bookmark_borderThe Irrelevance of Naturalistic Metaethics to Arguments from Evil Against God’s Existence

Consider the following exchange between Christi, a Christian, and Natty, a naturalist, on the problem of evil.

Natty: If God exists, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?
Christi: Well, if God exists, it’s logically possible that so much of the evil and suffering in the world is due to the free choices made by humans exercising their free will.

At this point, astute readers will notice that Christi has just invoked the Free Will Defense (FWD). Let’s continue:

Natty: Sure, I guess that’s logically possible. But I wasn’t asking if the existence of so much evil and suffering in the world is logically compatible with God’s existence. Let’s assume that it is compatible. Rather, my question is this. Is the existence of so much evil and suffering in the world strong evidence against God’s existence?
Christi: Why do you say that?
Natty: Let’s take the hypothesis of indifference (HI), which says that nothing in our universe is the result of good or evil supernatural beings acting from outside our universe. Either there are no supernatural beings or, if they do exist, they are indifferent to our suffering.
Christi: Why does HI explain facts about evil and suffering much better than theism does?
Natty: To be precise, HI doesn’t predict facts about evil and suffering, in part because HI doesn’t even predict the existence of conscious or sentient beings capable of suffering. But HI also doesn’t predict the non-existence of evil and suffering. That’s just the kind of hypothesis HI is.
In contrast, theism predicts the non-existence of at least certain kinds of evil and suffering. So you could say that HI ‘negative explains’ facts about those kinds of evil and suffering much better than theism, in the sense that theism predicts the non-existence of those facts whereas HI makes no such prediction at all.

Again, astute readers will notice that Natty has just clarified he is making an evidential argument from evil, one which claims that the hypothesis of indifference explains facts about evil and suffering much better than theism does.

Christi: I’m not so sure I would agree with you about what you call “facts about those kinds of evil and suffering,” but let’s ignore that for now. Your argument presupposes that evil and suffering are, well, evil. But you’re a naturalist. How can you call anything “evil”? And if you can’t call anything “evil,” then how could facts about evil and suffering be any evidence against God’s existence?

Christi is now using a “turnaround” argument, where she tries to turn the tables on Natty and argue that evil is actually evidence for God’s existence.

Natty: By itself, naturalism doesn’t say that certain things like rape, murder, and theft are evil. (Notice also, however, that it doesn’t say that those things are good.) That’s just not what naturalism is about. All naturalism says is that there are no supernatural beings.
Christi: Right, but then how can you, as a naturalist, consistently say that anything is evil? And if you can’t consistently say that anything is evil, how could evil in any way be evidence against God’s existence?
Natty: Let me give you an analogy. Naturalism says nothing about computer viruses and whether anti-virus software is an effective defense against them. It hardly follows that naturalists cannot consistently believe that anti-virus software is an effective defense against viruses. Naturalists can and do believe anti-virus software is an effective defense against viruses, but not because of their naturalism. They believe that for independent reasons, such as personal experience, the universal recommendations of computer security experts, and so forth.
Likewise, just because naturalism doesn’t say anything about evil, it doesn’t follow that naturalists can’t consistently say anything is evil. That would follow if and only if there were no good independent reasons–reasons consistent with naturalism–for saying something is evil.
Christi: Okay, but unlike your computer virus analogy, there is no universal consensus about whether naturalists can believe in objective moral good and evil. Plenty of naturalists don’t.
Natty: True, but the relevant issue is not whether a universal consensus exists, but (1) whether naturalists can consistently believe in objective moral good and evil, and (2) whether the answer to (1) even matters. I do believe there is objective moral good and evil and I think that’s consistent with my naturalism. It’s hard to see how a belief about morality could be logically inconsistent with another belief (naturalism) which says nothing about morality. But let that pass. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that naturalism entails there is no objective moral good and evil. Even then, you haven’t given a good reason to reject the argument from evil, since that argument compares theism and HI, not theism and naturalism. But to be charitable, let’s pretend that HI says there is no objective moral good or evil. (It doesn’t say that, but let’s pretend it does.)
Christi: Okay.
Natty: The argument from evil attempts to show that some fact about ‘evil’ (whether it be literal evil or some non-normative concept like pain or suffering) somehow undermines a theistic worldview. We’re assuming, for the sake of argument, that HI entails there is no objective moral good and evil (“nihilism”). How, then, is that supposed to affect the argument?
Christi: Consider the following examples of evil and suffering, such as suffering and death caused by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, fires, tornadoes, rape, starvation, torture, injury, and disease. Call this list “bad stuff.” We’re agreeing, for the sake of argument, that if HI is true, then “bad stuff” isn’t ‘really’ bad, i.e., “bad stuff” isn’t bad in an objective moral sense.
Natty: Agreed. But this isn’t relevant to evidential arguments from evil, since such arguments don’t require that “bad stuff” be bad in an objective moral sense. All such arguments require is that “bad stuff” happens, which it does. The upshot, then, is that even if HI did entail nihilism, that would do nothing to undermine evidential arguments from evil. We can show this more formally using probabilistic notation. Remember that the crucial premise of my evidential argument from evil is this:

