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1511
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Topic

Moral Codes Cannot Exist In and Of Themselves Without God

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All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

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With 1 vote and 6 points ahead, the winner is ...

Ramshutu
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Philosophy
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Three days
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1758
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~ 949 / 5,000

My position is that an intrinsic moral code that outlines and defines good as an objective standard, rather than a utilitarian standard or Kantian Maxim, cannot exist without a supreme and objective outside source defining an action or mode of action as good. Your position (con) would argue against that hypothesis, and that a code of objective values CAN exist without God, OR, that a subjective system of ethical values could be as strong of a system. Additionally, the discussion of whether or not the adoption of a subjective system of ethical values, to serve a utilitarian or other function, would be interesting to make reference to, and I am completely open to switching my position if I am convinced by the argument. Additionally, this is not a religious argument, but a purely philosophical one, and should not include the invocation of, say, Biblical passages for the purpose of proving the "brutality" of the Judeo-Christian moral code.

Round 1
Pro
I thank my opponent for accepting the debate. My opening statement might mirror the description of the debate. It is of my opinion that no rational argument exists for the existence of an infallible moral system, with clear cut right and wrong (good and evil if you like) actions. I've heard new age philoposhers, such as Matt Dillahunty or Sam Hyde, put forward systems of ethics where an attainable goal is the desiredd outcome, for instance, the minimization of human suffering. Kantian Maxims have been used to give universal motive for such a system, including the idea that, for instance, you as an individual should not propagate actions which might lead to your own personal suffering, so it would be imprudent of you to participate in such actions against other people, thereby fostering a reality where should everyone act as such, you might become a victim of such actions, and therefore suffer. This argument, while logical, allows for the idea that should you know for a fact that you will not end up the victim of such suffering, classically considered immoral actions taken against someone by you would be patently acceptable, as the entire premise is built upon the mitigation of your own suffering. Can my opponent reconcile this fact, or, should my opponent disagree with the notions put forward, can my opponent introduce a system of ethics where good is inherently good, and bad is inherently bad? Additionally, can my opponent perhaps introduce a system of ethics not based upon the objective standards of a God, that would function just as strongly?
Con
I thank my opponent for this opportunity to debate this topic, hopefully this will be interesting 

The resolution and introduction 

This resolution is not whether morality or our moral system is actually objective or not - but a hypothetical question of whether it is possible to have an infallible moral system (either objective or not) without God.

Saying that, I will likely address both questions in this debate.

Note: I will use the terms morals and ethics interchangeably on this debate. I don’t believe here is enough of a difference for this to be an issue.

Definitions: 

let’s lay down some definitions,

Objective:
“based on real facts and not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings”

Subjective:
“influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts”

Arbitrary: 
“based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.”

With that said, let me start with my broad framework:

The nature of Morality

Our view of morality is shaped by two aspects. Our own moral perception of Good and bad, and our rational perception of good and bad.

Moral perceptions:

Our moral perceptions are various social emotion responses (anger, guilt, shame, disgust, outrage, empathy, etc) to a variety of different stimuli.

These are based on neural connections within the brain that appear to be learned responses. Some people do not have the ability to empathize[1], some do not have a conscience[2], and all of us have the ability for this “moral compass” to be disrupted leading to changes in our moral choices simply by having the moral Centre of our brain zapped by fun magnets[3].

In general, it appears we conceptualize an action, then using this area of moral compass, the brain uses the learned response to illicit the emotional moral response and assessment.

As the part of our brain responsible for morality learns morality, and given that it is different between individuals (EG: just look at the division in the country and world on Abortion, Homosexuality, etc[4]), and given that even one person can have their compass disrupted; it is clear that what we feel as our inherent morality is entirely subjective, anchored only by the responses learned from the group in which we live.

This is doubly confirmed through the existence of the Moral Zeitgeist - the changing moral landscape. As morality is a learned response, what is viewed as moral or not evolves over time as the next generation learn their inherent morality from their parents and their society. Great Ethical thinkers had no issues with owning slaves[5], or challenging people to duels[6]. Societies committed genocide[7] or advocated ritual suicide[8]. Things change and morality moves on. 

This demonstrates that our perception of morality is inherently subjective.

Morality itself is explainable through the lense of evolutionary necessity, while this does not appear specifically related to the resolution: I state this as a placeholder in case it becomes relevant. 

Moral assessments

While humans have a learned subjective moral compass, we nonetheless try and rationalize our ethical and moral decisions.

These are normally the intellectual moral frameworks that we attempt to rationalize objectively our inherently subjective moral compass: a utilitarian framework to minimize suffering for example.

We raise ethical questions such as various permutations the trolly problem to try and create a consistent ethical framework for which our moral intuition holds.[9]

When an ethical dilemma occurs it is because there is a mismatch between the objective method of determination and our subjective feelings.

This is important - ethical dilemmas are dilemmas because our subjective morals make something feel right or wrong when our objective method says the opposite.

The only solution to a dilemma is to either change the subjective moral compass to match the framework, or to update the framework.

Which way is “correct”? Well, that is itself subjective as it is dependent on an arbitrary choice each individual would have to make about whether to select our subjective feelings, or override them.

Judging a moral standard : Objective Morality is impossible

The premise of the debate, relates to the judging of different ethical systems and frameworks against each other. Is a system infallible? Is one better than the other?

We have only two possible ways of judging the validity of a moral standard:

Against our own subjective moral compass, Eg: “that doesn’t feel like it should be good”

Or against a set of externalized facts that can be assessed separately, Eg: “while this feels wrong, it matches these factual criteria”.

