Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Source for Moral Authority

     Ever hear of the Drunken Peasants? It is a popular podcast airing on YouTube starring what is left of the atheist community still standing from its heyday circa 2006-10. This means The Amazing Atheist, his brother Scottie, and PaulsEgo. As with virtually every other YouTuber monetizing their content, the Drunken Peasants have turned their personal vlogging into a pseudo-television. After sampling a few installments, I have come to the conclusion the philosophical debates are far more vanilla than they used to be before advertising dollars were a factor. Nevertheless, I did pull out one gem from a free for all between the Drunken Peasants and a trio of Christian apologists.
      A Christian posed the question to the Drunken Peasants where does moral authority originate if there is no God? The Drunken Peasants agreed moral authority comes from society. We have agreed, as a society, that certain things are moral and others are not. This answers brings two realities. One, morality is an opinion without any general principle guiding it. Two, what is moral can change back and forth based on social mores. The Christian attempted to discuss the point morality is based on opinion in the atheist worldview, but the discussion devolved into God's morality as demonstrated in the Old Testament. There is a discussion for another time because it is touchy in nature. The touchiness of probably why the Drunken Peasants shifted the discussion into that direction to inflame Christian passion to avoid any elaboration on their weak answer to moral authority.
     Let us take the two points above in order to see why the Drunken Peasants diverted the discussion into another direction. One, morality authority come from opinion without any general principle guiding it. This situation amounts to an appeal to populism—a numbers game. If100 people move to a deserted island to build a sovereign community and decide pedophilia is allowed, then pedophilia is moral within their society. There would be no general principle involved. What about polar opposite morals in different societies? Female circumcision, for instance, is considered cruel in the western world, but widely practiced in undeveloped ares of Africa and South America. So is there a standard upon which to judge female circumcision or can it be both moral and immoral depending on where one lives?
      The other problem is what is considered moral can change over time with social mores. Social mores could cause a progression or a regression. Fr example, slavery was general considered a oral practice in the 18th century. In the 21st, it is considered evil. What is circumstances change to a point slavery is deemed an acceptable practice in the 23rd century? By the Drunken Peasants' claim morality comes from society, the concept of slavery under the hypothetical I just laid out would go fro moral to immoral and back again to moral with the viewpoint being equally valid in all three time periods.
      Taking the Drunken peasants' assertion morality come from society out to its logical conclusion destroys their argument no eternal moral source is necessary. No, there must be a general, guiding principle. This is why I am a natural law theorist. While man is corrupt and fallible in interpreting the general principles of the natural law, we must do so to avoid the pitfalls of moral relativism.

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