Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Is causal interaction consistent with substance dualism?

One of the main objections people always raise against substance dualism is that there’s a correlation between brain states and mental states. This correlation can be proved by giving a person drugs. The drugs cause a chemical reaction in the brain that immediately causes a change in a person’s mental state. This is supposed to disprove the notion that the mind and brain are distinct substances.

In response I would say it is perfectly consistent with substance dualism that there would be causal interaction between the mind and the brain. In fact, I would argue that the nature of the causal interaction is not only consistent with substance dualism, but that it is actually inconsistent with a denial of substance dualism.

J.P. Moreland explains the differences between substances and properties in chapter 3 of Scaling the Secular City. Basically, a property is a universal, and a substance is a particular. A property, like redness, can be in several different places at the same time, but a substance, like a dog, can only be in one place at a time. Properties are had by substances (e.g. a ball can be red). A substance can change by gaining or losing properties. A round ball of wax can be shaped into a square, but it remains the same piece of wax. Roundness, however, does not change into squareness. Roundness is roundness, and squareness is squareness. Likewise, a substance can change from red to green, but the property of redness does not turn into greenness. Most importantly for our purposes, a substance has causal power, but a property doesn’t. The property of roundness, by itself, doesn’t cause anything, but substances that have the property of roundness do.

If the mind is an emergent property of the brain, then whatever the brain state is, the mental state will conform to it. All the causal interactions happen strictly in the brain, and the various mental states emerge as a result. To illustrate this, let’s let “B” represent brain states, and “M” represent mental states. The arrow sign, -> represents the direction of causation. The emergent property view would look like this:

B -> M

The state of the brain is constantly changing, and the mental states all change as a result. But all the causal interaction is between brain states.

B1 -> B2 -> B3 etc.

Each of these brain states results in a corresponding mental state.

B1 -> M1
B2 -> M2
B3 -> M3

But the mental states themselves don’t cause anything since they are only emergent properties. One mental state cannot cause another mental state. Neither can the direction of causation go backwards. A mental state cannot cause a brain state.

If the problem with the emergent property view isn’t already obvious, I’ll just spell it out. Desires, inclinations, and the will are all mental states. But if the mind is an emergent property, then the will has no causal power. A person cannot act on a desire. He cannot will to lift his hand. The will is itself a brain state. Actions (such as lifting the arm) work because the brain sends a signal to the muscles in the arm causing them to contract. So a brain state can cause the arm to rise. Let’s let “A” stand for any action, such as lifting the arm. The emergent property view would look like this:

A <- -="" b=""> M

The mental state may be something like a desire, or the will to lift the arm. The action may be lifting the arm. The brain causes them both. But there is no causal chain between the will to act and the action, because the mental state is an emergent property, not a substance.

Only if the mind is a substance can it have causal influence on the brain. Only then can we will to do anything. On the substance dualism view, it is possible for a person to mentally decide to act, and then initiate an action by causing a brain state that then causes an action.

M -> B -> A

Think how strange it would be if the emergent property view is true. Mental states would really be superfluous. Since all actions are caused by brain states, and brain states can only be the effect of previous brain states or chemical reactions, then all the activity of humans (i.e. having conversations, reacting to the environment, eating, etc.) would go on exactly the same if there were no mental states at all. Though we continue to have the perception of having a will that initiates actions, our minds are really passive. We’re just riding along seeing it all. Our perception of a will capable of initiating an act is just an illusion caused by brain states.

Imagine now that we are aliens observing humans. We see them interacting with each other. We see them “preparing” for the next thing to come along. But there would be no reason to think anything mental was going on at all. Robots might very well do the same things. What we’d be witnessing, for all we knew, might be highly sophisticated artificial intelligence—computers just mimicking real intelligence.

But we know this isn’t so. We know we have a will that initiates actions. Our minds are not passively observing all that we do. We know our actions are intentional. But that can only be so if the mind is a distinct substance from the brain. Only then can the mind have any causal power.

So the substance dualism view is consistent with drugs affecting the mind, because causal interaction can go both ways when there are two substances involved. Brain chemistry has causal power on the mind, which is why drugs work, and the mind has causal power on brain chemistry, which is why we are able to act intentionally.

Next: The rational argument for substance dualism

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The soul and the indiscernibility of identicals

I love that phrase, "the indiscernibility of identicals." I sounds so fancy schmancy, that I feel smart every time I say it. It's actually more simple than it sounds, though. Basically it's just the banal observation that if some entity has every property in common with some other entity, then they're actually the same entity. If whatever is true of A is also true of B, and vice versa, then A and B are the same thing. If there's anything at all that is true of one but not true of the other, then they are not the same thing.

The mind and the brain are obviously not the same thing, because there are things that are true of one that are not true of the other. But when you look at some of the properties of a mind, you find that they aren't even reducible to the brain. For example, the mind can contain images. That's how you see things. Images are formed in the mind. You also have images in your mind when you dream. But you can look at the brain all day and never see any of these images. An image in your mind may have the property of greeness, but nothing in your brain is green.

We each have private access to our own minds that nobody else has, and that is problematic for the emergent property view. With every other example of an emergent property you can think of, those properties are open to public access. For example, wetness is an emergent property of H2O. An individual water molecule is not wet, but when you put a bunch of them together, the property of wetness emerges. But the property of wetness can be observed by anybody. If the mind is an emergent property of the brain, then the properties of the mind ought to be observable. But they are not. Only the person who owns the brain has access to thoughts, feelings, perceptions, etc. All of the properties of the mind are private in this way. A brain surgeon may know more about your brain than you do, but you know more about your thoughts than he does.

Imagine for a second that we're some strange form of life where brains don't look anything like they look in humans, so we really have no knowledge of what a brain is or how it works. Imagine we decide to look at human brains, not knowing what they are, and we're able to do it without killing the person in the process. No matter how much we observe the brain, not matter what instruments we use, we will never observe any thoughts, feelings, memories, perceptions, or anything remotely resembling the properties of a mind. We could never know from observation that there's some mysterious emergent property called a "mind" that these brains have.

But we know we have minds, because we experience first person subjectivity. We feel, think, remember, and perceive. It's true that a brain surgeon can look at an image of the brain that maps brain waves and brain activity and know something about what's going on in the mind. But the only reason he is able to know any correspondence between the mind and the brain is because of previous experiments where a person whose brain was being mapped gave input about his mental activity. The person being experimented on had to tell the experiment what was going on in his mind before the experimenter could then associate the brain state with the mental state.

