What is the Cause of Meaning?

Ravi Zacharias (Source: Wikimedia Commons)For those of you who enjoy thinking, I thought I’d share a series I’ve been listening to the past few days.

Ravi Zacharias is one of my favorite thinkers and apologists, and he’s been doing a series on “Is There Not a Cause?” which deals with purpose and meaning.

You can listen to Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

43 Responses to “What is the Cause of Meaning?”

  1. I think the real question is why do some people feel they need an ultimate cause for life to have meaning and some feel their lifes have meaning wiyhout some ultimate cause. Apologists start with the assumption that an ultimate cause or God is necessary for life to have meaning, but when discussing this issue, you can't start with any assumptions, You must start at the beginning or bottom rung of the ladder

    Lets start with examining the life of a believer and a nonbeliever. They both can love their family members and friends, lead moral lifes, do no harm,have great compassion,exhibit altruism, treat others as you would wish them treat you and on and on. So what and how these two do and act on earth can not be distinguished from one or the other. We should measure ourselves by our deeds and not our thoughts.

    The only difference is that the believer feels they are beholden to a Deaity and eternal life awaits them if they follow a certain creed. The nonbeliever doesn't feel this need . Now the believer will look at the nonbeliever and think it's impossible to have meaning without an ultimate cause. The nonbeliever looks at the believer and wonders why they need an ultimate cause to have meaning.

    But what is important is what each person feels, not what someone else feels they should feel. Neither the believer or the nonbeliever knows how the other feels and since they are both only human, can't claim to know the fire and love that burns within.

  2. Sure, an individual nonbeliever could live basically the same (external) kind of life as an individual believer. But it's extremely selective to look at that without taking the big picture into account. If you could take an honest look at the collective fruits of those who have honestly followed New Testament Christianity and consider themselves accountable to their Creator, and then compare them to those who have believed they are their own masters and accountable to no one, or have followed some religion that meaninglessly directs actions without changing the heart, then your entire premise breaks down. There is no minor “only difference” as you say — there is all the difference in the world. One way of being leads to good, the other to harm, and (correctly reported) history has shown this over and over.

    This is why I have to shake my head at those who foolishly suggest I would be better off abandoning what they mistake for some meaningless personal belief. I know what kind of person I would be if I did not acknowledge my debt and accountability to my Creator, and I would be much worse off for it, and making the world that much worse.

  3. dcm Well if you know what kind of person you would be if you didn't believe and that person was not a good person, then believing is good for you.Would never try to persuade you to not believe if you are saying you would go 'bad'. But I maintain that I have never intentionally hurt anyone and my values are equal to yours or any other believers. Contrary to what you said, not believing has not led me to do harm. You seem to be translating what you would feel would happen to you if you were a nonbeliever onto others like me that don't believe.

  4. This is a critically important question. Unfortunately we've taken a run at this a time or two before unsuccessfully, but we'll give it another shot.

    If we are all simply the result of a near-endless chain of random events, only highly evolved animals with no immortal soul, there is no creator to whom we are accountable and no transcendent moral code…what does anything matter???

    You mentioned feelings as if they were somehow relevant or important. Ultimately, feelings are irrelevant with regard to right and wrong and meaning, even in the context of Christianity. But in the framework of a random universe where there is no eternal existence or accountability, if it were possible to be doubly-irrelevant, feelings would certainly be doubly-irrelevant in this framework.

    Assuming all your assumptions about a materialist/naturalist universe are correct…

    What does ultimately matter if I am good or bad?

    What does it ultimately matter if I help others or not?

    What does it ultimately matter if I feel good or I feel bad?

    What does it ultimately matter if I kill my own children at will? (To help you understand what's at stake, they are only animals that will rot in the ground when they are dead, as will I)

    What does it ultimately matter if I torture someone else's children for hours on end until they finally expire?

    Why not wage a campaign of death and destruction to explore the many ways in which the human body can be mangled and ripped apart?

    Why not take whatever material resources you want from whomever you want?

    I'm being as serious and straightforward as I know how to be: if we all just “happened to be here,” if we're all just a bunch of clever animals, if there is no real standard of right and wrong, if there is no eternal accountability…what does anything matter?

    The fact that our culture has been so thoroughly soaked in the Christian worldview for so many centuries, it makes it difficult to separate the almost instinctual Christian thought patterns from any other, thus leading many people to think they're building an objective philosophy or moral code on an independent foundation (because these components seem right or feel right)…even while using bricks that come mostly from the Christian philosophy.

