Let me start by saying thanks again for the discussion. You mentioned that you're enjoying this debate; let me assure you that the feeling is mutual.
In the interest of brevity let me try to sum up some major points rather than responding blow-by-blow and line-by-line, otherwise I find an exchange can quickly grow cumbersome.Christianity
I count three objections here:
1) Axioms, though useful, are nonetheless arbitrary and subjective starting points. Their usefulness does not mitigate their subjectivity.
2) Even if material axioms could be judged true or false, ought axioms don't really describe the world and thus cannot be assessed that same way.
3) The ethical axiom 'God's will ought to be followed' is not relevant to the dichotomy between materialism and supernaturalism. (I can assure you any misquoting I did here was due to ignorance, not malice or intellectual dishonesty.)
1) My point in describing the success mathematics and science have had in describing the world was not merely to show that these axioms are useful (and thus to sneakily shift the goalposts), but to show one area in which there is evidence that those axioms are, in fact, true.
In other words, my point is not just
that mathematical axioms are useful, but that their usefulness points to their actually being true.
2) While it's true that 'ought' axioms don't lead to explanations of our world the same way natural axioms do, they do do a good job of leading toward correct ethical behavior. I think we can safely conclude that the situation we enjoy in the United States is objectively
better than the one experienced in Rwanda, and thus any ethical behavior that leads more to societies like the U.S. is objectively
better than the ones that lead to societies like Rwanda.
Let me expand a little on this point. Dinesh D'Souza lays out in his What's So Great About Christianity
the myriad philosophical and moral insights that Christianity was instrumental in achieving, among them the idea of limited government, the origin of equal human dignity for all, and the theological roots of science and invention itself. Just as the identity axiom has had unparalleled success in finding out new and exciting things about mathematics and science, so too has Christian philosophy given us unparalleled ethical success into what makes a society actually work.
And just as the identity axiom's success lends credence to the idea of it being true, so too does Christian philosophy's success function as evidence that it is true.
3) 'God's will ought to be followed' gives Christians access to an ethical axiom from which we can derive all other ethical behavior, and materialists don't have access to this axiom due to their rejection of God (If He doesn't exist, he doesn't have a will to follow.) I'd say that ethical axiom is crucial to the dichotomy between naturalism and supernaturalism.The Supernaturalist intersection of 'is' and 'ought' axioms
Let me pause here and clear something up about the nature of 'is' axioms and 'ought' axioms, and then deal with your objections to my points about materialism.
Christians belive God really exists in the real world, and that He really has a will, and that it really ought to be followed. Thus our 'God exists' axiom is an 'is' axiom, and 'His will ought to be followed' is an 'ought' axiom, but it is also an 'is' axiom.
We believe he really truly exists, and so, in the real world, there is at least one thing (Love God) that is objectively good. Thus to a materialist, 'is' and 'ought' statements exist in two different modes and never the 'twain shall meet, but to a Christian, 'ought' statements are a subset of 'is' statements. That is, it is
a fact of the universe in which we live that rape is wrong because it is
a fact of the world that God exists, that He is good, and that he has forbidden rape.
In other words, 'God's will ought to be followed' functions as both an 'ought' axiom and an is axiom
, that is, as something that is objectively true about the world we live in. That's why the 'God's will ought to be followed' is crucial to the debate, it is an axiom that Christians assert exists in the real world, in reality.Materialism
For reference, here is my objection to materialism in which I assert that materialists cannot claim access to the Golden Rule:
* Your axioms have internal contradictions. Under materialism matter and it's interactions are all there is, any supernatural cause you reject. But look at the Golden Rule (which you axiomatically import into your worldview to get those 'oughts' that we both feel warrant inclusion): It's immaterial, it doesn't arise from any of the four fundamental forces of physics, it's unseeable, unsmellable, untouchable, unhearable, and untasteable. You can not perceive it by any scientific experiment or by any of our five senses. Put simply, any authority the Golden Rule has (that is, any 'ought' that exists that means we 'ought' to follow it) is a supernatural phenomenon. (footnoted: and here I mean supernatural in it's most limited sense, that is, arising from beyond nature.) Materialism + the Golden Rule is not materialism, but rather supernaturalism. The two are obviously incompatible, but note that both are required for this worldview. Materialism absolutely requires that there be no supernatural phenomenon in the universe. However, to get those morals that we both want to incorporate into our worldview, materialism takes an implicitly supernatural phenomenon while nobody is looking. As you yourself said, you cannot get an ought from an is. Materialism as a strict collection of 'is's therefore must exclude any and all 'oughts', but as soon as you assume the Golden Rule you've broken that rule. It collapses in on itself, requring two incompatible axioms, neither of which it can discard.
And here was your defense:
And that in no way contradicts naturalism. Naturalism (aka materialism) requirs that only material things exist. But the ethical axioms one adopts are not assertions of what exists. As such, they are off-topic from naturalism/materialism. They don't intersect the claims that naturalism makes, either to conform or contradict them.
This is exactly my point! Under materialism ethical axioms do not actually exist, as you say, they are off-topic, they cannot be confirmed or contradicted by naturalism. You treat 'is' axioms and 'ought' axioms as two seperate beasts in your post, and claim 'ought' axioms cannot be tested for usefulness. They are not assertions of what exists.
Supernaturalism (and specifically Christianity) on the other hand, doesn't just treat the Golden Rule or other axioms as good ideas or things which are not assertions of what exist, we hold (through that 'God's will ought to be followed' thing mentioned above) that it's real
, it's just as correct as the statement "caterpillars are insects" or as the statement "Jupiter is, on average, 483,780,000 miles from the sun". We reason that God exists, He is good, what He wills is good, and what He wills is (among other things) for us all to follow the Golden Rule. True or not, it absolutely provides an objective basis for morality.
Let me say it one more way: you say
Supernaturalism is the belief in the existence of the non-material. And existence is off-topic.
But one of the things supernaturalism can believe in is the existence, in the real world, of non-material-but-still-just-as-real-as-caterpillars-and-Jupiter morality. And because Supernaturalism can hold that morality is real, we can hold that it's objective. Naturalists simply can't do this, and must fall back to the nihilism position.
Thanks again for a stimulating debate. We should probably think about wrapping this up at some point rather than going back and forth ad nauseam.
(edits: wording, spacing)