In the former scenario: the best moral framework is based on our wholly subjective moral compass - and thus the best moral framework is inherently subjective.

In the case of the latter, you are faced with an insurmountable problem: that the decision made concerning what external facts to base Good and Bad upon is necessarily subjective.

If God himself selects what external facts cause something to be Good and Bad, this is an arbitrary and subjective decision he makes. He could, potentially, chose evil things as good and good things as evil. Choosing one set of facts over another is inherently subjective on his part.

As a result: even if God himself creates morality - morality is inherently based upon Gods whim and feelings - and is such by definition subjective.

Potential moral frameworks

Given the above: we have some specific conclusions and comparisons we can make:

1.) An objective moral framework is inherently impossible.

Good and Bad are inherently subjective, and require subjective association to any external facts. This negates the resolution.

2.) An infallible system can necessarily be subjective.

Humans base the validity of a given moral framework on its inherent conformance to our moral intuitions. Ethical dilemmas occur when there is a disparity between our rational thinking and our subjective moral compass (see the trolly problem). 

A perfect framework that has no dilemmas thus would conform exactly to our subjective moral compass, or be subjectively resolved. This means that an infallible moral framework - if such a thing is even meaningful - must necessarily be subjective.

This also negates the resolution.

3.) Human and God created frameworks based on the same facts are the same.

Lets presume in this universe, that a set of facts visible to us exist, and upon which morality, Good and Bad could be anchored. When we view these facts and make moral decisions upon them, we find either no dilemmas, or we obviously adjust our moral thinking based on the fact based moral framework. These facts would present an infallible moral framework.

There would be no difference in the moral framework between God himself anchoring Good and Bad to these external facts, and a human - the moral framework would be identical.

Given the external facts in both cases would be visible to we humans, there is no valid reason to presume humans would not be able to construct a framework from these visible facts.

This means that humans would likely be able to construct the same ethical framework as God. This again, negates the resolution.

Conclusion:

Given the facts about morality presented, and the ways in which frameworks are assessed and constructed, the resolution is negated in 3 individual and independent ways.

Sources:
[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/what-a-psychopath-brain-looks-like-2015-7
[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-you-make-sociopath-through-brain-injury-trauma/?redirect=1
[3] https://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/magnet-brain-disrupt-person-moral-compass-scientists-article-1.177504
[4] https://news.gallup.com/poll/1681/moral-issues.aspx
[5] https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Founding-Fathers-and-Slavery-1269536
[6] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burr–Hamilton_duel
[7] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny
[8] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/1999/03/why-do-japanese-commit-hara-kiri.html
[9] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_dilemma



Round 2
Pro
I thank my opponent for his argument. There are a few things to unpack here, so I will attempt to address each point made chronologically.

I agree with my opponent's understanding of the resolution and introduction. In addition,
 
I agree with my opponent's definitions, however, I would addend something to the definition of objective in this specific argument; “based on real facts, and/or the dictates about a universe by an all powerful God, and not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings." 
 
There is a crucial distinction to be made here, which I will address again later, which has to do with my opponent's notion of objective. My opponent says later on in his argument,

If God himself selects what external facts cause something to be Good and Bad, this is an arbitrary and subjective decision he makes. He could, potentially, chose evil things as good and good things as evil. Choosing one set of facts over another is inherently subjective on his part.
But God de facto could not make something that is evil good, and vice versa, because God is the ultimate arbiter of the universe. Something is evil because it displeases God, not vice versa. This may seem like semantics, but it is actually a very important distinction to make. So any time when I refer to morality as objective, I am including the notion that God's will cannot be arbitrary or subjective by its very nature. It's like saying, well God make the laws of physics, but they're subjective  because God chose to make the laws of physics these specific laws, instead of other laws. It is a moot point because God is the creator of the universe and EVERYTHING that we know. There is an understanding that because God is omniscient and omnipotent, in fact creating everything that we know, the moral code he prescribes for humans is not subjective, but the correct conduct for ethics. When I say “objective” I mean infallible, non-subject to human scrutiny, and not requiring rationalization: if God tells you not to steal, you don’t have to figure out why It’s bad to steal, you just have to understand it is bad to steal. With reference to objectivity, the real questions is this: without God, why would it be bad to steal? That is the true question here.


There is another point I would like to address. My opponent says,


...and given that even one person can have their compass disrupted; it is clear that what we feel as our inherent morality is entirely subjective, anchored only by the responses learned from the group in which we live.

This is doubly confirmed through the existence of the Moral Zeitgeist - the changing moral landscape. As morality is a learned response, what is viewed as moral or not evolves over time as the next generation learn their inherent morality from their parents and their society. Great Ethical thinkers had no issues with owning slaves[5], or challenging people to duels[6]. Societies committed genocide[7] or advocated ritual suicide[8]. Things change and morality moves on.
This is another important distinction I would like to make. My argument in no way shape or form suggests that we are born with an inherent moral compass. For you are right, plenty of people are born without one, plenty never develop one, plenty of cultures have drastically differing ideas of morality, and so on. 

My point is not that we all have objective morality bestowed upon our genes at birth, but that our notion of morality makes it impossible to reconcile ethical systems that go against our values as being equally correct. If we believe something is wrong, inherently and objectively, we cannot believe it is right for someone belonging to a different culture with different ethical values, who learned those values in a certain way, to act in an immoral way according to us, and therefore see our values as objective.

You can take that argument and apply it anywhere: if you are a Christian and believe in Christ as God's Son, it would be antithetical to your religious beliefs to also allow for the notion that the Hindu God Krishna also has dominion over the earth. Either I'm right, or you're right, but we're not both right.

“This demonstrates that our perception of morality is inherently subjective.”

