New Atheists: Nietzsche’s English Flat Heads?

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) described “New Atheists” as early twenty-first century atheist authors promoting atheism.

The “New Atheist” label for these critics [that include Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens] of religion and religious belief emerged out of journalistic commentary on the contents and impacts of their books. A standard observation is that New Atheist authors exhibit an unusually high level of confidence in their views. Reviewers have noted that these authors tend to be motivated by a sense of moral concern and even outrage about the effects of religious beliefs on the global scene. It is difficult to identify anything philosophically unprecedented in their positions and arguments, but the New Atheists have provoked considerable controversy with their body of work.( The New Atheists, pub. James E. Taylor, IEP)

Taylor explained that “New Atheist authors share the central belief that there is no supernatural or divine reality of any kind.[…] The moral component is the assumption that there is a universal and objective secular moral standard.”

To avoid painting all atheists with a single brush, I have used New Atheists in this article as described by Taylor.

Friedrich Nietzsche And English Flat Heads

As New Atheist, Mary Anne Evans, also known as G. Eliot, rejected the existence of God yet held to objective humanistic moral standard. Nietzsche notices that by getting rid of Christian God, a person cannot cling on Christian (Objective) moral standard. Nietzsche mounded ridicule upon G. Eliot and her fellow. Only “English Flat Heads” would not see the consequences of the death of God.

Nietzsche expounded the “English inconsistency” in rejection of supernatural reality and yet clinging to objective moral standard. He explained that “They [English Flat Heads] are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality […] By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands”(Nietzsche 1982: 69-70)

What Nietzsche was trying to show, is that if God does not exist, then “There are altogether no moral facts”(ibid, 55) Morality explained Nietzsche “has truth only if God is the truth – it stands or falls with faith in God”(1968: 70). Though I would substitute “faith in God” with “existence of God”, since its ontological base of morality, and not epistemological that is in question, I believe Nietzsche is correct. With the death of God comes the death of objective moral values and duties.

Jean-Paul Sartre resonates with Nietzsche in showing that by abandoning God namely God does not exist, “it is necessary to draw the consequences of his [God] absence right to the end.” Sartre also noticed the inconsistency of French professors’, towards 1880, secular morality. As New Atheists and Nietzsche’s G. Elliot “English Flat Heads”, these professors, according to Sartre, believed that “nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself.” He explained:

The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that ‘the good’ exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: ‘If God did not exist, everything would be permitted’; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself.”(Sartre 2007: 28)

If there is no supernatural or divine reality then there is no objective ontological ground to base a universal and objective moral standard. Naturalism, assumed by New Atheists, cannot account for the objective moral values and duties, if indeed objective morality exists. Wilson and Ruse expounded that; “ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes in order to get us to cooperate”(Ruse & Wilson 1989: 51). Ruse goes even further:

“The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation, no less than our hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when someone says, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, and any deeper meaning is illusory.”(Ruse 1989: 268-9)

Ruse nailed it even further as he contended that “[t]he Darwinian argues that morality simply does not work (from a biological perspective), unless we believe that it is objective. Darwinian theory shows that, in fact, morality is a function of (subjective) feelings; but it shows also that we have (and must have) the illusion of objectivity.”(Ruse 1998: 253).

Holding a similar stance with Paul Kurtz and Julian Baggini, Richard Dawkins correctly reiterates, if God does not exist[no designer], then “at bottom,[there is] no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”(Dawkins 1995: 85) He explained:

Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”(Dawkins 1995: 112)

Are New Atheists Nietzsche’s “English Flat Heads”?

C. S. Lewis pointed out what Nietzsche would call “English inconsistency” as he wrote “[a] moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionise, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race”(Lewis 2001: 59) Michael Ruse, though cannot be grouped with New Atheists, perfectly fits Lewis observation as Ruse contended: “The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, “2+2=5”.”(Ruse 1982: 275).

New Atheists, whom I believe Nietzsche would tag them “Flat Heads”, fail to see the necessity of drawing the consequences of the absence of God. If God does not exist, then there is no objective ontological ground for “a universal and objective secular moral standard.”

Are New Atheists Nietzsche’s “English Flat Heads”? I will let you decide as I wind up with Dawkins’ inconsistency, which I believe, is common in New Atheist’s “atheology”.

