Harris vs Lane - Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural?


Posts: 1
United States
4 months ago
February 06, 2018

Objective moral values and duties – binding independent of opinion

You can watch a video of the debate here:

 

A Transcript of the debate here

 

St. Anselm’s argument

 

 

Causal win examples for Round 1

For Craig –

“if there is no free will, then no one is morally responsible for anything!” won the round because it invalidates objective moral values and duties. It shows how it’s logically impossible to have morals in nature because in Harris’s argument, we aren’t controlling our actions.

 

For Harris -

“So on the one hand, her moral scruples were very finely calibrated to recoil from the slightest perceived misstep in ethical terms in our War on Terror; and yet she was quite willing to forgive some primitive culture its fondness for removing the eyeballs of children in its religious rituals” won the round because it exposes flawed supernatural morals. Listing an objective evil act as moral because of commandments of the supernatural is why natural morals are superior objectively to supernatural morals.


Posts: 2
United States
4 months ago
February 06, 2018

Detailed win examples for Round 1
For Craig -
Points
Point #A - St. Anselm argument - God existence = moral values
#A1 Craig - “God’s own holy and loving nature provides the absolute standard against which all actions are measured.”
#A2 Harris – “her moral scruples were very finely calibrated … in ethical terms in our War on Terror; and yet she was quite willing to forgive some primitive culture its fondness for removing the eyeballs of children in its religious rituals”

Craig’s #A1 gets 8 points because the St. Anselm argument proves that god must be the moral standard to which we all adhere. If god exists, the St. Anselm argument alone proves that he is the moral standard by which we must all be judged.
Harris’s #A2 gets 3 points because Harris attempts to define god by one religion which Craig has already condemned. Religion is not in the resolution of the debate. The reason this gets low points is because the debate is about natural vs supernatural not natural vs religion so Harris isn’t addressing the debate.

#B Commandments - God existence = moral duties
#B1 Craig – “God’s commandments must be consistent with His holy and loving nature.”
#B2 Harris – “If we should do anything in this universe, if we ought to do anything, if we have a moral duty to do anything, it’s to avoid the worst possible misery for everyone.”

Craig’s #B1 gets 10 points because the commandments show a clearly defined set of moral duties. If moral duties can’t clearly be defined then they don’t count as duties.
Harris’s #B2 gets 1 point because this is uselessly vague and non-committal. Harris shows here that he isn’t even certain if we have a moral duty to do anything, and the duty that he does define is both subjective and broad.

 #C God non-existence = immoral values
#C1 Craig – “On a naturalistic view moral values are just the behavioral byproducts of biological evolution and social conditioning.”
#C2 Harris – “Well clearly they’ve been drummed into us by evolution. They’re the product of these apish urges and social emotions; and then they get modulated by culture.”

Craig’s #C1 gets 9 points because he shows moral values aren’t objective they are just social. If naturalist morals are a social construct then different societies will have different morals, and therefore morals would not be objective, but subjective.
Harris’s #C2 gets 2 points because it concedes that morals are just apish urges. As above if morals are subjective, then they will change, and that invalidates them as objective.

#D Wellbeing =/= morals values
#D1 Craig – “Dr. Harris isn’t really talking about moral values at all. He’s just talking about what’s conducive to the flourishing of sentient life on this planet. … Of course, it [science] can–just as it can tell us what is conducive to the flourishing of corn or mosquitoes or bacteria.”
#D2 Harris – “Questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, depend upon minds. … They depend upon the laws of nature in some way. Morality and human values, therefore, can be understood through science, because in talking about these things, we are talking about all of the facts that influence the well-being of conscious creatures.”

Craig’s #D1 gets 7 points because it shows how wellbeing does not equate to morals. If wellbeing equates to survival then as survival changes, then morals must change as well, and would therefore not be objective.
Harris’s #D2 gets 1 point because again he concedes that he doesn’t understand the interrelationship of his own argument. There is no reason to listen to an argument where the speaker has to say they are “dependent in some way”. It’s like Harris is just admitting that he can’t prove what his argument is, and he wants us to believe something he doesn’t believe/understand.