“While humans have a learned subjective moral compass, we nonetheless try and rationalize our ethical and moral decisions.”
My point exactly is that morality is learned, not that we may or may not be born with an intrinsic moral compass. My point is that the morality that I assume you and I share, for instance the idea that murder is inherently wrong, does not allow for the notion of some other culture’s notion of morality, specifically that murder of another person is not wrong, if you will, to also be correct, but situationally different. No, rather, we would say those people are immoral, and objectively immoral at that. We do not apply a different standard of morality to them because they come from a culture where ethical codes differ. To genuinely believe that our moral system is correct, we do not view our moral system as subjective, but objective. 

And, the kicker: the only way to apply that level of infallibility to our moral code is to attribute it to the wishes of God. Indeed I do believe our western society's core 
ethical values are rooted in the bible, but that's neither here nor there.


Finally, I'll address one more point my opponent made.

Lets presume in this universe, that a set of facts visible to us exist, and upon which morality, Good and Bad could be anchored. When we view these facts and make moral decisions upon them, we find either no dilemmas, or we obviously adjust our moral thinking based on the fact based moral framework. These facts would present an infallible moral framework.

There would be no difference in the moral framework between God himself anchoring Good and Bad to these external facts, and a human - the moral framework would be identical.

Given the external facts in both cases would be visible to we humans, there is no valid reason to presume humans would not be able to construct a framework from these visible facts.

This means that humans would likely be able to construct the same ethical framework as God. This again, negates the resolution.
I agree here that my opponent's premise is logical, but I actually do not necessarily agree with the premise. In fact, this right here is what I believe my opponent should be trying to convince me of in this debate. Can my opponent point to an actual set of facts visible to us, without God's laws, informing us that murder is inherently wrong? Indeed if the same information available to God was available to us then it is true that we might not need God. But in fact we are not omniscient, so the same information is not available to us. Just to reiterate, I would like my opponent to point to a piece of information or a fact that we know that would make it unequivocally clear that murder in and of itself is wrong. For instance, my opponent can make reference to something like the Non-Aggression Principle, but then I would ask my opponent, why is it inherently wrong to initiate aggression against someone? Does my opponent see where I am going with this?




I will leave it there for my opponent to respond to, as that was quite a bit to unpack. 




Sources:

Con
Thanks for your response, the topic is incredibly complex and interesting: and I hope my attempt to be complete and justified isn’t causing peovlems!

1.) All Morality is subjective

In the previous round, I demonstrated that what we feel as morality is inherently and by definition arbitrary and subjective. It is a learned response, not based on any external facts.

I also showed that even if God mandated some morality, this too would be inherently subjective: this morality would be based on the whims of God, anything he decided could be moral or immoral, and thus this morality too would be subjective.

My opponent offers some counter arguments to this:

1.1) Gods morality can be objective.

My opponent tries to show Gods morality is objective by changing the definition of objective:

“Based on real facts, and/or the dictates about a universe by an all powerful God, and not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings.”
Pro cannot simply redefine a word to make his argument work.

If I picked acts at random, and rolled a dice to determine if they were immoral- this would be a subjective and arbitrary moral system. If that same system was implemented by God, it too would be subjective and arbitrary. 

As a result this definition should be rejected as special pleading - pro offers no justification for why a subjective action is no longer subjective if God does it.

Pro uses the example of the laws of physics. This comparison has two problems: If God exists, the laws could be literally anything, there is no objective reason why thermodynamics should apply, or gravity has the strength it does: the values and the laws would be largely arbitrarily decided and based solely on the whim of the creator. Worse, the comparison with the laws of physics is faulty as the laws of physics can be objectively derived from observation, morality cannot. These inherent differences mean this new and arbitrary definition should be rejected.

If this is definition is rejected, then all morality is subjective and the resolution is negated.

1.2.) Source of Morality
 
In addition to this, pro also stated:

“But God de facto could not make something that is evil good, and vice versa, because God is the ultimate arbiter of the universe. Something is evil because it displeases God, not vice versa”

Pro states God cannot chose to make things good or evil. The issue here is that if God has no ability to control what is moral or not, nor what displeases him as pro suggests, then who or what does? Why is God displeases by Murder, vs pleased with Murder?

If God can chose what is moral or not, then morality is arbitrary and subjective as I stated - God could chose anything he wanted. This would negate the resolution.

If God has no power to chose what is good and bad or to control what displeases him; then he cannot be the ultimate arbiter.

In this case, pro would also be negating the resolution. If God has no control over his displeasure - whatever is responsible for making God pleased at one thing and displeased at others is the root cause of morality - and must exist without God.

1.3.) Arbitrary morality from God.

“if God tells you not to steal, you don’t have to figure out why It’s bad to steal, you just have to understand it is bad to steal. With reference to objectivity, the real questions is this: without God, why would it be bad to steal? That is the true question here.”
Pro explicitly highlights the core problem with his argument. Pro is unable to explain why stealing is really immoral under God -he is only able to explain that he has been told it is so. Pro then appears to demand that I should be able to explain why an action is truly immoral a sentence later. How can morality be objective under God if Pro is unable to provide any objective reasons why anything is specifically good or bad?

1.4) Our morality is subjective.

Pros major objection to our morality being subjective is that humans truly believe that their morality is correct and everyone else’s is wrong. We view people with different moral frameworks as “immoral”, if they do something against our own.

“To genuinely believe that our moral system is correct, we do not view our moral system as subjective, but objective.”
Pros error is easily explainable.

2+2=4 is an objective fact. Anyone who believes 2+2=5 is wrong, and it can be proven that they are wrong.