As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only know force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs. (Dawkins 2003: 10-11)

Question: If a New Atheist, what is the ontological ground for holding objective moral standard?

Bibliography:

Dawkins, Richard (1995). “God’s Utility Function”, in Scientific American, November 1995,

_____________________ (1996) River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. Basic Books.

____________________ (2003): A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections On Hope, Lies, Science, and Love. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data.

Nietzsche, Friedrich (1968). Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ. New York. Penguine Books.

________________________(1982) The Portable Nietzsche. Trans. And ed. W. Kaufmann. New York. Penguine Books.

Lewis, C. S. (2001) Miracles. San Francisco: Harper Books.

Ruse, Michael & Wilson, E. O (1989). The evolution of ethics. New Scientist 17, 108-28

Ruse, Michael (1982). Darwinism Defended. London: Addison-Wesley

________________ (1989). “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics” in The Darwinian Paradigm. London: Routledge.

__________________ (1998). Taking Darwin Seriously. Amherst, NY: Primetheus Books.

Sartre, Jean-Paul (2007) Existentialism Is a Humanism. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.

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66 thoughts on “New Atheists: Nietzsche’s English Flat Heads?

  1. Nietzsche also elaborated that there could be no moral fact because morality is relative to the environment that has cultivated the moral issue. As in: kill every last man, woman, and child of this particular tribe; yet, a few pages later it becomes a commandment not to kill. Primitive man obviously hit a point in their timeline where a consensus was formed that it would be prudent to maintain a sense of community long before the first patriarchs hit the scene. Which led to the concept of respect for others and their property. Giving us agriculture and civilisation long before the Word unified into a concept.

  2. Just read this. A very interesting and provocative read. This sort of thinking has always stumped me, caused a panic attack at one stage because I quite literally felt that any action I could ever take was utterly without point… but it must be pondered over and, although I do love the three [remaining] horsemen… bleh, a lot to consider.

  3. What is most important here though is that Nietzsche realized that if you kill God, then there is nothing more than nihilism. You no longer have moral values and duties. Rape, murder, slander, etc., would no longer be evil; such acts would just be unfashionable. Nietzsche didn’t try and retain objective moral values in his philosophy. The Ubermensch didn’t act as an objective value giver, because it is free from the “failings” of truth and essence. Nietzsche was attempting to create a new world, one of Supermen. A way to visualize this concept is to look at Hitler and the Nazi regime, while it’s not a true concept of Nietzsche’s philosophy (he was against antisemitism and German nationalism) you can see that Hitler read Nietzsche’s work (though not too clearly).

  4. Yes – agreed. There is no objective moral standard. But Nietzsche was wrong. He was the one blinded by the culture he was too close to. There is no real objective moral standard even if God does exist. Different Christians have different views on some fundamental moral questions.

    As was pointed out earlier, anthropologists find some similarities in pretty much all cultures’ moral codes. It would seem to be a natural part of our extended phenotype. If a moral code is universal it just comes down to a question of what kind of world we want to live in. I also care about the kind of world my kids, and friends and family live in.

    Those of us who follow the enlightenment based position think that ultimately we are all connected and our best hope of guaranteeing a good world for those we care about is to include everyone in the In Group covered by our moral code.

    It’s funny that you think the lack of an objective moral code is a good apologetic though… It just sounds like wishful thinking to me.

  5. Very well written! I’ve been trying to learn more about Christian apologetic and this looks like the place to start!

  6. You did a superb job here discussing complex arguments and making them understandable to us non-philosophers. And your own argument is right on target. We see the breakdown of society’s “loss of faith” in the moral decay that seems to be gaining ground every day.

    “With the death of God comes the death of objective moral values and duties.” Sadly, “enlightened” humanity seeks to destroy even the “Natural Law” that God has instilled in the conscience of his creation.

  7. Thank you for visiting my blog.

    I like your essay, here, re morality and atheism; however, it seems to me that atheist scientists and believers alike are failing to smell the coffee, in that whether there is a divine moral code or not, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, the world is in a moral crisis of, dare I say it, biblical proportions. The argument for intrinsic morality of any kind is moot, it seems to me, if no one is going to follow it anyway.

    I think a better argument for morality would be the existence of the holy spirit which indwells the believer, thereby enabling moral behaviour by enabling moral *discernment*.

    Hope to hear from you again.

    Rose

    • Thank you Rose.

