacy are different. Do you still think that I’m guilty of the latter?

        As for is-ought, I don’t see the problem. It is the case that humans have a moral instinct that makes them think that they ought to do some things and avoid others. If I were pointing to some sort of objective ought, that might be a different story, but I’m not.

        • To Bob S,

          Yes, people have an instinct that makes them think that they ought to do something. It is still a fact, a is-statement. It can be analyzed by sociologists, by psychologists, by neuroscientists, and so on.

          But it takes a new step to get to ought-statements, which are the province of philosophers, theologians and lawmakers.

          Here is a comparison:

          «People have a religious instinct that makes them think that God exists». It is a fact (provided we take “instinct” in a broad sense). But it does not mean that God exists. The existence of God as an issue requires a new step.

        • But it takes a new step to get to ought-statements

          Why? Maybe I don’t know what an “ought-statement” is.

          Seems to me that an ought statement is simply a description of a moral instinct.

          Are you demanding that an objective or transcendent or absolute quality be applied to “ought”? Because I’m not.

        • To Bob S,

          The problem is that you already put in an implicit ought-statement in the phrase “moral instinct”. If you were objective, you would speak of “pro-social instinct”, “herd instinct”, “life instinct”, but in speaking of a moral instinct, you already pass a judgment on the value of such an instinct. A judgment that requires one more step from is-statements.

          Here is the bottom line: evolution has given us pro-social and anti-social instincts. We are both altruistic and selfish, both loving and xenophobic, both compassionate and callous.

          In themselves, those instincts don’t bear values. It is we who ascribe value to some of them, owing to our conscience. It is only then that the phrase “moral instinct” takes its meaning.

        • OT:

          Here is the bottom line: evolution has given us pro-social and anti-social instincts. We are both altruistic and selfish, both loving and xenophobic, both compassionate and callous.

          Yes, I agree. And I’m still missing the problem. I can’t say “I ought to be nice to people”?

          I consult my conscience, my moral instinct, and it says “Be nice to people!” and the way I translate that is “I ought to be nice to people.” Problem?

        • To Bob S,

          You don’t directly listen to your so-called “moral instinct” (an inadequate name, as I have told you), you listen to your conscience which tells you which instincts OUGHT TO take precedence. Your conscience is not at the same level as your instincts, even your herd instinct. Though I would argue that conscience is impossible without some brain structures.

          Your herd instinct is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for morality. It gives you the power to act morally, but it does not give you moral reasons to act. It’s like oil in a car: it is a necessary condition for the car to move, but it is not a sufficient condition, because a car with oil will not by itself move: it requires a driver, who is distinct from the car.

          If you merely followed your instincts, even your herd instinct, you could not use the labels “moral” and “immoral” (ought-statements) just as you cannot use those labels to speak of natural phenomena like rain and shooting stars.

          Then you would not be allowed to judge other people who use other instincts than the herd instinct (which usually result in problems).

          There is confusion in your discourse. It seems that you cannot or will not distinguish between fact (herd instinct) and value (it is moral to follow the herd instinct in given conditions).

        • OT:

          I’m not sure why this complication is necessary or how it clarifies things.

          If you merely followed your instincts, even your herd instinct, you could not use the labels “moral” and “immoral” (ought-statements)

          Our common goal is to use “moral” and “immoral” as they’re defined in the dictionary. How is my model (we have instincts [= conscience] that guide us to what is moral/immoral) incorrect?

          There is confusion in your discourse.

          Ah! It’s good to clarify that it’s my fault.

          It seems that you cannot or will not distinguish between fact (herd instinct) and value (it is moral to follow the herd instinct in given conditions).

          Where does value come from? From some transcendent source?

          Seems to me that “moral” is just a label for the category of our actions that affect other people’s wellbeing.

  3. Bob I think OT is saying your herd insinct ( evolution) is a descriptive tool , it tell us what “is” the case, not what “ought” to be the case. Where as Morality is a prescriptive case. It tells us what :”ought” to be the case. You can not get an Ought from an Is . That is a logical fallicy

    • You can not get an Ought from an Is . That is a logical fallicy

      If we’re talking about something objectively (transcendentally, absolutely) true, then I agree. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

      • despite lots of explanations, in many threads of this blog, Bob S still does not catch it.

