Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ongoing Dialogue with Matt, an atheist

I'm so excited to start the Ongoing Dialogue post with my friend Matt! He is my college roommate's husband, and he is an atheist who is kind enough to come to the Bubble and debate the concept of Truth and see where that leads. You all are welcome to join in or just read along, and if you would like more information about what we are doing, read this previous post.





Matt and I agreed to start by putting out an "opening statement" about Truth, and we did not consult each other when writing our statements. We will use these thoughts as a springboard as we jump into the comment box.

First, my thoughts on Truth:


For the purposes of this conversation, when I speak of "Truth", I am not talking about subjective truth, such as whether you prefer red wine to white, or what you think of grandma's new hairdo. 
I am talking Objective Truth. Truths that are true no matter what you or I think.  
Truth cannot contradict itself. So, it's either true that murdering innocent human beings is wrong, or it's not. It's either true that rape is wrong, or it's not. It's either true that God exists, or it's not. It can't be "your truth" or "my truth" on these types of issues. 
Objective Truth exists outside of ourselves and will remain true even if the whole world doesn't believe it. Truth is not ours to determine, it is ours to seek and find and receive.  
Believing doesn't make something true. But, if something is true, it is right to believe it. 
Truth is what is real. 
Truth would exist even if we didn't. 


Now, Matt's opening thoughts on Truth:

Leila, thanks for your kind words and the invitation to square off with you on your blog. The question of what "truth" is, and how we know or trust that something is true, is of course a topic that philosophers have gone back and forth on for thousands of years. But in simplest terms, I think I'd say that something is true if "it conforms to a fact in reality". C. S. Peirce noted four methods of deciding what is true: tenacity (we're just comfortable believing it), authority (we're told to believe it), a priori, or the scientific method. I don't believe there's a legitimate supernatural method for this.

Thanks, Matt! I like that we both agree that truth is what is "real".

Okay, my first question to start the dialogue is below in the comments, and please remember that I do not expect either of us to change the other's mind, nor am I looking for consensus. Here is the philosophy of the discussions on this blog, for those who might be new:



Don't forget to subscribe to the comments so that you don't miss any of them (they will come straight to your email address), because once we hit 200 comments, things get messy on Blogger, unfortunately. In the meantime, hopefully we will all learn a lot through this respectful dialogue!


*We cut it off after 220 comments (to time-consuming to load the last 20), so continue with the discussion, here.


220 comments:

  1. Matt, what is the source of Truth, in your opinion?

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  2. Hello Matt,
    Which method of those you have listed in the post do you subscribe to? Or which one would you like to debate in this thread?

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  3. Truth is real!

    I'm a history major. I go a little nutty with the idea that Truth is confined to a specific time period instead of being Objective and Outside of time. Slavery is wrong. It's wrong in Roman Times, it's wrong in 1850s America and its wrong in terms of human trafficking in modern times. Abe Lincoln was heroic in the way that he struggled to see Objective Truth outside the prejudice of his own time period in a way that Thomas Jefferson was not. I think the idea of "oh we can't ask people to think outside the popular viewpoints of their time period" is short selling the human capacity to touch Objective Truth.

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  4. Leila,
    What is your source or path to Truth when it comes to both religious and non-religious claims? A non-religious claim would be, "When I drop this pen, I know it will fall to the ground."

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  5. Hi Adam! My source of Truth, of course, is God. All Truth, even scientific Truth, is from God, the Creator of matter. I trust science because it's based in objective truths, and it has nothing to do with my opinion.

    My path to Truth is logic and reason.

    Can we back up? What is your position -- are you an atheist? And if so, can you answer the question that I put to Matt: What is the source of Truth, in your opinion? And if you could answer Nubby as well, if you relate to what Matt proposed in the OP.

    Thanks!

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  6. I am an atheist. I was Catholic for 30 years. I agree with Matt that Truth is something that conforms with reality. Logic and the scientific method are valid approaches to determining if that something does conform.

    So, your source of Truth is by a god, in this case the Catholic god. In what way does this god give you Truth that is not indistinguishable from a reality without a god? If you say your faith in that god, what makes your Truth any more valid than the Truth of a different religion's faith?

    What logic do you use or evidence do you have to determine a god exists which is your source of Truth? One that is testable for others to come to the same conclusion as you?

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  7. Adam,
    What logic do you use to say that only logic and the scientific method are the ways in which we come to knowledge?

    And by positing that the scientific method is the only way we can come to know any truth, you'd have to prove that ... scientifically. It's a self-refuting argument.

    The intellectually honest approach is to concede that there are more methods than just the scientific method people use to reason about the world and about notions of God.

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  8. Nubby, good question. Adam?

    And if you don't mind answering my question: What is the source of Truth?

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  9. Nubby, I never said it was the only way for people to have truth about something. I can use my senses and reasoning for determining if the scientific method best describes the reality around me, and whether my results when using the method match the results of others. Therefore, it is the best method available to determine if something conforms to reality which was our definition of Truth. I'd be interested to hear how Leila would address the self-refuting argument when it comes to her god as the source of Truth. What is your definition of Truth? When she'd have to use her god to know that objectively.

    Leila, I already answered that question. So far you have yet to answer any of mine from my previous post.

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  10. Adam,
    Science and the scientific method are very limited in scope and capability. You can only use science to make positive proclamations about what you have observed. You cannot use science to say that there is no God. Your data set is incomplete and incorrect, and your methodology is wrong.

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  11. Don't know why that posted twice. Anyway...

    For the benefit of the lurkers who feel intimidated by the whole ‘argument’ of science when it’s brought into a debate by non-believers, consider the following points.
    (And as a side note for the non-believers, it would benefit you greatly to grasp the wisdom from the mistake explained below.
    Non-believers, you should realize the intellectual error you make when you posit that an argument from science alone is all the explanation required to disprove God. You need to realize that science cannot make any negative proclamation about anything beyond the world, using positive data from inside the world. It’s the incomplete and incorrect data set; and the incorrect method for any such thing.)

    Here’s science in action:

    You first need to get yourself a modern mathematical model to explain your scientific idea.
    Then you get yourself an indisputable agreement between that math model and the data you’ve measured for. You get rigorous results.

    You explain the particular details of how you’ve measured and verified your observable data; including which undisputed processes or strategies you’ve employed.

    You explain the wider pertinent relationships between the data sets and the methodologies.

    You suppose what your future data or findings will look like, based on all the undisputed information you’ve collected.

    If you’ve done this, and your predictions and observations are in solid relationship, then you have a working theory.

    All of these ticked points are extremely limited in scope and reality because they can only deal with data that is observable and within our universe. And the method is inductive. Inductive method means you have only parts of the answers and only parts of the parts of questions. You cannot negatively proclaim that there is no God with this method.

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  12. Nubby,
    Certainly I can use the scientific method when there is evidence about anything in reality. We require evidence. If there is no evidence in our reality, then we have no reason to hold it true. If our reality is indistinguishable from a reality without a god or leprechauns, then I have no reason to believe it. In fact, yet again putting words into my mouth, I never said there are no gods, I simply have no evidence to believe it as Truth. I am not proving a negative and I am not required to. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim. Where is your evidence for either gods or leprechauns?

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  13. Adam,
    Burden of proof is not on me. I have all kinds of methodologies at my disposal.
    You have evidence of God (esp of the Christ), but you don't have it through that *one method*, that's the point.
    Further on this point, if you're going to only accept a priori evidence, I would definitely argue that that's faulty reasoning. You'd also need to include a posteriori evidence.

    You can gather information a priori or a posteriori.
    Both are used in science and both are trusted as methods for gathering details/evidence.
    Both are foundations of reason.
    Both are used in scientific explanation.
    A prior is the foundation for all math and logic, and comes from the principle of non-contradiction.
    A posteriori is experiential evidence that begins with a description.
    I can provide examples of both, if necessary.
    Regardless, both are scientifically acceptable ways of gathering evidence.
    We come to know truth through both methods of data gathering.

    Would you agree? If not, what's the reasoning?

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  14. "Leila, I already answered that question."

    I missed it then, and I apologize. What was the answer?

    (I know you mentioned how you "determine" truth, but I don't remember you telling me the source of that which you find/determine?)

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  15. I never said there are no gods, I simply have no evidence to believe it as Truth. I am not proving a negative and I am not required to. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim.

    One last thing-
    You said you're an atheist. You negate the truth of there being a God.
    You're saying you don't believe there to be any gods, that's a negative proclamation. You're stating that you don't know enough, yet you choose to not believe.
    Your data set is what? Incomplete? Non-existent? Then how can you logically say you don't believe? You might want to say agnostic, not atheistic.

    Besides, to be thorough, in order to come to a conclusion that you can trust, one could logically change his method. Go the route of deduction instead of induction.
    Plenty of evidence for God that way. Reasonable, to boot.

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  16. And just to be clear, I believe that people can come to the Truth about God via human reason (many atheists have done so), so one does not need to "know God" or get revelation from God to get to the Truth. But seeking Truth will lead one to God, for sure.

    So, I don't have to "use my god" to get to Truth, from the start. God is the source of all Truth, but if I don't know Him, I can still use my reason to get there.

    Only out of curiosity, why did you leave Catholicism? How old are you now?

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  17. Nubby,
    Oh, I thought you were making the claim that there was a god. Sorry, you may not want to call yourself a theist. I have no problem with those types of gathering evidence.

    I am an atheist since I have no belief in a god since there is not enough testable evidence for me to do so. I do not consider myself to be a strong or positive atheist where I know for certain there are no gods, but I can be reasonably certain and that's good enough. Much like you would probably consider yourself to be reasonably certain that Zeus doesn't exist because you have a lack of compelling evidence. I'm just an atheist to one more than you. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are very well-known atheists and they too would change if they had compelling evidence to the contrary.

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  18. Adam,
    I can claim I believe in God all day (and I do). I can even posit that it's highly plausible that God exists, even through what we know about our physical world. Those are positive proclamations I can make using what I know through science, history, archaeology.

    Krauss and Dawkins cannot posit a thing against God.

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  19. Leila,
    I would not say I have an authoritative source of Truth as you. I subscribe to the methods already discussed.
    I am 35. I left the church for several reasons. Many of which I have come to a better understanding of what I was hand fed from the cradle. That mainly started when my son was diagnosed with Celiac, which means his body fights itself when digesting gluten. I started to question why a god would make communion the way to know him, but not allow my son to participate. Now, saying that my wife has found a way for him to still receive it but it takes special preparation with the priest, and I find it a risk for cross-contamination because the priest uses his hands to break bread etc. I just found the whole idea strange that bread changed to his body would be an uninvited intruder to my son's body (the supposed creation of this god). Anyway, that kicked off my path much as you said, using reason. And if many atheists use the same reasoning to leave the church, than what does that say about your proposition that you come to know god through reason?

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  20. Nubby,
    Now you are making a claim for a god? Then the burden I'm afraid is on you since you are making the claim. I'd be interested to hear what makes a god plausible in your opinion based on evidence.

