For the past many years, I have been maintaining an internet ministry that allows me, through comment boxes, to listen in on the questions, complaints, and pontifications of thousands of people in regard to religion. I have noticed that these commentaries sort themselves out in fairly predictable ways, centering around issues of God’s existence, the problem of suffering, the uniqueness of Christianity among the religions of the world, and the whole range of the Church’s sexual teachings.
But another theme that presents itself with remarkable regularity is the denial of the objectivity of truth and moral value. I have encountered this position frequently over the years, but in the past few weeks, a spate of such objections have surfaced in the wake of a recent video of mine on the subject. Here is one typical response: “Thirty seconds in, and he’s [“he” means me] obviously dumb: objective moral values? Those aren’t real.” Though this gentleman focused on moral values, many of the commentators on this score have equal disdain for the objectivity of truth claims.
Though, as I said, this is a commonly held view, a moment’s reflection reveals how silly this position is. Since he has bothered to complain about my point of view, he obviously holds that there is something the matter with articulating an incorrect opinion, that this is something I shouldn’t do. Furthermore, since he is appealing to the public, he must think that this standard of rectitude is not merely a subjective whim of his own but a standard that is generally known. In a word, he is holding to the very principle that he denies; namely, that some objective and universal moral value exists. Moreover, in making bold to call me “dumb,” he also indirectly affirms the objectivity of truth, since he could make no such determination of my mental acuity unless he believed in some clear epistemic criterion. In a word, he is hoisted on his own petard. Even the most radical and thoroughgoing skeptic is necessarily standing on some ground when he launches his criticism. He might quarrel with someone’s understanding of a moral or intellectual value, but the one thing he cannot coherently say is that there is no such thing as moral or intellectual value.