(1) Pr(E | HI) >> Pr(E | T).

Let’s begin by defining a key term.

nihilism =df. The hypothesis that there is no objective moral good and evil.

We can treat your point about objective moral good and evil on HI as an auxiliary hypothesis, namely, that if HI is true, the auxiliary hypothesis nihilism is also true. Using the probability calculus, specifically the Theorem of Total Probability, we can measure the impact of nihilism on (1).

(2) Pr(bad stuff |HI) = Pr(nihilism | HI) x Pr(bad stuff | nihilism & HI) + Pr(~nihilism | HI) x Pr(bad stuff | HI & ~nihilism)

We’ve agreed for the sake of argument that HI entails there is no objective moral good and evil. So Pr(nihilism | HI) = 1 and Pr(~nihilism | HI) = 0. Then the above equation becomes:

(3) Pr(bad stuff |HI) = 1 x Pr(bad stuff | nihilism & HI) + 0 x Pr(bad stuff | HI & ~nihilism)

(4) Pr(bad stuff |HI) = Pr(bad stuff | nihilism & HI)

The crucial premise of my argument becomes:

(1′) Pr(bad stuff | HI & nihilism) >> Pr(bad stuff | T).

This shows that, even granting the controversial claim that HI entails nihilism, the first part of each conditional probability (“bad stuff”) is unchanged. The “HI=nihilism” presupposition does not decrease the value of the first conditional probability and does not increase the value of the second. It follows, therefore, that “HI=nihilism” presupposition does nothing to undermine the claim that the first conditional probability is much greater than the second.

 

bookmark_borderA Moral Argument for God which Begs the Question against Theists

Reposting a comment I left on fellow Patheos blogger Bob Seidensticker’s blog, Cross Examined. Bob was writing about Geisler’s and Turek’s book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an AtheistBob quoted this passage from their book:

 If the atheists are right, then we might as well lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want because this life is all there is, and there are no consequences in eternity. (p. 68)

Bob’s response:

Wow—what planet are these guys from? How many atheists think that it’s fine to lie, cheat, and steal? Are the prisons filled with atheists? Do atheists not care about their reputations with their family and friends? Do atheists not have consciences?

Since you’ll agree, after a moment’s reflection, that atheists are indeed moral, maybe you should drop the “atheists have no morals” claim and wonder where they get their morals from. I predict it’s the same place where you do.

Atheism does indeed mean that “there are no consequence in eternity,” but (dang it!) there are consequences right here and now, so I’d better cancel my Saturday night orgy ’n bacchanalia.

What follows was my comment.

—-

I think this reply misses the mark. Joe Sixpack will read this and say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I think of atheists.” And apologists will surely respond, “Yes, there are atheists who do that, but they’re simply acting inconsistently with or better than their atheism.”

