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Bradley v Flannagan Debate @ Auckland Uni “Is God the Source of Morality?”

July 13th, 2010 by Madeleine

Raymond Bradley and Matthew Flannagan will debate the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God?”

The debate will be held at the University of Auckland on Monday 2 August from 7-9pm in “The Centennial” 260 – 098 OGGB (the bottom level of the Business School) on 12 Grafton Rd, Auckland City.

Raymond Bradley v Matthew Flannagan "Is God the Source of Morality"

If you enjoyed the 2008 debate at Auckland University between William Lane Craig and Bill Cooke, you should enjoy this debate.

Raymond BradleyBradley is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy with areas of specialty in Philosophical Logic, Metaphysics, Logical Atomism; he has previously debated William Lane Craig, Edward Blaiklock and many other Christian scholars and describes himself as an older generation “new atheist”.

Matthew FlannaganFlannagan is an Auckland based Philosopher and Theologian with areas of specialty in Philosophy of Religion, Ethics and Theology; he has previously debated Bill Cooke, Zoe During and, of course, writes for this blog.

The format of the debate will be as follows:

Dr Bradley: Opening Comments [20 min]
Dr Flannagan: Opening Comments [20 min]
Dr Bradley: Reply to Dr Flannagan [10 min]
Dr Flannagan: Reply to Dr Bradley[10 min]
Dr Bradley: Closing Comments [7 min]
Dr Flannagan: Closing Comments [7 min]
Questions from the floor: [30 min]

The moderator for the debate will be John Bishop.

Bradley will be introduced by Robert Nola.

Flannagan will be introduced by Chris Tucker.

Both Bradley and Flannagan are experienced and engaging public speakers who are practiced at pitching their topics to suit their audiences. So, invite all your friends, and block out the evening of Monday 2 August from 7-9 pm now and make sure you get to the debate early to locate parking and grab a good seat.

This debate is brought to you by the Evangelical Union and the Reason and Science Society as part of the University of Auckland’s Jesus week/Atheist week, with support from Thinking Matters.

The event will be videoed and will be published on this blog. Entry is free and any and all are welcome.

There is even a Facebook page you can rsvp on and use to invite your friends.

Tags:   · · · · · · · · · 100 Comments

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100 responses so far ↓

  • Hey Matt & Madeline, I’ve taken the liberty of posting your upcoming debate on the NO GOD site. As I’m sure people would be keen to attend. Just a quick question, is there a cost involved, as you don’t mention in your post?

    Thinks – “You know if I was darkly cynical, I would imagine you had stirred up all the debate about the billboard ads to just drum up interest in this debate! Nah, couldn’t be, not with all your morals!!!” LOL – See you there!!!

  • Paul,

    This blog contains a LOT of ‘controversial’ posts surrounding atheism/theism.

  • To Anon, Just a hunch, but I think that was Matt & Madelines original reason for fisking the NO GOD billboard ads!

    As they say, no such thing as bad publicity! Should make for an interesting evening I reckon!! See you there, who ever you are!!!

  • Paul there is no cost, it is a free event open to the public – thanks for advertising it as the more people there the better the event!

    Matt and I have many posts with more comments on them than the billboard post – when Tumeke ran his blog rankings we were almost always listed as one of the most commented on blogs and that is saying something given the numbers kiwiblog gets.

    We have recently resumed blogging after pretty much taking a 2-3 month break so that is why some of our more recent posts don’t have so many but when we are blogging regularly we often get 50-100 comments on a post with the more controversial ones stretching to 300.

    As for the timing, it was not deliberate this time, we’ve been working on organising the debate for a couple of weeks, we launched it on Facebook on Sunday, because the post before the billboard one was also about speaking engagements I wanted a post that was on a topic but due to a family emergency we did not have time to write anything that would take a lot of research, a friend had happened to email us the billboard pics on Sat, so we threw up the billboard post together because it was a quick hit and was fast to write. So this time, no the timing was not deliberate but it often is, a lot of strategising goes into making this blog rank well, attract visitors and sit high in google on my part.

  • Madeline, thanks for the update. I would just mention that a number of comments over on the NO GOD site are wondering why you posted there but have since ignored the discussion you created. You may wish to answer them at some point. Your call.

  • Hey Matt & Madeline, I hate to burst your bubble, but I’ve been back over your last 86 posts from your blog archives, that took me back to the 1st of January of this year. I totalled up all your comments and I have to say, your running an average of 13.8 comments per post!

    I also noted that your highest number of responses was 148 while your second highest was for a post about Richard Dawkins – God Delusion on May the 6th at 139 responses. You had one other post to reach three figures at 124. You had 44 double digit hits, 35 single figure ones and 6 that didn’t get any response at all.

    Now, while I was doing all this accounting, I also noticed that you guys take the position of your blog in the world wide biblio-blog league table very seriously, as shown by your post on January the 4th, when you advertised the fact that you were in 2nd position I believe!

    Now, If I was partial to conspiracy theories, of which I’m not, I might conclude that the real reason you initially posted an obviously antagonistic post on the NO GOD website regarding the atheist bill-boards, with a very handy link to your own M&M Biblio-Blog, was no more than a ruse to inflate your blog hit traffic, or whatever the technical term is for how these things are calculated.

    This post alone has gained you an additional 167 comments! 1-6-7!!! That’s your highest number for this year! Well Done You!!! (By the way, I left that total out of my math, as I felt it was akin to match fixing in sport, as they say or an under arm bowl from an OZ criketer!!!)

    Now, seeing as Matt is about to talk about morals in the debate to be held on the 2nd of August, I will have to ask him, during the allotted questions from the floor session, to clarify his moralistic perspective involved in this deception, which appears to have been nothing but a desperate effort to drum up some traffic. I look forward to your answer on the night!

    And you guys have spent so much effort justifying how immoral us atheists must be!!!

  • Paul I am finding this line of investigation bizarre but I will humour it a little if you insist.

    Our highest commented on posts were on the topic of bullying, these are no longer online.

    This year has been light blogging wise – I had summer school then went straight into a study workload that was seriously intense given my disability and then we went through a series of extremely difficult personal matters. So like I said, we have barely been blogging the last 2-3 months and that cost us a lot of regular visitors and comments but before that we were blogging pretty light.

    As I said, when Tumeke was running blog stats last year we would regularly figure in the most commented on blog stats – feel free to go and look through his site and see for yoursel.

    As for our position on the Biblioblogs we have ranged in the top 10 ever since we first got added – we are currently 6th and ahead of John Loftus’ Debunking Christianity I might add.

    I still am not following the immoral charge of trying to boost our visitors. Aside from the fact that every post is about attracting visitors, I regularly look at and comment on other blogs and I will often go and look for other blogs talking about topics we are talking about and comment there because that topic is in my head and leaving comments on other blogs is a sure fire way of attracting traffic back to your own blog and increasing technorati and google page rank . I don’t always go back and keep commenting, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, it depends on what is going on in my life and how much computer time I have spare and whether the replies peak my interest enough to want to say something else – this week I have gone through a fairly major personal event so I did not keep up with the discussion on another blog – so what?

    People leave one off comments on this blog all the time, other people leave a couple and then leave, others stay and keep commenting. Welcome to blogging.

