It seems to me that we act rationally toward a goal. If the goal changes then it’s likely that the rational way to act will change. I decided that my goal would be to try my best to act morally to the extent there really is a moral way to act. That is, do real good and avoid real evil. God, or no God, what if there is something I should be doing to make the world really better.
Now I don’t mean good as made up by someone or group, as a constructivist might think of it. That sort of made up morality in some ways sounds good but I decided not to live my life based on make believe. I am pursuing the real morality, if such a thing exists. It is with that goal that I decide to consider what beliefs I should hold, to the extent I have control over my beliefs.
I decided that if I live my life trying to live as I really should, and because of that do not live by some rules a person or group of people made up, well I am fine with that. Sure it’s possible there is no real morality, in that case, there was nothing I really should have done anyway. But if it does really exist then I think trying to discover what it is, and trying to live by it, should be my focus. I think everyone should give their best efforts in this regard.
Fairly early on I realized that if naturalism and evolution are true our moral beliefs are completely unreliable. If you don’t think I am right on that point (or perhaps just don’t understand what in the world I am talking about) please share your thoughts in the comment section to my last blog. But for this blog I want to rest on that conclusion. I argued for it in the last blog, and now I want to draw some other conclusions. So for this blog Ill assume my conclusion in the last blog is correct. This also happens to be the conclusion reached by a few other philosophers including Richard Joyce, Sharon Street, and Mark Linville.
What that means is if evolution and naturalism are true our moral beliefs are completely unreliable. From that I concluded that pursuing one set of moral beliefs is no better or worse than any other set of moral beliefs if N and E are true. Accordingly pursuing the morality of Christianity would be no less likely to be true than any other, even if N and E are true. Accordingly even if evolution and naturalism is true, following Christ would not be a worse moral option than any other in the rational pursuit of my goal.
It’s at this point that I think it is established that the nonbeliever has lost his case that the believer is acting less rationally – at least toward the goal of living a life that is really morally correct. From this point forward I will try to push things a bit further and argue that the nonbeliever is less rational than the believer in pursuit of the goal to lead a really moral life.
Ok so we see that if N and E are true our moral beliefs are completely unreliable, so then it doesn’t matter what moral beliefs we choose. But what if N and E are not true? Since any moral beliefs, are a wash if N and E are true, I think it’s rational to focus our attention on the possibility that N and E are not true.
Specifically what if naturalism is not true. Then it seems we might actually have reliable moral beliefs. But how could we know what they are? From what I (and the other 3 philosophers) have argued I am convinced that natural processes alone could not produce beings with this knowledge. So we would need to look for something from a supernatural/non-natural confirming source that could teach us these morals. From this it seems we should weigh the evidence of what sources of morality seem to have a supernatural/non-natural confirming source. There are many religions that fit this bill and I would suggest the reader consider these religions and which has the best evidence. I won’t go into that weighing here. But I would like to point out that when it comes to weighing the religious moral schemes we are looking for evidence that the moral teachings were affirmed by a supernatural/non-natural source.
Now I anticipate a few objections to what I said.
First is to say what if there is a God who gave us our moral beliefs but he wants us to believe there is no God?
I think we weigh the evidence of this God the same way we would of any other God. What is the evidence that this God exists? But I think there is a second problem with continuing to not believe in this God. It seems like a contradiction to believe in this god and follow this God’s rules. If we believe and follow this God then we don’t believe this God.
Finally I think there is a third problem with not believing in God. If we do not believe in God and we understand that what I and the other philosophers said is true, then the belief that there is no God would also imply our beliefs concerning morals are unreliable. This would undermine our determination to act morally when acting morally is hard. When it’s hard, it would be easy to rationalize and say “well the reliability of my moral beliefs are suspect anyway.” Now I admit that reaction wouldn’t be rational based on my goal. But I think that would happen. When you know you are subject to irrationally immoral behavior by taking certain course of action (and here I include an action such as adopting a belief or taking actions which would lead to adopting the belief) then rational people will not take that course of action.
Here is a second objection:
So let’s say we agree to follow some God that we think has the best evidence. But the “best evidence” is really pretty weak. Let’s say for example we think the Christian God is more likely than Zeus but maybe just barely. Let’s say we don’t think the evidence for the Christian God makes it more probably true than not true. But nevertheless that God has better evidence than any other Gods. What then?
I think we need to consider this carefully. It seems to me that if we knew full well this God existed because we could see this God continually and literally standing over us watching our every move few of us would sin. But that is not the case. And so we all sin or act in ways we might agree is not how we should. It seems to me that the firmness of our belief in God is important to how well we follow his moral laws. And again that is our goal. We want to find and follow the real moral way of life.
How we should look at this depends how committed we are to our original goal of trying our best to act morally to begin with.
Let me offer an analogy involving a game. For this scenario let’s say you are not in need of any set sum. You want to maximize your potential return. In fact maximizing your potential return in this game trumps all other concerns you have. Maximizing your return in this game is in effect all that matters to you.
Let’s say there is a roulette wheel with 1,000,002 numbers. You get $3,333.34 every month over the course 25 years. You will receive $1,000,002.00. You must immediately place the money on a number once you receive it. At the end of the 25 years there will be one throw that will decide the winning number. You can only keep the money that is on the number that the ball lands on. You can put the money on more than one number. So you could have one dollar put on each number. You would be sure to get one dollar back but you also know you would only get one dollar.
Now everyone knows the number 7 is slightly rigged such that there is 3xs the possibility of the roulette ball landing there than for any other particular number. I am not saying it is 3xs as likely to land on 7 as it is to land on any of all the other numbers combined. I am just saying it is 3xs more likely that it will land on 7 compared to it landing on, say, 474,923 or any other particular number you pick.
How do you bet over the 25 years?
Now let’s say you went all in on 7 but the number comes up 775,957. How do you feel? Do you feel bad that perhaps you were irrational?
On the other hand let’s say you figured you did not have “enough evidence” to believe in the number 7. After all, you lacked evidence sufficient to show that 7 was “more likely than not” going to be the winner so you just picked a random number like 42 and went all in on that. And the number 7 came up. And then you saw the other people who picked 7. Would you disagree with them if they told you it was irrational for you to not go all in on 7?
Here is a more interesting question. Let’s say some people actually claimed to firmly believe that it would be 7 and went all in on 7? Let’s say they looked at the situation and they just wanted to make sure that they acted rationally in this game. So they reinforced the idea that it would be 7 so they would be sure not place any money outside of 7. So for example they convinced themselves that the odds of it being 7 was much higher than it really was. Was that irrational to the extent of pursuing their goal?
I don’t think it was irrational. I think so long as your actions concerning an uncertain belief would not change by adding certainty to your belief it is not irrational to reinforce that belief. That is whether a person believes that the chance of 7 winning is .0003% .3% 33% or 100% when all the other numbers are about .0001% it won’t make any difference, you should still bet it all on 7. So none of the actions that this belief is relevant to are negatively affected by puffing up the belief. And in fact puffing up this belief might be beneficial.
Let’s say the evidence suggested that people who did not puff up the belief that it would be a 7 often would put some money on other numbers. Assuming your goal was to maximize your possible gains then would it be irrational not to puff up the belief that the number 7 would win? I think it might be irrational not to puff up that belief.
How should those who reinforced their belief feel if it happened to come up 42? Would you be able to say that their foolishness mattered?