bookmark_borderDarwinian Morality and Rape?

(Redated post last published on 3 November 2011)
According to Nancy Pearcey and biologist Jeffrey Schloss (see here), Darwinian evolution implies there is nothing ethically wrong with rape. Why? Pearcey argues that Darwinian evolution and moral realism are logically incompatible:

In the words of sociobiology’s founder, E.O. Wilson, “the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will”; instead, ethics “is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes” because of its survival value. Those who accept Darwinian evolution, yet raise moral objections to A Natural History of Rape, are being inconsistent to their own foundational assumptions.
The rise of evolutionary psychology is forcing people to grapple with Darwinism’s profoundly nihilistic moral implications.

“A transcendent fulcrum for morality is possible only if there is a transcendent Designer,” Jeffrey Schloss, biologist at Westmont College, told World. This explains why, when feminist leader Susan Brownmiller objected to Thornhill’s theory, he accused her of sounding like “the extreme religious right.” In short, Darwinism and its unpalatable moral implications are a package deal; protest, and you invite a return to the theistic worldview.

It’s an agonizing dilemma for evolutionists: Either they can be logically consistent to their starting assumptions, but end up with an inhumane worldview–or they can be true to their God-given sense of morality, at the cost of being inconsistent. (italics mine)

Given what Alvin Plantinga has taught us about the difficulty in establishing a a logical contradiction between theism and evil, I think it’s pretty clear that the same difficulty applies to an alleged logical contradiction between Darwinian evolution and moral objectivism. It is one thing thing to claim that phenomena like objective moral values are evidence for theism and against Darwinian evolution. It is quite another to claim that moral phenomena are logically incompatible with Darwinian evolution.
To see the problems with this, let’s begin with some definitions. Let us define “Darwinism” as the belief that natural selection operating on random genetic mutation is the principal mechanism driving the evolutionary change that results in increased complexity.[1] And let’s define “moral objectivism” as the belief that some moral claims are true in virtue of corresponding to actually existing objects or properties that function as truthmakers for the claims in question. Here, then, are the premises which Pearcey claims contradict one another.
(1) Darwinism is true.
(2) Moral objectivism is true.
Where is the contradiction? I do not find an argument for the existence of a contradiction in Pearcey’s article. All we find is the bald assertion, repeated over and over and in different ways, that there is such a contradiction. Indeed, we can make a stronger point. As Quentin Smith wrote in a totally unrelated context, “It cannot be shown, by substitution of synonyms for synonyms, that the relevant negations of these sentences are substitution instances of first-order predicate logic with identity.”[2]
Theists don’t (and shouldn’t) accept such sloppy argumentation from atheists who present a logical argument from evil. They should not lower their standards when it comes to moral arguments for God’s existence or metaethical objections to atheism or Darwinism.
[1] Paul Draper, “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology(3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), pp. 219-230.
[2] Quentin Smith, Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 172.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 10

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
The Sin or Crime of Child Sacrifice
Of the six sins or crimes that Clay Jones lists as moral justifications for Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), this is the ONLY sin or crime that seems to be deserving of the death penalty.  None of the other five sins/crimes is serious enough to warrant killing the persons who perform them.  In fact, the very idea that Jehovah demanded the death penalty for the other five sins/crimes argues for the conclusion that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, so in pointing to  those five sins/crimes as moral justification of  the slaughter of the Canaanites, Jones simply adds fuel to the fire that he was trying to put out.
But child sacrifice seems to be a more serious matter than incest, adultery, or homosexual sex.  At the least, child sacrifice involves the murder of a child, which is a terrible sin or crime.  We cannot help but feel agreement with the sentiment that such a sin or crime is a PERVERSION, because parents are supposed to love and cherish their children and to protect their children from harm and injury.  So, when a parent harms their own child or kills their own child, we view that as being the very opposite of what should happen, the very opposite of what is NORMAL, so to speak.
Although it is right and proper to be appalled at the idea of parents harming or killing their own children, we also need to remember that this is all too common an event in this world, even here in the U.S.A.  where Christianity has been the dominant religion for over two centuries:

  • In 2013 there were about 679,000 children who were victims of child abuse or neglect in the U.S.A.
  • About 122,000 of those children were subjected to physical abuse
  • About 61,000 of those children were subjected to sexual abuse
  • An estimated 1,520 children died in 2013 as a result of abuse and neglect in the U.S.A. 

(see report: Child Maltreatment 2013 ,p.ii)
So, before we start throwing stones at the Canaanites who lived a thousand years before the birth of Jesus, we ought to pause and reflect on the actual behavior of the population of our (largely) Christian nation now, more than two thousand years after the birth of Jesus.
The most obvious bit of hypocrisy in appealing to the charge of “child sacrifice” as a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) is that this is a justification of the slaughter of children, and it also clearly has a religious foundation: the command to slaughter the children supposedly comes from Jehovah, the god of the Israelites.
Jehovah was supposedly angry and fed up with the Canaanites, so the slaughter of the Canaanites by the Israelites would, presumably, help ease the anger of a deity (i.e. Jehovah), and would also, presumably, help to obtain the favor and assistance of that deity (i.e. Jehovah), which is exactly what the religious ritual of “child sacrifice” was intended to accomplish.  So, what we have in Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) can reasonably be viewed as the command to perform human sacrifices on a MASSIVE scale, including the sacrifice of hundreds or thousands of children:
50. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as punishment for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah was in effect commanding the Israelites to engage in acts of child sacrifice on a massive scale to punish acts of child sacrifice.
The hypocrisy of Jehovah is not limited to commanding child sacrifice as the punishment for the evil of child sacrifice.  We view child sacrifice as evil, because we care about the rights and needs of children, but there is no good reason to believe that Jehovah shares our values and concerns about the welfare of children.
For one thing, Jehovah commanded that the death penalty be used against children, when children were disrespectful of their parents:

Exodus 21:17 New American Standard Bible
17 “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 New American Standard Bible
9 ‘If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his bloodguiltiness is upon him.
Jehovah commanded that the death penalty be used on “stubborn and rebellious” sons who are disobedient to their parents:

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 New American Standard Bible
18 “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them,
19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown.
20 They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’
21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.

Jehovah authorized the death penalty for children who strike their parents:

Exodus 21:15 New American Standard Bible
15 “He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
The laws of Jehovah demand the death of a child who curses his/her parents, or who strikes his/her parents, and the laws of Jehovah demand the death of a son who is rebellious and disobedient towards his parents, so we can reasonably conclude that Jehovah was NOT deeply concerned about the welfare of children.
Furthermore, as we saw in previous posts, the laws of Jehovah treat women as property of men, and specifically they treat daughters as property of their fathers.  Thus, in the laws of Jehovah there is no prohibition or punishment for a father having sex with his own daughter  (see Leviticus chapters 18 and 20).
Also, if a young girl is violently raped by an adult man, the punishment was a fine (not the death penalty), which was not to compensate the girl, but to compensate her father for the damage to his property, since he could no longer obtain the full bride price for his daughter given that she was now “damaged goods” (see Deuteronomy 22:28-29), as indicated in this commentary on Deuteronomy 22:
Adultery and rape are seen as offenses against the husband or father of the woman involved.  There seems to be no concern for rape as a crime of violence against the woman herself in these laws.
[…]
…If the raped woman is not married or betrothed (vv.28-29), the matter is less serious, a clear indication that rape was viewed as a crime against the victim’s husband.  In this case it is a crime against her father, and he is compensated for the loss of her bride price (cf. Exod. 22:16-17).       (HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Revised Edition, p.207)
The laws of Jehovah also recognize that Israelite fathers have the right to sell their daughters into slavery:
Exodus 21:2 & 7-8 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
2 “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.
[…]
7 “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.
8 If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her.
The passage begins with a discussion about rules concerning male Hebrew slaves, that is male Israelites who become slaves, and then goes on to discuss daughters who are sold as slaves by their fathers.  These daughters are clearly female Israelites, not only because the passage begins with talking about male Israelite slaves, but also because there is a prohibition of selling such a female slave “to a foreign people” meaning selling her to some people other than Israelites.  This prohibition makes no sense unless the female slave in question was herself an Israelite. Thus, this passage recognizes the right of an Israelite father to sell his own daughter into slavery.
It is clear that as far as children are concerned, Jehovah was NOT very concerned about their welfare.  The laws of Jehovah show that the motivation behind the prohibition of child sacrifice was NOT a deep concern for the rights and needs of children.
In Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20, we find a prohibition against offering one’s children to the god Molech:
Leviticus 18:21 New American Standard Bible
21 You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.
Leviticus 20:1-2 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “You shall also say to the sons of Israel:
‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
One further bit of hypocrisy from Jehovah on this matter is that he himself appears to have demanded child sacrifice:
Exodus 13:1-2 New American Standard Bible
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”
Exodus 22:29 New American Standard Bible
29 “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me.
These passages from Exodus might well reflect an Israelite practice of child sacrifice to Jehovah/Yahweh, as argued in the article on “Molech” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (emphasis added):
Human sacrifice as more generally referred to in the phrase, “the one who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire,” is frequently and exclusively attributed to Canaanite origins by some biblical writers (e.g. Deut. 12:31).  Nonetheless, some form of human sacrifice was apparently part of the Yahwistic cult in preexilic (and perhaps exilic) times. …The “sacrifice of the firstborn to Yahweh” and the Molech sacrifice were probably closely related, if not one and the same cult.  Although the former required that the firstborn sons be sacrificed to Yahweh while the latter listed as sacrifices children generally (of both sexes), the fact that daughters could legally substitute for sons as firstborn heirs favors the equation of these two cults (cf. Num. 27:1-8 and the texts from Emar and Nuzi regarding the legal substitution of daughters for sons within the context of inheritance)….Therefore, texts that refer to the sacrifice of the firstborn to Yahweh (e.g. Gen. 22:1-14; Exod. 13:2, 12-13, 15; Mic. 6:6-7) can be related to the Molech cult.  Molech’s associations with Baal (rather than Yahweh) in biblical traditions (cf. Jer. 2:23; 19:5; 32:35) are more likely part of the inventive Deuteronomistic rhetorical polemic to “Canaanize” what was formerly a non-Deuteronomistic, but Yahwistic, Israelite practice of human sacrifice.
As added confirmation of the endurance and pervasiveness of the practice, Ezekiel implies that Yahweh had commanded the Israelites to participate in the sacrifice of their firstborn (Ezek. 20:25-26), but qualifies this law as a form of punishment.  Similarly, Exod. 22:29-30 (MT 28-29) comprises an unqualified demand to make the firstborn sacrifice to Yahweh; the option to redeem the firstborn is not offered here as in later Priestly texts.  In the light of Jeremiah’s condemnation of the practice and Ezekiel’s recognition that Yahweh had once condoned the ritual killing of humans, it is self-evident that for many it was an acceptable form of Yahweh worship. …
In a series of mini-debates captured in the book God or Godless?, the atheist John Loftus argues with the Christian theologian Randal Rauser over various issues and objections concerning atheism vs. Christianity.  In addition to the above article on “Molech” from Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, see Chapter 4 of God or Godless?, where Loftus argues that “Child sacrifice was commanded of the Israelites by Yahweh…” (God or Godless?, p.37).
So, a case can be made that the worship of Jehovah originally included “child sacrifice” and that the claim that this practice was merely a temptation for Israelites introduced by the wicked Canaanites, might well be propaganda covering up the embarrassing truth that Israelite worship of Jehovah/Yahweh had included child sacrifice from ancient times:
The lack of extrabiblical confirmation for the existence of a specifically chthonic or netherworld aspect of a deity M-l-k and for his status as patron of a cult of human sacrifice ought to elicit caution as regards a straightforward historical reading of the biblical portrayal of the Molech cult.  Moreover, tensions evident in the biblical traditions regarding the nature and extent of human sacrifice suggests another instance wherein Deuteronomistic history employed a strategy of rhetorical polemic.  By artificially attributing to Molech patronage over the cult of human sacrifice, the Deuteronomists sought to distance the practice from its origins in the Yahweh cult altogether.  The rhetorical character of the Deuteronomistic portrayal finds its clearest confirmation in the fact that non-Deuteronomistic (and non-Priestly) biblical traditions do not distance human sacrifice from the cult of Yahweh (cf. texts preserving the sacrifice of the firstborn).  (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, “Molech”, p.913)
Given that there is significant evidence indicating that the Israelites had a history of worshiping Jehovah by means of child sacrifice prior to engaging in the slaughter of the Canaanites, there is a problem of the bias of favoritism in employing the death penalty on a massive scale against the Canaanites:
51.  If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter thousands of Canaanites in part as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to show favoritism towards the Israelites by ignoring (or even promoting) “child sacrifice” among the Israelites, but then commanding the mass slaughter of other tribes or peoples for engaging in the same sort of activity.
Jehovah appears to have used a double-standard in relation to use of the death penalty for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”.
In order to be JUST, the laws of Jehovah concerning the sin or crime of “child sacrifice” need to meet the following basic requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law concerning “child sacrifice”.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning “child sacrifice” and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of  engaging in “child sacrifice”.
First of all, as with most of the other sins or crimes in Clay Jones’s list, the phrase “child sacrifice” never occurs in the laws of Jehovah (I checked every instance of the words “child” and “children” in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in both NASB and NRSV translations).  Strictly speaking, the laws of Jehovah do NOT prohibit “child sacrifice” because they never once mention “child sacrifice”:
52. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for violating a prohibition against “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no explicit prohibition of the practice of “child sacrifice” in the laws of Jehovah.
However, there are passages in the laws of Jehovah that have been interpreted to be talking about “child sacrifice”.  Two of those passages were already quoted above (Leviticus 18:21 and 20:1-2).  Those passages do not prohibit “child sacrifice” in general, they prohibit you from giving “any of your offspring to offer them to Molech”.  There is no description or explanation of what is meant by “X offers some of X’s offspring to Molech”.
Killing a son or daughter as a ritual sacrifice to the god Molech would seem to count as offering some of one’s offspring to Molech, but there are other ways to give offspring to a god as well.  One might dedicate a son or daughter to become a priest of the god Molech.  One might volunteer a son or daughter to serve in the temple of Molech for a month or for a year.  One might command one’s son or daughter to work on some project that is believed to further the plans or the will of the god Molech (perhaps doing missionary work to promote belief in, and devotion to, Molech).  So, these laws of Jehovah found in Leviticus are VAGUE and UNCLEAR and thus fail to satisfy (R2):
53. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as capital punishment for violation of the prohibition against giving a son or daughter to the god Molech (i.e. Leviticus 20:2), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law should be Void for Vagueness (the law fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
Furthermore, Molech was just one particular god, so even if we interpret Leviticus 18:21 and 20:2 to mean that “child sacrifice” for Molech is prohibited, this does not rule out making a “child sacrifice” for some OTHER god.   These laws are also are too narrow to outlaw “child sacrifice” in general.
Finally, as I have argued previously, the prohibitions in Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20 are clearly aimed at “the sons of Israel,” at the men of the nation of Israel.  So, the laws in those Chapters satisfy (R1), but the Canaanites are NOT included in the scope of those laws:
54. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as capital punishment for violation of the prohibition against giving a son or daughter to the god Molech (i.e. Leviticus 20:2), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the scope of this law is limited to the men of the nation of Israel, and does NOT include the Canaanites.
However, there are other books with laws of Jehovah that provide somewhat different prohibitions related to “child sacrifice”.  In Exodus there is a prohibition against sacrificing ANYTHING to a god other than Jehovah:
Exodus 22:20 American Standard Version
20 He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto Jehovah only, shall be utterly destroyed.
But the expression “shall be utterly destroyed” does NOT mean “shall be punished by the death penalty”.  This might well simply be a threat by God that such a person will face God’s wrath or some calamity caused by God, so there is no clear punishment assigned to this general prohibition.  Also, Exodus 22 has the same scope as the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, which is “the sons of Israel” meaning the men of the nation of Israel. So, this prohibition does NOT apply to the Canaanites.
That Exodus 22:20 is addressed to the same audience as the Ten Commandments, namely to the men of Israel, is clear from the fact that Exodus 22:20 is part of a section of laws that starts at the beginning of Chapter 21:
 Exodus 21:1 New American Standard Bible
1 “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them:
The referents of the pronouns “you” and “them” must be sought in the previous chapter, namely Chapter 20:
Exodus 20:22 New American Standard Bible
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.
So we see that the pronoun “you” in Exodus 21:1 refers to “Moses”, and the pronoun “them” in Exodus 21:1 refers to “the sons of Israel”, and not to the Canaanites. 
In Deuteronomy, there is a prohibition against burning a son or daughter “in the fire to” Jehovah.  But it is not clear what this expression means, and there is no description or explanation of what burning someone “in the fire to” Jehovah involves.
Deuteronomy 12:30-31 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
30 beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’
31 You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
The conduct that is prohibited is NOT clearly specified, so this law fails to meet requirement (R2):
55. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 should be Void for Vagueness (because it fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
The law is clearly addressed to the Israelites, which implies that the Canaanites are not under the scope of this law.  Also, since this prohibition concerns how Jehovah should be worshiped, this does NOT apply to the Canaanites, who worshiped OTHER gods, not Jehovah:
56. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 clearly applies only to the Israelites and not to the Canaanites (since the law is clearly addressed to the Israelites).
Finally, this prohibition does not indicate what sort of punishment, if any, may be given to someone for a violation of the prohibition, thus it fails to satisfy requirement (R3):
57. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 does NOT clearly state that the death penalty is to be the punishment for this sin or crime.
There is a similar prohibition later in Deuteronomy against making one’s son or daughter “pass through the fire”:
Deuteronomy 18:9-11 New American Standard Bible
9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
There is no description or explanation of what making someone “pass through the fire” means.  Thus, the prohibition in Deuteronomy  18:10 is VAGUE and UNCLEAR and fails to satisfy requirement (R2) for a just law:
58. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 should be Void for Vagueness (because it fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
Based on the content of verse 9, it is clear that this law is being addressed to the Israelites,  (“When you enter the land which the Lord God gives you…”), and not to the Canaanites.  So, although the law satisfies requirement (R1), it does NOT apply to the Canaanites:
59. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 clearly applies only to the Israelites and not to the Canaanites (since the law is clearly addressed to the Israelites).
Finally, this prohibition does not indicate what sort of punishment, if any, may be given to someone for a violation of the prohibition, thus it fails to satisfy requirement (R3):
60. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 does NOT clearly state that the death penalty is to be the punishment for this sin or crime.
As far as I can tell, the laws of Jehovah do not include ANY JUST LAWS that could provide a reasonable basis for employing the death penalty against Canaanites for “child sacrifice” of any sort.  The laws of Jehovah on this matter are VAGUE and UNCLEAR, and their scope is limited to the men of Israel, and most of the relevant laws do NOT clearly specify the death penalty as the appropriate punishment.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 9

