Ethics: Right or Wrong?
1. I venture into the Internet from time to time and participate in discussions.
A few months ago in one of the Christian blogs I frequented, a secular humanist who claimed to be a former Christian unexpectedly drop-by and engaged the group in discussions.
Although my part in the discussions was relatively minor, I posed a question to the secular humanist gentleman and he was not able to answer.
I like to re-blog the question here for anyone who might find it interesting or might have an answer to it.
2. The two major worldviews of contemporary Western civilizations are Christian Theism and Naturalism.
Christian Theism claims the infinite-personal God of the Bible exists.
Naturalism denies any God or gods exist including the God of the Bible.
Thus, Christian Theism and Naturalism are contrary positions -- they cannot both be true although they can both be false.
The naturalists in religion are atheistic -- they claim all God or gods do not exist including the God of the Bible.
Over the two thousand years history of Christianity, the two worldviews have engaged in mutual criticisms and polemics and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the respective positions are well known.
For example, a perennial problem for Christianity is the Problem of Evil: Why does evil exists if God is all-powerful and all good?
A perennial problem for Naturalism is its inability to justify and ground any morality or ethical principles: A naturalistic universe is an intrinsically amoral universe.
This moral or ethical problem for the naturalists received a classic formulation in the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) and is known as the Is-Ought Problem: One cannot logically derive what ought to be from what is.
One cannot infer a prescriptive statement from a descriptive statement.
3. The naturalistic universe is intrinsically amoral:
Naturalism ==> amoralism or moral relativism or moral subjectivism
But the atheist / secular humanist who engaged the group also believes in Darwinian evolution and that exacerbate the morality problem for him.
Many atheists / secular humanists have high personal ethics that are comparable to Christian ethics.
But while Christian ethics are grounded in the commands given by God in the Holy Bible, there aren't any similar grounds for a naturalist to justify his ethics.
Darwinian evolution implies the survival of the fittest.
The ethical principle that naturally dovetail with the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest is ethical anarchism.
Ethical anarchism is the principle that anything goes in ethics.
The principle of the survival of the fittest does not prescribe one unique strategy to survive.
Any strategy that results in survival is a good strategy.
The overriding goal of the ethical anarchist is to survive and any actions that are conducive to survival is ethical for him.
(Naturalism + Survival of the Fittest) ==> Ethical Anarchism
4. A person who subscribes to ethical anarchism is ethically justified in doing anything to survive:
In order to survive, an ethical anarchist can be a model citizen in the United States.
In order to survive, an ethical anarchist can be a good Roman Catholic Christian in medieval Europe.
In order to survive, an ethical anarchist can be a Nazi in National Socialist Germany that helped killed the millions of Jews.
In order to survive, an ethical anarchist can be a Red Guard in the Cultural Revolution of China that heaped untold havocs.
In order to survive, an ethical anarchist can engage in graft and bribery as is rampant in contemporary China.
An ethical anarchist can be anyone for anything goes in ethics.
And this is no laughing matter!
5. The following list of estimated war dead for the 20th Century is from David Berlinski's The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (2009).
The list represented the untold and unspeakable sufferings of hundreds of millions of people.
Yet for the ethical anarchist, there is nothing in principle particularly right or wrong about the list.
The list just represents the outworking of the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest in a naturalistic universe.