The mind and all its properties are not observable by a third person, because the mind and all its properties are not part of the physical universe. They are nonphysical.

Again, people bring up computer analogies here. The inner workings of a computer produce images on a monitor, but you can look inside the computer all day and never see these images. Some argue the mind/body distinction is the same.

But the problem here is that what goes on in the computer is not observable until it is hooked up to a monitor. A monitor converts the signals into an image. Once it does, that image is open to public access. Anybody can see it. Not so with the mind. There's no monitor at all in the brain, and the only person who can see any image associated with the brain is the person who owns it.

Next: Is causal interaction consistent with substance dualism

Monday, August 29, 2005

What is a person?

A lot of people, when they hear this "continuity through change" argument will begin to see that there is definitely a distinction between mind and body, and that a person maintains identity through physical change. But to them, this doesn't necessarily entail substance dualism. It could be that the mind is an emergent property of the brain. It's the mind that constitutes a person's identity, not the brain. Since the mind remains continuous through physical changes, the person maintains identity. Although the body changes, the memories are the same.

Some people think of the mind/body distinction like the distinction between hardware and software. The body (specifically the brain) is the hardware, and the mind is the software. What constitutes a person is not so much the hardware, but the software.

A particular mind emerges because of a particular pattern in the brain, just as software has its properties because of the ones and zeros written on the hard drive and the structure of the computer. You can change our cells all you want, and it will still be the same mind with the same memories, personality, etc. as long as the structure is the same.

I don't think these objections work, though. Lemme use some thought experiments to explain why. If it's true that the mind emerges from the brain, then all you would have to do to create a mind is to create a brain. But suppose you created two identical brains with perfectly identical structure, just as you might make a copy of a program and run it on two different computers at the same time. The minds that emerged would both have the same personalities, memories, and everything. But they couldn't both be the same person, because one person can't be in two different places at the same time. If we could create a perfect replica of you, brain and all, the replica would have all of your mental attributes--personality, memories, etc. The replica would think that he was you. But he couldn't be, because then you'd be in two different places at the same time. From the time the replica was created, you'd be two distinct persons even if you had all the same mental goings on.

Steve made me think of another way of looking at this. Suppose you have a person who has a total case of amnesia. They've lost all memory of the past. Do they literally become a different person? Or suppose you have somebody with multiple personalities. Are they literally different people? Or suppose somebody has a brain injury which causes a complete change in their personality as well as total amnesia. Do they literally become a different person? Common sense seems to dictate that they would still be the same person. We often say, "So & so's a different person," or, "You are no longer the person I fell in love with," but we don't mean this literally.

The point I mean to make is that the emergent property view is not an adequate theory to account for personal identity. It leads to counter-intuitive results. A person is more than their mental make-up. Not only do we maintain identity through physical change, but we also maintain identity through mental change, which means the soul is not merely an immaterial mind.

There are other problems with the emergent property view, but I'll get to those in future blogs.

Next: The soul and the indiscernibility of identicals

Friday, August 26, 2005

Argument for substance dualism: Identity through change

Before I get into this whole thing about substance dualism, I think you might like to know a little background about me. For a long time, I didn't believe we had immaterial souls or spirits that left our bodies when we die. I didn't think a strong case for it could be made from the Bible. What changed my mind was not Biblical arguments, but philosophical arguments. Specifically, it was chapter 3 of Scaling the Secular City by J.P. Moreland that changed my mind. Most of my arguments are basically the same as his, although one is borrowed from chapter 3 of C.S. Lewis' book on Miracles.

The first argument goes like this:

1. If all we are is the sum of our physical parts, then we do not maintain identity through physical change.
2. We do maintain identity through physical change.
3. Therefore, we are more than the sum of our physical parts.

In other words, our identity consists of something immaterial, because it's the self, the ego, the identity of the person that endures through physical change.

If all we are is the sum of our physical parts, then we do not maintain identity through physical change.

To support the first premise, I'll use a thought experiment. Imagine that you have this old car that's beginning to break down. You keep having to replace parts on it. Each time you replace a part, you put the old part in storage. You keep replacing parts, one at a time. You even replace the frame at some point. Eventually, you have replaced every single part on the car such that none of the original parts remain. All the original parts are in storage. Now here's the question: Is this the same car with new parts, or is it a new car altogether?

If you say it's a new car altogether, good. That's what I wanted you to say. You can skip the next paragraph.

If you say it's the same car with new parts, then let me press the thought experiment further. Let's say you take all the original parts out of storage and reassemble them. Now you've got two cars--one with all original parts, and one with all new parts. Which car is the original car? Hopefully you can see by now that the one with all new parts is not the original car, because nothing of the original car remains in it.

The point of this thought experiment is to show that physical objects to not maintain identity through physical change. If you change all the parts, you've got a whole new object.

Now I'm not going to go into the question of when it becomes a new object. There's room for debate on that. Some people say it's a new object once you replace one part. Some say it's a new object once you replace more than half of the parts. Some say it's a new object once you replace the last of the original parts. It doesn't matter in our case. We know that sometime between replacing the first part and replacing the last part, it becomes a whole new object.

Now apply this principle to people. The cells in our bodies are constantly dying, dividing, and being replaced. It takes about seven years for every cell in your body to be replaced. That means every seven years, you've got a new body.

I should say at this point that brain cells live much longer, but even in the case of brain cells, the molecules that make them up are constantly being replaced, so even brain cells are in a constant state of flux.

If all we are is the sum of our physical parts, then we are a different person within every seven years. A sixty-seven year old women does not have the same body she had when she was two years old. If all she is is her body, then the sixty-seven year old woman is not the same person as the two year old person she is causally connected with.

We do maintain identity through physical change.

To support the second premise, we have to appeal to common sense. This situation is analogous to our belief in the uniformity of nature, that our memories correspond to a real past, that our perceptions correspond to a real world, and that our conscience corresponds to a moral law. None of these things can be demonstrated by proofs, but they have a strong appeal to common sense. It's the same with our identity. We know that we have existed for longer than seven years. I myself was once three years old.