Cake is better than ice cream is a subjective fact: some will believe cake is better, some that ice cream is better. There is no way to disprove one or the other. People who believe cake is better all believe Ice creamers are all wrong - but that doesn’t make their belief objective.

Likewise, just because people think that their morality is right and everyone else’s wrong doesn’t make it objective either.

God declaring cake was better, without any reason or justification, and without us being able to rationalize that fact - would also be inherently subjective too: All that changes is the entity making the subjective judgement.

This creates a much more simpler explanation for pros statement:

“the only way to apply that level of infallibility to our moral code is to attribute it to the wishes of God.”

The more obvious way to apply that level of infallibility to your moral code, is if you’re wrong about it being infallible.

Cake is not better than ice cream - I just subjectively believe it is.

1.5.) Morality can never be objective.

The issue Pro has, as I outlined in my previous round, is that in ANY moral system, the definition of Good and Bad is defined by that system.

Outside that system, Good and Bad have no objective meaning. To create the system one must assign meaning to Good and Bad - which is necessarily arbitrary and subjective if Good and Bad don’t yet exist.

This clearly negates the resolution.

I challenge my opponent to resolve this paradox. Thus far he has attempted to resolve this paradox by changing the definition of the word “Objective” (invalid) and by implicitly moving the root source of morality to something external to God (negates the resolution).

2.) An “infallible” subjective system.

Points 2 and 3 in my original argument were closely related - I will amalgamate them here now that Pro has elaborated on his system to allow specific comparison of models.

To negate the resolution - I have to show that a subjective moral system can be as good, or “as strong” as an objective one.

I’m going to use evolutionary morality as a comparison, I will explain this: then compare it to Pros model. This will deal with the latter half of pros argument, though I have not quoted it directly in order to stay as in topic as I can.

2.1.) Evolutionary Morality Model

Individual Social animals depend on the group to survive. If the group dies, they die. However evolution generally favours individual selfishness to maximize individual survival.

In a social scenario, there is an evolutionary advantage to conforming to the group standard: to allow the group to more work as one, without individuals being disruptive and lowering the chances of survival for all.

In Humans and other mammals, social emotions and consciences evolved to force this conformance to prevent behaviour that is detrimental to that social group. We refer to this as morality. 

This system nominally boils down to utilitarianism with enlightened self interest. Harm to individuals and the society is minimized.

2.2.) “More objective” than pros system 

For the moment, let’s presume Pros description of Objective Morality is valid.

In 1.3, I highlighted that pro is unable to explain why given actions are immoral, only that they are.

In this model, I am able to explain, in objective terms, referencing external facts why murder feels immoral, and am able to quantify it.

In this case, this moral system appears more objective - more based on external facts - than pros system.

In this way, even if one accepts pros definition of objective - this subjective system clearly allows good and bad to be better objectively explained better than his own system. 

This in it’s own right explains why pros definition of objective is largely meaningless.

This shows that such an subjective system is preferable to pros objective system; and thus negate the resolution.

2.3) At worst - it is indistinguishable from Pros system

Let’s imagine that morality is objective in this universe and proscribed inherently from God as pro suggests - the Good and Bad we feel today are defined by Gods fiat.

Let’s also imagine an identical universe in which there is no God, and morality has evolved as described.

In both systems, individuals would feel that their morality is correct, both would feel adamant that they are correct.

In this case there would be no functional difference between this objective morality with God and subjective morality without.

As the two systems would appear identical; there is no possible basis upon which to classify one better than the other. 

This would negated the resolution.

2.4.) Morality has meaning in the evolutionary system.

Due to the evolutionary origin - the model I have presented is the inevitable consequence of our evolutionary history. In this regard this inherent moral code is factually necessary.

In pros model - God may arbitrarily chose what pleases him or not (remember in 1.2 I highlighted that if this is not the case, morality is external to God and the resolution is negated).

Due to this, in my evolutionary model - theft and murder being immoral is necessary. It would not be possible to evolve a social moral system where murder is always acceptable due to it inherently being disfavoured.

In pros model, there is no inherent necessity for those things to be immoral. God could make these things acceptable or not on his own whim.

As this subjective evolutionary moral code is necessary, where as in Pros moral fiat - it is not inherently necessary.

2.5.) Easier to follow than pros system

As the subjective system is largely quantifiable, anyone can follow it. It doesn’t require religious revelation, or access to a Bible, or other holy book. It can be applied on a day to day basis without issue.

No decision in this subjective framework is inherently arbitrary - the framework falls down to harm to others that can be quantified: with only complex issues and dilemmas that pair off multiple harms being hard to resolve.

As in pros objective model, morality is defined by fiat - it is not possible to determine the morality of a given act that is not already quantified by fiat.

If I engage in some unknown action: call it Florentraction - is this action immoral? 

Pro will not be able to tell me, as he cannot explain why given acts are moral or not.

However, in I will be able to implicitly quantify the immorality of that act solely by knowing the impact and harm on others.

3.) How does pro want to measure moral frameworks?

This is a key relates question for pro. If he has his “objective” moral framework, how would he even tell one was better than another?

What is his criteria for better? In section 2 I outlined that an evolutionary system is more objective and more necessary than from God. How would he compare frameworks:

Comparing against our own subjective judgement is inherently subjective - as it assumes that our own subjective fallible morality is the most perfect. Worse: two individuals would have different measures if perfect meaning that there is inherently no objective “best” or “most infallible” standard.

Comparing one standard against another isn’t possible - this is inherently begging the question by assuming that one standard is arbitrarily perfect - then arguing nothing else is perfect.