    But try to back up to square one and evaluate things objectively: in the nontheistic worldview, what is meaning, how is it defined, and what objective criteria are used to weigh and establish meaning?

    Why would someone even feel the need for meaning and significance in a random, nontheistic world? The only possible reasons are either (1) the need for an opiate to help deal with an obviously meaningless existence, or (2) the call of a pre-programmed natural law built into each person by their creator.

    If you admit you need an opiate to create a pleasant illusion to help you deal with a meaningless existence, I suppose I could respect that on some level, even though it would seem more noble and far more logical to simply admit the lack of meaning and significance, and just do whatever meets your needs and gives you the most pleasure for the moment.

  5. Bob You are assuming that 'ultimate' means one must believe in the Christian God because that is the only true 'ultimate'. But that is your belief. I don't believe that and I don't even consider the concept of ultimate when it comes to right or wrong. Your are asking me to defend or explain from your beliefs perspective.

    My belief is that each person has their own motivation and reasons for acting as they do. I recognise that some even believe that a finite or ultimate cause must exist for life to have meaning. But since I don't except ultimates in this discussion, I can't argue from YOUR perspective.You are choosing to make ultimates an 'automatic' part of this discussion and i can only stop you at the very first and tell you i don't even consider such things as ultimates when it comes to cause. You do.

    All I do know is that believers and nonbelievers can live equally moral lives because I see it everyday in my life.If you get a reward after life is over for doing your good acts then great, but the fact remains, that to me, that reward is just that- a reward. It is not a cause

  6. No, I am not assuming “ultimate” means one must believe in the Christian God. By “ultimate” I mean “first” or “foundational” or “the thing upon which a principle ultimately rests.”

    If each person has their own motivation and reason for acting as they do (without an ultimate or objective reference point), then we cannot rationally say that certain actions are right or wrong, can we? After all, what may be “right” to you may be totally “wrong” for someone else, and what may be “wrong” to you may be perfectly fine and permissible for someone else because their motivations and reasons fit their actions.

    What I'm trying to help you get to is an examination of not only why something is ultimately (see definition above) right or wrong, but why–beyond a manufactured “opiate”-type reason–there is any meaning in anything in a nontheistic universe where there is no fixed standard or reference point by which to measure “right” or “wrong” or “better” or “worse” or “meaningful” or “pointless” or “insignificant.”

    Until you can really answer these questions, you have no basis upon which to say anything is “good” or “moral” or “meaningful” or any other type of value estimate.

    BTW, I'm curious: have you had a chance to listen to any of Ravi's presentation yet?

  7. I get it. You are saying that if there isn't a 'fixed standard' for right or wrong, then there can't really be a right or wrong. Well I believe then that there is no such 'fixed standard' for right or wrong and that the concept is a relative one. I would also say that even those who believe as you do, have different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. You might believe it is right for a 12 y.o. to stay out until nine and your best friend, who believes in 'fixed standards', thinks it's okay to stay out until ten.You might think it is wrong for a 12 y.o. to see a PG-13 movie and your friend believe it is okay. Where is this foundation for your belief.

    You might believe it is okay to kill for your country and your friend who also believes in 'fixed standards', thinks all killing is wrong.You might feel it is okay to lie if it saves a life and your friend who also believes in 'fixed standards' believes a lie is a lie and all lies are wrong and not to be committed.

    I say that the concept of right and wrong is relative, even among those whose religious beliefs or beliefs in so called fixed standards are identical

  8. I hate the way the word “beliefs” gets thrown around. I don't care about “beliefs,” even ones I might have. One is either doing their best to find out what is actually *true*, even if they might not like it, or they're not. Most people seem to “believe” whatever sounds good to them. I'm not interested in playing that game; there's too much at stake. I'm sure I'm not always right (who is?), but I'm determined to learn as much as I can about what *is* right; too many people use their energy taking what they *wish* was right and making it *sound* right to themselves and others. Part of that is denying truth they don't like and telling those who accept that truth that, “it's just your personal belief.”

  9. I would just like to point out a trend here that I've noticed: As seems typical of your responses (on whatever subject we're discussing), you have commented on part of my comment that you feel you can pick a hole in — while leaving the bigger, tougher questions I've raised completely UN-commented on.

    If you ever wonder why I don't find your comments convincing, that's part of it right there.