To deny that we have an enduring self is counter-intuitive. It's so counter-intuitive, in fact, that those who deny an enduring self cannot live consistently with that denial. They still talk about things that happened over seven years ago as if they themselves were there. And they still hold grudges against people who wronged them over seven years ago as if it was really the present person who is responsible. And few of them would advocate an across-the-board 7-year statute of limitations on all crimes, so that nobody could be prosecuted for a crime committed more than seven years ago.

Therefore, we are more than the sum of our physical parts

This follows by modus tollens.

If A, then B.
Not B.
Therefore, not A.

We are, in essence, immaterial selves. While we are intimately connected with our bodies, our identity rests with the immaterial self. This immaterial self is what we mean by "soul" or "spirit."

At this point, computer objections usually come up, but I'll save common objections for another post.

Next: What is a person?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What's it like to be a disembodied spirit?

Since Dale posted something about the possibility of someday being able to create virtual people (computer programs) who are conscious, self-aware, real persons, I have been wanting to do some posts on the mind/body problem. I was just reading an old discussion I had on a message board, and I said something I thought was interesting to think about.

If we accept substance dualism--the view that the body and the soul are distinct substances that interact with one another, it would seem that the body is the window to the soul in the sense that it is through the physical senses that the soul is able to perceive. We have ears to hear, a nose to smell, skin to feel, eyes to see, and a tongue to taste.

Now let's say we die, and our soul survives the death of our bodies in a conscious state. Would we still be able to percieve sounds, smells, textures, flavours, and light? Would we be able to perceive anything at all physical if we had no physical instruments with which to perceive them?

Things that make you go "hmmmm..."

Next: Argument for substance dualism: identity through change

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

How to make an English longbow

While you were reading up on Biblical history, I was making an English longbow. I decided to start a bow-building web page for poor people and apartment dwellers. My most recent contribution to it is a build-along I did with this English longbow, and I thought y'all might like to have a look-see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Conversations with Angie: If Jews borrowed terms for God from other cultures, does it follow that Judaism derived from those other cultures?

This is the last post for "Conversations with Angie." I timed it just wrong; school starts tomorrow. I should'ved saved the whole thing for when school starts since I won't have as much time to write new material for this blog once school starts.

Now about the "El" issue. You said, "Now, I know a Christian would argue that this is true only because God was revealing Himself to humanity throughout history, but I don't buy that." I don't buy that either, although I don't think we can rule it out as a possibility. According to the Bible, God HAS revealed himself in various ways to other people. Not all the descendents of Abraham, for example, became Israelites. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. If God revealed himself to Abraham, then it shouldn't surprise us that Ishmael's descendents would be familiar with some of the stories passed on by Abraham. But only Isaac's descendents were part of Israel. And not even all of Isaac's descents became Israelites. He also had two sons, Jacob and Esau, and only Jacob's descendents became Israelites.

Since all of these people have a common ancestery, we should expect them to share a common language, including similar words used in reference to deities.

If you have access to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, there's an article on "Names of God in the OT" by Martin Rose that's worth reading.

The Jews used all kinds of titles to refer to God, but there was only one word they used as God's revealed name, and that was YHWH. Since this is the only name that was revealed to them by God himself, then the Bible supports the notion that the rest of these titles are just aspects of the Hebrew language that developed the same way all languages develope. Borrowing the language of another culture doesn't entail borrowing the ideas as well. The Greeks, for example, had a very different idea of deity than Jews had, but that did not stop the Jews from using the word "theos" when referring to their own God in the Greek language.

"Shaddai" just means "almighty." This is a description of deity. If other cultures called their deities "shaddai," it shouldn't suprise us that the Jews would borrow that title to refer to their own deity. It would be like saying, "No, your god isn't shaddai; OURS is!" Some people claim the same thing happened with various titles of Jesus. Titles like "lord" and "savior" were also used of Roman emperors. Some people speculate that calling Jesus "lord" was a way of denying the lordship of Caesar. Personally, I think they're mistaken, but even if it's true, what follows from that? Nothing. Likewise, nothing follows from the fact that Jews borrowed the title "shaddai" from other cultures or religions. The same is true with the word "Addonai" which just means "lord" or "master."

The word "El" and "Elohim" is more interesting. "El" was a generic term meaning simply "god," and "elohim" means "gods." At least that's the way the Jews used the word. They did not limit the term to their own God either. In Exodus 12:12, for example, it says, "all the gods [elohim] of Egypt..." According to this article in the ABD, "el" was used throughout the semitic world as a generic term for god. The Canaanites were the only ones who seemed to use it as a proper name. The reason I point this out is that nothing follows from the fact that the Jews used the word "el" to refer to their deity except that they lived in a semitic world in which "el" was a common word in semitic languages to refer to deity.

The end.

Your ole buddy,

Monday, August 22, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Do parallels between the Bible and other cultures invalidate the Bible?

This is the last thing I wanted to respond to:

"Second, I began reading up on ancient cultures of the Middle East, and found
that many biblical stories have equivalents (or parallels, or just very
similar stories) in other ancient near eastern cultures. Along with this, I learned that most of the names for God in the bible were the names of gods in several of the cultures that were present in that part of the world. Adonai, for example, was the name of a Sumerian god, and was adopted into the Hebrew language/culture. El Shaddai was the name of a Canaanite god. Now, I know a Christian would argue that this is true only because God was revealing Himself to humanity throughout history, but I don't buy that. I also saw the many similarities that the biblical God had with these other gods..."

My impression is that this was your biggest reason for rejecting Christianity. I saved the best for last. :-)

I've got several things to say about this. I'm going to take it in two parts--first the parallel stories, and second the terms used to refer to God.

I know a lot more about parallels between Jesus' life and other ancient stories (especially in the mystery religions) than I know about parallels in old testament stories, so my comments are going to have to be general.

Depending on how old some of these stories are, it shouldn't surprise us that there would be parallels. After all, most of the middle eastern people's share a common ancestery, and therefore a common past. Take the flood story for example. That story exists in various forms among several different peoples. It seems to me the best explanation is that a flood actually happened, not that a flood DIDN'T happen. The same would apply to creation stories. In fact, any story about events that took place before the founding of the nation of Israel should be found among different people, because they share a common past.

I don't know about the old testament parallels, but many of the supposed new testament parallels are contrived. This is especially true with regard to mystery religions. By explaining the myths of the mystery religions in Christian terminology (e.g. dying and rising savior gods), the parallels can be made to appear more striking than they really are. Since I have seen this happen so much, I'm skeptical of supposed parallels people draw between different cultures and religions. It seems that with a little creativity, anybody can "find" parallels.

Parallels don't necessarily indicate that one religion has borrows from another. There are some striking parallels between Christianity and some native American cultures. Everybody is familiar with the paralles between Christians and Aztecs, but do some reading about the Iroquois sometime. Personally, I think those parallels are even MORE striking than with the Aztecs. These parallels are so striking that some have speculated that maybe a very early missionary somehow made it to North America, but I think this is just a mistake in reasoning. Similarities in stories, myths, beliefs, etc., do not necessarily indicate a causal connection. You have to demonstrate that such a connection exist; pointing to similarities isn't enough.

Suppose you have a situation where there are two stories that are strikingly similar--one early, and one late. Suppose further that these two stories appear in two cultures who have had a lot of contact with each other. If it could be found that the earlier story was just a made up myth, it still wouldn't follow that the later story is also made up. If you read something in the news paper that sounded a lot like a made up story you had heard years before, it wouldn't follow that the news paper story was made up, too. It could be that it actually happened. Likewise, it could be that there's an old made up story, and that there's a recent actual event that is very similar to the made up story.

Let me give a recent case example of why I don't think parallels prove anything. Have you ever considered the striking similarities between the story of Lincoln and Kennedy? You can just type in "lincoln and kennedy" in google, and you are sure to find a list of these similarities. When you read over them, it's creepy. I suppose two thousand years from now, if historians reason the same way they do today, they might conclude that the Kennedy story is made up since it obviously borrows from the Lincoln story. But we know that isn't the case. It turns out in the case of Lincoln and Kennedy that BOTH stories are true.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie:  If Jews borrowed terms for God from other cultures, does it follow that Judaism derived from those other cultures?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Using the Bible as an historical source apart from assuming inspiration


Most of the information we have about Jesus and the early church comes from the New Testament, but it's not necessary to assume it's inspired by God before we can have reason to believe anything it says. My book shelf is full of books that aren't inspired by God, but I don't dismiss them all as completely unreliable for that reason.

In the case of the Bible, we can treat it as we would treat any other document from the first century. By subjecting it to the methods of historical inquiry, we can discover some things that are true about it.

There are good historical arguments to show that Jesus did consider himself to be the messiah, so we don't have to just take the Bible's word for it.

I don't think it's circular for me to rely on the Bible to support my statement that it isn't necessary to believe the Bible is inspired by God before we can have reason to believe that Christianity is true. My reliance on the Bible for to support that statement doesn't depend on the Bible being inspired.

But even if it DID assume the Bible is inspired, that wouldn't invalidate my point. I'm not arguing that the Bible is NOT inspired. I'm only arguing that it isn't necessary to believe the Bible is inspired before you can have reason to think Christianity is true.


Scott Pruett, who keeps up the Pensees blog referred me to a post on his blog that I think ties in well with this subject. Here is a link to it.

Conversations with Angie:  Do parallels between the Bible and other cultures invalidate the Bible?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Conversations with Angie: How can you be a Christian if you don't believe the Bible is inspired?


You're pretty good at silencing my ineffectual arguments! I don't
think I have ever actually had someone say this to me:

"I don't think it's necessary to believe the Bible is the inspired
word of God before you can be justified in thinking Christianity is

That one surprised me! The only thing is... you then use biblical
quotes to support that statement. Isn't that kind of circular? Are
you saying that you don't have to believe that it's the inspired word
of God, but you do need to have some faith in its historical accuracy?
Because if you don't at least believe that, how can you believe that
Jesus claimed to be the Messiah? Isn't the Bible the only record that
we have that says that he made that claim? I mean, I see what you're
saying from a theological standpoint ... but how can that really play
out in faith? How can someone say, "yes, I believe in the God that
this book talks about, and I believe in Jesus, his life, death,
resurrection, etc..., but I don't really believe the Bible."

Okay... going for now...

Conversations with Angie:  Using the Bible as an historical source apart from assuming inspiration

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Could Christianity be true even if the Bible was not inspired by God?

The second point I wanted to make is that I don't think it's necessary to believe the Bible is the inspired word of God before you can be justified in thinking Christianity is true. Nothing about the essentials of Christainity--the things that define what Christainity is all about--require us to believe the Bible is inspired by God. Paul defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 where he says, "I make known to you the gospel which I preached...for I delivered to you what I also recieved, that Christ died for sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures." That's the essence of Christianity. Several things follow from these.

First, Jesus is the Christ (i.e. messiah), which in a Jewish context means that he is the eschatological fulfillment of the promises God made about the throne of David. Jesus is king, basically. You can't have "Christianity" without "Christ," obviously.

Second, Jesus died for sins. Several things are entailed here.

Third, Jesus was raised from the dead.

All three of these things can be discovered through the use of ordinary historical methods and philosophical reasoning without ever assuming the Bible is inspired by God. If the evidence shows that Jesus claimed to be the Christ, and that he intended his death to atone for sins, then we have only to discover if the resurrection actually happened. If it did, then that seems like compelling evidence that Jesus' claims were true.

If Jesus' claims were true, then other things follow:

Fourth, there is a God. This follows from the fact that the Christ is the "anointed one" precisely because God chose him. Also, there can be no sin unless there's a moral law, and there can be no moral law unless there is a moral law-giver, such as God. Besides, Jesus, operating from a Jewish worldview, believed in God, and somebody had to have raised him from the dead, since a resurrection is obviously a miracle that could not have happened by natural causes.

Fifth, there is such a thing as right or wrong. Otherwise there could be no sin.

Sixth, we are sinners. That is, we violate the moral standards God set for us. Otherwise, Jesus would not have needed to die for sins.

So basically, this is what I have inferred amounts to the essence of Christianity (i.e. what makes Christianity what it is):

1. There's a God.
2. God has given us a moral law.
3. We break the moral law.
4. God judges people for violating the moral law.
5. God chose Jesus to be the king.
6. Jesus died for our sins.
7. Jesus was raised from the dead.

If all seven of those are true, then Christianity is true, even if the Bible is not inspired by God. So even if the Bible is not inspired by God, that's no reason to reject Christianity.


Conversations with Angie:  How can you be a Christian if you don't believe the Bible is inspired?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Does evidence of editorial work on the Bible imply that God did not inspire the writings?

Since it had been so long since we started our conversation, and since the conversation seemed to be dying a premature death, and since I hate to leave things undone, I went ahead and started replying to the rest of her email.