Because of this, with or without objective morality or subjective morality - there is no overall best or better frameworks - as a result, all frameworks define good and bad as perfectly as any other.

Summary and conclusion.

In section 1, I outlined the logical errors pro make. Pro is proposing an arbitrary, unjustified moral framework for which he cannot explain why one act is immoral or not. 

To justify this arbitrary and subjective framework - pro simply defines it as such through special pleading.

Pro is unable to explain why his system is better, more moral or more objective - he simply defines it as such.

In reality: pros moral framework either transcends God, or is inherently subjective.

Both inherently refute the resolution.

In part 2, I outline a specific moral framework: and explain how this not only is it objectively possible and necessary, but also objectively more based on facts, easier to follow, more objectively meaningful and that, at worst it is indistinguishable from pros system.

These clearly destroy pros contention that an intrinsic moral code cannot exist without God, either objective or subjective by showing how the subjective system is inherently more objective than with God.














Round 3
Pro
I thank my opponent for his argument.

I will simply start this round by quoting my opponent:


"Pro cannot simply redefine a word to make his argument work.

If I picked acts at random, and rolled a dice to determine if they were immoral- this would be a subjective and arbitrary moral system. If that same system was implemented by God, it too would be subjective and arbitrary. 

As a result this definition should be rejected as special pleading - pro offers no justification for why a subjective action is no longer subjective if God does it."

I believe my opponent misinterpreted here what I meant by objective with reference to God. If you consider God as an actor within the universe, making decisions about morality, then morality is subjective. However, if you understand God to be transcendent with respect to the universe, in that he created it and everything in it, and the laws that the universe follows, including laws concerning human morality, then you can attribute objectivity. You can replace the word “God” if you like with the word “universe”, or something of the sort. Perhaps if I rephrase an argument I made in the previous round; with God, and specifically the Judeo-Christian God, the act of cold blooded murder of another human being is an objective negative in the eyes of the universe, regardless of consequences. Even if you were certain you’d face no repercussions, and/or you were certain that act would foster a behavior in society that would lead to you being murdered, or any other stipulation, it would still be a net negative in the eyes of the universe, objectively. By contrast, without God, the murder of another human being would have no bearing on the universe, and would simply be a neutral sequence of events that one clump of molecules initiated against another clump of molecules. It may be subjectively a negative action to the victim of the murder, but to the universe it would have no bearing. 

A minor point; my opponent says
“Worse, the comparison with the laws of physics is faulty as the laws of physics can be objectively derived from observation, morality cannot. These inherent differences mean this new and arbitrary definition should be rejected.”
The laws of morality can be observed, as we are given morality in the Bible.


“Pro explicitly highlights the core problem with his argument. Pro is unable to explain why stealing is really immoral under God -he is only able to explain that he has been told it is so. Pro then appears to demand that I should be able to explain why an action is truly immoral a sentence later. How can morality be objective under God if Pro is unable to provide any objective reasons why anything is specifically good or bad?”

Here I have not highlighted the problem with my argument at all, but in a way re-asked the question posed to my opponent in the description. If I accept, as I do, that God’s will is supreme, then I need not reason my way to an understanding of it. I accept that his laws and will are supreme as he is God the omniscient, and therefore must only choose whether or not to follow them. My opponent on the other hand insists that systems of morality may be found through reason and logic, and therefore the onus is inherently on him to provide a reason or logic for a certain system.


“Pros error is easily explainable.

2+2=4 is an objective fact. Anyone who believes 2+2=5 is wrong, and it can be proven that they are wrong.

Cake is better than ice cream is a subjective fact: some will believe cake is better, some that ice cream is better. There is no way to disprove one or the other. People who believe cake is better all believe Ice creamers are all wrong - but that doesn’t make their belief objective.

Likewise, just because people think that their morality is right and everyone else’s wrong doesn’t make it objective either.”

There are two points to address here. Firstly, the idea of morality is akin to the arithmetic problem, not to one’s opinion of cake. Systems of morality, secular or religious, do not claim that they only think murder is wrong, and if someone else thinks murder is not wrong, then so be it. The issue of morality is akin to the issue of religion; it may be my opinion that the christian bible is correct, but for me to do so, I must assert that it is correct, objectively, and that no other religions are correct. For me to genuinely believe in in a moral system or a God, and yes I use the word believe, then I must attribute objectivity to that system or religion. This is inherently different from my opponent’s example of cake, as to assert one’s opinion of cake is to at the same time understand the personal subjectivity of taste, and so that claim in itself has no root in the nature of the universe.

Secondly, my opponent and I are still not agreeing on what it means for something to be objective. Let me put it in simpler terms; grass is green. Someone who has visual impairment might perceive grass to be orange, but that does not change the objective nature of grass’s color. Additionally, claiming that God chose to make grass green, and so that decision is subjective, is again a moot point, as God made grass green, and so it is objectively green, just the same as the morality given to us by God in the Bible is objective.



“In this model, I am able to explain, in objective terms, referencing external facts why murder feels immoral, and am able to quantify it.

In this case, this moral system appears more objective - more based on external facts - than  pros system.”

Again, as I have stated, I am not averse to accepting a reasoned through system of morality, if it is presented to me. In my estimation, no philosophers have been able to push past the bedrock problem of morality, which is that in a vacuum, with no consequences, there is no objective reason murder is bad.


“Let’s imagine that morality is objective in this universe and proscribed inherently from God as pro suggests - the Good and Bad we feel today are defined by Gods fiat.

Let’s also imagine an identical universe in which there is no God, and morality has evolved as described.

In both systems, individuals would feel that their morality is correct, both would feel adamant that they are correct.

In this case there would be no functional difference between this objective morality with God and subjective morality without.