    Comments are not solely how you measure blog post popularity. I would be most interested in the hits a particular post attracted as hits tell you whether a lot of different people have been reading your post whereas with comments you might only have the same 6 people talking amongst themselves with the odd other person leaving a comment here and there. If you want to see which posts on this site have attracted the most hits you need to look to our Popular Posts widget in our sidebar. It measures the number of visits each post has ever had and then ranks them. You can clearly see that this post, while it is doing well at number 3, still has not topped the Philosophers Carnival post or the Confession of an Anti-Choice fanatic post. I should also point out that I have manually blocked about 8 posts from appearing in that popular post widget for varying reasons.

    Anyway this is getting more and more bizarre. Ask whatever question you want at the debate. As I already told you last time I do put a lot of energy into trying to increase traffic and our google ranking, I freely admit that, the choice of titles, tags, anchor text and how and what I link to from a post is all carefully attended to to maximise rank and entice visitors. But the topics are more often than not related to whatever we happen to be researching, something we had half written that we’d forgotten about, some conversation we’ve had with someone, something in the news that got us thinking, something someone has emailed us – where we can be strategic, link it to something current we do – we are in the business of blogging and that means we want traffic, links and comments. So what?

    I already told you how the billboard post came about, a friend emailed me the photos and said how about it.

  • Paul, I never said athiests were immoral. In fact I repeatedly said that you can be moral without believing in God. What I did say was interpreting a certain line of argument as claiming atheists are immoral ( as you have done) is to fail to understand the argument and a fairly basic distinction.

    I think its dishonest then for you to suggest on this post that I said this.

    By the way I am not alone in noting this mistake. If you read the anthology “Is Goodness without God Good Enough” which has several essays from atheists and theists who are leaders in the field on this question, it is pointed out numerous times.

  • Matt & Madeline,

    I find the Math I did to be the most honest thing on this site so far! But hey, what do I know I’m just a dumb atheist!

    I give up! Trying to get straight answers from you guys is like asking what your favourite colour is and being told tartan! Good night!!!

  • Let me get this straight Paul, you intend to announce to a crowded room that you have sprung a blogger trying to blog in a manner that attracts traffic?

    Madeleine has now said to you twice that she freely admits she does try to attract traffic and you are still treating her like she has not said this and she is pretending she does not.

    You just don’t seem to understand what she is saying.

  • I don’t know how much straighter I can be Paul, you just are not hearing.

  • Thanks for letting us know about the event. I’m jealous about those that can attend. Maybe its a good time to look at taking a vacation.

  • To Ranger and Madeline,

    I was not attempting to say that the NO GOD site was more popular than the M&M site, I was referring to the honesty of your intention to promote your blog through the use of a controversial post.

    Having read some of the responses I now believe that it was just a coincidence, even if a very lucky one!!! Divine intervention perhaps!!!

    To Matt, your view that only those qualified to talk about something should be given credability, eg: Dawkins is a Biologist so shouldn’t be viewed as a valid source to comment on god and the like seems a little unfair, when a huge part of christian belief is built on the opinions and actions of a carpenter!!! Not to criticise carpenters in general that is!!!

    In fact one aspect that Jesus took exception to was the religous establishment of the day, who supposedly were the most qualified to speak about all things spiritual at the time.

    So, it seems perfectly fair for anyone to have an opinion that is actually sound, however much you may disagree with them. I mean the Church of Scientology has grown up around the perspectives of a Sci-Fi author! Not to knock authors either.

    Anyway, I’m also learning that those involved with both blogging, especially biblio-blogs appear to have all the sense of humour of a Customs Officer. Namely none!!!

    So in the words of Richard Dawkins, “What if your wrong?”

  • Er Madeline, you may wont to check your figures again!!!

    You said ;

    Ranger is not wrong, many more people visit MandM than NoGod.

    Compare the Alexa figures:
    MandM 198,977 most visited website in the world
    NoGod 1,520,092 most visited website in the world

    As I said my math may not be my strongest, but doesn’t

    1, 520,092 (For NO GOD)
    – 198.977 (For M&M)
    = 1321115 More for the NO GOD site – Using your figures!!!

    Excuse me for stating the obvious, but that makes the NO GOD site clearly more popular than yours!!! But what do I know!!!

  • Like the context I quoted the Alexa figures in suggests Paul, a site’s Alexa scores are supposed to show its rank amongst all other websites. So you want your Alexa score to be as small as possible or at least smaller than the other blogs in your niche category.

    For a NZ blog to be under 200,000 is pretty good. We tend to hover just under/just over that figure.

  • Thanks Madeline,

    I’m not a blogger so didn’t know.

    While I’m responding though, Paul “The Canterbury Atheist” is offering $1000 to anyone who can tell him “What is god?”

    You should get Matt to give it a go, as I see your still $1700 short of his costs for the US trip. Should be easy money for a man of his calibre don’t you think?

  • Paul

    I reject Dawkin’s arguments because they are bad. Many reviewers on both sides of the debate in philosophy of religion agree with me. I have spelt out my arguments for this is a previous post. But having examined some of Dawkin’s work its quiet clear to me he does not understand much of the topics he writes on. He does not understand Aquinas, seems to have no real familiarity with any of the arguments in the literature beyond a caricature here and there. That’s easily verified by comparing his treatments of these topics with the treatments in the literature.

    I say this not because I disagree with Dawkins there are lots of atheists whose arguments I respect and consider important rigorous and scholarly. Philosophy of religion is fill of such writers. Dawkins however strikes me a bit like the mirror image of creationism. Just as people with certain theological qualifications and minimal knowledge of science write really popular books attacking evolution. Some people with certain scientific qualifications with minimal understanding of philosophy of religion write really popular books on theism.

    As to the authoratity issue, it is a tricky one, but I am sure you agree that it would be irrational to believe quantum mechanics is rubbish because the local barber who knows very little about the subject says so. And even if he was a qualified lawyer or law professor I’d want to know how much he knew about physics and before I took his word for it.

    I do however wonder about the consistency here. People often dismiss ID arguments on the grounds that none have been accepted in the peer reviewed literature in biology. I think you might find that Sam Harris, Dawkins and others are in a similar situation with regards to Philosophy of religion. yet there followers often ridicule people like Plantinga or Swinburne dengriagting them as quacks even though there work in this field is widely regarded by both sides of the debate and have published important papers in the field hundreds of time because these people contradict Dawkins. Why is this a good argument against taking ID seriously and not a good argument against taking Dawkin’s seriously.

    And as for Jesus, Christians don’t take his word because he was ‘a carpenter” they consider him to be a prophet, in fact he was and prophets and God are authoriative. I agree that if he merely was a Carpenter and had no real knowledge of the Torah then it would be foolish to believe something on his say so.

    My point to Ken has a context, Ken is often belittling theologians for making claims about science when they do not understand the scientific issues. The irony is that he advocates the work of scientists that do the same thing. He also seems to confuse scientific questions with philosophical or moral questions about science.

  • Matt wrote: “People often dismiss ID arguments on the grounds that none have been accepted in the peer reviewed literature in biology.”