        I still don’t see that there’s anything to catch on to. Are you sure the fault is mine?

        Bob S, why not read “Can We Be Good Without God?”?

        It’ll probably be a while before I could get to that. You can’t summarize the arguments?

  4. To Bob C,

    Why should I submit to the laws of biology? I mean, it’s important to know them, but there is no need to always follow them. In some cases, it would even be folly and callousness to follow them.

    OT if you do not follow the laws of Biology. Do you hold to absolute truth and absolute morality? Just wondering your view on this.. How do you account for Morality? Seems you do not hold to Bob’s view of morals being instinctive. ( is /ought problem). Also how do you account for the laws of logic? Thanks.

    • To Bob C,

      Yes I hold to absolute truth and absolute morality, though our knowledge thereof is relative and progressive.

      I mean, it’s like in science: there is an objective reality, but we need to study it deeper and deeper, and our understanding thereof is never final.

      I hold that values are rooted in the personal nature of a transcendent God, and that we human beings have our shares of the perfection of this God, we are reflections of him, we are persons made in the image of the supreme Person, and that’s why we too have worth.

      Still, if atheists find God unpalatable, they can rely on a social contract à la Rawls to find reasons to be moral.

      • OT:

        Are you saying that objective moral truth exists but that we humans can’t reliably access it? If so, the existence of objective morality becomes pretty much irrelevant–a curious fact but one that doesn’t affect our lives. “What’s the objectively correct response to abortion” is like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

        • To Bob S,

          We access moral truths roughly in the same way we access empirical truths, by careful scrutiny, study, testing with other intuitions and theories, and argument with other people.

  5. This was one of the most infantile responses I’ve ever seen. As I told brother Lindsay after reading this, I thought some child or teen wrote this. But after researching further, to find a grey-headed man was actually a shock.

    The Bible clearly does prohibit slavery, as I pointed out on the show. That portion was left out. When God said “Let my people go” he was not saying “stay enslaved.” Please. The stupidity is evident. The fact that God also told Israel, among nations who were giving rewards for returning runaway slaves, NOT to return them, is abolitionist and prohibitive by nature (Deut. 23:15,16). This was also pointed out on the show, but ignored here. Fascinating, as Spock would say.

    And then we have the weak and deceptive dismissal of the Biblical point that while shellfish was prohibited in the OT, that is NOT the case in the New Testament per Paul’s words in 1 Tim. 4:1-5. Ah, but we can’t accept Paul, says Mr. Seidenstickerk, because a “wiki” source (LOL) claims that Paul’s authorship of 1 Timothy is “largely rejected.” Largely rejected? By whom and why? Oh, we don’t have to know that the people are liberal “scholars,” most of whom have an anti-supernatural presupposition, along with other equally fallacious reasons for rejecting the authenticity of 1 Timothy. We can keep that one a secret to the ignorant audience. I sense some logical fallacy coming on…ad verecundiam and suppressed evidence. Nice, Mr. Seidenstickerk. I’m not impressed.

    Stick with computer software stuff. You don’t know the Bible, and you’re not much better in logical reasoning either.

    • Arthur:

      This was one of the most infantile responses I’ve ever seen.

      Uh … okay!

      As I told brother Lindsay …

      Remember me to Lindsay. He and I have communicated before.

      The Bible clearly does prohibit slavery

      Sure, you can pull out verses to make that argument. But the overall message of the Bible is of very overt support for slavery. (This is just the first of 3 posts, so my argument hasn’t been fully developed yet.)

      When God said “Let my people go” he was not saying “stay enslaved.”

      I agree. God didn’t want the Jews enslaved. It was open season on any other tribe, however.

      As a small example, I find it particularly ironic that as soon as the newly free Israelites return to Canaan, they enslave the Gibeonites.

      Ouch! It’s very clear that there are two standards here–one for the Jews and one for other tribes.

      The fact that God also told Israel, among nations who were giving rewards for returning runaway slaves, NOT to return them, is abolitionist and prohibitive by nature (Deut. 23:15,16).

      Yes, this is an interesting pair of verses. The Bible makes a clear distinction between Jewish slaves (set them free after 6 years, etc.) and slaves from other tribes (slaves for life). Which class of slaves is Deut. 23:15-16 referring to? I’m guessing Jewish slaves, but that’s just a guess. And that’s why I didn’t worry about these verses.