      Rose, the existence of codes does not mean that we follow them. God gave his ten commandments, and I have not kept even one. Does ten commandments stop existing because I do not believe in them or follow them? I think they do Rose.

      You know the world is in moral crisis because you know objective moral values and duties exist. If they did not, then crisis make no sense since you could believe subjectively that the world is in moral crisis why a others think its a moral revolution and brilliant. Which is absurd.

      Thank you for wonderful comment Rose.

      Prayson

  8. Hi Prayson,
    You are on solid ground and Nietzsche/Ruse are correct however to TNA there need not be an ontological ground for holding an objective standard. Whether morals are objective or subjective makes no difference as long as TNA decide what is moral.
    God Bless

  9. I find it interesting that if we go back to one of Darwin’s own comments on his work, namely that if we can’t prove the issues he noted as outstanding – such as the lack of fossil records (at the time) – his theories fall flat. One and a half centuries later we have approx. 250k more fossil records, yet these are no nearer to explaining the Darwinian process of evolution – and hence Darwin is discredited by his own mouth. Yet he is still held up there as the authoritative figure. As they say in the classics: “Go figure!”

  10. I love a thought provoking debate! If morality is not objective being founded in that which transcends existence, then morality is merely subjective whims of temporal value volitionally granted by the individual or the group.

    Human rights are based on ethical truths, but if ethical truths are only a result of temporal evolutionary progression – then there are no ethical truths.

    Effectively – if there is no basis for ethical truths that transcend mankind, then the very ethic for how we treat mankind will be left to the whims of the individual or the group.

    Everyone knows that individuals often justify an evil deed with a natural desire, and everyone also knows that governments (groups of people) often justify murder and oppression through assuming power.

    If these are to be the sources for the present ethics of men – our fate is grim, indeed.

  11. Hi Prayson- (what a unique name) thanks for stopping by and liked my post. I have enjoyed reading your post and hopefully my FB and Twitter friends will like it too. Keep it up, brother! Cheers!

    • Well thank you.

      Yes there are. Leucippus(490-430 B.C), Democritus(460-360 B.C), Epicurus (341-271 B.C) and T. Lucretius Carus(96-55 B.C) held a naturalistic worldview(atomism).

  12. I think from my studies and meditation of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his philosophical thoughts, I could tell you Nietzsche understood Christ better than most of us. He understood God better than many of us that is why he was able to speak of the death of God. We need to look which understanding or type of God they say is dead or not exist rather than to make a sweeping understanding that for them God is dead. Because human by nature affirms or denies something or even concept from some kind of understanding about that thing or concept. Therefore those who speak of the non-existence of God speak of the non-existence of God which projected to them or by them.
    Above all the article you was posted is very nice.

  13. Great article! The absence of God leads to only one logical conclusion; self preservation. We see it all the time. Typically, the other side of the equation is a belief in evolution and that’s where self preservation comes in. A moral law, which is set by God’s existence, takes away from the concept of survival of the fittest. For example, Hitler ascribed to the thought of evolution and he tried to eradicate all those who were inferior beings. our actions are dictated by our beliefs. A belief that God does not exist only brings about actions that are void of His moral standard.
    That being said, God did create us in His image and therefore, as much as we can try to run from it, that likeness will show itself. Tribes who have never heard the Gospel have shown an aptitude for morality based on God’s laws. The Bible even tells us that He writes His laws upon our hearts. What man does is try to rationalize his own desires of immorality by denying God and therefor pacifying their conscience so they can continue in their pursuit of immorality. In the end we must all put aside the notion that God does not exist and stand before Him on judgement day. That is why we are so in need of the Gospel.

  14. Thanks for this Prayson – great post and thread. A couple of things in support of your argument that I’ve found helpful are John Gray’s ‘Straw Dogs’ and C. S. Lewis’ ‘Men without chests’. Do you find any of this new atheism / postmodern tendencies in Tanzania?

    • Hej Andy,

      Tanzania is still religious and being atheist does not make sense there. Here in Copenhagen, Denmark the story is almost turning around.

      Most young Danish are walking away from Christianity not because of critical thinking but because of moral life style. 80% of Dans are members of State Church but less than 5% goes to Church. Many youth are so spiritual, believing in anything supernatural, vampires, higher energy but not God.