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  21. And I'd be interested to know if you share notes with Bill S.

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  22. K, I'll bear the burden. Let's go the ethical theory route.
    Do you believe there are absolute evil acts (like, say, tossing innocent people in shark infested waters to watch them die, for entertainment)?

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  23. Adam, you said:

    I would not say I have an authoritative source of Truth as you.

    I didn't really ask if "you" have an authoritative source of Truth, I'm asking what the source of Truth is?

    If the source of Truth is either ourselves/society, that that Truth would be subjective, no? So, do you believe in Objective Truth? Let's talk about morality. Are there things that are objectively wrong, intrinsically?

    I subscribe to the methods already discussed.

    Yes, but that doesn't address source, so let's move on.


    I am 35. I left the church for several reasons. Many of which I have come to a better understanding of what I was hand fed from the cradle. That mainly started when my son was diagnosed with Celiac, which means his body fights itself when digesting gluten. I started to question why a god would make communion the way to know him, but not allow my son to participate.

    And yet you are about to describe that he can participate.

    Now, saying that my wife has found a way for him to still receive it but it takes special preparation with the priest, and I find it a risk for cross-contamination because the priest uses his hands to break bread etc.

    I have friends who receive just the Precious Blood (including a beautiful young nun), so I have never heard that it's a problem.

    I just found the whole idea strange that bread changed to his body would be an uninvited intruder to my son's body (the supposed creation of this god). Anyway, that kicked off my path much as you said, using reason.

    Finding something strange negates the Truth of it? I don't think that's what you really mean?

    And if many atheists use the same reasoning to leave the church, than what does that say about your proposition that you come to know god through reason?

    What reasoning do they use? I'm unclear. That things seems strange?

    How do you account for the innumerable atheists who become Catholic/Christian? Do you ever wonder why no adults ever start believing in Santa or leprechauns or the Tooth Fairy, but many millions of intellects have thought their way to belief in God?

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  24. "Krauss and Dawkins cannot posit a thing against God."

    True, Nubby. And Dawkins is the guy who said that "nothing" is "something". He couldn't understand why the audience laughed at that. His logic seems a bit.... faulty.

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  25. Why would a person not simply take the chalice, instead of the Host, if there were a medical issue? Celiac disease is a poor reason to leave the Catholic Church. Nonsensical, even.

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  26. Jason, you are right. That is not a reason to leave the Faith.

    I am not attempting to speak for Adam here, but in my 20 years of debates and dialogues and interactions, I believe the reasons most leave the Church are an objection to the moral law (usually issues of divorce, contraception, sexual sin). That and just being poorly catechized, or falling in love and marrying someone outside the Faith (and who is anti-Catholic).

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  27. Yes, Leila. It's the same faulty reasoning why Hawking's own peers disagree with his model of the universe. He relies on imaginary numbers, which are nothing more than place holders when solving equations. So, no matter how lofty the mathematics involved in that model, it's unrealized data. There are no value to negative numbers at the end of the day. Zero data verified. Theory no good.

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  28. Depends on your definition of nothing, so don't take words out of context. I recommend the Krauss book A Universe from Nothing. I never said it was my reason for leaving the church, only the start of my path to believing in as many true things as possible. Another example was reading what is in the bible about a jealous, genocidal, and immoral god that endorsed slavery to name a few. I will never be satisfied by your god of the gabs arguments. I can see now this forum is about ganging up, and trying to belittle myself and my words, and has no interest in finding what is true. How very christian of you. I won't be posting again.

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  29. Little Catholic Bubble is right. Come out and into the real world. (Ok, that was seriously my last.)

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    1. Sad to see you, Adam, leave. We all have much to learn and share with one another and it would be nice to hear what you have to say and how you came to where you are today.

      God did not create/make the hosts that we use for Mass...those are made by mankind. I have grandchildren with tons of food sensitivities and allergies, and my DIL notified the priest and he has a special piece just for two of my grandsons that is set aside and no cross contamination.

      I am deeply grieved for you and will keep you and your family in my personal prayers.

      God bless. ^_^

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  30. Actually, Adam, I asked you several *scientific* questions. You never answered. Feel free to dive into the ethical theory question, too. No offense is intended. Stick around and give an example of your understanding. The true measure of understanding is if a person can articulate an example of what they have learned.

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  31. We don't do God of the Gaps here, Adam. Who invoked that idea?

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  32. "I can see now this forum is about ganging up, and trying to belittle myself and my words, and has no interest in finding what is true."

    Huh? What on earth?

    Why so sensitive? No one even attacked you or belittled you. It's called debate and dialogue.

    As far as a "Bubble" we are actually the ones reaching out to talk and explore ideas from all sides, and challenge and debate (why do you think I invited this discussion?). That's the opposite of going into a bubble. The Church has gone out into the world for millennia. Anyway, take care!

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  33. Here is Dawkins words, on video, so you can see if it was taken out of context.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeSZN5l61F8

    It's entirely legit to question this man's comments and intellectual reasoning, since he puts himself out there (big time). We are not allowed to challenge him?

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  34. Krauss says "nothing isn't nothing anymore, in physics."

    What does that mean, Nubby? Can you help me understand it? I'm not being snarky, I am really curious how "nothing" isn't "nothing". I'm trying to get what he's saying.

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  35. Adam - I'm sorry your son was diagnosed with Celiac's. I know a few other people who have been diagnosed as well. It certainly isn't easy. You said that you began to wonder why God would make Himself available to us (through the Eucharist) and then basically disallow your son from receiving Him. Have you asked Him? Did you pray? Not just for your son being healed? But for the wisdom to understand and the courage to accept the Truth about your particular situation?
    He loves your son and He loves you. He is searching for you, and wants you to come Home, to be united with Him - and your wife and son. I hope you'll one day have the courage to hear and answer His calling.

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  36. Depends on your definition of nothing,

    Nothing = no thing
    Not a quark, not a bubble, not a vacuum. Those are things. And they all have a beginning. Infinite time is not possibe. We can know this through a priori evidence- all the better for our non-believing friends. And a beginning point implies Creation.

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  37. They're trying to explain away a beginning point because that implies a creator. So if they can posit that the universe just popped into being, then they can escape the implication of a Creator.

    Nothing means absolutely nothing. They're playing around with ideas of fluctuations, but fluctuations are *things*. Ha.

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  38. Nubby, that's what I thought. It seems so basic and elemental that nothing = nothing (no thing). But if they are trying to explain away a beginning point, I get why they are manipulating that word, but it seems intellectually dishonest. Unless I am missing something? If there is even a "little something" then it's not "nothing" anymore.

    Also, if there are any other thoughtful atheists out there who would like to jump in, please do. I really want to talk about Truth, and whether it's objective or not, and the source of Truth. There are so many good things to mine, philosophically, and I hope someone is up for it! And for the science part, I leave that in Nubby's capable hands! :)

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  39. You are right. They are being intellectually dishonest. They don't want to look at the beginning point. They complicate their data sets, they don't simplify. They posit non-testable theories and try to pass them as fact. And most people are impressed with the lofty-sounding details, "Oh, that sounds big and important", but really, they deserve to know that those models are not rigorous.

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  40. I don't wish to enter the debate, but since you invited comments I'll speak my view on the topic.

    I accept both Leila's "truth" and Matt's limiting of Leila's definition to "factual (measurable, material) reality." Neither definition appears false to me.

    For myself, however, I have studied, reasoned, and yes have witnessed miracles which proves to my satisfaction the existence of a spiritual realm beyond "factual reality."

    I have read of, personally seen evidence of, and (unbidden) felt within my senses a God from that reality touch this one. You may call it personal truth, but I'd set off the lie detector if I said otherwise.

    I have seen love, beauty, and wisdom in this physical reality, and have never found any evidence of their existence, yet know these also exist, and are truths.

    FYI, I am a Catholic --- although once was absent from church for 7 years. I have IQ enough to enter MENSA, and I read a couple hundred books a year. An analyst by profession, some think me a good one.

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  41. Adam Love, just a thought. If you want to be intellectually honest, perhaps you should find out what Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ACTUALLY teaches instead of what you THINK it teaches. Your comment at 10:46am displayed an astonishing about of ignorance about the actual tenets of Christianity.

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  42. DNBA, Yes, amen! And JoAnna, that is what is so disturbing to me. Adam seems more like a bitter anti-Catholic (with so much misunderstanding as to what the Church actually teaches) then someone who wanted to dialogue. I've stayed in conversations with those on the other side of issues where I've been called the most vile names, mocked, etc., so maybe I don't get the sensitivity.

    I don't think anyone was rude to him, so I don't get the sudden departure, with nary a question answered....But yes, I hope he looks into what the Church actually teaches, and not the caricature that he has in mind.

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    1. *than

      And, I apologize if it looks like I am disparaging Adam ("bitter"), but I can't account for the sudden turn and exit, with parting shots. Forgive me if I am wrong.

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  43. I don't think your assessment of Adam is wrong, Leila.

    What non-believers should do is fire away at the ideas/arguments by giving illustrations, so that a person can follow their thought or their method. They shouldn't rely on Dawkins or Krauss. They should rely on their own understanding of what they have pieced together and draw that out with words and examples, so that the rest of us can examine it together.

    And when they are shown new avenues of thought and a better approach to the methods of gaining knowledge of truth, they shouldn't display an act of the will: "I will not consider that". That's all from the will. Not the intellect. It is intellectually dishonest methodology.

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  44. Where's Matt? :-) Just curious.

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  45. I would like to recommend "The Reason Series" based on the book, "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy", by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.

    It's an excellent series that teaches what science says about God. Proofs.

    I am following this conversation and am wondering with Becky, "Where's Matt?"
    I would like to hear from him.

    God bless.

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  46. I was wondering the same thing about Matt. I have no idea where he is.... Matt, are you there? :)

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  47. I was wondering what Matt thinks of the "there are no leprechauns, therefore there is no God" argument.


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  48. OK I'll bite. You've asked: What is the source of truth? What is truth? [Just re-stating]

    I'm an old commenter. I think back then I probably would have identified as atheist. Today I identify as agnostic but that doesn't rule out supernatural belief. Agnostic literally means "without knowledge", and I don't think anyone can have certain knowledge of the existence, or lack thereof, of God.

    I'm also a science teacher. In science classes we teach that objective knowledge is a type of knowledge where it is the same no matter what technique an observer uses to get there. Logical proofs in mathematics. Measuring the mass of a rock. No matter who measures the rock, they should come to the same result (people with bad science skills step aside).

    Entering more into philosophy now: because this type of knowledge is replicable, it is the most likely to represent things "as they really are". Objective knowledge is inherently always descriptive (I believe? can't think of any other case). The source of objective knowledge is, at the root of all, it's communion in humanity.