  10. dcm You usually bring up multiple points, all well thought out, but there is no way to comment on all. I don't know which ones you consider the bigger, tougher ones.For instance my last comment to you concerned your last paragraph which I thought was of major importance to you.

    I will say that your idea of looking at the collective fruits of the believer versus the non-believer and comparing them that, in essence, it will be obvious that one way leads to harm and the other good and that my premise will break down.I can look around me now and back through my life and I don't find at all what you propose to be true. I don't see any moral superiority or more altruism in believers from non-believers that I have witnessed and their have been thousands upon thousands by now.I will submit that you can put most believers lifes up against the non-believers and a jury couldn't tell who is who.

  11. Sayings like ” it's just your personal belief” can seem a bit pejorative, but I think it holds true. You and I can honestly seek what is true or right and maintain we will seek it even if it makes us extremely uncomfortable. But the fact is, we are human and will never have 'all knowledge' with us. We have all been guilty of absolutely 'knowing' something is true , only to find out later it was not.

    So we try and try to grasp truth and falseness or right and wrong, but we are working at a deficit-that is we are only human and no human can be truthful and claim to know some absolute truth or right. We can only seek to find it. While we are doing this search and seeking we develope certain thoughts and beliefs. They are our own personal thoughts.

    That is what I mean by 'all we really have is our on personal beliefs', because only one entity knows truth and that is the Creator if it exists.

  12. Bob Your questions about ' What does it ultimately matter ' made me think. What if you did take an innocent persons life ? They are dead and you might even suffer in hell for it. What if you do suffer in hell ? There are many, many souls already there and many more to follow. What does it ultimately matter if one more joins them ?

  13. Well, it's debatable what it would matter in reference to the “big picture.”

    However, it would and will matter immeasurably to each individual person who ends up there.

    It will mean eternal separation from God and anything whatsoever that is good. To us right now that might not sound too terribly bad, especially if one's sentiment for God is negligible or non-existent right now, but I believe that once we pass into the next life and we are able to see things clearly, without the veil of distortion caused by our sin-nature, that will mean much more to us.

    But in a more practical sense–one that we can appreciate even in this life–going to Hell will mean an eternity (not a year, not 20 years, not 100 years, not 1,000 years, not a million years…when 14 billion years have passed, time in Hell will just have started) of excruciating and agonizing torment.

    It will be so bad that…well, read Luke chapter 16 to see how a wealthy man who went to Hell begged to have someone just dip their finger in water and put that wet finger on their tongue for some relief.

    Some people joke that they don't care if they go to Hell, that at least they'll have plenty of company, or at least they won't have to put up with “the church hypocrites,” or all their friends will be there too. While I don't even begin to realize how agonizing it will be to live in Hell, in contemplating it based on what the Bible does tell us, I have no doubt whatsoever that such considerations will evaporate instantly once one finds themselves there.

    I've spent some time meditating on Hell in light of what the Scriptures tell us about it, and while there have been one or two people in the course of my life that have wronged me so badly, deeply and viciously that I have sometimes struggled not to hate them venomously…when I contemplate the horror of Hell, I wouldn't want to see even them end up there.

  14. You agree then that in the 'big picture' it may not matter if say you harm someone and end up in hell for doing so. Then you rightfully say that it darn sure would matter to you. That is what I am trying to get across to you when you ask what does it matter if I, the unbeliever, harms someone because I am just going to be dust some day. Well, like you said about yourself, I take the same approach—It matters deeply to me.

    Caring about others is still caring about others, no matter where we all end up.

  15. But the point I'm trying to get you to examine is why bother being kind and caring to someone else if (a) they're only some animal that will dead and eaten by worms when all is said and done, and (b) in the atheistic worldview you can treat them nice or treat them cruelly, and either way it's not going to matter when all is said and done because there is no central moral standard to which to be accountable and you're never going to have to worry about eternal punishment.

    There's simply no point in being nice to some human animal–other than maybe to entice or deceive them into giving you something of benefit if they are more powerful than you–as opposed to just killing them and taking what you want from them. (And for that matter, if they're stronger than you, there's no fundamental reason why they shouldn't kill you and take all your toys. It's not going to matter in the end anyway.

  16. Bob I think you are confusing atheism with nihilism, which truly rejects all moral codes. There is no 'worldview' of atheists. Their world views are varied and frequently at odds with each other.The only 'view' they have in common is that they don't believe in God. They do believe in morality,the nihilist does not, but the atheist just doesn't get his from a centralised form.

    If you and I are sitting on a dock and a child starts to drown in front of us, I would bet we both would hit the water at the same time to save it. The idea that the child will someday be worm bate doesn't come into play in my mind. The idea of eternal life doen't come into your mind. It is innate and instinctual to save the child. That innate feeling or tendency of man 'to help' is also extended to how they treat their fellow man in everyday life. If you are in deep trouble and I help you get out of it is not predicated upon what happens to you or me at death. The sociopath, psychopath and nihilist darn sure wouldn't care, but atheists are none of these. Well some are just like some religious people are.

    I could ask you if your passion and deep caring for our country really matters, because all that really matters is that you accept Jesus as your Savior. Yet you continue to care passionately about this country , as do I about other who share this earth. My father used to tell me that he didn't know how we got here or where we are going, but all men should be treated with equal respect and compassion. That hit something deep in me. I didn't need a cental deity to lay it out for that to strike a deep chord. .

    You don't seem to understand that people can love and care and respect others without concerning themselves where they go after death. You seem to confuse nihilists, sociopaths and psychopaths- all of which have no values- with nonbelievers and this worldview you have ascribed to them. The worldview of ” It doesn't matter what happens on earth, because we are just worm bait” is not my or any other atheists worldview that I know. You are describing a nihilistic worldview-a world view void of emotions and feelings ..

  17. No, I'm not at all confusing atheism and nihilism, nor am I saying that atheism rejects moral codes–I'm telling you that there is no foundation for a universal moral code in the atheistic worldview. And yes, atheists DO have a worldview, everyone has a worldview. A worldview is the set of philosophical assumptions through which a person views the world.

    I have no doubt that if we both saw that drowning child, we would both see the need to save it and try to do so. The thing is, that makes sense to do so in my worldview, because my worldview recognizes that human life is sacred, created in the image of God, and because God values life we are to value life, and try to preserve it.

    In your worldview, however, it makes no sense whatsoever to save that child. After all, if the juvenile human animal dies, so what? Why is it tragic if a human animal dies and NOT tragic when a blade of grass dies? Neither one passes into eternity, neither one has any special and unique value. There is also nothing to be gained from trying to save the juvenile human animal; that is, unless it performs some function for you that would be hard to replace otherwise.

    In the atheistic worldview, it also doesn't matter a whit whether you treat all men or any men with equal respect and compassion. Are you worried about showing respect and compassion to the dandelion or thistle in your back yard? There is nothing in the human animal (in your worldview) that makes it more noble or dignified or inherently valuable than the thistle or the moss on your steps.

    Ironically, you instinctively recognize the moral imperatives I mentioned from the Christian worldview, without consciously recognizing from where they originate, nor do you recognize that these values and imperatives are utterly meaningless in the worldview you claim belief in and allegiance to.

    Emotions and feelings are irrelevant in a naturalistic universe. Cattle feel pain, but I don't give a flying flip about the cows pain when I'm driving up to Burger King. I'm also not concerned about showing respect or compassion to the chicken I munch on at KFC. And if human beings are just soulless animals, there is no logical reason whatsoever I should look at them any differently.

    You mentioned the psychopath and nihilist, and how they wouldn't care about morality and the value of human life. You may balk (I'm pretty sure you will), but I completely mean it when I say that, compared to the atheist who unconsciously clings to Christian worldview value judgments and moral codes, the psychopath, sociopath, nihilist and all their cousins are the ones who actually get it. They are the ones who are actually acting consistent with their own scientific and theological worldview assumptions.

  18. If emotions and feelings are irrelevent in a naturalistic world, why is it that I feel them so strongly. It is because we are born with them. It is natural to feel things like love. It is deep within us. It is in our genetic makeup. It is as primitive as our desire to eat and procreate. It can be taught and conditioned out of us, but in most of us these emotions and feelings prevail.It has been bred into us.

    You believe that all good must come from things like religion and I rejected that at a very early age, although certainly Christianity played a part, but other things did as well. Really though the proof is in the puddin because if you were right, then atheists would be running around doing terrible things all the time and by far the majority isn't. Why do you suppose most lead quiet, peaceful lives. I think you either don't have enough faith in mankind or enough faith in yourself. My question has to be are you simply expressing your fears of what you would become or what you might do if you lost your religious faith ?

  19. Why do you think emotions and feelings are natural?

    In my worldview, they are a perfectly logical aspect of our existence. God feels, and we are created in his image, so we possess the ability to feel as well. Our emotions help point us to appropriate actions and reactions (fear to avoid a threat, compassion to care for those in need because God cares for those in need, etc.); they can go off kilter in our fallen world populated with fallen human beings, but for the most part they still point us in the direction of appropriate action.

    In the atheistic worldview, they can still have some utilitarian function (say, fear and excitement to deal with a threat), but are illogical and even counterproductive in most instances. As I said before, there is no reason whatsoever to feel compassion for a human animal…any more than we do for a chicken or cow that ends up on our plate. And to expend resources and even put ourselves at risk for another human animal…how counterproductive and illogical! It seems that would be a liability, an evolutionary dead-end. And if evolution tends to favor useful functions, that one should have been bred out of us thousands of years ago.

    As I said in my last comment, if atheists acted consistent with what they claim their beliefs are, they would be running around doing (what Christians consider) “terrible” things because those “terrible” things would usually be the most logical and expedient thing for them to do, according to their worldview.

    The funny thing is, almost all atheists don't act consistent with what they state their beliefs are. Almost all atheists hold a deep-down recognition that the Christian moral code is correct (partially because I believe God imprints that on our hearts when we are created, and partly because most of us have grown up accepting Christian values–they are essentially an atomic-level part of Western civilization–without even realizing it), even as consciously and intellectually they deny the source of this moral code.

    It's not so much that I “believe that all good must come from things like religion” so much as I am trying to help you examine the paramount question of: on what basis do we consider anything “good” or “bad”?

    I have a foundational, transcendent, universal basis for my value system for establishing what is “good” or “bad.” There is no such basis whatsoever in your worldview.

    And the sociopaths, nihilists, and others–including famous human animals like Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and others–realize this absence of a basis for moral conduct. And they act it.

  20. Bob You admit that from my worldview that our emotions can allow us to feel some utilitarian functions such as fear or excitement to deal with a threat. Why can't our emotions lead us to feel compassion and respect for our fellow humans as well. Isn't that utilitarian as well. Doesn't learning to get along and respect others rights help us to survive as much as recognizing a threat ?

  21. I admitted as much previously. In some instances, emotional responses can be beneficial. In many others, however (especially where those emotions tend to generate things like compassion, kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice) they are more of a liability.

    But again, emotions and feelings are irrelevant when it comes to determining the fundamental basis of why something is “good” or “bad.”

  22. You just stated that emotions that lead to such things as compassion, kindness, generosity and self-sacrfice are more of a liability. You got me on that one. I would submit that if this world were full of compassion, kindness, generosity etc. that it would be a better place to live and mankind would benefit. I even thought Christian theology taught this in such places as Luke 6:38 when it says that basically 'you will be judged on the generosity and kindness that you show to others. It says give to others and you will receive.God has been kind and generous to us and we should in turn show this kindness to our fellow man. If we do, we will also receive his blessings . So much in fact that these blessings will spill over into our laps'. Seems like a win-win for all. Now again, explain how it is a lability

  23. Compassion, kindness, generosity and self sacrifice aren't a liability…in MY worldview and in a universe governed by the laws of it's creator, God.

    They ARE, however, nonsensical, counterproductive and a liability in the universe of YOUR worldview. I've already explained why, but to recap: (a) in the vast majority of instances, there is simply no practical reason to go to the trouble of being nice to someone or denying yourself access to resources they control, and (b) putting yourself at risk to protect them from danger or by expending your resources on a weaker human animal is counterproductive.

    You continue to borrow rationale from the Christian worldview to be applied in the atheistic, naturalist worldview, but what makes sense in one is completely illogical in the other because the basic assumptions of each one are radically different.

  24. I misunderstood and thought you were saying things like kindess were a liability, no matter where it came from, but you clarified. Let me ask another question. It is estimated that there are now about 30 million ( 10% of 300 million ) atheists in the U.S. If our worldview is how you are assuming it to be, how come you don't see us running around killing dogs, cats, humans, damaging property and in general wrecking havoc ? The truth is we have a morality very simliar to yours. If your assumptions are correct, how come the facts( arrests, divorces, adultery etc ) don't bear it out ? Even in a fallen world where Christians do bad things, you would think my ilk would be way ahead of them in leading terrible lives, but the facts say otherwise.Percentage wise, the Christian and the atheist screw up about the same.