I was just reading over that old email, and there are two more things I wanted to respond to. Here's the first:

"On one hand, I was studying biblical literature - reading commentary from Christians and non-Christians, and learning about the "integrity" of the biblical texts. I found that it wasn't as I had learned, and had been edited various times throughout history, which I felt negated the claim that it is complete as is, and completely inspired of God."

Like I said, I'm going to try to keep this short, and there are only two points I want to make in response to this.

It's hard to respond to such a broad statement about the Bible. As you know, the Bible is a collection of various writings; it isn't just one book. So the way it was written varies from book to book, and the manuscript evidence we have is better with some books than with others.

The evidence for the New Testament is better than the evidence for the Old Testament, because the earliest copies we have date closer to their originals than most of the old testament, and we have far more early copies of new testament books than old testament books.

So let me talk about the New Testament first. I agree that the New Testament has evidence of editorial work. This is especially evident in the gospels. Some scholars think 2 Corinthians is a compilation of at least two different letters of Paul. Some say as many as six. This editorial work is perfectly consistent with the idea that the Bible is inspired by God. God didn't put the authors in a trance and write through them in one sitting. The authors' minds were obviously engaged in the whole affair, and God's inspiration implies only that he guided the process. The process could have involved using sources, and making revisions, until a final product was arrived at. Nothing about that negates the idea that God inspired the writings.

There are textual variants in the manuscript evidence, which shows that later editorial work was done on the New Testament, but there are enough old manuscripts that it's not too hard to discover what the originals said. The whole field of textual criticism involves itself in this kind of research. Bruce Metzger has a good book on the subject where he discusses the evidence and the techniques textual critics use. The Nestle Alands 27th edition is the result of years of work in textual criticism. The integrety of the New Testament is actually pretty good.

The old testament is not as certain, because we don't even know when several of the books were written. Most of the scholarly literature on the old testament is highly speculative. But, like the new testament, it does seem clear that the authors used sources (sometimes each other) and that some editorial work was done. Again, this seems consistent with the idea that God inspired the texts.

The question of whether the old testament has been accurately preserved is not as clear as it is with the new testament. The oldest manuscripts we have come from the scrolls at Qumran that were found in the 1940's. Before those were found, the earliest we had dated from the middle ages. Some people speculate that since the Qumran scrolls are so consistent with the later copies, that we can have some confidence in the carefulness with which scribes have preserved the old testament writings even before Qumran. This, I don't know about. I know far more about the literary history of the new testament than the old testament.

I realize I've been avoiding specific discussion, but I hope my reasons are obvious. The Anchor Bible commentary series is HUGE, and each volume discusses the various views about the literary history of its subject. This discussion would be unending if I got into specifics. I told you I'd try to keep this short.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie:  Could Christianity be true even if the Bible was not inspired by God?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Why Plantinga argues the way he does

Cutting out parts of my response, too.



After much toil, I think I finally understand Plantinga's argument. Of course there were a couple of times when I thought I understood his argument, and then I'd say, "Now wait just a minute, there's a problem with that!" But then I'd figure it out. I wrote a little about it on a couple of my blog entries if you want to have a look-see.

[Those posts can be found here, here, and here.]

It sort of has to do with a conflict with God's nature, but not exactly. Since God is wholly good, he would want to actualize a world that had the greatest good over evil that he could actualize, but that world happens to have some evil in it. The reason he goes into all of this is because there's nothing incoherent about the idea of a world containing free creatures who never choose to go wrong. So there is a possible world in which people are significantly free to do good or evil, but always choose to do good. That's why he goes into the whole argument that there are possible worlds God can't actualize. But it isn't really because of his nature that he can't actualize them. He can't actualize them simply because it's not possible for them to be actual no matter what God's nature is.


Conversations with Angie:  Does evidence of editorial work on the Bible imply that God did not inspire the writings?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Clarification on Plantinga's argument

I’m cutting out some of Angie’s response, too.


Hi, Sam.

Regarding Plantinga's argument -- it makes sense that he goes into all
of that, because one of people's biggest hang ups is that it seems
ridiculous for God to have created a world full of suffering if He
could have created a world without suffering. So I suspect that
saying that God can't actualize certain possible worlds because of
contradictions eventually leads to an argument inferring that He
couldn't have created a world w/o suffering (because it would somehow
contradict His nature / person). Is that what Plantinga's getting at
in his argument?

Talk soon,

Conversations with Angie: Why Plantinga argues the way he does

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Update on Alvin Plantinga

At this point, the conversation was dying down, and we had abandoned our agreement to keep unrelated stuff separate from conversation stuff. For that reason, I’m just going to cut out half of the following email.


I'm writing my research paper on Alvin Plantinga's solution to the deductive problem of evil. While studying it, I've come to the realization that I grossly oversimplified it when I explained it to you. In fact, I may have even misrepresented it. There's part of it I'm having a hard time understanding. You see, Plantinga (as well as most theists) understand omnipotence as the ability to do anything logically possible. So God could not, for example, create a four-sided triangle or a rock to heavy for an all powerful God to lift, because those entail contradictions and are not logically possible. But since they aren't logically possible, God's inability to do them doesn't diminish his omnipotence. God can do anything that power can do, because he is all powerful, and his inability to engage in logical absurdities has nothing to do with a lack of power. Anyway, one would think that if God can do all things logically possible, then God could actualize any possible world. But Plantinga argues that there are some possible worlds God can't actualize, because it would entail some kind of contradiction. At this point, I don't really understand that part. There's one part of it I understand. He says if there are possible worlds in which God does not exist, then God could not actualize those worlds, since it's impossible for God to both exist and not exist. But that isn't good enough for his argument. He needs to argue that there are possible worlds in which God exists that God could not actualize, and that's the part I don't understand. It goes into counterfactual propositions that describe possible worlds, and shows, using these counterfactuals, that there are some possible worlds it would be impossible for God to create. The nature of the counterfactuals makes it impossible. I'm just having a hard time following the argument. I think I may have to fudge through this part in my paper.

Your ole buddy,

Clarification on Plantinga's argument

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Internal conflict as possible evidence for moral knowledge


Last night I got to thinking about what you said--about our moral instincts being the result of basically social evolution or something like that. I guess it was sort of an accident that this thought came to my mind last night, because I was also thinking about a paper I had written on Friedrik Nietzsche a few years ago. I was writing about how Nietzsche rejected morality because it negated or suppressed the instincts. At the time, I was criticizing Nietzsche, because he seemed to be advocating total indulgence in our most basic animal instincts. It seemed to me that morality was a good thing precisely because it did negate the instincts. But that's when I got to thinking about what you said, and it all seemed interesting to me. It looks as though we have two sets of instincts, and they are opposed to each other. On the one hand, we've got these natural instincts to behave in certain ways, but on the other hand, we've got these moral instincts telling us we should suppress the other instincts. You can see this especially in children. Children have no qualms about lying, being selfish, and generally "bad". Parents make it their goal to train their children to develope better habits--moral habits--that are contrary to their natural inclinations. But these inclinations never go away. Even adults are constantly tempted to lie, to be selfish, and to do all kinds of things they know they shouldn't. But these urges are natural. Everybody has them. They are instinctual.

The reason I bring this up is that it would seem odd to me that if our instincts were all developed through a process of natural and social evolution, that we would develope instincts that are exactly opposed to each other such that one suppresses the other. Our sense of morality constantly opposes our natural inclinations. It's our sense of morality that prevents us from basically living like animals--giving in to every natural urge.

If these natural urges we have were developed through evolution, then I don't see how morality could have. Or if morality developed through evolution, then I don't see how these natural urges could have. If our behavior is the result of evolution, I would think there would be no difference between a moral urge and a natural urge. We would simply have urges to behave in particular ways, and then we would act consistently with those urges. There would be no internal conflict.

Obviously, I haven't given this a whole lot of thought, but I thought I'd run it by you to see what you'd think.


Conversations with Angie:  Update on Alvin Plantinga

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Angie questions Greg Koukl's assumptions

Hi, Sam.

I guess I can agree with Koukl's assumption that everyone already believes in objective moral values. But they don't all believe the same ones. I think we talked about this before a little bit, how there seems to be general agreement on certain things no matter what community you are in, but there are other areas where there isn't agreement. I don't want to rehash that argument; we both understand. What bothered me about his arguments was the same thing you pointed out: that people's belief that there are objective morals doesn't make it so.

Actually, there were quite a few pieces of his argument that bothered me because of his underlying assumptions. It's probably because I've been thinking about this stuff so much that it's exactly those assumptions that I'm questioning. It did help me to read the whole argument, though. It was well done, and there were some points that I hadn't thought about.

I don't deny that I have moral instincts, and I view those instincts as valid and valuable. I guess I'm just questioning their origin, because despite compelling arguments against relativism, I still think that it's quite possible, even likely, that people's morals, even when they believe that they're objective, are the result of the development of extraordinarily complex societies throughout history.

You have mentioned your blog before. I've even read it a couple of times, although lately I haven't much time for anything on the Internet at all. I think it would be neat if you put some of the stuff that you've written to me on your blog. You've done really well with it.

[I’m cutting out some of her email.]

Hope you're well,


Internal conflict is possible evidence for moral knowledge

Monday, August 08, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Should we trust our moral intuitions?

There was one severe weakness I found in the book, though. Koukl and Beckwith established to my satisfaction that just about every normal mentally healthy person, deep down inside, believes in objective moral values. Experience with dialoguing with relativists has confirmed it for me, and I have very little doubt at all. But the fact that we all BELIEVE in objective moral values doesn't necessarily entail that they exist. We could all be wrong. So the weakness I saw in the book is that it didn't really address the issue of whether or not we should trust our moral perceptions. But you can't really expect it to. The book wasn't particularly deep philosophically. It was just an introductory sort of book written for the masses--very basic.

In one chapter, Koukl argued that moral intuitions are similar to our intuitions about other things, like our immediate awareness of our sensory perceptions. While I agree that both are known by intuition (that is, they weren't infered from anything prior), I think there's a subtle difference between our immediate knowledge of our perceptions, and our knowledge of morality. I think I went into that in an earlier email where I broke intuitions into three categories--things we know due to first person subjectivity, things we know because they are rationally grasped, and things we know because that's simply the way we are (i.e. it's human nature). I think Koukl would've made a much better argument if he had compared our knowledge of morality to our knowledge of the external world. That's why I argued the way I did in my earlier email. We can know immediately that we have sensory perceptions, emotional perceptions, and moral perceptions. But how do we know that any of these perceptions correspond to something outside of our own brains? The only way we can know that is human nature. Our brains, whether designed that way, or evolved that way, are just build in such a way that unless we become philosophers and begin denying the obvious, we just naturally assume these things. It's human nature to do so. We assume we have emotions because there really are other people we're connecting with, and not just drones. We assume we have sensory perceptions because there really is a world out there to be percieved, and it's not all just a dream. We assume we have moral perceptions because there really is a difference between right and wrong, and it's not all just a matter of personal or cultural preference.

I think Koukl just sort of takes that for granted. He figures if he can get a person's moral intuitions to rise to the surface, then that's all that needs to be done. Tactically, I think he's right in the case of most people. But a more sophisticated thinker is going to point out, as you have, that while we may have moral emotions or intuitions, that doesn't necessarily mean that they correspond to anything outside our own heads.

I think the bottom line for you is to be honest with yourself. You have these moral instincts just like the rest of us do. The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you think they're accurate. Should you trust them? Do you believe them? Or do you honestly just think they're all illusory? That's something you just have to answer for yourself.

Did I tell you I started a blog? I was thinking at some point I might post some stuff from some of the conversations we've been having. It has caused me to put my thinking cap on and write some stuff I might not otherwise have thought about.


Conversations with Angie: Angie questions Greg Koukl's assumptions

Friday, August 05, 2005

Conversations with Angie: emotions and human nature as clues to moral knowledge


Yeah, I do have something to say in response, and this is probably coming more from the fact that I'm very familiar with Greg Koukl's way of thinking than just from reading that book. The underlying assumption Koukl has is that everybody already believes in objective moral values. These emotional appeals are meant just to get people to realize it--to be honest with themselves. The responses people give to things like torturing babies for fun are not MERELY emotional, either. Emotions are only what cause the moral intuitions to rise to the surface, but once they do rise to the surface, then the people begin to object to torturning babies for fun on the grounds that it's wrong--that it ought not be done. They don't just say, "Yuck, I don't like that, it makes me feel bad" etc. They think it's wrong and ought not be done. Before you can dismiss emotions as merely emotive, you first have to account for the basis of those emotions. Why do people get emotional about torturing children for fun? Judging by the way they respond to it, it seems pretty evident that they object because they think it's wrong, not because they happen not to like it, or it turns their stomach or anything like that.