      Fascinating, as Spock would say.

      I’ll tell you what’s fascinating: that two well-educated Christian scholars did not immediately make clear to their audience this two-tier standard for slaves. Lev. 25:44–46 makes clear that non-Jews were subject to good old-fashioned chattel slavery. Y’know–the slavery for life that we know so well from American history.

      Can you not know this? Impossible. Could you have been deliberately hiding this from the audience? Equally impossible. Perhaps you can help me navigate this strange situation.

      Largely rejected? By whom and why?

      The pastoral epistles are widely accepted to be the least-likely of the “Pauline” epistles to actually have been written by Paul. I’ll grant that smart people conclude Pauline authorship, but surely you’re aware of the prominent cloud of doubt. We can agree to disagree, but don’t dismiss this fact simply because it’s inconvenient.

      You don’t know the Bible, and you’re not much better in logical reasoning either.

      I doubt you’ll like the next two posts in the series. But come back over the next few days and give them a read.

    • To all:

      I’ve emailed Arthur and encouraged him to follow up and reply to my comment. He described my work as taking a dishonest approach, using improper scholarship, using no research, and twisting the Bible.

      Wow–bold charges. I’ve sent him several emails to encourage him to substantiate those charges but have gotten nothing in reply.

      My own guess is that he talks a big story but is all bluff. So I’m calling his bluff: Arthur, I think you got nothin’.

      But it’s more than just your reputation on the line. Here’s a carrot: if you find flaws any argument I have used in this or any other post, I won’t use that argument again. Ever.

      This isn’t a painful promise that I’m extending only to you. I don’t like being wrong; it’s as simple as that. You show me ammunition that is actually blanks and I’ll stop using it.

      Is that enough encouragement for you to set me straight?

  6. OT
    I looked up ” Naturalisitc Fallacy. And it seems this is Bob’s argument. Which is a fallacy. It says:
    The phrase naturalistic fallacy, with “fallacy” referring to a formal fallacy, has several meanings. It can be used to refer to the claim that what is natural is inherently good or right, and that what is unnatural is bad or wrong (see also “appeal to nature”). This naturalistic fallacy is the converse of the moralistic fallacy, the notion that what is good or right is natural and inherent.

    The naturalistic fallacy is related to (and even confused with) the is–ought problem, which comes from Hume’s Treatise.

    Another usage of the phrase was described by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book Principia Ethica. Moore stated that a naturalistic fallacy is committed whenever a philosopher attempts to prove a claim about ethics by appealing to a definition of the term “good” in terms of one or more natural properties (such as “pleasant”, “more evolved”, “desired”, etc.).

    Some people use the phrase “naturalistic fallacy” or “appeal to nature” to characterize inferences of the form “This behaviour is natural; therefore, this behaviour is morally acceptable” or “This property is unnatural; therefore, this property is undesireable.” Such inferences are common in discussions of homosexuality, environmentalism and veganism.

    Steven Pinker has described two logical fallacies. “The naturalistic fallacy is the idea that what is found in nature is good. It was the basis for Social Darwinism, the belief that helping the poor and sick would get in the way of evolution, which depends on the survival of the fittest. Today, biologists denounce the Naturalistic Fallacy because they want to describe the natural world honestly, without people deriving morals about how we ought to behave—as in: If birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, cannibalism, it must be OK).”[1]

    “The moralistic fallacy is that what is good is found in nature. It lies behind the bad science in nature-documentary voiceovers: lions are mercy-killers of the weak and sick, mice feel no pain when cats eat them, dung beetles recycle dung to benefit the ecosystem and so on. It also lies behind the romantic belief that humans cannot harbor desires to kill, rape, lie, or steal because that would be too depressing or reactionary.”[2]

    • To Bob S and Bob C,

      Ok, now I get it. The is-ought problem is not identical with the naturalistic fallacy:

      Is-ought problem: how can you derive an ought from an is, since the two are different kinds of statements? Any property of the empirical world is logically distinct from moral values.

      Naturalistic fallacy (as we understand it today): what comes naturally must be moral (disproven by evolutionary psychology). In fact, sometimes the thing to do is to resist our instincts.

      • OT:

        It’s good to hear that we’re on the same page with this distinction.