    Your comment reminded me of a priceless response from University of Vermont biologist Nicholas Gotelli to the Discovery Institute after they invited him to a debate. If I may, I will reproduce it here in its entirety:

    Dear Dr. Klinghoffer:

    Thank you for this interesting and courteous invitation to set up a debate about evolution and creationism (which includes its more recent relabeling as “intelligent design”) with a speaker from the Discovery Institute. Your invitation is quite surprising, given the sneering coverage of my recent newspaper editorial that you yourself posted on the Discovery Institute’s website: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/02/

    However, this kind of two-faced dishonesty is what the scientific community has come to expect from the creationists.

    Academic debate on controversial topics is fine, but those topics need to have a basis in reality. I would not invite a creationist to a debate on campus for the same reason that I would not invite an alchemist, a flat-earther, an astrologer, a psychic, or a Holocaust revisionist. These ideas have no scientific support, and that is why they have all been discarded by credible scholars. Creationism is in the same category.

    Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren’t members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas that have credible empirical support are carefully and thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the prominent mainstream journals.

    “Conspiracy” is the predictable response by Ben Stein and the frustrated creationists. But conspiracy theories are a joke, because science places a high premium on intellectual honesty and on new empirical studies that overturn previously established principles. Creationism doesn’t live up to these standards, so its proponents are relegated to the sidelines, publishing in books, blogs, websites, and obscure journals that don’t maintain scientific standards.

    Finally, isn’t it sort of pathetic that your large, well-funded institute must scrape around, panhandling for a seminar invitation at a little university in northern New England? Practicing scientists receive frequent invitations to speak in science departments around the world, often on controversial and novel topics. If creationists actually published some legitimate science, they would receive such invitations as well.

    So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer. I will wait patiently to read about the work of creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But until it appears there, it isn’t science and doesn’t merit an invitation.

    In closing, I do want to thank you sincerely for this invitation and for your posting on the Discovery Institute Website. As an evolutionary biologist, I can’t tell you what a badge of honor this is. My colleagues will be envious.

    Sincerely yours,

    Nick Gotelli

    P.S. I hope you will forgive me if I do not respond to any further e-mails from you or from the Discovery Institute. This has been entertaining, but it interferes with my research and teaching.

  • I should have added that Dawkins has never (to my knowledge) claimed that he has any expertise in theology or the philosophy of religion. He is a zoologist and evolutionary biologist. The suggestion that seems to be being made is that one should not comment on “sophisticated” theological matters unless one is recognized as an expert in the philosophy of religion. Of course, Dawkins has responded to this suggestion:

    What has ‘theology’ ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has ‘theology’ ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that ‘theology’ is a subject at all?

    I have never seen a satisfactory answer to these questions.

  • To The Atheist Missionary,

    I loved the piece you posted on Gotteli with regard to creationism!

    Priceless and also similar to the sentiment Dawkins states with regard to his stance to not debate creationists, such as william Lane Craig, for exactly the same reasons!!!

    TAM I visited your site after seeing your post regarding the $1000 prize you are offering to anyone who can answer “What is god?”

    You should try and get more publicity for that, try Simon over on the NO GOD site as he and I have discussed some ideas before.

    For some reason I couldn’t get a comment of support posted, but trust me, I think your challenge is a great idea and just between you and me, I’d have to say that I think your money is safe!!!

    Personally I thought Matt might have a stab at it seeing as he still needs a further $1700 to get himself to the US, ironically to speak at a conference that will include a heavy bias towards ID & Creationism!

    Keep up the good work in the mainland!!!

  • @TAM
    “I have never seen a satisfactory answer to these questions.”

    I would suggest reading a little more widely then, heh. (That was a joke)

    Seriously though. Dawkins question itself shows profound ignorance of both theology and the history of ideas. Theology provided (and continues to provide) the metaphysical underpinnings for Western society and thought. Some have argued that the society can stand on its own when those metaphysical underpinnings are removed, but many others (including quite a few famous atheist thinkers like Nietzsche, the early Camus and Sartre, not to mention moral nihilists like Mackie) disagree.

    In direct response to your question, I would refer you to an article by Denis Alexander. He is a molecular biologist and Fellow at Cambridge. When posed the similar question, “What has theology ever done for science,” by Daniel Dennett, he responded with “Quite a lot.” You can read his entire response here:

    http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/issues/Alexander_Issues.pdf

  • Ranger, thanks for referring me to the Denis Alexander article – I will certainly give that a read. In the meantime, I must add that Alexander was almost incoherent when his feet were put to the fire by Stephen Law on Premier Christian Radio’s “Unbelievable” podcast. A partial transcript of his ramblings can be found here: http://www.atheistmissionary.com/2010/05/do-we-need-god-now-that-we-have-science.html

  • @TAM
    Wow. I thought the exact opposite in regards to Stephen Law when I listened to the episode awhile back. He seems so stuck on his evil god argument that he can’t understand either critiques against it or move beyond it to discuss other things. As both Justin and Denis kept trying to point out, it’s not really even an argument against the Christian God or any god, but a critique of theodicies aimed to defend certain formulations of god (based solely on natural theology).

    I would probably go further and say that since he ignores a number of basic theodicies (the possibility of the necessity of evil in Creation, privatio boni, etc.) that it’s not even really a full critique of the god of classical theism at this point, although he may increase it to that point eventually (though I’m not sure he could at this point…we’ll see).

    For those interested in the discussion, here is Law’s most complete formulation of the argument:

    http://lawpapers.blogspot.com/2009/06/evil-god-challenge-forthcoming-in.html

    Overall, I thought Law did very poorly on the show, so I guess you and I will have to disagree on this one! Anyways, read Alexander. I’m sure you’ll disagree with most of it (I wouldn’t expect anything less!), but I think you’ll at least find a compelling answer to the question whether you agree with the details or not.

    I need a break from M&M for a couple days since I’ve got a busy schedule on the horizon. Thanks for the conversation.

  • “Compare the Alexa figures:
    MandM 198,977 most visited website in the world
    NoGod 1,520,092 most visited website in the world

    Excuse me for stating the obvious, but that makes the NO GOD site clearly more popular than yours!!! But what do I know!!!”

    Apparently not much?

    Calm down Paul. Stop being angry.

    If I was darkly cynical, I would imagine those billboard ads were for the purpose of stirring the debate of theism vs atheism 😉

  • @ Anon,

    You’re a little behind on the debate!

    Madeline has already explained to me how the lower figure actually means it has the higher rating and I acknowledged this @ 2.12pm on July the 15th.

    As I’m not a blogger myself I wrongly assumed that the higher figure meant that site was more popular.

    As I said in my previous reply to Madeline, my mistake!

    I wasn’t angry, just asking for clarification on that point.

    Trust me, if you state anything on this blog I can assure you from prior experience, then you may well find your posted dissected word by word if not letter by letter!

    Whoever you are!

  • Referring to TAM’s post in regards to Dr Gotelli’s refusal
    Here’s the response by Klinghoffer for anyone interested

    http://www.discovery.org/a/9561

  • I see Paul ,still looking for ad hominen attacks.

    I doubt very much the Society for Biblical literature is biased in favour of creationism.

    Wether the EPS is debatable, many evangelical scholars are theistic evolutionists, and even if they are not seeing its a Philosophy conference not a biology one it really is a non issue ( can you prove the philosophers there are incompetent philosophers in their field) This is like calling into question a biology conference because some of the professors hold a view on law you disagree with.

    Once again we see evade the issue, obsess over evolution and attack the intellectual integrity of the speaker by trying to show he might be in the same room with some other people who you think are mistaken on a different subject.

