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My thoughts on the debate

By far the best attended event of this past weekend was the debate between Greg Koukl and Prof. John A. Baker at the University of Calgary on the topic “Do objective moral truths exist?”

Without having the information from the surveys compiled and the numbers crunched, we don’t yet know the opinions of all those attending the debate. So, in the interim, I thought I’d share a couple of my thoughts.

And, obviously, I hold the position argued by Greg that yes, moral truths do exist.

I had 2 main problems with Professor Baker’s arguments.

The first was primarily, I think, a communication issue. I found his arguments were hard to follow and, at different times, unclear and overly complicated. Those I spoke with, even who would agree with the Professor’s position, had similar observations. This is unfortunate because I think most of us would agree that debates are at their best when both sides are effectively and persuasively argued.

Second, I believe one of his main arguments contained a fatal flaw. He explained that morals were not objective, but were simply whatever rules a society comes up with to better the human predicament and to avoid causing unnecessary pain in others. Different societies would come up with different rules to meet these ultimate ends.

However he seemed to leave one critical aspect unanswered … why is it that all societies have rules intended to better the human predicament? By what imperative is it that societies work to avoid unnecessary pain in others?

To borrow a term from Greg, it would seem that the Professor was smuggling an objective moral truth into his argument. His argument assumed an objective moral truth exists that we ought to avoid causing pain to others.

As I said, this would appear to be a fatal flaw in his presentation.

What were your thoughts about the debate?

  • If anyone finds the audio from the debate, please let me know!

  • The audio is not available yet … I believe the initial plan was to host it, and the audio from the other sessions, on our main site.

    I will try to make an announcement here as soon as it is available.

  • Sam

    Did the audio for this debate ever become available? I haven’t been able to find anything about it anywhere.

    Denis, I don’t think Baker’s argument is fallacious for the reason you gave. When he says that societies comes up with rules to “better the human predicament,” that doesn’t entail any imperative to better the human predicament. Here is merely DEscribing what societies in fact do; he is not PREscribing what they OUGHT to do.

    It seems to me he could answer your question about why socieites come up with rules to better the human predicament without appealing to any moral notions at all. He could say societies do it simply because they want to, and they want to because they think it will make their lives easier.

    So he doesn’t need to smuggle in any moral notions to make his argument work.

    That’s not to say I agree with him. I’m on Greg’s side. I just don’t think your objection to Baker’s argument works.

  • Hi Sam,

    Unfortunately the audio for the debate is not available online. It was originally a part of our plan, but I believe we ran into some roadblocks with making it accessible. I can ask around and see if there is anyway to distribute it, but would tend to think it’s not going to happen.

    I can’t fairly respond to your assessment of my analysis since I don’t have access to the debate either. At this point, I’d tend to stand behind my original post because it was written when the material was fresh in my mind. Unfortunately I can’t really back up or re-evaluate my statements since I’m not in a position to review the debate and compare it to my analysis.

    You do make a really good point, however. We should by not accept bad arguments simply because the guy making them is on our “team”. Bad arguments should be exposed regardless of the position they are being used to support.

  • The audio for the debate can be found here: