Are Moral Truths An Illusion?
by J Warner Wallace
In my new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for A Divinely Created Universe, I describe eight pieces of evidence “in the room” of the natural universe and ask a simple question: Can this evidence be explained by staying “inside the room” or is a better explanation “outside the room” of naturalism? One important piece of evidence I consider in this effort is the existence of objective, transcendent moral truths. Some philosophers and scientists deny the existence of moral truth altogether. As Richard Dawkins has famously asserted: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
Nihilists (derived from the Latin word nihil, meaning “nothing”) reject the idea any moral claim could be either true or false. Some nihilists believe moral claims don’t actually describe what the universe is like, but instead describe how humans feel about events occurring in the universe.
For example, the statement, “Jesse tortured his victim,” is true or false because it describes an event in the universe. But the statement, “It was morally wrong for Jesse to torture his victim,” does not describe an event. Instead, this second statement merely expresses an attitude about the event. The second statement cannot, according to this view, be classified as either true or false.
In addition, “Logical Positivist” nihilists argue against moral truth claims because such features of the universe cannot be verified or confirmed by observation or perception. Since we cannot verify (or falsify) the sentence, “It was morally wrong for Jesse to torture his victim” with our empirical senses, or through some process of empirical testing, they believe the sentence is meaningless. While this approach certainly eliminates the need to account for the evidence of moral truth by rejecting this kind of truth altogether, it suffers from several explanatory liabilities…
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