    Thanks for showing again that what I said about some of the supporters of the billboard is amply justified.

  • Sorry Matt,

    My last Post regarding you was in relation to your need to gain enough money to reach the conference you are hoping to attend in the US.

    I found it ironic, that you may be able to achieve a further $1ooo towards that if you attempted to answer the question “What is god?” posed by the Canterbury Atheist.

    Not sure why you interpret that as an attack, that was not my intent.

    It was the irony of the situation that I found amusing.

    By the way, any thoughts on the question he posed?

  • @ Alvin

    I take it that you are referring to the same David Klinghoffer who is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, of the which the Federal Court and the majority of Scientific organisations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, say:

    “The Discovery Institute has, and continues to, attempt to promote a false perception that evolution is “a theory in crisis” in order to further their argument for the teaching of IP and Creationism within US State Schools”.

    Well, he and they sound like a really reliable source then!!!

  • “I found it ironic, that you may be able to achieve a further $1ooo towards that if you attempted to answer the question “What is god?” posed by the Canterbury Atheist.”

    God is non-material being who isn’t restricted by time and space and who created the universe and everything in it.

    Now give me $1000! Oh, that’s not good enough? But I have just answered your question?

    Seriously, if that is a snail mail I get on my mail box, I would treat it like those periodical mail I get from Reader Digest, telling me I could get few thousands bucks and all I have to do is filling out some forms.

    It’s rather pathetic …

  • @Paul
    Why should anyone take such a challenge from your perspective? Since you are an atheist and an evidentialist, why should you believe that he will actually pay $1000 to a secular, non-governmental, non-political New Zealand charity (with so many stipulations he might as well name the charity, haha) to such a sufficient degree that you think others should partake in this challenge? What evidence do you have for such a belief and believe it so strongly that you suggest others should take part? Is it merely the pixels on your screen appearing in such a way that they form an informational pattern which you understand? Is that sufficient evidence for you to believe something is true? Just wondering…

  • Paul, the challenge has been meet hundreds of times. God is an immaterial person, who is all powerful, all-knowing, morally perfect, has necessary existence and created the universe.

    This has been spelt out hundreds of times in Christian theology. I suspect however I will not see 1000 $ because I suspect that Canterbury Atheist is not really sincere when he says he does not know what God is.

  • Of course gods exist – but I doubt Paul’s challenge would cover that fact.

    It’s silly to talk about an immaterial person. WTF could that mean? A person that didn’t exist? (material things are those which have objective existence).

    No, it’s well established that gods exist – in the minds of men and women. But obviously not all men and women.

    Current researhc int this area (and there is a lot of it) gives quite a satisfying explanation of why this is so. And it’s tied up partly with superstition which is natural in our species,. Plus the need to organise societies larger than the kin, clan, tribal number.

    Gods as minimally counter-intuitive individuals serve an extremely useful purpose in this. As well as in organizing violence against the out-group. The natural existence of gods in the minds oh humans is a reason why they have an anthropomorphic character – and hence why the god of the theologian just doesn’t appear at all convincing to the ordinary believer. Despite what theologians say church goers must be delivered up the anthropomorphic gods otherwise they just would keep coming back.

  • Ken you state “It’s silly to talk about an immaterial person. WTF could that mean? A person that didn’t exist? (material things are those which have objective existence).”.

    On what basis do you claim that only material things have objective existence. This seems to be an assumption or premise, but in a debate about the viability of supernaturalism, assuming that naturalism is false is begging the question.

  • @Ken and Matt
    Since when does existence require materiality? You would have to be an anti-realist toward a whole lots of things in order for that to even be feasible (laws of logic, science, morality to name a few). What evidence or argument do you have that existence requires matter?

  • Matt says his god is immaterial but Catholic theologian Dr. Peter Kreeft suggests that Jesus “still has a human body in heaven”. Which is it? I wish Christians would get their stories straight because it’s awfully difficult to hit a moving target.

  • I’ve posted the question as phrased from the Canterbury Atheists Blog Site, as I realise that not everyone who views it will dismiss it in the way Matt, Ranger & Anon did.

    http://canterburyatheists.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-is-god-challenge.html

    You never know, someone may have a good answer!!!

    For anyone to answer the question “Is there a God?” we first need to establish the definition of ‘God’.

    So imagine you are describing a domestic cat to someone who has never encountered one.

    Let’s not get bogged-down in platitudes or meandering philosophical abstracts.

    Nor do I want-to-get involved in semantics.

    A cat has teeth and claws, this we understand ,without breaking-down the teeth and claws into their make-up, functions etc – nor having to require a Biology degree.

    Just stick to the basic ‘make-up’ of God.

    For example since The Bible tells us believers will enter heaven to be by his side, clearly this means he has sides – right?

    But is he a square of a hexagon?

    Have I misinterpreted ‘by his side’?

    Apparently humans are made in his ‘image’?

    So if I bumped into God at the Supermarket, what would I behold?

    We are told looks down-on us 24/7, so with all the activity he has to monitor it’s reasonable to think he has a multitude of eyes – a bit like a house-fly?

    See what I’m after?

    Keep referring back to the child-like domestic cat scenario when answering and you won’t go wrong.

    Remembering a cat is more than an animal with fur.

    Keep at the back of your mind, I am not one of the 3 billion humans that are 100% sure God exists, and have never to the best of my knowledge met a God, nor encountered any of his magical powers.

    You need to start from square-one with me.

    Also peoples, please do not belittle me by calling into question my intelligence or open-mindedness with statements like “You won’t understand”. May be I will, when you use terms any layman will understand.

    Further it was a God that saw fit to use words as the sole method to describe his workings in his manifesto. These words ‘of God’ are what believers follow. Not a DVD or You-Tube – a book called ‘The Bible’. Therefore if it is good enough for God to use words to convey such crucial information like; man-kinds life-mission, creation, what happens when we die etc – then surely there is scope in the written language to describe this ‘God’? By stating there are no words to describe God you are in-fact bringing into question the writings of The Bible and Gods very existence.

    Thank-You.

  • Ranger, you object to the idea that to say something is imaterial means that it doesn’t have objective existence. You quote “laws of logic” etc.

    Things like “laws of logic”, science, morality, myths, fairy tales, fiction, god beliefs, the subjective experience of colour, are properties of existing material beings and their existing material brains.

    Take away that objective existence and all those properties disappear.

    In some cases the material objects and their interactions that underly the concepts stlll objectively exist. For example the “laws of logic” disappear with the end of humans but the underlying objective objects and interactions they refer to do not.

    God beliefs are like “laws of logic” They exist in human minds, and only in human minds. So yes, gods are imaterial. They have no matetial existence, They cease to exist when the material brain dies.

  • Ken, the problem is that your answer suggests that before humans came on the seen the law of non contradiction did not hold as it is a law of logic. It also suggests laws of nature (such as gravity did not hold either)

    So was it possible prior to the existence of humans that humans existed, was it possible for evolution to both be occuring and creationism to also be true. I agree these contradict each other but prior to the existence of humans the laws of logic did not exist, and so on.