I'll grant that it's human nature to have these kinds of reactions. That's why this whole moral philosophy is called "natural law." It's the way people are. But the question is whether human nature is fixed in such a way that it can apprehend true information about the world. I think it is, and I mentioned a few reasons why in an earlier email. It's human nature to be able to grasp that if my cat is pregant, then it's false to say my cat is not pregant. It's human nature to grasp these basic laws of logic--the law of non-contradiction. It's human nature to be able to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. It's human nature to be able to communicate, and understand each other. All of these things are human nature. Whether we developed these capacities by way of design or natural selection has little bearing on whether or not these capacities get us in touch with reality.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie: Should we trust our moral intuitions?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Greg Koukl and relativism

At this point, Angie and I had a conversation about faith and reason, but I'm skipping all that. Here's an email by Angie:

Oh, dear. Well, Sam, I have to say that there's a lot in this email I have a hard time agreeing with. Before I elaborate, though, I want to listen to the tape you sent me and read some more. That way I can cover more information. This might take me a while, as I'm notoriously bad about reading multiple things at once, which makes finishing anything take a lot longer. I'll try to focus, though. When I respond again, I'll start a fresh email chain, because this one is getting very long.


I sent Angie a copy of Relativism by Frank Beckwith and Greg Koukl, and copy of a debate between Koukl and Sabina Magliocco call "Does objective moral truth exist?". Here was her response.


Hey, Sam. Just a bit of reflection on the topic of relativism ...

The book definitely makes some pretty compelling arguments against
relativism. And, they make sense to me. But one of the things that i
noticed is that, at its base, the argument against relativism seems to
be emotional rather than rational. It always seems to boil down to
"Are you saying that torturing children for pleasure is okay?" or some
such thing. Of course everyone recoils at that! It's human nature to
do so. I don't feel like what I've read satisfactorily settles
whether human nature recoils at such things because of biological /
cultural / environmental development, or because we have some
awareness of an objective moral standard to which we should adhere.

That's all I'll say for now, as I have laundry to do. And, I imagine
that you might already have something to say in response...

Have a good week!


Conversations with Angie:  emotions and human nature as clues to moral knowledge

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tales of a night auditor

I didn't have time to cue up another episode of "Conversations with Angie" today, and not wanting to break stride, I've decided to post tales of a night auditor. You see, I'm a night auditor at a hotel. That's why I post most of my blogs at 3 AM. Anyway, I've been keeping notes in my notebook about funny things that happen, and I thought I'd share them with you. Safiyyah once said that I need to post something light every now and then, and she's almost always right about these things.

The most common thing that happens is that people will call from their room wanting a wake-up call, and this is usually how the conversation goes:

Random guest: I need a wake-up call.

Sam: What time?

Random guest: Uh...

That "uh" goes on for a while. Sometimes, it's followed by their inner thoughts, such as, "Let's see, I need to be at the meeting by eight, but I'll have to have breakfast first..." and finally they'll give me a time. What strikes me as funny about these episodes as that the people seem to not anticipate me asking them that question. They seem to be completely caught off guard when I ask them what time they want the wake-up call, like they didn't think that through before they called. Sometimes, if the "uh" lasts too long, I'll start saying things like, "How about six? How about six thirty?"

Sometimes people will come in in the middle of the night and figure since they're only staying half a night, they should only have to pay half our regular rate. That's like ordering a steak at a restaurant, eating half of it, and then saying, "Can I pay half price since I only ate half of my steak?" It's not as if the restaurant can collect the other half by selling the rest of the steak. In the same way, we can't sell the room again before it's been cleaned. Whether a person stays in a room one hour or twelve hours, the burden on the housekeeping and hotel staff is the same.

Now here's a few conversations I thought were funny enough to write down. Some of them are summarized. After all, I can't remember every word of these conversations.

This person came in to get a room, and while entering their information into the computer, this conversation happened:

Sam: Do you want smoking or non-smoking?

Woman: What's the difference?

There was a couple wanting directions somewhere, and I told them they had to take a left out of the parking lot.

Couple: How do we turn left?

Sam: You just point the steering wheel left and push the gas.

This conversation actually went on for a while, and they kept getting stuck on the apparent difficulting of turning left. I didn't get it. I thought they were crazy. In all fairness, I should say that I did finally figure out what the problem was. They thought there was a median, and they couldn't turn left for that reason.

This guy came up to me and complained that although he had the TV on FOX, the news wasn't on.

Man: Fox news is supposed to be on, but it's not on.

Sam: Do you want me to call Fox?

I just thought that was funny, because what on earth was I supposed to do about the fact that Fox didn't happen to be showing the news when they were supposed to? Did he think that was a hotel issue?

This annoying kid came in and we had this conversation:

Kid: How old are you?

Sam: 30

Kid: How old are you?

Sam: 30

Kid: How old are you?

Sam: 30

Kid: How old are you?

Sam: Do you want me to lie to you so you'll believe me?

I don't look like I'm 30, but still, that was annoying.

This next story doesn't involve stupidity; just a series of unfortunate events that seem to somehow all be related, though they couldn't be. This guy came down and complained that his TV remote didn't work. He said no matter what button he pushed on the remote, the TV would change channels. After we got that all figured out, he said he had another problem. He said he went to the coke machine, and when he pushed "Sprite" it gave him a Coke instead. That made me laugh out loud. It just didn't seem like any buttons were doing what they were supposed to be doing for this guy.

One time, I got hit on by a gay man, and our conversation lasted at least an hour, so I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing here. I'm just going to give you a little glimps of part of it I thought was funny.

Man: You're a very hansom man... Have you ever been with a man?... Somebody needs to corrupt you.

Sam: I'm not gay.

Man: I'm not either. I'm bi. I have a wife.

Good grief. It's bad enough that he's trying to corrupt me, but then to give me evidence that he's bi and not gay, he says he has a WIFE! He shouldn't have been hitting on anybody!

One night, this guy came in the hotel and lurked about in the lobby for a while, frequently looking outside. I finally asked him if there was anything I could do for him. Summarizing the conversation a little, this is basically what he said:

Dude: I'm scared. I stole my roommate's cellphone, sold it, bought some weed with the money, and now my roommate is after me.