If you’ll indulge me, I think a better reply would be something like this:

Geisler and Turek claim that by ruling out the supernatural, Darwinists can avoid the possibility that anything is morally prohibited. In fact, Geisler and Turek are tearing down a straw man of their own creation by linking ‘everything is permitted’ with the wrong ‘-ism.’ Contrary to what Geisler and Turek claim, neither atheism nor Darwinism says everything is morally permitted. That’s what nihilism says.
In fact, at least in this instance, it is Geisler and Turek, not atheists, who are guilty of ruling out things in advance. Geisler and Turek can assume that atheism leads to nihilism only by assuming that some God-based theory of morality, such as the (Modified) Divine Command Theory is true.
But that assumption is hotly contested, even by other theists. If someone read only Geisler’s and Turek’s book, they’d think the choices were “Theism and God-based morality” and “atheism and no morality whatsoever.” But that’s false. Bare or ‘mere’ theism says nothing about whether morality is based upon God. The belief that morality is somehow based upon God is an extra belief, on top of theism. Thus, Geisler and Turek not only beg the question against atheists, but they beg the question against other theists also.
First, their argument begs the question against moral anti-reductionists (like G.E. Moore) who hold that moral facts and properties are not reducible to non-moral facts and properties. There are both theists and nontheists who hold this position.
Second, their argument begs the question against reductive moral naturalists who hold that moral facts and properties are reducible to natural, non-moral facts and properties. As before, there are both theists and nontheists who hold this position.

bookmark_borderWilliam Provine on Evolutionary Naturalism and Morality

Cornell University biologist William Provine debated UC Berkeley law professor in 1998. (Click here for a link to the transcript.) In his opening statement, Provine made the following provocative assertion.

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

I don’t know if Darwin would agree with Provine’s list of consequences or not, but I want to comment on the alleged ethical consequences of evolutionary naturalism.
Many apologists (see, e.g., here) have made an argument from authority, using Provine’s statement, to support the claim that atheism entails nihilism. While some arguments from authority can be logically correct, this one is not. Let P be the statement “If naturalistic evolution is true, then there is no ultimate foundation for ethics,” and let S be metaethics. Using Wesley Salmon’s schema for inductive arguments from authority,[1] we can then formulate the argument from authority as follows.

(1) The vast majority of statements made by William Provine concerning subject S are true.
(2) P is a statement made by William Provine concerning subject S.
(3) Therefore, P is true.

This argument does not satisfy Salmon’s conditions for an inductively correct argument from authority, in two ways. First, even if we treat Provine as an expert on metaethics, the argument would still be evidentially worthless. As Salmon observed, an appeal to one group of authorities has no evidential value when another group of authorities who are equally competent disagree.[2] And there are many qualified experts on metaethics who believe P is false.[3] Second, with all due respect to Provine, he is not a reliable authority on subject S. He is an evolutionary biologist with a Ph.D. in the history of science, not a philosopher who specializes in metaethics. Therefore, premise (1) is dubious. The upshot is that this argument from authority provides literally zero evidence for statement p.
Even if we cannot accept P on the basis of Provine’s authority, however, it is still possible that Provine has a good argument for believing it. If he does, however, it’s not exactly clear how the argument is supposed to work. The only relevant statement I could find in the debate transcript is the quotation I provided at the beginning of this post. Here it is again.

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

It’s far from obvious why Provine thinks that “modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear” that “There is no ultimate foundation for ethics.” At first glance, this seems very implausible because P lies within the domain of philosophy, not biology. One can’t help but wonder if Provine presupposes scientism and that his statement about the purported conclusions of “modern evolutionary biology” are really just a statement about the implications of scientism. That really doesn’t matter one way or the other, however. All that matters is whether Provine has given a good reason to think that evolutionary naturalism leads to nihilism, which he hasn’t. Provine has provided nothing more than a mere assertion of bias for moral nihilism.
The upshot is that Provine’s statements in his 1998 debate with Johnson provide no support whatsoever for the claim that atheism entails or implies moral nihilism.
Notes
[1] Wesley C. Salmon, Logic (third ed., Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1984), 100.
[2] Ibid.
[3] E.g., Adams; Hick; Moore; Morriston; Nielsen; Pojman; Post; Rottschaefer; Sagi and Statman; Shafer-Landau; Q. Smith; Swinburne; and Wielenberg.