  • Athiest missionary

    Actually Christian theologians and philosophers are pretty consistent in their definitions, contrary to what you say. Most books on Philosophy of religion have similar definitions the suggestion this is a mystery no one has ever attempted to answer is simply false. In Plantinga and Tooley’s debate for example both offer definitions of God at the beginning. Swinburne offers a similar definition, as does Weirenga and numerous others.

    Kreeft’s position is about the relationship between Christs human brain to the immaterial consciousness of the second person of the trinity. Kreeft would probably think that human beings are immaterial beings, and so there is no contradiction here.

    Any way your question was about what God was, not whether he existed or whether the concept is coherent.

    When can I get the 1000 dollars?

  • Paul, TAM comments are quite frankly silly. His argument presupposes that God is a material being with sides, that is visible in space and time, and that he has eyes.

    No Christian theologian has ever held this concept of God.

    Serious discussion of a subject involves not caricaturing it. When atheists insist on offering arguments like this they show they are not interested in serious discussion.

    By the way, when did you stop beating your wife? A direct answer please, no dismissing the question by pointing out the presuppositions are false. I want a serious discussion so tell me when did you stop wife beating?

  • Matt, you are muddled about this. Perhaps you could read again what I said.

    Laws don’t exist apart form the consciousness of humans. They are human constructs. Sure the laws of nature are our attempt to describe interactions which occur objectively, with objectively occurring material, and did before we exist.

    Once we disappear , our text books and ourselves get fried by the expanding sun, there will no longer be any “laws of logic” (at least around hear) or laws of physics. There won’t be any minds or societies to hold them.

    However, the inter-relationships and interconnections between objectively existing bodies will continue (as they did before we existed) and can be discovered and formulated into “laws’ by any other intelligent social species that may exist in the future.

    Just because before we evolved there were no ‘laws of logic” says exactly nothing about the objectively existing interconnections and interactions of objectively existing reality.

    You seem to think that before this century the sun didn’t operate because we didn’t know the laws of atomic and subatomic reactions. That before we discovered germs and postulated the germ theory no-one ever got sick.??

  • Ken, we didn’t invent gravity. We discovered it. It’s a bit ironic to see you talk this way, because on another occsaion you (incorrectly) said that I was expressing anti-realism and I was therefore wrong. And yet here you are, embracing anti-realism by saying that laws don’t really exist apart from our minds, and they are just useful descriptions rather than facts! I think you’re the muddled one, cutting off you nose to spite your face like this. You’d never embrace anti-realism in general, but you do it now because you think it’s a useful tool to attack the evil religious apologist. Try being more principled.

  • Oh, and Ken, you’re very basically misrepresenting Matt (what a shock). Matt is saying that laws existed before we discovered and formulated them – so the sun did operate and people did get sick.

    If you were right, and laws did not exist prior to us discovering them, then those crazy things would follow: No sun, no sickness etc.

  • […] Matthew Flannagan and Raymond Bradley are to publicly debate the question: “Is God the Source … […]

  • Glenn – yes of course we didn’t invent gravity. However, Newton and Galileo did formulate the laws of gravity and motion. These described the objectively existing relationships between massive bodies that were around long before our species came along. We did not have those laws of gravity and motion before Galileo and Newton but of course gravity and the relationship between masses existed.

    Similar the laws of nuclear reactions didn’t exist before Rutherford and others of his time formulated them. But the phenomena they describe did.

    No one would claim Boyles law existed before Boyle formulated it but gases did and the interactions leading to changes of pressure and volume did.

    I don’t know exactly where Matt is coming from. Hopefully it’s just a matter of his confusing human made “laws of nature” with the underlying objective relationships and interactions of matter. I am aware some people do get these confused at times.

    We have to be clear about the difference between the human made laws and the phenomena they seek to describe. This description will always be an imperfect, but ever improving, reflection of reality.

    I am nothing if I am not a realist!

  • @ Matt, now you’ve really lost me! Some clarification here please as I really don’t understand the statement you made about wife beating!!! Any clues???

    By the way, when did you stop beating your wife? A direct answer please, no dismissing the question by pointing out the presuppositions are false. I want a serious discussion so tell me when did you stop wife beating?

  • Paul, my question to you about wife beating is an example of the same fallacy TAM makes when he asks Christians to explain where God is or what he looks like.

    The question assumes you actually beat your wife, which you do not and hence you cannot answer it on the terms it is given.

    Similarly asking where God is, what he would look like if you ran into him in a supermarket assumes God is a physical object, which he is not and hence cannot be answered on the terms it is given.

  • Ok Matt,

    Seeing as you decided to vent a very strange accusation against me, rather than throwing an unsubstantiated one at you, I’ve chosen to “turn the other cheek” and put a smile on your face instead.

    Oh, and if you do support Intelligent Design, how the hell do you explain this guy???

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaDmsxx3mXM&feature=youtu.be

    Mark Alan Lowry (born June 24, 1957) is a Christian comedian, songwriter and singer. Lowry performed with the Gaither Vocal Band from 1988–2001 and, in January 2009, he re-joined the group along with other “GVB” alumni Michael English and David Phelps. Lowry has recorded twelve albums, both music and comedy.

  • Hey Matt,

    Looks like my last post and your reply post happened at almost the same time, but I’ll leave it up as it might make some smile!

  • My question is where are the scientists in this debate? Moral decision making is something we can study in quite a bit of depth today from many scientific angles.

    Two philosophers…

  • @Matt
    Just to clarify it was The Cantebury Atheist who issued the “challenge” and not The Atheist Missionary. I think you have them confused in your recent comments.

    @Paul
    Have you ever seen Star Wars, episode IV: A New Hope? There is a scene where the first batch of X-wings and Y-wings are attempting to shoot the missles into the reactor core of the Death Star. They are being fired at from all directions, and one of the leaders keeps repeating “Stay on target…stay on target.”

    You started by discussing ratings for the website. I bit the bait and showed you why your assumptions were incorrect. No harm there. But then in a comment on July 15th, you attempt to change the subject to a discussion of non-experts speaking on topics (ala Dawkins on theology/philosophy), then on the 16th you post the question from TCA (which was also posted on the other thread), then on the 17th you start speaking about Intelligent Design, and post a random Mark Lowry link. TAM has been doing the same thing. Instead of discussing the topic at hand, he has diverted to ID and other things. I bit the bait on one of his topics as well, but loosely brought it back to the metaphysical underpinning not only of science, but for Western society and morality (the topic of this post).

    I’m not trying to attack you in any way, just suggesting that you “stay on target,” for awhile. This website has lots of posts on lots of different topics. If you just wait a bit, or look through the archives you will find the topics that you want to discuss. Many of them are relevant to the links and topics that you keep bringing up.

    Instead of trying to divert and take on all of these topics at once, let’s look at each discussion logically, but in the proper place. For instance, the topic of this post is a debate on morality and God. There is a wonderful discussion going on between Ken, Glenn and Matt about the nature of intuitively objective laws (of science, logic, morality, etc.) which ties perfectly into the topic of this post. Why not take a break from the diversions to other topics and join this discussion instead?

    I know, I know…we have the humor of Customs Officers…

    @Ken
    I would have responded similarly to Glenn, so first I’ll wait to see your thoughts outlined more before responding.

