In part two of our exploration of the argument of morality, we examined the problems of moral truths being facts of human DNA. Today we’ll take this one step further and see if moral truths are facts of our universe.
Some atheist philosophers believe objective moral truths are simply brute facts of the universe, similar to mathematical facts. We discover these facts as we grow and mature and witness the reaction of each action. Atheist philosopher, Walter Sinnot, says this on the theory:
“…..many atheists are happy to embrace objective moral values. I agree with them. Rape is morally wrong. So is discrimination against gays and lesbians. Even if somebody or some group thinks that these acts are not morally wrong, they still are morally wrong.…[Agreeing that some acts are objectively morally wrong] implies nothing about God, unless objective values depend on God. Why should we believe that they do?”
While this theory recognizes the existence of objective moral truth, it does have a few flaws.
This Theory Fails to Account for Moral Obligation
While we can recognize moral facts, the question that then follows is, “Why should I feel obligated to follow them?” We are obligated to one another because we are seen as valued, loved-and if we’re to take the theistic answer-created in God’s image. But I’m never obligated to my computer, or to my bed, or to the laws of physics. Obligations are always between persons. The laws of mathematics describe what is, but moral laws describe what ought to be. Why are we obligated to do right in a non-personal universe?
This Theory Fails to Explain Itself.
One of the reasons I believe this is one of the more unheard of theories (at least no atheist I’ve engaged with agrees with Walter’s words above) is that it fails to explain why there are moral facts in the first place. It explains the method by which we come to learn morality (epistemology), instead of the nature of morality itself (ontology). In a non-personal universe, it seems absurd that it should contain personal moral facts. If there is evidence for something, we need to ask how it got here and why it’s here if we’re to find the truth. This theory fails to address either one. Speaking of the non-personal…..
This Theory Assumes A Personal Universe.
But such a thing doesn’t exist. The clouds aren’t personal, nor are the stars and the air we breathe. Philosopher John Rist observed that moral truths are: “objects of thoughts, not mere constructs or concepts.” But the universe does not possess the ability to think unless there is a conscious mind behind it.
In the end, this theory only takes us right back to the theistic answer, in that we need a transcendent, personal, conscious being in order to ground objective moral truths. Without this, there would be no fundamental basis, no objective moral grounding, for a moral life. We can live morally without believing in God, but as soon as one is asked to provide an ontological basis for objective morality, there would be no answer. It’s probably why most atheists lean towards subjective morality. In part 4, we’ll take a deeper look into this idea.