  25. Starting a fresh thread…

  26. Because as I've pointed out before, and as you also illustrate, most atheists live a dichotomous life. On one hand they espouse a belief that there is no God–and thus no transcendent, objective morality–and that the universe is the product of a near-endless chain of random events…while living as if there was a transcendent, objective morality and as if the universe and life within it actually had purpose. And I believe this dichotomy is mostly because the world–especially the West–has been immersed in a Christian worldview for so many centuries that we have culturally and almost instinctively adopted Christian worldview beliefs without being consciously aware of that adoption.

    While it is an illogical and inconsistent way of living, I suppose we should at least be thankful for the inconsistency on some level. As I said before, if atheists truly lived according to the logical conclusions produced by their worldview, we would have about 30 million more (accepting your numbers) sociopaths and potential Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots, et al. I don't say that to be insulting; it's just that they consistently carried the philosophy of atheism to its natural conclusions.

  27. I see your point-don't agree- but your reasoning is sound about Christian influences on us pagan types.I am glad I learned what I did from my religious days. One last comment I would hope you could clear up then. You say your worldview has ultimate or absolute morals. Thy should not kill. Thy should not not steal. Two true and devout Christians might and often do see these different. One would killing is always wrong and the other would say it is okay to kill in war. One would say stealing is always wrong and the other might say it is okay if it saves…. say your families lives and no harm is done to the person that had a loaf of bread stolen from their vast pantry.

    It seems to me that your absolute moral belief system has a relativism to it and isn't absolute at all.Am I wrong here ?

  28. You are wrong about the relativism in the Christian worldview, but it's undoubtedly due to the influence of Christians who may or may not be devout but nevertheless haven't taken the time to study and meditate on the Scriptures (I used to be one such Christian).

    The Biblical commandment is not to murder, not to not kill. God makes it clear that animals may be killed for utilitarian purposes. It is also permissible to kill for self-defense purposes in both criminal and war contexts. The state is also delegated authority from God to execute criminals found guilty of capital crimes after due process. And accidental killing is not punished as murder for the obvious reason of lack of intent.

    Regarding theft, we are not permitted to steal under any circumstances. I am aware that an errant priest in England recently said poor people should shoplift, but he will someday answer to God for this foolish counsel. We are commanded as private individuals and groups to help meet the genuine needs of those who lack the basic resources necessary for a decent life, and there is more than enough aid available for the asking from those who have more than enough. We are not to steal another's property, period.

  29. I believe there is relativism as revealed in your comment above. You say the state is delegated authority from God to kill or execute criminals found guilty of capital crimes. I can agree with that.But then you steadfastly say that all stealing is wrong. What if that same state steals top secrets from an informer in order to help save our country ? Maybe it is okay to steal in certain circumstances which in turn would make your comment that stealing is ALWAYS wrong a relativistic Christian stance would it not.

  30. That's an interesting question of whether stealing a hostile country's secrets in order to protect human life might be permissible. It might even fall within the same realm as the use of force to protect life.

    However, God wasn't talking to spies when he said “You should not steal.” I think it's pretty easy to figure out that–unless you're a spy trying to save lives–there is no moral question of whether you should steal or not.

  31. What a long thread! I've read every word, and it took a while!

    Brian, I'm curious. I see your comments over and over again challenging and rejecting the Truth of God's Word. Okay. So, what inspires you to continue to engage in lengthy debates with Christians here at Dakota Voice? If you dismiss the Bible, why bother to carry on and on with Bob, Dr. Theo, DCM, me and others who DO believe? Doesn't it seem like a waste of your time to get into these discussions with people who you believe are deluded (or at least believe something you consider needless)? I don't get the idea that you're really seeking to learn anything, but instead that you perhaps enjoy being antagonistic. Just wondering…

  32. Gina I know my comments appear antagonistic at times and I agree I should be more careful about that. But most of the time my comments and questions are because I truly don't understand a viewpoint plus my writing style can be terse.I wish a voice could go with these comments and then I think they wouldn't sound, as you say, antagonistic. Some of these issues are personal and sensitive and because of that may appear antagonist to one who holds deeply religious views.I have learned a lot from Bob and dr theo and have been corrected many, many times. Just recently Bob took the time to explain that the Commandment about 'not killing' is really about ' not murdering'. I did some research on it and believe him to be right.

    My understanding of the Christian faith has changed dramatically over the last several months as have many of my views about our government, our founders and our heritage.I was simply wrong about a lot of it. Maybe listened too much to a more secular and liberal view. It is always good to hear all sides of a story, before a stubborn mind like mine can draw a conclusion. Seems like there is more gray than there used to be.

  33. Brian, I'm glad you're at least receptive to what Bob and Dr. Theo say; between them, they have buckets and buckets of wisdom! And, yes, a number of people misunderstand the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment. But, it's logical when you think about it. Murder is what that means, otherwise, it would seem that God contradicts Himself when sending the Hebrews to obliterate their enemies.

    I don't mean to imply that you're “aggressively” antagonistic, and I'm sure your voice behind your words is calm and thoughtful. Your presence here is our counterpoint, I guess, or else we would all be “ditto heads” just agreeing with each other and giving electronic pats on the back. I have to at least admire your tenacity.
    🙂

  34. Yes, I would think from a Christian worldview that stealing a hostile countries secrets in order to save human life would fall under the same realm as the use of force to protect life and would also fall under God's authority. The reason this came to mind is because I just read( well skipped through some of it) La Miserables where a French father couldn't find work and there were no government or charitable sources for food in that era. He stole a loaf of bread from a prosperous merchant to feed his starving young daughter.

    I don't know if that would be considered a sin, but I suspect many of us, believers or not, would consider and most likely commit such a deed.

  35. Brian, I just wanted to thank you for these comments.

    Though you and I started our conversations some time ago fairly far apart, I could tell right away that you had a mind far more open than most folks with whom I interact online, and you were far more reasonable than the vast majority.

    I'll admit up front I was last in line when it came to getting patience, I find it immeasurably easier to dialog with someone with whom I disagree, if only we can both maintain an open mind and weigh both sides.

    I know that for myself, I've been wrong about a LOT of things over the course of my life (many of which I now discuss frequently at DV). I've found that in the vast majority of cases, the things I've been wrong about were things that I never questioned before or investigated before. I often found that when I DID start questioning and investigating that many of my beliefs really were founded on the right stuff–and understanding WHY made those beliefs all the more useful. But I also found that many of the things I'd accepted because someone who theoretically knew more than I did (because of their position as a teacher, a mentor, a journalist, a government official, etc.) told me it was true. Investigating and evaluating these things for myself, and subsequently finding that I had been wrong about them was not a pleasant process. It was downright embarrassing in some cases! But I have always considered knowing I had the right facts to be far more important than maintaining the facade that I had the answers…while I was wrong.

    I can see a similar value system in you, and I greatly appreciate it. It's refreshing to know that you're at least giving what I say a fair hearing and genuinely weighing it for any merit, even if you still don't accept it at the end of the day.

  36. Bob You questioned me on why I think feelings and emotions, thus morality, in humans are natural. For a moment, Lets look at the Great Apes. When observed they exhibit attachment, bonding, cooperation,mutual aid,empathy, conflict resolution, peacemaking etc. but we both agree this not moral behavior to them, because they can not think and conceptualize their actions.

    Now humans exhibit the same types of behavior mentioned above but we call it moral behavior, which you believe is instilled in us by God. But since we humans have language and our brains can conceptualize abstract ideas, why couldn't our moral behavior simply be natural feelings and emotions, but because our brains can express verbally abstract ideas, we merely call it morality when it is simply natural behavior by a more advanced species.

  37. That's a very interesting comparison and a compelling argument. I first read your comment a few hours ago while in the midst of multitasking some other chores, and I've been chewing on it off and on since then.

    On one hand, one could apparently make a considerable argument within the naturalistic worldview that, as you said, this seems to be a common behavior of advanced organisms–perhaps even a natural outgrowth of that behavior.

    On the other hand, some of these “moral-like” behaviors are seen in varying degree in much less developed life forms.

    I still can't escape the question of “Why?”, though. Why would even animals display behaviors that seem to mimic moral choice (in a naturalistic universe) when such behavior is, as I've pointed out before, so frequently counterproductive to the individual organism's self-interest and survivability? Such counterproductivity would even seem to weed out this behavior by natural selection.

    I think the creationist position of the transcendent source of and basis of morality would still be the stronger and more logically consistent one–for the reasons I already mentioned, in addition to the consideration that God originally built this morality-like behavior into even animals before the Fall. Animals were not violent carnivores before the Fall, but became damaged by the Curse along with man, who had been placed in dominion over all creation.

    So I suspect many animals in varying degree retain some of the “original programming” God built into them for peaceful, positive behavior…but that programming is, like the moral compass (or conscience) in humans, corrupted and flawed by the Fall.