    Based on this definition, moral and ethical questions cannot be answered with objective answers. I wholly and unquestionably believe rape is always wrong. Murder is always wrong. But these are not objective truths. We cannot measure morals or ethics. You cannot logically prove anything is "right" or "wrong". And I'm sure we'd all agree that "right"/"wrong" are not constructs in the physical world we can observe or measure. Therefore, morals cannot be objective. This is true whether you are a theist or atheist.

    So, this leads me to say that a moral truth is a very different type of truth than objective truths. So much so that it's more like "apples to Atari" than "apples to oranges". Moral truths are derived from a myriad of sources and techniques. I imagine Catholics would say moral truth derives primarily from God, but then from religious tradition, textual sources, and logic (needed, because after all the Bible doesn't discuss IVF). Atheists (or hard agnostics) struggle with explaining the source of their moral truth, and I think it's because the simplest way to explain it is that it is a choice.

    You collect subjective data about the world: the dignity of life, misery, happiness, society, relationships, etc. etc. etc. You weigh all of that and have to make moral choices. Camus himself wittled it down: every morning we wake up and decide, do I live today or do I kill myself today? A choice. It's not a choice that's arbitrary--it's done by using sources from philosophy, logical, the humanities, and aesthetics. It's a robust choice, even if it has no purportedly primary source like "God", and I think there is a fault in Christians in not recognizing the robustness and diversity of secular moral thought.

    This choice is present even in objective sciences when we have to start using deductive and inferential reasoning. Given one set of data, two scientists may come to different inferences and accept different theories. These are because people choose to weigh pieces of evidence different and use different philosophical arguments to arrive at their choice.

    OK I've said enough. I'll try to be back tomorrow.

    And re:Adam. Nubby--you implicitly called him intellectually dishonest off the bat. I think if someone is intellectually dishonest they are being deliberate in trying to deceive you. Some would say it's intellectually dishonest to color your opponent in a negative light by attaching those words onto him instead of focusing only on his arguments.

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  49. Hi Peter, so you're saying that you believe rape is wrong, but you could be mistaken? In regard to the part about Camus, you are saying you weigh various aspects of a moral question and base your morality on your perception of those factors, is that right? So if you weigh the factors and come to one decision and another person weighs those or other factors and comes to another moral judgement, would you say that you are both right?

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  50. Sharon, those are the very questions I wanted to ask Peter, so I hope he can give a clear answer. The questions you ask him are straightforward.

    Peter, hello! I would also just want to clarify... you said this:

    I imagine Catholics would say moral truth derives primarily from God, but then from religious tradition, textual sources, and logic (needed, because after all the Bible doesn't discuss IVF).

    I would say as a Catholic that ALL Truth has God as its source. The religious traditions (Big "T" Traditions, meaning Revelation from God), Scripture (inerrant on matters of Faith and salvation), are given to us by God (as is the Church, founded by Christ Himself and guided and protected by the Holy Spirit to teach Truth).

    Truth does not "derive" from merely natural things like logic, but we can and should use logic and reason to seek and find and accept what is True. We can know IVF is immoral because we apply our reason to the Truth of human dignity, the rights of the child, and the Truth and meaning of human sexuality. It's not hard to see that child-as-commodity does not fit into the moral universe.

    I hope that makes sense. Let me know if not and I'll try again.

    This part is not making sense to me:

    Atheists (or hard agnostics) struggle with explaining the source of their moral truth, and I think it's because the simplest way to explain it is that it is a choice.

    An individual's choice is the "source" of moral Truth? How does that work? How is that different than someone's subjective opinion (no matter how thoroughly or badly thought out)?

    Thanks!


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  51. I have read only some of this blog, but it appears unbalanced. Definitely a "ganging up" attitude is being shown. Not everyone thinks like a conservative Catholic , Leila.
    I thought the purpose of this discussion was to SINCERELY debate.
    Not seeing it.

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    1. Unbalanced, ha. Ain't we all?

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    2. And that's just a joke ... I don't think any imbalance of ideas has been displayed. At all.

      Delete
  52. chris, it's hard to debate when one of the folks in the debate cuts and runs upon being challenged. No one called names, no one threatened, no one was mistreated. Gosh, I've been bashed so much on other forums (again, the vile and sick things said to me are unrepeatable) and I can't imagine that this is a scary place for anyone. Can you tell me what was a "ganging up", exactly?

    Bottom line: Answering questions is how we move the dialogue along. If people don't want to engage, that's not going to move the dialogue along.

    And I believe that Nubby has not been "thinking like a conservative Catholic", as she is talking science and logic and data gathering, etc. Isn't that what we Catholics are always accused of not doing? So, for "ganging up" -- not seeing it.

    And goodness, why is everyone so sensitive? We are all so easily offended these days, with so little courage. Why? If you have a position, stand up for it and defend it. That is what we do as humans: We wrestle with ideas, we challenge each other, we push things to their logical conclusions and that is good.

    I mean this in the nicest way, but when did we all become so wimpy and offended by the slightest challenge? Sigh...

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  53. chris,

    How would you like Leila and Nubby to respond in the comments? With which parts of their comments do you specifically take issue? Should they not ask questions to stimulate an ongoing discussion? How would you respond if you were a conservative Catholic? How would you define a sincere debate?

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  54. So....Saying that you believe someone's approach is intellectually dishonest qualifies as being beyond the pale?
    What a bunch gangstas. It's Notorious Margo and P Nubby and ...Ludicrous Leila.
    You need some serious sensitivity boot camp.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, Chris - funny, I actually listen to DJ Snake & Lil John's, "Turn Down for What" when I post. Helps the logic flow...
      Ur thug name: "Big Mack C" - for calculus... just dyin' ... laughin...

      Delete
  55. Peter,

    Moral and ethical questions can always be answered in theory, and moral and ethical theory is always tied to God’s law. Always. It doesn’t matter which branch of ethics you are talking about. Otherwise, a person only has half of the equation, agree?

    If you’re a non-believer who believes in absolutes (i.e., absolute evil), then you automatically tie yourself to God’s law.

    If you take God off the table, and agree that there are moral absolutes (i.e., throwing people to sharks is inherently evil), then you’ve untied God from your thesis and need to posit something in His place. This is highly disputable.

    Then you’ve complicated the issue, not simplified. And I’d attack the argument with these two questions: If no God’s law, then what? If only nature, then how?

    Nature selects for survival, not morality. Nature cannot beget or generate morals, correct?

    We’re not referring to mere descriptions of theory, we distance ourselves from mere descriptions, to get to truth, right? Reason itself is a gauge or a mechanism to measure morality. One can make statement regarding the law, but those statements are theory, and are not the law itself, you agree? To deny God’s law and, at the same time, deny our human experience of morality would be nonsensical.

    If a person defines objectivity as an accurate measurement of the truth (or of some kind of truth) of the world, he cannot, in the same breath, deny the possibility of there being objectivity in all things. If it exists, it exists; you’ve just defined it. Saying it can exist this way but not that way is intellectually inaccurate.

    The question is, what grounds the objectivity? Is it just something we say exists weirdly (abstractly?) out in the world? Or do we ground it in our active mind/intellect? And what, ultimately, grounds that?

    To rebut my using the phrase, “intellectually dishonest”: it’s not a mark of Adam’s character that I used that, it’s no personal attack. I could easily say, “intellectually inaccurate”, or “intellectually malfunctioning/incoherent”. It’s not a personal slight.

    -----------------------------------------
    See, now that reply above is an argument. You've given me something to actually rebut wit illustrations and examples. That's dialogue. Thank you for at least loading the hopper for discussion.

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  56. For the lurkers who are trying to understand the argument from a believer's standpoint:

    My attack would follow these two lines of thought:
    We can and should discuss practical reason, as means for understanding morality/ethics, to get away from mere theory.

    We can and should discuss the idea of nature vs. God, as it pertains to morality.

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  57. Given one set of data, two scientists may come to different inferences and accept different theories. These are because people choose to weigh pieces of evidence different and use different philosophical arguments to arrive at their choice.

    Oh my word.
    This is not scientific at all. Two necessities should be in place before any measurements: Calibration and Process.
    Calibrate your scale, calibrate your tools, etc.
    Decide which philosophy you’re going to use right out of the gate.
    Everyone needs to start at the same “zero”. Same point and place. Otherwise, you are never going to find converging data. Your overlays will never support each other.

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  58. As a person who is easily offended (a constant fault I am working on), I can honestly say that there is no attack or barbs in this discussion. I only see direct questions. I'm not sure if that's where the offense comes from? Because from my side, I have seen our God compared to a leprechaun and we have heard the tiring joke to "come out of the bubble into the real world". That is belittling, however, these sarcastic comments (among others) have been ignored in order to keep the discussion going.

    I normally try to be very cautious when talking to atheists, not because of what we say but because of their very fragile egos. They do not like to be challenged, they do not like direct questions. The hostility grows the more we challenge them. How dare we stand up for what we believe in. How dare we have an answer to their questions?

    This blog is a teaching blog. I am normally a lurker; I like to keep quiet so I can learn a little from both sides. Mind you, I do not agree with you atheists but what you say does help me understand your thinking process. That is not a bad thing, is it? What you say does matter and it does count and we are listening. You are welcomed here as a friend but you have to be "man enough" to take the challenge. There have been many good Catholics on this blog who have been "called out" if we have said anything that hasn't been in line with the Church, however, it's always been courteous. Is it embarrassing? Yes. No one likes to be proven wrong in public. But this blog is about Truth, so it's necessary to correct at times. (I have been corrected more than once!) You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. It's ok to be humbled.

    I find it frustrating to read these sort of comments where you think you're getting somewhere and then someone takes offense and leaves. They accuse Christians of being arrogant and narrow-minded. Think that if you like, but stay to finish your fight.

    There are Christians right now who are being beheaded for their beliefs. That is what true attack is. Attack is not wounded ego or hurt feelings.

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  59. Becky... YES and YES again! Thank you for saying it so well!

    Nubby, I would love to see someone just stay with you through the process and work it till the end. Here's hoping!

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  60. Leila, I can tell you what the end is going to be....All atheists are WRONG and all
    CATHOLICS (not Christians in general because they lack the true faith) are RIGHT.

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  61. If it turns out that Catholics are RIGHT, and the rest are WRONG, then at least we see clearly see what avenues of reason we took to arrive there, RIGHT, chris?
    Do you have an angle or argument you want to posit? Or do you just get your jollies as a detractor on a thread that's actually about reasonableness vs. unreasonableness and not about Catholic/christian doctrine?

    Posit an argument or scurry along.

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    Replies
    1. see..the minute someone challenges the catholic train it is implied we are kids or trolling. I can assure you I am neither.
      As I said in my earlier post, I felt that people had ganged up on adam and peter.
      I have read some of this blog (not all). But I see the typical catholic thinking....no other views are as good as catholic thinking.
      That is my opinion...I didn't insult anyone, but yet I was told to scurry along.

      Delete
    2. Nubby, do you really think anyone on here is going to come to the conclusion that the atheist view point is correct ?