bookmark_borderDo the Bee Police Enforce God’s Law? Or Are They Darwinian Nihilists? by Larry Arnhart

I want to a link to another terrific blog post by philosopher Larry Arnhart.
One worry–perhaps the worry–about basing morality on the biology of human nature is that it makes morality species-specific. Darwin himself voiced this concern in The Descent of Man:

“In the same manner as various animals have some sense of beauty, though they admire widely different objects, so they might have a sense of right and wrong, though led by it to follow widely different lines of conduct.  If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.  Nevertheless, the bee, or any other social animal, would gain in our supposed case, as it appears to me, some feeling of right or wrong, or a conscience” (Penguin Classics, 2004, pp. 122-23).

Arnhart’s response:

As I have said, this argument from people like Cobbe, West, and Forde assumes a Platonic expectation of a moral cosmology–that morality is somehow woven into the fabric of the cosmos as a dictate of a cosmic God, a cosmic Reason, or a cosmic Nature.

I reject this Platonic moral cosmology, because I see no reason why morality cannot rightly be understood as grounded in our evolved human nature, so that what is moral for us would not necessarily be moral for any other species that might develop a moral sense.

Contrary to Cobbe, West, and Forde, I see nothing nihilistic in admiring the bee police for their evolved system of law enforcement, and in seeing this as showing that Friedrich Nietzsche was right to view “the entire phenomenon of morality as animal.”

LINK

bookmark_borderDoes Darwinism Make Morality Fictional?

Photo of Larry ArnhartLarry Arnhart always writes terrific blog posts; this one from 2013 is no exception. (If you’re a regular reader of the Secular Outpost but not of his blog, then you should start reading his blog.) In this post, he takes issue with (among others) Michael Ruse’s claim that evolutionary naturalism undermines the foundations of morality. Aside: isn’t it amazing how apologists like William Lane Craig will quote Michael Ruse to make an argument from authority to support the claim that atheism leads to nihilism, but then conveniently ignore the fact that equally well qualified authorities disagree with Ruse? In fact, many of Ruse’s colleagues have vigorously criticized his argument (see, e.g., hereherehere), but, so far as I can tell, Ruse hasn’t responded to any of those criticisms. This makes WLC’s appeal to Ruse in his debates even worse than it already was. I love this passage by Arnhart:

I think that Ruse’s point here is the same as my point in my paper for the workshop about liberal evolutionary morality being rooted in a moral anthropology but not in a moral cosmology That is to say, human morality is rooted in human nature, human culture, and human judgment, but not in a cosmic Nature, a cosmic God, or a cosmic Reason.  

But I see no warrant for describing this as a “terrifying” teaching that morality is an “illusion.”  Ruse seems to assume a Platonic or Kantian view that the truth of morality would require that it be written into the eternal order of the cosmos, and so if it isn’t, then morality is an illusion.   But surely the fact that we humans have evolved to be moral animals is an objective truth about us that will remain true for as long as we endure as the kind of animals that we are. (emphasis mine)

LINK

bookmark_borderIndex: Atheist Error Theorists

Many atheists have claimed that atheism entails that moral realism is false; many theistic apologists gleefully quote those atheists. But how do those atheists support their claim? This page provides an index to other Secular Outpost posts which discuss specific atheists’ arguments for the claim that atheism somehow supports moral nihilism or error theory.

Related posts:

bookmark_borderAlex Rosenberg’s 2012 Argument for Nihilism

 

In his 2012 book, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, Alex Rosenberg defends an argument for nihilism.[1] In this article I want to evaluate his argument.

Definitions

Before we turn to his argument, we first need to understand how Rosenberg defines his terms. Let us begin with the word “scientism.” In his own words, Rosenberg defines “scientism” as follows.

