An Evidentialist Challenge, Restated

I was asked to justify the laws of logic in a godless universe.

I did so here:
As for the laws of logic, what if they are only seemingly universal, but are truly not so? In the atheistic worldview there are objects in the universe. The relationships between those objects, however, are "not" in the universe. Steven Pinker's work (expanding on Chomsky's) has shown that the brain has different grammatical "sections" inside it. One section holds information about nouns, another verbs, another conjunctions.

When I say that the universe contains objects, I have the idea of "nouns" in mind. Now, what if the brain has simply evolved in a way that it attempts to grammatically relate nouns to each other? The laws of logic rely on words like "and," "or," "not," "is," etc. These words do not name things that exist in the universe. The laws of logic are made up of these words, however. The law of non-contradiction could not exist, for example, if the concept of "not" didn't exist. The laws of logic give rules of how objects relate to one another. There would be no laws of logic were it not for our language that holds certain relational concepts.

If the laws of logic were simply the result of the way that the human brain has formed, this explains why they would certainly "seem" universal. Inasmuch as human brains are similar (and they are very much so), then the laws of logic would seem universal to everyone with a similarly functioning brain. We could not fathom a possible world in which those laws would not apply because we cannot imagine the world differently than our brains allow us to. We would read our thoughts about the relationships of objects into every world that we imagined. The laws of logic would seem to us universal even if they were not.

But this theory does more than just explain why laws of logic can seem universal. It also has powerful explanatory power in cases of so-called "madness." If the laws of logic are simply mental constructs about the relationships of objects, then this would explain why people with brain damage and "malfunctioning" brains are so consistently "illogical." These people constantly deny the laws of logic. They see the world very differently than the rest of us. If the brain is responsible for constructing relationships between objects, then, it would come as no surprise when people with damaged or "malfunctioning" brains did not construct these same relationships.

Imagine, for example, a world filled with people with a similar brain damage. The laws of logic would look very different in this world.

Also, this theory has powerful explanatory powers when it comes to the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that language is responsible for shaping worldviews. In countries with dramatically different languages, what is considered "logical" is very different. We have Eastern and Western logics that are extremely dissimilar. While the condition of the human brain would explain the similarities between different cultures, the languages of those cultures would explain these logical differences.

My point, here, is to demonstrate that while universal laws of logic may, in fact, be unjustifiable in an atheistic worldview (though many atheists have good reason to deny this), seemingly universal laws of logic are easily justifiable by the theory I explained above.

I was asked to justify moral judgments in a godless universe.

I did so here:
But are all relative judgments invalid?

Consider motion. Imagine sitting next to me in a bar when I suddenly begin screaming, "My Guinness is moving! Sweet Lola, save me, my Guinness is moving!" You look at my glass, however, and say, "Man, atheism is really rat poison to the intellect! Your Guinness isn't moving; it's perfectly still."

Is it both possible that my Guinness is moving and that my Guinness is not moving? Of course it is!

I could respond to your skepticism, "Isn't this continent drifting, the earth rotating and revolving, our solar system spinning in a pinwheel galaxy, and our galaxy speeding away from others in the universe? How can you say my Guinness isn't moving?!"

At the same time, you could have said, "Look EB, there is a spot on the bar next to your glass and we can tell by this ruler that your glass is neither moving towards that spot nor away from it. Your glass is stationary."

Both contradictory statements are correct, but are relative to specific spatio-temporal frameworks. From certain spatio-temporal frameworks, my Guinness is stationary; from others, it is moving. The "fact" of the motion of my Guinness is relative to the spatio-temporal framework that is adopted. There is no one, "true" spatio-temporal framework that truly determines whether something is "really" moving or not, there are only different frameworks from which to judge.

But though my Guinness' motion is relative, it is still "objective." You would certainly admit the validity of my statement that my Guinness is moving from any of the other spatio-temporal frameworks that I mentioned as justification. I would certainly admit the validity of your statement from the spatio-temporal framework that you mention. Both statements are correct, but are so relative to specific spatio-temporal frameworks.

Now, what if the same could be said of moral judgments? What if I could say objectively that it is morally wrong of P to D (I'm stealing all of this from Princeton's Gilbert Harman if you are wondering), but had to qualify my statement that it was morally wrong according to a specific moral framework? My judgment would be objective, but not universal.

If morality is not universal, though, must I accept everyone's moral judgments as equally valid? Of course not. For one thing, it is certainly possible that someone makes a moral judgment that does not fit the moral framework they use to justify it [Just like it would be possible for someone to say that something is stationary from a framework in which that judgment is inconsistent].

Secondly, acknowledging that a belief may be justified by reference to another moral framework does not mean that I have to abandon my own moral framework. For example, I believe that it is morally wrong to rape someone. If I were to happen upon a man trying to rape a woman, my moral framework demands that I do whatever action is permissible according to that framework to prevent that action from taking place. I may acknowledge that the action is permissible according to the rapist's moral framework, but that does not mean that I must ignore what is demanded by my own moral framework.

Moral relativism, then, does not necessarily lead to moral nihilism.

Anyone familiar with Foucault's work on power structures will know that, if he is correct, social ideas and morality are shaped by power. There is nothing called "madness" out in the world. One cannot catch "madness" in a bucket and paint it pink. It is an idea that must be defined. Originally, the church and the family were the primary power structures that made this definition. The church needed a way to distinguish between God's directions to his people through the Holy Spirit and the babblings of a madman. People that had certain heretical "visions" and "promptings" from God were considered "mad." Now, it is the physicians who define these kind of terms. Whatever the age, though, power is the driver behind these definitions.

In the case of morality, then, power will be the stabilizing (or destabilizing) force behind societal morality. Obviously, that does not mean that one must accept society's morality (both the Christians here and myself reject our current society's morality, but for drastically different reasons). For example, though most of current, American society opposes same-sex marriage, I adamantly support it. I do not have to accept the majority opinion even if I acknowledge that that opinion is justified by reference to a certain moral framework. I can exert my power (however limited it is) to try to change societal opinion. I can also point out that denying homosexual couples marriage is inconsistent with other, primary societal values like equal treatment under the law.

Just like one can make objective statements about motion even though the statements are relative to spatio-temporal frameworks, so I can make objective statements about morality that are relative to specific moral frameworks. So, contrary to Bahnsen's argument, I can be outraged by the Holocaust and not have a universal morality to do so. Does someone else have to agree with my outrage? Certainly not, but I will exert every power available to me via my moral framework (which excludes violence) to make others see things my way. Morality, like every idea (according to Foucault) is a power struggle.

I have, also, expressed my willingness to be convinced of the truth of Christianity in such a way that circumvents the Christian charge that the unregenerate will not accept proof of god's existence because they do want to "continue in their sin."

I wrote:
But don't read this to mean that I refuse to be convinced of the "truth" of Christianity. If it can be proven that Christianity is true, I'll shout it from the roof tops.

My sermon title, however, would be, "There is a Real Son of a Bitch in Charge of This Universe; Run for Your Lives!"

In other words, I am saying that I don't need to not believe in a god to "continue in my sin." I would rebel against most notions of a god even if I believed that god existed. My "rebellion," then, need not stop me from accepting rational arguments.

So, I believe that I have said enough. It's time for the Christians to speak up. It's time for all of you to express some positive reason for me to believe in your god.

I've done what you asked of me. You have offered no challenge to my theories of logic and morality.

Now, return the favor. Give me your arguments for why your god exists.