      Delete
  62. chris, do you mind my asking how old you are?

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  63. [From Matt] Leila, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. When I read the post there were 2 comments. I come back and there are 68! So before I read all of them, I'll just put my comments in, otherwise I'll never get it done :-)

    You wrote: "I like that we both agree that truth is what is 'real'." I like that, too.

    But you also wrote: So, it's either true that murdering innocent human beings is wrong, or it's not. [...] It's either true that God exists, or it's not."

    No, I think you've made a leap here. You are assuming that statements like "X is wrong" have the same semantics (meaning) and metaphysics (reality) as statements like "God exists", or "there is a book on the table."

    The subject of whether, and how, the concept of truth applies to ethics is called meta-ethics, and I think that's what we're really after here. It's a well-developed field, and philosophers have broken up the many approaches in several ways, with the broadest probably being between realist and irrealist views.
    Contained within there are distinctions between objectivism and non-objectivism, and cognitivism and non-cognitivism. To people interested in metaphysics, they may endorse objectivism, the view that values have a real, independent existence; non-objectivists deny this. To people interested in language as a basis for thinking, some may endorse cognitivism, the view that a statement like "robbing a bank is wrong" is true or false, while a non-cognitivist thinks the statement is neither true or false, but may have another status, perhaps like an emotinoal response ("Robbing a bank... yuk").

    Also, there are a few areas which an approach will usually touch on:

    1. Semantic - having to do with truth and falsity

    2. Metaphysical - having to do with existence, or the nature of reality

    In meta-ethics, a "realist" often adopts cognitivism on the semantic layer, and objectivism on the metaphysical layer. That is, that a) statements about what is right or wrong are either true or false, follow the law of excluded middle, etc., and b) the realm of ethical rules exists independent of our own minds.

    Leila, to you and many of your readers, this position may be obvious, but it's one of many possibilities. I think you should and could make a good case for it.

    There are many alternatives to realism in meta-ethics. One form I might like is called universal prescriptivism. In very rough terms, I think it means that when I say "slavery is wrong", I'm not speaking about it as a platonic/realist ideal that exists outside of humankind or culture. Rather, I'm expressing an emotional opinion, along the lines of "Slavery? Yuk. Everyone should dislike slavery."

    Now, I know a lot of people on this blog want to ask "if you base morality on your personal opinions, won't there be chaos?" Maybe in some sense, but not really in a practical sense. But anyway, those kinds of questions are about consequences. They are not about truth. We're going to talk about truth here, right? Whether it is more convenient, or feels more cozy, to believe in a realist position is not an argument that the realist position is true.

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  64. When I read through the entries, it did sort of feel like Adam was being ganged up on. I think that was because Matt wasn't involved (for whatever reason) so that 1) most of the attention was on Adam and 2) he was outnumbered. I don't think that it was intentional or mean-spirited - it just kinda played out that way.

    Maybe, next time, there should be some kind of moderator to slow things down a bit so that outnumbered parties aren't overwhelmed. Lelia is already an official part of the dialogue so she can't really play that role...

    I volunteer Nubby for that position. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  65. Archie, if that feels like "ganging up", you should try being a Catholic on an atheist site, ha ha! Sorry, I just don't see it. We do socratic questioning here, and we've had much success with interesting conversations. The nature of a socratic dialogue is to ask questions. I fear that in the asking of questions, it appears "aggressive"? Sadly, that 's the nature of the beast here, and it's nothing personal. Perhaps some don't like the socratic nature of this blog? I address that in the "Please Read First" up on top.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Hi Matt! That's a lot of words and a lot of subjects. How about we do the socratic method here, and we ask questions in order to get to a conclusion? Let's get very basic. I told you before about how my mind works*, and I have to go with that, so that the logic jumps out.

    Let's stick with the subject of moral truths.

    If you could answer: Are there some acts which are intrinsically immoral?

    Also, I am not clear on the answer about whether you believe that Truth (let's stick with morality) has a source? If it's objective? I am guessing you are saying no and yes? But those can't both be true at the same time.

    (You realize that most of the world still really loves slavery. It's the norm in many places, and millions, perhaps billions, are not saying "yuk".)

    ReplyDelete
  67. To reiterate my question from last night. I would like to hear from one (or more) of the non-Catholics as to how exactly they would like to see this topic discussed. How can us Catholics reply in a way that will not be construed as offensive, "ganging up on", insincere, etc.? I truly want to know. Yes, this is Leila's blog and she has every right to shape the discussion in the way of her choice, in this case, being the Socratic method, but I am genuinely curious as to how the non-Catholics would facilitate this discussion in a way that would not be offensive?

    ReplyDelete
  68. Hello Matt,
    Can we pick one of your ticked points and discuss?

    Now, I know a lot of people on this blog want to ask "if you base morality on your personal opinions, won't there be chaos?"

    To this I would argue that the concern won't necessarily be about chaos. The concern, intellectually, is that if you base morality on personal opinions, then you're only using half of a theory, and you'd need to posit a new road to reason (since God's law is off the table of discussion).

    You'd have to posit something like "nature", which you'd then have to define. Then we argue from there.

    Realize, this is a major departure from any cohesive ethical theory, no matter which branch, because all ethical systems presuppose God's law.

    You've posited more unknowns than knowns. You've gotta fill the holes to explain a cohesive answer.

    Again, I'll argue that no matter what kind of moral variable that you might ever want to measure for (i.e., the value of morals, how one should or ought to act, quandaries in bioethics, etc.), or philosophize about, your premise without God's law, would be not be solid.

    ReplyDelete
  69. *Whoops, meant to add this for the others. For whatever reason, my mind craves and thrives on logic. I took the GMAT after college and scored in the 99th percentile in logic, with no study or preparation. It's just how I was made. Having said that, I like things clear and simple. So, let's pare it down to the questions above, and see where we stand.

    Also, I hope you'll go back and read the rest of the comments. :) Thanks, Matt!

    ReplyDelete
  70. Ha, Archie- Slowing down is not in my blood ... lol
    I'd not be the best moderator.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Hi Lelia,

    No, it wasn't actually "ganging up" and it certainly was downright GENTEEL compared to how the reverse situation tends to unfold! I just started feeling for a Adam a bit because it seemed a little overwhelming for him.

    It's in line with the nature of the blog, was fair, and wasn't mean at all. I know well that it's the nature of the beast here and wasn't personal. I just wanted to share my thoughts on why he may have bugged out and lighten things up a bit in the process. =)

    ReplyDelete
  72. I guess I always get lost when we get to objective truth.
    I agree that there are objective truths, but morals never seem to fall into objective truths.
    Yes some things are true, others are not. Throw a pen up, it will fall. That is true. God created the universe, that is a theory, and may or may not be true.

    I'll ask this Leila, you wrote "So, it's either true that murdering innocent human beings is wrong, or it's not"
    I think we would all say it's wrong to murder an innocent human being. Does that mean because god says so? Because society says so? Because we know it in our hearts?
    But now I need murder defined. And is it ok to murder a guilty person?
    Do we consider those who die during a war to be murdered? If not then what? And is that right or wrong?

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  73. Thanks, Archie! And Chris, even though I've linked it in the OP, and referred to it in the comments, I will cut-and-paste here the philosophy and flavor of this blog. We want people who can keep the discussion moving forward, not just dropping comments that do not advance the debate. Sorry, it may not be the blog for you. Here it is, for all to see:


    Dear leftists/secularists/atheists:

    You are welcome in the Bubble! In fact, I encourage your comments and perspective. I will give you a fair hearing, I will not misrepresent you, and I will remain respectful in my questioning and responses. I often use Dennis Prager's saying, "I prefer clarity to agreement," and I really mean it.

    You should know up front that I do not dialogue in order to reach "consensus." Some issues can't be reconciled. I dialogue so that we can have clarity about what each of us believes, which facilitates understanding but not necessarily agreement. It also allows readers to see both sides presented, and from there they can form their own opinions. This blog is for the lurkers as much as for anyone.

    If you do not enjoy being challenged in your philosophy, if you do not like being pressed to go further, if you do not like questions (and more questions), then this is not the forum for you. But if you like a Socratic-type dialogue, then make yourself right at home here in the Bubble!

    Finally, if you are commenting anonymously, please give a pseudonym so that we don't confuse you with the other anonymous commenters.

    Thanks, and I hope to hear from you soon!


    +++++++
    The Purpose of My Blog


    I want this to be a teaching blog, primarily for Catholics.

    I want Catholics to see that our Faith is cohesive, consistent and reasonable, and I want them to be able to teach it in their own homes and communities, and defend it in the world. I want to help make up for the catechesis deficit we've had for the past two generations.

    Do I expect to be attacked for speaking the Truth bluntly? Yes. We live in a "feel good" world, and if what I present doesn't make you "feel good," then I risk feeling your wrath. That's okay, and I can take it.

    Can I be counted on to dialogue respectfully and unemotionally with those who disagree? Yes, absolutely. But I will speak the plain truth as I see it, even if it's unpopular or makes people uncomfortable. I don't sugarcoat, because a) we need to be able to dialogue like grown-ups, and b) it wastes time. Time is valuable, people! Many may chafe at my straight-talk approach; they are free to read other, more soothing blogs.

    Do I hope to plant seeds for the non-believers or Catholic-bashers, maybe even winning them over to our side? Of course! But that is not my primary aim. Pope John Paul II once said that it's impossible to correct every error we encounter, but we must always speak the truth. I know that some folks will never be convinced, and others will react with a knee-jerk emotional outburst. I accept that. I won't censor them, and I will occasionally dissect their words to get to the truth of the matter.

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    Replies
    1. "more soothing blogs" ... omg lol

      Delete
  74. chris,
    You didn't posit any idea toward the discussion and you seem perturbed. If it bugs you, you don't have to participate. Otherwise, participate with your argument. Bring your game. It's about exchanging thoughts, not really about converting people. That's a Holy Spirit thing.

    ReplyDelete
  75. chris,

    what exactly do you want from us?

    ReplyDelete
  76. Alan, first, a baseline. You are saying that there is no objective moral truth? The only things that are objectively true are the truths of the material world and science? Then only truths are things that can be weighed, observed, measured?

    And yes, a Catholic would say that we all know that it's wrong to murder an innocent human being, because we all can access the natural law (universal moral law) by use of our reason (God as the source of all). But of course, we can bypass our consciences in many different ways, as I demonstrated here, by dissecting the sentence, "It is wrong deliberately to take an innocent human life" :


    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2015/01/abortion-how-to-bypass-conscience.html

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  77. Had to change my name, but you may remember me from before. Only slight name change so I figure you will.

    Hello Nubby.

    Leila, yes perhaps that is what I am saying. I've not seen any, or rather I've not seen a total consensus morals that are considered objective truths.

    You say it's always wrong to murder an innocent. I agree. But who defines murder, who defines innocent?

    Is it always wrong to kill? Is kill the same as murder?