But we’ll call the worldview that all us atheists (and even some agnostics) share “scientism.” This is the conviction that [1] the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything; [2] that science’s description of the world is correct in its fundamentals; and [3] that when “complete,” what science tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today. We’ll often use the adjective “scientistic” in referring to the approaches, theories, methods, and descriptions of the nature of reality that all the sciences share. Science provides all the significant truths about reality, and knowing such truths is what real understanding is all about. (brackets are mine) (6)

As an aside, I don’t think Rosenberg anywhere shows that all atheists share the view he calls scientism; in fact, I think that’s plainly false. Suppose we adopt a so-called ‘strong’ definition of “atheism”: atheism is the belief that there is no God. How, precisely, are any of the three core beliefs of scientism supposed to follow from atheism? They don’t. A person can consistently believe both that atheism is true and that any (or all) of scientism’s three beliefs are false. For example, given the relative immaturity of the science of cosmology (compared to older disciplines such as chemistry), an atheist may justifiably doubt the claim that, when “complete,” what cosmology “tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today.” Furthermore, philosopher Thomas Nagel seems to be a prime example of an atheist who rejects scientism, as evidenced by his latest book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.[2] Whatever one thinks about Nagel’s book, the fact remains that not all atheists share a belief in scientism.

Next, let’s turn to “nihilism.”

Nihilism tells us … [that] moral judgments are … all wrong. More exactly, it claims, they are all based on false, groundless presuppositions. Nihilism says that the whole idea of “morally permissible” is untenable nonsense. As such, it can hardly be accused of holding that “everything is morally permissible.” That, too, is untenable nonsense.

Moreover, nihilism denies that there is really any such thing as intrinsic moral value. … Nihilism denies that there is anything at all that is good in itself or, for that matter, bad in itself. (pp. 95-97)

With definitions out of the way, let us now turn to Rosenberg’s argument.

Rosenberg’s Argument

According to Rosenberg, nihilism is “scientifically and scientistically unavoidable” (101). He claims that, “by substantiating a couple of premises, we can establish the truth of nihilism.”

* First premise: All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

* Second premise: The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction. (101)

But how shall we evaluate Rosenberg’s claim? It isn’t clear or obvious or self-evident that those premises “establish” the truth of nihilism. So, even granting the truth of both premises, why should we think that nihilism is true? By themselves, the two premises combined do not yield a valid argument for nihilism:

(1) All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

(2) The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

(N) Therefore, nihilism is true.

Notice, however, that (N) does not follow from (1): it’s logically possible that human beings have evolved a set of “core moral principles” which have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness and which are correct. What to do?

Let’s go back to Rosenberg’s earlier claim that nihilism is “scientifically and scientistically unavoidable.” This suggests two variants of Rosenberg’s argument: a scientific and a scientistic argument for nihilism.

A Scientistic Argument for Nihilism

Here is a scientistic argument for nihilism.

(1) All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

(2) The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

(3) Scientism is true.

(N) Therefore, nihilism is true.

Like the previous argument, this one is invalid. Even when we add the assumption that scientism is true, other options besides nihilism remain. Both ethical naturalism and moral skepticism are compatible with scientism.

Perhaps, however, a more charitable interpretation is to read Rosenberg as presenting an explanatory argument (really, a fragment of an inductive argument) for nihilism. We can complete the argument as follows.

Let us divide the evidence (allegedly) relevant to nihilism into background evidence and the evidence to be explained.

B: Background Evidence

1. The methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything.

2. Science’s description of the world is correct in its fundamentals.

3. When “complete,” what science tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today.

E: The Evidence to be Explained

1. All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

2. The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

Finally, let us define the competing explanations.