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
The Sin or Crime of Bestiality
The word “bestiality” does not occur anywhere in the Bible.  Thus, the word “bestiality” does not occur anywhere in the laws of Jehovah.  Thus, there is no explicit prohibition of “bestiality” in the laws of Jehovah.  However, we can compare the meaning of “bestiality” in ordinary English language, and then review the laws of Jehovah to see whether some actions are prohibited which would fall under the meaning of the word “bestiality”:
sex between a person and an animal
(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bestiality)
There are verses in Leviticus that prohibit such sexual activity:
Leviticus 18:23 New American Standard Bible
23 Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Leviticus 20:15-16 New American Standard Bible
15 If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; you shall also kill the animal.
16 If there is a woman who approaches any animal to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
It appears that there is a bit of a double-standard here, in terms of men vs. women.  Men are to be put to death for having sex with an animal, but women are to be put to death merely for attempting to have sex with an animal (“approaches any animal to mate with it”).  This is SEXIST and unfair to women:
45. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanite men and women be killed as the death penalty for violating the prohibitions in Leviticus concerning sex with animals, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to execute men only for actually having sex with an animal,  while executing women for merely attempting to have sex with an animal.
In a previous post, I argued that the sin or crime of beastiality was not deserving of the death penalty:
17. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of beastiality (i.e. sex between a human and a non-human animal), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of beastiality is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
Why should we have a law against having sex with an animal?  One concern might be for public health – sex with animals could result in transmission of new sexually transmitted diseases, especially from animals to humans (but also from humans to animals).  Another concern might be for the well-being of animals.  A non-human animal might be caused to suffer or might be physically injured by having sex with a human.  Even if an animal enjoys having sex with a human, this could be viewed as a sort of “rape” of the animal by the human, because a non-human animal is no more capable of giving consent to sex than is a baby or a young child.
But none of these reasons seem strong enough to warrant the death penalty, especially in view of the fact that the laws of Jehovah allow an adult man to violently rape a young girl without imposing the death penalty for that sin or crime.  So, even the violent “rape” of a non-human animal (which seems like the worst sort of case of having sex with an animal) cannot be justly punished with the death penalty by Jehovah’s laws, because that would mean treating the violent rape of a young girl by an adult man as something that is LESS SERIOUS than the violent “rape” of an animal by an adult man.
Furthermore, there are MANY different ways to injure or cause pain and suffering to animals.  Factory farming, for example, causes injuries and pain and suffering to millions of animals each year, but we have no laws that impose the death penalty on humans for such practices.  Some sadistic humans take pleasure in beating and abusing and even torturing animals.  Although we sometimes send people to prison for animal abuse, we don’t execute people for such crimes.  If it was the suffering and abuse of the animal that was the moral justification for prohibition of sex with animals, then Jehovah’s laws clearly miss the mark, because they fail to deal with the vast array of non-sexual ways in which humans cause animals to suffer.
Furthermore, it is clear that the laws of Jehovah concerning sex with animals are not based on a concern for the animals involved, because the laws command not only that the human involved be executed, but that the animal involved also be killed.  If the purpose of these laws was to protect animals from injury, suffering, and harm, then it makes no sense to kill the victim of the crime!
If sex with animals is considered to be wrong because non-human animals are incapable of giving consent to having sex, so that sex with an animal is a form of “rape”, then we should note that this justification is problematic.  If we want to prevent animals from having non-consensual sex, and if non-human animals CANNOT give consent (because like children they are unable to give consent) to having sex, then we have an obligation to prevent any and every non-human animal from ever having sex with any other animal (human or non-human).   According to this logic, ALL sexual intercourse by non-human animals would be considered to be “rape”.  Since we do allow non-human animals to have sex, even though they are not capable of giving consent to having sex, it is logically inconsistent to equate having sex with an animal with the sin or crime of RAPE.
We should be concerned about the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases being passed from animals to humans, but we should ALSO be concerned about non-sexually transmitted diseases being passed from animals to humans, and we allow all sorts of close interactions of a non-sexual nature between humans and animals, and those close non-sexual interactions ALSO have the potential to foster the transmission of diseases from animals to humans.  Apart from doing significant scientific investigation/study, it is not clear that sexually transmitted diseases that arise from humans having sex with animals is a greater health risk than diseases that arise from non-sexual interactions between humans and animals.  Even if sex with animals does present a greater health risk than non-sexual interactions with animals, it is far from clear that the difference is more than just a matter of degree.
I believe it is a good thing to prohibit humans from having sex with animals, but I do not see any reasonable justification for making such activity into a capital crime; sex with animals is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
In order to be JUST, the laws of Jehovah concerning sex with animals need to meet the following basic requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law concerning sex with animals.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of  violating prohibitions concerning sex with animals.
Although the laws of Jehovah appear to give a clear indication of the SCOPE of the prohibitions concerning sex with animals, as I have argued concerning other prohibitions, the SCOPE is  the nation of Israel and does NOT include the Canaanites:
Leviticus 18:23 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
23 Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Since the pronoun “you” in this verse clearly refers back to the phrase “the sons of Israel” found at the beginning of Chapter 18 of Leviticus, the first prohibition against having sex with animals applies only to “the sons of Israel” (i.e. the men of the nation Israel).  The phrase “any woman” should be interpreted in keeping with the interpretation of the pronoun “you”, so “any woman” in this context clearly means: any Israelite woman.  It would be absurd and illogical to limit the scope of the first prohibition to Israelite men, but to hugely expand the scope of the second prohibition to include every woman in every nation.  So, the prohibitions concerning sex with animals satisfy (R1), but since the scope is limited to Israelites, it would be unjust to apply the death penalty to Canaanites for violations of these laws:
46. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for violating Jehovah’s laws concerning sex with animals, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to impose a severe punishment on people on the basis of laws which clearly appear to exclude those people from the scope of those laws.
What about the second basic requirement for a just law?  Do the laws of Jehovah state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals (R2)? I will argue that they are VAGUE and UNCLEAR as to what specific sexual activities constitute a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals.
The first thing to note is that the prohibition concerning MEN having sex with animals uses the same UNCLEAR language as the prohibition against men having sex with other men.  Here is the verse prohibiting men from having sex with other men:

Leviticus 20:13 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)

13 If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.

 This is followed a couple of verses later by the prohibition of men having sex with animals:
Leviticus 20:15 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
15 If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death;
The expression “X lies with Y” is a euphemism used in ancient Hebrew to mean roughly “X has sex with Y”.  But the use of euphemism makes both of these laws VAGUE and UNCLEAR, because a law, especially a law which carries the death penalty as a punishment, needs to be very clear and precise as to what conduct is prohibited.  We can see, based on a parallel passage in Leviticus 18 that the euphemism “lies with” is a way for referring to sex:

Leviticus 18:23 New Revised Standard Version (emphasis added)

23 You shall not have sexual relations with any animal and defile yourself with it, nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it: it is perversion.