  • @Simon
    What you are suggesting is actually an altogether different topic. Science doesn’t (and in reality can’t) address the topic of discussion. The question is not, “Why do we make certain moral decisions?” or even the similar question, “is there an evolutionary explanation as to why I think this is wrong or right?” I might have an evolutionary explanation for why I think it justified to kill my sister, but that doesn’t justify killing my sister. The topic of this debate is whether or not our moral decision making is in line with objective moral truths, and whether or not objective moral truths are possible apart from the existence of God.

  • @ Ken,
    you said

    “Once we disappear , our text books and ourselves get fried by the expanding sun, there will no longer be any “laws of logic” (at least around hear) or laws of physics. There won’t be any minds or societies to hold them.

    However, the inter-relationships and interconnections between objectively existing bodies will continue (as they did before we existed) and can be discovered and formulated into “laws’ by any other intelligent social species that may exist in the future.”

    We need to be clear here, we have
    a)material objects
    b) Non-physical inter-relationships between these objects
    c) Human observations of b) we call laws of nature/logic etc, “dependent on our minds”

    Now, we have sound principles, ala St Thomas Aquinas, that all things act according to what they are, and that an effect holds within it a proportionate cause.

    An interrelationship between material objects, such as 11+1 =12
    (notice you have to use (c) to describe (b) yet (B) is not dependant for its reality on (c)
    is non-physical , so how can a human brain conceptualize it, if the mind is only material?
    If the effect of having (c) is non physical, there must be a non physical cause inherent in (b).
    Therefore,
    There must be a non-physical component to the human mind, to allow us to conceive of non-physical abstract ideas.

    This inbuilt ability is best explainable by all physical reality having a non-physical interrelationship, predating Humanity, which is Good (explaining our inner universal calling to be good and avoid evil) and non-dependent on physicality(like my idea of the apple remaining whilst all earths apples are destroyed in the Global apple pie eating contest of 2011) .

  • @ Ranger,

    I appreciate your perspective, so here is a directly related link to a TED Talk given by sam Harris, that is certainly on topic.

    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/ted-science-can-answer-moral-questions/

    I know, I know…we have the humor of Customs Officers…

    Great comment as it’s good to see that someone still has a sense of humour around here.

    I mean it’s not as if we are trying to find the answer to life, the universe and everything………

    As we all already know, the answer to that is 42!

    (Please see “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” by Douglas Adams – Another great atheist!!! – To understand this fully)

  • @Paul
    I’ve watched that video previously. Why don’t you share what you think he is saying, and what evidence he gives for such claims and we can discuss them. Maybe you can succinctly present his argument and we can discuss the main points?

    To begin, I’m pretty sure Hume would critique him for confusing is and ought, but his points weren’t too clear, so I could have misinterpreted him. Personally, I thought his discussion seemed high on rhetoric, but low on evidence, so maybe you could provide some more to support his claims as well?

  • Ranger, I agree with you and am deservedly admonished. I am a rambler and will try to do a better job of staying on topic.

    On the issue of God as the supposed source of morality, Australian appeal judge David Hodgson has written an excellent article entitled “Dawkins and the Morality of the Bible (first published in Quadrant 436 (May 2007), 38-43) which you can find at: http://users.tpg.com.au/raeda/website/Dawkins.htm

    Hodgson notes that it is right for Christians and Jews to condemn genocide and terrorism. However, he then suggests that in order for them to be consistent they should acknowledge the following 8 statements:

    (1) It would have been wrong for God to order Abraham to kill his son, as the Bible says He did.

    (2) It would have been wrong for Abraham to set about doing so.

    (3) It is wrong to kill an innocent person because you believe God has told you to.

    (4) It would have been wrong for God to kill children to induce Pharaoh to release the Israelites. (It would have been terrorism.)

    (5) It would have been wrong for God to order the Israelites to kill all occupants of defeated cities. (It would have been to order genocide.)

    (6) It would have been wrong for Joshua and his followers to kill all occupants of Jericho. (It would have been genocide.)

    (7) If Jesus believed that God had killed children to induce Pharaoh to release the Israelites, it would have been wrong for him to celebrate the Passover. (It would have been to condone terrorism.)

    (8) The Bible stories of Abraham and Isaac, the Passover and the battle of Jericho were written by fallible human beings and convey wrong messages about God and morality.

    What Hodgson is calling for is a frank admission of the immorality of some of the actions attributed to Yahweh in the Bible. The fact that some (but, thankfully, not all) Christians and Jews refuse to make these admissions and instead engage in apologetics to defend the indefensible is, IMHO, scary.

  • TAM,

    Morality is a standard given to human. God as the creator of all does as He pleases. I think the judge is being ignorant.

    God gives. God takes. God’s name be ever blessed – Job 1:21

    “It is wrong to kill an innocent person because you believe God has told you to.”

    Everyone will ultimately face the final judgement. Human is to fear & obey God more than mere mortal.

    Having said that, if someone committed a murder and said that God told him/her, then I think he/she must still be taken through the process of law here on earth.

    Sure there’ll be people who are disillusioned/crazy, who think God tells them to kill people. But then there are people who committed mass murder in the name of natural selection too.

  • Anon, Glenn Peoples touches on your response in his essay “A New Euthyphro”: http://www.beretta-online.com/articles/philosophy/new_euthyphro.pdf which I commend to you if you haven’t already read it. However, the problem with suggesting that things are right because God commands them leads to the inescapable conclusion that it was “right” for God to command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Of course, this suggestion contradicts People’s assertion that: “God cannot command that which he hates, even though it is within his power. Whatever God commands is right, and torture could never be right because God would never command it, nor would his character, his nature and his desire permit him to. For example (and others could be given), if God is benevolent, then he does not command that which is repugnant to benevolence”.

    My contention is simple: you have to be bat sh*t crazy to believe that you could ever justify telling a parent to kill their child (unless, I should add, the killing was carried out to spare them greater suffering).

  • “However, the problem with suggesting that things are right because God commands them leads to the inescapable conclusion that it was “right” for God to command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.”

    I don’t see any problem. Whatever God says is right because He is the truth. God also has much bigger picture of the creation.

    Imagine a parent, telling a child that it is wrong to hurt other people. Co-incidentally, the parent is a doctor, and one day the child saw his parent doing vaccination to a baby. It would seem to the child that his parent was contradicting their own teaching to not hurt other people, but of course that’s not true.

    Also, suffering & death on earth is nothing compares what lies ahead in the final judgement… which is the reason why people need to be saved

  • @TAM
    Thanks for the comment. Honestly, I’m sick today and don’t care so much about responding, but will try my best!

    This is still a little off topic, because it seems as though you want to grant Matt the victory and then question how the Christian God is the source of morality. That’s okay since the Christian God is the only one that is actual 😉

    Let me go through the list, simplify it and share my thoughts:

    (1) It would have been wrong for God to order Abraham to kill his son, as the Bible says He did.

    This seems to have in mind some other assumptions that I’m not sure are the case. For instance, it seems to assume that God actually intended for Abraham to kill Isaac or that he even actually ordered him to kill him. Furthermore, it assumes that Abraham thought that God actually intended for him to kill Isaac, which doesn’t seem to be obvious.

    1. Christian theology has always taught (ala Hebrews 11) that at most Abraham realized that God would raise Isaac from the dead in order to fulfill the promises made to him concerning Isaac, and that Abraham knew from God’s character that he would not have made him actually kill Isaac. This faith in God is the motivation for continuing through with the actions from a Christian perspective.