        Again, since I don’t claim an objective ought, I don’t see the problem.

    • Bob C:

      I looked up ” Naturalisitc Fallacy. And it seems this is Bob’s argument.

      No, it seems that it’s not. You’ll have to be more specific if you want to pursue this charge.

  7. I did answer I said:
    Bob I think OT is saying your herd insinct ( evolution) is a descriptive tool , it tell us what “is” the case, not what “ought” to be the case. Where as Morality is a prescriptive case. It tells us what :”ought” to be the case. You can not get an Ought from an Is . That is a logical fallicy

    • If “ought” is objective (that is, supernatural or absolute), then I see a fallacy. But this isn’t what I’m saying. “I ought to do X” is simply a description of a moral feeling (that is: a feeling having to do with the wellbeing of other people).

      I see no problem.

  8. Again, since I don’t claim an objective ought, I don’t see the problem.

    Yup! There it is relativism! No one can argue with a relativist. “To me there are no objective oughts .therefore what is true for you is not true for me..” A classical relativist. Like nailing jello to a wall.

    • No one can argue with a relativist.

      Then who do you argue with?

      When you argue with a neighbor or coworker about this or that issue (a tax rate, a speed limit, the best sitcom, etc.),you’ve got two relativists talking. Maybe these conversations never lead anywhere to me, but in my experience, this is how all arguments work–from something as simple as this to arguments that make laws or decide legal cases.

      You pretend that you’re saying something nasty, as if only objective truths can be discussed.

      Nailing Jell-O to a wall? You mean like getting you to justify the oft-repeated claim of objective morality?

    • To Bob C,

      It is not self-contradictory to be a realist with respect to empirical facts, yet a relativist with respect to values.

    • Not to my knowledge.

      (This pathetic game of yours, where you lie in wait for someone to make a declarative statement and then pounce on the unsuspecting rube with the charge of hypocrisy, is getting tiresome. If you have evidence for objective moral truths, show it to us. If you don’t, then admit that you have nothing and stop making the claim!)

  9. Pingback: Biblical Slavery, Part 2 | Cross Examined

  10. “… If you have evidence for objective moral truths, show it to us. If you don’t, then admit that you have nothing and stop making the claim!)

    Sorry Bob that can not be done with a “relitivist” because all you will do is say well that is true for you and not for me.
    Here is an objective truth. ( that you will twist you way out of with your subjective opinion)
    It is absolutly wrong to torture little children for your own personal pleasure.

    • Why is that an objective moral truth? How do you know it’s not simply a universally held moral instinct?

      • To Bob S,

        Give up your phrase “moral instinct”, it’s misleading. There is a herd instinct, a pro-social instinct, and this is an is-statement. But to speak of an instinct as moral is an ought-statement. And the two statements are to be kept distinct.

        Our instincts vie against one another in our head. But we need morality, that is, a superior standard, to tell us which one deserves to take precedence in the name of the objective Good.

        • There is a herd instinct but there’s not a moral instinct? What’s the difference?

          But to speak of an instinct as moral is an ought-statement.

          It is the case that I have a moral instinct. No problem, right? And it is the case that this instinct tells me that this is right and this is wrong. I still don’t see the problem.

          Our instincts vie against one another in our head. But we need morality, that is, a superior standard

          Why isn’t the judge simply our intellect? Some sort of Decider?

          Is there an objective moral good? Show me. I’ve seen no evidence.

        • To Bob S,

          No, what there is, objectively, is a set of instincts, some pro-social, some anti-social, rooted in our brain, and on the other hand a moral conscience which tells us which instinct ought to take precedence in which circumstances, with a view to objective values distinct from the brain.

          Instincts are like the engine of a car, which makes motion possible, but an engine needs a driver to move at all, and the driver is the one who steers.

        • That’s one hypothesis. Is that the only one?

          And BTW, I can’t think of any anti-social instincts; rather, I think of instincts that, if taken to extremes, are bad. Example: kindness in proper doses is good; thoughtfulness of others to the detriment of your own safety is bad. Etc.

          And why the obsession for the word “objective”? Sounds like an enormous claim with zero evidence. Either your definition is a lot tamer than mine, or your feet are firmly planted in mid-air (Koukl quote).

  11. Not to my knowledge.

    So according to your knowledge It is absolutly true there are no moral absolutes.

