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Cooper's Philosophical Blunders
June 21, 2012 Kurt Jaros

Cooper's Philosophical Blunders

Posted in Forum Post

Cathy Cooper has written a case against Christianity here.  In it she presents objections to the kalam cosmological argument, the moral argument, Christianity’s unique claims, and Jesus’s divinity.  Today, I’ll deal with the first two.

Kalam Cosmological Argument:

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2) The universe began to exist
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause

Cooper presents two objections here.  First, it presumes too much. Second, “if we assume the universe was caused by a god, that god would not necessarily be the Christian god.”

Regarding the first, I really don’t see how it presumes too much. It is tautologically obvious that whatever begins to exist has a cause.  So, no presumption there.  And there is no presumption needed for thinking that the universe began to exist.  Both scientific and philosophical arguments attest to the second premise being true. So, no presumption there either.  Perhaps Cooper just doesn’t like the valid conclusion that it leads to, or perhaps she is addressing the lengthier version of the argument (which she doesn’t mention).

Regarding the second, the Kalam argument doesn’t seek to answer which God created the universe.  So her objection that the Creator could be Zeus or any other god(s) is just a rhetorical red herring.

Moral Argument:

1) If God does not exist, then objective morals do not exist.
2) Objective morals do exist.
3) Therefore, God exists.

Cooper thinks,

This argument commits the fallacy of necessity as it assumes that objective moral values are contingent on a god existing, when this is not necessarily so. No gods or goddesses for that matter are required for morality to exist, as ethics and morals in reality come from Normative Ethical Theories such as Utilitiarianism–which means doing what is right for the overall good.

Here she is just missing the point.  As she quoted Wartick, objective moral values here means that an ethical truth is true even if nobody believes it to be true.  So to reply by saying that, ‘Well, we know morals come from utilitarianism,’ is to merely offer an alternative theory. It’s not addressing the supposed problems of moral argument.  And her objection that God-contingent objective moral values are not necessarily true is a difficult task to prove.  In fact, many philosophers have tried to ground moral truths in the natural world but have failed.  So I’d like for her to show me how objective moral truths can exist devoid of a deity that grounds the truths.

Also, she tries to object to divine command theory.

The Divine Command theory in ethics states that whatever god says is right is right–in this case the Christian god Yahweh– which would mean the slaughter of innocent children, pregnant women and their unborn fetuses would be considered right. If this is the case then, there is no standard for good, as murder would be considered “good.” Therefore, true objective morality cannot come from such a god.

Again, she’s missing the point.  Murder wouldn’t be considered ‘good,’ because the God-given commands illustrate God’s justice.  Therefore the killing isn’t unjust, and considered murder.  Rather, we call this capital punishment.  She appears to be having trouble operating under conditional statements. For, if it is true that God exists and if it is true that God grounds ethical truths, then unjust killing is murder and it is wrong.  And if it were true that God told someone to kill someone, then God has morally sufficient reasons for telling someone to do so (given his moral-grounding attribute(s) in conjunction with his omniscience and omnipotence).

To close, I’d like to turn Cooper’s objection around on her. How can she actually say that true objective morality cannot come from such a god?  How can she know this?  Maybe she thinks objective ethics is such an absurd notion that she couldn’t believe it.  But still, if it is absurd and outlandish, it’s still true (if the moral argument is true).  So if the moral argument is true, she’ll just have to face reality, whether she wants to or not.

Or perhaps she thinks objective morality can’t come from God because of her belief that babies are innocent and killing them is unjust.  But on Cooper’s account of ethics, why should we think she is right if she is merely socially conditioned or evolutionarily conditioned (according to the utilitarianism she advocates) to think that babies are innocent and that killing innocent persons is unjust?  Her ethical view isn’t grounded in objective truth.  All Cooper has to do is to step outside of her own shoes to see how her own objections, if true, presupposes an objective ethical code.

For more info on the moral argument and divine command theory, check out the Euthyphro dilemma.

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