As the two systems would appear identical; there is no possible basis upon which to classify one better than the other. 

This would negated the resolution.”

This is a very interesting argument, however in my estimation the comparison is not correct at all. In fact my opponent is correct that there would be no functional difference between the two systems, but what I asked my opponent to prove is something very specific. I asked my opponent not to appeal to pragmatism, in that there are many “just” functions of an ethical code that may serve a purpose very well (see Kant’s Categorical Imperative). Rather I asked my opponent to demonstrate to me, sans purpose or function, how (and indeed why) a moral system would objectively outline the correct and incorrect conduct for humans to engage in, regardless of function, consequences, etc. My opponent has failed to do so thus far, and instead claimed that the burden is upon me to explain God’s logic behind his decrees concerning ethics.

My opponent goes on to say that

“[a]s the subjective system is largely quantifiable, anyone can follow it. It doesn’t require religious revelation, or access to a Bible, or other holy book. It can be applied on a day to day basis without issue.

No decision in this subjective framework is inherently arbitrary - the framework falls down to harm to others that can be quantified: with only complex issues and dilemmas that pair off multiple harms being hard to resolve.”

It seems here that my opponent is arguing past me, or perhaps misunderstands what I am asking him to prove. As I have previously said, my claim is not that humans might have some barrier precluding them from subscribing to a reasoned through system of ethics, or that there might not be logical reasons or attainable goals to be sought through such systems, but rather that at bedrock, such systems have no objective authority over ethical conduct, and that in a vacuum, these systems fall flat in their logic.

My opponent says;

“If I engage in some unknown action: call it Florentraction - is this action immoral? 

Pro will not be able to tell me, as he cannot explain why given acts are moral or not.

However, in I will be able to implicitly quantify the immorality of that act solely by knowing the impact and harm on others.”

This is also a false parallel, as just like the way my opponent will be able to quantify the immorality of that act by measuring its impact on others, so can the Bible give reference to any act, relating it to other acts of the same or similar nature, that you can in turn surmise would be immoral. Any action that would be able to have its morality interpreted by a secular system of morality could by the same logic have its morality understood through the Bible.

With reference the judgment of moral frameworks, and ascertaining which one is “better”, there is no need. I am not actually certain what my opponent means by this, as I have stated clearly that morality does not exist in gradients; you’re correct, or you’re incorrect.

“Because of this, with or without objective morality or subjective morality - there is no overall best or better frameworks - as a result, all frameworks define good and bad as perfectly as any other.” 

Here my opponent is failing to recognize the fundamental issue at hand. While two systems may define good and bad as perfectly as each other within the framework of the system, secular systems cannot fundamentally define good as universally good, because in those systems, good is fundamentally ascertained with reference to other humans. I can give examples, but for brevity’s sake, can my opponent provide me with an example of an evil defined by a secular system (evil here meaning a negative action considered immoral by a particular secular ethical system), and the reason that it is evil? If my opponent does this then I can address that specifically, rather than myself providing counterarguments to my argument, such as with reference to Kant’s categorical imperative.

My opponent’s refutes (which I believe I have addressed in this round) nevertheless do not provide an example of an intrinsic moral code (in his words) once in his arguments. I ask that in addition to addressing my arguments, my opponent present a system of ethics based on reason and/or logic, with clearly defined moral and immoral (good and evil) acts that he would be able to defend the objective nature of.

Con
I’m going to cover some pieces a little out of turn here. And start off with some points about the framework I presented

1.) Subjective moral framework

As per the terms of the debate, the resolution states that to win, I may show 

“Your position (con) would argue against that hypothesis, and that a code of objective values CAN exist without God, OR, that a subjective system of ethical values could be as strong of a system”
This means, if I show a subjective framework is as good, or as effective as pros example, then I win this debate. 

Additionally, if I show a framework does not require God but is itself objective or as objective - then again, I also win this debate.

In the previous rounds I described my moral framework. I showed this framework - at worst - was functionally the same as pros.

I showed this framework was necessary - in that it would need to exist if humans exist, that it was more “objective” than pros system: that it was based on external facts and information, and was easier to follow.

These points were all essentially conceded by pro, so voters should accept them as truth.

This framework negates the resolution and thus wins this debate in multiple ways:

1.1.) “Functionally identical”

Pro concedes that the subjective morality model I have put forward - at the very worst - is functionality identical to his model of objective morality.

I also covered additional methods of measuring a subjective moral system in section 2.4. Pro hasn’t contested these either.

If such a system is functionality identical, it would necessarily be as effective, as strong and as good as pros moral system.

This implicitly concedes the construct of this debate as I showed that by any reasonable measure, this system would be as good and as a effective as an objective one.

Instead of sticking with the resolution as specified: pro states that even if a subjective moral system is as strong as an objective one; It must also be able to objectively outline the correct and incorrect moral behaviour for humans to engage in.

This is specified no where in the resolution and thus is clearly moving the goalposts.

1.2.) The only fault pro finds is a “lack of a why”.

Pros only protest against the strength of my framework is that it doesn’t implicitly or explicitly tell you why Murder is wrong.

This implicitly the same objection he had on the first implicit concession, and is moving the goal posts.

But again, as I spelt out; even if that were true - pro can’t give me a reason why murder is wrong in his framework either. 

So given this, his own moral framework would itself fail under the specific requirements pro places on a subjective framework. 

This shows Pro has no valid objection to evolutionary morality as a subjective moral framework without holding the two frameworks to explicitly different standards.

1.3.) Why is murder wrong.

Pro argues that in an evolutionary morality framework, I am unable to objectively why murder is wrong.