    A relitivist can not get out of Platinga’s “tar baby”

    • So according to your knowledge It is absolutly true there are no moral absolutes.

      Nope.

      A relitivist can not get out of Platinga’s “tar baby”

      It’d be great if you could graduate from drive-by snarkiness and actually engage in the conversation. The only goal of this approach, as far as I can see, is that you get to imagine a victory. There’s no attempt to educate, just to humiliate.

  12. on June 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm said:
    So according to your knowledge It is absolutly true there are no moral absolutes.

    Nope.

    So “Nope” it is absolutly ” Not True” that there are no moral absolutes?

  13. Why is that an objective moral truth? How do you know it’s not simply a universally held moral instinct?
    So you admit there are “UNIVERSAL” moral “OUGHTS”

  14. Nope.

    Ok, you just said
    “Nope” it is absolutly ” Not True” that there are no moral absolutes?
    So to avoid an absolute law of logic . The law of contradiction. You just confirmed by saying “nope” it is absolutly not true that there are moral absolutes . Means that “yes” it is absolutly true there are moral absolutes. Unless you want to contradict yourself.

    • I know of no evidence to support the claim of absolute morality.

      It’s really not that hard. Stop trying to invent logical fallacies and actually participate in the conversation honestly.

  15. “…How do you know it’s not simply a universally held moral instinct”?
    If morals are universal they would exist as truths whether mankind was here or not. It would still be wrong to torture little children for your own pleasure on mars a billion years from now. It is prescriptive not descriptive. Remember you can not get an ought from an is

    • Not universal morals. I said: “universally held moral instincts.” Read what you quoted yourself.

      Big difference.

  16. Explain a univesally held moral? And we will play your game. Where is the evidence of this universal gathering of mankind to come up with the moral rule that torturing children for your own personal reasons is wrong?

    • This isn’t new; I’ve explained it several times before. I’m simply observing that there are two explanations for why abusing children is universally abhorred–that there are objective moral truths and we can all access them (your view) or that there are universally held moral instincts (my view).

      As for games, you are obviously dancing away from your obligation to provide evidence for your claim that objective moral truth exists, so I’m not sure why I should be motivated.

      And I don’t see that I have the burden of proof. You’re the one making the remarkable claim; you provide the evidence.

  17. ” I know of no evidence to support the claim of absolute morality…”

    OK answer me this.

    Do you Bob S. ( only you not society in general) think it is absolutly wrong to torture children for you own pleasure? Would this always be wrong for you ?No matter where you live and what century you lived in? Is it absolutly true for “YOU” that torturing children for your own pleasure is wrong? That you “ought not ” do this?

    • It’d sure be nice to move past questions we’ve been over time and time again …

      Do you Bob S. think it is absolutly wrong to torture children for you own pleasure?

      I see no evidence for this.

      Would this always be wrong for you ?

      For me in this life, I think that it would be.

      No matter where you live and what century you lived in?

      For a different person (like me in a different time), I doubt that it would be wrong in every possible situation.

      Is it absolutly true for “YOU” that torturing children for your own pleasure is wrong?

      I see no evidence of absolute moral truths.

      Your sad little game is getting boring. You’ll say (whether I’ve given you cause or not) that I absolutely state something is true so therefore … I don’t know what. But something bad.

      Just drop the game. Drop the attempt to infuriate me or humiliate me or whatever your goal is. How about some Christian kindness for a change? Show me through evidence and reason, presented in a loving way, that your opinion is the right one. And, y’know what? With good evidence, I’ll change my mind.

      This one-trick pony’s one trick is getting tiresome.

  18. ” I know of no evidence to support the claim of absolute morality…”
    This does noyt get you out of tar pit.
    Again you are telling us,” It is absolutly true that I know of no evidence to support the claim of absolute morality”.
    Just can’t get around it. The atheist must jump into the Christian worldview to reason .
    Like Van Till said:
    “It is not that the Atheist accountant can not count. It is that he can not account for his counting.”

    • To Bob C,

      There are two kinds of relativism: one that is about is-statements and the other that is about ought-statements.

      One can be a realist with respect to is-statements, yet be a relativist with respect to ought-statements… It is not self-contradictory.