#E No moral obligations in animals
#E1 Craig – “When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female, it forcibly copulates with her but it doesn’t rape her–for none of these actions is forbidden or obligatory.”
#E2 Harris – Drops this argument

Craig’s #E1 gets 9 points because it shows a lack of morals in conscious creatures. Both Craig and Harris agree that morals are independent of opinion and therefore conscious creatures having no moral obligations shows that Harris’s point is invalid, and Harris just lets the point drop with no rebuttal.

 #F “ought” implies “can”
#F1 Craig – “if there is no free will, then no one is morally responsible for anything!”
#F2 Harris – Drops this argument

Craig’s #F1 gets 10 points because it removes moral responsibility. If we can’t control ourselves then morals don’t matter, and again Harris drops this argument with no rebuttal.

#G Religion can be bad
#G1 Craig - “If only one person in the world held down a terrified, struggling, screaming little girl, cut off her genitals with a septic blade, and sewed her back up, … the only question would be how severely that person should be punished. …”[2] What is not in question is that such a person has done something horribly, objectively, wrong.”
#G2 Harris - “So on the one hand, her moral scruples were very finely calibrated to recoil from the slightest perceived misstep in ethical terms in our War on Terror; and yet she was quite willing to forgive some primitive culture its fondness for removing the eyeballs of children in its religious rituals.”

Craig’s #G1 gets 7 points it defeats Harris’s point. Craig has agreed that religion has caused some objectively horrible actions, but religion is not what is being debated, god is, and with Craig’s #A1 and this statement he proves that supernatural does not equal religion.
Harris’s #G2 gets 0 points as it’s a cheap trick. It’s easy to see why Harris wants to change the debate from god to religions so that he can point out the horrors of religions which Craig has already agreed to, but that is a cheap trick, and awards no points because it’s not part of the debate.

#H Yahweh is immoral
#H1 Craig – “He is by nature loving, generous, faithful, kind, and so forth.”
#H2 Harris – “Yahweh is perfectly fond of genocide, and slavery, and human sacrifice.”

Craig’s #H1 gets 2 points it does not address Harris’s issues with the old testament. While god is loving, and kind by nature, Craig should have addressed these topics from the bible.
Harris’s #H2 gets 7 points as it shows that Yahweh might not always be moral. Craig should have addressed this point better as I feel like it would have been easy for him to show these are due to free will rather than god’s will, but as they were not addressed Harris shows Yahweh to have negative traits and it wasn’t well refuted in the debate.

#I Worst possible misery – minimum standard of moral goodness
This was addressed in #D but I will go on to say that this only shows one point of morality, and that makes this a weak argument for naturalistic morality.

#J Taliban is still bad
This was addressed in #A but Harris still tries to use it against Craig again.

#K Defining wellbeing … somewhat
#K1 Craig – (see D1)
#K2 Harris – “The distinction between a healthy person and a dead one is about as clear


Posts: 3
United States
4 months ago
February 06, 2018

#K Defining wellbeing … somewhat
#K1 Craig – (see D1)
#K2 Harris – “The distinction between a healthy person and a dead one is about as clear and consequential as any we ever make in science.”

This is a revamp of #D with Harris again trying to “prove” naturalistic morals by showing only one point of defining wellbeing, and making an absurd comparison as if a dead person has “wellbeing”.

#L Science has values
#L1 Craig – “Richard Dawkins’ …says, “there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference. … We are machines for propagating DNA. … It is every living object’s sole reason for being”?”
#L2 Harris – “there was no oxygen to put in the water, so either God created, either water has no oxygen, or God created special oxygen to put in the water—but I don’t think he would do that, because that would be Biblically inelegant.”

Craig’s #L1 gets 4 points defending that science’s position is morally neutral. Dawkins is an atheist who does not believe that science proves that we have moral values.
Harris’s #L2 gets 5 points for showing that science must have some moral values. Evidence may be something that science has a moral value for, but that does not prove the objective moral values come from a conscious creature’s wellbeing.

I’m awarding 4 additional points to Craig for organization. Giving signposts on what he is arguing, and then referring back to his signposts as he presents the various points of his arguments. His argument was easy to follow, and broken up into clear sections. Harris on the other hand seemed to wander around to whatever idea came into his head, seeming very unprepared.

I’m awarding 6 additional points to Craig for sources. Craig has numerous sources (Harris’s book, Dawkins, Ruse, etc.) that he cites to support his arguments and Harris’s argument is sorely lacking in any sources to back up what his arguments.