It is reasonable to use Leviticus 18:23 as the basis for interpreting the phrase “lies with” in Leviticus 20:15, so we can conclude that the laws of Jehovah prohibit a man from having sexual relations with an animal, and that a violation of this law may be punished by the death penalty.  But if this is what the law against sex with animals means, then this law is VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes a violation of this law, and thus this law is unjust.

The phrase “X had sexual relations with Y” is a vague and unclear statement, because it is unclear whether oral sex would count as an example of “having sexual relations”, and whether anal sex would count, and whether manual sex would count.  When President Bill Clinton famously asserted, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”, he was not lying, because the meaning of this phrase is VAGUE and UNCLEAR.

Miss Lewinsky and Bill Clinton had oral sex; she put his penis in her mouth and sucked and licked his penis until he had an orgasm and ejaculated.  But they did not engage in coitus; he did not insert his penis into her vagina and move his penis in and out of her until he had an orgasm and ejaculated.  Because it is unclear whether “having sexual relations” means strictly engaging in coitus or whether it includes other sorts of sexual activity (such as oral sex, anal sex, or manual sex), we cannot convict Bill Clinton of lying.  We can say he was being deceptive and using VAGUE and UNCLEAR language to mislead others, but what he asserted is NOT clearly false, because he used language which was (intentionally) unclear.

Such VAGUE and UNCLEAR language has no place in laws, particularly in criminal laws where serious punishments can be given to a person who is convicted of such a crime, and the death penalty is one of the most serious punishments that one can receive (apart from torture which we have eliminated as a legitimate legal punishment in the USA).

I, however, used the New Revised Standard Version above, as the basis for this interpretation.  The Revised English Bible provides an alternative translation to the key verse from Leviticus 18:

Leviticus 18:23 Revised English Bible (emphasis added)

23 You must not have sexual intercourse with any animal to make yourself unclean with it…

The phrase “X had sexual intercourse with Y” seems a bit more clear and specific than “X had sexual relations with Y”, and my American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College edition) supports my linguistic intuition here:

sexual intercourse:  Coitus, esp. between humans.

O.K., but what exactly is “Coitus”?  This term appears to have a fairly specific meaning, again from my American Heritage Dictionary:

coitus: The physical union of male and female sexual organs, leading to orgasm and ejaculation of semen.

Now we have clarity and specificity.

1.  “X lies with Y” means “X has sexual intercourse with Y”.

2. “X has sexual intercourse with Y” means “X and Y engage in sexual activity in which there is a physical union of male and female sexual organs [of X and Y] and in which the male has an orgasm and ejaculates semen.”

Therefore:

3. “X lies with Y” means “X and Y engage in sexual activity in which there is a physical union of male and female sexual organs [of X and Y] and in which the male has an orgasm and ejaculates semen.”

This very clear and precise definition of “X lies with Y” in (3) has some serious problems, however.  First on this definition, it is IMPOSSIBLE for one man to “lie with” another man, or to have “sexual intercourse” with another man, because on this definition, “X lies with Y” ONLY IF one of the two people has a female sexual organ, a vagina ( I suppose that someone could be born with both male and female sexual organs, but then it is not clear that such a person would be correctly categorized as a “man” in the view of the Israelites or of the author of Leviticus).

But it is clear that the author of Leviticus believes that it is possible for two men to be engaged in sexual activity that can be correctly categorized as “X lies with Y”.  Therefore, either the translators of the Revised English Bible were mistaken in their translation of Leviticus 18:23 (using the expression “sexual intercourse”) or else the definitions of “sexual intercourse” and “coitus” in my American Heritage Dictionary are mistaken.

Furthermore, if we go with the narrow definition of “X lies with Y” that is implied by this Revised English Bible translation of Leviticus 18:23, then the laws of Jehovah would allow (without any punishment imposed) the following sexual activities:

  • oral sex between men
  • anal sex between men
  • manual sex (mutual masturbation) between men
  • oral sex between a man and an animal
  • anal sex between a man and an animal
  • manual sex between a man and an animal
  • penile/vaginal sex between a man and an animal in which the man does not reach orgasm or does not ejaculate
  • oral sex with another man’s wife
  • anal sex with another man’s wife
  • manual sex (mutual masturbation) with another man’s wife
  • penile/vaginal sex between a man and another man’s wife in which the man does not reach orgasm or does not ejaculate
  • oral sex between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter)
  • anal sex between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter)
  • manual sex (mutual masturbation) between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter)
  • penile/vaginal sex between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter) in which the man does not reach orgasm or does not ejaculate

Most Christian believers would find such wide-ranging sexual freedom to be appalling, and would be inclined to doubt the divine inspiration of the laws of Jehovah if those laws permit all of these sexual activities to be engaged in without any prohibition or punishment.

We could tweak the definition of “sexual intercourse” to try to achieve a definition which was clearer and more specific than the obviously problematic phrase “sexual relations” but less specific than the very precise definition of “coitus” from my American Heritage Dictionary, but such tweaking would be arbitrary, and NOT well grounded in the text of Leviticus.  The problem is that Leviticus is VAGUE and UNCLEAR in ALL of the sexual prohibitions that we have been considering (i.e. “incest”, “adultery”, “homosexuality”, and “bestiality”).

Such unclarity leaves too much room for interpretation by a judge or jury as to whether or not a specific instance of questionable sexual activity is prohibited or not.  Thus, ALL of the sexual prohibitions found in Leviticus should be VOID FOR VAGUENESS.  ALL of these sexual prohibitions constitute UNJUST LAWS, particularly in view of the fact that violations of these laws may be punished by the death penalty.  The definitions of capital crimes must be very clear and precise, leaving very little room for subjectivity and different interpretations by different judges or juries:

47. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sex with an animal, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah fail to state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals.

This problem also applies to the prohibition of “adultery” in the laws of Jehovah:

48. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because of the key phrases “lies with” and “sexual relations” are vague and unclear ). 

 The same problem applies to the prohibitions of sexual activity in the laws of Jehovah that fall under our concept of “incest”:
49. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes “incest” (because of the key phrases “lies with” and “sexual relations” are vague and unclear). 
I want to consider and reject one possible line of defense against the objection I have raised here.  Suppose that someone replies to my objection by arguing from facts and details about the meanings of Hebrew words and phrases found in various passages from Leviticus and  by arguing from facts and details of the content of Leviticus related to the beliefs and attitudes of the author of Leviticus towards sex, that there is an alternative translation and interpretation of Leviticus 18:23 which is less VAGUE than the translation of the New Revised Standard Version (i.e. “sexual relations”), and which is less NARROW and less SPECIFIC than the translation of the Revised English Bible (i.e. “sexual intercourse”).  Furthermore, suppose this responder to my objections was successful in showing that this alternative translation and interpretation avoids the problem of being VOID for VAGUENESS and is a better and superior translation/interpretation than the two alternatives I have described above.  Would such a response show my objection to be weak or faulty?  I don’t think so.
For my objection here to work, it is NOT necessary that the translations/interpretations that I have pointed to be shown to be CORRECT or even shown to be the BEST AVAILABLE interpretations in terms of the latest and greatest Old Testament scholarship and scholarship concerning the meanings of ancient Hebrew words and phrases.  The reason why this is so, is that laws are very practical in nature, especially laws that govern the everyday behavior of people in general.  Such laws, in order to be just laws, must be clearly written and easily understood by the common person.
I think it is a good and wonderful thing that a few people, perhaps one in a ten thousand people, become scholars and experts in the Old Testament and in the translation and interpretation of ancient Hebrew.  However, we cannot expect the average person to master Old Testament scholarship and the subtleties of translating ancient Hebrew.  Because of the practical nature of laws, especially laws that govern the everyday behavior of common folk, it would be UNJUST to impose the death penalty on a person who misunderstood one of the laws of Jehovah simply because that person fell short of being a competent scholar of the Old Testament or of the ancient Hebrew language.
If a case for an alternative translation/interpretation of Leviticus 18:23 rests on facts and details about the meanings of ancient Hebrew words and phrases and/or facts and details concerning the beliefs and attitudes of the author of Leviticus about sex, then such discussion is likely to require TOO MUCH of the common person on the street.  This would especially be true of ancient Canaanites who (a) were mostly illiterate, and (b) did not have possession of printed copies of the laws of Jehovah, and (c) did not have access to modern scholarship concerning the translation or interpretation of the Old Testament and of the ancient Hebrew language.
Thus, even if a solid case could be made that some alternative interpretation of Leviticus 18:23 was both clear and specific, but less narrow and less specific than the definition of “coitus” from my American Heritage Dictionary, this would probably NOT refute my objection, because the arguments for such a claim are likely to demand too much knowledge or effort on the part of the common person, or on the part of the average Canaanite.  Laws concerning the everyday behavior of people in general MUST be written in clear and specific language that does NOT require a significant amount of knowledge and learning on the part of people who are expected to conform their actions to those laws.
The laws of Jehovah do clearly specify the death penalty as the punishment for a violation of the laws that prohibit people from having sex with animals, thus these laws satisfy the third requirement for a just law (R3), but this just makes it all the more critical that the laws be clear and precise about what conduct constitutes a violation of these laws.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 8