  38. Well your point about the fall is inarguable. You again say that an animal that exhibits moral-like behavior would be counterproductive to survival in a natural world. Of course the animal knows nothing of natural or supernatural. If you have two groups of say gibbons and one group intereacts within itself with cooperstion, peacemaking among themselves,sharing, conflict resolution, empathy etc and the other doesn't at all, wouldn't the GROUP and THUS THE INDIVIDUAL have a better chance of survival ?

    It seems to me that natural selection would weed out the selfish because that one individual does harm to the group and in the long run harm to itself by lessening it's chance to fend off other groups. Individuals survive only if the group does and the ' moral-like ' gibbon group has a better chance as a group to make it.. The success of natural selection depends on group selection, not individual selection ultimately. The coherent group allows the individual to survive .

    The cohesive group runs out the 'anarchist' individual because he is lessening their chance of survival and weeds him of of the gene pool, because he then can't make it on his own.Those genes are lost.The ' moral' genes within the group remain.

    Natural selection is a group process much more than it is an individual process. The individual gibbon who doesn't contribute to the group, but cares only of itself, is cast out

  39. It's possible that cooperation, peacemaking, et al (manifestations of which are still pretty rudimentary in the animal kingdom) could result in positive outcomes that would tend to protect the life of the organism. However, it seems reasonable that in the wild, with animals that have a limited to nonexistent ability to manage resources, there will probably be more instances where such behaviors would work against the organism in the pursuit of limited resources.

    Also, as you pointed out, the animal knows nothing of the natural or supernatural, so would not even apply such behaviors based on a recognition that it might be in their best interest.

    The next question would then be: Why would such behaviors spring up in a non-sentient animal in the first place? There really doesn't seem to be a logical reason for such behavior–especially in a universe devoid of purpose–to manifest itself.

    In a created, ordered universe where there is a transcendent standard of right conduct imprinted on all creatures within the universe, such behavior would make sense and have a logical origin.

    It's funny, but even within naturalist circles of thought that intentionally exclude the possibility of intelligent design and purpose, theories invariably come around to looking at and describing ostensibly random individual and species behaviors in terms eerily connected with purpose and conscious decision.

  40. Good comments Bob. It is always interesting when two people see things differently. My question is, and I don't expect an answer, how is it that the brain does that ?

  41. Well your point about the fall is inarguable. You again say that an animal that exhibits moral-like behavior would be counterproductive to survival in a natural world. Of course the animal knows nothing of natural or supernatural. If you have two groups of say gibbons and one group intereacts within itself with cooperstion, peacemaking among themselves,sharing, conflict resolution, empathy etc and the other doesn't at all, wouldn't the GROUP and THUS THE INDIVIDUAL have a better chance of survival ?

    It seems to me that natural selection would weed out the selfish because that one individual does harm to the group and in the long run harm to itself by lessening it's chance to fend off other groups. Individuals survive only if the group does and the ' moral-like ' gibbon group has a better chance as a group to make it.. The success of natural selection depends on group selection, not individual selection ultimately. The coherent group allows the individual to survive .

    The cohesive group runs out the 'anarchist' individual because he is lessening their chance of survival and weeds him of of the gene pool, because he then can't make it on his own.Those genes are lost.The ' moral' genes within the group remain.

    Natural selection is a group process much more than it is an individual process. The individual gibbon who doesn't contribute to the group, but cares only of itself, is cast out

  42. It's possible that cooperation, peacemaking, et al (manifestations of which are still pretty rudimentary in the animal kingdom) could result in positive outcomes that would tend to protect the life of the organism. However, it seems reasonable that in the wild, with animals that have a limited to nonexistent ability to manage resources, there will probably be more instances where such behaviors would work against the organism in the pursuit of limited resources.

    Also, as you pointed out, the animal knows nothing of the natural or supernatural, so would not even apply such behaviors based on a recognition that it might be in their best interest.

    The next question would then be: Why would such behaviors spring up in a non-sentient animal in the first place? There really doesn't seem to be a logical reason for such behavior–especially in a universe devoid of purpose–to manifest itself.

    In a created, ordered universe where there is a transcendent standard of right conduct imprinted on all creatures within the universe, such behavior would make sense and have a logical origin.

    It's funny, but even within naturalist circles of thought that intentionally exclude the possibility of intelligent design and purpose, theories invariably come around to looking at and describing ostensibly random individual and species behaviors in terms eerily connected with purpose and conscious decision.

  43. Good comments Bob. It is always interesting when two people see things differently. My question is, and I don't expect an answer, how is it that the brain does that ?