  • #A Craig 8 Harris 3
  • #B Craig 10 Harris 1
  • #C Craig 9 Harris 2
  • #D Craig 7 Harris 1
  • #E Craig 9 Harris 0
  • #F Craig 10 Harris 0
  • #G Craig 7 Harris 0
  • #H Craig 2 Harris 7
  • #L Craig 4 Harris 5

Totals = Craig 76 Harris 19

I voted for Craig because his argument was better constructed, supported, and easier to follow. Craig covered all of Harris’s points, while Harris dropped several of Craig’s. I think Harris would have been better served using his time to bring forth more points than to use the theatric pause, telling one long story, and beating the dead horse of how religion can be bad. Craig brought up more points, and stronger points, while Harris didn’t even seem to believe the few points he brought up. 


Posts: 4
United States
4 months ago
February 06, 2018

Detailed win examples for Round 1
For Harris -
Craig’s quotes
A – “He rightly declares, “If only one person in the world held down a terrified, struggling, screaming little girl, cut off her genitals with a septic blade, and sewed her back up, … the only question would be how severely that person should be punished. …”[2] What is not in question is that such a person has done something horribly, objectively, wrong.”
B – “As St. Anselm saw, God is by definition the greatest conceivable being and therefore the highest Good.”
C – “God’s moral nature is expressed in relation to us in the form of divine commandments which constitute our moral duties or obligations.”
D – “In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the whole moral duty of man can be summed up in the two great commandments: First, you shall love the Lord your God with all your strength and with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your mind, and, second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
E – “Just as a troop of baboons exhibit cooperative and even self-sacrificial behavior because natural selection has determined it to be advantageous in the struggle for survival, so their primate cousin’s homo sapiens have evolved a sort of herd morality for precisely the same reasons.” And
F – “Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, … and any deeper meaning is illusory”
G – “Richard Dawkins’ assessment of human worth may be depressing, but why, on atheism, is he mistaken, when he says, “there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference. … We are machines for propagating DNA. … It is every living object’s sole reason for being”?
H – “Because he’s redefined the word “good” to mean the well-being of conscious creatures.”
J – “His so-called “solution” is just a semantical trick of an arbitrary and idiosyncratic re-definition of the terms “good” and “evil” in non-moral vocabulary.”
K – “Jerry Fodor has written, “Science is about facts, not norms; it might tell us how we are, but it wouldn’t tell us what is wrong with how we are.”
L – “When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female, it forcibly copulates with her but it doesn’t rape her–for none of these actions is forbidden or obligatory.”
M – “But Sam Harris believes that all of our actions are causally determined and that there is no free will.”

 

Harris’s quotes
N – “once we understand morality in terms of human well-being, we’ll be able to make strong claims about which behaviors and ways of life are good for us and which aren’t.
O – “to denigrate the Taliban at a scientific meeting is to court controversy”
P – “I said, “Well, because I think it’s pretty clear that right and wrong relate to human well-being, and it’s just as clear that forcing half the population to live in cloth bags and beating them, or killing them when they try to get out, is not a way of maximizing human well-being.” And she said, “Well, that’s just your opinion.”… “she seemed to me quite terrifyingly detached from the real suffering of millions of women in Afghanistan at this moment.”
Q – “So on the one hand, her moral scruples were very finely calibrated to recoil from the slightest perceived misstep in ethical terms in our War on Terror; and yet she was quite willing to forgive some primitive culture its fondness for removing the eyeballs of children in its religious rituals.”
R – “this is precisely the erosion of basic common sense that many religious people are worried about.”
S – “Belief in God is not only unnecessary for a universal morality, it’s, it’s, it’s, it is itself a source of moral blindness.”
T – “It is wrong to cheat on your spouse because Yahweh deems that it is so. Which is curious, because in other moods, Yahweh is perfectly fond of genocide, and slavery, and human sacrifice.”
U – “you should not trust Dr. Craig’s reading of me. Half the quotes he provided “from me” as though I wrote them were quotes from people I was quoting in my book and often to different effect.”
V – “Now, if you think the worst possible misery for everyone isn’t bad, or maybe it has a silver lining, or maybe there’s something worse, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
W – “If we should do anything in this universe, if we ought to do anything, if we have a moral duty to do anything, it’s to avoid the worst possible misery for everyone.”
X – “Morality and human values, therefore, can be understood through science, because in talking about these things, we are talking about all of the facts that influence the well-being of conscious creatures.”
Y – “Ok, the average lifespan for women in Afghanistan is 44 years. Ok, they have a 12% literacy rate. They have the highest, almost the highest infant mortality and maternal mortality in the world—–and also almost the highest fertility—–so this is one of the best places on Earth to watch women and infants die. Ok, it seems to me perfectly obvious that the, the best response to this dire situation—–which is to say the most moral response—–is not to throw battery acid in the faces of little girls for the crime of learning to read.”
Z – “It is not unscientific to say that the Taliban are wrong about morality, that the moment we notice that we know anything at all about human well-being, we have to say this.”
AA – “there are many ways for my values to be objectively wrong.”
BB – “Ok, it’s clearly possible to be cognitively and emotionally closed to experiences that you would want if you were only intelligent and knowledgeable enough to want them.”
CC – “Ok but how fast should a “healthy” person be able to run? That question might not have an answer, but this does not make the question of health vacuous. Ok, it doesn’t make it merely a matter of opinion, or of cultural construction”
DD – “So there were no stars to fuse hydrogen and helium into heavier elements like oxygen; therefore there was no oxygen to put in the water, so either God created, either water has no oxygen, or God created special oxygen to put in the water—but I don’t think he would do that, because that would be Biblically inelegant.”