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
In Part 5 I showed that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “idolatry” as part of a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites. In Part 6 I showed that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “incest” as part of a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites.  In Part 7 I showed that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “adultery” as part of a justification of the slaughter of the Canaanites.
I also plan to show that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “child sacrifice” as part of a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites.  However, there is a good deal of historical information and complex historical issues surrounding “child sacrifice” in the Old Testament, so I want to put in a bit more time reading and studying before I lay out my objections to this proposed moral justification of the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children).
The Sin or Crime of Homosexuality
In a previous post I pointed out that RAPE is always non-consensual sex and often involves violence against the victim, and is thus a serious crime that deserves a serious punishment; while homosexual sex is generally consensual sex between adults and thus ought not to be punished as a crime at all, and certainly ought not be punished more severely than RAPE. (Also, when homosexual sex is non-consensual, it can just be considered RAPE, and thus wrong and deserving of punishment simply for that reason.)
But the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST, and so the violent rape of a young girl by an adult man is punished not with the death penalty, but with a fine, which is paid to the girl’s father (as compensation for damaging his property), and no compensation is given to the girl.  In fact, the man is required to marry his victim, and thus he gains the legal right to continue raping the girl whenever he wishes.  The absurdity of imposing capital punishement for the sin or crime of homosexual sex, while only imposing a fine and a mandatory marriage on a rapist, shows that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST and that JEHOVAH IS A SEXIST (and thus that Jehovah is NOT God).
Although the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST and treat women as pieces of property owned by men (girls and single women are owned by their fathers and engaged or married women are owned by their husbands) and thus women are treated UNJUSTLY by the laws of Jehovah, there is also injustice towards men that results from the SEXIST nature of the laws of Jehovah.  As I previously pointed out, only men can commit the crime of “incest” because the SEXIST laws of Jehovah fail to recognize the possibilty that women can also initiate sexual activity.  Thus JEHOVAH IS UNJUST towards men for making “incest” a crime that only a man can do.
The same problem occurs here with the sin or crime of “homosexuality”:
Leviticus 18:22 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
13 If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
The sin or crime of “homosexuality” (i.e. homosexual sex) can ONLY be committed by a man, according to the laws of Jehovah.  But if homosexual sex is wrong for a man, then it should also be wrong for a woman. If men deserve punishment for homosexual sex, then women also deserve punishment for homosexual sex.  But because the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST, they focus on the actions of men, and largely ignore the actions of women, and they also assume that only men can initiate sexual activity, when in fact women are also capable of initiating sexual activity, including homosexual sex with another woman:
 41. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of homosexual sex, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish men for engaging in consensual sex with other men while allowing women to engage in consensual sex with other women with impunity.
To avoid the INJUSTICE involved in laws subject to being made Void for Vagueness, a law against “homosexuality” must meet at least these three requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law concerning “homosexuality”.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes “homosexuality” and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of “homosexuality”.
First of all, the words “homosexual” and “homosexuality” do NOT occur anywhere in the Old Testament, so these words do not occur in the laws of Jehovah.  So, there are no laws against “homosexuality” per se in the laws of Jehovah.
42. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “homosexuality”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no explicit prohibition of “homosexuality” in the laws of Jehovah.
But we know the meaning of the word “homosexuality”, so we can review the laws of Jehovah for laws that in effect prohibit homosexuality, even if the word “homosexuality” is not explicitly used in the laws of Jehovah.  My American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College edition) gives two definitions of “homosexuality”:
1. Sexual desire for others of one’s own sex.
2. Sexual activity with another of the same sex.
It would be unjust for Jehovah to impose the death penalty on someone just for having sexual desire for others of the same sex, especially since Jehovah supposedly created human beings and thus he is responsible for creating humans who have such homosexual desires.  Having a desire does not, however, mean that one must act on the desire, so it makes more sense to understand the sin or crime of “homosexuality” to mean engaging in sexual activity with another of the same sex.
The laws of Jehovah, as we have already seen, do not prohibit ALL “sexual activity with another of the same sex”.  The laws of Jehovah, for example, do NOT prohibit a woman from engaging in sexual activity with another woman.  The laws of Jehovah also do NOT prohibit a man from french kissing another man.  So, it is inaccurate and misleading to say that the laws of Jehovah prohibit “homosexuality”.  Rather, they prohibit only specific forms of homosexual activity between men.
Do the laws of Jehovah satisfy the second requirement for a just law against certain forms of homosexual activity between men?  There is a problem of VAGUENESS, because of the phrase “lies with a male as those who lie with a woman”.  Taken literally, a man would be committing this sin or crime just by lying down near another man without engaging in sex, since men often lie down near a woman without necessarily having sex with the woman.
But the authors of the Old Testament often used euphemisms for sexual intercourse, and this appears to be an instance of such a euphemism:
Other references to sexual intercourse also use ordinary words with a specifically sexual sense.  Among the most frequent is a Hebrew verb that means “to lie with” or “to sleep with,” with both primary and sexual meanings parallel to English useage. (Michael Coogan, God and Sex, p.9-10).
Given that “to lie with” is a common euphemism in the OT for sexual intercourse, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 should be understood as prohibiting sexual intercourse between men.
Presumably, this law concerns anal intercourse between men, since that is the closest analogue to ordinary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.  This law of Jehovah does NOT prohibit anal intercourse between a man and a woman, nor between women (with the use of fingers or penis-shaped objects).  It is UNCLEAR whether this law of Jehovah prohibits oral sex between men or mutual masturbation between men, because it is not clear that oral sex or mutual masturbation were considered to be part of ordinary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
So, there is a significant degree of VAGUNESS and UNCLARITY in this law, a degree that would be unacceptable in a modern court of law in the USA, because it leaves too much room for interpretation by a judge or jury.  If Jehovah is omniscient and is a perfectly morally good person, then there is no good reason to lower our standards of justice for the laws of Jehovah, and if Jehovah was NOT omniscient or NOT a perfectly morally good person, then Jehovah was NOT God.  Therefore:
43. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sexual intercourse with another man, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, becuase the laws of Jehovah are unclear as to what precise conduct counts as a violation of this prohibition.
Since Leviticus 20:13 explicitly prescribes the death penalty for this sin or crime, the third requirement (R3) for a just law is satisfied by this particular law.
What about the SCOPE of the prohibition?  Does this law satisfy the first requirement (R1) of a just law?  Do the laws of Jehovah clearly indicate who must comply with this prohibition? Does this law apply to the Canaanites?  Once again, it is fairly clear that this law does NOT apply to Canaanites.  The key question here is:  What is the referent of the pronoun ‘you’ in Leviticus 18:22?
Leviticus 18:22 New American Standard Bible
22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
The opening of Chapter 18 of Leviticus makes it clear to whom the word “you” refers:

Leviticus 18:1-5 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)

1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the Lord your God.
3 You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.
4 You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God.
5 So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.

The word “you” occurs seven times in these opening verses of Chapter 18, and in each case this word clearly refers back to “the sons of Israel”  who previously lived “in the land of Egypt”.  Clearly the word “you” in Leviticus 18:22 refers to “the sons of Israel” (i.e. the men of the nation Israel) and NOT to the Canaanites.  Therefore, although the laws of Jehovah do clearly indicate the SCOPE of this law prohibiting sexual intercourse between two men, they indicate that the law applies to the Israelites, not to the Canaanites:
44. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sexual intercourse with another man, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, becuase the laws of Jehovah give clear indication that this law applies only to Israelite men.
In conclusion, the laws of Jehovah do clearly indicate that the death penalty may be imposed for the sin or crime of a man having sexual intercourse with another man and thus the law prohibiting this satisfies the third requirement for a just law (R3).   This law, however, is somewhat UNCLEAR and VAGUE leaving it open to a judge or jury to determine whether oral sex between men counts as a violation, and whether mutual masturbation between men counts as a violation, and thus this law is unjust and should be made VOID FOR VAGUENESS and fails the second requirement for a just law (R2). Furthermore, although the SCOPE of this law is clearly indicated by the opening verses of Leviticus Chapter 18, thus satisfying (R1), the scope includes only Israelite men, not Canaanite men, and so the use of this law to impose the death penalty on a Canaanite man would be unjust.
Finally, Jehovah’s laws concerning homosexual activity are clearly UNJUST, because as a result of their SEXIST viewpoint they impose a severe punishment (death) on men for engaging in an activity that women are allowed to engage in with no punishment at all (i.e. having sex with another person of the same sex).
 
