In regards to letter on morality

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I am writing in response to Phil Grant’s letter from March 6 titled “God Cannot Exist.”

Personally, I think he should reflect a bit more before offering this kind of argument to the public. Just a few moments of thought beyond the musings he puts forward show how full of holes his thinking is. I might just ignore this letter except that the uncritical thinking exhibited is the same kind of thinking that is shown in our political discourse generally.

A bit of analysis. First of all, the argument whose origin he ascribes to the 1960s is fallacious as written. As he states the argument, it has the assumption of no moral absolutes, leading to the conclusion that there is no sovereign, moral God. Actually, the argument goes the other way. Since there is no evidence for a moral, sovereign God, there is no evidence for moral absolutes.

As for the issue of humans contemplating suicide or murder, and his question as to why not if we are nothing more than matter, there are lots of reasons. First of all, we are evolutionary survivors and self-preservation is very strongly built into us. Secondly, life is on balance generally good for us. We enjoy it.

As for murder, again we are social beings, probably the major reason for our evolutionary success. This evolutionary heritage leaves us with strong, although flexible, instincts to cooperate in ways that make social structures possible. It’s not a question of “should you” expect compassion from others, but a fact that you can expect cooperation and, yes, under most circumstances, varying amounts of compassion as a result of our shared evolutionary heritage.

You can even experience cooperation and compassion from some members of other species and extend it to them as well. As for inanimate nature, you will get none from it. We are what we are, and what we are is a product of the processes of nature. As for implications of the above argument for our thinking about people like Nikolas Cruz, the recent high school shooter, yes, he was his own moral agent. So what? His behavior is not acceptable to us as social human beings.

And yes, it is we who determine morality and it is our government that enforces the laws that embody that morality. That this is so, we should learn to accept. It is we as a society who are responsible for our own situation and our own well being. If there is a God, fine; if there are moral absolutes, fine, but no one can prove it (that’s why belief in God is all about faith). And, we don’t need either. As social beings we will cooperate, we will build societies and we will impose laws on each other. The societies we form, and the laws we impose, will express both our human nature and the conditions we find ourselves in.

Personally, I’m glad to be living in a relatively open and dynamic society, one that is relatively inclusive and tolerant and struggling to become more so. It is something I will work for. I accept that our societies will have ups and downs, successes and failures. I believe that the evidence shows that this is the direction humans are moving in.

John W. Guenther