Case for the Prosecution

Part of our ongoing, and perhaps endless MARS NEEDS WOMEN discussion.

The discussion took an interesting turn, when a reader asked me about an atheist argument in favor of moral objectivity.

Having been an atheist who was convinced of the objective nature of moral law, and who for that reason was puzzled that my hated enemies the Christians somehow came to the correct conclusion based on what I took to be their superstition and irrational worldview while many or most of my allies among the paragons of logic called atheism could not, I certainly have an argument in favor of the proposition.

So this, in a rather rough form, is what I would give as the argument for the Prosecution in the case of Mars v Craig.


Martians clearly believe in lesser good things, such as a good hamburger and a good spear; nothing prevents a Martian from perceiving the goodness in greater things, such as a good city, a good law, or a good way to live one’s life; a good math-proof, a good idea, a good self-sacrifice; and again, nothing prevents a Martian from deducing that there must be a greatest good, a Sum of All Good, from which all lesser good things take their form.

The Good is desirable because it is the nature, or, if you prefer, the definition of what is desirable. It is futile to ask why men (or Martians) desire the good: the raw fact is that they do.

(Nothing in this line of reasoning introducing any reference to supernatural objects, people, entities, or sovereigns. As a Christian, I think this Martian line of reasoning does not go far enough, but, to be quite frank, I don’t see anything doubtful or even dubitable in it. I would go so far as to say it is inescapable. Again, I think if the Martian followed the line of argument one or two more steps, he would find himself in Aquinas’ ontological proof for God: but the argument is still sound and true even if our Martian stops two steps shy of the whole truth.)

So if the Good exists, and all rational beings desire it, we next deduce whether there is an imperative to seek it: that is, is Doing the Good a moral command, not merely an inclination or appetite?

1. Either honest is a moral imperative or not. (since either A or not-A)
2. The only way to discover whether honesty is a moral imperative or not is philosophy, or some form of rational thought. (by definition)
3. Philosophy cannot be done without honesty, nor can any rational thought, because without honest thought a man is lying to himself, and the conclusions reached by a man lying to himself cannot be trusted. (self-evident: anyone who says otherwise is lying to himself)
4. Therefore it is impossible to come to the conclusion that honesty is not a moral imperative, because, even if it were true, no man could honestly reason himself to that conclusion.
5. Since it is impossible to come to the conclusion that honesty is not a moral imperative, honesty is a moral imperative. (by process of elimination)
6. All of the above statements are true without reference to person, place, time or condition; by definition, they are unconditional and universal. (by definition)
7. And honesty is a universal moral imperative; therefore some (at least one) universal moral imperative exists. (by Darii)

8. Given that there are universal moral imperatives, the court of Vega has jurisdiction. Again, if there are universal moral imperatives, they apply to all beings capable of moral reasoning,The only rule that applies to all rational beings is one that is no respecter of persons, that is, one which holds the act is evil whether done to you or done to another, on the grounds that the standards must always and everywhere be the same, or else they are not universal, hence not standards.

Hence there is no line of reasoning whereby kidnapping Earthgirls to Mars for harem duty is licit but kidnapping Martians to Vega for execution is illicit. The Martian must either distinguish the two cases, return the earthgirl, or suffer execution.

If a Martian is bound by this line of reasoning, so is an Atheist, on the grounds that this train of thought includes no reference to supernatural beings; ergo an atheist could (and probably should) follow such a train of thought to its honest conclusion.

I do not see any unsupported assumptions or religious values being smuggled in.

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The idea that Morality must be a matter of pure reason is based on the assumption that if we find an atheist who is not one of these gene theory types who, agreeing with the moral intuition that no one, not even Martians, should kidnap nubile girls, is force to the conclusion that all rational beings share or should share this moral intuition. Myself, I see no other conclusion possible once our friendly atheist admits “It is a morally WRONG act, and does not become a right act even if done by a Martian.”

So where does the axiom that all rational beings have moral intuition take us?

All rational beings have in common nothing but pure reason by definition of the word ‘rational’. They cannot be assumed to have a genetic legacy in common, or a civilization, or even a prisoner’s dilemma game. Since moral intuition, like the rules of logic, are found in all rational beings, and moral intuition cannot be based on genetics, common civilization or game-theory games, or anything else but pure reason. Reason includes Right Reason, in other words.

Again, belief in a Divine Being makes this theory easier to grasp, but I do not see that a Divine Being is needed for the logic to hold.

I agree that an atheist cannot account for why this should be so, but I do not see how anyone, atheist or not, can reach any other conclusion, given these assumptions.