 

bookmark_borderG&T Rebuttal, Part 6: Chapter 7

Chapter 7. Mother Theresa vs. Hitler

 
In this chapter, G&T present a version of the moral argument for God’s existence which I call the “Moral Laws Require a Moral Lawgiver Argument,” which they formulate as follows.

1. Every law has a law giver.
2. There is a Moral Law.


3. Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver.

Like the earlier arguments, this argument is deductively valid. Like the earlier chapters about this argument, I plan to briefly summarize G&T’s defense of this argument before offering my critique.
(i) Moral Laws, Lawgivers, and Obligations: For the most part, G&T defend premise 1 through the use of simplistic slogans, such as “every prescription has a prescriber” (170) and “there can be no legislation unless there’s a legislature” (171). The most charitable interpretation of G&T’s appeal to these slogans is that these slogans function as arguments from analogy. But the analogies with the Moral Law are weak. “Laws” require a “lawgiver” only if they are, in fact, given (made). Statutory (governmental) laws are the paradigm example of laws that require a lawgiver, but, to use one of William Lane Craig’s trademark expressions, statutory laws (“legislation”) began to exist. Not all laws are made, however. The laws of nature, logic, and mathematics are three examples of laws that are discovered, not invented. Not only do these examples undercut the support for premise (1), they actually provide the basis of an argument from analogy against premise 1, based on the following negative analogy.

4. The laws of nature, logic, mathematics, and morality did not begin to exist.
5. The laws of nature, logic, and mathematics also do not have lawgivers.


6. Therefore, the laws of morality do not have a lawgiver.

This entails, accordingly, that premise 1 is false.
G&T’s second supporting argument for premise 1 implicitly appeals to what’s known as a “social theory of obligation.”[1] That G&T make this appeal isn’t obvious, so I first need to defend that interpretation before addressing it. Although they don’t use the phrase, “social theory of obligation,” they do argue, “if there are moral obligations, there must be someone to be obligated to” (171).  That argument presupposes a social theory of obligation, which holds that “obligations” are made in the context of a relationship between persons in which a demand is made. Thus, I think the most charitable interpretation of this statement is to treat it as a second supporting argument for premise 1.
I’m inclined to agree with G&T that obligation is inherently social, but notice there is a difference between individual obligations and the concept of obligation itself. Thus, let us distinguish between (a) the source of obligation in general; and (b) the source of specific obligations.
Regarding (a), the important question, a question that J.L. Mackie asked, but that most defenders of divine command theories of moral obligation have ignored, is how obligation in general could be created by the commands of any person (including God).[2] Let us suppose that God exists and commands us to perform action A. God’s commandment to perform A could make A morally obligatory if and only if there were a prior moral obligation to obey God’s commands. But if there is a prior moral obligation to obey God’s commands, then that entails the existence of at least one autonomous moral obligation. It follows, then, that God is not the source of all moral obligations. Thus, as a potential explanation for all moral obligation, the appeal to divine commands reduces to “The reason there are moral obligations is because there is at least one true moral obligation,” which is no explanation at all. At best, this explanation merely describes the relation between religious moral obligations (i.e., obligations based on God’s commands) and an autonomous, secular moral obligation (i.e., an obligation which is not based on God’s commands). We’re still left with the prior obligation to obey God’s commands, an obligation which cannot be justified by God’s commands. So the appeal to divine commands does not explain the deeper issue of why there are any moral obligations at all. This blatant circularity renders God’s commands worthless as an explanation for moral obligation in general.
As for (b), individual obligations are created by persons, but the obligations need not be the result of conscious acts by those persons. If the relevant prior obligation exists, then a person can create an obligation through a conscious act like commanding. For example, if God exists and has commanded that humans observe the Sabbath, then that command creates a further moral obligation because of the prior obligation to obey God’s commands. Or again, to pick a secular example, if a parent tells a child to take out the garbage, then that command creates a further moral obligation because of the prior obligation children have to obey reasonable requests made by their parents.
But other obligations do not seem to be the kind of obligations which need to be commanded. One example is the prior obligation to obey God’s commands, despite the fact that no person created that obligation. Another example would be the prima facie moral obligations which parents have to their children, despite the fact that infants obviously cannot command anything. These examples show that the source of obligations can be relational (i.e., grounded in a personal relationship) but not dependent upon a conscious act. This also explains why impersonal objects—what G&T call “materials” such as atoms, molecules, and other physical particles—cannot be the source of obligations. Obligations cannot come from an impersonal universe, but it doesn’t follow that there are no obligations in an impersonal universe.
In sum, if even one moral obligation can exist without God, then there’s no reason to think that most moral obligations can’t exist without God.
(ii) The Existence of a Moral Law: G&T offer eight reasons in support of the Moral Law: (1) the Moral Law is undeniable; (2) we know it by our reactions; (3) it is the basis of human rights; (4) it is the unchanging standard of justice; (5) it defines a real difference between moral positions (e.g., Mother Theresa vs. Hitler); (6) since we know what’s absolutely wrong, there must be an absolute moral standard of goodness; (7) the Moral Law is the grounds for political and social dissent; and (8) if there were no Moral Law, then we wouldn’t make excuses for violating it.
While there are various points of detail in G&T’s case for the Moral Law’s existence I would dispute, I’m going to skip over them. I agree with their overall point that what they call the “Moral Law” exists.
(iii) Confusions about Absolute vs. Relative Morality: G&T identify and address what they call six “confusions” about absolute morals: (1) absolute morals vs. changing behavior; (2) absolute morals vs. changing perceptions of the facts; (3) absolute morals vs. applying them to particular situations; (4) an absolute command (what) vs. a relative culture (how); (5) absolute morals vs. moral disagreements; and (6) absolute ends (values) vs. relative means.
I’m not sure that there is much to argue with here. Like their defense of the Moral Law, there are various minor points I could make but, again, I’m going to let them pass. I agree that, as they stand, many objections to the Moral Law are weak because they confuse various distinctions.
(iv) ‘Darwinist’ Explanations of the Moral Law: G&T offer a multi-pronged critique of E.O. Wilson’s Darwinian explanation for the evolution of a moral sense. (1) The Moral Law is immaterial and so cannot be reduced to matter. (2) Morality cannot be merely an instinct. (3) Darwinism cannot explain self-destructive or altruistic behaviors. (4) There can be no “real good without the objective Moral Law” (188). (5) Darwinists confuse moral epistemology (how one comes to know the Moral Law) with moral ontology (the existence of the Moral Law). (6) “Darwinists cannot explain why anyone should obey any biologically derived ‘moral sentiment’” (188).
Following prominent moral philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, let’s divide moral theory into two branches: substantive ethics and metaethics. Substantive ethics is probably what the average nonphilosopher has in mind when thinking about “morality;” it has to do with what is morally good and bad, right and wrong, and so forth.  Metaethics is literally “about ethics,” in the sense that it is focused on the nature of substantive moral claims. Sinnott-Armstrong has identified six branches of metaethics, shown below in Figure 1.

Metaethics
Figure 1

Of those six branches, three are relevant to various moral arguments for God’s existence. First, moral ontology “asks whether any moral properties and facts exist and, if so, what metaphysical status they have.”[3] Second, moral epistemology “concerns roughly whether, when, and how substantive moral claims and beliefs can be justified or known.”[4] Finally, third, moral psychology “asks about the nature and sources of moral beliefs and moral emotions, such as guilt and shame, as well as about our motivation to be moral.”[5]

Corresponding to these three branches of metaethics are three types of moral phenomena which are sometimes claimed as evidence for God’s existence.