      YouTube, Movies and Wikipedia are their source, Andy, of understanding atheism and Christianity. It is sad but hope is alive.

      Prayson

  15. A thoughtful (and entertaining!) post…
    Anent which: Without a Lawgiver, whence but from man can there be law? If law/morals are bu the whim of man, the individuality of said whims will necessarily preclude society, seems to me.. it’s every dog for himself.
    But if man’s DNA inclnes him toward a common law/morlity that will permit society, then we must look for the Author of said DNA as its original cause, bringing us back to God as Lawgiver. We can deny God or change His name to say, Big Banger but then we’ve no more provided a basis for law/morals than the mother who answers her child’s questions with: “Just because!”
    Which seems to me the point you’ve sneaked upon and captured here…

  16. i won’t be responding further, both because of time committments and also…this conversation is not actually productive. The metaphysical gulf is too wide.

  17. Existence is not subjective. You either exist or you do not exist. How you go about sustaining this value — life — is by choice of ethical code. Humans can discuss ways of living, they can voluntarily make pacts to respect certain mores, they can teach and give advice. Individuals can examine their life and see what thoughts and actions and sub-values serve them, which do not. A civilization can even build up a body of “best practices” and offer them to young people as “highly recommended but your mileage may vary.”

    Where is the shortcoming in that?

  18. No, there is no reason to invoke “teleological” here. The grounding is existence; that without which the issue of a moral code is a moot point. You cannot get more grounded than that. The fact that a human being must act towards an end (or else he contradicts his existence) is true, but it is not the grounding.

    The point is, the grounding of a moral code and the evaluation of whether it serves the fundamental value of a person — his life — does not require God.

  19. We have this problem: I cannot help you with equating my position to “Man is the measure…” because philosophers of “both sides” of the meaning have claimed the phrase.There are few writings of Protagoras extant. Therefore this touchpoint is not meaningful. Better just to work it out by what I am saying.

    You, John, choose what had better effect of sustaining and enriching your life. ” is accurate.

    Human beings exist. Their existence is conditional on them figuring out what values they wish to attain and keep and what thoughts and actions will sustain their lives to that end. That is why we need a code of behavior, a moral code.

    • Okay John,

      I follow your concern 🙂 I believe you have attempt to explain the teleological and not ontological ground of objective moral standard, John.

      Or maybe I am wrong. Help me understand.
      Prayson

  20. “The fact of man’s existence” just means that this discussion is about the proper moral code for humans to choose and therefore can only pertain to the person if they exist, if they are alive. Ethics is for living human beings. On the one hand, one cannot deny existence if choosing the code, since you have to be alive to choose it; on the other hand, it locks in the sequence: “the ethical code I choose had better have the effect of sustaining and enriching my life” or else it is a contradiction.

    • John, from what you wrote: “the ethical code I choose had better have the effect of sustaining and enriching my life”. Is this it wrong form me to understand it as Protagorasian viz., “Man is the measure of all things”. You, John, choose what had better effect of sustaining and enriching your life. Thus you, John, as a Man is the measure.

      Or am I getting this backwards, John? Do correct me 🙂

      Prayson

  21. whoops…..typos ! I meant to say:

    There is subtle room in that formulation by Protagoras for possible divergence. So I would not plant my flag under his, proactively.

    I would not use the word “binding.” That word implies some agency imposing a moral code onto an individual. ‘The fact of man’s existence is the ontological ground for a universal truth in a proper ethical code’ is more accurate for my position.

  22. There is subtle room in that forumlation by Progagoras for possible divergence. So I would not plant my flag under his, proactively.

    I would not use the word “binding.” That word implies some agency imposing a moral code onto an individual. ‘The fact of man’s existence is the ontological ground for a universal truth in a proper ethical code’ is more accurate for my position.

  23. I am capable of being civil and respectful. However, you should know that the only reason I posted here was in reaction to an element of inflammatory rhetoric in the invocation — quite a few times — of the derogatory “Flatheads.” It seems unnecessary to use that appellation to make the point of the essay, except to insult.

    That having been said, I will not retaliate with insults.

    All the writers cited in the essay in support of the idea that “if God is dead, man is hopelessly without meaning and morals” are mistaken.

    “Question: If a New Atheist, what is the ontological ground for holding objective moral standard?”

    I am not a “New Atheist” although my position does intersect with some of Dawkins et. al. My belief system is a-thiestic; it does not refer to God in any way.