(Berlinski 2009, 22-24):
A Shockingly Happy Picture by Excess Deaths
First World War (1914–18): 15 million
Russian Civil War (1917–22): 9 million
Soviet Union, Stalin’s regime (1924–53): 20 million
Second World War (1937–45): 55 million
Chinese Civil War (1945–49): 2.5 million
People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong’s regime (1949–75): 40 million
Tibet (1950 et seq.): 600,000
Congo Free State (1886–1908): 8 million
Mexico (1910–20): 1 million
Turkish massacres of Armenians (1915–23): 1.5 million
China (1917–28): 800,000
China, Nationalist era (1928–37): 3.1 million
Korean War (1950–53): 2.8 million
North Korea (1948 et seq.): 2 million
Rwanda and Burundi (1959–95): 1.35 million
Second Indochina War (1960–75): 3.5 million
Ethiopia (1962–92): 400,000
Nigeria (1966–70): 1 million
Bangladesh (1971): 1.25 million
Cambodia, Khmer Rouge (1975–78): 1.65 million
Mozambique (1975–92): 1 million
Afghanistan (1979–2001): 1.8 million
Iran–Iraq War (1980–88): 1 million
Sudan (1983 et seq.): 1.9 million
Kinshasa, Congo (1998 et seq.): 3.8 million
Philippines Insurgency (1899–1902): 220,000
Brazil (1900 et seq.): 500,000
Amazonia (1900–1912): 250,000
Portuguese colonies (1900–1925): 325,000
French colonies (1900–1940): 200,000
Japanese War (1904–5): 130,000
German East Africa (1905–7): 175,000
Libya (1911–31): 125,000
Balkan Wars (1912–13): 140,000
Greco–Turkish War (1919–22): 250,000
Spanish Civil War (1936–39): 365,000
Franco Regime (1939–75): 100,000
Abyssinian Conquest (1935–41): 400,000
Finnish War (1939–40): 150,000
Greek Civil War (1943–49): 158,000
Yugoslavia, Tito’s regime (1944–80): 200,000
First Indochina War (1945–54): 400,000
Colombia (1946–58): 200,000
India (1947): 500,000
Romania (1948–89): 150,000
Burma/Myanmar (1948 et seq.): 130,000
Algeria (1954–62): 537,000
Sudan (1955–72): 500,000
Guatemala (1960–96): 200,000
Indonesia (1965–66): 400,000
Uganda, Idi Amin’s regime (1972–79): 300,000
Vietnam, postwar Communist regime (1975 et seq.): 430,000
Angola (1975–2002): 550,000
East Timor, conquest by Indonesia (1975–99): 200,000
Lebanon (1975–90): 150,000
Cambodian Civil War (1978–91): 225,000
Iraq, Saddam Hussein (1979–2003): 300,000
Uganda (1979–86): 300,000
Kurdistan (1980s, 1990s): 300,000
Liberia (1989–97): 150,000
Iraq (1990– ): 350,000
Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–95): 175,000
Somalia (1991 et seq.): 400,000
6. Human beings are moral beings.
Yet, Naturalism is not able to justify any ethical principles and Secular Humanism has too optimistic a view of human nature.
It is Biblical Christianity that has the realistic view:
(a) Man is created in the image of God so there is nobility to his nature.
(b) Man has fallen in sin so there is also an ugliness to his nature.
We need moral absolutes that have a claim and are binding on us to restrain us from our sinful dispositions.
I have asked the atheist / secular humanist with the high ethical principles how he would argue against a naturalist who is also an ethical anarchist.
He has no answer; for on his own principles he cannot.
Other than his subjective preferences, he has no moral basis to condemn the wars in the 20th Century that resulted in hundreds of millions of dead people.
The purpose of this post is not polemical but to pose a question to the naturalists and those naturalists who are also Darwinian evolutionists:
How would you argue against Ethical Anarchism?
The exchange took place in the Comment section of (Gerety 2015).
The screen name of the atheist / secular humanist is "Gary M".
My screen name is "Benjamin Wong".
Our sequence of exchanges are:
(a) Comment by Benjamin Wong posted March 15, 2015 at 5:43 pm.
(b) Comment by Gary M posted March 15, 2015 at 6:40 pm.
(c) Comment by Benjamin Wong posted March 15, 2015 at 7:05 pm
(d) Comment by Gary M posted March 16, 2015 at 12:57 am
(e) Comment by Benjamin Wong posted March 16, 2015 at 2:12 am
(f) Comment by Benjamin Wong posted March 16, 2015 at 4:10 am
(g) Comment by Gary M posted March 16, 2015 at 10:47 am
"Is-ought problem", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
Berlinski, David. 2009. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. New York: Basic Books.
Gerety, Sean. 2015. "A Little Sunday Morning Calvin". God's Hammer blog. January 4.