    • Tar pit? I thought “tar baby” was your metaphor. Or do we have a “silly metaphor of the day” thing going on here?

      Again you are telling us,” It is absolutly true that I know of no evidence to support the claim of absolute morality”.

      Nope. If I did, I hope you would jump on me to ask for the grounding of this absolute truth claim. I sure can’t think of one. How about you?

  19. OT
    “One can be a realist with respect to is-statements, yet be a relativist with respect to ought-statements… It is not self-contradictory ”

    Give an example of the two. I think I am on the same page with you on this. Which does not apply to Bob’s relitivistic worldview.

    • Well, for instance one can believe in the objective world of our senses, described by science, and that is-statements about this world are universally true, yet believe that moral values are nothing but a construct of the brain that evolved to serve the base interest of selfish genes or for some other nonmoral reason.

      • Are there scientific theories that are universally true?

        Science is always provisional, so I can’t imagine what this would be.

        • To Bob S,

          Reality is always the same, absolute, objective, it is our knowledge thereof that evolves. Unless it is your claim that once creationism was true, but then came Darwin and evolution became true?

          Remember: it is not the same thing as saying that creationism was HELD to be true, but then held to be wrong, and replaced by another VIEW of truth because new evidence turned up.

          Progress in ethics works a bit like that. Slavery has always been wrong, but people needed consciousness-raising before they admitted it. Men and women have always been equal, but men were blinded by hatred, pride and prejudice, so that they needed to learn fairness and to admit that women are as gifted as they.

          Things like that…

        • OT:

          Remember: it is not the same thing as saying that creationism was HELD to be true, but then held to be wrong, and replaced by another VIEW of truth because new evidence turned up.

          And this is (probably obviously) what I’m saying.

          I still have seen no evidence that objective moral truth exists.

          Slavery has always been wrong, but people needed consciousness-raising before they admitted it.

          Show me!! We (society) certainly think that slavery is wrong now … but society thought that it was A-OK 500 years ago. And in biblical times. 10% of the people in the Doomsday census (1086) in England were slaves.

          You saying “slavery is wrong” looks identical in objectiveness to the guy saying “slavery is fine” 1000 years ago.

          If slavery is objectively wrong, show me how our perception of slavery is superior to that of people long ago. I’ll grant you that as we get smarter about sociology and economics, and we have many more good and bad examples to use, we can deduce that slavery is a bad thing for society. There we perhaps agree. But you seem to be saying much more–that slavery is objectively wrong. Unless we have very different definitions of “objectively” (quite possible), we disagree here.

          As I’ve said many times, universal moral truth look pretty much identical to universally held moral instincts. Since the latter is a lot easier to wrap our heads around (we see so much evidence for it by looking at other primates), why not adopt that as our hypothesis?

        • To Bob S,

          If slavery was “right” before (not just held to be right, but right from your relativist stance) and then was to become wrong, why did it one day dawn upon some enlightened reformer of the past that slavery was wrong, contrary to the social consensus of his time?

          What makes something wrong become right? It cannot be instinct, because cultures have disagreed and still disagree over many ethical issues (homosexuality for instance). And also because instincts have as much served to fuel intolerance, prejudice and wars, as to fuel peace, love and cooperation. Besides, while the herd instinct is often viewed as moral, in many ancient cultures xenophobic instincts were seen as virtuous as well, and in modern America, selfish instincts (the myth of the self-made man) are much more praised than in Europe.

          If it were consensus, then it would make no sense for an honest would-be reformer to want to change something, because the new ideas he may have, since they run counter to the consensus, are immediately labeled wrong, and the status quo wins.

          Isn’t it simpler to argue that rights and wrongs already exist to be discovered by us?

        • OT:

          If slavery was “right” before …

          It was right from the standpoint of those people who thought it was right at the time. I see it as wrong. Different people; different platforms.

          why did it one day dawn upon some enlightened reformer of the past that slavery was wrong, contrary to the social consensus of his time?

          Who cares? This doesn’t help you answer why objective morality exists.

          The answer is probably that there never was 100% consensus within society that it was right, and that that fraction for whom slavery was a nagging problem just convinced others. Also, society changes (new technologies, new administrations, new disasters) with time, and these could make slavery more or less sensible.

          cultures have disagreed and still disagree over many ethical issues … xenophobic instincts were seen as virtuous

          Agreed. There are lots of different cultures. Again, I’m not sure how this is on topic. (It sounds like you’re just making conversation …)

          it would make no sense for an honest would-be reformer to want to change something

          Huh? Since when is being outnumbered the least demotivator?