    2. The Hebrew text never says that God ordered Abraham to kill Isaac. What it says is “and bring him up there for (or “to”) a burnt offering.” Strangely absent is the language of Leviticus 2 concerning this type of offering which speaks of killing and burning. God never directly says to kill Isaac or burn him here, as the language is usually given in reference to the burnt offering throughout the OT. Instead, the only language used is to “bring him up” for the burnt offering.

    3. Abraham tells Isaac that God will provide a lamb for the sacrifice (22:8). Even though he binds Isaac on the altar, there is no reason to think that he didn’t believe the Lord will provide even at the last second (as is what actually happened).

    (2) It would have been wrong for Abraham to set about doing so.

    Why would it be wrong of him to take his son up to the place of the burnt offering if he knew that God would never cause him to kill or burn his son, but would provide a lamb instead?

    (3) It is wrong to kill an innocent person because you believe God has told you to.

    I think we’re in agreement here on the action. Our reasoning would be that God has commanded us not to murder, for he has created all people in his image (see Genesis 9, Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, et. al.).

    Of course, we’re not in agreement on who would be innocent, because we believe all are sinners and fallen short of God’s glory.

    I would be interested from your perspective how you could say it is objectively wrong to murder those who are innocent, and how you could say they were objectively innocent (ala in regards to what?)

    (4) It would have been wrong for God to kill children to induce Pharaoh to release the Israelites. (It would have been terrorism.)

    Is the assumption here that it is always wrong for God to allow the death of a child, or for God to bring about an action that results in their death or only when God actively sends someone to bring about their death? I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll have you flesh it out more and see if we are in agreement on this point.

    (5) It would have been wrong for God to order the Israelites to kill all occupants of defeated cities. (It would have been to order genocide.)

    This assumes that God actually intended for everyone to die, and wasn’t using heightened metaphorical language (see Matt’s posts on genocide). Furthermore, it assumes that the people were innocent and not evil, corrupt or guilty. If they were corrupt and guilty (or God knew that they would eventually do evil things if allowed to live), then God has a right to execute his justice upon that evil (whether past, present or even potentially future) whenever he so chooses.

    (6) It would have been wrong for Joshua and his followers to kill all occupants of Jericho. (It would have been genocide.)

    See previous point.

    (7) If Jesus believed that God had killed children to induce Pharaoh to release the Israelites, it would have been wrong for him to celebrate the Passover. (It would have been to condone terrorism.)

    This doesn’t necessarily follow and seems a stretch regardless. I think the author was just trying to stretch the difficult OT passages to include Jesus so that he could get more Christians interested.

    (8) The Bible stories of Abraham and Isaac, the Passover and the battle of Jericho were written by fallible human beings and convey wrong messages about God and morality.

    This is sort of the summary statement and since it includes many assumptions that I do not agree with discussed above, I would disagree with it at this point.

  • Hey, Cedric, your argument is as convincing as any other theology I have heard around here.

    Where did you get your theology degree?

  • Where did you get yours Ken?

  • VUW, Madeleine. But of course in science not theology. As you know I have no respect for that subject, and would feel dirty if I employed the bafflegab and jelly wrestling which seem required for it. My mind goes elsewhere whenever I detect a theological “argument”. 

    However I can sometimes have a little giggle at Glenn and Matt’s serious theological “arguments.” But, Cedrics was the best (for me most entertaining) theological argument encountered here yet.

    Don’t you agree? It impressed me (although I didn’t understsnd it which probably means it was successful) I assume it also impressed Matt and Glenn as they haven’t objected.

  • @Ken
    Actually his argument is purely philosophical. Apparently they don’t teach Latin in scientific curricula, because theology refers to the study of God, and Cedric’s argument never referred to God, doctrine or the like. Whereas Aquinas wrote on theology, he was a philosopher of the highest order, arguably one of the greatest to ever live.

    Your promotion of philosophical and theological ignorance is rather disturbing though. You seem to be saying, “I can’t understand, so we ought to write it off.”. I’m sure you would not approve of such “reasoning” (if we dare call it such) from students of science.

    Instead of promoting ignorance of basic philosophical arguments and simply writing off anything you are incapable of understanding as “theology,” even when it isn’t, you should either attempt to understand and possibly learn something, or stay out of the discussion altogether you know?

  • “My mind goes elsewhere whenever I detect a theological “argument””

    That explains a lot

  • So, Ranger, you didn’t understand Cedric and his applie pie either? Ever heard of the Emporer’s new clothes? Personally when I come across dishonest, circular arguments I prefer not to waste my time trying to understand them. I also don’t waste time pretending that I do.

    Now honest philosophy is a different matter. I have explained to Don and Sancho the nature of “laws of nature.” They seem to have gone quiet, and so have you on that topic,

  • Ken I find this comment stunning, you just offered an argument from silence in the comment above this one: “I assume it also impressed Matt and Glenn as they haven’t objected.”

  • That’s my current feeling Madeleine. But I am happy to change my mind. No skin off my nose. Just need evidence.

  • TAM you might want to read my blog post on the Abraham issue at http://www.mandm.org.nz/2009/07/sunday-study-abraham-and-isaac-%E2%80%93-did-god-command-the-killing-of-an-innocent.html. I think when the command is read in its context the moral problem you refer to does not occur.

    In Divine Commands and Moral Requirements Philip Quinn, argued in fact that one could rationally accept that a perfectly good God commanded killing innocent children in certain circumstances. He spells the dilemma out as follows:

    [1] Its wrong to kill an innocent human being
    [2] God commands the killing of an innocent human being
    [3]If God commands X then one is required to do X.

    These three contradict each other hence the rational person needs to give one of them up. Quinn argued a person could however rationally resolve the dilemma in favour of [2]. Provided the evidence we have for [2] is greater than the evidence we have for [1]. Now of course, we he a very strong moral intuition supporting [1]. But Quinn noted that if God made his command to us, certain or more certain than this intuition is, one could accept [2] over [1]

    I think this is plausible if one were in such a situation, it would be intuitively obvious to one that killing is wrong, however it would be even more obvious that a perfectly good being has commanded it, given [3], this means the person in such a situation has stronger evidence in favour of the denial of [1], than he does for the denial of [2]

    Quinn also noted that this does not commit one to supporting wholesale slaughter. If [1] is understood as a general rule, which is grounded in Gods commands and [2] is understood as a rare exception, based on a specific command to a specific person. One can accept the claim that God commands killing the innocent in Abraham’s situation. Without opening the floodgates to a situation where infanticide or human sacrifice is permissible in all many or most situations.

  • @Ken
    I had said I was waiting for you to further formulate your view on laws of nature, because it doesn’t seem sustainable to me, but it may simply be that it’s not clear at this point. That’s why I said I would like to hear your flesh it out more.

    It seems that from your view, the “laws” do not exist in and of themselves or in the objects in relation, but instead in the mind of the observer and the community that has described such relationships. Thus, laws have no warrant to say that violations of themselves are impossible, or even improbable. They are laws that are not binding in any way, shape or form, just descriptions of relationships. Is this correct? Maybe if you flesh it out more I can better understand what you are saying.