Firstly as stated this is moving the goal posts.

Secondly, it’s false.

“Wrong” is the name we give to the emotional response and weighting our moral compass generates when our conscious mind asks a ethical question.

This moral compass learns morality from early age, and has evolved over time to foster the survival of a social group by generating an innate system to check deleterious behaviour of individuals within that group.

Murder elicits that emotional response in almost all humans, as it is almost invariably deleterious to any social group. As such, our evolved moral compass has been tuned through social learning to associate that deleterious action with the “wrong” emotional response.

This description is based on facts, is not arbitrary, is necessary, and is not based on feelings and emotions.

This is clear and objective explanation and definition of “why murder is wrong”. And refutes even pros moved goal posts.

This may not be an answer that is satisfactory to pro - but it is assuredly the answer he asked for, and an answer that clearly meets his criteria for refuting the resolution.

1.4.) But is it “universally wrong”

Pro may seek to move the goalposts again by asking why it’s “universally wrong”?

The obvious answer is why does a subjective moral system even need to demonstrate that murder is universally wrong - rather than wrong for humans - in order to be strong or as good as an objective system?

Pro doesn’t say why this is required: What harm does morality being non universal have in the context of the resolution? Why is this a necessary requirement of his framework?

Clearly none.

This is part of pros approach and is inherently invoking some arbitrary standard, and is implicitly a no true Scotsman fallacy. That only HIS moral standard is truly objective, and even though the ones presented clearly match all terms and definitions, pro argues it’s not a true effectively moral standard.

1.5.) It is an objective moral standard 

In addition to all the above; the moral standard I presented is based on facts, it is not arbitrary, it is necessary, and it is not based on feelings and emotions. 

It defines why murder is wrong, and how it’s wrong, and even why morality exists.

This clearly meets the standard of “objective” provided and thus defeats the resolution pro sets out in his description.

2.) Objective Morality doesn’t exist.

As I showed in my first two rounds, objective morality cannot exist.

This refutes the resolution implicitly by showing that no morality can be objective - not even God

2.1.) Gods moral decision is subjective.

The logic here is simple.

In the previous round, I established that God must be able to define what is moral or not. If not, then the standard to which God is held exists external to God - and thus meets the criteria pro set out in the debate description of an objective system existing without God and negates the resolution. Pro drops this point.

This means pro must concede that God defines morality based on his feelings and desires. He defines Good and Bad to be as he wants

Subjective is defined as:

“influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts”

When God created morality, God must clearly base his decisions in his personal beliefs or feelings rather than on external facts - thus meets the definition of subjective.

This fully negates the resolution.

As spelt out in Round 2, pros only response here is to try and change the definition of objective. 

2.2.) Is a dictate a fact?

“If you consider God as an actor within the universe, making decisions about morality, then morality is subjective. However, if you understand God to be transcendent with respect to the universe, in that he created it and everything in it, and the laws that the universe follows, including laws concerning human morality, then you can attribute objectivity”
Pro highlights here the prime objection he has to all morality being subjective.

Let’s assume first that there is  a transcendent God  that exists outside of the universe. Pro concludes that this would make his moral dictates objective.

Why?

If God is basing his moral definitions on his personal feelings, and beliefs rather than facts - then morality is by definition subjective. Being inside, outside or transcendent of the universe doesn’t suddenly change the inherent fact that Morality is, by definition based on his feelings, not on facts.

The reason why murder is inherently wrong is either based on objective facts or it isn’t. 

If pro can’t provide an external factual basis as to why murder is wrong in your moral system - then pro can’t show his system is truly objective and the resolution is refuted.

Pros defence is that not that he can explain why murder is immoral - it’s that he simply doesn’t ask any questions - that is neither a strong, nor good basis for determine whether a moral framework is valid.

2.3.) Special Pleading 

As shown in 2.2, Gods morality is inherently subjective by definition. As shown in 1.2 - pro is unable to explain why murder is wrong (only that God says its wrong).

Pro doesn’t seek to explain morality, or the conditions, but simply invents a middle man to explain how morality can exist objectively.

As covered above, if I claim murder is immoral under my framework - pro asks why. If I can’t answer (I can), pro concludes his moral framework is superior.

Pros framework is that he claimed murder is immoral under his framework - if I ask why, pro answers “because God said so”, if I ask “why does God declare murder is immoral”, pro can’t answer: but claims his moral framework is nonetheless superior.

Even if pro is correct in his assessment of the moral system I presented - that I can’t show why murder is immoral (he’s not), the framework inherently suffers from exactly the same problem - pro simply references a middle man - the Homunculus - whom he declares exempt from the same scrutiny.

Why is God exempt from the meaning of subjective? How can pro hold up this profoundly arbitrary system as somehow superior or stronger? Pros reasoning and standard here is clearly arbitrary and should be rejected.

This leads us to the final point on this topic:

2.4.) What exactly is pro claiming is objective?

We both agree that murder is immoral. Pro claims that his claim is objective. As explained, by definition this is not true as explained.

The only thing that is objective would be that there is a command, not what is being  commanded.

The laws of physics are different, they are objective in the sense that they are physical and unambiguous. There is no nebulous “right or wrong”. We don’t struggle with a physical dilemma of whether an electron moves left or right in a positive electric field. They are in essence a description of what verifiably happens.

Morality is not like that. What God wants cannot be inherently deduced from the universe - pro asserts that the Bible counts as an independent deduction - which is absurd the Bible is apparently from God, it is not independent. 

If there was an alien that never read the Bible and had never seen the English language written down - he would never be able to externally deduce that murder is inherently wrong. They could most assuredly deduce E=mc^2, F=MA, or any other principle of the objective laws of physics. 