    Here is my answer to the question:

    The ontological ground is the undeniability of existence, which for man is called “life.” Man is alive in objective reality. There is no alternative to existence. Thus the unavoidable root value for an individual soul, the one that cannot be rejected without ceasing to exist is: his life. He is at choice to reject this value, but will then cease to exist and morality is a moot point. There can be no more “universal” aspect to morality than that; it applies to each and every human being who ever lived and ever will live. So, a man’s moral code by necessity is: with life as my basci value, what code must I hold to sustain it and enrich it?

    • Hej John,

      My apology for Nietzsche’s critic, viz., calling G. Elliot and her fellows “English Flat Heads” for holding both God does not exist and objective morality exist.

      Remember my title is “Nietzsche’s English Flat Heads”. It was Nietzsche that called the folks who hold the death of God without death of objective morality “Flat Heads”. 🙂

      Could you help me understand your answer, John. I am correct to understand that you are saying that human being’s life is the ontological ground for objective moral standard. Did I understand you correctly?(Please do correct me, comment or add)

      Prayson

      • Ontology concerns itself with “being” or “existence.” I am saying that the fact of existence is the ontological ground for everything — there being no alternative to existence. The purpose and description of the proper moral code for a person to choose ought to be such that it sustain and further the fact of his existence. This is universal because there can be no person for whom the sustaining of his life is supported by value choices and actions which destroy it.

      • Hej John,

        Thank you so much for brilliant explanation. I am trying to capture your position correctly John. I am correct to understand your position as a modification of Protagoras’ (490 -420 BC); “Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.” namely Man’s own survival and sustain is the ontological ground for objective moral values and duties.

        Would I have correctly and fairly understood your position, John, that Man’s existence(through sustain and survival-further the fact of his existence/life) is the ontological ground of objective moral values(namely values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not).

        Prayson

  24. Hello Gary and John,

    Thank you for a wonderful dialogue that show a virtuous character in both of you. Gary thank you so much for great input. John I believe before I take our dialogue further we need to know if we are using the terms objective moral standard, God, ontological ground and so on.

    I would love to fully understand your position,Paul, so that I may be in a position to know our common grounds and see were we differ and how we differ. It is my hope John that we can have, with respect, kindness and gentleness, joy, exchanging our worldviews as you challenge my position, and I hope I to challenge yours as we pursue to understand.

    Could you help me, Paul, understand your definition of objective moral values and duties, God, and ontological base? Do you are agree that if objective moral values and duties exist, then they could be based either social convention, or personal preference or evolution or God(as understood in classical theism)?

    Prayson

  25. John, I just thought I would let Prayson respond, this being his site and all. You’ve packed so many implications in there that I don’t want to dominate discussion sparked by his essay. I found it interesting that you have embraced Pro-life ethics- life over choice and self determination. Perhaps you merely saying that animals have an instinctual desire for self preservation? How do you deal with empirical evidence that shows a disregard for life, eg.- smokers, suicidal individuals, lemmings or those would sacrifice their lives for other ideals like Patrick Henry? Why is this life worth living, if it is accidental and without purpose? Does the finality of death render life meaningless? And, most important, what basis does one have to assume the life of another has your same intrinsic value? I would like to give Prayson a chance to pursue some of your responses as they are all relate to his post. Sincerely, Gary

  26. I won’t press the matter, as you are signalling desire to leave.
    Just let it be said you are wrong: God is not needed to establish man’s ultimate value: life.

  27. Pingback: Objective Moral Standards? « Conversations in the Postmodern World

  28. Please excuse the typo….

    why is an “objective moral standard” important to Christians? Also, if you purport that it is important to Christians, and it exists, can you point to it?

    • Dear John,

      Thank you for your comments. Before I answer your question I would like to properly understand it. Could you help me understand, John, what you understand when I said objective moral standard?

      Prayson

      • Perhaps I could jump in with a brief explanation. Objective standards reference values that transcend the individual. Subjective standards are self referencing. If our morals and ethics are merely a matter of individual taste, there would be no standard to sort out conflicts between individuals. It should be apparent, that having some objective standard would be of interest to all, Christian or non Christian. The big question is whether or not one’s world view has enough explanatory power to support our moral capacities and moral judgments. Even secular anthropologists find that all peoples/cultures develop moral codes and these codes seem very similar. Is there a moral law that one learns as one would learn a multiplication table? Were we created with some personhood and transcendent sense of “ought” in what appears to be a mechanical world of what “is”?