          If I think someone is wrong–nay, if I think almost everyone is wrong–I’m delighted to point out to them their error.

          Doesn’t everyone feel this way? And isn’t this how social change happens?

          You act as if debate never changes minds. It certainly has mine.

          Isn’t it simpler to argue that rights and wrongs already exist to be discovered by us?

          (1) I see no puzzle in the questions you ask.

          (2) To imagine objective moral truths (which you have) is a huge leap. I gotta have that evidence. Do you have any? Why not just give it up and adopt the naturalistic explanation?

      • To Bob S,

        Sure, even in societies with slavery, a few people may have had objections to it. But if objective moral values don’t exist, why care? There is already a near-consensus that slavery is right in those societies, and the would-be reformers would get into problems if they started to criticize the institution. And they could not appeal to a higher ideal, something that transcends the society (objective values) because in your view they don’t exist. What they could do is to fool other people into thinking that such objective values exist, and that slavery is such that it is contrary to those values. But why would pro-slavery people care to listen?

        In fact, on what grounds can one have any objection to a custom that is the consensus in one’s society?

        Darwin had good grounds to object to the mythology shared by his culture. He had a better theory to explain facts.

        But the moral reformers, what are their grounds?

        It cannot be instincts, because instincts are too vague and in some case they run counter to rules that we see as moral.

        • But if objective moral values don’t exist, why care?

          Why does it matter whether they’re objective or not? If I have a moral feeling, that it is or isn’t grounded somehow outside of humanity is irrelevant.

          the would-be reformers would get into problems if they started to criticize the institution.

          I have no idea what you’re asking about. In many societies of the past, support for slavery was nearly universal; now it’s nearly zero. And you’re baffled about how this came to be?

          And they could not appeal to a higher ideal

          Appeal all you want, just don’t imagine that it exists.

          What they could do is to fool other people into thinking that such objective values exist, and that slavery is such that it is contrary to those values. But why would pro-slavery people care to listen?

          It’s as if you’ve never seen anyone change their mind before. Why does anyone listen to anyone? Answer that question and you’ve answered your own.

          In fact, on what grounds can one have any objection to a custom that is the consensus in one’s society?

          “It is the consensus” doesn’t mean “it is right.” Someone who thinks that the consensus is wrong would be happy to point out that fact, I imagine.

  20. OT

    “Well, for instance one can believe in the objective world of our senses, described by science, and that is-statements about this world are universally true, yet believe that moral values are nothing but a construct of the brain that evolved to serve the base interest of selfish genes or for some other nonmoral reason…”
    Yes , I can agree. Yet does not apply to Bob S. He does not hold to Universal Truths As they would also be Absolute Truths.
    Some others do hold to what you stated.

  21. Pingback: Biblical Slavery, Part 3 | Cross Examined

  22. “It is the consensus” doesn’t mean “it is right.” Someone who thinks that the consensus is wrong would be happy to point out that fact, I imagine
    Huh? There Bob again falls in the tar pit? Bob said the consensus maybe doing something they think is “right”. But it may not be “right” ??? To do this there must be an absolute standard to decide this? What is this standard Bob?
    There is not right and wrong, rhyme or reason in Bob’s athesitic worldview. “..Nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows or cares. DNA is, and we dance to its music.”
    Bob is a walking contradiction

    • Nope, no tar pit. Or tar baby. Or whatever inept metaphor you have for us today.

      To do this there must be an absolute standard to decide this?

      To do this with absolute confidence, there must be an absolute standard. I don’t claim absolute confidence. Which is handy, because I don’t have access to an absolute standard.

      Instead of mindless complaints of my position, why don’t you just cut through all the nonsense and show us the evidence that absolute/objective moral truth exists. Show us how your position is right and mine is wrong. Just put my flawed argument out of its misery.

      But you don’t have any evidence of objective moral truth, do you?