Branch of Metaethics Fact to be Explained
Moral Ontology Moral Values, Moral Law, Moral Obligations
Moral Epistemology Moral Beliefs
Moral Psychology Moral Emotions (such as guilt, shame, obligation)

 
G&T’s moral argument is an argument about moral ontology. Wilson’s sociobiological explanation for morality is about moral psychology and epistemology. It follows, therefore, that objections (1), (2), (4) and especially (5) are irrelevant. (5) is particularly heinous since Wilson wasn’t even trying to explain moral ontology.
Let’s turn our attention to (3), the objection that  Darwinism cannot explain self-destructive or altruistic behaviors. In fact, as Paul Draper argues, Darwinian naturalism offers a much better explanation for the distribution of self-centered and selfless behaviors among human beings.[6]
In order to see why that is so, let’s begin with the fact that humans are effectively self-centered; our tendency to behave in self-centered ways is usually much stronger than any tendency to behave in selfless ways. Next, let’s divide altruistic behaviors into two types: kin altruism and non-kin altruism.
On Darwinian naturalism, the mixture of selfish and selfless (altruistic) behaviors we find in Homo sapiens is easy to explain.  The Darwinian naturalist explanation for our overwhelming tendency towards self-centered behavior is obvious. Kin altruism is also easy to explain: behaviors that promote the survival and reproduction of my kin make it more probable that my genes will be inherited by future generations. Non-kin altruism is weaker than kin altruism and also absent more often than kin altruism. Given that kin altruism exists, this pattern or distribution is exactly what we would expect on Darwinian naturalism.
With theism, however, things are quite different. On theism, either God created humans directly (special creation) or indirectly (Darwinian theism or theistic evolution).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, He could create humans without making them inherently self-centered. Since God is morally perfect, He would have good moral reasons for creating altruistic humans. Furthermore, He would not create inherently self-centered humans unless He had a morally sufficient reason for doing so. So given that humans are inherently self-centered, theism entails both that God is not constrained by biological goals like survival and reproduction (and hence does not need to create human beings who are inherently self-centered) and that He had a morally sufficient reason for creating inherently self-centered human beings.
While that is a logical possibility—it doesn’t disprove theism—that’s also a really big coincidence that Darwinian naturalism doesn’t need. The distribution of selfish and selfless behaviors among human beings is much more probable on naturalism than on theism. Therefore, that distribution is strong evidence favoring naturalism over theism.
Finally, what about G&T’s sixth objection, that  “Darwinists cannot explain why anyone should obey any biologically derived ‘moral sentiment’” (188)? There is much to be said about this topic, too much to address here. Instead, I will simply make one point: I think G&T are being uncharitable to the idea of “biologically derived moral sentiments.” G&T are saying that if contemplating a certain action, such as bestiality, causes a person to feel disgust, that feeling of disgust provides no reason at all for the person to avoid bestiality. But that’s false.  The desire to avoid the emotions of guilt, shame, and disgust are often powerful motivators. If G&T disagree, then I invite them to attempt to do something they find disgusting! They will quickly discover that their feeling of disgust does, indeed, provide a reason for not doing an action.
(v) The ‘Consequences’ of Darwinist Morality: According to G&T, Darwinist morality implies that the following are morally permissible: (1) racism and genocide; (2) infanticide; (3) using “retarded” people as laboratory subjects or food; and (4) rape. G&T support the claim that each of these alleged implications is an actual implication of Darwinist morality by appeals to authority.
I will make some general comments regarding this section as a whole before addressing each of these alleged consequences of Darwinist morality.
Some General Comments:
First, G&T, like many (but not all) theists who engage in moral apologetics, misuse the word “implication.” In logic, to say, “X implies Y,” means that Y is true whenever X is true. A corollary of this point is this: if it is possible for Y to be true when X is not, then X doesn’t imply Y. As a professional philosopher, Geisler is surely aware of this point, but he (inexplicably) seems to forget it when he (and Turek) repeatedly refer to what they call the “consequences,” “implications,” or “logical outworkings” of Darwinism. Each of their claims regarding the alleged “implication” of Darwinist morality is refuted by this simple point. If atheism is true, the Holocaust, infanticide, the abuse of the mentally disabled, and rape can still be morally bad. Since that is even possible, it follows that none of those things are “implications” of atheism.
Second, contrary to frequent claims in moral apologetics, atheism is neither moral nor immoral; rather, it is amoral. By itself, atheism does not make it obligatory, permitted, or forbidden to do anything. It’s neither a (substantive) ethical theory nor a metaethical theory.[7]
Third, in order to justify their claim that “Darwinism” has such outrageous moral consequences, G&T rely upon a series of arguments from authority. Again, as we saw earlier, arguments from authority can be logically correct (inductive) arguments in some circumstances, such as (a) the argument correctly quotes and interprets the authority; and (b) there are no equally qualified authorities who disagree with the authority quoted by the argument. As we shall see below, however, each of their arguments from authority fails to satisfy these requirements. It follows, therefore, that none of their arguments from authority make their conclusions probable: they fail to establish that “Darwinism” has the moral implications which G&T claim that Darwinism has.
Regarding (1) (racism and genocide), G&T quote the following passage from Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf:

If nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such cases all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.
But such a preservation goes hand-in-hand with the inexorable law that it is the strongest and the best who must triumph and that they have the right to endure. He who would live must fight. He who does not wish to fight in this world, where permanent struggle is the law of life, has not the right to exist.[8]

Based on this passage, G&T conclude that “Adolf Hitler used Darwin’s theory as philosophical justification for the Holocaust” (189).
This example is multiply flawed, however. First, remember that G&T define “Darwinism” as a belief in impersonal, unguided evolution. In the passage just quoted, however, Hitler talks about nature’s “wishes.” Since the idea of nature (or Nature) as a conscious being with “wishes” and “efforts” is incompatible with Darwinism, this passage contradicts the claim that Hitler was a Darwinist, much less someone who subscribed to ‘Darwinist morality.’
Second, in the passage quoted above, Hitler commits the is-ought fallacy, viz., by moving from exclusively non-ethical premises to an ethical conclusion.[9] In its logical form, Hitler’s argument may be summarized as follows.

All living things are engaged in a struggle for survival; only the fittest survive. [non-ethical premise]


Therefore, it is right to allow the strongest to survive and wrong to allow the weakest to survive. [ethical conclusion]

This argument is deductively invalid, however. Its conclusion does not follow from its (sole) premise.
Third, Hitler (and his racist followers) were (and are) factually incorrect. A key part of his argument is the presupposition that some human races are ‘superior’ to others. Not only is that presupposition false, but notice that it does not follow from evolution, much less Darwinism.
Fourth, as an argument from authority, G&T’s appeal to Hitler is logically incorrect. If we abbreviate the conclusion of Hitler’s argument as G, then the logical form of G&T’s corresponding argument from authority is as follows.

(5) The vast majority of statements made by Adolph Hitler concerning metaethics are true.
(6) G is a statement made by Adolph Hitler about metaethics.


(7) Therefore, G is true.

Even if Hitler had been an authority on metaethics, this argument would fail because all or virtually all competent authorities disagree. But Adolph Hitler was not an authority on metaethics. So G&T’s argument from authority is evidentially worthless: it provides no evidence at all—nada, zero, zilch, zip—for the claim that “Darwinist morality implies that racism and genocide are ethically right.”
Regarding (2) (infanticide), G&T quote moral philosopher Peter Singer’s statement, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”[10] G&T then go on to argue that a consequence “of Singer’s outrageous Darwinian ideas” is infanticide: “He believes that parents should be able to kill their newborn infants until they are 28 days of age!” (190).
This argument is only marginally better than the last. G&T’s quotation of Singer fails to establish the conclusion that “Darwinist morality implies that infanticide is morally right or permissible.” (a) While Singer is an authority on moral philosophy, this argument from authority fails because equally competent authorities, including Darwinists such as James Rachels, disagree. (b) G&T commit the is-ought fallacy by moving from an exclusively non-ethical premise (“Darwinism is true”) to an ethical conclusion (“infanticide is morally right or permissible”).
Reading (3) (the moral status of the mentally disabled), G&T reach this remarkable conclusion by quoting the late moral philosopher James Rachels. Here is what G&T write (190):

Speaking of retarded people, Rachels writes:

What are we to say about them? The natural conclusion, according to the doctrine we are considering [Darwinism], would be that their status is that of mere animals. And perhaps we should go on to conclude that they may be used as non-human animals are used–perhaps as laboratory subjects, or as food?22

As horrific as that would be–using retarded people as lab rats or food–Darwinists can give no moral reason why we ought not use any human being in that fashion.


