Guest Post: Matt Dillahunty Doesn’t Understand what Objectivity Is

A Special Guest Post by Outwest

Evolution_MoralsI was reading Cephus’ post the other day, “Problems with Matt Dillahunty’s Secular Morality”.

Here’s the genesis of my post: I wrote a short comment and said that I had a lot more to say, but basically didn’t want to say all of it in the comments. Cephus then invited me to write a guest post. I’m not a blogger, in fact, this is the first time I’ve done anything like this. And, yes, the post above has been out for a little while, but hey, we’re all busy and I’m just now getting around to it.

This is the statement that literally raised my eyebrows:

“Matt defines morality as the “evaluating an action with respect to some standard or value”.  Then he goes on to say that once you have your  standard, regardless of where you get that standard, “the assessment with regard to that standard becomes objective”. “

So what is Matt really saying here? I think you might be able to infer, as I did, that he’s saying that anything a group of people agree upon, goes from being an opinion, to becoming a fact, whether or not there are any facts proffered in the agreement. Why did I get so worked up about this seemingly innocent statement? As an atheist, he just made the case for religion, discrimination, and pretty much anything else!  If we all agree upon something, it must be true(objective). This is just too stupid beyond belief. And this person is supposed to be some sort of “leader” in the atheist/skeptic community? Since more than ninety percent of the world believes in some sort of god or gods, are they right? Well according to Matt’s line of reason, they are. It’s the less than ten percent of the non-believers that must be wrong.

Sure you can say he was referring to morality, but morality is based upon a set of values accepted by a particular group or society.

The above statement  by Matt is telling and it is important that we as atheists understand what Matt is doing here. He is redefining the definition of objectivity. I keep seeing this more and more with atheists. “If you don’t agree with my(our) position you are (insert your own ad hominem here)”.  There was actually a blog post last year by a prominent atheist that basically told people if they didn’t believe in what a small group was proposing, then those people were not one of “us” and should be driven out of the atheist community. These are people that are professed atheists/skeptics!

Believe it or not, the Atheist community is diverse in a lot of areas. First of all, as has been pointed out (here), Atheism is simply a lack of belief in god(s).  No moral constructs involved. So there are atheists that are politically liberal, and, I know it’s going to be a shock, conservative. There are atheists that are pro-life, pro-choice, anti- and pro-gun. There are atheists that have opinions on many political or social issues. Most atheists I know consider themselves as humanists as well, but humanism itself has a very broad definition. We may not all agree on what that definition is. And there are atheists that are just, well, atheists. They don’t profess any particular social values. Not that these people don’t have any values, but they separate their atheism from their values.

There are people in this world that have the opinions that most of us in the atheist community would find absolutely abhorrent. How about those groups that believe racial and ethnic minorities are less than human? Their group(s) believe this, they all agree, so it must be a fact then, right? These people believe that those minorities don’t hold the same values as the rest of “us”. You think it’s a silly example? How about a religion that actively discourages condom use while having sex, thereby having an entire continent ravaged by HIV/AIDS? Or the same religion, where adherents have to get permission from the church to have a vasectomy? Even if they already have a dozen children and are living in desperate poverty? Or societies that tell women that are gang-raped that it’s the woman’s fault? It’s what they agree on, so it must be true. And I’m not referring to just a few thousand people here, but more than two billion.

So when Matt Dillahunty tells us that if we all agree on some moral position, then it becomes an objective truth, I call bullshit. I call bullshit on anyone that tells me they have the truth when it’s only based on their opinion, whether it’s a fellow atheist, or anyone else.

Just because a group accept a view one way or the other does not make it a fact.  It’s only a point of view of the person, group, community, or society.

7 thoughts on “Guest Post: Matt Dillahunty Doesn’t Understand what Objectivity Is

  1. I think you and Cephus badly misunderstood Matt.

    He wasn't saying, "If we all agree upon something, it must be true(objective)." He was saying that once we agree upon some subjective goals as the basis for our morality (e.g. reduction of harm), then we can objectively determine whether certain actions help, hinder, or do not affect the achievement of those chosen goals.

    You are confusing the part of the equation that is objective. It's not the goal which can can objectively determine if it's true or false, it's the methods of achieving that goal which can be objectively determined.

    He freely admits that determining the goal isn't an entirely objective thing, so he makes a separate case for why (in a nutshell) reduction of harm should be the goal.

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