This is Because the laws of physics are factual and objective, and morality is inherently subjective - even if commanded by God.

Pro uses the example of Green. Light objectively exists, light can be objectively measured to have a wavelength of 520-540nm. Green is not a concept or a principle: green is the name we give for something  that light that exists.

A blind person could be able to objectively deduce that a tree is green, by measuring the light coming from it, and determining that the light falls into a particular category.

The same cannot be said of morality in pros system, right and wrong are not simply labels for objectively measurable or an independently deducible property of the universe: they are unverifiable premises that you must rely upon an authority in order to establish. There is no equivalent of a physical, measurable wavelength than can be given a name in pros moral system.

This is what makes Gods morality subjective, it doesn’t fall down onto anything objectively verifiable or any specific fact - it falls down to an arbitrary command based on belief.

That’s the key. 

If aliens visited (that was ignorant of the Bible and God), and we explained our moral frameworks to him:

A.) What is right and wrong is divinely commanded by a supreme creator.

B.) What is right and wrong is an evolved emotional response to constrain or promote negative / positive social behaviours.

Given these frameworks: the alien would not be able to deduce what is right and wrong in pros “objective framework”, but would most definitely be able to work out that murder was wrong in the subjective framework.

This demonstrates that objective morality as pro describes it is obviously not objective at all. Pro confuses the existence of a command with what is being commanded.

3.) No valid standard

As mostly covered, pro is underpinning his arguments with the following errors.

I showed in 1.) that Pro keeps moving the goal posts. In addition, as pro seems to be using an undefined and arbitrary standard to judge any framework presented, his objections fall under the umbrella of a no-true-Scotsman Fallacy.

Take for example, that I have met the terms of the debate by producing a subjective framework that matches the resolution. I showed it’s factual, explains morality, it explains why things are good and bad, and is an intrinsic moral code as it is both necessary and innate to humans.

Pro argues, however, that it’s not a true intrinsic moral code:

“[my opponent] nevertheless [does]not provide an example of an intrinsic moral code.
Pro also argues that a subjective moral system that applies to all humans and is as strong as an objective one is not a truly strong moral framework as:

“good is fundamentally ascertained with reference to other humans”
He also argues that a subjective system that inherently controls and constrains human behaviour as well as an objective system is not a truly valid moral system because.

“such systems have no objective authority over ethical conduct”

Pro does this throughout, it appears clear that pro is not adhering to the resolution - but is simply rejecting any moral system that falls short of being one that is a moral command by God.

Most importantly - Pro doesn’t explain or describe why any of his judgements or burdens he is arguing for are inherently necessary.

Why does a moral standard need to be universal? As opposed to specific to humans?

Why is not being able to explain exactly why a moral command is inherently “good” or “bad” inherently meaningful?

Pro is essentially applying his own arbitrary standard, and rejecting anything that falls short of that standard - not because the subjective morality is not as strong - but because he arbitrarily declares it as such.

This arbitrary standard should be rejected. And voters should uphold the resolution: which has clearly been negated.

4.) Dropped and uncontested points 

Pro drops his argument that Morality is objective because people believe it is correct.

Pro drops all the objective benefits the subjective system has over his objective one. Including that morality has specific meaning in the subjective system but not his, and that it subjective morality is inherently necessary (and therefore not arbitrary)

Pro does not contest my outline for comparing moral frameworks.

Pro does not contest my interpretation of what my burden is outlined in the previous two rounds. 

Pro does not contest my characterization of our morality I outlined in R1, nor does he object to my demonstration that the evolutionary framework fully explains our morality today.

I extend all these points onto the next round.

Round 4
Pro
Forfeited
Con
I extend all arguments, and will provide a summary for voters in the final round.


Round 5
Pro
Forfeited
Con
As my opponent has not offered another argument, I will summarize the debate for voters.

1.) All morality is subjective - even morality from God.

I explained how morality from God is based on Gods feelings, and is not itself dependent on objective facts. I showed how there is no physical fact, property or principle that can be objectively referenced as there is with colour, or any law that can be objectively deduced to determine morality.

Pro simply attempted to change the definition of objective to work around this.

I also showed that an infallible moral system is an inherently meaningless statement - as it is not possible to measure or compare a moral system - as the goodness you are measuring the system by is inherently defined by that system.

As a result, pros position that a system of objective morality can be provided by God is refuted - as such a system is not possible even WITH God.

2.) Evolutionary Morality.

I presented an example of an intrinisic moral code. This code is evolved to constrain deleterious behaviour in social organisms, and exists as a learned moral compass in most humans.

In rounds 2 and 3, I showed how this system was necessary (if it didn’t exist, it would need to evolve), more objective (as it is based upon external measurable facts), is easier to follow without access to pre-existing information, has more inherent meaning than Gods morality and is at best functionally identical.

Pro conceded or dropped all these points. And responded solely by moving the goal posts, and engaging in a no-true-Scotsman fallacy.

I then showed how this morality could be objectively deduce what is moral without being told in my system, while Gods cannot, that it is inherently objective - as it is based on external facts, and that crucially it meets all of pros criteria for being an objective, intrinsic moral code by showing it can explain specifically why Murder is bad whereas by his own admission his system cannot.

My opponent has no response to any of these points

This establishes my position and negates  the resolution as it shows:
“that a code of objective values CAN exist without God”
Or, if one does not accept that it is objective:
“that a subjective system of ethical values could be as strong of a system.”
It also clearly refutes the resolution title
“Moral Codes Cannot Exist In and Of Themselves Without God”

On all these grounds, this debate clearly warrants a vote for con.