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  78. Hi Alan,

    No, killing is not synonymous with murder. Some killing is moral (self-defense, armed combatants in a just war). But all murder is immoral.

    For definitions, we can use the accepted ones. But as you saw from the link, people find a way to justify the killing of innocents by denying the word's meaning or twisting the idea of "innocent", etc.

    Here's where I need clarity. You told me that there is no objective moral truth. Then you said, "You say it's always wrong to murder an innocent. I agree."

    Then aren't you saying that there is an objective moral truth? You just said it is always wrong to murder an innocent -- that "always" makes it absolute. So, what is the source of this understanding that you have?

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  79. Hi Alan,

    I've been doing some thinking on this recently so maybe I can help a little.

    Would you agree that we can reasonably describe a moral truth something like "a rule that points us towards our true good as human beings"? If so, can you see how something like that could be objective even though we don't have a major consensus on the ruleset simply because some things are actually good for human beings and some things are not?

    I think we can agree that some things are actually good for human beings (food, shelter, friendship, knowledge, etc) and those that don't think so are mistaken. We might disagree on what those things actually are but I'm not sure how we can practically disagree that there are such things. You can probably look back on your life and find things that you thought were good for you but, in hindsight, you (objectively) see that, on balance, they were not. Over time, you've actually learned things about yourself and others that you were mistaken about. It's not simply that your opinion on them has changed but they have changed in light of your experience and, if you had a chance to do things over again, you would strongly wish to do those things differently.

    Putting aside any particular rules, can you see things that you can reasonably say are actually good for you (and others) given the kind of creature that you are and that it would be a mistake to think otherwise?

    It seems to me that that is all you would need to reasonably think that some morality is objective. Where does that sense come from? Where does it get its binding force? What is it, in particular, about human beings that make certain things good for us? These are related but separate questions. Some things (like some rudimentary moral truths, for instance) you can know without knowing exactly how you know them.

    Could we be mistaken? Sure. But the possibility of being mistaken isn't enough to reasonably think that we ARE mistaken, right? And the discovery of a mistake, as a mistake, would entail learning some kind of new, objective truths, would it not?

    On the flip side, it's hard to argue against objective morality without presupposing some of it. I don't think that I've ever seen anyone argue without presupposing (implicitly, at least) the moral truth that "truth is to be embraced by the mind and falsehood is to be rejected", for example. Sincere arguments are kind of pointless otherwise, are they not?

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  80. I thought I'd look back at this blog to see if Matt popped in, and I just wanted to chime back in and clarify. I didn't leave in flames because I was intellectually challenged with questions. I did not have my first questions answered by Leila about what makes her Truth right with an appeal to faith and another religion's wrong, and I did feel that I was ganged up on in a sense. Not with questions, but comments about my story. Leila asked for my story, and I felt nice enough to provide it. Instead of questions about it, herself and others made comments that I was unhappy with. Some called it non-sense, intellectually dishonest, etc. Lelia said this blog would be respectful, but when she decided to break up my personal story and interject comments like I'm in grade school is where I drew the line.

    "I started to question why a god would make communion the way to know him, but not allow my son to participate.

    And yet you are about to describe that he can participate.

    Now, saying that my wife has found a way..."

    I know some have said "grow a pair", but there are a lot of other things I could spend my time doing, so I didn't need to spend it here. That's all I have to say about that. I don't want to impede your progression so good luck to finding Truth.

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  81. Thanks, Adam.

    You said: "I did not have my first questions answered by Leila about what makes her Truth right with an appeal to faith and another religion's wrong"

    I did answer your first questions (what is my source or path to Truth [two different questions, by the way]), but then I asked you your source of truth and you never answered. It was your turn to answer, instead of asking more questions, right? We have to answer and then ask, and take turns. Also, I have no idea what your above question is asking. Every religion and philosophy contains some degree of truth within it. You just stopped answering questions, and the dialogue ended.

    With the stuff about your son and the celiac, I was simply surprised that your questioning of God began with something that was not even true (because God did not cut your son off from the Eucharist, as you immediately admitted). I think that was worth a note, that your start away from God began with something that was not true or valid.

    Anyway, I understand that this may not be the forum for you. You are always welcome back to debate the topics we cover here. Take care and thanks for your comments.

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  82. "[Leila] said this blog would be respectful, but when she decided to break up my personal story and interject comments like I'm in grade school is where I drew the line."

    You may not be aware of it, but that format of breaking up a comment and interjecting thoughts is nothing personal to you. It's a pretty standard way of breaking up a long comment to address each point to make a rebuttal or a comment. In fact, Matt uses it when we debate via email. I am sorry you thought that was offensive. I've never known anyone to take offense at that kind of format before, so I will continue to employ it and hope that folks understand it's nothing personal.

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  83. Leila,
    I have no issue with that format. It's when remarks are made when it was clear that there was a time between my two sentences where we didn't know if he could participate, which during I started digging more into what I thought was real. And when my wife did find a way (which I can't recall how much time had passed), I was still uncomfortable with it because of the issues I mentioned already. By then, the seed had been planted that led me to investigate further in other topics. I never said it was "God's" fault either, especially now since I have no reason that he exists. I was implying that he chose a faulty vehicle if that's how he wanted remembered.

    As far as the Truth question is concerned, I know for certain that society plays a big role in discovering truth. The beauty of science however, is that it can always be proven wrong and we shouldn't have a problem with saying, "I don't know." Was there really "nothing" as you would probably define it as absolute nothing? I don't know that, and maybe there is never truly nothing. Maybe there is always something which science has discovered about particles popping into existence all the time. So much ripping too on Krauss when he is one of the top theoretical physicists of our time, and a brilliant man in my opinion. Time is linear, but we can only understand, currently, the time when our universe began. Science is getting closer to the idea that there are multiple universes which is exciting, and would mean there was time before our universe's time began. How would you explain your god if science finds that the cosmos is eternal? I'm honestly interested to know, but I don't want to derail your conversations either.

    On a side note, does anyone know if there is a better way to type in your post without having to manually resize the textbox every time? Annoying to only see a few lines that you type.

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  84. Vehemently disagree with your logic and your supposition here regarding the universe, time, and Krauss, Adam.
    Time came into being with the Big Bang. There was *nothing*.
    Nothing doesn't mean a blank space. Or a void. It means, literally, nothing. No matter, no space, no time, no prior physical event, no dimension. No dimension for time to exist in. let alone the idea that time could exist before our universe (??).

    There wasn’t “stuff” hanging out in space waiting for an igniting spark. There was absolutely no matter, no energy, no dimension. No time. No agent, no time.

    Something very curious about time…it didn’t evolve.
    There was nothing before the Big Bang, then suddenly there was everything, expanding, exploding, coming into existence.

    To your point about multiple universes, they all have a beginning.
    Infinite past time is not possible, a priori .
    A beginning, again, points to creation.

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  85. Adam,
    I throw this visual out for lots of Big Bang discussion, because it's easy to picture and I am visually oriented, so think of it like this for a second:
    You have nothing, no matter, energy or dimension.
    Call that t = 0.
    We'll just call it that. You could pick -15 it, doesn't matter, what matters is you're starting from a moment that there's nothing.
    Then BOOM. In one swift second, there's everything. Explosion. Matter. Dimension. DIMENSION! Weird.... and Time. There were no prior seconds, no minutes, no hours until the Bang. Then, tick, tock, tick, tock. The constant of time has always been here. A second has always been a second. A minute, always a minute.

    That's t= 1.
    Time is a physical reality. It wasn't hanging out before. You cannot tear time apart from the other constants that govern universe. Mathematically or otherwise.

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  86. > Are there some acts which are intrinsically immoral?

    While that sounds like a simple question if you have a realist view, it depends what you mean by "the act is immoral". If I said it, it would be a shorthand for saying "I feel that act is horrible, and I will support actions to stop others from doing it, too." As for "intrinsically", I am not yet persuaded that calling an act "immoral" makes logical sense, true or false, without humans around. So what do you mean by "immoral"?


    > Also, I am not clear on the answer about whether you believe that Truth (let's stick with morality) has a source? If it's objective? I am guessing you are saying no and yes? But those can't both be true at the same time.

    I think as far as realism goes in math and science, we have ways to be reasonably objective, through reason and the scientific method. I don't see a reason to accept that statements about ethics/morality can also have true or false states, though. There are some sentences that are declarative, like "Here are two apples." Other sentences are not, such as "Wow!" or "Do you like coffee?". I think saying "X is [morally] wrong" is probably not a description of the external world, but something more like a personal expression. Not exclusively that, though; it's also something someone feels strongly and may even fight for as a principle. Why does someone feel that way? Maybe a mix of cultural, bioligical, and personal-histroy reasons.


    > (You realize that most of the world still really loves slavery. It's the norm in many places, and millions, perhaps billions, are not saying "yuk".)

    That doesn't bear on whether "slavery is wrong" can be a logically true or false statement.

    Obviously, societies in other places and times believed some things about ethics that you and I don't today:

    + Slavery
    + Animism (thank the spirit of a tree you chop down)
    + Subjugation/subordination of Women
    + Parents can kill disobedient children
    + Immoral to eat beef
    ... etc.

    Not sure why you're mentioning it.

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  87. What's the big deal about time? Time had to have been *created*. Not a dimension that evolved. There was no physical event before the Big Bang. Who or what gave the spark to get us to t=1?

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  88. I don't see a reason to accept that statements about ethics/morality can also have true or false states, though.

    Based on what avenue of reasoning, Matt?

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    1. Nubby, based on a lack of a reason :-) Give me a reason to accept that "slavery is morally wrong" exists as some kind of true object in some kind of realm.

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  89. Sure, I can give you a reason. Let me gauge your thoughts, first.
    Do you believe in absolutes, Matt?

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  90. Nubby,
    I see you are making suppositions that science does not have an answer for... yet. We treat t=0 with the birth of our universe to make things easier to understand. That is when our space and time existed, but what is outside of our universe bubble (the cosmos) is still uncertain. I am perfectly happy to say that I don't know what was prior until we have more information. And if you agree multi-universes are a potential, than how can you say that all of them started at the same time as ours? I don't need to fill that gap with god(s) either. And again, what you consider "nothing" has been found to be quite active and unstable.

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  91. Matt, can we bring it down to the colloquial? I want to talk straight, so everyone can understand (including me). Are you saying that what we call "immoral" is simply a matter of construct? Social construct, individual feelings of 'yuk'?

    On what basis (plain English) can you say that "slavery is wrong" is a true statement? Or do you claim thus?

    Also, you said with regards to labeling something as immoral:

    "I feel that act is horrible, and I will support actions to stop others from doing it, too."

    Let's apply it to real life. Do you teach your children right from wrong? If so, do you let them know that it's based only on your personal preference or "yuk" factor? And if one day (as children do), they decide that your moral code is not to their taste, would you agree that they have just as much a claim to what is "moral" as you do? So that their morality (stealing TV's, maybe) is as valid as yours? How can you argue otherwise, aside from saying, "Kids, it's my thought that people shouldn't steal". What then if they disagree? And what then if all of society someday disagrees? We can't say that society is wrong to endorse stealing, no?