Yup, I meet some real winners in my job.

Here's another conversation with a guest who wanted a room, and I was getting their information:

Sam: Can I get your address?

Guest: I'm not from here.

That struck me as hilarious. I mean we're a hotel! Most of our guests are not from here! That's why they're staying at a hotel!

A pizza delivery guy came in one night and he wanted to know how to get to the room he was going to, which was upstairs.

Sam: There's an elevator down the hall on the right.

Pizza guy: How do I get there?

Sam: You just go down the hall and turn to the right.

There's a couple more stories involving a guy named Glenn who works here. One night, Glenn was filling out an online personal profile, and he turned to me and asked, "How do you spell 'intellectual'?" I said, "Glenn, if you don't know how to spell 'intellectual,' then you don't need to be putting that in your profile."

Glen found my little notepad and thought he'd add one of his own. This last one is his contribution:

Woman: How old do you have to be to get a room?

Glenn: 21

Woman: So if I am 20 can I get a room?

Glenn: No.

And that's it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Conversations with Angie: More reasons why moral differences are consistent with universally known moral values


I want to add something to the last email I sent. I gave you three reasons why I don't think the differences in moral views from culture to culture is any indication that there aren't objective moral values that can be known. There's a fourth point I meant to make but didn't think of when I was writing that email...

Fourth, moral decision-making is not always easy. Now there are some moral decisions that are clear case examples. For example, it's wrong to torture children for the mere pleasure of watching them suffer. But a lot of decisions are more difficult, and some even seem impossible. Most of our moral decision-making involves some process of reasoning. We reason from some basic general moral premises to specific situations. Sometimes, we reason incorrectly because our logic is flawed, we don't think carefully through the issue, or we don't have all the facts. Just as people make mistakes in math and geometry, because it sometimes involves a process of reasoning, so also do people make mistakes in moral reasoning. The differences in moral views between cultures can sometimes be attributed simply to a different process of reasoning from the same underlying moral principles. So the underlying moral principles are the same, but the process of reasoning is different.

Another thing that makes moral decision-making difficult is the reality of moral dilemmas. That's where it seems like two moral values come into conflict in a particular situation, and you have to choose the lesser of two evils, or the greater of two goods, and it's hard to decide between them. The classic example is harboring Jews during the holocaust. What do you do when the Nazi's knock on your door and ask, "Do you have any Jews here?" Well, on the one hand, you have this moral imperatives that says it's wrong to lie. But on the other hand, you have this moral imperatives that says it's wrong to send innocent people to their doom, and you ought to protect them. But in this situation you can't do both at the same time. This may not be the best scenario, because I think it's clear in this scenario that you would be morally justified in lying. My point, though, is that there are some situations where it just isn't clear what the right thing to do is. That's why people have disagreements.

Maybe a better scenario is the abortion debate. I mentioned before that in most cases, the difference in moral views about abortion can be attributed, not to a difference in moral values, but to a difference in opinion about the facts informing those values. People differ on the status of the unborn--whether they are humans or persons or whatever. But there are a few pro-choice people who will agree that the unborn are human beings with personhood and all that, but they nevertheless think abortion is okay. They argue like so:

1. A woman has a right to sovereignty over her own body.
2. Abortion involves a woman excercizing sovereignty over her own body.
3. Therefore, a woman has a right to abortion.

From this argument, you can see that there are two moral values that come into conflict. There's a humans being's right to life on the one hand, and there's a woman's right to sovereignty over her own body on the other hand. Both pro-life people and pro-choice people agree with both values. Where they disagree is in which value ought to take precedence in the case of pregnancy. Pro-life people think the right to life trumps the right to sovereignty over your own body. Pro-choice people think the right to sovereignty over your own body trumps the right to life.

But if you think about it, it makes no sense at all for people to debate moral problems if there are no objective moral values. When people debate, they're trying to show that their view is right and the other person's view is wrong. But if morals are subjective, then arguing over a moral issue is just as ridiculous as arguing over whether ice cream tastes good. The only way for one person to be correct and another person to be incorrect is if there is a correct answer--and objective truth about morality. It's BECAUSE there are objective moral values that moral debate is meaningful. So disagreements in morality don't disprove that there are no objectively true answers, nor that they they can be known.

I'm sending your book and tapes tomorrow. Isn't that exciting?


Conversations with Angie:  Greg Koukl and Relativism

Monday, August 01, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Moral differences do not show that morals aren't universally known


I think there are a few ways to show that the differences in moral views do NOT indicate that objective moral values are not universally known.

First, as I said before, it only takes one objective moral value that is known to establish that objective moral values can be known. People may differ in all kinds of moral views, but if there's one moral view that is universally known, then objective moral values can be known.

Second, what sometimes appear to be differences in moral values aren't really differences in moral values at all. Rather, they are differences in the facts informing the situation. A good example of what I'm talking about is the abortion debate. On the one hand there are people who think abortion is wrong, and on the other hand you have people who think abortion is not wrong. That appears to be a significant moral difference, doesn't it? But in most cases, there is no moral difference, but a difference in opinions about the facts. Both sides agree that it's wrong to take the life of innocent human beings. Where they differ is in the factual question of whether or not the unborn are examples of innocent human beings. So it isn't a moral difference afterall.

Third, people have motivation to justify themselves. There are some things we know to be wrong but wish we didn't. People have an amazing ability to rationalize and to talk themselves into what they want to believe. This is especially true with sexual morality. Until birth control came along, people could not escape the consequence of sexual immorality as easily as they can now. Being able to avoid the negative consequences has made it easier for us to ignore the moral implications. The conscience becomes weak with neglect, and the sexual urge is one of the strongest urges we have. It's no wonder people are so apt to convince themselves that it's okay.

There are several other reasons people may appear to differ on morality, but I think these three are the primary ones, so I'll just skip the rest of them. There's a book by Hadley Arkes called First Things, and he goes into some detail about this. J. Budziszewki goes into this also in his book, The Revenge of Conscience. Now that I think about it, one of the chapters in that book is posted on the internet if you're interested in having a look-see.

Well, I was just writing about why I think objective moral values exist, but the email was getting very long, so I've decided to wait and send that to you in another email another time.


Conversations with Angie:  More reason why moral differences are consistent with universally known moral values