CraigĖTaylor Debate:
Is the Basis for Morality Natural or Supernatural?

Richard Taylor

I feel tonight like two ships passing in the night. We seem to be on totally different courses. However, I did hear my opponent say one thing with which I heartily agree. He said you should all read my book. You'll see how outrageous it is, and Iím happy to say that itís for sale. Mr. Paul Copan, who arranged this debate, asked me to bring some books. I, of course, very reluctantly did so.

I donít recognize myself in what I hear. I hear my opinions cited, and then all kinds of things said about them which I have never dreamt, and I do not recognize my opinions. I hear myself quotedóyes, I did say thatóbut it shouldnít mean what this is being interpreted. I hear myself being told that I believe that nothing is wrong, that nothing is objectively wrong or right. This is a straw man. I believe that my moral conduct, my principles, the things that I live by, the things that are important to me, are every bit as good as his, every bit as good as anyoneís in this room. Please donít say that I have no moral standards that nothingís right or wrong. This is a straw man.

Now it is said, "Ah, but you donít believe in objective morality!" What does that mean? What does that mean? I teach my children. I have two small children, 7 and 5. I teach them that you shouldnít lie. But what do I do? Do I say, "You mustnít lie because God said not to?" If a child tells me the truth, he is never punished. I tell them, "Please donít ever lie to me. If I ask you a question, you donít need to answer it, but donít answer it falsely because that would hurt me very deeply." This works. If I were to tell him, "Donít lie. God, watching on high, will smite you if you do," he wouldnít. He would know better. He would. He would lie and find that he wasnít smitten, and there would go his belief in that. What do we mean by objective morality? Do we mean we take these things seriously? I take them as seriously as he. I take them as seriously as any clergyman. I take them a lot more seriously than many I have seen. "No objective validity." No objective validityówhat does that mean? Does that mean that it doesnít matter how you treat people? It doesnít matter whether you betray somebody? I donít believe that! If anyone says this is my position, donít listen to him. [tape unintelligible] At one point Mr. Craig quoted something in my book which I didnít say. The Greeks practiced infanticide, which we condemn. There was outside Athens a field where babies could be deposited, and they would perish. This was not a crime. We look with horror on this. All I said was, it violates our rules; it did not violate theirs. And that is true. I didnít say, therefore, itís a fine thing to do, and it would be a fine thing for us to do that. I didnít say that these things make no difference. I would, indeed, be a miserable man, if I found that I fit the description which I hear coming from the Reverend Mr. Craigís mouth.

At one point he said that we should be loving, kind, and so forth. Now Iím going to ask you this very simple question: I think that the remarks Iíve made make it clear that I do believe that. I believe wholeheartedly that we should be loving, kind, and so forth. He said I canít even affirm that. I just did, and I didnít do it with hypocrisy. I profoundly believe we should be loving, kind, and the other virtues he enumerated. In order to say that, do you need, do I need, to think that God is watching? Does any of us need to think that we are going to be punished if we are not loving, kind? Do we not see something worthwhile in being loving, kind, treating people in certain ways, and so forth, which doesnít require us to talk about "objective standards," doesnít require us to refer to Scripture, refer to any sermon that anyoneís ever heard? We can see this. We can see this because human beings are born with the capacity for this and are quite capable of seeing its propriety. No one would suggest that I have no reason for being loving, kind to those who are dear to me and, indeed, to my enemies. We can see this without God telling us that. We can see this without clergymen telling us this. We can see it because it is an inheritance of a wise culture, and it is the declaration of a refined mind, heart, and sensibility.

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