Continuing with the series of evidence for God’s existence as the most plausible explanation for how things are, we get to the moral argument. This one is not born of scientific reasoning, but again using the inference to the best explanation. What I will do is give the logical argument for objective moral law, then look at some of the possible hypotheses for what moral law is actually like. Once we decide between subjective and objective moral law, then we will look at what is the most likely standard for objective moral law–in other words, is there an objective Moral Lawgiver?
The logical argument reads this way:
1) If objective moral law exists, then the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver (i.e. God).
2) Objective moral law exists.
3) Therefore, the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver.
The obvious issues are with both initial conditions in the hypothetical syllogism. First, it must be shown that objective moral law exists. So let’s talk about that first.
The simplest way to determine if objective moral law exists is to find a situation where there is no possible way you can look at it as either completely right or completely wrong. One common example used is rape. This has come up in another discussion I’ve been having recently, and there has still been no evidence to show that there is anything right about rape, no matter if it’s humans, animals, etc. It is decried as a completely wrong event, no matter how apathetic some people might be to it in certain instances.
Another hypothetical example: a mother murders (not kills–either by accident or a gun to the head, etc.–, but actually murders) her 3-day old baby for no reason. The baby has no ability to discern right from wrong, and so could not have committed a wrong against the mother for which it is self-defense or retaliation. There is no instance in which the murder of this baby could be considered right, so it is objectively wrong in every instance.
So in order to show that morality is not objective, one must break down such situations and show an instance where it is not only socially acceptable, but truly right to do so. Otherwise, this satisfies the burden of best explanation for morality being based on objective value judgments.
Once objective moral values have been determined, we continue with the same method (inference to best explanation) to determine the tertium quid, or measuring stick for moral values. So we look at the hypotheses available, and make the best judgment given the information we have. So let’s take a look at some of the potential measuring sticks:
1) Promotion of life=right. Not a bad measuring stick, but incomplete. This would mean such things as killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral, or an act of altruism to save someone else would also be considered immoral. A police officer killing the criminal in a hostage situation to save hundreds of lives would be immoral. While the goal SHOULD be to promote life, it doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation to an objective standard of moral values.
2) Causes suffering=wrong. Again, not bad, but still insufficient, because any act that causes suffering would be deemed immoral. So again, killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral. Breaking up with someone would be considered immoral. Hitting a home run would be immoral. And so on to the absurd.
3) Minimizing suffering=good. This one gets a bit closer, but what is the definition of minimal suffering? The best way to minimize suffering is to eliminate it, and how do we go about doing that on our own? While we can try our best to do good, ultimately doing what is perceived to be a good act might involve causing someone to suffer. For example, social programs are seen as largely good, because they are attempting to help people that can’t help themselves. Yet in order to fund these programs, the government must tax its constituents at-large. This almost definitely would cause suffering for some segment of the populace, if for no other reason than that it forces them to give up money they would not give up otherwise. So it seems like a naturalistic view of minimal suffering is insufficient.
4) An individual responsible for determining right and wrong. This is where it gets considerably better. Finally it gets down to one unique standard of determining right and wrong. If this person is responsible for guiding moral law, then all choices come down to whether it falls on the right side or wrong side depending on how that one person sees it.
So the question then becomes this: who is that individual? If it is a human, would it be possible for him/her to govern all cultures at the same time with the same moral law? Technically it’s possible, but only if that person’s own considerations couldn’t be called into question. What I mean is that the person who affects moral law would also be bound to it, so if that person says lying is wrong but has lied, then there is a serious problem with their position as objectively moral.
So the individual must be someone who is bound to moral law but has no possibility of doing wrong. And what is the best explanation for that individual? First, the individual must be omni-benevolent, so good is embodied in them. Second, the individual must be omniscient, so that they have a perfect knowledge of the good. Third, the individual must be omnisapient, so that they have a perfect understanding of the best means to achieve that good. Fourth, the individual must be transcendent, so as to not be susceptible to the natural instincts that unfortunately cause us to sometimes do wrong. Fifth, the individual must be immanent, so as to be able to enforce the moral law.
I think if you look at all of the necessary attributes, the theistic God is clearly the best explanation for an objective standard of moral law. To break down the argument, one must either show that a better objective moral standard exists, or show that God does not possess at least one of the above attributes. It’s a very difficult challenge, because the biggest hurdle to overcome is a complete understanding of what is good; of course, I believe it to be impossibly difficult because I feel it cannot be demonstrated, but I’m willing to entertain objections to objective morality and counter-arguments to the best objective moral standard.
EDIT: Due to the comment made on this post, I feel it also necessary to note that the objective moral standard must also be immutable, for if the standard for moral law changed it would not be objective. Since the theistic God also possesses this attribute, the argument is still in good shape.