        • You are very right joltseminars. Paul I believe joltseminars nailed in stating that objective moral standard are moral standard that binds all, whether you believe in them or not,like them or not, a Christian or none-Christian, it does not matter.

          The aim of this article was to show that by New Atheists holding that God does not exist and yet clinging to objective moral standard is inconsistent since objective moral duties and value are only objective if and only if there is a transcendent moral standard and a law giver.

          By removing this transcendent moral standard and law giver, objective morality is an illusion. It does not exist, and only Nietzsche’s English Flat Heads would think they are not illusory but really.

          Thank you Paul and joltseminars.

          • “If our morals and ethics are merely a matter of individual taste, there would be no standard to sort out conflicts between individuals.”
            But “sorting out conflicts between individuals” is not the job of ethics or morals; it is the job of politics and law. This leaves ethics as a normative science that seeks the best path for the individual to seek and preserve his highest value. This is where I believe we would part ways: speaking for myself (and not necessarily for Dawkins et. al.) that standard of value is “life,” the one reality from which one cannot be unbound, since to not have life means to not exist. For the Christian, am I correct in assessing that your highest standard would be “to love, honor and obey God?”

          • Determining what one should do (normative) leads to the actual doing, does it not? You might have something there however, would politicians separate legislation laws from morality and ethics? Nietzsche would have liked this idea as he believed moral posturing was just a manipulative ploy in the instinctual “will to power.”

            One last comment and I will let Prayson get back to work. Yes, the highest value would be to love God with all one’s heart, soul and strength. Then, love others as they share you value and personhood. Behind every law there is a value or principle. Behind all values there is a perspective on human nature. Only a theistic world view can support personhood and equality. In social Darwinism there is clearly no basis for either.

            Carry on. It’s been enjoyable.

            Gary

  29. “If there is no supernatural or divine reality then there is no objective ontological ground to base a universal and objective moral standard.”

    Why is an “objective moral standard” important?

    Moreover, Christians (to chose an example of theists) have many many different moral codes, despite having God.

  30. Pointed argument. Great essay. I think implicitly the New Atheist’s defense for objective moral standards is raising humanity to the level of God. Evolution is just their excuse for “getting rid” of God.

    Mark Blasini

  31. Interesting read but I must disagree with the idea that evolution dictates that morality must be objective. We see altruistic behaviour in nearly every primate species yet they demonstrate no concept of religion or any other objective morality, they simply do it because they are part of the same tribe. Ultimately, humans are a tribal species. Study after study (I can look them up if you don’t have access to peer-reviewed journals) show that human morality is pretty limited in terms of action to those in our immediate location as soon as it becomes more abstract the level of action people are willing to take diminishes. There are people who act differently because they recognize all people, even if you don’t see them, are the same but the inherent desire to be altruistic isn’t there because we evolved to live in small groups of <200.

    Thus morality is best viewed as being entirely subjective except in so far as we have a genetic imperative to protect our "tribe". We make the subjective choice to have it include more than those we randomly were placed near by birth. Nietzsche and Satre did not have the advantage of a full understanding of the evolution of morality that we are just now beginning to get a better picture of. Ultimately, Nietzsche, and other atheist philosophers of the time, made the best explanation they could without all the evidence but as with many earlier theories, ultimately, proved false.

    • Paul, although your explanation of the function and development of moral standards could be accurate, I believe you missed the entire idea of the argument. If morals developed because we wanted to perpetuate our tribe, why is perpetuating our tribe considered a good. The New Atheists argue that religion and faith is detrimental to the survival of our species and thus should be eradicated. Why should I care about the survival of our species? Why should I care about my tribe? If there is nothing within or without the universe that values humanity more than hydrogen atoms, then what is the value of perpetuating a species that is only another product of physical law? We should celebrate hydrogen as much as we celebrate consciousness. You may say that we are more developed so we are more important. Why have you chosen “developed” to be better? Meaning must be placed into a situation by consciousness and the only way to have ultimate meaning is to have an ultimate consciousness. Without the ultimate we lose the ability to say “you ought to do that.” But New Atheists say we ought to do things all the time.

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