22 James Rachels, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 186.

Suffice it to say that G&T nowhere say or even hint at the fact that Rachels opposed the very view which G&T attempt to saddle Darwinism with.
As someone who has read Rachels’ important book several times, I am baffled how G&T could possibly justify this outrageous, slanderous interpretation of Rachels. First, notice the bracketed word [Darwinism]. Rachels was not considering the doctrine of ‘Darwinism’ at this point in his book. Rather, he was talking about the doctrine of “qualified speciesism.” Here is how Rachels defines it.

But there is a more sophisticated view of the relation between morality and species, and it is this view that defenders of traditional morality have most often adopted. On this view, species alone is not regarded as morally significant. However, species-membership is correlated with other differences that are significant. The interests of humans are said to be more important, not simply because they are human, but because humans have morally relevant characteristics that other animals lack.[11]

With that definition in mind, let’s review what Rachels actually wrote about qualified speciesism.

There is still another problem for this form of qualified speciesism. Some unfortunate humans—perhaps because they have suffered brain damage—are not rational agents. What are we to say about them? The natural conclusion, according to the doctrine we are considering, would be that their status is that of mere animals. And perhaps we should go on to conclude that they may be used as non-human animals are used–perhaps as laboratory subjects, or as food?[12]

This leads to my second objection to G&T’s quotation of Rachels. Not only was Rachels talking about qualified speciesism, not Darwinism, but Rachels was describing a problem with qualified speciesism. In other words, Rachels was arguing against qualified speciesism. There is simply no justification for G&T trying to saddle Rachels with a view he explicitly calls a “problem” and, in fact, rejects.
A few pages later, Rachels goes on to make a distinction between “having a moral obligation” and “being the beneficiary of a moral obligation.” In his words:

… we must distinguish the conditions necessary for having a moral obligation from the conditions necessary for being the beneficiary of a moral obligation.
For example: normal adult humans have the obligation not to torture one another. What characteristics make it possible for a person to have this obligation? For one thing, he must be able to understand what torture is, and he must be capable of recognizing that it is wrong. (Linguistic capacity might be relevant here; without language one may not be able to formulate the belief that torture is wrong.) When someone–a severely retarded person, perhaps–lacks such capacities, we do not think he has such obligations and we do not hold him responsible for what he does. On the other hand, it is a very different question what characteristics qualify someone to be the beneficiary of the obligation. It is wrong [to] torture someone–someone is the beneficiary of our obligation not to torture–not because of his capacity for understanding what torture is, or for recognizing that it is morally wrong, but simply because of his capacity for experiencing pain. Thus a person may lack the characteristics necessary for having a certain obligation, and yet may still possess the characteristics necessary to qualify him as the beneficiary of that obligation. If there is any doubt, consider the position of severely retarded persons. A severely retarded person may not be able to understand what torture is, or see it as wrong, and yet still be able to suffer pain. So we who are not retarded have an obligation not to torture him, even though he cannot have a similar obligation not to torture us.[13]

The above passage proves that Rachels was opposed to “using retarded people as lab rats or food,” the exact opposite of the picture painted by G&T’s selective, misleading quotation of Rachels. In fact, rather than “downgrading” the moral status of mentally disabled humans to that of animals without rights, Rachels went in the opposite direction by “upgrading” the moral status of intelligent animals so that they, like even severely mentally disabled humans, can be the beneficiary of moral obligations.
At this point, I can only come up with two explanations for why G&T would do this: either they’re ignorant (they didn’t read or understand the book) or they’re dishonest (they knew full well that Rachels was talking about limited speciesism, not Darwinism, and Rachels opposed using the mentally disabled as lab rats or food). Neither of these explanations reflects well upon G&T.
Regarding (4) (rape), Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer wrote a controversial book, A Natural History of Rape. G&T apparently haven’t read the book, for instead of quoting it directly, they quote Nancy Pearcey’s quotation of Thornhill and Palmer. Pearcey quotes the following passage: rape is “a natural, biological phenomenon that is a product of the human evolutionary heritage,” just like “the leopard’s spots and the giraffe’s elongated neck.”[14] G&T are, once again, committing the is-ought fallacy. The argument seems to be this.

If Darwinism is true, then rape has a biological explanation. [non-ethical premise]


Therefore, if Darwinism is true, then rape is ethically right or permissible. [ethical conclusion]

Like the previous arguments, this one is fallacious. The fact, if it is a fact, that rape has a biological explanation does not ‘imply’ that rape is ethically right or permissible. And it’s far from obvious that rape has a biological explanation. Again, if Pearcey’s quotation of Thornhill and Palmer is supposed to be an argument from authority, that argument is weak. First, if G&T are suggesting that Thornhill and Palmer believe that rape is morally acceptable, the former have misinterpreted the latter. As Pearcey explains, “The authors are not saying that rape is morally right.”[15] Second, as Pearcey’s own article admits, equally well qualified authorities disagree with Thornhill and Palmer. To cite just one example, evolutionary biologist (and Darwinist) Jerry Coyne has produced two scientific critiques of Thornhill’s and Palmer’s biological claims.[16] It’s unfortunate that G&T’s readers won’t know about this from reading their book.
Unlike G&T, Pearcey herself actually tries to bridge the is-ought gap. She writes, “to say that rape confers a reproductive advantage sounds perilously close to saying that it is useful or beneficial.”[17] At best, however, Pearcey’s statement merely expresses a half-truth. To say that rape confers a reproductive advantage may mean that it is useful or beneficial to the rapist. It does not mean, however, that it is useful or beneficial to the victim or to society at large. Furthermore, as Wilson, Dietrich, and Clark point out, even if rape confers evolutionary benefits on the rapist,

it does so at great expense to others, not just the rape victim but society at large. The fact that the actor benefits does nothing to change its moral status, since morality is defined in terms of common welfare. In fact, some of our most severe moral judgements are reserved for behaviors that obviously benefit the actor at the expense of others (e.g., betraying one’s country for a large financial reward), and therefore require an exceptionally strong moral response to counterbalance the personal gain.[18]

So in order to show that ‘Darwinism’ implies that rape is ethically permissible, G&T would need to show that, on ‘Darwinism,’ whatever may be useful to an individual is ethically permissible. G&T haven’t shown that.


Rebuttal to Geisler’s and Turek’s “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”

Notes
[1] Robert M. Adams, “Divine Commands and the Social Nature of ObligationFaith and Philosophy 4 (1987), 262-275; cf. Robert Merrihew Adams, Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 245-246.
[2] J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 114-15.
[3] Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Moral Skepticisms (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 6.
[4] Sinnott-Armstrong 2006, 6.
[5] Sinnott-Armstrong 2006, 6.
[6] Paul Draper, “Darwin’s Argument from Evil” in Scientific Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion (ed. Yujin Nagasawa, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 49-70 at 61-63.
[7] Atheism does entail that overtly theistic metaethics (or, to be more precise, theistic moral ontologies), such as Divine Command Theories and Divine Will Theories, are false. By itself, however, atheism does not tell us which metaethical theory is true. If one defines “atheism” in a way that is compatible with theological noncognitivism, then just any nontheistic metaethical theory could be true. If, however, one defines “atheism” in a way that presupposes theological (and hence ethical) cognitivism, then the most we can say affirmatively is that atheism entails that ethical cognitivism is true. Even so, atheism still leaves wide open the question of which cognitive metaethical theory is true. Cf. Theodore Drange, “Atheism. Agnosticism, Noncognitivism” The Secular Web (1998), http://infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/definition.html.
[8] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1939), 239-240, 242, quoted in G&T 2004, 189.
[9] Cf. David Sloan Wilson, Eric Dietrich, and Anne B. Clark, “On the Inappropriate Use of the Naturalistic Fallacy in Evolutionary PsychologyBiology and Philosophy 18 (2003): 669-682 at 671.
[10] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (1st ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 122-23, quoted in G&T 2004, 190.
[11] James Rachels, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 184.
[12] Rachels 1990, 191-92. Italics are mine.
[13] Rachels 1990, 191-192.
[14] Thornhill and Palmer, quoted in Nancy Pearcey, “Darwin’s Dirty Secret,” World magazine, March 25, 2000, quoted in G&T 2004, 191.
[15] Pearcey 2000.
[16] J.A. Coyne, “Of Vice and Men: Review of A Natural History of Rape, by R. Thornhill and C. Palmer,” The New Republic (April 3, 2000) 27-34, republished electronically at http://www.uic.edu/labs/igic/papers/others/Coyne_2000.pdf; and Jerry A. Coyne and Andrew Berry, “Rape as an Adaptation: Is This Contentious Hypothesis Advocacy, not Science?Nature 404 (2000): 121-22.
[17] Pearcey 2000.
[18] Wilson, Dietrich, and Clark 2003, 678. Italics are mine.