  23. If I think someone is wrong–nay, if I think almost everyone is wrong–I’m delighted to point out to them their error.

    Bob got more tar on himself again. Bob says”.. If I think everyone is “WRONG” I’m delightted to point out to them their error”.. Hun??? How does a moral relitivist point this out? When Bob’s view has no more weight or less weight than anyones else subjective opinion? Bob if everyone is “WRONG” being their morals are instinctive to them, how can yours be insticitivley different? If you are going to show everyone they are “WRONG” there must be a moral rule somewhere that you are going to stand by to show them they are “WRONG” where did you get this moral rule that everyone else seems not to have? And you seem to have? More inconsistency and more proof that Bob’s worldview leads to absurdity.

    • How does a moral relitivist point this out?

      Just like you do. You speak from your platform, and I speak from mine.

      When Bob’s view has no more weight or less weight than anyones else subjective opinion?

      Is “might makes right” the only rule that computes for you? The thoughts in your head are only the ones pounded into it by those in authority–the president, God, your local Republican group?

      My views have no more inherent weight than anyone else’s view. Same as yours. If I make a weak argument, none will be compelled to change their mind. But with good evidence and a compelling argument, maybe they will.

      Don’t you know how arguments are made? How people change their mind? Haven’t you ever changed your mind?

      For example, that’s how it works here. Those silent people who read this will evaluate our comments based on the cogency of their arguments. Whose argument do you think has better evidence? Whose do you think our audience will find more compelling?

      More inconsistency and more proof that Bob’s worldview leads to absurdity.

      The audience will decide whose argument is absurd.

      (And my question still remains, unanswered: But you don’t have any evidence of objective moral truth, do you?)

  24. But you don’t have any evidence of objective moral truth, do you?

    I gave you this:
    Do you Bob S. ( only you not society in general) think it is absolutly wrong to torture children for you own pleasure? Would this always be wrong for you ?No matter where you live and what century you lived in? Is it absolutly true for “YOU” that torturing children for your own pleasure is wrong? That you “ought not ” do this?

    • Yes, you did give me that. And I answered it.

      (My question still remains, unanswered: You don’t have any evidence of objective moral truth, do you?)

  25. To Bob C,

    Sounds like Bob S does not accept the evidence we have given him… He swims in a pool of inconsistencies, yet does not know it.

  26. :…Sounds like Bob S does not accept the evidence we have given him… He swims in a pool of inconsistencies, yet does not know it….”

    Bob OT is not a Chrsitian, I am a Chrsitian. And both of us see your inconsistencies . Sad indeed.

    • Sounds like these “inconsistencies” are pretty obvious. You’ll have to clearly point them out to me some time.

      Clear away all this sadness.

  27. To Bob S,

    Like it or not, we DID give you the evidence you asked for. It’s just that you keep asking for something else, no one knows what exactly. Bob S, the evidence in ethics is not of the same kind as evidence in science, but it’s still evidence in its own right.

    • Evidence for objective moral truth? If you gave any serious evidence for it, I confess I missed it. Please point it out again.

      I don’t think Bob C has even claimed to provide this evidence. He’s clearly making claims that he wishes were true but for which he has no evidence.

      This isn’t “The evidence is all around you” or something like that, is it?

      Sounds to me like you look at universally held moral instincts (which I accept) and relabel that as universal moral truth (which I don’t). They’re pretty indistinguishable, but the natural one is much preferred over the supernatural one.

      • To Bob S,

        You keep repeating the same thing (your “moral instinct theory”) although we have repeatedly shown its flaws. It seems that you won’t listen, or that you are blocked on something that prevents you moving on.

        And when we challenge you to refer to sources, you bring up the dictionary, as if it were an expert moral philosopher. I already pointed to a book that backed up my stance (“Can We Be Good Without God?” by Paul Chamberlain). When Random Function was there, he said the same thing as Bob Calvan and I. He saw the very same flaws in your theory as we do.

        You have already expressed your contempt for philosophy, but now I think that it is precisely what you need. Go get a recent introduction to ethics. If you are confident that your theory is right, then surely you will get new arguments for it. Or possibly you may shift to another nontheistic moral theory that is more convincing than yours (such as social contract).

        • I remember you’re not buying my thinking; I missed your mention of flaws. What sources do you need? What would convincing sources tell you?

          I ask for arguments that support your remarkable claim, that objective moral truth exists, and you say, “I already told them to you”?

  28. Pingback: Biblical Slavery, Part 3

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