Posts: 5
United States
4 months ago
February 06, 2018

Detailed win examples for Round 1
For Harris -
Harris’s arguments attack supernatural while supporting nature at the same time with P, Q, Y, Z, and DD. Craig attempts to define the Yahweh as perfect B and D, but the Taliban follow Yahweh invalidating Craig’s claims, but he really doesn’t need to because he has already conceded that Yahweh’s commands are immoral with A. Craig, however, believes divine commandment C, but as Harris has shown not only is natural more moral when compared against supernatural, supernatural isn’t moral even on its own with T, even that troupe of baboons (E, F) are more moral than Yahweh’s commandments.

Harris on the other hand admits science doesn’t have all the answer with N and CC, but it’s better to have no answer than a false answer. Harris doesn’t leave saying there are many options (AA), that just because we don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean we don’t have some (X) and lists some objective concrete examples with V, W, and CC.

Harris calls Craig out on misrepresenting his position (U), and it’s easy to see that with G, H, J, K, and M.

I feel like Craig countered that L isn’t immoral, even though he stated it as such. I feel, like I think most feel, that it’s immoral to kill to survive if you have another option, but as Craig stated when he was trying to put words in Harris’s mouth: if you have no choice, then it’s not an immoral act. And as Harris stated with BB it can still me an immoral act even if the shark doesn’t know it’s an immoral act.

Harris has not only proven that natural morals are superior to supernatural morals, but that supernatural morals hurt natural morals (R, S). While some may believe that calling supernatural morals in question is controversial (O), I will remind you that Craig agreed with Harris on this point with A.

Now I have a problem grading this because of the debate style Harris used. I can’t grade on a point by point basis because Harris’ points encompass both sides of the argument. So, I’ve decided to grade quotes and let the above paragraph explain why I graded the quote the way I did.

Craig = 20

  • B = 3
  • C = 2
  • D = 2
  • E = 4
  • F = 3
  • L = 6

Harris = 93

  • A = 5
  • N = 0
  • O = 3
  • P = 8
  • Q = 10
  • R = 7
  • S = 7
  • T = 8
  • V = 3
  • W = 3
  • X = 5
  • Y = 8
  • Z = 6
  • AA = 3
  • BB = 4
  • CC = 4
  • DD = 9

Conduct against Craig for Harris = 12

  • G = 1
  • H = 1
  • J = 1
  • K = 2
  • M = 2
  • U = 5

Totals

  • Craig = 20
  • Harris = 105

I would also give Harris points for his cool calm manner and composer, while Craig spasmed though most of the debate, but it’s not like Harris needed the points so I didn’t. Clear win for Harris


Posts: 6
4 months ago
February 06, 2018

Lunatic rolled the dice!

D4 = 2
D6 = 1
D8 = 7
D10 = 1
D12 = 4
D20 = 13
D100 = 3

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