The Argument from Morality - Debunked
(William Lane Craig’s Moral Argument Refuted)
The Argument from Morality has been around for eons, seeing a particular rise to prominence in the 18th century thanks to Immanuel Kant, and then again in recent years thanks to William Lane Craig… damn it Craig! Because of this, it’s Craig’s version that we’re going to eviscerate in this video, and so brace yourself my friends, the haters are coming…
This, is the Argument from Morality – Debunked.
When debating with a theist there are certain subjects that are bound to come up, and morality is most certainly one of them. It is of course raised in numerous ways, but it almost always boils down to the assertion that, “if there isn’t a god then there is no objective and absolute morality; that murder is only immoral because we currently agree that it’s immoral.”
Or as Craig puts it in his book titled On Guard, “in a world without god, who’s to say whose values are right and whose are wrong? There can be no objective right and wrong, only our culturally and personally relative, subjective judgments”. This, in essence, is Craig’s mantra on morality, and unlike many apologists, he’s been kind enough to provide us with a syllogistic rendition of his assertion – and it this syllogism that we’re going to debunk in this video.
If god does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist. Objective moral values and duties do exist. Therefore, god exists. Before we proceed to debunk Craig’s Moral Argument, I want to first make it clear that Craig does not, all of the time, commit all of the following flaws and fallacies, but rather, he commits each of the following flaws at different times… and the same goes for those who use his Moral Argument.
With that said, the first flaw I’d like to raise is that premise one is completely unsubstantiated, making the entire argument a Non-Sequitur. It in no way logically follows that only a specific god can be responsible for the existence of objective moral values, unless the proponent is literally defining ‘objective moral values’ to mean, “moral values, principles and duties that are declared by god” – and if they are doing this, then they’re including the claim of their argument within their premise… which is Begging the Question.
To illustrate this further, simply replace the word ‘god’ with ‘Cthulhu’, and you’ll quickly appreciate how absurd this argument is – it’s either a Non-Sequitur or it is Begging the Question.
A second flaw that Craig’s Moral Argument commits, and one that is subtle but completely devastating, is an Equivocation Fallacy. To put it as bluntly as possible, during his first premise, Craig and his argument uses a definition of the term ‘objective moral values’ that is, for all intent and purposes, the definition of “absolute moral values”.
That is, “moral values, principles and duties that are universally valid and true unconditionally and under all circumstances”. But during his second premise he uses a definition of the term ‘objective moral values’ that is, “moral values, principles and duties that exist independently of human opinion, but may vary according to context and circumstance.”
Hence, Craig’s Moral Argument is incoherent and therefore invalid. Either this, or Craig and his argument are using exclusively the first definition or the second definition of ‘objective moral values’ for both of his premises.
And if he is using the first definition then his first premise is entirely false, because there are many types of morality that are absolute, that don’t insist on his specific god’s existence, such as the deontological ethics of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, some forms of the Golden Rule, and of course, competing forms of Divine Command Theory.
These ‘objective’ moralities exist. Period. The question is whether or not their foundations are substantiated, as is this the question for Craig’s specific Divine Command Theory. And if Craig is using the second definition of ‘objective moral values’ for both of his premises, then, again, his first premise is entirely false, because, again, there are many types of morality that are objective in this way – that is, they have an objective reference point;
a reference point that exists independent of human opinion. For example, just as consequentialism uses the objective reference point of ‘potential consequences’, and just as the Moral Landscape uses the objective reference point of the ‘well-being of conscious creatures’, Craig uses the objective reference point of his specific interpretation of Christianity…
which is ironically subjective, not objective!
Hence, Craig and his argument either commit an Equivocation Fallacy or his first premise is entirely false, with either of which resulting in the obliteration of his argument. But here’s where things get really quite interesting…
Craig has frequently stated that he doesn’t use the term ‘absolute moral values’ because “To say they’re absolute moral values could be taken to mean that certain moral duties hold regardless of the circumstances you’re in. So thou shalt not kill regardless of the fact that a terrorist is about to kill your wife and children.”
And he frequently states that he deliberately uses the term ‘objective morality’, stating that objective moral values mean “that in any given situation in which you might find yourself, there is something that is really right and really wrong independently of human opinion, but
clearly that might vary with the circumstances.
In some cases it might be morally permissible to kill, but in other cases it would be morally impermissible to kill. So, what I’m talking about is objective right and wrong but not necessarily absolutes that take no cognizance of the circumstances in which a person finds himself”.
But listen carefully to him explaining what objective moral values are to a different audience “What we’re talking about here are unconditional obligations or unconditional goods or evils. Yes I think that there clearly are… for example, it’s unconditionally good to be a loving and generous person. And I think that when most of us reflect on our moral experience we do see that there is a clear objective unconditional difference between modes of behaviour.”
Sorry Craig, but did you just say that it’s unconditionally good to be a loving and generous person? That, for example, if a terrorist was going to kill your wife and children you’d have to be loving and generous towards him unconditionally (i.e. regardless of the circumstance... regardless of the fact that he’s about to kill your wife and children)?
Because, as you have stated many times before, that’s an absolute statement, not an objective or relative one….
This my friends, is how you play tennis without the net.
And this is a prime example of Craig either intentionally or unintentionally committing an Equivocation Fallacy. Now if I’m honest, the three flaws that we’ve just covered are each more than enough to destroy Craig’s Moral argument, but for what it’s worth, here’s a few additional ones.
It might be subtle, but Craig and the proponents of his Moral Argument very often commit an Argument from Ignorance. They do this because they implicitly assert (and sometimes explicitly), that only their very specific god could be responsible for the existence of objective moral values, without justifying why this is the case.
In fact, they often state “if not who, then what!”, which translated from fluff land to English is “we don’t know, therefore god… my very specific god”.
A fourth major flaw that Craig’s Moral Argument commits, and one that shares a strong relationship with the Argument from Ignorance, is the shifting of the Burden of Proof. In their assertion that “if not who, then what”, they are very clearly trying to switch the Burden of Proof, because what they are indirectly asserting is that if you can’t account for objective moral values then their assertion must be true… which isn’t just ludicrous, it’s actually a subtle Black and White Fallacy…
but don’t get me started on that one. And finally, as the last flaw I’ll raise in this video, we have the fact the Craig’s Moral Argument doesn’t support monotheism. Even if objective moral values existed in the way that Craig insists, this wouldn’t even suggest, let alone prove, that a single god is responsible… there is no reason to rule out the possibility that many gods are responsible, and in fact, there is no reason to rule out the possibility that many petulant and childish gods were responsible that have since died.
The point being, Craig’s argument supports theism, not monotheism, and certainly not his specific monotheism. Of course, Craig uses additional arguments to try and justify his specific monotheism, but the case and point here being is that his argument does not.
Now of course, depending on the proponent of Craig’s Moral Argument, there are a great many other flaws and fallacies that they commit, but so far as I can tell we’ve covered the main ones… and certainly enough to bury Craig’s presentation of it.
So, to recap, Craig’s Moral Argument is flawed because; Craig and his proponents either commit a Non-Sequitur Fallacy or a Begging the Question Fallacy; They commit an Equivocation Fallacy – and sometimes many; They commit an Argument from Ignorance; They attempt to shift the Burden of Proof, and; The argument doesn’t support monotheism, and certainly doesn’t support the proponent’s specific monotheism.