    Do you see that in a world where morality is based on preference and feelings, and not any objective source of truth, that morality is determined by those in power? Might makes right, he who has the biggest guns wins, etc.

    I guess I'm perceiving that you believe morality to be subjective, but I'm not sure you've said it straight out (or maybe you have).

    So, now I'm rambling, but Matt: Do you believe that morality is subjective (to the feelings or conventions of an individual or a society)?

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  92. And again, what you consider "nothing" has been found to be quite active and unstable.

    Then it's not "nothing".

    Am I missing something?

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  93. Adam,
    Pardon the caps. I USE SCIENCE. k? Just to be clear.
    It has been proven, using the BVG theoremo (2003) and never disputed (even by Hawking and the like, though they blatantly ignore it b/c of what it implies)

    In 1999, Alan Guth, discovers after modeling every possible way of looking at every inflationary model of the universe, he came up with this: every model is eternal into the future but NEVER into the past. It must always have a beginning.

    This computer modeling is based on real data, projecting real limits in real conditions.

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    1. * theorem
      Ignore my typos... it's the wine talking

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  94. "Active and unstable" is a *low energy state*, Adam. Low energy is not a nothing. It's a low quantum state. Big huge difference.

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  95. Why is BVG theorem important? The entire theorem is based upon one condition only. That is that the average hubble expansion of our universe, or any multi verse, other string dimensions is that the expansion be greater than zero. As long as the rate of the universe expanding as a whole, no matter how small, that multi verse, that string oscillating universe, whatever you want to posit here, would have to HAVE A BEGINNING.

    To this date ... not one dispute, no exceptions to the findings. Not even from Hawking.

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  96. I see you are making suppositions that science does not have an answer for... yet.

    Adam. I get a real kick out of this type of “yet” comment. Every time a non-believer says that ‘science will answer all in the future’, an angel gets his wings.

    I mean, I can just as easily say that you will one day in the future, come to have faith in God. Same argument, other side of the coin.

    Regardless, how many years would you like for this “science proves all and disproves God, to boot” to come to fruition? I mean, what, the next 1,000 years of scientific discovery? It’s a silly faith you have in science.

    Science is not every going to be the be all, end all, of explaining theories of everything about everything. It is beyond the capacity of the field. Ok? Let’s just agree on that much. Then at least I know that we’re in reality.

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    1. * ever
      dang it! Ever not every
      stop drinking

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  97. Leila, unfortunately us agreeing doesn't make something an objective truth.
    We could both agree that ghosts exist. Does that make it an objective truth?

    You believe that killing in self defense is moral. I ask why?

    You believe that killing in a just war is moral. I ask why?

    FYI, no such thing as a just war, in my opinion. Innocents always are killed (some will argue murdered ) in your just wars. But yet you seem to be saying it's ok?

    I believe that killing is immoral, as is murder. Does that make it an objective truth?

    My heart and my mind tell me that both killing and murdering are immoral. I am not sure I would be able to kill someone even in self defense.

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  98. Alan, I enjoyed your post. You actually said what you felt without putting down the other side's opinion. It was refreshing to read. thank you

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  99. chris, are you trying to implicitly remark that everyone else besides Alan has put down the other side's opinion? You still haven't answered my question: how exactly do you want us to respond that is not offensive?

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  100. Archie, I am sorry but I really am not sure I understand what you are saying.

    Yes shelter is good for us. Is it a truth we need shelter?

    It's a truth we need food. It actually is an objective truth that we need nutrients to survive.

    Friendship is nice, I agree. Some don't. So it is an objective truth that we need friendship? Is having friendship moral? Is not having friendships immoral?

    See what I am saying is absolutely there are objective truths. But when it comes to morals it's very very very tricky.

    Murder is immoral, killing may be moral. Both end a life at your hands.

    Ending someones life who is on life support is immoral? Or is it not. You aren't murdering them. Why is it not just to end their life?
    Why isn't it immoral to put them on life support?

    Is stealing immoral? Is that an objective truth? Or, like with killing are there extenuating circumstances?

    I hope you see what I mean.

    When I was younger I loved to lay in the sun and get a tan. Now in my older days I realize given my skin tone that wasn't the best thing in the world for me. So is it an objective truth that laying in the sun is bad for you? That getting a tan is bad for you? The sun is bad for you?

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    1. Alan,

      I think I see what you mean. It looks like you're trying to nail down specifics and, yes, they can be quite tricky. But it seems reasonable to me that an objective morality could respect an objective hiearchy of goods sensitive to situation, motive, the nature of the actors, etc. This can make things complicated and hard to arrive at a consensus but it wouldn't imply that these ideas are wholly grounded in our tastes and/or opinions.

      I'll pick one of the "easier" topics that you mentioned and walk through it a bit so you can see what I'm trying to get at.

      Let's go with food. As you said, it's objectively true that we need nutrients to survive and flourish. So food is an instrumental good towards the purpose of survival. And survival, barring some contravening higher good or goal, is worthy of pursuit. In fact, there is something wrong with a person who is willing to end their life without a clear, higher goal in mind. A person ought not do that.

      You saw me slide from descriptive to prescriptive because, after thinking about it for a bit, my concern over food and survival was grounded in the idea that a person "ought" to be interested in their own survival. Their lives are precious and, not treating them so is a poor way to live, unbecoming of a rational person.

      That's it. If is objectively true that human life ought to be preserved in this way and certain behaviors are conducive to this survival and certain ones are not then, it seems to me, I have good reasons for thinking that there are objective means towards this end. In my mind, both the objective end and these objective means can probably be stated as objective moral truths.

      Keep in mind, that doesn't imply things are always easy, that competing goods won't complicate things, that mistakes won't be made, that the truths will be as specific as we'd like, etc. I just started thinking about a basic need (i.e. food) and, by asking why it matters, arrived at an obvious, objective moral principle.

      Of course, the picture can be made more complicated but can you see why I would think that there are some objective moral truths? Complicating the picture might make it hard to figure out what the right answer is but if the stakes are high (like if life, limb or property are involved) I would approach it thinking that there is an objective better/worse about the matter even if it's hard to nail down (or even practically impossible to nail down) to everyone's satisfaction. I hope that makes sense.

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  101. Oh, I was so excited for this series to start and it looks like I am late to the party!

    Hi everyone!

    I have a question/line of thinking I'd like to toss out there and see if anyone is interested in answer. It seems like a lot of us argue that Objective Truth outside of moral is logical, observable, and by implication something we can prove.

    So my question is, if you witness an event but can never prove it happened. Is your eyewitness account of the event still "Truth"?

    If it is true, doesn't that kinda throw a monkey wrench in the idea that Objective Truth is logical, observable and capable of being proven? Because that isn't always the case for many truths.

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    1. Bah, I apologize for the terrible editing.

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  102. Nubby writes:
    "Science is not every going to be the be all, end all, of explaining theories of everything about everything. It is beyond the capacity of the field. Ok? Let’s just agree on that much. Then at least I know that we’re in reality."

    I 100% agree with this statement. Science does not have all the answers.

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    1. Holy cow, we agree ;0)
      Thanks, man. Good to see

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  103. You've been attacked?
    Can we all just check the box for "had my feelings hurt today" and move along? I mean, assuming we're adults... I don't know what you're suffering, but... come on. It's com box dialogue.

    Today was crappy for a lot of people reading, I am sure of it. But they're not howling. Let's just be real with argumentation, ok?

    Alan is a good dude. I dig him. We never agree, but that's ok. No one has castigated anyone. So let's posit an angle and get off the hurting horse. I am sorry, it's so anti-intellectual.

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  104. Then it's not "nothing".
    Leila, my point exactly as it never is.

    Nubby, the theory is limited to our universe, which is my point. There is a point where our current equations break down, and we don't know what was prior. It is as if you are in a dark bubble and can't see other bubbles or anything else outside. In fact, we haven't been able to even see the point of the big bang because of the radiation that occurred during that time. Although, they recently have a picture of what matches their predictions on what it would look like based on polarization. The fact is we don't know. And even the things science has shown us can be proven wrong the next day. The solar system used to be considered all there was, and that was God's creation. Then we discovered our galaxy and suddenly it was God behind that too. All the way to the big bang and the same thing happened there. And if we discover more prior or outside of our universe into the cosmos, believers will move their god their too. So, no, I don't see believers changing their minds over what science shows to be our best understanding. But it can make a god more and more less likely.

    P.S. I'm glad you use science.

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  105. Science is not every going to be the be all, end all, of explaining theories of everything about everything. It is beyond the capacity of the field. Ok? Let’s just agree on that much. Then at least I know that we’re in reality.

    Also, I've already stated that many scientists are comfortable saying they do not know. I am too!

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  106. " But it can make a god more and more less likely."

    I might be misunderstanding what you are trying to say here so please correct me if I am wrong. But how does showing their is more to our existence (solar system, galaxy, universe) make God less likely?

    I see those statements as limits of human knowledge. God is typically considered the Creator of all things. The Alpha and Omega. That would include all the areas of future exploration.

    I understand how someone who does not believe would consider that answer convenient but I think we have been pretty consistent in saying God is the Creator of everything.

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  107. Adam,
    We can know through positive data, right? Here is some data for your consideration:
    Even if certain gravitational configurations existed pre-Big Bang, they, too, would have a beginning.
    Even if you take string theory and it's 11 dimensions, where we're just a pocket or a bubble, it, too, would have a beginning.
    Any expanding universe has to have a beginning. Any other theory of any other universe has to have a beginning.
    That points to a Creator. You cannot rip universes from time, right?

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  108. Leila, also, the idea of never absolute nothing should not be completely foreign to you. Considering you believe a god is never absolute nothing either.

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  109. so Starfire are you saying that anything that anyone has ever said is true is an objective truth?

    Our last house had an energy or a spirit. I felt it, my husband and I both saw it. Is it now an objective truth that spirits exist, or is it an objective truth that we both saw and felt the same thing?

    If I had to answer your question honestly, I would say that does not make it an objective truth.

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  110. chris, I've been told I am a very patient blog owner (sometimes too patient). Let me ask you not to contribute again unless you have something substantive to say that will move the discussion (then, by all means, feel free to comment). Because at this point you are just an agitator. This is your first and only warning. Thanks.

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  111. Adam,
    Look at what grounds reality. The active thoughts, the active mind of God, is what grounds *all* of reality. It's not physics. You can deduce through several proofs and peel all the way back to God.

    Aquinas did this.
    To some extent Aristotle did this.

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  112. Leila, also, the idea of never absolute nothing should not be completely foreign to you. Considering you believe a god is never absolute nothing either.

    Exactly! But I never claimed that there was nothing. It's not a claim I make. My understanding is that atheists/scientists are claiming that "nothing" (before the Big Bang) is "something". Have I misunderstood?