    As for the conclusion to Cedric’s argument, I think it’s obvious that the idea of an apple whether in memory, definition, artistic form of whatever remains after all apples have gone extinct. Did you really not understand that part of the argument? Of course, your retort should be that any method of conceptualizing such an idea requires material objects (brains, oil and canvas, ink and paper or whatever), but then it will run into problem with earlier parts of the formulation of the argument.

  • TAM regarding your article on ID. Perhaps you will share with me

    (a) where Dawkin’s work on the arguments for Gods existence have been published in the peer reviewed literature of Philosophy of religion.

    (b) given this why so many atheists who oppose ID seem to have a double standard when it comes to peer review.

    I could also note that some ID theorists have published peer reviewed work in the Philosophy of Science.

  • @Ken et al
    Cedrics example may have been a little obscure but perfectly understandable.
    The concept of apples would remain a non-physical reality in our awareness even if some action removed all physical evidence of apples ever existing. His point , the reality of immaterial reality. Whether or not you or I are impressed by this, this example appears to be strictly logical/philsophical rather than theological.
    By the way Mat appears to have been a little busy, to read anything into this seems to be jumping to conclusions without any evidence. Not quite the standard you usually insist on.

  • Ken and Cedric,

    I think the problem is that laws of logic do not just describe the relationship between objects as though as a matter of fact everything we examine in the universe happens to meet the law of non contradiction.The laws of logic state the relationship must be this way, it could not be otherwise, and this necessity holds independently of whether anyone believes it or not.

    If human beings never existed it would still be impossible for a contradiction to be true.

  • Hey Ken, I just read something crazy. You didn’t object to it, so you obviously agree with it. Wow, crazy you!

  • “If human beings never existed it would still be impossible for a contradiction to be true.”

    brave claim.

  • Matt, you seem to be avoiding my points, while in fact reinforcing them.

    Of course the relationships and interactions of objectively existing material objects and phenomena don’t depend on human existence (with the exception of those involving humans). However our description of these relationships and interactions do. We need an intelligent social species to formulate theories and laws.

    And we must remember those theories and laws are imperfect refections of reality. Hopefully improving with our experience.

    The problem is that you are equating the objective interelationships and interactions with the imperfect descrpition of them in laws and theories.

    Can you accept:

    1 Boyle’s Law did not exist before being formulated by Boyle? It does not exist outside of the minds and society of our species – at least in this part of the universe?

    2: The objective relationships and interactions pf objectively ecisting gases, their pressure, volume and temperature, exist and existed independently of us or any other intelligent species?

    3: Our attempt to describe these relationships results in Boyle’s law? Inevitably this is not perfect and could be modified as we accumulate further experience ?

    4: We can say that these laws and theories do exist – but in the minds of people. Not indepently of them?

    5: In some cases these laws and theories and concepts describe (imperfectly) objectively existing objects, phenomena and interactions?

    6: In other cases they may describe, name, or claim something about objects and phenomena that don’t have any objective existence? Examples would be goblins, unicorns, dragons , etc. Myths and mythical objects and creatures.

    7: My point us that gods belong to this later group. This does not mean the god belief is not significant or important. Just that our study of this sort of belief inolves the study of the human mind and society. The evolved human intuitions and our evolved cognitive psychology. This is a very effective and productive area of current scientific research.

    8: Any argument about objectively existing gods is a mugs game. There are no serious hypotheses or serious study. There may be some science cranks like Frank Tippler making claims or theological arguments like Craig’s which are based on distorted scientific claims and subjective untested argument. There scientific assumptions have been demonstrated faulty and of course their logic is biased and never subjected to objective treatment? Why should they be because they really only serve an internal purpose.

  • Why is that a difficult claim, M-bot? If no humans existed would it then be possible for the Earth to both exist and not exist at the same time? I’m pretty sure that we discovered the law of non-contradiction. Of course, humans formulated it, but this only amounted to describing a pre-existing, real law in human language.

  • Ranger: You just restated your belief in this concept. We tend to see the world in binary terms but who knows what the universe filtered through a non-human brain would be like… or even more terrifying what the unfiltered universe is like – if it is “like” anything at all.

  • Ranger, M-bot,

    Why claim that contradictions are meaningful at all? Even though a contradiction can look like a statement, seem like a well-formed formula, and the grammar of our natual languages might lead us to think that contradictions are meaningful, that could be just an appearance. I’m not really advancing an arguement, just raising a question.

  • Justin – I think you are onto something there. Without language and our particular, human-sized, and human-centred way of dividing up the world most of what seem to be contradictions to us are probably nothing of the sort.

  • […] I have just been on the MandM website and located some details and interaction that should be helpful, which you can find… HERE! […]

  • […] debate on morality: Matt Flannagan vs. Ray Bradley News of an upcoming debate featuring Matt Flannagan from […]

  • He says to say (how does one do that)…

    He is too busy arranging local Rationalists to attend this (below) meeting next week. I have never seen him so excited about a debate as it is a topic dear to his heart..You wouldn`t believe the difficult questions he intends putting to Flanagan during…

  • Debate…

    I have some friends involved in this debate: August 2nd @ 7pm, University of Auckland. Check out the info by clicking…

  • […] info here: Bradley v Flannagan Debate @ Auckland Uni “Is God the Source of Morality?” and here at the University of Auckland Event […]

  • […] just in from the debate at Auckland University where Raymond Bradley and Matt debated  “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God… and we see the discussion from those there has started in more than one place on the net – […]

  • […] of Philosophy, Dr Raymond Bradley and Dr Matthew Flannagan (of this blog) debated the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God… With a turnout of 400-500 people, this debate was the largest Christian event to occur on Auckland […]

  • […] of Philosophy, Dr Raymond Bradley and Dr Matthew Flannagan (of this blog) debated the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God… For the benefit of those who could not be there, who are awaiting the editing and uploading of the […]

  • […] of Philosophy, Dr Raymond Bradley and Dr Matthew Flannagan (of this blog) debated the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God… For the benefit of those who could not be there, who are awaiting the editing and uploading of the […]

  • […] On Monday 2 August at the University of Auckland Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Dr Raymond Bradley and Dr Matthew Flannagan (of this blog) debated the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God… […]

  • […] of Philosophy, Dr Raymond Bradley and Dr Matthew Flannagan (of this blog) debated the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God… For the benefit of those who could not be there, who are awaiting the editing and uploading of the […]

  • […] of Philosophy, Dr Raymond Bradley and Dr Matthew Flannagan (of this blog) debated the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God… For the benefit of those who could not be there, who are awaiting the editing and uploading of the […]

  • […] of Philosophy Dr Raymond Bradley and Dr Matthew Flannagan (of this blog) debated the topic “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God?” Philosopher Dr Glenn Peoples watched the debate via live Skype feed and has reviewed it as […]

  • Ken said:
    8: Any argument about objectively existing gods is a mugs game. There are no serious hypotheses or serious study.

    LOL
    Only if you deliberately ignore of some of the finest philosophers and scientists to walk the Earth.

  • […] our New Zealand Christian context, news of the up-coming Matt Flanagan vs Raymond Bradley [ See HERE for details] debate had excited the Man of […]

  • […] Bradley vs. Flannagan debate is on YouTube in twelve parts (Part 1 above). Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 […]

  • I have prove of God and Jesus Christ, I live in Auckland if you want to meet up

    my number 0275351525

    I don’t think your ready for this