H: The Rival Explanatory Hypotheses

nihilism (N): the theory that all moral judgments are wrong and that there is no intrinsic moral value.

skepticism (S): the theory that there are true moral judgments but we cannot know which ones are true. (Note: skepticism is ontologically neutral between ethical naturalism and non-naturalism.)

relativism (R): the theory that the truth of moral judgments is relative to culture or time period.

ethical naturalism (EN): the view that moral facts and properties are nothing but natural facts and properties.[3]

ethical non-naturalism (ENN): the view that moral facts and properties are irreducible, sui generis facts and properties that cannot be further analyzed or explained.

Criteria of Adequacy

  • Simplicity: the number of assumptions made
  • Conservatism: how well a theory fits with existing knowledge
  • Testability: whether there is some way to determine if a theory is true
  • Fruitfulness: the number of novel predictions made
  • Explanatory Scope: the amount of diverse phenomena explained
  • Assessment

    Then we can evaluate these hypotheses according to the criteria of adequacy. Although I lack the space to defend it here, the following table summarizes my assessment of the rival explanations according to the
    criteria of adequacy.

      N S R EN ENN
    Simplicity Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Conservativism Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Testability Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Fruitfulness Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Explanatory Scope Sad smile ? Sad smile Smile Smile

     

    But then it becomes far from obvious that nihilism is the best explanation. On my analysis, nihilism is no better than relativism. More important, nihilism is a worse explanation than ethical naturalism!

    A Scientific Argument for Nihili
    sm

    In his book, Rosenberg doesn’t explain how nihilism is scientifically “unavoidable” from his two premises. In a 2003 article, however, he (and Tamler Sommers) do offer such an explanation.[4]

    Darwinian nihilism departs from [ethical] naturalism only in declining to endorse our
    morality or any other as true or correct. It must decline to do so because it holds that
    the explanation of how our moral beliefs arose also explains away as mistaken the
    widespread belief that moral claims are true. The Darwinian explanation becomes
    the Darwinian nihilist’s "explaining away" when it becomes apparent that the best
    explanation-blind variation and natural selection- for the emergence of our ethical
    belief does not require that these beliefs have truth-makers. To tum the Darwinian
    explanation into an "explaining away" the nihilist need only add the uncontroversial
    scientific principle that if our best theory of why people believe P does not require
    that P is true, then there are no grounds to believe P is true.[5]

    This suggests the following argument for nihilism.

    (1) All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

    (2) Our best theory of why people believe the same core moral principles is that such principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

    (3) Our best theory of why people believe the same core moral principles are binding on everyone does not require that P is true. [from (2)]

    (4) If our best theory of why people believe P does not require that P is true, then there are no grounds to believe P is true.

    (5) Therefore, there are no grounds to believe that core moral principles are binding on everyone. [from (1), (3), and (4)]

    (N) Therefore, nihilism is true.

    Although Sommers and Rosenberg describe the scientific principle in (4) as “uncontroversial,” it seems to me that the principle is false. I take “why people believe P” to mean to what we might call “extra-rational” factors such as subjective experiences, psychology, or evolutionary history. While extra-rational factors may cause a person to correctly believe P (albeit on non-rational or even irrational grounds), such a coincidence is hardly guaranteed.

    In contrast, the statement, “there are no grounds to believe P is true,” implies that there are literally no grounds whatsoever to believe P is true. This belies the fatal flaw in (4): “there are no grounds to believe P is true” does not follow from the fact that “our best theory of why people believe P does not require that P is true.”

    I conclude, therefore, that premise (4) is false. Accordingly, even if we grant the truth of Rosenberg’s two main premises (and, indeed, even if we assume that scientism is true), Rosenberg’s argument for nihilism, as it stands, is not successful.

    Notes

    [1] Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012).

    [2] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

    [3] I take it that, contrary to Brink’s semantics, but in line with Quentin Smith’s analysis of compositional vs. identity forms of ethical naturalism, identity naturalism is the superior interpretation of ethical naturalism. See Quentin Smith, Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 167-168. Cf. David O. Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

    [4] Tamler Sommers and Alex Rosenberg, “Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea: Evolution and the Meaninglessness of Life,” Biology and Philosophy 18 (2003): 653-68.

    [5] Sommers and Rosenberg 2003, 667.