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  113. StarFireKK, I don't know if this is what you mean, but I think that the Truth itself is separate from the "witness" of the Truth. The witness of something cannot be "proof" of it for those who require a repeatable experiment or a videotape. But you are right that something True does not require a witness at all. If that is what you are getting at. Because Truth would be True if we existed to see it or know it or not....

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  114. Good point, Leila. Because what we always conflate here is the idea of thoughts "above" reason. That doesn't mean "unreasonable".
    For instance, no 4th grader understands College Algebra. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It means it exists at a higher level of knowledge and of reality, so to speak.

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  115. Hi Alan,

    I'm not sure I have an answer on this.

    But no, I don't think anything anyone says is true is necessarily an Objective Truth. People do lie, people misunderstand things, people have what my mother would call "episodes" so even what we may believe in our heart is true may not in fact being true.

    But I do believe there are things that are Truth that can't be proven. A child is accused of breaking a lamp with roughhousing but swears the lamp was knocked over when a door slammed. The child cannot prove what he witness. Only he would know if what he is saying is true. We can't prove the child broke the lamp or the lamp fell when the door was slammed.

    But if Truth is reality which seems to be what we all agree on. There is a truth to what happened to the lamp. Even if we can never prove it or even know it.

    Or am I going about this all wrong?

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  116. Leila, people bring to morality a little bit of thought, or a lot. I think it's only a small chunk of people that think morality is "simply" personal preference, like a favorite flavor of pudding. Most people, even most irrealists, have deeply held feelings and thought about it. Ethics, and meta-ethics, are large, complex fields of Philosophy, even for philosophers who are irrealists. In fact, this is what many from Socrates on down have said, that it is part of the work of being a thinking human to grapple with these questions of "what is right?" I can work hard at those questions, and believe I've found answers that "should" be followed by all people, even if I don't believe these rules exist without the existence of people. (We disagree about what "should" means.)

    > would you agree that [other people] have just as much a claim to what is "moral" as you do?

    No. While personally, they are free to believe what they want, that doesn't mean that their beliefs are as good/right/valid as anyone else's. Irrealists can use logical arguments, and evidence, to support their ethical system, even though they don't believe in platonic, realist forms of ethical "truth".

    An imperfect analogy would be politics. Next year you might prefer Hillary Clinton over Jeb Bush, or vice versa. Now I know a bit about your politics, so I know that your choice isn't "simply" going to be a personal preference, a mere yuk factor, or whose face you like more. Your choice is going to involve a lot of reasons involving policy, history, and your understanding of how the system works. In other words, despite the emotional side of the election, there's a lot of reasoning behind your preference. And no doubt you'll talk to a bunch of people about *why*, in rational terms, you prefer your candidate.

    People who disagree with you have the _right_ to disagree, but their disagreement isn't necessarily equally as _valid_ as yours. If someone gives some laughable reason for voting the other way, you wouldn't think "well, all political opinions are equally valid, so I might as well agree with this guy".

    > We can't say that society is wrong to endorse stealing, no?

    In the practical, shorthand sense, yes we can. In the realist, existing-beyond-humans sense, no, but so what? We fight for policies and laws and mores that endorse our ethical views. People who oppose our views, do too.

    > Do you see that in a world where morality is based on preference and feelings, and not any objective source of truth, that morality is determined by those in power?

    Nope. _Laws_ are determined by those in power. My ethical system is mine to decide for myself. Even if I were a political prisoner, or in a concentration camp, I am free (and, one might say, required) to make my own moral decisions.

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  117. Leila, unfortunately us agreeing doesn't make something an objective truth.
    We could both agree that ghosts exist. Does that make it an objective truth?


    Alan, I agree with you that just because we both "believe" something does not make it true. Truth exists regardless of what or whether we believe. Sometimes we believe what is true, and sometimes we don't. But that's why I put this very carefully as part of my opening statement in the original post:

    Objective Truth exists outside of ourselves and will remain true even if the whole world doesn't believe it. Truth is not ours to determine, it is ours to seek and find and receive.

    Believing doesn't make something true. But, if something is true, it is right to believe it.


    You believe that killing in self defense is moral. I ask why?

    You believe that killing in a just war is moral. I ask why?

    Because of the principle that we have the right to defend ourselves and others from grave harm.

    FYI, no such thing as a just war, in my opinion. Innocents always are killed (some will argue murdered ) in your just wars. But yet you seem to be saying it's ok?

    The targeting and killing of civilians and civilian populations in a war (even a just war) is gravely evil. So, it's never okay to target civilians. The innocents that die in a just war would be a tragedy, but not intended (principle of double effect). Just like when we drive an automobile on the street and we intend to drive perfectly by the rules of the road, but we swerve to miss a dog and we hit a person and kill the person. That was never intended, but certainly we foresee that by the mere fact we drive cars at certain speeds, such tragedies can occur. It doesn't make driving (or cars) immoral.
    lieve that killing is immoral, as is murder. Does that make it an Leila, unfortunately us agreeing doesn't make something an objective truth.
    We could both agree that ghosts exist. Does that make it an objective truth?


    Alan, I agree with you that just because we both "believe" something does not make it true. Truth exists regardless of what or whether we believe. Sometimes we believe what is true, and sometimes we don't. But that's why I put this very carefully as part of my opening statement in the original post:

    Objective Truth exists outside of ourselves and will remain true even if the whole world doesn't believe it. Truth is not ours to determine, it is ours to seek and find and receive.

    Believing doesn't make something true. But, if something is true, it is right to believe it.

    You believe that killing in self defense is moral. I ask why?

    Because of the principle that we have the right to defend ourselves and others from grave harm. (Life is precious, and we have a right to our lives. We must only meet force with proportional force. So, if someone is going to punch us or injure us, we must not use force intending to kill them, but we may use the amount of force necessary to preserve our own life.

    You believe that killing in a just war is moral. I ask why?

    Because of the principle that we have the right to defend ourselves and others from grave harm.

    FYI, no such thing as a just war, in my opinion. Innocents always are killed (some will argue murdered ) in your just wars. But yet you seem to be saying it's ok?

    The targeting and killing of civilians and civilian populations in a war (even a just war) is gravely evil. So, it's never okay to target civilians. The innocents that die in a just war would be a tragedy, but not intended. Just like when we drive an automobile on the street and we intend to drive perfectly by the rules of the road, but we swerve to miss a dog and we hit a person and kill the person. That was never intended, but certainly we foresee that by the mere fact we drive cars at certain speeds, such tragedies can occur. It doesn't make driving (or cars) immoral.

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    1. Sorry for that double comment!! There is something seriously messed up with the combox editing function... SIGH.

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  118. StarFireKK, it just shows that the point of a god's creation is not where religion said it was. I'm not saying you specifically, but in general the target has been moving for a long time. For instance, Newton thought the motion of planets was this god's doing because he couldn't figure out a way to describe it mathematically. That clearly doesn't hold any longer. But I do think that by saying god started the big bang can halt progress by assuming we already know everything.

    Nubby, any other universes would too have a beginning, yes. But universes can pop into existence all the time if there never is nothing.

    The active thoughts, the active mind of God, is what grounds *all* of reality. It's not physics. You can deduce through several proofs and peel all the way back to God.

    Aquinas did this.
    To some extent Aristotle did this.


    I don't believe your god exists. And Aquinas' proofs have been torn apart (which I'm not going to go into.)

    Leila, My understanding is that atheists/scientists are claiming that "nothing" (before the Big Bang) is "something". Have I misunderstood? No, you haven't misunderstood. Our "idea" that there is absolute nothing (for instance in the vacuum of space) is not really nothing. We can't describe what absolute nothing really means any more without understanding what there is to take away from "something".

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  119. Hi Matt,
    Can we focus?
    Can we focus on the fact that everything you have posited this far (not necessarily in argumentation as much as talking points, anyway) is always tied to an ethical theory that includes God's law?
    Can we bring it in from left field and just laser in on one topic?
    I cannot follow 67 ideas in one post.

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  120. Oookay, maybe people will answer this question. Is it possible for God to exist if zero people believe in His existence?

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    1. Directed to the non-Catholics, Nubby ;)

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    2. I know, just teasin' They won't agree, u know

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    3. Yes, but I'm trying to dig a little deeper...Adam? Matt? Alan? What do you all think? Is it possible for God to exist if zero people believe in His existence?

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    4. I don't have any reason or evidence to think he exists, so no. Nor would he if everyone did since they have faith which means without proof.

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    5. So, the only way for something to exist is for people to believe in it?

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    6. If people believe in Zeus, does he exist? For them he would and for many, he did. Science discredited him.

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    7. I'm not saying something exists just because people believe it does. I'm asking the opposite: is it possible for something to exist if zero people believe in it?

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    8. Yes, but without a reason or a way to know that then what's the point? As it would be indistinguishable from nonexistence.

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    9. And strangely, theism is the default, and atheism is the anomaly re: human existence and experience, even in our "enlightened" age. Go figure.

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    10. Leila, that's a fallacious argument that appeals to the masses.

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    11. Adam, it's not an argument. It's an observation. Like I said, go figure. No adults have come to a belief in leprechauns, but many millions of adults have come to the belief in God and Christ. Including intellectual giants. Just an observation, but it's an interesting one.

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  121. Nubby, any other universes would too have a beginning, yes. But universes can pop into existence all the time if there never is nothing.

    Adam, That doesn't in any way negate *a beginning* which always points to a Creator. Popping in and out means that a something is required.
    Adding more cars to the train does not negate the engine.

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  122. Adam,
    Show me how Aquinas has been, "torn apart". Love to see it. Really.

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    1. One instance: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Thomas_Aquinas

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    2. Complete misunderstanding of Aquinas. Next?

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  123. Alan, to continue:

    I believe that killing is immoral, as is murder. Does that make it an objective truth?

    No, as I said many times, believing something is not what makes it true. A thing is true outside of what we think of it. Sometimes we believe what is true, and sometimes we believe what is false. Opinion (belief) does not change Objective Truth.

    My heart and my mind tell me that both killing and murdering are immoral.

    Where does this sense come from?

    I am not sure I would be able to kill someone even in self defense.

    It's your choice to allow someone to kill you, of course. You don't have to fight back for your life. But would you agree that a woman being raped and strangled has a right to fight for her life, even if it means the attacker might lose his own? And, would you kill a man if you saw him in the process of killing a small child and you could feasibly save that child by killing the man? Just curious.

    Do cops act immorally when they kill someone who is in the commission of a murder?

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  124. Aristotle is a good starting point. He acknowledged that all people want to be happy and that they make their lives around this goal. Are morals goal-driven, Matt?

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  125. Leila,
    You believe that killing in self defense is moral. I ask why?

    You believe that killing in a just war is moral. I ask why?

    Because of the principle that we have the right to defend ourselves and others from grave harm.


    Does this not go against thou shall not kill? Could you not argue that in your religion just as with Jesus, that one could die under torture and receive heaven, his greatest gift?

