Alright, Mic, my reply this time will be shorter and not a point-by-point rebuttal, because I think it addresses pretty much your whole counterpoint:
Ethical axioms do exist platonically under both
materialist and supernaturalist views of reality. The axioms "God's will ought to be followed", along with the axiom "God's will ought not to be followed", both exist as logical structures that can be thought of.
Hell, they exist right now, in the physical world, don't they? We've already typed them, thought them with our brains, stored them in the WWGHA database!
That's not the issue, though, is it? The issue is whether these axioms resolve as true or false. Well, how do you decide that? I put it to you that you decide it subjectively. I see you attempt to address this in your response, and I'll get to that in a bit and support this posit of mine. First, though, let me clarify something.
"God" is not logically special. By this I mean that it does not function differently as something to which to assign rightness. "God's will ought to be followed" makes as much sense, structurally, as "Genghis Khan's will ought to be followed". A supernatural entity doesn't need to be posited in order to make such a statement. The status of "God" as a supernatural entity doesn't change the validity of the statement. A will is a will, and can be described the same way whether the one holding the will is some strange supernatural being or not.
Now, as to your appeal to "correct" moral axioms...and here I think I'll do the point-by-point thing after all.
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.
Specificity reveals that your point is invalid here, MiC. How
are they useful? They are useful in describing and making predictions about existence
. I would still hesitate to call them "true" based on this, but without even getting into that, do you see the difference here between "ought" axioms and "is" axioms? There is no test for the veracity "ought" axioms, because they make no claims about reality - either material or otherwise - and thus can't be assessed based on how well they help us describe existence. They are useful for something entirely different - they are useful, to state it in the broadest sense, for allowing humans to act. They are goals. How can a goal be evaluated as true or false?
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.
This is one part that kind of dismayed me from bothering to respond for a long while, MiC. It's horribly, blatantly circular reasoning. According to my own values
, I evaluate America's standard of living as better than Rwanda's. So do you. But what can we say beyond that? You can't appeal to an objective standard of evaluating these standards of living, because the objective standard is what you are trying to establish in the first place. What about value-sets that assign a positive value to human suffering? We consider that to be absurd, and antithetical to our own goals, but can we think of a logical argument against it that does not itself depend on statements of value?
And as food for thought: If a creator-god existed who valued human suffering above all else, would you then be appealing to Rwanda's lower standard of living as proof that their way of life is objectively better than that in America? Why or why not?
Let me expand a little on this point. Dinesh D'Souza ...
While I did just address this line of reasoning above, I would like to point out my distaste at seeing such a blatantly dishonest, bigoted figure being cited as some kind of intellectual authority.
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.
Except that it isn't God's status as a supernatural being that's relevant. Or at least, you've provided no reasoning to indicate why it would be. So this sort of statement is exactly as accessible to materialists as it is to supernaturalists - we just select the values of supernatural beings, only natural ones. How is the nature of this selection qualitatively different in either case?