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    1. It doesn't break any commandments, Adam. Just war and self defense are not sins. Stick around. I see you have major gaps in your Catholic understanding.

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  126. Leila, I think you are getting at what I am trying to say. This is a line of thinking I am curious about but don't necessarily know the answer,

    I'm trying to bridge the gap between our Objective Truth in our everyday life and Objective Truth when it comes to moral truths.

    We like to think our everyday concept of Truth is simple and easy to understand. It is what we see, it is what is repeatable, it is what is logical, it is something we can prove. But that is not always the case. There are plenty of Truths that we can never know because we never witness it, or we lack the ability to understand for whatever reason.

    My biggest problem with moral relativism is it seems to assume in order to for Objective Truths to be correct we must all be able to "know" them and agree. Since we don't all agree (is murder wrong? what if it is self-defense? what if it is in war?) then it can't be Objective Truth.

    But our reality isn't that way. There are plenty of normal boring truths (what happened to the lamp?) we may never know. So why do we assume we would know moral truths?

    Christians have an answer for this. But I am curious about the thoughts of the non-Christians on this topic.

    Does any of that make sense? Or do I need to go eat something because low-blood sugar is making me loopy?

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  127. Our "idea" that there is absolute nothing (for instance in the vacuum of space) is not really nothing. We can't describe what absolute nothing really means any more without understanding what there is to take away from "something".

    Adam,
    Physics always describes nothing as nothing. It's accurate. Whoever told you otherwise is a fraud. Nothing generates nothing. Adam, how much clearer does physics need to be on this?

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  128. Matt, and yet it all boils down to... if we think very seriously about our positions (not lightly or frivolously!) and are convicted by them, then that is "moral" or "immoral" depending on our conclusion, right? But it's still subjective, right?

    And, since laws are simply morality codified, let's pretend I said laws of a nation. So, if the majority of a nation believes that it should be legal, let's say, to kill an entire segment of the population (maybe Jews, maybe Armenians, maybe blacks, maybe the unborn), then they define what is "moral" for the populace, correct? You would say, I guess, that they are "wrong" (and you'd be correct), but on what basis or authority do you say it? Perhaps they thought as long and hard about their morals as you have yours.

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  129. Note! Remember to subscribe to these comments via email, because after 200 comments, it's a pain in the rear. You'll have to "load more" a ton of times, the long the thread gets....

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  130. Nubby, I've stated this several times, nothing may not exist. And I'm happy to say we don't know.

    On the subject of killing, that's why I asked the question. Tell me why it isn't against the commandment?

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    1. Adam,

      The Commandment, in Hebrew, actually translates to "Thou shalt not Murder", so there is a difference between killing and murdering.

      (repeated here)

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    2. Thank you, Leila. A simple answer to a simple question.

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  131. "Does this not go against thou shall not kill? Could you not argue that in your religion just as with Jesus, that one could die under torture and receive heaven, his greatest gift?"

    Adam,
    The Commandment, in Hebrew, actually translates to "Thou shalt not Murder", so there is a difference between killing and murdering.

    And of course one could die under torture and go to Heaven. It happens all the time. But that doesn't mean that one must always submit to die when one's life is threatened. I've never heard that posited, have you?

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    1. If that were the case, we'd have a lot more martyrs.

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  132. StarFireKK, I totally get you, and yes, you are right. That goes to the idea that Truth is Truth whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, and whether we even exist or not. For example, no one would argue that the world was actually flat until the point that we realized it's round, and then the world became round. Even if the whole world things the world is flat, the world would not be flat, it would still be round. And in the case of the lamp: Even if everyone thought Johnny broke the lamp, it doesn't mean that Johnny did break the lamp. The reality is what actually happened, regardless of what folks believe happened.

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  133. Matt,
    Since you're happily ignoring the God component, please share:
    1) How does nature explain the weight of morality? Or the push and pull of morality in that is particular to the human experience?
    2) How does nature select for "truth" when it really just selects for survival?
    3) What do you posit in place of Absolute Authority in your complete theory of morality?
    4) Why don't animals have moral, if nature gives morality? Why don't raccoons have morals?
    5) How do you remove God's law, but posit nothing in it's place for your ideas? Instinct would be all you have to go on. But morality relates to reason, not instinct. Instinct responds merely to stimuli.

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    1. typos
      push and pull of morality that is particular to the human experience?
      Why don't animals have morals, if nature gives morality?
      , but posit nothing in its place

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  134. We *do* know that something exists, Adam. Clearly, you don't want to intellectually be "okay" with that.

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    1. And, back into your bubble. ;) Come outside and play with the atheists.

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    2. My bubble? You assume I'm an ignorant Catholic?

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    3. Nothing to say about BVG, eh? Interesting. All science and everything, right , Adam? I mean, it's your primo path to truth, right?

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    4. If you assume about me, I can assume about you. I've already said everything to say on BVG in regards to our understanding in respect to our universe, but it has nothing on the cosmos.

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  135. Okay, so if we agree our reality is reality whether or not we understand it, know it or like it. Doesn't it follow that Moral Truth (or reality) is the same way?

    Does it matter if we all agree on what's moral? Does that change what actual is moral? If so, why? It doesn't change what happens to the lamp. What is different?

    Or is there only one moral reality like there is only one physical reality?

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  136. Adam,
    I've assumed about you?
    I assume nothing but what you comment. You never refuted BVG, even Hawking couldn't at his 70th birthday party. What a hoot that must've been, eh?

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  137. Leila,
    I submit that atheism is an act of the will.
    Neither Matt nor Adam has shown me a reason to think otherwise.
    Humans have a natural sense of mystery. Atheism is an "acquired taste" and takes a lot of push/pull of the will. Not the intellect.
    Bowing out... playoff hockey on. You guys have fun!

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    1. Yup, it is a choice to choose to not believe in God. And what team are you cheering on, Nubby? I'm all about the Chicago Blackhawks (they're playing game #4 tonight and they're 2-1 against the Nashville Predators). We'll see if I can watch the game AND keep up with this thread. Enjoy the game!

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  138. Nubby, I honestly dont know how many times I have to say that they do not pertain to the cosmos and only to our universe.

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  139. Nubby, you read too much into atheism. It is a stance on a single non-belief in a god. If there was proof there would be no faith.

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  140. Matt, you said you have spent a lot of time thinking about "what is right" and you think you've come up with some rules most people should follow.

    So how do you decide which approach is moral? Is it up to each of us to decide alone? Do we decide by majority vote? Logic? empathy?

    Let's say I argue (and I would never make this argument) we should be kind and put down all the mentally ill because they are a drain on our resources and can put others in harms way.

    Most people would agree that is an evil act at least presented this way. But change that to I believe people should be able to abort special needs children........suddenly not everyone agrees that's evil.

    So can terminating the life of someone with a mental defect be both immoral and moral?

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  141. StarFireKK, there are atheists that posit those very things, and they hold high positions in secular institutions (Peter Singer, Princeton, anyone?). His thesis is reduce net suffering. Period. If that means killing some (even human born babies) or having mild bestial sexual encounters, then so be it. And he is lauded, he is feted.

    I still can't get past the "nothing is something" belief.... My brain is twisting with that one. Matt, do you agree with Dawkins that nothing is something?

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  142. Adam, re: "proof". You mean evidence? There is more evidence for Jesus' Resurrection than for many of the ancient wars and events that you (I'm sure) do not doubt. Why do you believe in The Peloponnesian War, for example?

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  143. Margo, is it possible for god to exist if zero people believe in god?
    Quick short answer is yes. It's possible.

    But as you can see, it's not possible because here we are discussing god.

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    1. It's possible and not possible? Huh?

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  144. Leila, can you point to examples of proof? I have listened to scholars discuss Jesus and the fact is he may not have existed at all. Let alone resurrected. There are a couple of new books as well that talk about the historicity. Remarkable claims require remarkable evidence, and to my knowledge it is no where close to that mark.

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  145. StarFire:

    "But I do believe there are things that are Truth that can't be proven. A child is accused of breaking a lamp with roughhousing but swears the lamp was knocked over when a door slammed. The child cannot prove what he witness. Only he would know if what he is saying is true. We can't prove the child broke the lamp or the lamp fell when the door was slammed."

    Interesting. Yes the truth is the lamp is broke. Yes there is no proof the child did it. So an objective truth is the lamp is broken.

    Beyond that, who knows. Yes there is a truth, but no one knows it (unless the kid is lying about breaking it)

    make sense?


    But if Truth is reality which seems to be what we all agree on. There is a truth to what happened to the lamp. Even if we can never prove it or even know it.

    Or am I going about this all wrong?

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  146. Margo:
    Margo, it is possible that acting on one's homosexuality is not immoral?

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  147. Leila,
    Has there ever been a war where innocent civilians have not been killed? There is no difference between targeting civilians and them being killed in the war. You know that when a war starts innocents will be lost. That is immoral. I don't see how you can work your way around that.
    Swerving to miss a dog and hitting a person is a tragic accident, but not immoral. Innocent civilians killed during a war is not an accident.

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  148. Leila, can you point to examples of proof? I have listened to scholars discuss Jesus and the fact is he may not have existed at all. Let alone resurrected. There are a couple of new books as well that talk about the historicity. Remarkable claims require remarkable evidence, and to my knowledge it is no where close to that mark.

    Adam, those who posit that Jesus never existed are so far on the fringe that the vast majority of secular historians are embarrassed by the claim. Don't go there. It is too much, and you will lose credibility. Let's stick with the reality that Jesus lived. Now, as for evidence, oh my goodness. So much evidence, including tons of eyewitness accounts, historical accounts. Unless you dismiss the New Testament gospels as non-historical? I would also love for you (or anyone) to give me a reasonable response to this:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/05/did-jesus-really-die-and-rise.html

    (You can even reason it out here if you'd like.)

    There is C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, among others), there is Chesterton (Everlasting Man, among others, there is Evidence That Demands a Verdict, there is Dr. Kevin Vost. (search him on this site; I interviewed him: Former devout atheist, MENSA member and psychologist). And you mean "evidence" not "proof", I think?

    Also, could you answer about the Peloponnesian War? Why do you trust that it occurred?

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  149. Innocent civilians killed during a war is not an accident.

    Um, unless it is. You know the difference between intentional and non-intentional, right? Even our courts recognize that. If my child dies because someone accidentally runs him over because they couldn't see him, that is very different than if my child dies because someone saw him and targeted him with the car.

    And, are you saying that because there will be innocent lives lost in police action (even in the domestic realm) that police action is immoral? So, do we disband the police?

    There is no difference between targeting civilians and them being killed in the war.

    If you do not see the difference between targeting someone to kill and inadvertently, mistakenly, unintentionally killing someone, I can't help you. I really don't know what to say to that. That is a pretty basic distinction, when speaking of moral reasoning. I mean, it's simple, and I have taught my kids that "on accident" is not the same as "on purpose". Surely you can agree.

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